SOLOMON SECREST

SOLOMON SECREST. Sixty years have rolled away since Solomon Secrest, one of Riley County's pioneer settlers and most respected citizens, first surveyed with wonder and admiration, the beautiful, peaceful valley of Fancy Creek, then sleeping quiet and practically unknown within the enfolding hills. In November, 1856, with his brother Edward and Henry Shellenbaum, returning from a buffalo hunt on the Saline River, whither they had accompanied a band of Wyandotte Indians, journeyed up the Blue River in search of Henry Coundry, an old acquaintance, who had settled in the previous year near the mouth of Mill Creek. In their search they came into the fertile valley of Fancy Creek and all were so charmed with Nature's beauty and lavishness here that they resolved to secure permanent homes here. All three subsequently became pioneer settlers in Riley County and prominent citizens and prosperous farmers.

Solomon Secrest was born near Winterthur, Canton of Zurich, Switzerland, December 30, 1834. His parents were John Ulrich and Regula (Fryhofer) Secrest. They had four children: Edward, of whom mention is made elsewhere in this work; Solomon; Esther C., who married P. Heller, is now deceased; and John Jacob, who died in 1861, when aged twenty-one years. In the fall of 1846 the parents came with their children to the United States and settled in Jackson County, Indiana, and the father carried on farming there until 1860, when he followed his sons, Edward and Solomon, to Riley County, Kansas. He died in Jackson Township, Riley County, in 1867, at the age of seventy-three years. Hie wife survived until 1890, dying when aged ninety-three years.

Solomon Secrest grew to manhood in Jackson County, Indiana. He had school advantages and was a well informed if not well financed young man when he started out to make his own way in the world. He determined to go to the West, this largely meaning in 1856, to Kansas. In September of that year he traveled by railroad to St. Louis, Missouri, and thence by boat up the Missouri River to Wyandotte Landing where he joined his brother Edward, his locating in Fancy Valley following in November. This was a crucial time in the history of Kansas, great excitement prevailing as to the admission of Kansas to the Union as a pro-slavery or anti-slavery state. It was a battle waged largely by politicians and did not then interfere with the industrious activities of the young man, Solomon Secrest, then seeking to earn an honest living on Kansas soil. The very first money he earned after coming here was by splitting rails, at one cent a rail, and that he was a faithful worker was proved when he made the unusual record of splitting 6,500 rails in forty days. This money, so hardly earned, became the foundation stone of his later financial success. He pre-empted land and in the spring of 1857 began developing a farm from the virgin soil, erecting a log cabin on the same for his frontier home. In 1864 Mr. Secrest built the first stone house in Fancy Creek Valley.

When President Buchanan threw open the territory for pre-empting in 1859, Mr. Secrest was compelled to pay $1.25 per acre for his land. To his original purchase he subsequently added until he became a heavy landowner in Riley County, his prosperity continuing in all his undertakings because of his energy and excellent business judgment. He became known as one of the most successful and extensive farmers and stockmen in this section. Gradually he increased his business interests. In 1879 he purchased a hardware stock at Randolph and embarked in the mercantile business, subsequently adding other lines of merchandise and thus was founded one of the large business concerns of Riley County. Mr. Secrest admitted his sons, John J. and William H. to partnership and gave other members of his family an interest and the business is now conducted under the style of S. Secrest & Sons and is known over this and adjacent counties as one of the most solid enterprises of the country.

In March, 1861, Mr. Secrest was united in marriage with Miss Rebecca Melvina Dealy, who was born in Jackson County, Missouri, a daughter of William and Frankie Berne (Tucker) Dealy. Mrs. Secrest's paternal grandfather, David Dealy, was born in Kentucky. In 1818 he went to Missouri and there became an extensive planter and large slave owner. The Civil war wrecked him financially, but after the war he partly retrieved his fortunes. William Dealy, father of Mrs. Secrest, was born in Missouri and was a farmer there. He removed then to Marshall County, Kansas, and settled at Blue Rapids, where he owned a farm of 400 acres. He sold that property and bought the present site of Waterville, where he resided until 1868, when he disposed of it and returned to Missouri and lived many years there, dying in advanced age. The mother of Mrs. Secrest was a daughter James Tucker, a native of North Carolina, from which state he moved to Missouri. Mrs. Secrest by ancestry and tradition is southern and personally possesses many of the graces that have made the women of the South charming figures in romance and history.

Of the eleven children born to Mr. and Mrs. Secrest, four died in infancy or early childhood. The following grew to maturity: Cara, who became the wife of George H. Hungerford, who, for many years, was county clerk of Riley County; John Jacob, who is actively and prominently connected with the mercantile firm of S. Secrest & Sons, and also engaged in farming in association with his father; Edwin S., who is a Presbyterian minister in the State of Washington; William H., who is the present active manager of S. Secrest & Sons; Birdie E., who, in 1892 was graduated from the Kansas State Agricultural College and in 1903 from Columbia University, New York, has traveled extensively in America and in seven countries of Europe, has taught domestic science in the Kansas Industrial School, now resides at home; Viola, who is the wife of J. L. Rosecrants, a banker of Mulvane, Kansas; and Ada, who died at the age of twenty-eight years. All of the children received good educational advantages.

In politics Mr. Secrest is a republican. In 1864 he served as an orderly sergeant in Captain Niehenkie's company of Kansas state militia, in a campaign against the Indians. In early days he served four years as a justice of the peace and as such performed many marriage ceremonies, couples coming to him from many miles distant. He has always been ready to render any public service but has never sought political honors. In the councils of his party he has been quite prominent, frequently serving as a delegate to state conventions and for years as chairman of the county organization. Mr. Secrest has been a generous contributor to the support of public measures which have promised good to the community, and has always been a staunch friend of the cause of church and public education. He aided in the building of the first schoolhouse in North Riley County and for years both he and wife have been active members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Perhaps no name stands higher in every way in Riley County than that of Secrest.


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 October, 1997.
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