Sylvanus Sylvester Longley

SYLVANUS SYLVESTER LONGLEY, now living retired at Greenleaf, is one of Kansas' interesting personalities. Few men have succeeded in compressing even within eighty-three years of life so many varied activities and achievements. Mr. Longley traveled practically over all the habitable globe before he came to Kansas. He was a pioneer in this state, and his business and civic relations in Washington County have rolled up a wealth of esteem which he now enjoys in his declining years.

Mr. Longley is a native of the Pine Tree state, born at Foxcroft, Maine, September 15, 1834. He is of old English ancestry, the Longleys having identified themselves with the colony of Massachusetts. His grandfather, Zachariah Longley, was born at Groton, Massachusettss, helped the colonies fight for independence during the Revolution, and subsequently became a pioneer farmer in the State of Maine. He died at Foxcroft in this state before Sylvanus S. was born.

Capt. Sylvanus Longley, father of the Greenleaf citizen, was born at Groton, Massachusetts, in 1797. He grew up and married in his native state, and then removed to Foxcroft, Maine, and located on land which his father had taken up some years previously. His active life was spent as a farmer, partly in Foxcroft and partly in Dover. He identified himself with the whig party in politics, and at one time held the office of town trustee of Foxcroft and was also a captain in the Maine militia. Captain Longley married Miss Oreinda Garland, who was born in Massachusetts in 1799 and spent her last days on the farm of her son Sylvanus near Greenleaf, Kansas, where she died in 1887. There were seven children, Sylvanus being the fifth. Jefferson the oldest, became a sailor and died at Dover, Maine. Harrison went out to California during the days of '49, was a miner in that state, and died at Willow Springs, California. Franklin was a carpenter by trade and died at Atlanta, Georgia. Henry also followed the sea as an occupation and died at New Orleans. Minerva died at Boston, Massachusetts, and her husband is also deceased. Lizzie never married and died at Dover, Maine, in 1883.

Mr. S. S. Longley grew up on his father's rugged farm in Maine. Up to the age of seventeen he attended the public schools of Dover. Like some of his brothers he was attracted to the sea and his first voyage was on a whaling ship which went around the Horn into the Okotsk Sea. At 240 south latitude and 133 30' west longitude the ship was wrecked, running afoul of an unchartered coral reef during the night. All hands got ashore after many difficulties, the ship broke up close to shore and they were able to obtain a supply of provisions and at the end of twenty-five days they had repaired the ships boats and started across the water for the nearest land. They suffered many dangers and privations during the forty-nine days on the sea but finally arrived at Guam, one of the Marietta Islands. A ship picked them up there, taking them to China, and Mr. Longley finally reached home in 1855 by way of Liverpool. Undaunted by this experience, he soon afterward went around the Horn to California in a clipper ship and was engaged in mining in the far West until 1861.

In that year he enlisted in the Second California Cavalry. During the war he saw active service against the Indians and in guarding the frontier posts of the West, and was with the Second California Cavalry three years and two months. In the battle of Bear River he received a dangerous wound, a bullet passing through his neck.

Thus Mr. Longley had had more experience and adventure than fall to the lot of most men when he arrived in Kansas in the spring of 1869. In Washington County he homesteaded 160 acres in the southeast corner of Greenleaf Township, and there he developed a good farm and conducted it until 1901, when he sold out. He still owns 320 acres in Greenleaf Township, his own home on Fourth Street in Greenleaf, a dwelling on Third and Cedar streets and the printing office on Commercial Street. Mr. Longley came to Greenleaf in 1902 and has since been retired from active business affairs.

He is a republican, has served one term as county commissioner of Washington County and was elected as the county's representative in the Legislature to the sessions of 1869 and 1871 and also the extra session of 1870. Mr. Longley is still a director in the Citizens National Bank of Greenleaf. He has long been interested in Masonry, having affiliations with Greenleaf Lodge No. 232, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and Topeka Consistory No. 1 of the Scottish Rite.

In 1870s at Greenleaf, he married Miss Laura Fairchild, who died in 1910, the mother of six children. William H., the oldest of these, has the spirit of adventure inherited from his father and ancestors and is now a miner in the mountains of the West. Jefferson C. is a practical farmer at Pond Creek, Oklahoma. Jessie married A. B. Minshall, who is in the elevator and grain business at Pond Creek. Bertha is the wife of C. D. Lueck, a banker at Netawaka, Kansas. Vesta married E. W. Shearburn, a physician and surgeon at Haddam, Kansas. Dorothy, the youngest child, married Albert McLeland, professor of manual training in the schools at Sherman, Texas. Mr. Longley married at Washington in 1915 Mrs. Mattie (Mays) Moon. Mrs. Longley is a native of Kansas.


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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