HENRY BEARMAN lives far out on the margin of Western Kansas, close up to the Colorado line, where the population is still sparse and where the work of development has only really begun. It is the habit of nearly all the people there to call themselves early settlers, even if they have been located less than a dozen years, and Mr. Bearman is thus a pioneer of pioneers, since his home has been in Stanton County and he has been a factor in the cattle industry of that region for thirty-two years. When his name is spoken there is no one in that entire wide region who does not know the man referred to, and his experiences there count as a valuable part of the history of the region.
Mr. Bearman had fought several rounds of the battle of life before he came to Kansas. He was born April 26, 1849, in Hamilton County, Ohio, not far from the City of Cincinnati. His father, Henry Bearman, Sr., was a native of Prussia, and married Sophie Kreuser, a native of Austria. The father came to America preceding his wife, and here earned money sufficient to bring her over. They settled near Cincinnati, and owned a small farm near that city, where they spent their active lives. Their children were: Caroline, wife of Oliver Lockwood, of Newcastle, Indiana; Ferd, who died in Butler County, Ohio, unmarried; Henry; Chris, of Ottawa, Kansas; Mrs. Sallie Bax and Mrs. Mary Bax, of Mount Healthy, Ohio.
Henry Bearman grew up as a boy on a hill farm in Southern Ohio. Of his school attendance there is little to record. What education he received he attributed to attendance upon Sunday school and also to his experience in mature manhood as a street car conductor, a work which required some figuring every day. On reaching his majority he began working as a farm hand, and in the course of eleven years had saved up $3,000, though naturally his wages were exceedingly small, and this is an indication of his thrift and his determined purpose. When about thirty years of age he became a street car conductor in Cincinnati, and conducted one of the old horse cars of that city for about four years.
With the capital which he had gradually accumulated Mr. Bearman left Cincinnati for the West, hoping to find fortune in a less crowded and undeveloped country. He came to join his brother Chris at Ottawa, Kansas, and on his advice went first to Iola and then accepted another bit of advice to go to Wichita. At Wichita he heard of the Hamilton County region and was advised to file on a claim. Thus looking for a location he came out into the tier of counties along the Colorado line in 1885. He traveled by train as far as Syracuse, and in the course of his prospecting he looked the country over south of the Santa Fe into Stanton County, and as a result of circumstances and because the country suited him he became firmly anchored in this region, and has never left it as a home for more than thirty years.
Mr. Bearman walked all the way from Syracuse to Stanton County. While he was a man of some means he had little money with him, and it was as a matter of economy that he exercised this primitive means in traveling. Accompanying him was Mr. Lovelace, who also remained in Stanton County while proving up a claim. They prospected the country in the vicinity of Edwin, then a hamlet just north of the present Bearman home. Mr. Bearman filed on a quarter section of low land along Bear Creek, and that claim became the nucleus of his present vast estate. He was unmarried and for his shelter put up a sod house of a single room, plastered the inner walls and roofed it over with boards, felt roofing and dirt. Having no team, he paid a man $3 an acre to get some sod plowing done. In 1886 his first crop was planted, some German millet, cane and some turnips. Everything grew and did much to recommend the locality as a farming country. He also tried wheat and corn, as his previous Eastern experience prompted him to do, but these crops proved failures. Thus through his experimentation in crop growing and through the loss of property bought in Garden City while that town was on a boom his cash was reduced almost to the vanishing point. He invested in Stanton scrip at a price as low as 45 cents on the dollar, and this he held until it came to par, and he looks upon that transaction as the easiest money he ever made.
Having learned that eastern farming methods were not applicable to this western region, he began experimenting with rice, corn, later with sorghum, kaffir and maize, and has found these the salvation of his own enterprise as a farmer and the mainstay and support of the live stock industry. He lived in his sod house until he proved up his pre-emption and then filed on his homestead in the same section, section 1, township 28, range 41. This he proved up and, erecting a frame house over a stone basement, had a comfortable home which served him until the purchase of the place he now occupies.
The Bearman home is a point of historic interest in Stanton County. His residence contains eleven rooms, and a basement of stone furnishes much of the room and much of the comforts in both summer and winter. His barn holds thirty head of horses, and in the past it was used for housing the freighting horses which hauled goods from Syracuse to the Cimarron River, seventy-five miles south of him. His camp house accommodated the campers, and this was a prominent feature of his ranch life until the railroad to Elkhart was built and cut off the southern trade. Modern transportation has worked several changes in Mr. Bearman's relationships with the community. The coming of the automobile cut off all the light travel, and as a result the hotel at "The Bearman" was discontinued. In earlier years cowboys, land prospectors and travelers of every type and description frequented the Bearman place, and every one who knew Henry Bearman regarded him as one of the fixtures of the locality.
It was only a few years until Mr. Bearman discovered that this country was best suited to the cattle industry. He began under the operations of the old herd law. Cattle raising had its disadvantages, one of them being that he had to be with his herd all the time, and finally becoming tired of this monotonous existence he sold his cattle. As a business proposition he realized that he had made a mistake and was not long in resuming the industry, and has developed it year by year under the free range plan. His present herd comprises 800 head or more of horses and cattle, ranging over his own estate and over the free range within his pasture.
After becoming acclimated and well satisfied with his surroundings as a permanent home Mr. Bearman began buying land, largely from the county. Many homesteads had fallen to the municipality for taxes, and many of his first purchases cost him about $50 a quarter section, plus the quit claim from the original holder. He has gathered together a tract almost four miles wide and five miles long, comprising almost 8,000 acres. Through and around his land he has built about thirty miles of fence and has about 350 acres under cultivation to furnish feed for his stock.
Mr. Bearman has not only helped build up the country in a business and industrial way, but has kept in close touch with those public interests that depend upon general co-operation. When the school district was formed he assumed some of the responsibilities and worked at his old trade of stone mason in laying the foundation and the walls of the school house. He did similar service for the school at Johnson, the county seat. He has been a member of the school board at his rural district and treasurer for many years, and has filled a similar position at Johnson. For about ten years Mr. Bearman was repeatedly elected county surveyor of Stanton County. He had no professional qualifications for the office of surveyor and accepted it only for the purpose of protecting the county from graft that might be introduced under a foreign surveyor and also for the local honor attached to the office. While not personally active in politics, he always casts his vote and is a republican. He is of the Methodist faith and has lived a life in harmony with his neighbors and has taken pains to conduct his affairs without neighborhood friction.
In 1886, the year after he came to Stanton County, Mr. Bearman returned to his old home in Southern Ohio and married an old schoolmate, Miss Mary Crawford. She is a daughter of John and Phoebe (McHenry) Crawford. Her father was of French and Scotch-Irish stock and was a farmer and man of considerable means in Hamilton County. The Crawford children were: Joseph; Mrs. Bearman, who was born in Hamilton County, Ohio, in April, 1852; Mrs. Will Bryant, deceased; and Belle, who married Nathan Bryant.
Mr. and Mrs. Bearman have a son and two daughters. The oldest, Nellie, is the wife of Mack Craig, of Stanton County. Harry, now actively identified with his father's ranch, was educated in the Johnson schools, graduated from the Kansas State Agricultural College and was the first young man in Stanton County to earn a state diploma as a teacher. The youngest child, Belle, is the wife of Wheeler Watson, and they live near the Bearman home. Mr. Bearman is an active member of the Syracuse Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and is a past grand of the fraternity.
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