JEFFERSON D. BITNER. Too much cannot be said of those men who thirty years ago went out into the western district of Kansas, took up homes, and while striving to achieve a measurable degree of prosperity for themselves really laid the foundation for the prosperity which later comers have enjoyed. It is of this class that Jefferson D. Bitner, a rancher of Roanoke Township in Stanton County, is a representative.
Mr. Bitner was youthful, enthusiastic and prepared to meet any emergency or contingency when he arrived in the county in 1886, In January of that year he entered a pre-emption in section 14, township 30, range 42, and took possession and occupied it the same year. Being unmarried, he erected as his first Kansas home a half-dugout and kept bachelor's hall. He deeded the land in the next year and then entered as a homestead a tract in section 35, township 30, range 42. The same kind of a house was built for his reception on that place. He did not marry and take a companion of his destiny until he had proved up the claim. Very simple was his household furniture. There was a stove, a bed, a chair or two, and a limited supply of utensils and other equipments. Mr. Bitner tried real farming and grain growing at first. He raised two very good crops of wheat and rye. He had brought with him from Eastern Kansas four good mules, and they furnished all the power needed for his farming operations.
After his marriage he acquired a half dozen head of cattle, and that was his start in the cattle industry. About the time he entered his homestead he took a timber claim. He faithfully endeavored to do what the law required and grow trees, but without success, and finally as a result of Government concessions proved up. These claims were finally exchanged for the land which now constitutes a part of his generous estate. On his new property, located in section 16, township 30, range 42, he began home making with a small box house and with a few other modest buildings. Here in 1916 he erected one of the most commodious country homes to be found in the entire region. It is a two-story, seven-room house, but its comforts are none too good for the industrious and successful family which it houses.
Mr. Bitner came out to the Western Kansas border from Bourbon County, Kansas, in which county he was reared, near Hyattsville, and received his education in the country schools. His father, Joshua Bitner, brought the family to Kansas in 1869, and was a pioneer in Bourbon County, where he bought some of the "Joy land." In that section Joshua Bitner continued to live until 1885, when he removed to Morton County, homesteaded, proved up and spent the rest of his life there. At one time he was a merchant in Johnson, but his main activities were cattle raising and farming. He lived quietly and privately, never sought office, was a democratic voter, and was a member of no church. During the war he was a member of the Home Guard in Missouri.
Joshua Bitner was a native of Rush County, Indiana, where his father, Hiram Bitner, died. Joshua was one of a family of eight sons and two daughters. Prior to the war he moved to Missouri, locating in Macon County. There he married Adeline Souther. She was a native of North Carolina and her father died in that state before she came West. Mrs. Joshua Bitner still occupies the family home in Morton County. Her children are: John, of Morton County; Mrs. Mary Stires, of Stanton County; Jefferson D.; Ira, a farmer in Edwards County, Kansas; Jane, wife of Charles Williams, of Bourbon County; Stephen, of Morton County; Lou, who died at Dodge City, wife of James Hupp; August, of Wichita; Zella, widow of Abe Swartz, of Osborne County; and Rhoda, who married Frank Shumate, of Stanton County.
When Jefferson D. Bitner came to Stanton County his purpose was to develop a homestead and become a permanent citizen. Such plans aroused the natural opposition of the stockmen, who were the lords of domain in this part of Kansas, and especially the Beatty Brothers, who ranged their cattle all over the country and owned most of the watering places. Thus his situation for a few years was a vexatious one and the lot of the actual settler was even more difficult than the natural conditions of soil and climate made it. The cattlemen, jealous of encroachment, permitted their stock to roam over the crops of the farmer settler, hoping by this means to get rid of the invaders. By the time Mr. Bitner arrived the buffalo had all disappeared from the region, but the country was still full of antelopes and the meat from these animals did much to sustain life when the crops failed. The antelopes now have also disappeared and about the only important game that is left are the mountain quail, which are found in numerous flocks.
Out of his efforts distributed over a number of years Mr. Bitner has accumulated eleven quarter sections of land. About 200 acres are devoted to feed crops. He has had a favorable experience with growing broom corn, and in all the years he has been here he remembers only one when his rough feed crops were insufficient to carry his cattle over the winter.
No school district or school facilities existed in the section where Mr. Bitner settled, and he was present at the first meeting which established school district No. 29. He is now treasurer of the board and has served as clerk in both Falkenstine and Roanoke townships. His active political work was done a number of years ago in local conventions as a democrat. His first presidential vote was cast for Mr. Cleveland.
In Stanton County, February 2, 1896, about ten years after he came west, Mr. Bitner married Miss Ella Swarts. Her father, Jacob Swarts, was a native of Ohio, served in the Ohio cavalry during the Civil war, and died in the Leavenworth Soldiers Home. He came out to Western Kansas in the spring of 1885 from Pike County, Illinois. His wife, whose maiden name was Paulina Dreen, had died in Illinois, leaving four sons and two daughters. The daughters are Mrs. Bitner and Mrs. Charles Vale, of Osborne County, Kansas. Mr. and Mrs. Bitner have children, named Alvin, Ernest, Charles, Harvey and Beryl.
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