John P. Cone, of Seneca, Kan., has the distinction of being not only one of the very first "Free State" newspaper publishers in Kansas, but also of being the founder of the first Republican paper to be published in Marshall county, as well as the founder of the first paper published in Nemaha county. He comes of stanch Revolutionary stock, as his ancestors, both paternal and maternal, took part in the war for American independence. He is a native of Columbia, N. H., where he was born, Feb. 8, 1836, the son of Sylvester W. and Frances (Denison) Cone, both of whom were born and reared in New England. Sylvester W. Cone was the son of Jared Cone, who enlisted in the Revolution under Lieutenant Olmstead and joined Colonel Sherman's regiment in the Connecticut line. Later he was transferred to Captain Bett's company in Colonel Scammel's regiment, and took part in the battle and siege of Yorktown, where he was present at the surrender of Cornwallis to General Washington and Count Rochambeau, the French commander. At the first session of the Twenty-second Congress the committee on Revolutionary pensions reported that the evidence that Jared Cone served in the Revolutionary war was conclusive, and recommended that he be granted a pension, which was allowed by Congress. Frances Denison,the mother of John P. Cone, was also descended from a prominent New England family. Henry W. Denison, a cousin of the subject, after being advanced to a high position in the United States government service, became associated in an advisory capacity in the foreign office of the Japanese government, and was present in the interest of Japan at the Treaty of Portsmouth, which ended the Russo-Japanese war. He was born at Guildhall, Vt., and is the son of John P. and Mary Denison, the former a brother of John P. Cone's mother.
John P. Cone was reared at Columbia, N. H., and across the Connecticut river in Vermont until the age of sixteen, receiving his early education in the district schools. At the age of eighteen he became apprenticed at Haverhill, N. H., to learn the printer's trade, and in due time not only mastered his trade, but while learning it he also earned a scholarship in the Haverhill Academy, which gave him his board and clothes and three months schooling. He completed his academic course in the fall of 1857, and having read accounts in books and the press of that day about Kansas and the free-state movement, went to Boston, got in touch with the Emigrant Aid Society, which at that time was actively engaged in securing men who were strongly opposed to slavery and came to Kansas to enter the great free-state movement, which was then raging in this state. He came by rail to Jefferson City, Mo., the terminus of the railroad at that time, and from there he expected to take a boat for the rest of the trip. However, in this, he was disappointed, for the severe cold had frozen the river over so that all steam boating was tied up. He tried to secure a team for the remainder of the journey, but as the number who desired transportation included about ten men, women and children, it became necessary for the men to walk in order that the women and baggage might be carried. They left Jefferson City about the 20th of November and arrived at Kansas City after seventeen days' travel, during most of which Mr. Cone walked. On his arrival at Kansas City, Mr. Cone still had many miles to walk before he reached his destination, which was Sumner, Kan., about four miles south of Atchison. There he expected to join two of his brothers, David D. and Sylvester W., who had located at that place in 1855, where the former had established a free-state weekly paper. Mr. Cone footed it up the west bank of the Missouri river and on Dec. 9, 1857, arrived at Sumner, footsore and almost penniless. Being a practical printer, he at once took charge of the "Sumner Gazette," and from the start made it one of the most outspoken and loyal anti-slavery papers published in the West. About that time John J. Ingalls located in Sumner and began the practice of law as well as a campaign to make Kansas a free state. The Cone brothers continued to publish the "Sumner Gazette" until just prior to the Civil war, when David D., the founder, received an appointment in the government service at Washington, D. C.; and left John P. Cone in charge. He continued to publish the paper until 1861, when he suspended it, and went to Atchison, where he worked as a journeyman printer for a while, and then secured a position with Sol. Miller in publishing the "White Cloud Chief," at White Cloud, Kan. Early in 1862 Mr. Cone went to Marysville, Kan., where, on March 29 of that year, he established the "Big Blue Union," the first Republican newspaper published in Marshall county. As he published a partisan, free-state paper, exposing the methods employed by the pro-slavery element to terrorize and drive out of the state if possible every free-state advocate, they could bluff into leaving it, the life of Mr. Cone was a strenuous one indeed. However, he continued to publish the paper until late in 1863, when he disposed of it. While looking for a suitable field, in which to establish another paper, he decided that Seneca, Kan., was a fine location, and early in November, 1863, he founded the "Nemaha Courier," the first newspaper established in Nemaha county. The first issue of that pioneer paper was on Nov. 14, 1863, and from that date until he disposed of the paper, in 1871, it was one of the foremost Republican papers in northern Kansas. The politics of the paper continued to be Republican for some years, when it became Democratic, and at present is published as the "Courier Democrat." The old hand printing press, used by the Cone Brothers, when publishing the "Sumner Gazette," and later by John P. Cone, while he published the "Nemaha Courier," is now a valued relic in the State Historical Society's collection at the state capitol, where it occupies a conspicuous place among the mementoes of pioneer days. On retiring from the newspaper business, in 1871, Mr. Cone engaged in merchandising at Seneca for a time and followed various pursuits until 1895, when he traded for considerable realty in central Kansas, and also in Nemaha county. Mr. Cone has been an active Republican ever since the formation of that great party, but never a seeker for office.
In 1867 he was united in marriage with Miss Amanda Lappin, the daughter of Finley Lappin, one of the founders of Seneca, and the one, who, as a member of the townsite company, changed the name of Rock Castle to that of Seneca. A sketch of the life of Finley Lappin appears elsewhere in this work. Mrs. Cone was born in Sandusky, Ohio, in 1843, and came to Kansas with her parents when a girl. Mr. and Mrs. Cone have but one childProf. Ralph W. Cone, of Lawrence, Kan. He is a graduate of the University of Kansas, also of Harvard University, and until ill health compelled him to resign, in 1910, he was a member of the faculty of the University of Kansas. Prof. Cone is married and has three childrenJeannette, John P. and Alice. John P. Cone and wife are both members of the Christian Science church.Pages 1430-1432 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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