Prof. J. K. Gwynn was born in Woodford County, Ky., but at the age of six years removed with his parents to the vicinity of Elizabethtown, Hardin County, Ky., where his boyhood and early manhood were spent in the healthful and virtuous pursuits of agriculture, for his father was a substantial farmer. That part of the Union was subsequently terrorized by alternate incursions of Union and Confederate troops. When he arrived at school age the school facilities were poor, and his earlier education was largely the result of his own unaided efforts. About the time the country was beginning to recover from the ravages of the Civil War, and the long-deferred hope of completing his education in some reputable institution of learning was about to be realized, he had the double misfortune of losing both his parents within ten days of each other, his mother dying at the age of forty-two, and his father at the age of fifty-five, in the year 1870, leaving him the eldest son of a family of eight children, himself then but sixteen. His eldest sister, now Mrs. B. B. Jenkins, of Elizabethtown, Ky., was, however, two years his senior, and together they reared the younger children till the sister referred to married, a few years later, when the subject of this sketch left home for a brief period, to engage in commercial pursuits in Louisville, Ky. The panic of 1873 causing the failure of the house he was with, he returned to his old home, and engaged in teaching in the public schools of the country till he had accumulated money enough to avail himself of a course in college. He then accepted a position as teacher in the college where he was educated, and continued in that position for one year. Subsequent to this he went to Meade County, Ky., and embarked with marked success in the high-school work, and still later he engaged in the same kind of work at Pitt's Point, Bullitt County, coming from there to Versailles, Mo., in June, 1884, where he entered into the newspaper business, establishing the Morgan Messenger in October, 1884, which he continued to publish till October, 1886, when it was destroyed by fire. He then purchased the Versailles Gazette, changed the name of the paper to Messenger-Gazette, which was also destroyed by fire in March, 1887. Shortly after coming to Versailles his ripe experience as a teacher became known, and, at the earnest solicitation of prominent citizens in the community, he opened a private school, which soon developed into such proportions as to suggest a permanent institution of learning. This scheme was put into successful execution through the agency of a joint stock company, and was chartered under the name of the Versailles Male and Female Institute. Prof. Gwynn subsequently bought up the stock, and owns the property. He carried on the publication of the above-named papers, and the school, at the same time, till the second fire, after which he devoted his energies entirely to his school duties till March, 1888, when he accepted the position as secretary of the Southwest Missouri Immigration Society, in which work he is engaged at this writing. In addition to educating himself he has also been largely instrumental in educating his brothers and sisters, and the youngest two of his sisters are a part of his family. He was married on the 31st of August, 1885, to M. Lou Hunter, of Morgan County, the fourth daughter of Shores P. Hunter by his second wife.
History of Cole, Moniteau, Morgan, Benton, Miller, Maries and Osage Counties, Missouri, Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.