Putnam County, Illinois History and Genealogy
Henry B. Kays
VICTOR C. KAYS, B.S., M.S.
Few satisfactions in life can equal the knowledge that one is directly responsible for having made a richer, fuller, more useful life available for thousands of his fellow men. Victor C. Kays certainly has cause to experience that satisfaction to the full, for it is he who guided the affairs of Arkansas State College from that October day in 1910 when, as a small agricultural school, the college opened in temporary quarters in the city of Jonesboro, Arkansas; now it has acquired full status as an accredited, four-year college, offering training not only in agriculture, but also granting degrees of Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, and Bachelor of Science in Education and Engineering. Victor C. Kays was President of the college from 1910 until 1942, when he retired as President and became President Emeritus business manager for the duration of the war.
When Victor C. Kays assumed the presidency of the infant Arkansas State College in 1910, he was a young man only twenty-eight years old, who already had shown that he possessed the qualities of dynamic leadership, a broad understanding of human nature and the problems of young people, and good, sound common sense. He had an excellent practical and cultural education, and a background of accomplishment in the educational field, particularly with reference to scientific agriculture. He possessed the qualities most needed to give the necessary impetus to a new educational institution designed to give to the young people of Northeastern Arkansas the opportunity to learn the things which would add richness to their own lives and improve the standards of living of the entire section.
Victor C. Kays was born in Magnolia, Illinois, on July 24, 1882. His father, John A. Kays, was born in Magnolia, Illinois in 1851, and had the distinction of serving his county in practically all of the county offices, while he operated a large farm. John A. Kays died in 1906. Mary E. (Hartenbower) Kays, the mother of Victor C. Kays, was born in Minnesota in 1859 and died in 1933.
When Victor C. Kays graduated from the Henry High School at Henry, Illinois, he enrolled in the Northern Illinois State Teachers College at DeKalb, Illinois, graduating from that college in 1902. In 1906 he graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana, Illinois, with a B. S. degree. He received a Masters Degree of Science in Agriculture at the State College of Agriculture, Messilla, Park, New Mexico, and did post graduate work at Iowa State College at Ames, Iowa and the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. For a short time he operated a farm at Magnolia, Illinois, and then taught Agriculture at the College of Agriculture in New Mexico. He also taught at the Township High School in Savannah, Illinois, and was an Agricultural Director of the Agricultural School at Wetumpka, Alabama. In 1910 he came to Arkansas as President of the State School of Agriculture at Jonesboro, Arkansas, and his connection with that school, now Arkansas State College, has continued without interruption since that time.
Mr. Kays is a practical scientist and educational leader, and he is also identified with the social and civic life of Jonesboro. He participates actively in the civic affairs of the community, and is well known and well liked off the campus as well as in educational and college circles. He is a member of the Masonic Order, with membership in the Royal Arch and the Knights Templar, and is in addition a member of the Jonesboro Lions Club and of many educational and professional organizations.
On June 21, 1917, Victor C. Kays married Bertie B. Hale of Paragould, Arkansas. Their only son, Victor Hale Kays, was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, on November 23, 1919. He graduated from the Arkansas State College High School and Arkansas State College, specializing in Engineering. Post-Graduate work in electrical engineering and civil engineering at the University of Illinois followed. Victor Hale Kays served with the procurement division of the United States Air Corps, located in New York City and Buffalo. He is now a member of the U. S. Engineers on the Bull Shoals Dam Project near Mt. Howe, Arkansas.
Victor C. Kays has large farming interests. He can speak as an authority on agricultural matters, as he is keenly interested in experimentation and follows all new developments with care. His contributions to scientific agriculture and education have been great, and Arkansas State College has become a thriving, modern educational institution under his wise guidance. [Source: "Annals of Arkansas," by Dallas T. Herndon, published 1967; transcribed by G.T. Transcription Team]
Taken from the Past and Present of Putnam and Marshall Counties - Biographical, 1907, Page 132, 135
William A. Kays, a resident of Putnam county for more than a half century, was born in Indiana, September 2, 1828, a son of William Kays, a native of Kentucky, who came to Illinois in 1835, locating in Knox county, where his subsequent years were passed. William Kays, Sr., the grandfather of our subject, lived for several years in Putnam county, dying at the home of his son Henry, near Magnolia.
William A. Kays was a youth of only seven years when his parents removed from Indiana to Illinois, and his boyhood days were spent upon the home farm in Knox county, while in the country schools he acquired his early education and later attended a Presbyterian high school. When twenty-one years of age he became a factor in commercial life by establishing a grocery business, which he conducted at Saluda, Illinois, for about three years. Prior to this he made a trip to the west, traveling through Kansas, and slept one night in the home of John Brown, the noted abolition leader, who was then living between St. Louis and Kansas City. In 1850 Mr. Kays arrived in Putnam county in company with an uncle, Henry Kays, and in the succeeding winter made for him eleven thousand rails. He then rented land and engaged in farming on his own account, and when his labors had brought to him sufficient capital he made purchase of eighty acres of land, upon which he resided until about twelve years ago, when he sold out and bought one hundred acres, where he now lives in Hennepin township. Throughout the period of his residence in this county he has carried on general agricultural pursuits, which he has found to be a profitable source of income, as his labors have been directed by sound judgment and characterized by unremitting diligence.
In 1850 Mr. Kays was married to Miss Olive Haley, a native of Putnam county, who died April 29, 1900. He later wedded Miss Nancy Mills, of Putnam county, who still survives. By the first marriage there were eight children: Ellen, now deceased; Mrs. Sarah Purviance, now living in Kansas; James B., of Missouri; Mrs. Amanda Burns, of Kansas; Alice, the wife of H. H. Edwards, of Hennepin township; William H., of Tonica, Illinois; Olive, the wife of J. B. Davis, of Peoria, this state; and Mary Belle, deceased. By the second marriage there is one son, Wesley Kays.
In early life Mr. Kays joined the Methodist Episcopal church, and has ever endeavored to follow closely the principles and precepts of Christianity. For thirty-two years he has been secretary of the Mineral Springs Association, which holds a camp meeting at McNabb each year. He purchased the land for this purpose through an order of the conference of the Methodist Episcopal church and held it until the association was able to repay him. He has always been very active in religious and political life. His first presidential vote was cast for Franklin Pierce, and he has always been a staunch democrat where national issues are involved, yet at local elections often casts an independent ballot. He is now and has been for forty-seven years chairman of the democratic county central committee, and has done effective work in behalf of the party, being recognized as one of its leading representatives in this part of the state. He was also chairman of the central committee while living in Knox county, and was on the stage with Lincoln and Douglas when they held their joint debate in Galesburg.
His father enlisted and fought in the Mexican war, and at the time of the trouble with the Mormons in Illinois, William A. Kays enlisted and served for four months with the company that fought Joseph Smith and compelled him to come to Peoria for trial and later to leave Illinois. At the time of the Civil war he drilled for three months, intending to join an Illinois regiment, but the troops were gone when he arrived at Galesburg and he did not therefore have the opportunity of going to the front. He has in his possession, an adz used by a man of the name of Humiston in trying to find the stone tablets left by the Mormons.
Mr. Kays has closely followed the golden rule, doing unto tohers as he would have them do unto him and no man is spoken of in higher terms by his neighbors than the subject of this review. He receives the respect and veneration which should ever be accorded to a man of his years whose life has been exemplary and whose principles have been most commendable.
Taken From the Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties
John A. Koontz
JOHN A. KOONTZ is engaged in general farming, owning eighty acres of land under the government ditch. This tract he has rapidly transformed into a highly cultivated place, its many improvements bearing evidence of his industry and practical methods. He was born in Putnam county, Illinois, April 9, 1858, and is a son of Henry and Lucy (Grubb) Koontz, both of whom were natives of Pennsylvania. The mother died in Putnam county when her son John A. was nine years of age. He was the eldest of six children, the others being Henry, William, Lucy, Charles and Alfred.
John A. Koontz in his early childhood went to live with his grandfather, with whom he remained between the ages of two and seventeen years. He continued in Putnam county until January 22, 1876, when he went to Missouri, where he started in active life on his own account, working at farm labor. He spent twelve years in Missouri and in 1889 arrived in Klamath county, Oregon, where he worked for wages until 1905. In 1893, however, he homesteaded his present place but for twelve years thereafter continued in the employ of others until he felt that his capital and conditions were such as to justify him in beginning the improvement of his own land. He now owns eighty acres of the one hundred and sixty acre homestead and is diligently and persistently carrying on the work of the farm. The government ditch supplies this with water and excellent irrigation is making his fields most productive so that he annually raises good crops. He is a public-spirited citizen and that he does not look only to his own interests and welfare is indicated by the fact that he has given nine acres for the right of way of the Modoc Northern Railroad which is now under construction upon condition that they build a depot and put in a siding here. This will afford excellent shipping facilities for the people of the surrounding country and will prove of inestimable benefit to the ranchers of this part of Klamath county.
Mr. Koontz has been married twice. In September, 1880, he wedded Miss Ella Drummond and unto them was born a daughter, Julia A., now the wife of B. E. Hull, of St. Joseph, Missouri. His present wife was formerly Mrs. Ida E. Greeley, whom he wedded December 29, 1908.
In politics Mr. Koontz is a republican, interested in the welfare and success of his party to the extent of advocating its principles and voting for its candidates, yet he never seeks nor desires office for himself. He is generous in his support of the Presbyterian church and gave an acre of his farm upon which to build a house of worship of that denomination. In fact he advocates all progressive measures that will advance the material, intellectual, political and moral progress of the community and thereby has become a valued citizen of Klamath county.
[Source: The centennial history of Oregon, 1811-1912: Volume 4 - Page 3894 By Joseph Gaston, George H. Himes]