William R. Zook

WILLIAM R. ZOOK. The life of William R. Zook has embraced a wide range of experiences and covered a period of more than forty-seven years in Western Kansas. He was one of those whose labor lent dignity and stability to unsettled and undeveloped conditions, and whose faith in the future was readily communicated to his associates among the early settlers. In the period following the Civil war, in which he had fought as a soldier of the Union, he cast his fortunes among the pioneers of the frontier, and after many hardships and vicissitudes finally emerged triumphant, the owner of a competence that is allowing him to pass his declining years in the comfort and peace to which his long years of labor entitle him.

William R. Zook, retired citizen of Cuba, was born in the State of Indiana February 4, 1846. He was educated in that state and in Missouri, to which latter he was taken by his parents as a lad of nine years, and was reared as a farmer, a vocation which he was following when the Civil war came on. He was but ten days past his seventeenth birthday when he became a soldier of the Union, enlisting February 14, 1863, in Company M, Second Nebraska Volunteer Cavalry, which was attached to the Western Army and engaged in service with the hostile Indians on the frontier. After receiving his honorable discharge, toward the close of 1864, he returned to Missouri and continued arming until 1869, in which year he came to Kansas. Here he homesteaded a quarter-section of land in Republic County, on which he resided for five years. During the early years of his residence in this state Mr. Zook experienced the various hardships which made up a large part of the existence of the hardy and courageous men who went into the new part of the country. At first it was necessary for him to travel to Waterville, a distance of about fifty miles, in order to get his corn and wheat ground, and often he was then compelled to wait for two or three days until his turn came. While he had no serious trouble with the Indians, he, like other early settlers, was often harassed by the thieving redskins, who drove off his horses, cattle and smaller stock, and also appropriated such other movables as they could find. Mr. Zook followed the custom of the pioneers in hugging the creeks, in order that he might secure timber for building and other purposes, as well as for the water facilities. However, there were compensations in the life of the prairie. Buffalo, deer, antelope, wild turkey and smaller game were to be found in abundance, and in addition to being a hunter's paradise, the food of these animals added considerably to the family larder, and their skins, when not used in the home, brought good prices in the markets. The early settlers, also, while as a rule a rough and rugged lot, were kind-hearted, hospitable and generous, honest and sympathetic, and always ready to help the unfortunate.

After spending five years on his original claim Mr. Zook disposed of his interests therein so that he might improve his condition, and moved to another property which he also reclaimed from the wilderness. This he likewise sold, and continued this mode of procedure, always in Republic county, until declining years and the attainment of a good property caused him to retire from active affairs and he took up his residence at Cuba. Mr. Zook is one of the substantial men of his community, and a solid, dependable citizen who takes a keen and helpful interest in all things making for the material welfare of conditions in general. He is highly esteemed as one of the men who link together the past and present of Republic County, and as one who has always been square and above-board in his dealings with his fellowmen. He has never lost interest in His old army comrades, and is a valued member of the local post of the Grand Army of the Republic

Mr Zook married in 1869 Miss Nancy Casteel, and to this union there have been born five children: John S., Tilly, Aaron, Alveretta and Jessie.


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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