Josiah Thomas Genn

JOSIAH THOMAS GENN. Sixty years ago, when Kansas was a territory and the bone of contention between the slavery and anti-slavery forces, Josiah Thomas Genn arrived and homesteaded a tract of land just south of the Kansas River, not far from the Town of Wamego. In the same year that he took his homestead Pottawatomie County was organized. Mr. Genn still has that homestead, a highly developed farm, has much other land in addition, and gives more or less active superintendence to the growing of his crops. With the growing weight of years he retired to a home in Wamego and has gradually resigned many of the responsibilities which formerly engaged his time and energies. He has long been one of the prominent men in that section of the state.

He comes of an old Maine family. During colonial days three brothers of the name Genn came from Scotland. One went to Massachusetts, one to Virginia and the other, great-grandfather of Mr. Genn, established a home at Bucksport, Maine. Josiah Thomas Genn was born at Atkinson in Piscatiquis County, Maine, August 22, 1832, eighty-five years ago. His father, Capt. Thomas Genn, was a sturdy and honest seafarer. Born in Maine in 1799, he was a fisherman from the age of thirteen, and year after year he regularly took his boat to the banks of Newfoundland and made his annual catch of fish. The only exception to this work was when he went to California in 1849, spending two years in the gold country. He died at Atkinson, Maine, in 1858. Politically he was a democrat and was always an earnest Christian and a supporting member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He married for his second wife Mrs. Betsey (Lewis) Studley. That was her third marriage. Her first husbands were named Cook and Studley. Capt. Thomas Genn and wife had six children: Sallie Jane married Gilman Lyford, a carpenter, and both died in Piscataquis County, Maine; Mary Lewis married Washington Varney, a farmer and a veteran of the Civil war, and they died at Mila in Piscataquis County; Servina married W. E. Gould, a merchant and township official most of his life at Milo, where both of them died; Sabrey died at Dover, Maine, in 1911, and her husband, Zebulon Dow, a farmer, died at the same place in 1915; the fifth in age is Josiah Thomas; Helen, who now lives at Lawrence, Kansas, married W. F. Cotton, and they came to Kansas in 1857 and settled on a farm in Waubaunsee County, where Mr. Cotton died. The mother of these children was born in Maine in 1799 and died in Wabaunsee County, Kansas, in 1863.

Josiah Thomas Genn secured his education in the public and private schools of Atkinson, Maine. At the age of twenty-four he began working on a farm for himself and soon afterward, in 1857, came to Kansas, locating in Wabaunsee County. On April 1, 1857, he took up a homestead of 105 acres located a mile south and a half mile west of Wamego, near the south bank of the Kansas River and in Wabaunsee County. Mr. Genn still owns that homestead and altogether has 300 acres. In earlier years he was a successful horse and cattle raiser and has done much diversified farming. In 1917 he supervised the planting of 150 acres in corn and fifty acres in wheat and at this writing both give promise of excellent crops.

Since 1899 Mr. Genn has lived at Wamego. In that year he became a depositor in the First National Bank, soon afterwards was elected a director and is now its vice president. He is also a stockholder in the Wamego State Bank and is the owner of considerable real estate, including his home on Ash Street and other dwelling houses on Ash, Vine and Maple streets.

Many times Mr. Genn has heen called to office and public trust and responsibilities. His first big public service was when he enlisted in 1862, on May 20th, in Company L of the Eleventh Kansas Cavalry. This regiment for a time was commanded by Col. P. B. Plumb and afterwards by Colonel Moonlight. He saw active service along the frontier and in the campaigns against the Indians in the far Northwest. Mr. Genn particinated in several fights with Indians in Montana. He went in as a private and was mustered out in September, 1865, as a sergeant. He has always remained a faithful old line republican. While living in Wabaunsee County he served as a justice of the peace, and at Wamego was elected to the city council, serving six years. On account of advancing age he finally resigned that office. He was also street commissioner six years and park commissioner fifteen years, serving as president of the board ten years. Formerly he was president of the Wamego Cemetery Association. He is a Mason, being affiliated with Wamego Lodge No. 75, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, is king of Wamego Chapter No. 53, Royal Arch Masons, and belongs to Topeka Consistory No. 1 of the Scottish Rite.

Mr. Genn married at Topeka July 3, 1858, the year after he came to Kansas, Miss Malina Hilarity Cotton. She was born at Hartland, Vermont, June 21, 1832, and died at Wamego, Kansas, in June, 1915, at the age of eighty-three. She and her husband were married almost fifty-seven years.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed 1997.
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Tom & Carolyn Ward
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