JAMES W. L. SLAVENS was born in Putnam county, Indiana, August 3, 1838. His great-grandfather, John Slavens, a Scotch-Irish Protestant, settled in Virginia in early life, where he raised a large family. His youngest son, Isaiah Slavens, the grandfather of the subject of this sketch, served in the Revolutionary war, and soon after its close, having married a Miss Stewart, of Maryland, he removed to Kentucky, and for a time engaged in surveying. Three of his sons having enlisted in the war of 1812, he determined to join them, and immediately volunteered and served out the term of his enlistment. He died in Putnam county, Indiana, aged eighty-six years. Hiram B. Slavens, the father of James, was born in Montgomery county, Kentucky, in 1802. He acquired a good education for the times, and for several years taught school in his native county. He removed to Putnam county, Indiana, in 1827, where he entered land on which he resided the rest of his life engaged in farming. In 1830 he married Sarah Holland, daughter of William Holland, who was born and raised in Bath county, Kentucky. Her ancestors came from England and Scotland to Virginia. Her mother's maiden name was Sussanah Grant. Hiram Slavens was widely known as a good citizen and an earnest friend of education. He gave active aid in the foundation of Asbury University of Indiana.
James worked on his fatherís farm until he was old enough to attend college, when he entered the Indiana Asbury University, and taking a classical course he graduated with high honor in 1859. After his graduation he was married to Miss Mattie McNutt, a daughter of Collin and Mary McNutt, of Douglas county, Illinois, and immediately moved upon a tract of land which he bought in Douglas county, Illinois, there remained one year, getting his land fenced and securing a tenant. In the meantime he gave considerable attention is the study of law, which he prosecuted exclusively the ensuing year, and in the spring uf 1861 began the practice in Tuscola with William McKenzie. He soon after enlisted in the 73d Illinois Regiment United States volunteers, and was commissioned quarter-master of the regiment, but soon after getting into the field was detailed into the subsistence department where he continued until the close of the war, serving the last year on the staff of Major General George H. Thomas, and was mustered out of the service in July, 1865.
He removed to Kansas City in the fall of 1865, living for a short time at Independence, and in the spring of 1866 began the practice of law at Kansas City with his brother, L.C. Slavens. He was elected treasurer of Kansas City in the spring of 1867, and in the spring of 1868 formed a copartnership with R. W. Pattison and William Epperson in the beef and pork packing business. They built that season the first packing house in Kansas City--the stone house now owned by Nofsinger & Co., in West Kansas City--and in the fall of that year they packed four thousand five hundred head of cattle, which was the beginning of the large beef packing business for which Kansas City has become celebrated. The following year he became associated in the packing business in Kansas City with J. C Ferguson and others, of Indianapolis, and built the brick packing house now occupied by Slavens & Oburn. During the last nine years this house has packed annually an average of thirteen thousand beef cattle and fourty thousand hogs. Their goods are sent to all parts of the world. To this business Mr. Slavens gives his entire attention.
In political faith Mr. Slavens is a Republican, though never taking an active part in politics. He was elected mayor of Kansas City on the Republican ticket in 1877. He is a Mason, a Good Templar, and a member of the Methodist Episcopal church. He was a lay delegate to the general conference of that church held in Baltimore in 1876. Mr. Slavens is one of the most enterprising and public spirited citizens of Kansas City.
The United States Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of Eminent and Self-made Men.
United States Biographical Publishing Co., New York, New York. 1878.