1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 47 Part 1

CHAPTER XLVII

THOMAS CARNEY

Gov. Thomas Carney

Gov. THOMAS CARNEY

[Copy by Willard of Portrait in Library of Kansas State Historical Society]

Hon. Thomas Carney, second governor of Kansas, was intimately identified with the history of this commonwealth during the exciting days prior to and during the Civil war. In fact, for some years his life history was the history of the state itself, so inseparably was he associated with public measures. An ardent supporter of republican principles and a man of great patriotism, he did all within his power to promote the interests of his party, his state and his country, in each of which he attained distinction.

In Delaware County, Ohio, Mr. Carney was born August 20, 1824. When he was four years of age his father, James Carney, died, leaving the widowed mother, poor, and with four small children. For this reason, his opportunities were meagre; in fact he had none except such as he made for himself. His early life was spent in the hardest kind of work, after he was old enough to be of assistance on the farm. From the time he was eleven until he left home, he was the teamster of the family, and conveyed the products of the farm to Newark, thirty-six miles distant, using as a means of transportation a yoke of oxen. When nineteen years of age, with $3.50 in his possession and buoyed by the hope of youth, he left the home farm. He attended school in Berkshire, Ohio, for six months, meantime working for his board. Afterward he secured employment in a retail dry-goods house in Columbus, where he remained for two years, then became clerk in a wholesale dry-goods house in Cincinnati. While with the retail firm he received $50 and his board the first year and $100 and board the second year. He remained in Cincinnati for twelve years, but his health became impaired by his close attention to business, his success as a member of the firm of Carney, Swift and Company, having been secured only at the expense of his physical strength.

Realizing that he must seek another climate, in 1857 Mr. Carney visited the West. In the spring of 1858 he commenced business in Leavenworth, Kansas, where, in partnership with Thomas C. Stevens, he opened the first exclusively wholesale house in the city and founded a business that for years was of immense value to local interests. On the retirement of Mr. Stevens in 1866, the firm name was changed to Carney, Fenlon and Company. Two years later the firm established the house of E. Fenlon and Company in St. Louis, which business later merged into the house of Carney, Garrett, Fenlon and Company, and later was changed to Carney, Fenlon and Company. The subsequent retirement of Mr. Fenlon caused another change in the business, which was afterward conducted by Mr. Carney alone until it was sold. He also started the wholesale shoe house of Carney, Storer and Company, which firm in 1873 was dissolved, and succeeded by Thomas Carney and Company. In 1875 the business was sold and the one to whom its success was due retired, in a measure, from participation in business affairs.

The connection of Mr. Carney with affairs of state dates from the fall of 1861, when he was elected to the lower house of the Legislature. September 17, 1862, when the republicans met in state convention, he was nominated for governor, and on the 4th of November was elected, receiving 10,090 votes, about twice the number received by his opponent. January 12, 1863, he took his seat as governor, and from that time until the close of his term he gave his undivided attention to public affairs. He found the state in a discouraging condition. It was utterly without credit, and without means to carry on its government or protect its citizens from guerrillas, Indians and the calamities incident to war. Along the eastern and southern borders the Confederates hovered while on the west were murderous bands of Indians. The life of every settler was in peril. The general government, immersed in civil war, had no time to devote to the welfare of a remote state. Hence, the welfare of the people devolved entirely upon the governor. Finding that he would be obliged to depend upon his own resources, he investigated the situation thoroughly. The state had no money, no arms and no ammunition, but this did not discourage him. On visiting the menaced regions he found that the people were beginning to seek places of greater safety, and he foresaw the probability that the region would become a desert, unless decisive steps were immediately taken. He raised a force of 150 men and employed them as a patrol along the border, so that no hostile movement could be made without detection and the people would thus have time to rally to the necessary points for defense. The patrol was hired by the governor and paid out of his private means, he giving $1 a day for a man and horse, the United States Government furnishing the rations. He put the men in the field and kept them there, at a cost to himself of more than $10,000. At the same time he was a captain in the home guard and often on duty in that capacity. Through his patrol he preserved the border from invasion, but, at a later period, he was notified by the commander of the federal forces to abolish the patrol, as the regular troops would be able to care for the safety of the state. He carried out the order, and within three days Quantrill made his raid into Kansas. Lawrence was in ashes and 180 persons were foully murdered. During the existence of the patrol, the arrangements were such that the different members could speak with each other every hour, but the militia were scattered in squads over a distance of twenty-five miles, and when Quantrill marched into Kansas, he easily escaped their notice. He moved stealthily. No one knew of his approach except one man who lived along the line of march. He saw the guerrillas, mounted a horse and hurried toward Lawrence to warn the inhabitants, but his horse fell and the rider's neck was broken. Thus the sole witness of the invasion was silenced. It is worthy of mention, as showing the governor's generous disposition, that he made a gift of $500 to the widow of this man, and he also gave $1,000 for the relief of the people of Lawrence.

The entire official career of Governor Carney was a stormy one. Occurring, as it did, at a time when the nation was rent asunder by internal strife, when the state itself was a financial and political wreck, the situation called for a man of great discretion, foresight, energy and force of character. That he met the demands of the situation is recognized by all. Through his instrumentality the state was placed upon a firm basis financially. He sacrificed himself for the interests of the state, and gave generously of time, of means and of influence, to promote the prosperity of the commonwealth. During the first year of his administration, the house accepted the grant of Congress giving land for the agricultural college, and located said college at Manhattan, Riley County; also provided for the establishment of an asylum for insane at Osawatomie, for the building of a penitentiary at Leavenworth, the establishment of a state normal school at Emporia, and the Kansas State University at Lawrence (to which he made a personal contribution of $5,000). December 10, 1863, a brick building on Kansas Avenue, Topeka, was leased to the state for a temporary capitol. During 1864 the House appointed commissioners to locate a blind asylum in Wyandotte County, and a deaf and dumb asylum in Olathe; grand juries were abolished and a bureau of immigration established.

January 9, 1865, Governor Carney retired from the chair of chief executive, in which he was succeeded by Samuel J. Crawford. June 4, 1866, he was elected a director in the Kansas City, Lawrence and Fort Gibson Railroad Company, of which James H. Lane was first, and William Sturges the second president. In 1865 and 1866 he served as mayor of Leavenworth, during which time he was interested in and contributed toward the building of the railroads here. He was interested in the organization of the First National Bank of Leavenworth, of which he officiated as a director for several years. With other enterprises, both local and state, he continued to be identified, and, while giving much time and thought to private business affairs, nevertheless found opportunity to identify himself with every project for the public welfare and advancement. His death, the result of apoplexy, occurred July 28, 1888, in the town of which he had long been an honored citizen and to whose development he had contributed perhaps as much as any of its prominent pioneers. His name is inseparably associated with the history of the state he loved so well. Those who watched his official career, amid all the perplexities of war times, when great responsibilities were thrust upon him, under the most adverse and trying circumstances, agreed that he proved himself to he equal to every emergency, the man for the place; and, whatever may have been individual opinions as to his decisions and actions, it was the verdict of all that his administration was the means of establishing the credit of the state upon a sound financial basis and advancing its educational and general interests in a manner most gratifying to every loyal citizen.

During his residence in Ohio, Governor Carney married Miss Rebecca Ann Canaday, who was born in Kenton, that state, and died in Leavenworth, September 25, 1895. They were the parents of five sons, namely: Edwin L.; William W., both of Leavenworth; Harry C., of Butte, Montana, Charles T., of Meeker, Colorado; and Frank, who died in infancy. - [From Chapman's Biographical Record of Leavenworth, Douglas, and Franklin Counties.]

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A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, 2000.

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