Biography of Benjamin Franklin Dawson
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Benjamin Franklin Dawson. Among the early settlers in Kansas was Benjamin Franklin Dawson, who came to the state in 1855 and selected a home in what is now Shawnee County and maintained it here throughout life. He was one of the sturdy, solid men of his time and was justly admired and respected for his honorable and upright life, for his many acts of benevolence and charity, and for the example he set of worthily filling the place allotted to him by Divine decree.
Benjamin Franklin Dawson was born in Terre Haute, Vigo County, Indiana, December 2, 1828. His father, Thomas W. Dawson, was a native of Virginia but moved with his people to Indiana in the formative period of that commonwealth, and in the early history of Illinois, located in Edgar County and subsequently took part in the Black Hawk war. In their declining years he and wife moved to Topeka, Kansas, and there passed the remainder of their days.
On the home farm in Illinois, Benjamin F. Dawson passed his youthful days, assisting his father and attending the district schools in the neighborhood. From a scholastic standpoint, he would not, at the present time, have been considered a well educated man, but as he was gifted with more than the average of intelligence, read much and had a retentive memory, he was generally considered far better informed than the average among his neighbors. He inherited, perhaps, a pioneer instinct, and in 1855 his acquired interest in the West, especially Kansas, led to his determination to come to the state and secure a home on her beautiful prairies near one of her life-giving rivers.
Mr. Dawson’s journey to Kansas from Illinois was made in one of the pioneer “prairie schooners” made familiar to every present day schoolboy through poem, romance and moving picture, and six weeks elapsed from the time of departure until his arrival. The present stately City of Topeka was not then on the map and the site was merely a frontier village. Mr. Dawson lost no time in preempting the southwest quarter of section 27, town 11, range 16, and here he passed the subsequent years of his life, toiling early and late to make a home worthy of his loved ones. On this place he spent sixty busy years and it was a source of satisfaction to him, as age crept on, that they had not been lived in vain. In the matter of worldy acquisition, Mr. Dawson was successful. As a citizen, he bore more than his share of the burden of aiding in the erection of churches and schoolhouses, of road building and general improvement. He was a member of the school board for forty years and helped build three school houses.
In the dark days prior to the breaking out of the Civil war, Benjamin F. Dawson was known as a stanch Unionist. When General Price invaded Kansas, Mr. Dawson enlisted in the state militia and was a member of Captain Huntoon’s company in the regiment commanded by Colonel Veale. In the movement to check the advance of the enemy, Mr. Dawson was made a prisoner, at the Battle of the Blue, but was shortly afterward paroled.
The domestic life of Mr. Dawson was one of happiness and content. He was united in marriage to Susan M. Wade, whose father, William B. Wade, was a member of the first Kansas Territorial Legislature and a prominent factor in early days in this state. Six children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Dawson: Carrie, Mary, Mrs. Emma Lanham, Mrs. Julia Gill, William T., and Frank N. Mr. and Mrs. Dawson and their family were all members of the Presbyterian Church.
Mr. Dawson’s life covered a remarkable period in the history not only in Kansas but in the whole world. In his way and in his own environment and limited only by circumstances, he did his part. In his own avocation he saw the sickle succeeded by the cradle in the gathering of the harvests, the first crude harvesters come into use and the modern triumphs of farm machinery succeeding. He witnessed the great strides in human achievement in the development and use of steam and electricity, and, with a profound faith in the illimitable power of the One who had so wonderfully directed his own life, he set no limit to the progress future ages may disclose.
William T. Dawson was born on the home farm March 3, 1871. He and his brother and all his sisters were born on that homestead. He received his early education in Topeka schools and business college, and for a number of years has had active charge of that old homestead. For the last eleven years he has been identified with the real estate business in Topeka, and for the past three years has been assessor of real estate in that city.
Mr. Dawson is an active member of the Second United Presbyterian Church, is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and a republican. On September 25, 1902, he married Miss Edna Ione Reed, daughter of Joseph Reed. Their two children are Louise and Eleanor.