CAPT. WILLIAM H. PENCE, one of the most prominent of the old settlers of Clay County, and a wealthy and influential farmer residing on section 16, Kearney Township, was born in Scott County, Ky., March 20, 1825. The grandfather of our subject, Adam, was born in Virginia, wither his father his emigrated from Germany in Colonial times, and there married a young woman from his native country, after which they removed to Kentucky to find their fortune. About that time the great Daniel Boone, dear to all Kentuckians, was playing destruction among the savages and wild animals of the Blue Grass State, and in Scott County the famous pioneer and the great-grandfather of our subject became well acquainted. The latter died in Scott County at an advanced age.
In the industrious pursuit of his calling as a farmer, Adam Pence was quite successful, and became the owner of a large tract of land. In 1825, he came to Clay County, Mo., where he entered from the Government nearly one thousand acres and settled four miles west of Liberty. There he died at the age of seventy-nine years. The father of our subject married in Scott County, Ky., and came to Clay County when William was a babe of six months. The journey was made with a wagon and five horses, and had its pleasures and hardships. Camping out at night, fording streams, breaking through forests where no roads had been cut, and avoiding the Indians, were some of the experiences which our pioneer ancestors went through with in order to leave to the present generation the comforts which now surround us.
Mr. Pence settled four miles west of Liberty and in his new home was often visited by the Indians, with whom he became well acquainted. His first work was the building of a log cabin, which, although primitive in construction, served as a shelter for the family. That was the day of individual and isolated effort, and there were no labor-saving processes or appliances. Milling had to be done with horse-mills, there were no markets near, and no roads through the wilderness except the Indian trails. Deer and wolves were numerous, and black bear meat sometimes hung in the larder, but for a long time there was great scarcity of the luxuries, so called then, but which we now name as necessities of civilized life.
About 1835, Mr. Pence removed to Kearney Township, and there bought and entered four hundred acres of land, which he partially improved. He died when he had reached the eighty-sixth anniversary of his birth, lacking one day. An intelligent and enterprising man, he occupied a prominent position in his community, and his honor and integrity were unquestioned. For fifty years he was a devoted member of the Baptist Church. From his youth he was an ardent supporter of the principles of Democracy. During the days of the gold excitement he went to California, and while there served as County Judge for two years. The mother of our subject was Anna Snell, a native of Scotty County, Ky., and of her marriage were born seven sons and five daughters, namely: William H., Josiah, Jackson, Robert, Adam, Thomas, Alexander D., Margaret A., Sallie, Eliza, Lurania, and Catherine, who died in infancy. The mother attained to the eighty-fifth anniversary of her birth when she passed away. She was a consistent member of the Baptist Church. This branch of the family was of English extraction.
As before stated, our subject was brought to Clay County at the age of six months. His early education was received at a subscription school held in a pioneer log schoolhouse, with puncheon door, open fireplace and slab benches. He remained on the home farm, attending to the duties that usually devolve upon boys of his age, until his eighteenth year. After farming a short time for himself, he left these peaceful pursuits, and in May, 1846, enlisted for the Mexican War, in Moss’ company, and Donathan’s regiment. During his service of fourteen months, he participated in three heavy battles and many smaller engagements, traveled six thousand miles on horseback, and for eight months was without enough to eat. In June, 1847, he was mustered out at New Orleans and returned home. He preceded the gold miners to California some two years, going overland with six yoke of oxen in company with fourteen men. For four years he remained in the Golden State, and meanwhile mined, but mostly engaged in packing on mules to the mines. His train of twenty-seven mules was at onetime covered under fifteen feet of snow, and this catastrophe entailed a loss of $7,000. By making snow shoes and walking fifteen miles, he was able to save himself, but he lost everything. As soon as he had earned enough money to pay his expenses, he returned to Missouri, making the trip by water.
October 20, 1854, Capt. Pence married Dinitia Estes, who was born here; their nice children grew to maturity and were: Jefferson, William, Josiah, Robert L., Harrison, Lucinda and America (deceased), Eliza E. and Adam. After his marriage he located on his present farm, where he built a log house and cut the first tree. Now he owns two hundred and seventy acres of improved land, on which he raises large crops of grain, and also engages extensively in stock-raising. The log house burned and he built his present large frame residence in 1870. He still superintends his farm.
In 1862, our subject enlisted in Company C, Thompson’s regiment, and served one year and a-half, at the expiration of which time he was made Captain of his company. Mrs. Pence died October 19, 1871, aged thirty-one years. February 5, 1880, Capt. Pence married Miss America Smith, who was born in Kentucky, and came to this county in 1856. Our subject and his wife are members of the Christian Church, in which they take an active interest. In politics, Capt. Pence is a Democrat. He has never held any office, preferring private life. For thirty years he has been identified with the Masonic fraternity, and was a charter member of the lodge at Kearney. He is a Director and stockholder in the Kearney Bank, and a stockholder in the Holt Bank. In all measures originated to promote the welfare of the county, he has been foremost, and through the long period of his residence here he has maintained a reputation for honor and probity.
(Source: PORTRAIT AND BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD of Clay, Ray, Carroll, Chariton and Linn Counties, Missouri, Page 289, Chicago:, CHAPMAN Bros., 1893. Transcribed by Genealogy Trails Transcription Team)