Hon. P. C. Young. High on the roster of Wilson County’s distinguished citizens appears the name of Hon. P. C. Young, for years one of the most brilliant and astute attorneys practicing before the Fredonia bar, an author and poet whose talents have gained for him wide reputation, and a man who as a citizen, neighbor and friend is universally esteemed and respected. A resident of this city during the most important era of its development, his personality is indelibly imprinted upon the home of his adoption, and both as attorney and legislator he had evidenced the inheritance of many of the sturdy and courageous qualities of his German grandfather, who fought against the great Napoleon. The following sketch, including the opening and closing poems, was written by Mr. Young himself, and reviews a career that had been interesting, useful and decidedly helpful to others:
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We dare not hope the coming year. Will every care from you withhold; Bring naught but joy and constant cheer, Turn all your ventures into gold; But rather pray for strength to meet, If needs must come, both care and strife; To rise supreme above defeat, With kindly acts adorn your life.
Strength to be always just and kind, A blessing every effort make; To be of even, patient mind, Your soul to human needs awake. Despite the false asserted claims That lucre counts for more than heart; With dearth of love and noble aims, The prince but plays a pauper’s part.
“P. C. Young was born in the city of New York, May 2, 1851. His father, Adam Young, was a native of Germany; his mother, whose maiden name was Mary Smith, of Ireland. The family settled for a time in Massachusetts and about 1857 moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey, thence about 1860 to a small farm about eight miles south of that place. Early in 1868 they changed residence to a farm near Rahway, New Jersey, and in 1870, by way of New York City, started for Kansas, arriving at Independence, early in April of that year. The writer, though, the eldest son, was not to be long lonesome for the companionship of brothers and sisters, who came, sought him out, and engaged his attention in play and care. So when the family arrived in Sunny Kansas it numbered two daughters, eight sons and the parents, twelve in all. Father died in 1891 on the claim he had taken in the summer of 1870, and mother followed him in death June 10, 1908, he departing at sixty-seven years of age and she at eighty-two. They were very strong, of great endurance, well suited to withstand pioneer trials and privations. It were hard to find a woman of more rugged, untiring body than was our mother. Frequently when we had no conveyance she would carry heavy burdens to New Brunswick and bring groceries back, making the whole trip, some sixteen miles, on foot, with scarcely any sign of fatigue on her return. She worked in the fields, drove a slow-going old horse when we had one, picked and marketed bushels of huckleberries and blackberries, raised great numbers of turkeys and chickens, made most excellent butter, and, in short, did about anything that claimed attention.
“The writer first went to school for half a day in Massachusetts. He was induced to carry a bouquet of flowers to the elderly spinster who held the position of teacher. She is now either living or dead. Whichever it may be, there are no tears or groans for her. She had forgotten me; never shall I forget her. She placed me with others on a high, backless seat. My feet began to swing as do those of all boys. They were made to swing. I took but two feet with me that morning, but these seemed too many to manage. She bent a strong whalebone into the form of a circle, and then, letting one end loose, brought it like vengeance to my naked toes. I can still feel it, can still see her face, with the two prim curls that artificially adorned both sides of her forehead. I still picture her in all her preciseness.
“Then they tried to educate me for another half day at New Brunswick, New Jersey. About ten o’clock in the morning the teacher locked me in a dark closet, there to remain until noon. Noon found me with mother; so did the afternoon. There was no getting me back to that school. Do you ask me why? Never have my boyhood imaginings nor my manhood’s mature investigations formulated the offense or the why for which this incarceration was inflicted. Once more I was a deserter, a fit subject to be court-martialed. A third effort was made under all the misgivings a sensitive memory and active imagination could conjure up, but that was happier and better. Why? Because the teacher was human. She knew boys. May she still live in a golden old age, rich in comforts and blessings so merited by the just and tender-hearted. Would that I could meet her new, tell her my story, make known to her how much she changed my life for the better. A soft hand was upon my head, two loving eyes looked into mine, a low, musical voice spoke sympathetic words, and I was a captive, body and soul. Perhaps no child in the backwoods worked with more zeal to please, to lead and to learn. My childish heart adored her. Thus early in life came the habit of falling in love with schoolma’ams which even the years seem helpless to lessen. The desire to learn, that then had birth, lives on strong as ever.
“But we were poor; our little farm impoverished, more mouths had come to be fed, more little bodies to be clothed and cared for, and schooling had to give way to labor for support. Father began to work on the section. Daily I went by his side. Swinging our dinner pails, we chatted as might two chummy boys, he learning to know me better, I getting better acquainted with him. For three years I carried water during the summer to a large gang of Irishmen, two big pails at a time, and often as far as half a mile, and when the weather was hot on the go all the time. When not thus occupied I performed the duties of a section hand. The age of sixteen found me a roustabout and clerk in a grocery store at New Brunswick. I recall there a wily Irishman so familiar with the Blarney Stone that he induced me to perform most of his work as well as my own. Much thought had been given since then in vain, to make myself think I was not a little idiot. The grocer belonged to (or rather was) the Baptist church, and worked us so hard on Sundays, attending meetings and various demands of that institution, and so belabored us with a pious melancholy, or moroseness, as to quite shroud all happiness for the rest of the week. It was really a crime to smile. Some demonstrations at memorizing sermons and scripture so attracted attention that this church was about to make a minister of me, and just how the church escaped such a calamity is more than can be explained here.
“Our new abode in Kansas was really the open heavens, a tent after some time coming really as a luxury. The nearest railroad was off seventy-five miles and all that came or went moved by wagons over that distance. For years the Osage Indians roamed around us, much at times to the terror of the good wives, who in the absence of their husbands would hear the brisk demand: ‘Bisks,’ meaning biscuits; but aside from being scared, no incident comes to memory of further outrage. Fencing materials came two or three miles, from the river, drawn by two frisky young oxen, with which the writer’s experience would not do for parlor recitals. Society was rough, but kindly disposed, neighborly, ever near in sickness and accommodating in health.
“As there was not enough for all to do at home, I hired out to a sawmill, at $22 and board per month, of which I sent $20 home and retained $2 for incidentals, or rather, accidentals. In the year 1873 I went to Colorado and worked in the mines, sawmills, forests and, part of the time, in an amalgamating mill, which latter work was severe, the air being loaded with particles and fumes of lead from the pulverized ore. I returned home in 1875, determined, at any cost, to obtain an education. In this determination my parents acquiesced heartily, and preparations began to be made to send me to the Kansas State University the next year. In this way it came to pass that, in the early fall of 1876, a big farm wagon, containing meats, flour, provisions of all kinds and beds and bedding, carried me, accompanied by my two sisters, northward over the journey of 150 miles to Lawrence. Father would surprise us now and then by arriving with more necessities. No parents ever found greater pleasure in the welfare of their children as they understood it. They did the best they possibly could. Near the close of the first year supplies ran low and a term of schoolteaching was undertaken to piece out. This was south of Baldwin, at the princely salary of $25 per month, perhaps a high price for the services rendered. Saturdays would be spent in the corn or harvest fields, thus picking up a few more dollars against the days of need.
“The term of school closed, employment was found with a German on a farm, at sixty cents per day and board, for fine weather, and nothing for bad weather but board and lodgings. I was most diligent in his business, up at four in the morning, faithful every hour until nine at night, with but scant intervals to eat meals. Support came for the following years from home, from teaching German, and from canvassing for books, at which a general average of $50 per month and board was made. In 1881, 1882 and 1883 teaching at the county normal schools was followed. This, of course, was partly after leaving the university. On a small scale I had been something of a debater and at the university this talent grew apace until the Oread Society, of which I was a member, placed me on nearly, if not all of its public programs. As there were but ten in the class of 1883, in which I graduated, it was not hard, did one but wholly devote himself to the task, to secure the honors, which for some unexplained reason, or mistake perhaps, fell to my lot.
“After leaving the university I taught two terms of school, the last as principal of the Elk City schools, and was president of the Montgomery County Teachers’ Association. I spent the year 1885 as state agent for a book syndicate, it being the chief duties of every such agent to watch every other syndicate that it did not disturb the territory in which the company had placed books in the schools. During my earlier years at the university, father was a successful wheat grower, and as soon as the term was over I hastened home to set up the harvester and with my brothers for days would bind wheat or drive teams at the harvester. Yes, sore hands noted the change from books to binding grain that had many thistles mixed in, but the hands have long since forgotten and the conscience is at peace for that much at least done in compensation for the countless sacrifices and blessings of my good parents.
“Not willing to drift about aimlessly, the law appealed to me as a profession, and since 1887 had received my chief energies, with varying success and constant pleasure. In the year 1893, this county, Wilson, was really overrun with Joinists and other flagrant violators of the law, and it was then that my services as county attorney, lasting four years, began. It had been a source of gratification that disorder vanished, the reign of law was so firmly restored that till this day there had been no wavering or relapse. Others, of course, are to have credit for this, but it was my good fortune to have started the work.
“In 1904, I served one term in the lower house of the Kansas Legislature and was during that time chairman of the Temperance committee, a member of the committees on Judiciary and Education, and introduced and had passed ten bills enacted into laws. In politics I have always found fascination, being of the republican fold, for which party I have labored in a small way in the press, and (when it was painfully hard up for campaigners) on the stump during campaigns. In 1909 Governor Stubbs sent me with others as a member of the Conservation Congress, held at Saint Paul, Minnesota.”
At this point in Mr. Young’s sketch may be noted some facts not included in his autobiography. Perhaps through modesty he neglected to state that he had the largest practice, principally civil, in this part of the state, and that his clients are to be found not only in Kansas, but in Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado and Montana, important litigation having taken him into both the state and federal courts. His offices are located over the Citizens State Bank, Fredonia. He is the owner of a pleasant and attractive home at No. 421 South Eleventh Street; he owned two others dwellings at Fredonia, and had an eighty-acre farm north of the city and a fifty-six-acre farm south. He is well known in Masonic circles, belonging to Constellation Lodge No. 95, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, of which he is senior warden; and to Twin Mound Lodge No. 57, Knights of Pythias, of which he is past chancellor commander, and had been representative to the Grand Lodge of the state for the past six years. Possessed of fine literary talent, he is a welcomed contributor to various papers and magazines, and his poetry, which had covered a wide variety of subjects, is scholarly and polished, as will be seen by the examples accompanying this article. To resume Mr. Young’s narrative:
“On July 18, 1889, there came a turning point in my career, in my marriage to Kate Engle, one of the best girls at Neodesha; and if since then life had had some small degree of success, it must be due to her fidelity and helpful suggestions. May the 5, 1895, was another great day to both of us, for then there arrived Margaret, who was to enrich all our married existence thereafter. She expects to vote for the president this fall. It were a vain endeavor to picture one more nearly the realization of her parents’ ideals, all that they had hoped she might be. She embodies all the good traits one could desire in a daughter, of character, disposition, soul and mind. It should be known that she is progressing at the University, where she is in her sophomore year, by the many sincere friends she had made, the honors that are falling to her lot. To know her is to love her. Of course it is a parent speaking, but who should better know?
“Now comes a chapter of bitter-sweet. A little son came and went–came January 15, 1898, left December 20, 1904, remaining scarcely seven years. He was P. C. Young, Jr., tender, kind, considerate, wise past his years, was music, song and poetry, of illumined face and intellect. His life was but a span, his influence everlasting. The gladness he ushered in, the fragrant memory he left us, more than atone for the pain his departure caused us, more than the constant grief for his absence. Had we in the first instance been allowed to elect, with full knowledge of what was to happen, we should have chosen his coming and going as he did, rather than not have had him at all. Yea, verily.
“THE SPOT WE CALL OUR HOME.
“When, where the busy scenes of life are thronging, Whither pleasure leads or duty bids me roam, Comes a ceaseless quiet and a subtle longing For the humble, sacred spot we call our home.
“There graceful elms ward off the noonday sun, And cedars, pines and firs are growing there; The honeysuckle’s blossoms, ere the day’s begun, With fragrance fill the balmy morning air.
“To you it’s but a common place at best, No stately structures tell of ease and wealth, No easy nooks abound which lure to rest. To me it’s home with peace, and trust and health.
“Out on the lawn behold the mulberry tree, With rustic seats among its branches strong; There summer hours my children sat with me, And sped the time in laughter, cheer and song.
“And there in days gone by the op’ning flower Was seen by gladsome eyes, with gleeful shout; Nor could bird hide its nest in leafy bower But these explorers quickly found it out.
“The teeter-totter, hobby horse and swing, The lilac bush decked in foliage fine, The roses, pansies, vines and everything Are treasured ever in this heart of mine.
“Here mingled in our crucible of life, What joy and grief, despair and hope we’ve known; Here shines the light of love, and child and wife To sacred make the spot we call our home.”