Harrison Clay Taylor was one of the first settlers in Rice County, and he had had a very interesting career and one filled with business achievement that places him among the notable men of Lyons. He is a veteran merchant of that city and in the passing years had done much for its improvement and welfare.
Mr. Taylor was born at Piqua in Miami County, Ohio, November 12, 1849. He is of English ancestry, his forefathers having settled in New Jersey in Colonial times. His grandfather was a native of Pennsylvania, was a member of the Quaker Church, and during his brief career followed teaching. He came to a tragic end. After closing his school one winter evening he was stricken with paralysis. He crawled through snow a mile and a half to shelter. The stroke and the consequent exposure brought about his death soon afterward.
Samuel B. Taylor, father of Harrison C., was born at Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, January 10, 1803. In early boyhood he was apprenticed to learn the baking trade, but the baker used him ill and he ran away to Pittsburg. There he found work in the river traffic. At that time most of the traffic that went South from Pittsburg was carried on rafts, and several times young Taylor helped take one of these cargoes from Pittsburg to New Orleans. On arriving in the southern market the raft was broken up and the timber sold, and it was customary for the boatmen to return North either on horseback or on foot. Samuel Taylor made the entire journey afoot several times. On one of these return trips he met at Lawrenceburg in Southern Indiana Miss Nancy Neely, and they were married there. After their marriage they moved to Piqua, Ohio, where Samuel Taylor was employed for a number of years as foreman of a gang in a stone quarry. Later he retired and died at Piqua July 3, 1879. In politics he was a republican, and voted for Fremont in the first presidential campaign of that party in 1856. His wife was born in New York state October 24, 1807, and died at Piqua, Ohio, February 22, 1882. Their children in order of birth were named Lewis W., Sarah Jane, John N., Elizabeth, Susan, Marshall, Matilda A., George W., William F., Mary H. and Harrison Clay. All of these are now deceased except George W. and Harrison C. The former is a retired contractor living near Indianapolis, Indiana.
As a boy in his native Town of Piqua Harrison Clay Taylor attended the public schools. His education was terminated at the age of thirteen when he found work as clerk in a local store. While the Civil war was in progress he carried a newspaper route in the town. In 1866 he went to work in a local photograph gallery and remained there for eighteen months. He is one of the few men who have something of a practical knowledge of old time photography as it was carried on fifty years ago, before the invention of dry plates and other modern processes. On leaving the photograph trade he joined his brother William F. and learned the trade of house painter. That was a summer occupation, while in the winter he made brooms. Wages were not large but he thriftily saved enough to give him a course in a business college at Dayton, Ohio.
It was with this equipment and experience Mr. Taylor arrived in Kansas at the Town of Atlanta on June 16, 1871. Atlanta had been established in 1870 and Rice County was formally organized in the same year that Mr. Taylor arrived. Two miles north of the old town he took a homestead claim of 160 acres and lived the first few years in a dugout. This homestead is only a mile north of the present Town of Lyons, which was established in 1876 and absorbed the earlier Village of Atlanta. Mr. Taylor kept his homestead until 1885, when he sold it. Since then he had owned several farms, but had disposed of all his land holdings except town real estate.
His home had been at Lyons since 1879. During the administrations of President Hayes and President Arthur he served as postmaster until 1886. His active business career covers a period of more than thirty years. In 1885 he became a partner with J. W. Long, under the name Long & Taylor, and they established a lumber, implement, hardware and coal business. This business is still conducted at the same old stand on the corner of East Avenue and Second Street, and it is one of the business landmarks of the city. In 1907 Mr. Taylor bought out the other partner and the business is now continued under the name the Taylor & Sons Lumber & Implement Company. In 1912 the firm bought a lumber and hardware store at Mitchell, Kansas. The Taylor corporation built a large garage in Lyons, 50 by 140 feet, and had owned that local institution for the past nine years. Mr. Taylor is vice president of the People’s State Bank of Lyons. In 1914 he erected his modern home on Pioneer Avenue and also owned three other dwelling houses in the city.
Mr. Taylor is a republican, a member and vestryman of the Episcopal Church, was for a number of years secretary and is still a member of Royal Lodge No. 192, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, belongs to Sterling Chapter No. 40, Royal Arch Masons, Sterling Commandery of the Knights Templar, Wichita Consistory No. 2 of the Scottish Rite and Midian Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Wichita. He is also active in the Lyons Commercial Club.
May 16, 1871, at Tippecanoe City in Miami County, Ohio, Mr. Taylor married Miss Josephine R. Jay, and, as above stated, after their marriage they came out to the Kansas frontier. The trip being their wedding journey, they arrived at Ellsworth on the Nickel Plate Railroad, and drove overland to Atlanta, which place was without a railroad. Mrs. Taylor was a daughter of Levi and Phoebe (Patty) Jay. Her father, a farmer, is now deceased, while her mother still lives on the old Ohio homestead. Mrs. Taylor died at Kansas City, Missouri, in 1904, where she had been taken for treatment. She was the mother of seven children. F. C. Taylor, the oldest, is unmarried and lives at St. Louis, Missouri, where he is one of the lumber buyers for the American Car and Foundry Company. Jay, the second child, died at the age of fourteen. Roy R. is a farmer three miles south of Lyons. Melvin Hall is secretary of the Taylor & Sons Lumber & Implement Company at Lyons. Frederick L. is vice president of this company and is also president of the local school board and former president of the Commercial Club. Grace J. is a teacher in the Wichita High School. Glenn C., the youngest of the family, is treasurer of Taylor & Sons Company.
Mr. Taylor is a descendant and a grandson in the maternal line of a soldier of the War of 1812, who died of malarial fever while still in the war.
In 1906, at Kansas City, Missouri, Mr. Taylor married for his present wife Miss Rebecca Wells. She was born at Kansas City, daughter of Bazaliel and Mary (Clark) Wells. Both her parents are now deceased and her father was a prominent member of the Kansas City bar, and regarded as one of the best authorities on real estate law in that city. Mrs. Taylor is a prominent woman in Kansas social and club life, is president of the Seventh District of Federation of Women’s Clubs, had served as president of the Lyons Women’s Club, and had been worthy matron of Esther Chapter No. 32 of the Eastern Star at Lyons. She is an active member of the Episcopal Church, and a member of the Lyons Library Board. Mr. and Mrs. Taylor give their active support and interest to every matter affecting the welfare and improvement of their home town. Mr. Taylor is an enthusiastic automobilist, and had made some notable tours with his car. In 1915 he and his wife and daughter, Grace, visited the exposition at San Francisco, going and returning in their car and camping out all the way. In 1916 they again turned with their car. westward and traveled through Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Canyon City and Denver and other Colorado points. Just recently they returned from a delightful trip to the wonderful Hot Springs at Pagosa in Archulata County, Colorado. On this trip they drove their car over Wolf Pass of the San Juan Mountains. This pass is 10,800 feet above sea level, and to drive a car up that grade requires nine miles of continuous low gear. Mr. Taylor’s son, Fred L., with his wife and two children, was with the party on this trip with his own car, this being his initial trip to the Rockies.