J.F. Cleghorn, P.G.C.T. of Wisconsin, was born in Ontario, Canada, and removed with his parents to Illinois, when twelve years old; losing his father within a year thereafter. He received a common school education, and prepared to enter Beloit College, but was obliged to discontinue his studies, to assist his mother and younger members of the family.
He subsequently took a course at Commercial College, Chicago, and later studied law in Joliet, Illinois, and was admitted to the bar in March, 1961. One month later he enlisted as a private in 20th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and was promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant, First Lieutenant, and Captain.
He was wounded slightly at Fort Donelson, and severely at Shiloh and Vicksburg; subsequently served as First lieutenant and Captain in the Veterans Reserve Corps, and was breveted Captain, USA, and Major and Lt-colonel US Volunteers, on account of wounds and meritorious services on the battle field, and in the line of duty. Was honorably mustered out of the volunteer services, Sept. 9, 186_, and was appointed First-Lieutenant in the regular army, July 28, 1866. Accepted October 31, 1866, served as Regimental Quartermaster 45th US Infantry, and as Post-Quartermaster and Commissary at Nashville, Tennessee. Was promoted to Captain US Army, and retired by reason of wounds, December 5, 1870. He is also Commander of the Wisconsin Corps, Prohibition Army, of the blue and gray.
Brother Cleghorn joined the Good Templar Order, at Joliet, Illinois, in 1858; as a member and officer of the Grand Lodge of Illinois in 1859, but lost his membership through surrender of the charter of the lodge while absent in the Army. He joined the Advance Guard Lodge at Mauston, in 1872 and retained membership therein until May 15, 1874, when on institution of Gem of the Prairie Lodge, No. 208, at Clinton; he became a charter member and has been actively engaged therewith ever since. He was a delegate to Grand Lodge in 1876, also in 1879, and at every session since, except that of 1884. He was elected G.C.T. [Grand Chief Templar] in 1883, and unanimously re-elected in 1884 and 1885, and declined a re-election in 1886, because of seriously impaired health, occasioned by wounds received in the war. Was a representative from Wisconsin to the R.W.G.L. [Right Worthy Grand Lodge) in 1884, and at each session held since then excepting the one held at Edinborough, Scotland. He is now P.G.C.T. of Wisconsin, and vice-president of the W.G.T.M.B. Association.
In the battle of the home against the saloon, Captain Cleghorn has shown as much bravery and devotion as when fighting the battles of his country at the siege of Vicksburg. Elected as he was to follow in the footsteps of such an accomplished leader as Theodore D. Kanouse, he had a hard task to perform. The Order in the State, after a series of prosperous years was in a decline which ever seems to follow years of success, and it took an immense amount of work as well as wise plans, to keep it from going to the wall. Nothing daunted, this brave man now at the helm, and giving here and there, and everywhere his presence was needed, that first year of his term, stayed the tide of defeat and brought the Order through without a loss, and in a spirit of determination to continue its noble work.
Then came John B. Finch, R.W.G. [Right Worthy Grand] Templar, and asked Wisconsin to adopt the district system, with a raise of tax to twenty cents per capita. Extremely unprepared for such a radical step, the Order reeled as if struck with a mortal blow. Our Grand Commander, however, started on an organizing tour of the State, and never halted until he had thoroughly organized the State into districts, and to a certain extent made the membership see that it was all right and would be a blessing in the end. It took hard work and caused great anxiety to save the lodges from giving up utterly. Now, everything is smooth sailing, but, if it had not been for the wisdom and perseverance of Capt. J.F. Cleghorn, I doubt if we could show more than a corporal's guard of lodges in the state today.
Brother Cleghorn has always been very much interested in the educational features of our work, and was among the very first to enroll as a student in the Good Templar's course of study. He gave the valedictory of the Pioneer's Class, that graduated in Des Moines, in 1893.
His religious affiliations are with the Methodist Church, in which he is an earnest worker. He is a widower, having lost his wife, and also his only child, several years ago.
No man has more friends among the Good Templars of Wisconsin, than the brother of whom we write. No one has given more cheerfully, both of time and money, to advance the cause.
Brother Cleghorn is a faithful friend, the soul of honor, and has no superior in the work of the Order. He is a man honored by women and respected by men, and while he may never be rich in this world's goods, he will carry to his grave and beyond, a wealth of soul that is worth more to a man than all the gold of this world.
—International Good Templar, July 1894 (v.7, no. 10), pp. 290-291
(located by Adam Seaman)