Biography of James Clinton Orr

James Clinton Orr was a self-made man and respected superintendent residing in Byesville, known for his extensive knowledge of mining conditions in Guernsey County. Born in 1862, Orr worked in various coal mines in the area, eventually becoming superintendent for the Imperial Mining Company and overseeing approximately 1,100 workers. He was also elected county commissioner in 1905 and held several positions in his political party, the Democrats. Orr was active in his community, serving on the board of education of Byesville and belonging to several fraternal organizations. He was known for his conscientiousness, trustworthiness, and ability to handle men effectively.

Perhaps no one understands better the various phases of mining conditions in Guernsey County than James Clinton Orr, the well-known and capable superintendent residing at Byesville. He is essentially a self-made man and as such ranks with the most enterprising and progressive of his contemporaries. By a life consistent in motive and action and because of many splendid personal qualities, he has earned the sincere regard of all who know him.

Mr. Orr was born in 1862 about one mile west of Byesville, this county. He is the son of Sanford and Phoebe (Burt) Orr. Sanford Orr came from near Albany, New York, about 1848, when twenty-two years old, and went to farming near Byesville. Not long afterwards he married Phoebe Burt, the daughter of Daniel and Catherine Burt. Soon after his marriage, Sanford Orr bought a farm west of Byesville, where the subject was born. The latter was one of nine children, namely: Vincent, James C., Mrs. Sadie Grant of Byesville, Mrs. Rachael Boyd residing east of Cambridge, Mrs. Etta Smith of Cambridge, Mrs. Mary Lee of Byesville, Mrs. Effie Bowman of Byesville, Mrs. Essie Bowman twin sister of Mrs. Effie Bowman, who married brothers, also lives at Byesville, and Mrs. Maggie Ritchie who lives in Byesville. Vincent died in Dakota in 1894, leaving a wife, Nancy (Smith) Orr, two daughters, and one son. He was brought back to Byesville for burial and his family now lives at Byesville. He was sheriff of Aurora County, Dakota, and also a farmer.

The father lived west of Byesville until about 1871, then bought a farm six miles west of Byesville on the old Clay Pike, and lived there until about 1895, then moved into Byesville. He lived there about ten years and died there. He was a Democrat and held several township offices, was trustee and also clerk of Jackson Township. He was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. His wife still lives in Byesville. She is an earnest member of the Baptist Church.

When James C. Orr was only sixteen years of age, he ran away from home and went over into Muskingum County and got a job on a farm with a Mr. Frazier. He stayed there until the fall of 1879, four years in all.(1)The math does not match up. If James was born in 1862 then he either didn’t stay working on Mr. Frazier’s farm for 4 years as claimed ending in 1879, age 17, or he ran away from home at an earlier age, age 13, or his birth year is incorrect, mkaing him born 1859/1860. In the fall of the latter year, he married Fannie Fairall, daughter of Curtis and Luinda (Breitop) Fairall. She was born and reared on her father’s farm, about two miles west of Fraziersburg, in Muskingum County. He then returned to Jackson Township, Guernsey County, and took employment as a coal miner in the old Central Mine. Five or six years later, he became boss hauler in the Waldhoning Mine near Pleasant City. About three years later, he became pit boss in the old Central Mine, where he first worked. Later he went with the Imperial Mining Company as pit boss. About 1900, he became superintendent for the Imperial Mining Company in charge of two mines. He is now in charge of the Noble Mine at Belle Valley, the Imperial Mine at Derwent, the Ohio No. 1 and the Ohio No. 2 west of Byesville. He has supervision over about eleven hundred men.

Mr. Orr was elected county commissioner in 1905 and completed his three-year term in September 1909. He is a Democrat and received a majority of eight hundred and six votes in a county that is normally two thousand Republican. He filled that office and at the same time held his position as superintendent of the mines, having the assistance of a capable assistant superintendent, F. W. Smith, whose sketch appears herein. He has been active in the party organization in various capacities in his party. He has been for seven years a member of the board of education of Byesville and is president of the board.

Mr. and Mrs. Orr have two sons, Charles Albert and John Earl. Charles Albert Orr was born February 2, 1881, in Muskingum County, Ohio, and came to Byesville with his parents when one year old. He grew up in Byesville and received a good education at the Byesville High School. At the age of sixteen, he became weighman at the old Central Coal Mine near Byesville and has followed that occupation ever since. He was also proprietor of a restaurant at Byesville for about two years. He is now weighmaster at Ohio No. 2 Mine and is also engaged in office work for the company. He married Blanche Meek, daughter of E. F. Meek, December 15, 1909. He belongs to the Elks and the Knights of Pythias. His son Earl is at home with his parents. At present, he is in Canon City, Colorado, with his wife and her father, for the benefit of the latter’s health.

James C. Orr belongs to the Eagles, the Elks, and the Uniform Rank of Knights of Pythias. He is among the prominent men of Guernsey County and both as an employee and public servant, he has always given the utmost satisfaction, performing all duty in a manner that reflected credit upon himself and that elicited the hearty approval of all concerned. He is conscientious, painstaking, and trustworthy. He keeps in operation most of the approved systems in the mines over which he has control, and he understands the handling of men in a manner that brings the best results and also retains their goodwill.


Sarchet, Cyrus P. B. (Cyrus Parkinson Beatty). History of Guernsey County, Ohio. Vol. 2, B.F. Bowen & Company, 1911.


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