(June 24, 1832-Jan. 30, 1923). John Stevenson Tarkington was born in Centerville, Indiana, to Joseph Tarkington and Mary Slawson. The elder Tarkington was a well-known Methodist minister who served as pastor of congregations in Lawrenceburg, Centerville, Brookville, Vincennes, and Greensburg.  

John Stevenson Tarkington graduated from Indiana Asbury University (later DePauw University) in 1852. He earned an A. M. degree three years later and  moved to Indianapolis in 1852, where he quickly established political and legal contacts. He served as private secretary to Governor Joseph A. Wright from 1853-1857. After Wright left office, Tarkington studied law in the offices of future governor Albert G. Porter. Tarkington established his own law practice in 1855.  

In 1857, Tarkington married Elizabeth Booth of Terre Haute, whose brother Newton Booth was the former governor of California and then-current U.S. senator from the same state. Tarkington and Booth had two children, author Booth Tarkington and Mary Booth Tarkington Jameson, who married Ovid Butler Jameson.  

Tarkington was elected to the Board of Trustees at Indiana University in 1858, succeeding his uncle William Tarkington. After four years, John Stevenson Tarkington narrowly won the election to represent Marion County in the Indiana House of Representatives.  

He volunteered in the Civil War when the House session ended in 1863. He served eight days as a private in an Indiana regiment, then helped to organize the 132nd Indiana Volunteer Brigade. From 1864 until the end of the Civil War, he served as a captain and Provost Marshall of that brigade.  

After the war, Tarkington practiced law with Oliver P. Morton and Elijah B. Martindale for a brief period. In 1870, he was elected judge of the Indiana Fifth Circuit Court serving Marion and Hancock counties. He remained in this role for two years after the war. 

Tarkington practiced law in a solo practice during the 1870s. After retiring from his practice, he oversaw the safety deposit section of Fletcher and Sharpe Bank.   

After the death of his first wife in 1909, Tarkington married Linda H. Schulz. Travels with his son Booth inspired one of two collections of essays the elder Tarkington wrote using the pseudonym John Stevenson in 1910 titled The Hermit of Capri. Three years later he published his other collection of essays, The Auto-Orphan. 

Revised April 2024

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