James Alcorn was one of five children born to John Alcorn (1799-1877) and an unknown mother. According to the 1900 census, James was born in April of 1832 in Kentucky. His father John appears on the 1840 census with his wife and five children in Jessamine County, so it is generally accepted that James was born in Jessamine County. John had been married to his second wife, Nancy McPherson, for two years by then, so it can only be assumed that James's mother had died when James was small, only four or five years old.
Sadly, after having four children in the next four years, Nancy, too, died, leaving James motherless once more. John would remarry again, in 1846, this time to Elizabeth Hicks Barnett, who brought her own two children into the growing Alcorn brood. John and Elizabeth would have six more children over the next few decades.
It must have been a hard life growing up in rural Jessamine and Garrard counties, helping his father farm, and living in what had to have been crowded conditions.
At the age of 18, James moved out and went to work with Dr. John C. Welch. Hugh Corman, husband of Alice Alcorn, said that in later years, James would be referred to as "the old medicine man." It's presumably while living with Dr. Welch that he learned his skills.
He married Sarah Ann Hicks (1832-1910) on Dec. 21, 1852 in Jessamine County. Sarah was the daughter of John Hicks and Elizabeth Preston of Garrard County, Kentucky. They had nine children -- Sarah Jane, Martha, James, Squire, William Harrison, Sallie, George, Joseph Thomas, and Catherine. All of their children lived to adulthood, with the exception of Sallie, who died at the age of 15.
By all accounts, their's was a happy home. The lived at the mouth of the Kentucky River, where James made his living, farming and fishing. Bertha Alcorn Johns, daughter of William Harrison Alcorn, said her grandfather made baskets to put in the river to catch fish. She recalled the day James was fishing and began to yell for Sallie to bring the plow line. He had caught a 106-pound fish, and needed the rope to bring it in.
Lillie Alcorn, daughter of James Alcorn Jr. and Anna Elizabeth Corman, said her grandfather had an orchard and a flower garden that was admired by all. Many marriages took place at the Alcorn home.
When James died, the following account appeared in the July 27, 1902 issue of the Jessamine Journal:
Mr James Alcorn, aged 72, died at his home near Hanley July 17, Friday. The deceased was a great fisherman and known to almost everybody in this section of the county.
In the same paper, but located in the Wilmore Society page, we read :
James Alcorn, about 72 years of age, died at his home Friday, July 19. Mr. Alcorn had lived on the Kentucky river almost all his life and was a great fisherman. No man knew the river from Camp Nelson to High Bridge better than Mr. Alcorn , and almost everybody that did much fishing went to him for information. His remains were buried at the Nicholasville Cemetery, Saturday .