James R. Gristy, of Emporia, is one of the real old timers of Kansas. Half a century ago he was engaged in farming and stock raising on a large scale in Johnson County. For many years he had been a successful real estate operator, and had enjoyed prominence in a business and civic way not only in Kansas but in Oklahoma and in other western states.
Born in Brown County, Illinois, August 31, 1841, he grew up in that section, gained a public school education, graduating from the high school at Rushville, Illinois, in 1863. His first experiences led him into merchandising, and he spent four years at Mounds, Illinois.
In the fall of 1866 he came to Kansas with his father, and in the neighborhood of Spring Hill they acquired 360 acres of land, and subsequently increased their holdings until they owned 1,200 acres. This they operated as a large farm and stock ranch for a number of years. In 1879, the father having retired, they both removed to Kansas City, where James R. Gristy established an office and built up an extensive business in real estate. In 1892 he left Kansas City and moved to the territory of Oklahoma, acquiring a large amount of land at Miami, and in many ways helped to promote that young town, which when he went there had less than fifty population. His home was in that section of Oklahoma until 1910. Mr. Gristy then removed to Spokane, Washington, and soon afterwards to Govan, Washington, where for two years he was engaged in raising wheat on a large scale. He then returned to Kansas, and since 1913 had continued the real estate business, with offices in the Kress Building in Emporia.
His father was the late Stephen Gristy, who was born in Hardin County, Kentucky, in 1819. It will be recalled that Abraham Lincoln was born in the same county, and Stephen Gristy as a boy know young Lincoln and his family. He grew up in Hardin County, but in 1830 his parents removed to Brown County, Illinois. From there Stephen Gristy came with his son to Kansas in 1866, afterwards went to Kansas City, and in 1892 to Miami, Oklahoma, where he lived until his death in 1904. He was a very successful farmer and stock raiser and should be remembered as one of the old time citizens of Kansas. He was an independent democrat and a member of the Christian Church. He was four times married. His first wife, whom he married in Brown County, Illinois, was Margaret Montgomery who was born in 1818 and died in Illinois in 1842, when her only son and child James R. was nine months of age. His second wife was Rebecca Woods, who came from Lancaster, Missouri, and died there. Her only child is Margaret, wife of Adam Stephens, a retired farmer living at Walnut, Kansas. The third wife was Martha Saighman who died in Hancock County, Illinois. Her two children are: Katy, wife of Raleigh Morgan, a stock farmer at Plattsburg, Missouri; and Mattie, wife of Sam G. Kelley, who was formerly United States mail agent with the Santa Fe Railroad from 1880 until his recent retirement, and he resided in Kansas City, Missouri. The fourth wife of Mr. Gristy was Lucy Brown, who died in Missouri. Her three children are: Jennie, wife of George Mehl, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Emporia; Mary, wife of S. Olney, a farmer near Waverly, Coffey County; and Stephen, who is in business at Aurora, Nebraska. The Gristy family is of Welsh descent and the first representative came to America and settled at Baltimore, Maryland, during colonial days.
James R. Gristy is a democrat, and at different times had taken much part in local politics. While living at Miami, Oklahoma, he served as city assessor two terms, and during the administration of the first governor of Oklahoma was state oil inspector. He also did considerable service in the primaries and conventions, both county and state. His church is the Christian. Fraternally he is affiliated with Spring Hill Lodge No. 56, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. Mr. Gristy still owned city property at Miami, Oklahoma.
In 1879 at Spring Hill, Kansas, he married Miss Mary E. Fletcher, who was born in Mahaska County, Iowa, in 1848, and died at Govan, Washington, in 1913. Her father was Samuel Fletcher. Mr. Gristy had no children.