SUMNER COUNTY, KANSAS

BIOGRAPHIES


JAMES C. DAVIS is the owner and occupant of the southeast quarter of section 25. Jackson Township, where he has resided for several years, and where he has erected a good set of farm buildings, planted a fine orchard, and made other improvements such as are usually accomplished by a thorough farmer. His grandfather, Samuel Davis, was born in Wales, in which country the ancestors had been living for generations. He came to America and in Vermont continued his labors as a farmer, and in that state departed this life.

Samuel Davis, Jr., son of the above, and father of our subject, was born in Rutland County, Vt., and reared to agricultural pursuits. He first removed to New York, and about 1820 went to Ohio, becoming a pioneer resident of Miami County. He took up a tract of heavily timbered land in Stan-ton Township, erected a log cabin, and resided there until 1834, when he sold and purchased other timber land in Union Township, Mercer County, building a log cabin in that wilderness also, and again undergoing the hardships and trials of a frontiersman. Deer, bears, wolves, coons, wild cats and gray foxes were numerous, there were no railroads or canals for several years, and the nearest town of any note was Pickaway, forty miles distant. He cleared a farm, and as there was no sale for timber, many fine logs which he cut were rolled together and burned to get rid of them. On that place he resided until a short time before his death, when he took up his abode with his children.

His wife, who was born in New York, bore the maiden name of Laura Spicer, and was a daughter of Samuel and Sarah (Rudd) Spicer. She died at the home of her children in March, 1865. She had reared seven children: Samuel, Laura, Justus, James, Mary, Sarah and Eliza, Justus and James took part as soldiers in the late war.

James C. Davis was born in Miami County, Ohio, September 8, 1827, and being a lad of seven years when his parents removed to Mercer County, he was practically reared in the latter. There were no free schools at that period, and institutions of learning were kept up by subscription, and were held in log houses, with benches made by splitting logs, inserting pins for legs and hewing the upper side smooth. As soon he was large enough, young Davis began assisting his father on the farm, and continued so employed until 1849, when he bought a tract of timber land near the parental homestead, built a log cabin, and commenced housekeeping. He cleared the land and worked it, residing there until 1864, when he entered the one hundred days service as member of Company K, One Hundred and Fifty-sixth Ohio Infantry. At the expiration of his term of service he resumed farming, and remained upon his original homestead until 1882, when he came to Kansas, locating in this county. A year later he sold his Ohio farm and bought that upon which he is now residing.

At the home of the bride in Mercer County, Ohio, July 12, 1849, Mr. Davis was united in marriage with Miss Mary H. Gordon, a native of Hardin County, Ky. Her grandfather, John Gordon, was born either in Scotland or Ireland, and came with his father, Hugh Gordon, to America, locating in Virginia. In 1801 they went to Kentucky, settling in Washington County, where he cleared a tract of land, and where both the grandfather and great-grandfather remained until their death, the latter being one hundred and three years at the time of his decease. The wife of John Gordon bore the maiden name of Mary Latham, and after the death of her husband she went to Illinois, and spent her last years with her children there.

Henry Gordon, the father of Mrs. Davis, was born in Fauquier County, Va., and was reared and married in Kentucky, in his manhood settling in Hardin County, where he lived until 1840, when he removed to Mercer County, Ohio, buying a tract of timber land, which he cleared and made his home until his death. His wife, Miss Catherine Drury, was born in Bennington County, Vt., and was the daughter of Samuel Drury, a saddler, who after working in New York City, went to the Green Mountain State, where he married Miss Hannah Brunson, later removing to Lake Geneva, N. Y., thence to Hardin County, Ky., where both subsequently died. The mother learned the trade of a mantau-maker in Albany, N. Y., and also learned to spin and weave, as was the custom in that day. Her daughter, Mrs. Davis, also learned to spin and weave, and now has in her possession coverlets of her own manufacturing. She also learned the trade of a seamstress. (Portrait & Biographical Album of Sumner County, Kansas, by Chapman Brothers, 1885, transcribed by Charlotte Slater)

TORRANCE R. DONLEY. This sturdy veteran bears the distinction of being one of the oldest living settlers of Sumner County and the oldest settler in the village of Oxford. He came to this region when the present site of Oxford was marked simply by a sawmill, and here he has since maintained his residence, watching the growth and development of the country and proving himself a worthy and useful citizen.

When Mr. Donley came to this region, in the winter of 1871, he staked out a claim just west of the town of Oxford and also made a home at the mill which he had removed from Winfield. This latter was operated by steam, and the first structure of the kind in the county. Three years later Mr. Donley traded the mill for land. Later he and Mr. Chandler embarked in the furniture trade, and put up a substantial new building in the central part of town, bringing into the latter the first full stock of furniture. They operating under the firm name of Chandler & Donley. A year later, however, Mr. Donley disposed of his interest in the business, and in due course of time commenced dealing in live stock, being thus occupied for a number of years. He was also at one time engaged in a store of general merchandise and groceries, in company with Mr. A. Gridley, who had the post office in the store and who was the second post master there.

His real estate comprises a farm of one hundred and sixty acres, which is conducted under his supervision. Mr. Donley settled in Oxford Township prior to its organization or that of the school districts. He has served as Township Trustee, and was a member of the town council two terms. He has supported the principles of the Republican Party since becoming a voter.

A native of Cattaraugus County, N. Y. Mr. Donley was born April 2, 1845, and lived there until a youth of eighteen years. In the meantime he pursued his studies at the schools of Little Valley and Perryville. During the progress of the Civil War he, in 1863, joined a construction corps and assisted in building bridges, houses, platforms, store-rooms, etc., in the meantime assisting to build the bridge at Bull Run and Bridgetown. Later he went to Richmond, Va., expecting to assist in building the bridge across the James River, but the war ended before it was completed.

We next find Mr. Donley in Salamanca, N. Y., where he purchased property and conducted a grocery store for eighteen months. Then coming to Junction City, Kan., during the time of the building of the Union Pacific Railroad, he again com-menced working with a construction corps. The following spring he repaired to Omaha, Neb., sojourning there until 1864. That year he went to Texas, via Ft. Smith and Memphis, purchasing horses and cattle, and driving the latter to Abilene, Kan. Wichita was then a hamlet of a few log houses. Subsequently Mr. Donley was in Labette County, this State, and afterward made an overland trip to Ft. Smith in order to recover the baggage he had left there. That same winter Mr. Donley purchased a sawmill at Chetopa, Kan., which he removed first to Winfield and then to Oxford. During these years, although making several changes, he prospered financially, and is now independent.

On the 25th of November, 1878, Mr. Donley was united in marriage with Miss Virginia B. Cheuvront at the bride's home in Oxford Township. Mrs. Donley was born in West Virginia, June, 13, 1856, and was the daughter of Morris Cheuvront, who, upon leaving the old Dominion, settled near Fairmount, ILL., where his daughter, Virginia, grew to womanhood. Later the family came to Kansas. Of this union there have been born four children: Torrance K., Morris, June and a babe, Hermon.

The father of our subject was Torrance R. Donley, Sr., who married Miss Margaret Cain. They spent the greater part of their lives in Cattaraugus County, N. Y., where their remains are laid to rest. (Portrait & Biographical Album of Sumner County, Kansas, by Chapman Brothers, 1885, transcribed by Charlotte Slater)

JOHN BOTKIN
is one of the first settlers of Sumner County, and is the owner of several farms within its limits, which he rents while himself living in Wellington, practically retired from active pursuits. He has had an extended observation of life on the Plains and in the Rocky Mountain regions, and can tell many an interesting tale of experience in the Western wilds. He was born in Morgan County, Ohio, May 8, 1842, and is of remote Scotch ancestry, although the family for a time resided in Ireland, and probably one generation at least was born in the Emerald Isle.

The first of the family to settle in America was Robert Botkin, who was born in Ireland, and on coming to this country located in Lancaster County, Pa., where he operated a farm, and also ran a ferry boat across the Susquehanna River at a point known as Crab's Ferry. He had a son who bore his own name, and who was but a boy when they came to America. Robert Botkin, Jr., was reared and married in Lancaster County, whence he went to Fayette County, and later to Greene County. In the latter he rented land and farmed for many years, spending his latter days in Morgan County, Ohio, with his children. His wife was Miss Sarah Homer, a native of Lancaster County, and a daughter of Robert and Sarah (Cook) Horner. Her death took place in Greene County, Pa., where her son, Amos H., the father of our subject, was born. October 15, 1815.

Amos H. Botkin was reared in the Keystone State, and when about of age went to Ohio, making his home in Belmont County for a time, and then removing to Morgan County, where he was engaged in farming and where he continued to reside until 1850. He then removed to Indiana, and locating in Clark County, fifteen miles from Charleston, lived in the Hoosier State two years. He next started for Iowa with a team, and after spending a few months in Christian County, ILL., continued on to the Hawkeye State and became an early settler of Van Buren County. He bought a tract of land there, and another in Davis County, and resided upon the former until 1878, when he came to this place, where he has since made his home. The maiden name of his wife was Sarah Ann Bony, and she was born in Washington County, Pa. Her parents were Jacob and Sarah (Ault) Bony, who were natives of York County, Pa., whence they removed to Ohio in 1830, making their first settlement in the Buckeye State in Guernsey County, and later changing their residence to Morgan County. They subsequently removed to Iowa, where Mr. Bony spent his last years. He was a shoemaker, and followed his trade all his life.

John Botkin, whose name initiates this sketch, was but four years old when his parents removed to Clarke County, Ind., and was in his seventh year when they settled in Iowa. There he attended the pioneer schools, and in the intervals assisted his father in improving the farm. He was still residing with his parents when he determined to devote his energy to the Union cause, and in April, 1863, though not yet of age, he enlisted in Company G, Seventh Iowa Cavalry. He served until after the close of the war, his duties carrying him into Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado, Dakota, Idaho, Utah and New Mexico, and including much hard riding, as all the marches from State to State and from Territory to Territory were made on horseback. The various phases of cavalry campaigns became familiar to him, and he also acquired a considerable knowledge of the untrodden wilderness, and unsettled plains and valleys of that little known region on the eastern slope of the Rockies.

After being discharged from the army in June, 1866, Mr. Botkin returned to Davenport, Iowa, and thence to the paternal home, where he remained eleven months, after which he crossed the plains to the Rocky Mountains. At that time innumerable numbers of buffaloes traversed the plains, and deer, antelope, elk and mountain sheep were plentiful. Mr. Botkin spent nearly three years in Wyoming Territory engaged in getting out timber to be used in the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad, and also in getting wood and hay for the Government.

Returning again to his home, he remained in Van Buren County a few months, and then started to cross the plains again, but at Columbus, Neb., he met his brother Simon, and concluded to come to Southern Kansas to locate.

The brothers therefore bought teams and drove across the country nearly four hundred miles, arriving in Wichita in June. That flourishing city was then a small village, and Indian tepees lined the banks of the Little Arkansas River. Our subject took a claim on a school section, but remained in that vicinity but a few weeks, when he again pursued his investigations, and in September settled in the southwestern quarter of section 27, in what is now Wellington Township, this county, and is included in the present city limits of Wellington. At that time there was not a house where the city now stands, and the land was owned by the Government. The general survey was not yet completed. There was no railroad nearer than Emporia, and Wichita was the nearest post office. Mr. Botkin built a log house covered with sod in lieu of shingles, and began to break the soil and improve the land. The following spring the village was platted a half-mile distant. Mr. Botkin continued farming and stock-raising until 1887, when he took advantage of the boom here and sold his farm to a syndicate and built where he now resides. After selling his original farm he bought other tracts of land in different parts of the county, and is deriving a comfortable income from their rental.

On January 11, 1877, the rites of wedlock were celebrated between Mr. Botkin and Miss Anna, daughter of Daniel and Anna E. Ellington. The bride was born in Clark County, ILL., and possesses many womanly virtues. Their family comprises four living children: Everett, Grace, Laura and Bessie. Harry, the fifth child, died at the age of twenty-nine days; John Q. died when nine months old.

Mr. Botkin is interested in the social orders, and holds membership in the James Shields Post, No. 57, G. A. R., and in Wellington Lodge, No. 150, A. F. & A. M. He is an intelligent and reliable citizen, a man of good character, and has many friends in the community. (Portrait & Biographical Album of Sumner County, Kansas, by Chapman Brothers, 1885, transcribed by Charlotte Slater)

DAVID STEPHENS. In noting the leading pioneers of Sumner County, due mention should be made of Mr. Stephens, who established himself as a resident of South Haven Township, at a time when the nearest market was at Wichita, to which point he and his neighbors hauled all their produce overland with teams. For several seasons there were to be seen only a few rude dwellings in the open country where wolves and antelopes were plentiful. He has since been a continuous resident of the township, and has evinced that warm interest in its growth and development which is only felt by intelligent members of the community. He is a Virginian by birth, and first opened his eyes to the light in Rockingham County, March 11, 1825.

The early years of Mr. Stephens were spent on a farm in his native state, and about 1831 his parents, Louis and Elizabeth (Alder) Stephens emigrated to Madison County, Ohio. The father took up a tract of new land and prosecuted farming in the Buckeye State until 1849. That year he pushed on further westward into Knox County, ILL., where he purchased a piece of raw prairie, from which he built up a valuable homestead, and there spent his last days, passing away in August, 1887, at the advanced age of eighty-four years. The mother survived her husband one year, dying in August, 1888, at the age of eighty-three. They were the parents of ten children, seven of whom survive, and of whom David was the third in order of birth.

The paternal grandfather of our subject, was Mark Stephens, a native of Germany, who emigrated to America when a young man, paying his passage by working at seven cents per day. When landing he located in Virginia, and in due time was there married to Miss Mary Wolf, a native of Germany. They settled on a farm in the Old Dominion, and became well-to-do, rearing a fine family of children, and there closed their eyes to earthly scenes.

On the maternal side Grandfather Michael Alder, was likewise a native of Germany, also crossed the Atlantic early in life, settled in Virginia, and married Miss Barbara Moyers. Grandmother Alder was likewise a native of the Fatherland. To them was born a family of sons and daughters, and they spent their last days on the soil of the Old Dominion. They passed through many thrilling scenes, having located in a wild country where Indians were numerous. About that time Jonathan Alder, an uncle of Michael, was captured by the Indians when a boy of eight years, and lived with them until a man of thirty years. He died in Ohio.

Mr. Stephens when a young man went from Illinois to Virginia, and was there married to Miss Arminda, daughter of Evan and Margaret (Bum-sides) Hinton. Mrs. Stephens was born in Virginia. Her parents were also natives of the Old Dominion, and her paternal grandfather, a staunch Tory, who located there at an early day, also died there, together with her parents. Soon after their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Stephens took up their abode on a farm in Knox County, ILL., where they sojourned until 1874, coming then to this county. Mr. Stephens purchased one hundred and sixty acres of land about two and one-half miles north of the present site of the city, and established himself with his little family in a small box house, which constituted their domicile for several years. From this land the father improved a good homestead, and secured eighty acres adjoining. He placed one hundred and eighty acres under a good state of cultivation, planted an orchard of apple trees, also other fruit trees, and effected good improvements. He sold this farm in 1880, and lived thereafter near South Haven until 1886, when he removed to South Haven.

Eight children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Stephens, one of whom, Evan, died when quite young. The seven survivors are named respectively: Ezra, Evan, Ruhama, Charles, Wilson, Albert, and Lester: Mrs. Stephens departed this life in Knox County, ILL., in 1870, in the faith of the Methodist Episcopal Church, of which she had been a consistent member several years.

In 1886 Mr. Stephens contracted a second marriage at South Haven, with Mrs. Rachel (Polk) Swiney. This lady was born in Hamilton County, Ohio, and when quite young removed with her parents to Madison County, Ind., where she was first married to Thomas Swiney. They settled in Knox County, ILL., where Mr. Swiney died in 1884. Mrs. Stephens is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mr. Stephens, politically, affiliates with the Democratic Party, and is a member of Pacific Lodge, No. 400, A. F. & A. M., at Knoxville, also of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, at the same place. (Portrait & Biographical Album of Sumner County, Kansas, by Chapman Brothers, 1885, transcribed by Charlotte Slater)

JAMES H. OWENS. The agricultural interests of Sumner County, are worthily represented by Mr. Owens, who was one of the pioneer farmers of Oxford Township, where, besides his home farm of two hundred and forty acres on section 10, he also owns two quarter sections a little further West. He came to this region in 1875 and selected a fine location west of Oxford Center, where he now has one of the most attractive homes in the township. He commenced at first principles in the construction of his farm, which had been subjected to very little improvement when he assumed ownership. He put up a fine residence in 1877, which still stands flanked by a substantial barn and all other necessary outbuildings, besides forest and fruit trees and shrubbery. He avails himself of first class machinery in the prosecution of his calling, including a costly windmill, and he has operated with such thoroughness and skill, that he has secured the reputation of being one of the most successful farmers in the county. His landed possessions altogether embrace six hundred and twenty four acres, forming as fine a body of land as can be found in the Sunflower State. He rents all but the home farm.

For the past seven years Mr. Owens has been quite extensively engaged in the breeding of thoroughbred Shorthorn cattle. Of these he has a very fine herd from which he sold in the fall of 1889, forty nine head at a good round sum. He is also a successful breeder of blooded horses. In bringing his farm to its present fine condition, he has expended much time, labor and money, but they have proved a wise investment. Mr. Owens is a liberal and public spirited citizen, a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party, and a member in good standing of the Christian Church. He is a man of standing in his community, exercising no small influence among his fellow citizens, by whom he is universally respected.

Born in Posey County, Ind., December 4, 1836, Mr. Owens lived there until a youth of fifteen years. His parents were James H. and Sarah (Cox) Owens, natives of North Carolina, the former of whom removed to Indiana when a child of five years. The mother died at the birth of her son, James H. The father and son removed to DeWitt County, ILL., in 1851, where the former carried on farming, and the latter acquired his education in the common school. When eighteen years old he began farming for himself, prosecuting this successfully until his marriage on the 4th of March, 1862, with Miss Jane Marquis. The young people began the journey of life together on a farm in Macon County, ILL., where they sojourned until coming to Kansas. The elder Owens in the meantime died in 1864. While in Illinois. James H. held the office of Township commissioner until resigning, and since that time has carefully refrained from accepting the responsibilities of office, although he is acknowledged as a leading man of this township.

Mrs. Jane Owens was born in Posey County, Ind., September 22, 1836, and is the daughter of Pleasant Marquis,
Who spent his last years in Posey County Ind. Of her union without subject there have been born five children four of whom are living: Minnie is the wife of A. A. Richards, of Wellington; Robert remains with his father; Fanny died when two years old. The two younger are Effie and Alfred. Effie is attending school at Wichita. Mr. Owens believes in education and has carried out his theory in regard to his own children. (Portrait & Biographical Album of Sumner County, Kansas, by Chapman Brothers, 1885, transcribed by Charlotte Slater)


 
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