JUDGE F. C. BLANCHARD. If anyone now living is competent to tell the story of early conditions in Edwards County it is Judge F. C. Blanchard. He was one of the colonists who founded and established the townsite of Kinsley in the year 1873.
Judge Blanchard and his wife arrived at this lonely section of the Kansas frontier in March, 1873. He had come from Cumberland County, Maine, with a colony of Massachusetts settlers, his wife being a Massachusetts woman. Two or three weeks previously, the townsite had been selected by a committee consisting of E. K. Smart, Thomas Rodgers and W. F. Blanchard, the latter a brother-in-law of Judge Blanchard. This town was first called Petersburg, later Peter's City and was finally given the name Kinsley in honor of E. W. Kinsley of Boston, who gave money to build the first Congregational church, the first church on the townsite.
The only building when Judge Blanchard arrived was the hotel, the Buffalo House, still unfinished and in course of construction. It was being built by A. H. Clute, now deceased, and M. D. Hetzell, who is now living in California, but still retains the ownership of his homestead about six miles northeast of Kinsley.
Judge Blanchard, being an old soldier, took a soldier's claim two and a half miles south of Kinsley and immediately began proving up. His first Kansas home was a story and a half frame building, 12 by 24, three rooms down stairs and two above. On one side was a lean-to. A sod stable sheltered his few head of stock. Judge Blanchard has the distinction of holding the plow during the first sod plowing and turning over the first bit of prairie land in Edwards County. Horses drew the plow, and before he was done he had thirty-two acres broken for himself and as much more for others. His first planting was corn and watermelons. Worms ate all the corn and he had to put his reliance on the watermelons and some garden truck. He earned a living chiefly by doing outside work, such as plowing and planting for his neighbors. In 1874 thirty-two acres were planted to corn. It had reached the stage of roasting ears and one day Judge Blanchard gathered some for dinner. In the afternoon the grasshoppers came in a cloud and by night nothing was left of the crop except the stubs of the corn stalks. The same condition ruled all over the county. In 1875 there was a prospect for a wheat crop at thirty bushels to the acre. Then ensued such a severe hail storm as has never before been known since and which extended through the entire settled portion of the county. All vegetation was destroyed. Even the bravest of the early settlers had to acknowledge something like defeat in this. Judge Blanchard replanted his garden after the hail and raised a crop of melons, selling $127 worth of them. He freighted them overland to Fort Dodge.
In 1876 Judge Blanchard sold his soldier's homestead and took a preemption. For this exchange he has always been somewhat regretful, since at this time the homestead is worth fully $15,000. One resource of the early settlers should not be forgotten. There was abundance of meat, buffaloes still roaming the prairies in large herds. Judge Blanchard and wife celebrated their first wedding anniversary with a wild goose dinner. He had shot the bird at a distance of 200 yards with a rifle. His preemption was about five miles northwest of Kinsley on high lands, The improvement consisted of a small house and a dug out stable. After being there five years Judge Blanchard sold and took a timber claim ten miles southwest of Kinsley. To this land he moved a one-story frame house, and with funds supplied by his back pension and on credit he stocked his place with a small herd of cattle. His first years as a cattle man were very encouraging. Then came a winter which for stress and severity will never be forgotten by the old timers of Western Kansas. Cattle died by the thousands, and in the spring Judge Blanchard was unable to continue and sold what few head he had left and abandoned the business.
From his cattle ranch he moved to Kinsley and a little later to a small place near the town. The old adage that it never rains but it pours, seems to apply with particular emphasis to Judge Blanchard's experiences in Western Kansas. On the 10th of March a prairie fire, driven by a strong wind, swept across the country, taking everything before it, including a number of lives. Judge Blanchard lost everything he had on the farm, clothing and all. Returning to town, where he had bought some property, he became clerk in the postoffice, and then assumed the management of an elevator and gristmill for his brother-in-law. This work ended when the elevator burned. For a time he was in charge of a local lumber yard.
Judge Blanchard's official services in Edwards County began early. He was elected one of the first Board of County Commissioners, and served a second term. In the fall of 1890 he was elected probate judge, being chosen on the populist ticket. He held the office two terms, was out of office two terms, and was then chosen again and served sixteen years, until he felt that his duties had been performed and he refused the nomination and retired in January, 1915.
Judge Blanchard is now in his eighty-second year, having been born September 15, 1836. His early ancestry is traced back through English history to France, to a Huguenot family. His father, Beza Blanchard, spent most of his life in Maine and was a sea captain. The Blanchards had settled in Maine from Massachusetts. Beza Blanchard came to Kansas with Judge Blanchard, but after a few years returned to Maine. He married Dorcas Prince, daughter of Sylvanus Prince, a Maine farmer, who married a daughter of Winthrop Baston, who served seven years as a revolutionary soldier and was captain of his company. The children of Beza and Dorcas Blanchard were: Louise, who is now eighty-five years of age and is living at Trinidad, Colorado, widow of C. C. McGinnis; David, who served on board the ironclad ship Montauk in Charleston Harbor during the Civil war; Judge F. C.; Caroline, living in Portland, Maine, widow of Jonathan Jordan; Sophia, living at Arabela, New Mexico, widow of W. P. Blanchard, who has been mentioned as a member of the first committee of the townsite of Kinsley; Margaret and Clara, deceased; and Florence, widow of J. P. Weeks and living at Red Bluff, California.
Judge Blanchard was quite well educated, When a young man he moved to Illinois from Maine and from there to St. Louis, Missouri. At the outbreak of the Civil war he was engaged in the huckster business in St. Louis, and selling out he enlisted May 8, 1861, under the first call for three months' troops. He became a member of Company E of the First Missouri Infantry. His commanding officers were Capt. Nelson Cole, Major, afterward Gen. M. Scofield, and Col. Frank P. Blair. Under the second call for three years' troops or the period of the war this regiment reenlisted as a whole under the same commanding officers. It served under General Lyon until that gallant Union officer fell at Wilson Creek. Judge Blanchard was in the skirmish at Boonville, Missouri, June 17, 1861, then went to Springfield, Missouri, and in the battle of Wilson Creek the regiment lost 114 killed, 366 wounded, Judge Blanchard being one of the wounded. He was captured while in the hospital, but was soon exchanged and he and his comrades were left in care of Federal doctors. The regiment was reorganized and changed to light artillery under the same officers. Mr. Blanchard served throughout the rest of his term of enlistment and was appointed gunner with the rank of corporal and afterward promoted to sergeant and acted as quartermaster sergeant for the last six months. He was discharged from Brownsville, Texas, in 1864. He fought largely in the campaigns of the Mississippi Valley, including Prairie Grove, Arkansas, the campaign of Vicksburg, and many other battles.
After the war Judge Blanchard returned to Maine and lived there until he came to Kansas. On October 11, 1174, he married Katie J. Martin. She was born in Germany, March 12, 1850, daughter of John and Hendrika (Schultz) Martin. She was about ten years of age when her father brought his family to America and located in Illinois. From that state he enlisted in the Union army and died while in service. The children in the Martin family were Katie, Hiram, Ida, Manne and Margaret. Katie and Margaret are the only ones now living. Margaret is the wife of William Young, a farmer in Marshall County, Kansas.
Judge and Mrs. Blanchard have four children. Winnifred is the wife of William R. Arthur, formerly dean of Washburn Law School at Topeka, but now living at Boulder, Colorado. Their children are William and Helen. Robert is a carpenter living in Kinsley, and he married Alice Swatts. Jessie, deceased, married Niles R. Mossman and left a daughter, Elizabeth. Katherine is the wife of O. H. Hatfield, of Copeland, Kansas, and has a daughter, Catherine.
Judge Blanchard is affiliated with T. O. Howe Post No. 241, Grand Army of the Republic, has served as commander and is now quartermaster. He is in harmony with church and Sunday school work as a Congregationalist. He began voting as a republican, then became a populist, and finally a democrat. He has served as a member of the school board in various districts in which he has lived in Western Kansas.
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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