ATCHISON COUNTY, KANSAS
 

THE AFRO-AMERICAN RACE
 

Source: History of Atchison County, Kansas, by Sheffield Ingalls, 1916, Chapter XXIII, Pages 334-344

Early Day Conditions - Their Advancement - Prior Dickey - Henry C. Buchanan - Eugene L. Bell - Charles Ingram - Charles J. Ferguson - Henry Dickey - Dr. Frank Adrian Pearl, M. D. - Dr. W. W. Caldwell, M. D.
 

The story of the African race in Atchison county makes an appeal to the thoughtful and intelligent student of history. It is not a mere platitude to say that the negro has made marvelous progress in many lines, and not the least striking illustration of this assertion is to point to what he has accomplished in this county under circumstances that have not been altogether propitious. The record of African bondage here is not voluminous, but it is sufficient upon which to base a story of his development. As early as 1856 a reference to slavery in Atchison county is found in the Squatter Sovereign, which on September 16 of that year contained the following advertisement:

$500 REWARD

Ran away from the subscribers on the night of September 9, two negro boys, Ned and Harrison.

Ned is about eighteen years old, stout and well built, about five feet, eight inches high, and weighs about 170 pounds. At the time of his leaving was dressed in a brown velvet coat.

Harrison is a bright mulatto, about five feet, four inches high, weighs about 120 pounds, is about sixteen years old and was rather shabbily dressed.

Said negroes took with them two horses.

One black, six years old, branded H on left hip, quite thin, about fifteen and one-half hands high.

One claybank, dark mane and tail, rather bony, six years old, a bout fifteen and one-half hands high, paces.

Five hundred dollars reward will be given for the apprehension and safe return of the negroes, or $250 for the recovery of either of the negroes and horses.

A. J. Fredrick, R. H. Cabell - Atchison, K. T.

A search of the files of the Squatter Sovereign fails to disclose the sequel to this advertisement. Whether or not "Ned and Harrison" were subsequently apprehended and the reward paid must be left to the imagination but doubtless they were among the four million black men from whose limbs, a few years later, Abraham Lincoln struck the shackles, and whose descendants this day are breathing the pure air of freedom. There is no definite record of the number of slaves in Atchison county at the time the advertisement in the Squatter Sovereign appeared. When the first census was taken in 1855 no counties had been established and the territory in Atchison county was included in the fifteenth election district. This census provided for the enumeration of the slaves in the territory and as far as can be determined, the following men in and around Atchison were slave owners: D. A. N. Glover, three; W. M. Size, five; John Samuel, one; R. A. Walker, one; Charles Echer, three; S. F. Raz, three; and Grafton Thomasson, the sawmill man, of Atchison, owned three, one of whom drowned herself in the Missouri river, which fatality was the direct cause of the famous Pardee Butler incident. It is a far cry from "Ned and Harrison" to Prior Dickey and Henry Buchanan, successful farmers of Walnut Township, and it will be the object of this chapter to show how far that cry is, by tracing somewhat intimately the lives and careers of Dickey and Buchanan, and other leading negroes of the Mills neighborhood.

Prior Dickey was born in Barren County, Kentucky, March 9, 1861, a son of Jackson and Edith Dickey, the father a native of West Virginia, and the mother of Kentucky. The first eighteen years of his life were spent in Kentucky, and in 1879 he came to Kansas and his first employment was in a rock quarry at Millbrook, Graham county. He possessed $3.75 when he landed in this town. He helped build sod houses and in fact turned his hand at anything that offered for his board and lodging. During the spring of 1880 he walked from Millbrook to Concordia, a distance of 200 miles in search of work. He was accompanied by a friend, Calvin Trotter and their joint capital was $1.25. After reaching Concordia and also having gone without food for two days, he secured work with a railroad construction crew, and was sent from Concordia to Atchison and thence to Rich Hill, Mo., and later to Texas, where he worked on the extension of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas railway. When this work was finished he started for Kansas, and wishing to save his money stowed himself in a box car. While the train was at a standstill in a Texas town, a white man knocked on the door, demanding admittances. Prior was scared, and stealing out of the opposite door, started to run. The white man called out, "Stop, neighbor," and Prior stopped. They became friends, and came north together in the box car. On arriving at Ft. Scott, Prior gave his white friend $1, fed him at a restaurant, and sent him on his way. From Ft. Scott he came to Atchison, and later was employed in railroad construction work of various kinds in Nebraska, on the Central Branch railroad in Kansas, the Wabash in Missouri, of endeavor in which he has since made a signal success. From ten dollars a month to twenty-one dollars, with board and lodging, was his wage. Prior possessed a spirit of thrift and saved his wages. In 1885, while working for Medad Harvey, in Grasshopper township, Atchison county, he bought his first forty acres. On this place he put his father and mother, bringing them from Kentucky. They lived here until their deaths, that of the father, in 1895, and the mother in 1911. Prior's example in caring for his aged parents, even refusing to marry on account of attendance on his mother, is worthy of emulation. Three years after his first purchase of land he bought his second forty, a year later a third forty, then an eighty and later from John J. Ingalls, he bought a 160 acre tract. He is also the owner of a 160 acre farm in Oklahoma and his various holdings total over 500 acres. He is a capable and industrious agriculturist, employs modern methods, is in close touch with the advancement in scientific farming and is a successful breeder of high grade cattle and hogs. His herd of grade Herefords is the equal of any in the county and numbers over fifty head. His property is well improved and well kept. He is a stockholder in the State Bank of Potter and conceded to be no mean financier. He is a staunch Republican and states "not a black man in the United States can conscientiously be anything but a Republican." He cast his first vote in Graham county in the first election held in that county after its organization. He is a Mason and a Baptist. A sister and her children comprise his household. Possessed of ambition to succeed and gain an assured position in his adopted State, of untiring energy, intelligence and the quality of thrift, Prior Dickey has developed into a citizen who is worth while.

Henry C. Buchanan was born in Lincoln County, Kentucky on April 8, 1844. His father was a slave, owned by Dr. Thomas Montgomery and named Martin Montgomery and his mother was Violet Shanks, a slave girl owned by Archie Shanks, his daughter, Sarah, inherited the boy, Henry along with thirty other slaves. She afterward married a man by the name of Buchanan and this family name was given the boy. He grew to young manhood on the Buchanan plantation, and was given fair treatment, but not any schooling. In 1864 he left the plantation and enlisted in the Fifth United States cavalry, at Camp Wilson, on the Kentucky river. He served about twenty-two months and was mustered out at Little Rock, Ark. He then returned to the old plantation in Kentucky and found it had been made a Government post. He was fairly well posted on farming, as he had been one of the best field hands on the Buchanan plantation, and this fact being known to the land owners of the neighborhood he had no difficulty in leasing a portion of the old plantation. A brother in law was associated with him in this venture, but Henry was the manager. He later leased land in the adjoining county. His farming was profitable and he saved his money, eventually accumulating enough capital to engage in the general merchandise business in Lancaster, Ky., on a small scale. In 1881 he concluded to go west, and chose Atchison, Kan., as his place of location. He arrived here at the time of the great flood, and shortly afterward opened a grocery and produce store on Fifth street. He continued in this business until 1891 when he sold out and with the proceeds bought 100 acres of land in Walnut township. This property he improved and as the years have passed he has added to the acreage, until now he owns 400 acres. The property is well improved, well kept and well farmed. He was married in 1878 to Belle Hogans of Garritt county, Kentucky, who died in 1899. Handicapped by the lack of education, and his sons are now carrying forward their father's farm enterprise along modern lines and are well educated, intelligent members of the community. A deceased daughter, Luella B., graduated from the Atchison county high school, at Effingham. Henry Buchanan has always been a Republican. He has served as precinct committeeman, and as a member of the election board at several elections, and also as judge of election. He is a member of the Baptist church and has been a member of the board of trustees of his local church for many years. Measured from the standpoint of a man who has done the things which have come to his hand from time to time, he has done those things well. He has assisted in the development of the county's agricultural resources, has been thrity and has gained the respect and esteem of the residents of his township and county.

Eugene L. Bell, prosperous farmer, Walnut township, was born at Oak Mills, Kan., July 28, 1875, a son of Joseph and Sydney (King) Bell, natives of Missouri and Kentucky, respectively. Joseph Bell, the father, was born in October, 1844, in Platte county, Missouri, of slave parentage. He lived in Missouri until 1863, and then located in Leavenworth, Kan., where he joined the United States army, becoming a member of Company G, Seventy-ninth regiment, United States Colorado infantry. He served until the close of the Civil war, taking part in fourteen battles. After the war he married Miss Sydney King at Leavenworth, Kan. In 1872 he removed to Oak Mills, Atchison county, and settled on a farm in walnut township. He was one of the pioneers of this settlement and developed a fine farm. Mr. Bell took an active part in matters pertaining to the betterment of his community and was an exemplary citizen. Many of the noted men of his day in Kansas were his warm and steadfast friends. Mr. and Mrs. Bell were the parents of nine children, six of whom were reared to maturity: Eugene L., the subject of this review; Mrs. Birdie Norman, of Omaha, Neb.; Mrs. T. C. Brown, and Miss Pearlie Bell, of Chicago, Ill.; Humphrey Bell, of Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Mead Bell, of Cleveland, Ohio. Joseph Bell died May 30, 1914. Mrs. Bell died April 18, 1903. Like her husband, she ran away from slavery to Kansas.

Eugene L. spent his boyhood days assisting his father in cultivating the home farm, and managed to attend school about two and one-half months out of the year until he attained the age of nineteen years. He then began to hustle for himself and completed a three years' course in the Atchison county high school at Effingham. Ambition and a desire to educate himself led him to make sacrifices in order to prepare himself to better cope with the struggle for a livelihood. The priceless boon of an education was his after considerable effort, and he graduated from the county high school in 1896. He then returned to the avocation of farmer and rented land in Walnut township, which he cultivated for some years. Mr. Bell is the owner of a fine farm in Walnut township.

He was then married December 26, 1901 to Miss Mamie Churchhill, of Monrovia, Kan., a native of Hardin county, Kentucky. They settled in Atchison, Kan., and lived there three years after this marriage. Mr. Bell then moved to Walnut township and taught school for two terms in District No. 20. He then bought forty acres of land, on which he has since made his home. Seven children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Bell; Inez, Orville, Eugene, Leslie, Jr., Justin, Irene, Pearlie, Ruthanna. Mrs. Bell died December 7, 1912.

Mr. Bell has been the local newspaper correspondent of his neighborhood for several years and has a decided literary talent. For the past eighteen years he has been connected with school district No. 20 in the capacity of teacher and school trustee. He is a progressive Republican in his political affiliations, and has been honored by his party. On May 27, 1915, he was appointed by Governor Capper as a member of the board of trustees of Quindaro University, Kansas, and also received a complimentary appointment to attend the Farmers' Congress as a negro delegate, held at the Panama Exposition at San Francisco. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church of Atchison, and has been a member of the Masonic fraternity for the past fifteen years. Mr. Bell has taken a prominent part in the educational and civic life of Atchison County. He has served as a delegate to county and State conventions of his party, and filled the position of doorkeeper and sergeant-at-arms in the house of representatives at Topeka. His newspaper experience includes a term of employment in the printing department of the Omaha Bee when nineteen years old, where he learned typesetting, going from there to Chicago and attending the World's Fair. After this experience he returned home with the intention of securing an education and succeeded. Mr. Bell is one of the well respected citizens of his community and is one of the recognized leaders of his race in Kansas. His father, Joseph Bell, was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, Scott Post, of Hydro, Okla., whither he removed in 1900.

Charles Ingram, a well known farmer, of Walnut township, whose agricultural plant is located four miles distant from the town of Potter, Kan., consisting of 160 acres of good land, is a native of the Southland. He was born in 1855, a son of Hart and Vinia Ingram, both of whom were born and reared in Tennessee. Just previous or some years before the opening of the Civil war, his parents left Tennessee and came to Buchanan county, Missouri, as chattels of Jesse Ingram. The Ingram farm was located about four miles distant from St. Joseph, Mo. Here they toiled in the fields of the master and owner until given their freedom by Mr. Ingram near the end of the Civil war. The owner on setting his slaves free, told them to go out and hustle for themselves. Hart Ingram and his family came to Kansas and lived during their first winter here in Atchison. He then located on a farm in Mt. Pleasant township, and worked for Mr. Speck for five years. He then rented land of John King for one year, after which he invested his savings in forty acres of land in Walnut township upon which he resided until his demise.

As a youth Charles had no opportunity to acquire an education, and after his marriage, in 1880 he rented land for several years and eventually saved enough money to make a payment on forty acres of farm lands. He immediately made his home on his purchase and has added to his possessions until he is now the owner of 160 acres of excellent farm land, with good comfortable dwelling and improvements. Charles Ingram was married in 1880 to Margarette Farner, of Atchison county. Five children have blessed this marriage who are all receiving the benefits of a good school education by their ambitious parents.

Mr. Ingram is a Republican in politics and is a member of the Baptist church. He is a man of high and strong character which has been developed in the stern and exacting school of adversity. Mr. Ingram has seen the time when he was unable to borrow even twenty-five dollars, and his credit is now good for as much as $2,500, should he desire it. One of his daughters, Grace, is a graduate of the Atchison county high school at Effingham and the others have been given similar opportunity. Grace Ingram taught school in Atchison county before her marriage. Mr. Ingram is a striking example of the progress which his race has made since the negores have been freed from bondage.

Charles J. Ferguson, farmer of Oak Mills, Kan., was born in Platte county, Missouri, in April 1881, a son of Daniel and Sarah (Williams) Ferguson, the former a native of Kentucky and the latter a native of Missouri. The parents of Charles came to Kansas from Missouri in 1881 and settled on a small farm of twenty acres, which Daniel bought with his savings, and still owns. Charles attended school in District No. 20, and was reared on the parental farm. After his marriage in 1900 he began doing things for himself and has become the owner of 100 acres of fine farm lands, overlooking Bean Lake, and located in Walnut township. Mr. Ferguson has attained to his comfortable position of affluence by industry, economy, and good financial management, and began his career with practically nothing. He was the first man in Walnut township to ship a carload of wheat, and others have since followed his example. He shipped his first carload of wheat in 1910 and has become noted as a grower of small grain, having raised 1,690 bushels of wheat in 1914 and raises on an average over 1,200 bushels annually. He was married March 7, 1900, to Eliza, a daughter of H. c. Buchanan, and is the father of the following children: Granville F., born December 19, 1900; Sarah born March 1, 1902; Sheffield, born January 12, 1905; Rothschild, born September 8, 1908, Luella, born June 17, 1910; Decina born May 31, 1912.
Mr. Ferguson is a Republican in politics and has taken an active and influential part in the affairs of his party in Atchison county. He was elected a member of the county central committee in 1908, and has held this position since that time. He is treasurer of the school board of District No. 20 of his township. He is a member of the Knights of Tabor, of Atchison and is well thought of and highly respected by all who knew him.
Henry Dickey farmer of Walnut township was born February 24, 1850, in Barron county, Kentucky. He was a son of Jackson and Edith Dickey, who were salves until freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. After the Civil war, which resulted in the Dickeys becoming freemen, the parents remained in Kentucky for fifty cents a day and he wished to better his condition and that of his parents. Accordingly he came to Kansas in search of a location and found it in Atchison county. After his brother, Prior Dickey, joined him in this county he and Prior pooled their interests and invested in farm lands until they now own over 500 acres of land in partnership. They also own forty head of fine Hereford cattle, seven eights pure bred stock.

Mr. Dickey was married February 23, 1903, to Celia Kerford, a daughter of Abraham Kerford a well known colored family of Atchison county. The Kerfords came from the home county of Abraham Lincoln, in Kentucky. One child has been born to Mr. and Mrs. Henry Dickey, Sarah E., born September 24, 1906.

Politically Mr. Dickey is allied with the Republican party and has served as a member of the school board of his district. He and his wife are members of the Baptist Church. Mrs. Dickey is affiliated with the True Eleven lodge of Atchison. Mr. Dickey is one of the most influential and successful members of the negro race in Kansas, and is considered as one of the industrious and highly successful agriculturists and live stock men of Atchison county.

Dr. frank Adrian Pearl, M. D., Atchison, Kan., is one of the self-made men of the present generation. He was born September 2, 1886 in the city of Atchison, a son of Ryes and Sarah J. Pearl, the former of whom was a native of Missouri and removed to Atchison, Kan., shortly after the close of the Civil war. He lived in Atchison until 1888 and then moved to Butte, Mont., where he lived until his demise. After his demise the widow married a man named Davis.

Frank A. was reared to young manhood in Butte, and attended the public and high school of his home city, afterwards pursuing a course in business college. When yet a boy he began to work for himself and early became self-reliant in doing any and all kinds of honest labor. In 1905 and 1906 he studied in the Topeka Educational Institute, and supported himself by hard work while studying in this institution. He then entered Howard Medical College of Washington, D. C., and graduated from this school in 1912. After his graduation Dr. Pearl located in Kansas city and for one and one half years served as interne in the General Hospital of Kansas City. He located in Atchison in August of 1914 and has built up an excellent practice among the people of his race and has made a name for himself as a skilled and well educated physician. Dr. Pearl is a member of the County Medical Society, the Tri-State Medical Association, embracing Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma, and the Kansas Medical Society. He is an independent in politics and is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Dr. Pearl is fraternally allied with the Odd Fellows, the United Brotherhood of Freemen, and the Knights of Tabor. He is well educated, courteous, a great student, and is fast making a place for himself in his chosen profession.

Dr. W. W. Caldwell, M. D., of Atchison, Kan., was born in Nashville, Tenn. In 1877, a son of Jefferson and Elizabeth (Bell) Caldwell. His mother was a native of Louisiana and had the entire support of ten children thrown upon her after the removal of the family to Topeka, Kan., in 1880. Mrs. Caldwell was a capable woman of more than ordinary ability, thoroughly untutored, but possessed of a strong character, she determined that her children should be fitted to cope with the battle of life with well trained minds. She early installed into the minds of her children those qualities of character which have produced great men. She possessed an iron constitution and an unconquerable will which enabled her to put in long hours each day at the wash tub in order to gain the means of feeding the hungry mouths of her children. She also taught each of her offspring to become self supporting as soon as they were able and encouraged them to strike out for themselves. An instance of her nature is shown in an occurrence in the life of Dr. Caldwell: "When the boy was fourteen years of age he made his way to St. Louis, via 'the side door Pullman' route. He did not like the appearance of things in St. Louis, and returned to the safer haven of his home in Topeka only to be chided by his mother for his inability to stay away from home and make his own way in the world as she desired him to do. The night following his return he again left home and did not return until time for school to re-open in the fall, with money in his pocket which would suffice to carry him through the winter. The mother was an expert laundress and kept all of her children in school as long as they desired to go. Two of her daughters nearly finished the high school course in Topeka, but Dr. Caldwell was the only child of the family to acquire a collegiate education and a professional training.
He attended both the public and high schools of Topeka and afterwards studied for three years in the State Normal School at Topeka, and was granted a life teacher's certificate. While at college Dr. Caldwell made a great reputuation as a runner and football player serving as halfback on the State Normal Football team. He acquired his education practically by his own efforts, encouraged by his ambitious mother. In 1892, when he was fourteen years of age, he made his first trip away from home, to St. Louis, but returned home after one month's stay in that city. His mother having ridiculed him for coming home, he caught the Rock Island flyer out of Topeka that night and rode part of the way to Denver. After a thrilling experience covering a period of two weeks he finally arrived at the western city, just as he started without funds but with the desire to obtain employment. He worked in Denver at any honest employment he could obtain such as shining shoes, laying concrete, hotel porter and similar jobs. His hardships were many but he was eventually well repaid for his early struggles. One place which he held as porter in a barber shop enabled him to lay by a considerable sum of money each week. He was paid ten cents per shine and allowed to keep the money thus earned and saved eight dollars during his first week. He worked for this shop for three successive summers and made it a rule to lay by eight dollars each week. When it came time for school to open he would "beat" his way back to Topeka for one and one half years he went to Independence, Kan., but remained there only seven months. In 1908 Dr. Caldwell came to Atchison and opened an office for general medical practice. He has made a great success in his noble profession and has attained to a high position of leadership among the members of the Afro-American race.
Dr. Caldwell was married in 1906 to Araminta Beck, a native of Wamegoa county, Kansas and to this union have been born children as follows: Georgia, born in 1909; Elizabeth, born in 1911; Elnora, born in 1908. The mother of these children was born in Kansas City August 20, 1880, a daughter of Leonardo Beck, a stone cutter by trade. Her mother, Mrs. Georgia Beck was one of the original Fisk Jubilee Singers, who sang in public recitals in many cities of the United States and in England. They sang in the cause of education, the money earned by the recitals going to defray the expenses of erecting the $100,000 Jubilee Hall at Fisk University, Nashville, Tenn. An uncle of Mrs. Caldwell, Col. James L. Beck, commanded the Twenty-third regiment of colored Kansas volunteers which served in Cuba during the Spanish-American war. Mrs. Caldwell is a well educated lady and is a graduate of the Wamego, Kansas high school and graduated from Kansas University before she attained the age of twenty years. She is a member of the Eastern Star Lodge of Topeka in which city she taught school for seven years later teaching one year in Springfield, Mo.

Dr. Caldwell is a member of the Masonic fraternity of Topeka and is a physician for the Knights of Tabor lodge of Atchison. He is a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church and is a Republican in politics. In 1912 he received in the degree of Bachelor of Arts from the State Normal at Emporia, Kan. On July 30, 1915, Governor Capper appointed the Doctor a delegate to the National Negro Educational Congress held at Chicago, from August 16 to August 21 inclusive. In 1914 he was presented with a walnut gavel by the Inter-State Literary Association.

 

 

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