John Porter

JOHN PORTER. This is the name of one of the old pioneers of Kansas territory. It was fifty-seven years ago when he established his first home within the limits of the present Shawnee County and there began working out his own destiny and to some extent the destiny of Kansas as a free state and the welfare of his children. It is a name that will always be spoken with respect, and those who bear it in the future will have reason to congratulate themselves in the splendid character of their pioneer Kansas ancestor, John Porter.

He was a native of England, born July 11, 1822, and was the only member of his immediate family to come to America. His early life was spent on a farm and his education was limited. Soon after his marriage in England to Mary Ann Bunn he started for the United States. It was his belief that the better economic conditions of America would enable him to find a home for himself, and in later years that ambition was well realized. A sailing vessel brought him and his young wife across the ocean, and they were six weeks two days in making the passage. Their first home in America was at Monroeville, Ohio. Soon after their arrival their first child, Henry, was born.

They next moved to Bellevue, Ohio. John Porter came to America a poor many. During the few years spent in Ohio he prospered so far as to accumulated property to the value of about $600.

While he was living in Ohio the people of that state and the entire country were much stirred up by the story of "bleeding Kansas," and of the struggle then going on between the free and pro-slavery element in the contention as to whether Kansas and Nebraska should enter the Union free or slave states. There were two motives governing John Porter in his removal to Kansas. He wanted to share in that liberal movement to make it a free state. Even more was he influenced by the opportunity to secure cheap land and thereby develop a home for himself and those dependent upon him.

Having sold his interest in Ohio, he started in a wagon drawn by horses and traveled westward toward the goal of his future hopes. In passing through Missouri, as a pronounced Union man, he experienced a great deal of difficulty. He made the entire journey to Kansas by wagon. However his wife and children went by rail as far as St. Louis, and then took a river boat to Leavenworth, from there hiring a conveyance that carried them to the land Mr. Porter had bought in Williamsport Township of Shawnee County.

For 160 acres, comprising the southeast quarter of Section 21, in that township, Mr. Porter paid $500. The first thing was to secure quarters for the family against the approach of winter. Their first habitation was a log cabin about 8 by 10 feet, situated on Six Mile Creek and owned by James Semmerwell, the old Indian missionary. There was no chinking between the logs of this cabin, and mud had to be daubed in the cracks before the coming of cold weather.

It was in that Township of Shawnee County that John Porter spent the rest of his life. He was industrious, frugal, thrifty, and had all the worthy qualities that are a priceless gift to any new community. In 1859 he completed his naturalization, and in the following year cast his first presidential vote for Abraham Lincoln. Throughout he was a pronounced Union man, and when Price invaded Kansas in the latter part of the war he became a member of the state militia and participated in the Battle of the Blue. He was reared a Methodist, belonged to that church in Ohio, and soon after coming to Kansas he joined the church at Auburn.

John Porter passed through all the stirring events of the formative period of Kansas. He was in the midst of the border troubles, the frequent droughts, grasshopper plagues and all the privations of pioneering He helped his neighbors, and joined with other members of the community in carrying out movements for the public good. Politically he was a republican and was one of the early antagonist of the liquor traffic.

The death of this splendid old Kansas pioneer occurred in 1905. His wife had died ten years previously. Their four children were: Henry, Thomas, Hannah and Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the only one of the children born in Kansas.

Henry Porter, who has continued in his community some of the enviable qualities of citizenship possessed by his father, was born January 11, 1852, in Ohio. He was very young when brought to Kansas, and he grew up on the frontier and was inured to the hard work required to develop and cultivate a Kansas farm. Little opportunity was given him to attend school, but he is a man of wide observation and acquaintance with men and affairs. He has spent his active career as a farmer and stock raiser, and now owns 160 acres, the old home farm, which his father had originally purchased.

In 1895 Henry Porter married Mattie Taylor. They have a son, Clyde Henry, born November 27, 1896. Mr. Porter has been an active citizen, served two years as township treasurer and three years as township trustee. He is a republican and he and his wife members of the Methodist Church.


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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