Eli M. Punteney, of Frankfort, is one of the very earliest pioneers of Marshall county, whom Walt Mason has very appropriately called "The Grand Old Man" of northern Kansas. Mr. Punteney is a native of Henry county, Indiana, and was born September 13, 1832. He is a son of John and Anna (Veazy) Punteney, both natives of Virgina,[sic] who settled in Indiana about 1830. Eli M. was the youngest of nine children, all of the others having been born in Virginia. He was probably the first white child born in Dudley township, Henry county, Indiana. When John Punteney brought his family to Indiana that State was a sparsely settled wilderness. He built his home in the woods and he and his family cleared away a little space upon which to raise a few vegetables and a little grain and lived after the style of the average pioneer of that day. Eli Punteney remained at home with his parents until he was eighteen, when he went to Lafayette, Ind., where he taught school two years. He then went to Iowa with a brother, who was a millwright. Iowa was a Territory at that time. He remained there but a short time, when he went to Minnesota, and in 1856 returned to his Indiana home, and at that time he read in the New York "Tribune" an account of the pro-slavery and free-state contest that was being waged in Kansas so bitterly at that time, whether Kansas should be a free or a slave State. He at once set out for Kansas to join the Free State party and help make Kansas a free State. He bought a ticket as far as Iowa City, Iowa, which was as far west as he could go by rail. Here he expected to take the stage to his destination, but when he arrived there he found that on account of the guerrilla stealing the horses the stage line had been discontinued. He, therefore, sold his trunk and a part of his surplus clothing. He bought a knapsack and with the companionship of a hickory stick started on his long march to Kansas. May 1, 1857, he planted his foot on Kansas soil, and from that day he has helped to build the great State of Kansas. He first headed for Fort Lane, which had been built by Gen. James A. Lane, but upon arriving there he found that it had been moved to Lawrence, so he kept on going west until he came to Marshall county, where he settled. At that time the county wag not organizednot even surveyedbut its organization took place the following spring. At this time Kansas was in the throes of war with border ruffians and the Free State people would not recognize the Lecompton constitution, and at the Free State convention what was known as the Topeka constitution was adopted, and Mr. Punteney was one of the first Free State senators elected under that constitution, but subsequent developments made his services in that assembly unnecessary and he did not serve. He and three other men each contributed ten dollars with which to build the first school house in Marshall county. The location where this was built is still known as District No. 1. It was built at Barretts, three and one-half miles southwest of where Frankfort now stands. Mr. Punteney helped build the first church and was one of the first in everything that contributed to the upbuilding of the county. Northern Kansas was then a broad stretch of wild and unbroken plains and the settlers had to go armed at all times to protect themselves against real Indians and were often targets for the Red Man's arrows and bullets. He has seen Kansas develop from the ox to the air ship. He did not serve in the Civil war, on account of an injury which he once received on the hand, which, in a measure, disabled him. However, he has served the State as militiaman and reached the important post of quartermaster-sergeant in that organization, and during the Civil war he was assessor under the military excise law. While Mr. Punteney's friends have often prevailed upon him to accept office he has never permitted his name to go before the public. He has devoted his time to farming and stock raising and has made a great success. He has made a specialty of breeding the celebrated Angus and Aberdeen cattle. He also has fed thousands of cattle for market, shipping large numbers each year, and is well known for the success that he has made in that business. Since the death of his wife, which occurred in 1909, he has practically retired and is now merely looking after his personal interests. The original farm that he settled on in Marshall county was his home until his wife's death.
Mr. Punteney was marreied,[sic] May 3, 1859, in Marshall county, Kansas, to Alvirada Smith, daughter of Thomas and Jemima Smith. They came from Tennessee and the father was a farmer and stockman. Mrs. Punteney was born in Missouri, but the family moved to Kansas at an early day. To Mr. and Mrs. Punteney were born the following children: John O., owner and manager of the Vermilion Telephone Company, Vermilion, Kan.; Thomas (deceased); Archibald, manufacturer, Waterloo, Iowa; Anna, married Charles Wise, and is now a widow and resides in Kansas City, Mo.; Melvina, married Fred C. Clarke, contractor, Kansas City, Mo.; Florence, married Frank Ferguson, Kansas City, Mo.; Walter, stockman in Wyoming; Josephine, married Samuel Shineman and lives in Marshall county; Veazey, also a stockman in Wyoming; Francis, a farmer in Nemaha county, Kansas; James (deceased); Nellie, married E. B. Judd, Kansas City; Frederick, veterinary surgeon, Little Rock, Ark., and Lawrence, a farmer, Port Morgan, Col.
Mr. Punteney has been a member of the Masonic lodge for many years and his political views are Republican. To such men as Eli M. Punteney the present and future generations owe a debt of gratitude that can never be paid. However, they should, and no doubt will, gratefully remember him and his brave fellow pioneers as the self-sacrificing men who endured the hardships and privations of frontier life and braved the savages, wild animals and blizzards, and laid the foundation for the great West of today.
Mr. Punteney has been a frequent contributor to local and other newspapers, his articles dealing largely with the subject of early pioneer life in Kansas. He is a strong descriptive writer and the present generation can gather inspiration as well as information from everything that he has written.Pages 496-498 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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