James L. Abernathy

COL. JAMES L. ABERNATHY. For nearly a half century one of the conspicuous figures in Kansas history was the late James L. Abernathy, whose name is inseparably interwoven with the material prosperity of Leavenworth, to which he came in 1856, when it was but a frontier town. He was born in Warren County, Ohio, March 20, 1833. In early manhood he accompanied his parents in their removal to Rush County, Indiana, and at Rushville, the county seat, embarked in mercantile pursuits.

In the early '50s the great West, then represented by the vast unsettled territory west of the Missouri River, seemed to possess glamour and fascination for the adventurous spirit of American youth, and it found lodgment in the mind of young Abernathy. In 1856 the contention of the free soil and pro-slavery factions for possession of Kansas soil, and the notable public debates of the time, had focused attention on this section of the country. This may have had something to do with Mr. Abernathy's choice of Leavenworth as a home. Undoubtedly he was attracted by the business possibilities of the place, for it was full of bustle and enterprise, a frontier forwarding point for the rapidly increasing population. He was accompanied by his brother, William, and together they embarked in the retail furniture business, in a small way beginning the manufacture of furniture, and this was the beginning of one of the greatest of Leavenworth's industries. It had already assumed large proportions when grim civil war threatened the disruption of the Union.

Mr. Abernathy had taken a strong attitude against the pro-slavery factions and had voted for Abraham Lincoln. It is believed that be recruited the second Kansas company for the war and later he was commissioned captain of Company K Eighth


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, 1918, transcribed by Darrel Dinger, student from Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, March 2, 2000.

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