James K. Barnd, one of the most prominent citizens of Ness City, Kan., is a pioneer of Ness county and his career, both before and after coming to Kansas, is replete with incident and interest. He was born Jan. 25, 1845, at Findlay, Ohio, a son of Jacob and Sarah T. (Grate) Barnd. His father, a minister in the Methodist Episcopal church and a lawyer, died in 1846, when his son, James, was an infant. His mother survived until 1863. Mr. Barnd had one brother, Charles G. Barnd, born in 1842 and died Jan. 21, 1906.
James K. Barnd received his literary education in the public schools of Findlay, Ohio, and after the Civil war took a course in law at the University of Michigan, where he graduated in 1866. Though but a youth at the opening of the war, he was filled with the fervor of patriotism and enlisted, May 20, 1862, in Company G, Eighty-seventh Ohio infantry. Prior to his enlistment, however, and while learning the printing business, he became interested in the theatrical profession and later became associated with Mary Anderson, Louis James, Robert Downing, George C. Boniface and other well known actors of that class. A reminiscent sketch of Mr. Barnd's connection with that profession and of his subsequent career appeared as follows in the "Kansas City Journal" of Jan. 31, 1902:
"How did I happen to take up the profession? I became stage-struck in my youth, while working around a printing office at Findlay, Ohio. I took minor parts in amateur plays at first, and finally got good enough to take leads. That was early in the '60s. When the war broke out I enlisted and served during the early years. Then I took a course in the Michigan University law school, and after that bought a saw mill in Iowa. My legal education did not fit the saw mill, so I sold the mill and went back to Ohio and established a newspaper, which I ran until 1876. I got caught later in a panic and lost my cash. The stage was the only place open to me. I struck Washington shortly after the Brooklyn theater disaster, where hundreds of people lost their lives. Kate Claxton was playing there. It was Dec. 24, 1876. I had gone there to fill an engagement. My first appearance was at a matinee on Christmas day. An incident occurred that I shall always remember. While I was doing my turn a man in the audience fainted I never knew what caused it, but suppose it was my bad acting. Someone near him called for a glass of water. The Brooklyn disaster was still fresh in the people's minds. They construed the call for water to mean an alarm of fire, and within a moment there was a panic. People began to rush for the door. Scores of people were trampled upon and hurt. I played for two seasons in a stock company that alternated between Baltimore and Washington. I did character acting. Kate Claxton was the attraction part of the first season and Mary Anderson the remainder. Mary was nineteen years old at that time. Robert Downing was responsible utility man, and Cyril Searle, George C. Boniface and Louis James took leading parts. We played one night at Baltimore before the Emperor and Empress of Brazil . . . . In 1878 my throat gave out and I left the stage. I returned to Findlay, Ohio, and took charge of my paper, 'The American Patron,' which had been run by my family during my absence on the stage. In the fall of that year I decided to come to Kansas. The railroads had issued pamphlets telling what a garden spot Ness county was, and I got the fever to go there. I reckon no man ever had a tougher experience than I did getting there and existing for the first few years. Through my newspaper connections I got transportation for myself and family to Atchison, and myself on out to Ness. Upon reaching Atchison I sent my wife and children to Scandia to stay with some relatives until I got established at Ness. A cousin of mine and a young man whom I had brought up in the printing office were along. They had tickets to Wichita. I decided to go to Wichita with them and hoof it over to Ness rather than separate. It was December and Kansas was covered with snow two feet deep. We bought some supplies, including grub, blankets and a small tent at Wichita, and fixed up a sled to carry them. The sled consisted of a big coffee box put on runners. When we got fixed out and ready to start we took an invoice and had only $2 in cash among us. It was a 225-mile trip from Wichita to Ness. The snow was deep and the weather was cold. Except immediately around the small towns farm houses were from three to five miles apart. It was a desolate countryno houses, no trees, no vegetation of any kindnothing but space and wind, and lots of both. We hitched ourselves up to the sled, tandem fashion, and began the journey. We had not got more than two miles until we became exhausted. The sled runners cut through the snow and made it hard pulling. We converted the vehicle into what is known as a 'mud sled.' It then rode on top of the snow and went easier. We camped that night and had as a guest a preacher who had made a little money on the side by poisoning coyotes. He preached Sundays and poisoned coyotes the rest of the time. It was so cold that we slept with our boots on. The next day we got near Kingman. Darkness came over us and we camped. We almost froze to death that night. The next morning we discovered we had pitched our tent within twenty feet of a fine large dugout, where we might have spent a comfortable night. The next day we got in sight of Haynesville and struck a cozy dugout occupied by a gruff ranchman. He wouldn't let us stay all night. Another ranchman a little farther on took us in. We were tied up there a couple of days by a blizzard. I froze my feet badly and the other boys would have to help me along. They would haul the sled a ways and then come back and get me. Frequently I would ask them to let me perish and they go on, but they wouldn't do it. When we got to Fort Larned we stayed there a week with the soldiers. We did not reach Ness until Jan. 11, 1879. Old man Keller, a frontiersman, took us in. His shack was fourteen feet square. Fifteen of us slept in it that night. I had enough of politics while running my paper in Ohio, and I decided to keep out of it in Kansas, so I got as far away as possible from what I thought might be the county seat. It was in the southwest corner of the county. My cousin and printer friend went with me. We all took claims. Settlers were mighty scarce there. We were thirteen miles from a postoffice, so all of us, about six, got together and decided to have the government establish an office near us. We made application in due form. Under the rules the department would not squander any money on an office. The receipts had to sustain it, including the charge for carrying the mail to and from Pawnee Valley, thirteen miles away. The postoffice was named Newby. The other homesteaders were too busy to carry the mail, so I volunteered to do the work. I made the round trip every week on foot, and the neighhors guaranteed me twenty-five cents a day. Sometimes the receipts would be that much, but more often they wouldn't, and the neighbors would have to make up the balance. I made that twenty-six-mile trip on foot every week for three solid months for twenty-five cents a trip. The next three months the neighbors gave me a dollar a round trip. I was in clover then. I sent for my family. I built a sod house. Food was scarce with us. We ground our wheat in a coffee mill and made bread from the coarse flour. We also used wheat as a substitute for coffee. It was mighty poor eating. When melons and squashes came in we feasted. My heart failed me often, but my wife's never. I wanted to quit the country many times, but she would never agree to it. Up until the time I was elected probate judge of Ness county, upon the organization of that county in 1880, we never had a table, chair or bed in our Kansas dugout, except crude ones made by myself from poles and willows. I held the office of probate judge seven years. At one time I thought I was worth $30,000. That was during the boom times. I am not worth so much now. I have three monuments to commemorate my memory when I join the silent majoritythe little old soddy where I and my family suffered such hardships and privations, a big stone block in Ness City, in which is located my opera house and my newspaper plant."
The newspaper referred to is the "Ness County News," which Mr. Barnd established in 1884, of which he is still the owner and publisher. It is the pioneer paper of Ness county. In 1902 he was elected to represent Ness county in the state legislature, and during his service was a member of the judiciary local committee. He declined a second election. He is a progressive Republican in his political views. The privations and hardships of his earlier years in Kansas have borne a recompense in later years, however, for Mr. Barnd has prospered in his business enterprises and besides the building mentioned by himself owns other business property in Ness City.
On Oct. 1, 1868, Mr. Barnd was married to Miss Emma, a daughter of Alexander and Catherine Comstock, of Shueyville, Iowa. Mrs. Barnd was born at Marion, Ohio, Sept. 1, 1851. Their union has been blessed with thirteen childrenEstella (died in infancy), Mary (deceased), Jacqueline, Caroline, Ella, Samuel, Bertram, Bertha (deceased), Gertrude, Dana (deceased), Isabel, James (deceased) and Richard. Mr. Barnd is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic. Through his paper and as a citizen he has taken an active part in advancing the interests of his city, county and state, and by those acts and an upright life well deserves the universal respect he commands in his community.Pages 1173-1176 from volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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