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James Stevenson. One of the substantial and influential men of Shawnee County, is James Stevenson, for the past eight years an esteemed resident of Highland Park but formerly, for many years, a successful farmer in Topeka Township. Unlike many who came to Kansas in the early part of 1882, Mr. Stevenson possessed capital, hardly-won capital that represented years of weary toil and constant self denial.
James Stevenson was born in County Down, Ireland, June 9, 1846, and is a son of Isaac and Nancy (Bradford) Stevenson. His mother died when he was young and his father married again. The latter was a farmer and in very moderate circumstances, and when a second family began to grow about the family hearthstone, James realized that his help on the home acres was not needed and began to plan his independent future. He had been given but limited educational opportunities, had not even thought of learning a trade but he was healthy, cheerful and industrious and that he possessed real courage was shown when he left old Ireland and his people and with no assurance of work ahead, sailed for America and landed at Boston, Massachusetts, with $2.50 in his pocket.
James Stevenson reached the United States in 1869 and it is not likely that he found a more hospitable welcome in the strange city than did hundreds of other foreign born youths who landed in the same year. It is safe to say, however, that none of these sought work more earnestly than he nor performed his tasks with greater faithfulness to his employers. He did not despise any honest job that offered but his first permanent place was as a coachman and ground caretaker on a large estate and in this position he continued for twelve years. During this time he had in view the purchase of land and its improvement, hence was frugal in his expenditures and wholesome and careful in his habits. Therefore when, in 1882 he was ready to come to Kansas he brought with him the sum of $2,400, every cent of which represented honest industry on his part. He used a part of his capital in the purchase of a quarter section of land, paying $10.50 per acre. On his land he built a small house and barn and made other necessary improvements and thus had ready a comfortable home for his bride when, in September of the same year, he brought her to Topeka Township, Shawnee County.
Mr. Stevenson was united in marriage with Susan Dalzell, a most estimable young woman whom he had known for eight years. She was a resident of Boston when Mr. Stevenson formed her acquaintance, having come to the United States from County Down, Ireland, with her brother Samuel, who yet resides in Boston. Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson were married in Topeka. They have had five children: Jane, who is the wife of C. C. Niccum, lives at St. Joseph, Missouri, and has one daughter; Susan H., who is the wife of James Rabe, a farmer in Topeka Township, has three children; James R., who married Josephine Rabe, now deceased, resides in Topeka, and has one child; Isaac Henry, who is a resident of Topeka, married Gertrude Lovell; and Lillian Edna, who is the wife of Melvin McCoskrie, of Topeka, has one son.
By no means does Mr. Stevenson take all the credit for his success in life and the accumulation of his ample fortune. On the other hand he remembers and relates with pride the hearty co-operation of his wife all along the way. She was industrious, prudent and self-denying and her cheerful acceptance of hardships and her encouraging sympathy on all occasions will never be forgotten. On many a humid day of summer she worked over a hot stove to provide the wholesome food which she deemed her hardworking husband and growing children needed, and attended carefully and thoroughly to the other household duties which resulted in bodily comfort for the family. Although the churning of butter was a toilsome operation, its quality made it readily salable and many dollars were thus added to the family income every year. Mrs. Stevenson is a woman who has unselfishly lived deeply in the lives of husband and children, not counting self sacrifice at any time of more importance than their physical and spiritual development. By precept and example she instilled into the youthful minds of her children those principles of right living that have assisted them in making happy domestic hearths of their own.
By hard work and close economy, Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson prospered continuously after establishing their little home in Topeka Township. In time they paid off all the indebtedness incurred on the land and added to it tract after tract until they now own 640 acres and also own fifteen lots in Highland Park. They continued to reside in the country until 1900, when Mr. Stevenson decided to remove with his wife to Highland Park and since then has devoted his attention mainly to looking after his many interests. His life has not been a selfish one for he has been a liberal supporter of churches, schools, good roads and has always been ready to give encouragement to benevolent and charitable enterprises.
Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson are members of the First Congregational Church of Topeka. He has held minor offices in the county and in politics is a republican.