Thomas W. Hemphill.A pioneer family in any community is of more or less historic interest, but when one possesses the distinction of having been a pioneer of three counties, in as many different states, then that man becomes of special historic interest and prominence.
Thomas W. Hemphill was born in Clearfield, Clearfield county, Pennsylvania, October 23, 1832, a son of James and Mallay (Rigley) Hemphill. He is descended on the paternal side from Irish stock, and his maternal ancestors were English. His father, James Hemphill, was a carpenter, who removed with his family, in 1845, to Boone county, Illinois, then in the first stages of settlement. He later removed to Iowa, then to Crawford county, Kansas, where he died. Young Hemphill was reared in his native county and acquired his education in the district schools of that early time, going three miles into the woods for that purpose. He accompanied his parents to Illinois, at that time a lad of thirteen, and saw Boone county grow from a wilderness to a settled country. His first acquaintance with a railroad was when the Galena & Chicago Union railway was built into Belvedere, the county seat of Boone county. Its rails were 2x4 scantlings, on which strap iron was nailed, and its motive power and rolling stock equally primitive. He resided in Boone county for eleven years, his employment being that of a farm hand, and his wages averaged $10 per month. Threshing was done by horse power, and he did his share of this kind of labor, but without an increase in wages. In 1856, he removed to Floyd county, Iowa, where his parents had preceded him several years. During a residence in this county, of two years, he grew deeply interested in the Kansas situation, at that time being generally agitated throughout the east, and decided to cast his lot with the Free State contingent in that territory. Acting on this determination he came to Marshall county, where he wintered, and on July 8, 1858, located on a claim near the present city of Washington. Indians were numerous as were Indian scares, and buffaloes roamed over the country in countless thousands. While wintering in Marshall county he was employed by Frank Marshall, for whom the county was named, hauling corn to stage stations, one of which was at Fort Kearney, Nebraska. He has been identified with Washington county since its early settlement, was concerned in its organization as a county, and has been one of its active factors in agricultural development. His claim was made a farm, and a highly productive one. He traded a team of horses for one of oxen and broke prairie, hauled logs for building purposes, and experienced each and every hardship known to the pioneer of those days. From an ox team to an automobile, from the tallow dip to electric lights, from the stage coach to the limited train of today, with its palatial Pullman equipment, covers a span of years that few are privileged to look back upon, and yet Mr. Hemphill has passed through all these stages of advancement, besides having taken part in clearing virgin land in three states, Illinois, Iowa and Kansas, and still remains hale and hearty at the age of eighty-one. From the time of his coming to Kansas he has been a believer in the wealth of her agricultural possibilities, and until about fifteen years ago, when he retired from active labor, was engaged in farming and stock raising, in which he has accumulated a competence. He is a director in the Farmers' State Bank of Washington, of which city he became a resident upon his retirement from the farm.
Mr. Hemphill has been twice married. His first wife, whom he married November 15, 1857, was Miss Leah Knouse, a daughter of Rev. John Knouse, a clergyman of the United Brethren church, a native of Ohio, and later a resident of Illinois and Kansas. Mrs. Hemphill was born in Ohio and reared and educated in Illinois. She died in 1874. Six children were born to this union: James, Suhemia, Delia, Clara and two who died in infancy. On November 27, 1877, Mr. Hemphill married Mrs. Katherine Fleming, nee Harry, a daughter of Jeremiah Harry, a native of Ohio, and who became a pioneer settler of Marion, Grant county, Ohio. Of this union two children were born: Ralph, who is deceased, and Ethel, the wife of Henry McCormick, one of the prominent farmers and stock men of Washington county, Kansas.Pages 396-398 from a supplemental volume 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 October 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM196. It is a single volume 3.
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