John William McDanield was born in Muskingum county, Ohio, Jan. 21, 1836. He is one of eleven children born to B. F. McDanield and Sara Terrell McDanield, being the third child born of this union. He was brought up on the farm and attended the country schools until he was sixteen years of age, when he left home to engage in work. He started railroading as a fireman on the old Ohio Central railroad, running from Zanesville, Ohio, to Columbus. He made rapid progress and at the age of twenty-two was made an engineer. Shortly after the road was finished through from Columbus to Bellaire, Mr. McDanield was married, May 7, 1861, to Miss Ellen Larason, of Newark, Ohio. Mrs. McDanield was a daughter of Zepheniah Drake and Elizabeth Larason. To Mr. and Mrs. McDanield were born three children: Charles W., Carrie, and John James, the two latter dying in childhood. Charles W. grew to manhood and was for several years engaged in business with his father, but for some time previous to his death was in declining health, which compelled him to give up all business. His life as a boy and man was unblemished, a beautiful character, and a man who left to his hosts of friends and parents the most perfect memories. Mr. and Mrs. McDanield adopted a daughter after the death of their own little one, and this daughter grew to beautiful womanhood in their home, loved and cared for as their own. These two children, spared to their parents until both had attained maturity, were taken away but a few months apart. All of the children are laid to rest in Oak Grove Cemetery, in Kansas City, Kan.
Mr. McDanield came west with Shoemaker, Miller & Company, in 1865, to engage in the building of the Kansas Pacific Railroad, now the Union Pacific. He was an engineer in their employ, there being only two locomotives on the road at this time, Mr. McDanield running one of them, his run being from Wyandotte to Lawrence on the construction train. As soon as the road was finished through to Topeka he was given a passenger run, and on Jan. 1, 1866, he took the first passenger train into Topeka. The Hon. James Lane, of Kansas, was a passenger, going to Topeka to make a speech on New Year's day. On that day excitement ran to a high pitch. In fact there were exciting times throughout Kansas. Everyone carried firearms to protect themselves against border ruffians and Indians. The train which pulled into Topeka was well decorated with firearms and knives. Mrs. McDanield well remembers making a trip with a friend, Mrs. Porter Sherman, of Kansas City, on her husband's train, as far as Ellsworth. She relates how they took dinner in a tent, which was used as a dining room for passengers. At that time Ellsworth was a tent city and the home of outlaws. It is now a beautiful little city. Mr. McDanield continued railroading, running a locomotive on the Union Pacific, to furnish them with supplies. He continued this line of business for ten years, when he engaged in contract work for the government. After eight years Mr. McDanield retired from public work to take charge of his stock farm at Tiblow, Kan., now Bonner Springs, having bought this farm in 1868.
At this time he built the commodious home he still occupies with his wife. In 1870 he laid out the town of Tiblow and soon after promoted and began building the electric road from Bonner Springs to Kansas City, of which he now has the charter franchise and right-of-way, with five miles built and in operation after years of unceasing labor and an expense of one hundred thousand dollars. He is still active and untiring in his efforts to get the road through to Kansas City, living in the hope that he may yet see the dream of his life fulfilled.
Mr. and Mrs. McDanield came West in the early days, seeking a new country, and their first entrance into Kansas was made by crossing a pontoon bridge over the Kaw river from Kansas City to old Wyandotte, which was then a very small village, one little hotel and a few very poor houses composing the entire town. New arrivals depended upon the Gaino House for food and shelter. When the new comers began building their little houses for homes, the Indians came for miles around to look with awe upon the wigwams of their white brothers, which were beyond their wildest dreams of splendor. Mrs. McDanield has the honor of being the first woman to cross the first bridge over the Kaw river. Her husband at that time being engaged in putting up a brick building in the West bottoms, Mrs. McDanield and her little son had gone down to the new bridge. With the assistance of two workmen, and by walking on the ties she was taken across the new bridge, and was told she was the first woman to cross. In speaking of their first sight of Kansas and its rugged hills Mrs. McDanield remarks that she did not see how she could ever live in such a forsaken country as that upon which she gazed. Now, after nearly half a century, the question asked would evoke the answer that there is no place like Kansas. Mr. and Mrs. McDanield have traveled extensively, but are still united in the idea that Kansas is the grandest state in the Union, and feel proud to have had a hand, in no small measure, of building up their home town. To many of the old settlers the word Wyandotte is music, and we hope to see the day when it shall be given back the old name.
Whenever you meet a Kansan,
Oh, beautiful Kansas, land of ours,
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