James Albert Houchin was born to John Bourbon Houchin and Margaret Ann Jones Houchin on October 10, 1869, in Logan County, Illinois. Houchin grew up on a farm, and graduated from the Gem City Business College in Quincy, IL. In 1891, the College secured an opportunity for Houchin in Jefferson City as a clerk for the Charles L. Lewis Clothing Company.
Four years later, Houchin organized the Star Clothing Manufacturing Company. When manufacturers could purchase prison labor, Houchin was one of Missouri’s largest employers. At one time, he owned over fifteen factories in various states and paid the state over a million dollars a year for prison labor.
Houchin owned stock farms in Cole, Calloway, Morgan, and Pettis counties, where he raised a herd of Hereford cattle and bred saddle horses. He gained a reputation as one of the leading breeders, and was the owner of the thoroughbred stallion Astral King.
In 1893, Houchin married Mollie Clark, daughter of Benjamin Clark and Isabelle Sone Clark. The couple had a daughter, Myrene Houchin, who was born on October 20, 1896. Myrene shared her father’s love of horses, and often rode in shows.
The Houchin home, which still stands on E. Capitol Avenue, had an impressive reputation for grandeur. The Houchins entertained governors and legislators, as well as an annual Christmas party for 700 of Jefferson City’s needy children. On the night of Myrene’s debut ball in 1919, a fifty-foot pavilion was erected in the garden for a midnight dinner, and fireworks were shot off the terrace.← Hobbs, John W. Hough, George W. →