James was born in Hendricks County, Indiana, on February 2, 1834. His parents were Jesse and Mary Ann (Clifton) Harper. James, also called Paxton, was the eldest of three sons. His brothers were Francis Marion and John Thomas.
Jesse and Mary moved their family from Indiana to northwestern Missouri by 1844 in what would be known as Jackson Township in Nodaway County. Jesse and some of Mary's relatives were among the earliest settlers in that area. James was a child about ten years old. It appears that Jesse died between 1851 and 1856.
|picture taken shortly before his death|
After returning home, James married Barbara Jane Cowger, also of Wolf River Township, on April 4, 1864. They were the parents of eight children: Thomas M., James G., Rufus G., John W., Mary S., Minnie May, Chester L., and Inez Jane. Barbara died on April 25th, 1880, just 23 days after Inez was born.
On August 24, 1884, James was married to Mrs. Polly Morgan in Dekalb County, Missouri. They were married in her father's home, but the record doesn't state where that home was. Their children are Myrtle A., Stella A., Raymond Paxton, Ernest Miles and Hazel Dora.
James was a farmer for much of his life. In 1908, he went into the lumber business in Leona, Kansas, for about seven years. He retired in 1915 to his farm about 1/2 mile northwest of Leona. He died there on September 7, 1915, and is buried in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Doniphan County. Both of his wives and some of his children are also buried there.