OSCAR G. RICHARDS, who died at his home in Eudora April 4, 1915, exemplified in his long career the true spirit of the Kansas prairies and more important than any of the items of wealth he may have accumulated was the sterling character which men living today delight to recall and use as a source of inspiration and an example of the heroic times of Kansas now passed.
He was born in Jackson County, Michigan, January 12, 1836. With little opportunity for schooling, by self-study coupled with a fine analytical mind, he attained a real education, and was always known as a man of superior attainments. When a small boy his parents removed to Livingston County, Illinois, where he grew up on a farm. At the age of twenty he joined General Lane's forces as they went through Illinois under Capt. William Strawn. With this organization he came to Kansas Territory in 1856. Here he took a part in the suppression of border lawlessness and was one of those who besieged Fort Titus, Fort Saunders and Lecompton. He was at the battle of Black Jack when Clay Pate surrendered to John Brown and was at Bull Creek when General Lane drove Reid and his cohorts out of the territory. He was also one of the defenders at Lawrence when that place was besieged by 2,700 pro-slavery men until Governor Geary went to the rescue. After the border war Mr. Richards took a claim near Manhattan, but sold it in 1857 and removed to Douglas County, settling on what was known as Shawnee Absentee Lands. The ten years he lived there he used his leisure opportunities to read law. He was admitted to the Douglas bar in 1869 and thereafter made his home at Eudora, where he practiced his profession.
He inherited his pioneer courage and enterprise largely from his father, Xenophon Richards, who was a pioneer in the West and a soldier of the Black Hawk Indian war. Mr. Richards served as a member of the House of Representatives in Kansas and in various local positions. Fraternally he was a Mason and Odd Fellow. On January 8, 1857, he married Martha Granger. She died June 12, 1865, the mother of two children: Jessie and Franklin. Mr. Richards married for his second wife Sophia D. Mulsow. The children of the second marriage were Charles, Hattie, Euretta and Mabel.
It is fortunate that a better tribute is at hand for the memory of this good and upright Kansas pioneer. His old friend, Dr. W. H. Robinson of Eudora, read a tribute to Mr. Richards at the Old Settlers Day meeting in Lawrence, and part of Doctor Robinson's words are quoted herewith:
"Oscar Richards was my close friend and neighbor for twenty-seven years. My next door neighbor until a house was built between our homes. We knew him in the changing scenes of life, when light hearted, laughing and gay and when the tear drops trickled down his cheek and his voice choked. We knew him and are glad of this opportunity to pay tribute to his memory. He was like the towering tree of the forest, a towering figure in our community. Intellectually his life is an inspiration to the young. Handicapped with meager advantages of school in childhood, inured in hardship and toil, coming to Kansas in 1856, a pioneer with more hardships; in the Kansas struggle for free statehood; married in 1857, taking care of a wife and children; studying law and admitted to the Douglas County bar in 1869. An unusually strenuous life, even for a pioneer. To his sturdy Scotch ancestry can be attributed the grit and determination that carried him through. In his practice of law he knew neither friends nor enemies but always true to his client.
"He enjoyed doing good and bestowing favors upon whomsoever he met; a friend to the friendless, a loaf for the hungry, a cloak for the shivering. 'His gift was never bare,' the giver was always there. His favorite poem was 'To live by the side of the road and be a friend to man.'
"A personal friend of John P. St. John and a leader in the fight to put Kansas the second state in the Union in the dry column. Always a fearless advocate of temperance. As assistant county attorney he would prosecute his neighbor for running a joint or bootlegging. Living in a community of Germans, who claim as a personal right the privilege to drink when and what they pleased, he upheld the law. He gave private lectures free of charge whenever opportunity came, on the evil effects of liquor and tobacco on the human body physically, mentally and morally. With it all he had the respect and good will of all our people, even the men who drank. He did not have any patience with men who were leaders of men and polluted God's pure free air with vile and poisonous tobacco smoke. Ever ready in the defense of right, ready to support any enterprise for the public good.
"He walks no more among his fellow men, but his spirit, like that of John Brown, goes marching on. Like the towering tree of the forest, Oscar G. Richards' life was a towering life spent among us, and the blessings and inspiration of that life are our everlasting heritage to emulate."
A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed by Erin Baker, student from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, 12-16-98.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
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