James L. Phelps was born in Ottawa, Illinois, January
1, 1865. He attended the public schools of Ottawa, where he
gained the rudiments of an education, which had been destined to be
complete, but the failure of his father in business necessitated his
quitting school and taking employment. He taught school for a
time, reading law at night, and qualified for the bar, being admitted
in Illinois in 1878. He took up its practice in Newport, Ark.,
first , but poor health compelled him to seek another climate, so Mr.
Phelps came north and settled in Atchison, Kas., where he resumed the
practice of his profession, and became rather prominent in the
Democratic politics of the district.
In 1881 he removed to Independence, this
county, where he first became engaged in the abstract business, giving
it up after a time to take a place with the Kansas City Times,
remaining with the paper for several years. After his newspaper
experience, Mr. Phelps was appointed Deputy County clerk, and given
charge of the Independence office. His carefulness of the
responsibility entrusted to his hands, together with the experience
and friendships gained while in the office, made him available timber
for the nomination for the office, and he was nominated by the
Democratic party in 1902.
Mr. Phelps is a Knight of Pythias, a Woodman,
a Heptosaph, and is identified with the Christian Church.
He was married in 1883 to Miss Nellie Gregg.