Sylvanus S. Longley, a prominent farmer and stockman, now retired, ex-member of the Kansas legislature and influential citizen of Greenleaf, Washington county, was born on his father's farm near Foxcroft, Me., September 15, 1834, a son of Sylvanus and Orienda (Garland) Longley. The Longley family is of English origin, and our subject is descended from Revolutionary stock, his great-grandfather, Zachariah Longley, and grandfather, Zachariah Longley, Jr., having served in the Continental Line in the War for Independence. Zachariah Longley, Jr., was one of the founders of the town of Foxcroft, settling there shortly after the close of the war, which gave birth to the Union. The forebears of our subject were farmers and stock raisers, who wrested from the wilderness and the Indian productivge[sic] acres, endured hardship and privation, and with all were men that did their alloted tasks with cheerfulness and lived lives of contentment and frugality. Sylvanus Longley, the father of our subject, born in 1790, lived and labored for nearly ninety years in and near the town of Foxcroft, attained a competence as a farmer and stock raiser, took part in the progress of nearly a century of the Nation's growth, and died in 1877.
Sylvanus S. Longley was reared on the paternal farm and obtained his education in the primitive schools of that early day, the school term being about six weeks' duration in the winter and nine in the summer. This early instruction was supplemented by an attendance of one term at Foxcroft Academy. On completion of his education, at the age of sixteen, he went to New Bedford, Mass., and shipped on the whaler "Canton," sailing to the Okotsk sea in the Arctic. This cruise of one season was highly successful, a large number of whales being caught and the ship returned to its home port with oil and bone. The following spring the ship sailed on another expedition, but was wrecked on an unchartered coral island, longitude 173 west, latitude 2:40. The reef on which the vessel struck was some little distance from the island proper, but after severe trials the crew managed to reach shore by the aid of a tow line. The island they found to be uninhabited, about three miles long and one-half mile wide. They had ample time before the breaking up of their ship to save her life boats, many of the stores, water casks and water, a few sails, spars and tools, also the epitamy and compass. Some of the boats which had been saved, all of which were open, had been damaged, and after making repairs and fitting them out with sails, keel and rudder, they sailed in search of an inhabited island, where they could secure food and rescue. The instruments saved enabled them to determine the latitude, but not the longitude, but on March 30, 1854, they set sail with the expectation of reaching an island about one hundred miles distant, but missed it, and forty-five days from the time of setting sail they sighted land, Madalena Rock, one of the Ladrones, which was uninhabited, and they continued on until they reached, four days later, the Island of Guam, at that time a Spanish possession, and peopled by pearl fishers. During this enforced voyage their food supplies were short and each man's allowance was a half biscuit of hard bread and one-half pint of water per day. On reaching Guam, the crew, which numbered thirty-three men, were apportioned among the natives, who gave them an abundant supply of bread, fruit and bananas. They were compelled to remain on this island for ninety-four days before a ship touched for water, and then were carried to Manila, where they remained for thirty days before they could get employment. They finally shipped aboard the Bella Vascomgarda, Captain Juan Haas, bound for Canton, China, where they loaded with tea and went up the coast about 400 miles and eventually reached Liverpool, where Mr. Longley left the ship. He has in his possession his discharge papers from this vessel, which he prizes highly. From Liverpool he was returned to the United States by the American counsel, and arrived at Boston nearly three years after shipping on the cruise which was to cause him hardships of such extraordinary severity and also to give him the distinction of having, as a member of the crew of the ill-fated "Canton," made a record which has never been equalled in marine annals for distance traveled in an open boat, 3,500 miles, consuming forty-nine days, and without the loss of a man. Of his shipmates on this eventful voyage but two beside himself are known to be living at this writing, 1913. Within three months after returning to his native land, he shipped aboard the "Nabob," bound for San Francisco by the way of "the horn." This voyage consumed 112 days, the ship encountering in the Pacific what is known to sailors on that ocean as "the calm," a condition in which there is not a breath of wind, and the water is as smooth as a small lake on a still day in summer. This proved to be his last voyage, for on reaching port he refused to re-ship, and went into the gold fields and engaged in mining, meeting with fair success. In the summer of 1861 he enlisted in Company K, Second California cavalry, and with his regiment engaged in a campaign against the Indians along the overland mail route on the Great Plains. During this campaign was fought one of the most desperate battles in the history of Indian warfare, that of Bear River, in which over 500 Indians, which constituted all of the attacking party except the squaws and papooses, were killed, and fully one-half of Mr. Longley's company were killed or wounded. He was wounded in the neck, and remained in the hospital for about forty days before he was fit for further service. He was mustered out at Salt Lake, Utah, October 27, 1864, and subsequently went to Helena, Mont., where he resumed gold mining, struck luck and got a stake. In the spring of 1868 he left Fort Benton, Mont., and made the trip down the Missouri river, and arrived at Omaha on the fourth of July, and from that point continued down the river to St. Louis, and from there returned east on a visit, remaining until 1869, when he came to Kansas and entered a homestead in Lincoln township, now Greenleaf, Washington county. He improved this land, hauled lumber from Waterville, with which to build his house, and engaged in farming, cattle feeding and stock breeding, and during his active life was known as one of the successful agriculturists of his county. He was elected assessor of Lincoln township, in 1870, when it comprised one-fourth of Washington county, and has served as township trustee, treasurer, and as a member of the board of county commissioners, and was chairman of the board during the time of the building of the present court house in 1886. He has been a lifelong Republican, has attended, as a delegate, a number of county and State conventions of his party, was census enumerator in 1880, and was honored by his party, in 1896, with election to the lower house of the State legislature, and was re-elected in 1898, serving in the sessions of 1897, 1899, and the special session of 1898. He was appointed chairman of the committee on roads and highways, held membership in several other important committees, and was identified with important legislation throughout his service in the house. He was recognized by his colleagues as an able and conscientious worker in behalf of progressive legislation, and as an active and energetic member of his party therein. Mr. Longley retired from active business in 1902, removed from his farm to Greenleaf, where he has since resided and devotes his time to the supervision of his farming interests, which are extensive. He has attained the Scottish Rite degrees in Masonry, has served as treasurer of Greenleaf Lodge, No. 232, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, for the past fifteen years, and is a member of Greenleaf Post, No. 134, Grand Army of the Republic.
On March 30, 1870, Mr. Longley was united in marriage with Miss Laura Fairchild, daughter of John W. and Margaret Fairchild, natives of Iowa, who were pioneer settlers in Jefferson county, Kansas. Mrs. Longley was born in Iowa, passed her early girlhood there and received her preliminary education in the schools of that State, and completed her studies after the removal of the family to Kansas. She was a woman who possessed many lovable traits of character, was a true helpmeet to her husband, and a loving mother. Her death occurred on December 5, 1910. To this union were born six children, viz: William H.; Jeff C.; Jessie, the wife of A. B. Minshall, of Garwood, Texas; Bertha, the wife of Charles E. Lueck, of Holton, Kan.; Vesta, the wife of E. W. Shearburn, a physician of Haddam, Kan., and Dorothy, the wife of Albert McLeland, of Sherman, Texas.Pages 392-395 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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