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Biography of N. T. Van Natta, Hon.
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Hon. N. T. Van Natta. Accurately speaking there remains no new locality in our country, and pioneers and pioneer life no longer exist. An engrossing and interesting condition had passed into history, and its lessons and inspiration live principally in the retrospection of those individuals who endured the hardships and contributed by various services and diversified gifts to the upbuilding of the present. Republic County had as noble a roll call of early settlers as any part of Kansas, and among those inseparably connected with the Republic County records none are more deserving of prepetuation in its annals than Hon. N. T. Van Natta, of Jefferson Township. A pioneer of 1867, Mr. Van Natta was a school tescher when educational institutions wers few and far between; he was a tiller of the soil on new land which, before his arrival, had not known the touch of the plow; he was an early lawyer who took a prominent part in many of the county’s earliest court battles; and was an early legislator. Today, in his eighty-third year, he is still active in his profession and in other directions, and is an excellent representative of the type of pioneers to whom the credit for the development of the state is due.
N. T. Van Natta was born in Schoharie County, New York, October 6, 1833, and is a son of Henry and Hannah (Montaigne) Van Natta, who were of Holland extraction. His early education was secured in New York, and after he had passed through the various grades of the district schools entered Troy (New York) Seminary, from which he was duly graduated. He passed some time in teaching school in his native locality, and in the meantime applied himself assiduously to the study of law, finally enrolling as a student at the National Law School, Poughkeepsie, New York, where he was graduated in the class of 1858. He was admitted to the bar in the same year and at once began practice. While he was building up a clientele in his profession Mr. Van Natta served as county superintendent of schools for Schoharie County for some years. In 1867 Mr. Van Natta answered the call of the West and moved to Missouri, where he was admitted to the bar and where he was likewise made county superintendent of schools in his locality. At this time he filed a homestead claim in Republic County. Kansas, to which he moved in the following year, and on which he proved up. The emoluments from his farming operations were not great at first, nor were those which he received as a practicing member of the Kansas bar, to which he had been admitted shortly after his arrival. He, therefore, to add to his income tanght school for several years in the winter terms, and it is an interesting fact to note that in later years he was suceeded as teacher of the sarne school by his son, daughter and grandson. As Mr. Van Natta’s abilities became more widely known his legal practice grew and developed and he became one of the prominent lawyers of his locality. During six years he served as county attorney for Republic County, and in 1870 was elected a member of the Kansas State Legislature, a body in which he served during that and the following year, working faithfully in behalf of his constituents, his county and his state. He had continued as an active member of his profession throughout almost fifty years in Kansas, and as a thorough and finished attorney, with force of character and a keen sense of the ethics and amenities of legal practice, is adjudged one of the most representative members of a calling which does not lack for strong men in Republic County.
While his legal practice had demanded a large part of his time and attention, Mr. Van Natta had continued as a tiller of the soil. At the time of his arrival he had for his neighbor his brother James, who homesteaded the adjoining quarter-section, but other neighbors were far removed. The Pawnee Indians were to be found in great numbers, but did not injure the persons of the early white settlers, although they often stole their horses. The family larder was supplied by deer, antelope and buffalo. The crops in those days were good, but were practically worthless from a money-making point of view, as ten cents per bushel for corn or wheat was considered a good prica. Mr. Van Natta added from time to time to his holdings, and is now the owner of a valuable property in Jefferson County, which had been improved by the erection of handsome and substantial buildings and the installation of new and improved equipment.
Mr. Van Natta married in 1857 Miss Catherine Smith, of New York, and to this union there have been born six children: Margaret A., Minnie, Henry H., George, Estelle and Mabel, of whom Henry H. and George survive, the former being a well known attorney and at present county attorney for Republic County.
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