JOHN T. ADKINS
I am quite sure that my first memory is that someone lifting me up so I could look through an open window of a log house to see my father lying on a bed. In after years, I learned that my father had severed the artery in his left wrist with acorn knife which he had been using to top cane. The injury nearly cost him his life before the doctor could tie it.
I only dimly remember the log house but after some years knew it to be the home of grandmother Hays. It was located about one and three-eights miles south of the little station of Cummings, Kansas on an eighty acre farm which she owned. Upon her death the farm was divided equally between the two daughters, Lucy Anne and Mattie, Lucy Anne received the north forty acres and Mattie the south. Father had built a house on the north-west Corner and James Vandaver, husband of Aunt Mattie, built on the site of the old log house.
My second vivid memory is of Grandmother Hays. She had been to visit us and was on her way home by way of a short cut across the field. when it began to rain. I remember standing beside mother in the doorway and hearing her say, "Mother is going to Get wet and she is not well. I later learned that from the wetting, Grandmother Hays contracted pneumonia which caused her death, November 7 1876.
Little is known of Grandfather Hays. It is my impression that he died when the girls were very young and from remarks made by my mother, I gathered that he used liquor freely. Grandmother Hays, at one time, Operated a lodging house at Kickapoo, Kansas which I believe is in the eastern part of Atchison County not too far from the Missouri River.
It is my belief that the Adkins side of the family came to Missouri from Tennessee. Jeremiah and John were the only men of the family that I ever heard Grandmother Adkins mention. I believe her maiden name was Nancy Jane Dean and that she came from a good sized family. Several brothers and only one sister that I can Remember hearing about. The sisters name was Tillie and her married name was Hart.
Jeremiah Adkins married Nancy Jane Dean. Their children were Frank, Tolbert, John Thomas, Elizabeth and James Columbus. James Columbus was the youngest And my father.
Jeremiah and family, evidently with a caravan, left Missouri for Oregon and located there. It was in Oregon that James Columbia was born on February 25, 1846.When word came to these new settlers that gold had been discovered in California, a party, including Jeremiah, left Oregon overland for California. During the trip an overturned wagon broke Jeramiah's knee and being without medical care, an infection Soon set in which caused his death. Just how Grandmother Adkins received the news is not known but by letter she notified her brother, Doc Dean, in Missouri of how she had been left with the five children. Doc Dean made the trip to Oregon to bring her home by ship around the horn.
On the trip a very severe storm drove the ship far off it's course. Grandmother Adkins contended that they were close to the coast of Africa. After an Illness, John Thomas, one of the boys, died and would have been burned at sea except for the pleadings or Grandmother Adkins and the fact that Grandfather Adkins had been a Mason. The Caption granted her request to bury the boy ashore. Very dark men waded out to the boat. On their shoulders were poles on which the boy was placed, carried ashore and there buried.
After reaching their home in Missouri, Grandmother Adkins later married a man named Blessing. They had two children, a boy Christopher and a girl Susan.
All of Grandmother Adkins people were Southerners and I remember history states there was a pro and con slave struggle in the Territory, of Kansas even before the Civil War. My father's stepfather Blessing was what was known as a rebel. He moved to Kansas in 1856 when my father was ten years old.
During the Civil War, Atchison County, Kansas, where they settled, was dominated by anti-slave folks. In the last stages of the war there was a call to arms by a Captain Baines, whom I knew as a boy. He raised a company in that community and Blessing was in the call. Since, however, he was a southern sympathizer he pled sickness and father, who was then nineteen years old, answered the call for him. The call was for ninety, days but the historical society in Topeka has no record of the company nor is there a record in Washington, D. C. This would make it appear to be in the nature of a Home Guard but they did get across the Missouri, River and were there when the war ended. While with the company, Father had a horse stolen from him.
I suppose it was in l878, when I was six years old, that I started going to school at the old, small, stone St. Nicholas schoolhouse. My sister Effie Francis had been in school, at that time, for at least two years. To reach the school we walked one and a quarter miles due east from our home. On the north side Of the public road was a hedge fence that had never been trimmed and was at least twenty feet high. A very heavy snow that winter drifted so deep in the road that only the very top of the hedge was visible. We walked on top of those drifts all the way to school.
Our teacher was J. B. Greenlee who lived only a quarter mile from the school. Mr. William Alder had taught the year before while my father was on the school board. He had been released, as I remember it, after an election day incident. After going to his home precinct to vote he came to school the following day with a black eye. Investigation revealed that he had been drinking and had gotten into a fight. The school board had to dismiss him.
With the incident my memory connects the occasion of my father shaving his Mustache. It was the one and only time in his married life that he did so and without it I did not recognize him. Father had a large and rather long nose which, I always thought, was the reason for his wearing the mustache.
The teachers I remember having at old St. Nicholas School were James B. Greenlee, Vincent Andre, Amanda Cooper and Nelson Cox.
Uncle James Vandirver, husband of mother's sister Mattie, had an older brother by the name of Nelse. He was a Civil War Veteran and like the rest of the family, left Illinois and he landed at Joplin, Missouri. He married an Indian woman and they had two boys and two girls. The boys were several years older than I and having been raised in a mining town, knew all the things that a boy my age shouldn't know. When this family moved to the Cummings community they had several teams of horses and camped in a covered wagon on a vacant half section of land about a quarter of a mile from our house.
At this time my father was getting along very well. We had about a hundred head of hogs and a good wheat and oat crop. My father and Neles, together, bought a new Nichols and Sheppard horse powered thrashing machine and did a wonderful business during the harvest season. Father got home Only once a week so it was up to mother and the kids to take care of the stock. Then the cholera struck the hogs and I remember that only one old sow survived.
My father had no education so all the threshing money was collected by his partner, Vandirver. When the season was over and they had moved home, a date was set for a settlement. The morning of the settlement day revealed that Nelse Vandirver and his covered wagon were gone and gone with him, of course, the seasons earnings Officers were sent to catch the outfit but they had succeeded in crossing the Missouri. This incident, together with having to dispose of his forty acres farm to satisfy the note against the threshing Machine, not only broke father but also broke his heart.
For the next two or three years father rented farms. The last one, I remember, belonged to his stepfather, Blessing. Blessing and his son Christopher had been living on this farm ever since Grandmother Adkins Blessing died.
Upon selling his farm, Blessing began looking far a new location. He made a trip to Morris County, Kansas, Council Grove being the County Seat. Again father trusted in the judgement of another and authorized his step-father to buy a farm in Morris County for him. Upon moving we found the place to be among the flint hills with scarcely more than Forty acres that could be cultivated. The house was one large room with no ceiling. Not much for a family of eight.
This was in the spring of 1884. The year Cleveland was elected. It was tough going. Crops were poor and corn sold for as low as 12 cents per bushel. The first two years we walked three miles to school. Burned corn instead of wood or coal and had only three month of school. After the third year we moved back to Atchison County and into the small Village of Cummings which was bad for the writer.
During our stay in Morris County, my sister Effie married Isaac Graham. Warren Graham is the oldest of three children born to this union. In giving birth to the third child, my sister and the child both died.
Ever since I can remember we had a dog named Fido. We raised him from a pup and he and my father were great pals. He was a small slick haired dog and when quite young lost an eye. I never saw him pick a fight but at the same time I never saw him lose one. When we moved to Morris County, Fido got lost in Topeka and returned to Cummings. He lived with Uncle Jim Vandirver until Uncle Jim rigged up a covered wagon and brought the family and the dog to Morris County to visit us. When they were still perhaps two hundred yards from the house, Fido saw father standing in the door. He stopped, seemed to raise his head and look at father. Then father spoke to him and Fido started on a dead run to meet him. The meeting of these two old friends was Something to see and I actually believe that the two of them shed tears. Fido was home again.
It was in the fall of l887 that we moved back to Atchison County. At Christmas time in 1888 my sister Effie and her family came in from Morris County to spend the holidays with us. I returned to Morris County with them and in February of that year I went to Oklahoma with a man by the name of Rolly Iseacs, who had a claim near Cimmaron City. I was to help him build a log house. I had no money and while there found only a few days work at fifty cents a day. I was lucky, however, to catch a ride out of the territory to Arkansas City, Kansas where I took to following the railroad stopping at each farm house to ask for work. About seven miles north of Dexter, Kansas I was employed as a farm hand at $l3.OO a month, including washing. On July 1st I quit this job and went on home to Cummings, Kansas. When I left, one of the farm hands owed me two dollars and promised to send it to me the following payday. He did and by registered mail and I remember how excited the postmaster and his family were when I signed for that letter. It was the first letter I had ever gotten and they were all very curious but they never found out that it contained only two one dollar bills.
This was in July 1890 and that fall father moved the family back to Morris County with the intention of going on to Oklahoma in the spring. He made this trip along with my brother-in-law, Isaac Graham family, in 1891. I did not go with the family. I stayed in Cummings working on a farm and when not working, making my home with Aunt Mattie Vandirver. In these days I was crazy about baseball and was one of the first in the community to develop a curve ball and became a pretty good pitcher, At one time I was selected to try out with Topeka when they were in the Western league but the league blew up before I was called.
Between the years 1890 and 1897 I can remember nothing of importance happening to me. I made a trip to Oklahoma to visit the folks who were then living near Perkins and then I returned to Kansas.
The Swendson family were old residents and I think, a family or ten. Six boys and four girls. There were Sammie, Ida, Julia, Frank, Severt, Sadie, John, Fred, Jerry and Bertha. Bertha was the youngest or the family while I known all or the family all of my life, I had not known Bertha very well as she had attended church and community doings in an adjoining community. But when Bertha and Harry became old enough they started coming to church and Sunday school at the M. E. church in Cummings and Bertha became the organist. One day I noticed some young people doing some cleaning at the church and I wondered in. I was informed that the organ bellows had developed a leak so I secured some tape and with the help or Bertha Swendson, mended the leak. That was the beginning of a five-year courtship. The parents, together with her brother John, gave us a hard time and it Was not until June 8, 1899 that we were married and then without their consent.
When I came to Colorado April 2, l897, it was with the general idea that I might find a job that would justify marriage. Our correspondence was not regular and my letters were mailed in care of the postmaster. Being a friend of mine he saw to it that the letters were delivered in person, but her brother John, who Was a telegraph operator and boarding at home, used plenty of pressure on her and on her parents. It was not until. June 1899' that I got word to come. It was difficult to face the three of then, father and mother Swendson and brother John. I am sure that her father got a great deal of pleasure out of telling me that he disapproved and that there would be no property settlement for her when he passed away. Brother John also had his say. However, after I told them I was only marrying the girl and not the family and that I would be glad to make it easier on them by going to Atchison to get married, no further objections were heard and the wedding was performed at about three p. m. on June 8th.
Mother Swendson had a lunch and wedding cake about 4 o'clock after which we left for Atchison, Kansas and Kansas City, Mo., where we stayed the night, leaving for Colorado at nine the following morning. We arrived in Granada, Colorado about 3p.m. June 10th where we were met by J. L. Mayfield. We were escorted to his home and enjoyed his hospitality for two full days. We were serenaded by the Granada band, which among other things played "What Shall The Harvest Be". In payment the Mayfield's served ice cream and cake.
The next thing to do was to find a place to live. I had found that the building in which I had the grocery store looked rather bare with only a thousand dollar stock of goods so I built a partition across the back and made a room 12'x24'. We installed a small cook stove, a dining table and four chairs and a rocking chair. Thee rocking chair was a present from Charley Andre and I still have it. There was also a clock which a wedding present from the Mayfield's.
The weather was dry and windy, the farmers could not get water for irrigation and business was very poor. Then in August there came a hard dashing rain. The walls of the building were of stone but the inside of the wall were evidently filled with gyp and pointed with Morter. The rain got to the gyp somehow and a section or the wall about six by four feet fell out during the night. We moved to the second floor of the Mayfield building which adjoined the IOOF Hall. There Was one outside stairway that served both buildings.
Things went from bad to worse. I was unable to repay any part of the old one thousand dollar loan. About the first of the year, Mr. Mayfield made a trip to Atchison and while there wrote me that considering business conditions he did not feel that he could renew the note and advised me to liquidate. I agreed to his proposal and turned over my stock of goods which did rot quite cover all or my debts. While in business in Grenada our first child, Lucy Edna, was born.
At this time we had an M.E. Preacher who also supplied at Holly. Knowing that I was looking for a job, he, Rev. Rice, contacted C. L. McPherson in Holly. I was hired as a clerk at fifty dollars a month. Until I could got located, I stayed with Rev. Rice and his wife and it was about a month before I got my wife and child moved into a three room house about the middle of the block east of where Mrs. Witty now lives. The Witty place was then owned by a C. F. White. There was no water so we drove a sand point down, attached a pitcher pump end had plenty---cold and alkali. X lax had not yet been invented but with this water we didn't need it. It was here that Lucy, at nine months, learned to walk while the year and two month old son of our neighbor, Fred Montgomery, was still crawling. When Alice was born we had moved and were Living in a four room house on the lots where the two story home of Loe McMurtry now stands. This was in the Year 1902.
J. B. Hardin, who had been bookkeeper in the Holly Bank since it was established, resigned his job to take the position of Commissary Clerk during the construction of the Amity Dam near Prowers, Colorado. J. S. Mc Murtry, cashier of the bank offered me the position of bookkeeper so, I left the Mc Pherson store and went with the bank. This was an entirely new job for me. I had had no training and knew only a few rules that I had picked up in the grocery business. I soon found that it was a tough job for me and the bank also discovered the fact. After the Amity Dam was completed in the spring of 1903, the bank officers told me that they wished to have Mr. Hardin back so I resigned. I was out of work three weeks in all, for the first time since coming to Colorado.
I worked a few months for Mr. Gill who operated a grocery store and then tried my hand as a Meat cutter for Mr. H. A. Petty. This was another job at which I had had no experience but I managed very well. With a wife and two children and only ten dollars a week it was a struggle and would have been more than serious had it not been for the good will and credit of my former employer, C. L. McPherson. Petty still owed me $80 when I quit and mover to Amity to manage the R. W. English lumber business there. Another job at which I had had no experience but I quickly learned to grasp the details, daily reports and all and did not see my boss for three mouths.
In explaining the events leading up to my next job, it is necessary to go back to the year 1897 after I had left the XY ranch and went to work for J. L. Mayfield. In Granda, at that time, there was a man by the name of Martin Graham. He was an old Irish Bachelor and a Democrat and seemed to have little to do except loaf and read the papers. Aside from the salons, a small shoe repair shop was the only other loafing place in town. I often dropped in here for an evening and it was here that I met Martin Graham. He had found out that through Mr. Mayfield that I was a Democrat and we talked much politics. One evening the subject of religion came up and he ask me my belief. I could think of no butter way to answer than to quote the Aposals Creed and when I mentioned the holy Catholic Church his eyes shown. We became great friends.
I had been away from Granada since 1900 and was now, in 1904, living in, Amity. One afternoon the phone rang and Martin's voice said "John, is this you me Mon", Then be told me that they wanted me to run for County Treasurer on the Democratic ticket. I said I would and was nominated. No money and no experience in politics but I had played ball in Lamar several times, had beaten them on July 4, 1897, had worked in the Post office at Granada, in the General Store in Holly in which the post office was located and had been in Colorado for seven years so I was quite well know. Frederick M. Montgomery, Who at that time was agriculture man for The Amity land Company, loaned me one hundred dollars to campaign on and lucky for him I was elected. Elected to a job I knew nothing about. My margin was small, only 48 votes, and I doubt if any county officer has ever spent less and won an election.
On April 2Oth 1905 our son James Severt was born. When he was but a few months old he fell from a high baby carriage striking the floor with his left shoulder. 0f course he yelped some but made no fuss unless we picked him up With hands under the arms. The doctor decided the collarbone was broken but it knitted nicely after being taped up for a few weeks.
When the family visited my father and his family during the holiday season of 1906, my wife and the children stayed after I came back to Lamar about December 27th When I arrived I found the town very much upset. The town marshal had been shot to death the evening before by two unidentified men and every available man was out on the hunt. Mother and the children came home after January 1st bringing with them my sister Josie. She stayed with us for about two months attending school but became homesick and returned to her home. During her stay Grandfather Swendson passed away and mother took James with her to attend the funeral. During her absence Alice took sick and mother returned without delay.
During the campaign of 1906 Frisby, the City Marshall who was shot to death, came to me and asked if I were giving money to the salons during the campaign. I said I had not. He suggested that if I wanted their support I would have to do so. I told him I had not done so in previous elections and had no intentions of doing so now and that if he were asking at their request he would have to tell them to do what ever they felt best. This branded me as an anti-salon candidate and the fight was on. I Won by a good majority and won again in 1908. This made me noted as a winner.
Being chosen chairman of the anti-salon party in Lamar, winning the election and closing the salons made many political enemies for me in Lamar end through out the county. This proved more than true when I was defeated for state Representative in the General Election of 1910 losing to Dr. Hasty by a mere l25 votes. I beat the doctor in his own precinct, the heaviest Republican precinct in the county, but Baca County gave him the winning majority. This very close race was run in the face of a very damaging auditors report of my County Treasurers books, made by Mr. Mulniz of Denver. A grand jury was called to consider the report and after the unprecedented procedure of calling me before them to give my version, gave me a clean bill. This was after I had moved to Holly but the report made big headlines in the Denver Post before the election in November.
We moved to Holly in 1911 where I was made Secretary-Treasurer of the Cretcher lumber Company. I had resolved to keep hands off in the town election which was coming up as I had all I wanted of salon fights. On the first Sunday in Holly however, I met John Duncan and James Wilkins on the street Mr. Duncan said, "I suppose you have come back to help put Holly dry". I told them about my resolution but John's retort was, "There is no room here for those who wish to make Holly dry". That statement set my hair and I said if you mean those people will not be able to live in Holly I will tell you something---I expect to be here long after you are gone. But I did not enter the fight.
|Comment by Emory Lewis
Smart move John Adkins. Today (Nov 10 2002) I received an e-mail from Joan Duncan:
|Hi, Read your John T Adkins account. Very interesting! Couldn't help|
|but wonder if the "John Duncan" you referenced was my grandfather.|
|He lived near Holly in 1911. Owned the Barrel Springs Ranch and was a|
|bootlegger. :) I can see him saying something like that. Family stories|
|say he even shot a man who wanted to stop bootlegging for him.|
|Who really knows?! I have pictures of his stills at the ranch.|
|Thanks, Joan (Duncan)|
|John Wesley Duncan|
|John Wesley Duncan Moonshine Still|