THOMAS J. BACON began his life in Kansas on April 22, 1879. On that date he arrived in Edwards County from Macoupin County, Illinois. His homestead was the northwest quarter of section 34, township 24, range 18. All this land was covered with a heavy growth of bunch and buffalo grass, and the settlers round about were few and far between.
With him into Kansas Mr. Bacon brought a span of small mules and a wagon. His cash capital amounted to only $20. He drove overland all the way from Illinois, and when he first came into Western Kansas he was not very favorably impressed with the aspect and the condition of the country. The reason for stopping in Edwards County was that his team was about worn out. By the following spring, says Mr. Bacon, "nothing could have run me out of the country." On his homestead he built a frame shack 12 by 14 feet. The boards were set up and down, and altogether the shelter was not calculated to weather many of the storms of Western Kansas, and it was always well ventilated.
The first year he was here Mr. Bacon made a living by picking up buffalo bones. For the two following years he did freighting from Kinsley and Larned to the various cattle camps through the southwestern country. His attempt at farming was not very happy in its results. He broke out about twenty acres and planted millet and other forage crops, but this did not suffice even for his team of mules, which would hunger had it not been for the prairie grass. Such conditions prevailed more or less persistently until about 1886. All his efforts at farming had brought him little, and in time Mr. Bacon had to put a mortgage on his homestead. This mortgage finally developed until it consumed his entire right and title in the property. Having lost his holdings he sold out what other possessions he had, and, being a carpenter, he went to work to earn his living as a mechanic. All the carpentry was done during the summer, and there was plenty of work at that time but very little to do in the winter.
About that time Mr. Bacon felt that he had seen enough of Western Kansas, and he took a trip to California, where he worked at his trade about a year. Becoming homesick for sunny Kansas he returned and has never since sought any other home. In the mean time the country had begun to settle up and there was sufficient work at his trade to keep him going practically all the year. The surplus above what he needed for living expenses Mr. Bacon invested in land. His first purchase was the northwest quarter of section 20, township 22, range 17. It was raw and unimproved and cost him $425. He began improvements by erecting a good house and barn. The material for those structures cost $1,000, a sum that would buy a large amount of lumber and other supplies twenty years ago, and by doing the carpenter work himself Mr. Bacon gave his land some very substantial improvements. He rented the place and in three years had been returned the cost of the improvements. After owning this land six years he was able to sell it for $50 an acre.
He then paid $20 an acre for a tract in Comanche County. He retained that and rented it for another six years, and this also proved an excellent investment. When he sold it in December, 1916, he realized $45 to the acre. Mr. Bacon now lives in Lewis, where he owns and occupies a four-room cottage. He has considerable money loaned out on local real estate.
Mr. Bacon was born September 16, 1851, in Illinois, a son of Thomas Bacon and a grandson of Robert Bacon. Thomas Bacon was born in Lincolnshire, England, and was a child when his father died. At the age of twelve he accompanied his widowed mother to the United States. She died in Illinois in 1897, at the age of fifty-nine. He married Mary Hoover, who died in the same state in 1887, at the age of fifty-one. Her father, Jacob Hoover, went to Illinois from the vicinity of Vincennes, Indiana, and was of Swiss descent. Thomas and Mary Bacon had the following children: Ella, wife of William Horton, of Girard, Illinois; Edward, of Granite City, Illinois; Robert, of Buena Park, California; Amy, wife of William Wells, a retired farmer of Lewis, Kansas.
The oldest of these children, Thomas J. Bacon, grew up in a country district of Illinois and acquired a common school education. When he came to Kansas he was accompanied by his aunt, a soldier's widow, who took up a claim adjoining his, and she lived there until her death. Her son, John Bacon, now lives in Hutchinson, Kansas, where he is a truck farmer.
Thomas J. Bacon never married. As a young man he was a republican in politics, having cast his first vote for General Grant. He later became a Cleveland democrat and has since remained true and loyal to that party, though never active in politics. He has been a member of local school boards and township boards, and assisted in organizing and in building the district No. 15 schoolhouse. Since early manhood he has been affiliated with the Masonic Order, and he assisted in organizing the first lodge of that fraternity in Edwards County, Mount Nebo Lodge No. 79, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. He is past master and was the first master of Lewis Lodge No. 20. Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and has attained the thirty-second degree of Scottish Rite. He is a past grand of Lewis Lodge No. 504, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and has served in the Grand Lodge of both the Masons and Odd Fellows. He also belongs to the Modern Woodmen of America and the Anti-Horse Thief Association.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project