Joseph W. Cochran. Of the agriculturists of Shawnee County who have been the architects of their own fortunes, and who, from small beginnings, have worked their way to independence and position, Joseph W. Cochran is a leading representative. He began his career without advantages of any kind, and his early struggles to gain a foothold necessitated the use of all his energies, but his present fine farm of 107 acres, in Menoken Township, illustrates what may be gained through the exercise of industry and well directed effort.
Mr. Cochran was born on a farm near Lewistown, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, May 16, 1865, and was the fourth of a family of eight children born to Joseph H. and Susanna (Myers) Cochran, natives of Pennsylvania. Joseph H. Cochran had charge of a large gang of construction and bridge workers on the Pennsylvania Railroad and also conducted a small farm until the Civil war, when he enlisted in Company E, Thirty-fifth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, with which he served for one and one-half years. Later he was connected with the United States Rolling Stock Company, of Urbana, Ohio, but as he felt that he was not progressing as he ought, in 1877 he decided to do as many other poor people were at the time, and seek his fortunes in the West. Accordingly, he bought five tickets and took his family of ten to Salina, arriving at that point after many experiences with the conductors on the various lines. Leaving his family at the immigration home at Salina, with but 75 cents, he walked thirty-five miles to the home of a friend, in Lincoln County, and during his absence the mother and children were sorely in need of food. The father finally returned, however, with a wagon, and the little party was taken to Mr. Cochran’s friend’s house, where they lived for ten days. Mr. Cochran then rented a “dug-out,” which was the home for one year, while Mr. Cochran worked a rented farm. He then took a homestead and timber claim, but his troubles were not yet over, for his first crop was a failure, and for six months the family was compelled to exist upon corn bread. Later, the father built a shack of siding, 18×20, but it proved only a poor protection against the elements, and when it rained the rain poured in between the boards and drenched everything, even the bedding. In 1879 came the tornado, which tore off the roof and three sides of the shack, but nothing inside was touched. Another freak of the storm was that the hogs, in the direct path of the storm, were lifted and carried 1½ miles and there dropped, but none were killed, and all found their way back to the Cochran home unscathed. The family remained in the same community for ten years, and as their fortunes improved took an active part in the upbuilding of the community. They helped to build churches, and the children at first attended a subscription school which had been supported by their father and two other public-spirited citizens. Mr. Cochran, through his persistent and indefatigable industry and courage, gradually accumulated a competence, and at the time of his death, in 1905, was one of the substantial and most highly respected men of his community. He was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
Joseph W. Cochran attended school in Lincoln County, and in 1889, 1890 and 1891 taught school in the Shawnee County district schools of Elmont, Union and Pleasant Ridge. On July 6, 1890, he was married to Miss Eva Godwin, and to this union there have been born six children: Floyd, of Oakland, Kansas; and Vernon, Elsie, Lola, Joseph and Raymond. At the time of his marriage, after he had paid the preacher and bought some furniture to furnish two rooms on the installment plan, Mr. Cochran was possessed of $2.50, but he had his health, and was ambitious and persevering. He secured a position in the shops of the Santa Fe Railroad, at Topeka, and by 1897 was able to make a first payment on a tract of eighty acres at Kiro, Kansas. There he continued to farm until 1912, when he sold this property and bought seventy-two acres in Menoken Township, Shawnee County, which he improved. Recently he has added thirty-five acres to his original purchase, and now operates the entire property, devoting himself to general farming. Mr. Cochran has been a witness to the great development that has been effected in this part of the state. A companion of the wilderness of the early days, when he shot deer, antelope and prairie chicken by the score and was near the Indian troubles in Russell County in 1878, he has also been a sharer in the great prosperity that has blessed the Sunflower State, and can truthfully say that he has done his share in bringing about the present desirable conditions.
Mr. Cochran has always been identified with the democratic party since the time he attained his majority, and has on several occasions been elected to fill public office, having been township trustee for five terms and a member of the school board for years, in addition to which he has rendered helpful service in promoting public-spirited enterprises. He is fraternally affiliated with Topeka Lodge No. 1243, Modern Woodmen of America. Mr. and Mrs. Cochran are members of the Presbyterian Church, and Mr. Cochran for some years was superintendent of the Sunday school.