Biography of Richmond T. Battey
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Richmond T. Battey is a retired banker at Florence, Kansas, with which community he had been, identified as a businees man and leader in public affairs for forty years. Mr. Battey is one of the old timers of Kansas. His recollections of the state go back to the territorial period of the latter ’50s. His experiences as a whole and particularly those of his earlier years are mainly a reflection of those events and times which form the substance of Kansas history. He knew the western plains and the old trails by actual experience, and is perhaps as well informed on that phase of the great western history as any man now living.
Mr. Battey was born at Providance, Rhode Island, September 16, 1849, and came to Kansas with his parents, Stephen and Rebecca (Cady) Battey. His father was an early day Kansan, concerning whom some record should be made in permanent form. He was a native of Rhode Island and died at Florence, Kansas. In early life he was a confectioner and baker, but subsequently entered the ministry of the Baptist Church and gave several years to that work. In 1858 he came to Kansas, and during the first year he leased land now occupied by the campus of Washburn. College at Topeka. After farming this land a year he went into the freighting and transportation business over the western plains. That was his main business for many years until the building of railroads cansed the ox and mule trains to depart forever. He drove many wagon trains, drawn by mule teams, across the plains to Colorado and other points. For months at a time he lived on no meat except that of the buffalo and his life was a constant episode and experience of adventure and romance. During a trip across the plains in 1864 a party of hostils Indians stole his teams and it was with the greatest difficulty that he got back to civilization. Stephen and Bebeeca Battey were married in 1835. His wife was a danghter of Christopher Cady and was born in Rhode Island, and she also spent her last days in Florence, Kansas. Their children were: Elizabeth Cady, deceased; David Cady, now a retired merchant at Warren, Rhode Island; Andrew Jackson, who became a member of Company A of the Seventh Kansas Cavalry, and lost his life during the war, being killed by the accidental discharge of a gun; Alvin Dingley, now a retired merchant at Glencoe, Illinois; and Richmond T.
Richmond T. Battey had completed the primary course in the public schools of Providence, Rhode Island, when the family left that eastern home and journeyed to Kansas. He was nine years of age and had a complete recollection of the incidents of that long journey to the West, which brought him into a land of romance and adventure. They traveled by railway as far as St. Louis, thence by boat up the river to Leavenworth, and from there by wagon to Topeka. After coming to Kansas Mr. Battey attended school only three months, in Topeka. His real education was accomplished by experience and by large and diverse commingling with men and affairs. He early learned business by practical experience, and the first year he lived in Kansas he took a large quantity of popcorn raised by his father on the farm and sold it on the streets of Topeka. Topeka then had less than 1,500 people. His first day’s sales amounted to $3.60, and some days he brought home $6 to represent his activity as a salesman. As a boy he also sold peanuts and fruit in the halls of the Kansas State Legislature and vended such wares in the dignified Senate chamber where he himself many years later was a member.
At the age of ten Mr. Battey qualified as an ox tearn driver for his father. Thenceforward for seven or eight years he was almost constantly on the plains, making freighting trips to Denver and elsewhere. He made four round trips from Leavenworth and Atchison westward, one trip each year. His last trip to Denver was made in 1866. Mr. Battey had numerous stories to tell about his experiences on the plains, and he frequently came in contact with parties of hostile Indians, and he is one of the few men now living who saw the buffalo when they comprised a mighty herd beyond estimation of human counting. While at Denver in 1866 Mr. Battey joined a gold prospecting party and went to Santa Fe, New Mexico, intending to proceed to Arizona. At Santa Fe, instead, he entered the employ of the Santa Fe Overland Stage Company as driver, and for a year had the responsibility of driving a four-horse overland stage coach. From there he returned to Topeka, and soon afterwards, with his brothers David and Alvin, filed a contract to furnish stone for the east wing of the State House. In 1869 he established in Topeka the first sheet iron cornice works in that city.
Mr. Battey came to Florence, Kansas, in 1871. His home had ever since been in Marion County and from 1872 to 1875 he was proprietor of a hardware store at Marion. In September, 1875, he took the post of cashier and responsible head of the Marion County Bank of Florence. He served that institution as cashier and later was president of the bank until January, 1911, since which date he had given up active business responsibilities and had spent his winters in Florida and his summers only in Kansas.
Mr. Battey had had a life and a service that have made him well known all over the state. For years he had been a recognized leader in republican politics both locally and over the state at large. He served three years as mayor of Florence, had been treasurer of the school board, and in 1896 was elected a member of the State Senate from the twenty-fifth district, comprising the counties of Marion, Morris and Chase. He served in that body four years and was a member of the committees on state affairs, railroads, express, banks and others. He retired definitely from politics in 1901, Mr. Battey still owned some farms and town property in Marion County and is one of the prosperous men of that vicinity. He had many friendships with leading politicians and statesmen, including the late Senator John J. Ingalls and Senator Preston B. Plumb. For twenty years he was a business associate of Senator Plumb. Mr. Battey is a member of the Masonie Order.
On May 9, 1879, at Florence, he married Miss-Mary E. Riggs, who was born in Appanoose County, Iowa, February 14; 1859. Mrs. Battey is an active member of the Eastern Star. They have only one child, Andrew Field Battey, who is now hving at Topeka. He was born May 7, 1881, and on November 20, 1903, married Cora Nogle. Their son, grandson of Richmond T. Battey, is named Richmond T. for his grandfather and was born November 3, 1905.