Collection: A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans

Biography of Robert G. Elliott

Robert G. Elliott was one of the founders of Kansas as a free territory and state. He was born in Union County, Indiana, July 23, 1828, of South Carolina parentage, and was graduated from the University of the Hoosier State in 1850. Among his classmates were the son and three nephews of Henry A. Wise, governor of Virginia. After teaching four years in Indiana and Tennessee, and becoming thoroughly educated and aroused in his absorption of the prevailing issues of the ante-war days, he became associated with Josiah Miller in the establishment of the Kansas Free State newspaper at Lawrence. They were college mates, brave and in perfect accord. The first number of the paper was issued January 5, 1855, but the plant was destroyed at the sacking of Lawrence on May 21st of the succeeding year. Soon afterward Mr. Elliott was appointed one of the delegates to the Philadelphia convention that established the precedent of admitting the territories to equal representation with the states. His trip East to attend the convention was also to buy a new printing press, but the closing of Missouri to northern travel prevented the re-establishment of the paper until the spring of 1857. Only two numbers of the paper were issued thereafter, its place of publication being Delaware, just below Leavenworth, then the county seat. Mr. Elliott took a leading part in the...

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Biographical Sketch of Owen A. Bassett

Owen A. Bassett was one of the ablest and most energetie actors in the Border troubles, the Civil war and the civil affairs of the Roconstruction period. A Pennsylvasian by birth, his father moved to Illinois in 1837 and two years later to Iowa. The family home was first in Lee County. The son’s original intention was to be a civil engineer, but he finally decided in favor of the law, although the stirring and compelling affairs which entered his life prevented him for many years from utilizing the legal training which he acquired. In 1855 he was employed in the United States land office at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, but in the spring of 1856 resigned to engage in business at Lecompton. Soon afterward he entered heartily into the free-state cause, joined the military company known as the Lawrence Stubbs, and was engaged both in the battle of Franklin and the capture of Fort Saunders. Subsequently he held the positions of engineer and quartermaster with the free-state army of Kansas, and in December, 1856, moved to Leavenworth. There he engaged as engineer for the Quindaro Town Company, and in 1857 and 1858 served in the Territorial Legislature. In the latter year he moved to Franklin County, published the Kansas Freeman a few months, returned to Lawrence and was admitted to the bar. At the outbreak of the Civil...

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Biography of John Warner

Nearly sixty years have passed since John Warner, then a young man in the full prime of enthusiasm and ambition, came to Kansas to seek his fortune in the young state. At that time his available eash assets consisted of $13, not a great sum with which to start in an unknown country. This was sufficient, however, and not many years had passed before he was on the high road to success. Now, in his eighty-fourth year, this Kansas pioneer and Civil war veteran is living in retirement at Manhattan, at which city he took his residence in 1908, after an eminently successful career as farmer and honorable, public-spirited citizen. John Warner was born in Baden, Germany, October 16, 1833, and was but five years old when, in 1838, his parents, John and Elizabeth (Pfiester) Warner, brought their family to the United States and settled on a farm in Clark County, Indiana. In 1847 Mr. Warner’s father gave up agricultural work to engage in railroad construction in Indiana and Kentucky, and was the builder of the first railroad in the latter state, from Louisville to Frankfort, a work in which his son, John, took a part. In 1852 the family removed to Tama County, Iowa, the father again resuming agricultural activities. John Waruer had received a public school education, and by the year 1853 was ready to enter upon...

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Biography of Chalkley M. Beeson

The recent death of Buffalo Bill brings to mind how few of the old western plainamen are left. One of the best known to Kansans of that picturesque class of Americans is alive and vigorous at Dodge City, and Chalkley M. Beeson, although he has rubbed shoulders with Generals Custer and Sheridan, Buffalo Bill and the Grand Duke Alexis (sou of a Russian czar), and was, during the earlier period of his manhood, an active flgure in the unrecorded movies of the wild and woolly West, has been settled these many years as a solid, prosperous farmer and state legislator of Ford County. He is a native of Salem, Ohio, born April 24, 1848; went to Denver in April, 1868; came to Kansas from Colorado in 1875, and has made stock raising the serious business of his life ever since. He has represented Ford County in four legislatures–those of 1903, 1905 and 1907, and the special session of 1908. The following sketch is pertinent: “The life of Mr. Beeson bridges the gap between the old and the new of the great plains. Leaving his home in Ohio as a boy of nineteen years, he has lived to see the Wild West supplanted by the Civilised West; as he says, ‘the white-face and short-horn steers replace the buffalo, and wheat, and corn, and alfalfa, supplant the buffalo grass.’ For many...

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Biographical Sketch of Benjamin Harding

For many years Benjamin Harding was a leading free-soil man and a resident of Doniphan County, Kansas. A native of Otsego County, New York, born in November, 1815, at the age of twenty-five he became a resident of Livingston County, Missouri, and in 1842 entered the Indian trade at the Great Nemaha Agency. He moved to St. Joseph in 1849, but re-entered the Indian trade at Wathena, Kansas, in 1852. In 1854, while serving there as a judge of election he incurred the enmity of the pro-slavery people, and twice reported at Leavenworth to answer charges brought against him, which were finally dismissed. He was a delegate to the Big Springs convention of 1855; served in the Territorial Council in 1857, 1858 and 1859; was a member of the Railroad convention of 1860, and held the office of register of deeds of Doniphan County in 1862-66, after which he passed a somewhat retired life. He died at his home in Wathena, January 15,...

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Biography of William R. Smith

One of the fine buildings bordering the State Capitol grounds at Topeka is the Kansas State Printing plant. That is the official headquarters of William R. Smith, state printer, and also secretary of the State Printing Commission and chairman of the School Book Commission of the state. Doubtless any citizen, and particularly a printer, would deem it an honor to be at the head of an establishment which experts pronounce to be the equal in mechanical equipment and operating effieiency of any commercial printing establishment in the country. When Mr. Smith went into office on July 1, 1915, he brought with him a ripe experience, including an extensive service in all the grades of the printing business, years of editorial and newspaper publishing work, and perhaps best of all an inheritance and training in the progressive Kansas spirit. When the advancement of the welfare of the state is concerned, W. R. Smith can always be found in the ranks of the workers and usually among the leaders. The influence for good he has exercised as an editor in various sections of the state can hardly be overestimated. While his life has been distinctive in more than one particular, he is in every sense a typical Kansan. He was born at the old land office and capital, Lecompton, March 21, 1872. His grandparents, William L. and America C. (Barton) Smith...

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Biography of Robert Bruce Spilman

The name Spilman has for half a century been one of prominence in Riley County. The people of that county, including both the bar and the general public, will always recall with special marks of affection and esteem the life and services of the late Judge Robert Bruce Spilman, who was one of the pioneer lawyers of Manhattan and for ten years occupied a seat on the district bench. A son of William and Dorcas Jane (Garrison) Spilman, who were natives of Kentucky, and early settlers in Indiana, Judge Spilman was born at their home at Rockville, Indiana, August 7, 1840. He was just in the prime of his years and ussfulness when his death occurred at Manhattan, October 19, 1896. His parents in order to provide better opportunities for their children moved from Rockville to Crawfordsville, Indiana. Crawfordsville is the seat of one of Indiana’s most noted educational institutzons, Wabash College, distinguished for the many eminent men who have gone from its halls. Judge Spilman was one of the graduates with the class of 1861. On leaving college he accepted the place of teacher in a school, but soon left the schoolroom to enlist in defense of the Union. Crawfordsville was a hotbed of patriotism during the war, and was the home of General Lew Wallace, the soldier author. Judge Spilman became a private in Company K of...

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Biographical Sketch of William R. Spilman

William R. Spilman, the oldest son of Judge Spilman, was born at Manhattan December 6, 1870, and received his education in the city schools and the State Agricultural College. In 1890 he became court reporter under his father of the Twenty-first Judiela I District, and that position he held for seventeen years. He resigned to become a stenographer in the navy department at Washington, but later at the request of Assistant Postmaster General Bristow was transferred to the postoffice department. In that department he has filled a number of important positions. He has been superintendent of rural delivery, superintendent of city delivery, and is now connected with the inspection work of the department. He married Bertha Winchip, a Manhattan...

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Biographical Sketch of Robert Bruce Spilman, Jr.

The only son of the late Judge R. B. Spilman still living in Manhattan is Robert Bruce Spilman, Jr. He was born in Manhattan September 7, 1875, and that city has always been his home. He attended the public schools, and in 1894 entered the halls of his father’s Alma Mater, old Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He continued his studies at Wabash until 1896. Returning home he occnpied himself with various lines of employment until 1900, and in that year was elected clerk of the District Court for Riley County. Since beginning his duties as clerk of the District Court in January, 1901, Mr. Spilman has been continued in that office by repeated elections and now has given the office the benefit of his efficient service for fifteen years. For seven years he was also a partner in a hardware firm in Manhattan, and since selling that interest he has acquired an abstract business and still operates that. He is a republican in politics and has long been a ruling slder in the First Presbyterian Church and is superintendent of its Sunday school. In 1903 he married Willa Wood of Angola, Indiana. They have one son, Raymond...

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Biography of James Franklin O’Daniel

The reader of modern Kansas history learns of the wonderful development of the state, of its wealth and resources, of its great educational institutions and its culture, and of its enterprise and reform legislation. Back, however, of all these truthful and encouraging records exists a vital and more interesting page of history, and only by linking the past with the present, may justice be done to all. A half century in the great cyele of Time means little, but it sometimes covers an entire individual life. There are men in different sections of this great state to whose labor, courage and resolution through the last half century, Kansas owes a great debt, for they were the pioneers along every line in which she now stands pre-eminent among the states. James Franklin O’Daniel, one of Riley County’s representative men, came to Kansas with the pioneers of 1859, at that time being a sturdy and ambitions youth of eighteen years. He was born in Larue County, Kentucky, October 22, 1840, and his parents were James and Margaret (Howell) O’Daniel. By birth they were Kentuckians but they were of Irish and German ancestry. Of their twelve children, James Franklin was fifth in order of birth. In 1852 they removed with their children to Platte County, Missouri, and resided at Parkville until 1859, in which year they became settlers in Pottawatomie County, Kansas,...

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Biography of William A. Phillips

William A. Phillips was one of the pioneers of Kansas who made it free from the dominion of slavery, kept it in the Union during the Civil war, protected the interests of the loyal Indians and afterward did fine service as a congressman. He was born in Scotland Jannary 14, 1824, and had laid the basis of a good education before he was fifteen years of age, when he came with his parents to a farm in Randolph County, Illinois. About the time he reached his majority he became associated with B. J. F. Hannah as editor of the Chester Herald. From 1852 to 1855 he was engaged in newspaper work, at the same time studying law, and was admitted to the bar. In the latter year he came to Kansas and was officially appointed by Horace Greeley a member of the editorial staff of the New York Tribune. In that capacity he traveled over much of the territory, and the results of his investigations published in 1856 as the “Conquest of Kansas,” made him a marked man. When Congress sent its investigating committee into the territory he rendered it much practical assistance. Naturally, he became very unpopular with the pro-slavery people. Shortly after the outbreak of the Civil war General Phillips was commissioned major of the First Indian Regiment. Within a short time he was promoted to the...

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Biography of Peter P. Elder

Peter P. Elder, deceased, ex-lieutenant governor of Kansas, and for many years a resident of Ottawa, was one of the most notable characters of Kansas and one of the select few who gave it a unique and substantial standing among the western states of the Union. He was a native of Maine, born in Somerset County, September 30, 1823; was of North-of-Ireland ancestry and Revolutionary stock. Mr. Elder spent the first thirty-four years of his life in his native county, getting an education and teaching school. He became an ardent abolitionist early in life, and in 1857 located in Franklin County, Kansas, prepared to do his part in defending his principles and possessions. First taking up a claim near Ohio City he commenced farming, immediately joined the Kansas militia, and in 1861 President Lincoln appointed him agent for the Osage and Seneca Indians at Fort Scott. In that position he rendered valuable service to the Union by keeping the Indians to its support, and when he resigned the agency he returned to Franklin County and located at Ottawa, which had been recently platted. In the late ’60s Mr. Elder erected the first substantial residence at Ottawa, and also established the banking firm of P. P. Elder & Company. It continued a successful business until the organization of its successor, in 1871–the First National Bank of Ottawa, of which Mr....

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Biography of James Humphrey

James Humphrey, as lawyer, editor, judge and state official, firmly established his position throughout a period of half a century as one of the ablest and most popular citizens of Central Kansas. He was born in Nottinghamshire, England, March 8, 1833; came to New England in 1854, and during the succeeding three years was a resident of Fall River, Massachusetts. There he became interested in the Kansas agitation for free statehood and in April, 1857, reached Manhattan. His first employment in connection with the shrievalty was a good test of his pluck, and he so arose to the occasion that he was afterward elected mayor. In 1859 and 1860 he served as assistant county treasurer and in 1861 was head of the office. He also served as justice of the peace, and his trial of the cases brought before him brought so much commendations from the lawyears of both sides that he decided to study law. He was admitted to the bar in 1863. He has previously broken into journalism by editing the Manhattan Express in the absence of C. F. DeVivaldi, who was serving abroad as consul to Brazil. After the Civil war Mr. Humphrey established a large practice, and handled it with such ability that in the spring of 1867 he was appointed judge of the Eighth Judicial District. In the fall of that year he was...

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Biography of Marshall M. Murdock

Marshall M. Murdock, a pioneer journalist of Kansas, the founder of the Wichita Eagle and one of the marked men of the commonwealth, was born in the Pierpont settlement of what is now West Virginia, in 1837. He was of Scotch-Irish ancestry, and his father married into the Governor Pierpont family. Soon after his marriage the family moved to Ironton, Southern Ohio, and there Marshall Murdock attended the public schools and commenced to learn the printer’s trade. Thomas Murdock, the father, was unsuccessful in his business venture, and, as he had an abhorrence of slavery and Kansas was then the most pronounced champion of abolitionism in the West, he decided to try his fortune in that part of the country. The family and the household goods were therefore loaded into two covered wagons and a start was made for Topeka; the father drove one team and Marshall, the son, the other. After an overland journey of several weeks they reached their destination and Thomas Murdock settled on a farm near Topeka. When gold was discovered in the Pike’s Peak region, Marshall Murdock started for the excitement, and is said to have been the first to discover silver on the site of Leadville. While he was in the gold fields, the Civil war broke out, his father and two of his brothers enlisted, and he returned to Kansas to care...

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Biography of John Melville Kimball

Kansas has many octogenarians. The soil and climate and other conditions are conducive to bringing men and women to a happy and contented old age, but few of them have lived so long in the Sunflower State as John Melville Kimball, who at the age of four score is still young in spirit and can enjoy the wonderful retrospect of years which goes back to the very establishment of the institntions of the state. He is a pioneer settler of Riley County, and for half a century was successfully identified with farming in Manhattan Township until he retired to his city home in Manhattan. It was in the spring of 1856 that Mr, Kimball, together with his brother J. Augustus Kimball, came out to Kansas Territory, partly for the purpose of founding a home and also to lend their aid in making the territory a free state. They had come from the East by railroad as far as St. Louis, and from that city a steamboat carried them up the Missouri to what is now Kansas City. With a wagon and an ox team they came overland to their destination, keeping close to the banks of the Kansas River until they arrived in what is now Riley County. Thus it was that sixty years ago Mr. Kimball helped drive an ox team over the rude trails which passed as...

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