JUDGE GEORGE W. BARTLETT. The real richness of life consists not so much in material accumulations as in experience. Most of the early settlers of Western Kansas have had their intimate associations with life "that is real and earnest," but few of them have gone further afield in this respect than Judge George W. Bartlett, formerly probate judge of Scott County, and now successfully engaged in the real estate business in Scott City.
Judge Bartlett is a native of Iowa, having been born in Appanoose County October 25, 1863. He grew up on a farm and had only a common school education. His father, James J. Bartlett, was born in Virginia in 1827, and in 1886 moved to Kansas, locating in Harper County, where he lived on a farm until his death in 1895. For several years before coming to Kansas he was a resident of Sullivan County, Missouri, and while there was a greenback candidate for office. James J. Bartlett married Martha Coleman, an orphan girl. She was born in Illinois and died in 1893. Her children were: Jesse H., of Chanute, Kansas; Marilla, who died in 1889 as Mrs. Galbreath; Sarah, wife of Edward Cummings of Denver; Almeda, who died in Wichita, Kansas, wife of Sanford Page; Judge George W.; Willard, of Anthony, Kansas; Laura, wife of Thomas Marts, of Wichita; Asa, of Ekalaka, Montana; Charles, who died in Harper County, Kansas; and Persis, wife of James Vowell, of Norwood, Kansas.
Judge Bartlett came to his majority without inheriting wealth or without having achieved any definite success in the world. He started out about that time to make his own way in the world and arrived in Scott County, Kansas, in September, 1885, with only his bare hands to support him. He became one of the pioneer well diggers. His usual method of handling such a contract was to work at 60 cents a foot in dirt and $1 in rock. He put in about eighteen months digging wells in different parts of the county and had something to show for his labor besides having made a living at the same time.
In 1886 he entered the homestead the southeast quarter of section 17, township 18, range 31. He began his efforts as a permanent settler with about $200 cash. He was still unmarried and he put up a shelter sufficient to house himself only. It was a dugout, and he remained in that crude dwelling for about a year and a half. This dugout was constructed by digging into the ground about five feet and building up on the outside with sod. The house was covered with shiplap and sod. He proved up by the "mortgage" route, but in October, 1887, abandoned the place.
During these two or three years spent in Kansas he did not make a fortune. He faced the same discouraging conditions that confronted other settlers, but beside the necessity of earning something he was also impelled by a spirit of adventure to leave Kansas for a time altogether. Going out to the Pacific coast, he rambled around from place to place and finally at Portland, Oregon, secured employment on a boat running up the Willamette River. He put in about two years as a river boatman. He was first employed as a deck hand on the Latona, and in three months was made first officer. Such rapid promotion rarely comes to a beginner. This boat made two round trips daily to Oregon City, a distance of twelve miles. He also was second mate on the R. R. Thompson between Portland and Astoria on the Columbia River, and for a time was on the N. S. Bentley up the Willamette to Corvallis.
From a freshwater sailor he attempted the role of a real "salt." He shipped on the four-master sailing vessel for Melbourne, Australia. To the ship officer he represented himself as a sailor, though he realized that his river experience gave him little claim to that title. The boat was nearly four months making the voyage across the Pacific Ocean. Many of those stories which have been told about the raw landsman suffering the brutalities and outrage of an old time sea captain were repeated in Mr. Bartlett's maiden voyage. He knew absolutely nothing about the work "aloft" on a ship, and when ordered "aloft" by the officer in passing over the bar out of the Columbia he made a clear breast of his incompetence by replying that he did not know what to do up there. The officer then grabbed a "marlin stick" and pounded him over the heels so that he went up the rope ladder with agility that surprised himself. From that time on continued abuse was dealt out to the novice. After he had learned the duties of a deck hand he was put to work every time any other regular hand was sick or could not serve. He was beaten and abused in every conceivable fashion and was fed on sea bread and water nearly all the way across. The vessel's cargo was redwood, and the only stop during the entire voyage was made at Auckland, New Zealand.
On reaching Melbourne Mr. Bartlett's first act was to buy a six-shooter. For several days he lay in wait for the captain from whom he had suffered such outrage and abuse on the voyage. He has always considered himself fortunate in not meeting the captain. After being in the city four days he took a passenger vessel back to San Francisco. When he shipped as a sailor on the lumber vessel his wages were fixed at thirty-five dollars a month for the round trip, but as he left the vessel at Melbourne he forfeited all right to his pay.
On reaching San Francisco Mr. Bartlett soon made his way home to Harper County, Kansas. His fever "to go to sea" had been thoroughly quenched by the one voyage, and no aspiration for marine achievement and experience has ever revived. For several months Mr. Bartlett worked in the freight office of the Union Pacific Railway Company at Denver, Colorado, checking freight, and then for a time was employed by the Globe Smelters in that city.
He left Denver to return to Scott County, his varied experience while away having convinced him that there was no better place to lay the foundation of a permanent career. He started as a farmer. He had left a timber claim on going to the coast, and he farmed that along with other lands, and had considerable success for four or five years. In 1897 Judge Bartlett came to Scott City, taking charge of the "skim plant" of the town, subsequently was pump man for the Missouri Pacific Railway, and from that entered the real estate business with W. C. King. His association with Mr. King gave him profitable employment and a business experience which he still utilizes. After two or three years in real estate work he was elected probate judge of Scott County.
Judge Bartlett was brought up in a democratic atmosphere. His father was a stanch greenbacker and later a populist. When Judge Bartlett first voted he wrote in the names of the greenback candidates for state offices in Kansas. His campaign for probate judge was made on an independent ticket. He succeeded Judge Daugherty and served two terms. The office of probate judge then largely concerned itself with the settlement of estates, proving up of claims, and the duties of marrying people. While in office Judge Bartlett performed the marriage ceremony for about fifty three couples. His many friends have always enjoyed one of the incidents connected with his first marriage ceremony. The groom had notified the Judge that he would appear at a certain time, and the couple arrived to find the new judge preparing his own ceremony. He had not yet thoroughly rehearsed it, and he therefore had to make an extemporaneous effort. Asking the young man to hold up his hand, he began the service with the following question: "You do solemnly swear that you take this woman to he your lawful and wedded wife, etc." At that point the judge remembered it was not necessary for the groom to hold up his hand, but when he began propounding a similar question to the bride she too raised her hand, believing that the judge in his embarrassment had forgotten something.
The duties of probate judge were never performed with more conscientious care of the real essentials than during the administration of Judge Bartlett. From probate judge he became a local merchant, being associated with Mr. Cretcher as Cretcher & Bartlett, hardware dealers. After three years Judge Bartlett resumed the real estate business in 1916. He has done his share towards the upbuilding of Scott City, has erected the brick building where the Rexall store is located, and has also built and owns three residences. At the present time he is serving as a member of the city council. He is a past consul of the Scott City Camp of Modern Woodmen of America and was a delegate to the Head Camp at Indianapolis. He and his wife are both members of the Christian Church.
In Scott County November 21, 1896, Judge Bartlett married Miss Lena D. Hull, daughter of Arthur D. and Louise (Pearson) Hull. Her father came to Kansas from Iowa, and is one of the substantial homesteaders and farmers of Scott County. Mrs. Bartlett was born in February, 1878, and the other children of her parents are: Albert, Roy, Spencer, Arthur, Laura and Walter. Her sister Laura is the wife of Ralph Stahla. Judge and Mrs. Bartlett have no children.
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.
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