“Mr. J.S. Richardson, of New Orleans, La., in many respects, is one of the most remarkable men in our history.
He was born in Huntsville, Ala., on 22nd day of February, 1849, and is the oldest child of the late Col. Edmund Richardson, who was the founder of the great cotton firm of Richardson & May, as well as the greatest cotton planter in the world. His mother was Margaret Elizabeth Patton, a sister of Ex. Gov. Patton of Alabama.
Mr. J.S. Richardson’s early education was obtained in the common schools at Brandon, Miss., where his father lived before the war, and at Huntsville, Ala., where he also spent part of his young boyhood with his grandmother. During the war he had no opportunities for school.
In 1863, when quite a boy, he was sent by his father into the Federal Army to look after property belonging to his mother. He was arrested as a spy by Gen. Granger, and held a prisoner eight months at Huntsville, Ala., during which time he contracted measles and had a relapse and came near dying. During Gen. Granger’s absence his adjutant took pity on the sick boy and released him and had him passed through the lines. Being weak, without money or friends, and where no mail comunications could reach his family, he had to walk 140 miles to where his father was refugeing.
Immediately after the war, he was sent to Wilson’s preparatory school in Alamance County, North Carolina, a he remained there a year, then entered the Virginia Military Institute at Lexington, and having a taste for business, he wa anxious to embark for himself, left the Military Institute after the second year and went to Memphis, Tenn., and bought the interest of E.E. Clark, in the large cotton firm of Clark, Ely & CO., the form then continuing under the name of Ely, Harvey & Richardson. In 1876, he bought his partners out and continued the business under the name of James S. Richardson & CO.
The yellow fever of 1879 forced him to move his offices from Memphis to St. Louis. While there, he determined to close up the cotton business in Memphis. He bought an interest in the well-known large grocery business of C.M. & G.M. Flanagan, the firm then becoming Flanagan & Richardson. This business was continued under that name for three years. The business of his father was increasing so fast that he needed the help. Mr. Richardson sold his interest to his partners in 1861, and went south to assist his father, who was a firm believer in the gradual enhancement of values of good cotton lands and Mr. James S. Richardson commenced in 1875, to follow out his father’s idea, bought some cotton plantations and has continued ever since to enlarge his planting interest.
When Col. Richardson died in 1866, he left no will and the brothers and sisters of Mr. Richardson immediately issued Powers of Attorney and Mr. Richardson was put in entire charge of the large estate of his father, which amounted to many millions. This he continued for two years with remarkable ability. In the mean time, Mr. Richardson’s mother died and afterward when everything was in snug shape and ready for division, a meeting of all the heirs was called and the entire estate was divided pleasantly, and to the entire satisfaction of all concerned. Mr. Richardson having caused large additions o his father’s accumulations.
The planting property of Mr. Richardson, inherited in addition to what he previously owned, makes him the largest cotton planter in the world –he having in all 40, 000 acres of this fine alluvial cotton land, of which 20,000 acres are in cultivation this year.
The cotton firm of Richardson & May continues, and the Richardsons still own their father’s stock in the Refuge Cotton Oil Mill at Vicksburg, Miss., as well as the Mississippi Mill at Wesson, Miss., which Institution is now working over 2,000 operators.
Probably one of the most remarkable incidents in Mr. Richardson’s life was in 1871, during the yellow fever epidemic. While on a steamboat going up to his father’s plantations, he was taken sick with the yellow fever, the crew and passengers became panic stricken with fright, and in the rain and wintry weather of November he was put ashore. The only house near was an old dilapidated one without chimneys, floors, doors or widows. He was placed in this house until friends came to his rescue and in a short time, with the use of cloths, the openings were closed and a clap board floor was put in and straw and mud chimneys hurriedly built. The physicians pronounced his recovery impossible, but his strong constitution pulled him through.
Very few men emulate the good example of their fathers. Mr. J.S. Richardson has been one of the few. When death came into his household, he assumed all the authority that was necessary. His acts were ratified by every member of the family and what he has done for the estate of Col. Ed Richardson has been remarkable in the highest degree. His integrity is unquestioned, and his good name is above reproach.”
Source: Cotton Movement and Fluctuations, 1885 to 1890, Latham Alexander and Co., N.Y., 1890, Dennison and Brown Stationers and Printers, N.Y., pages 91-2