JOSEPH MADISON BRANNAN, who died at his home in Meade February 22, 1918, was one of the notable pioneers of that county, did much to develop its soil and other resources, was a most proficient business man, enjoyed the high esteem of an entire community, and left a family whose interests and activities are still devoted to the welfare of this region.
The late Mr. Brannan was born in Morgan County, Ohio, in October, 1832, just 100 years after the birth of George Washington, upon whose birthday Mr. Brannan passed away. His father, Captain Adam Brannan, was a Pennsylvanian, and gained his military title by service in the State Militia of Ohio. He lived for many years in Morgan County, Ohio, but died in White County, Indiana, in 1846. He married Rachel Brown, and they were the parents of seven children: Thomas C.; Joseph M.; Jocasta, wife of Jacob Carman; William H., who served as a Union soldier in the Twelfth Indiana Infantry; John W., who was in the Twentieth Indiana Infantry; and Sarah, who married George Ollinger.
When Joseph M. Brannan was twelve years of age his parents moved to White County, Indiana, which was then as sparsely settled and as new and raw as Western Kansas was forty years later when Mr. Brannan came to it. From White County he moved to Warren County, Indiana, where he married and from which locality he volunteered for service in the Civil war. He entered Company I of the Seventy-second Mounted Infantry, which was part of General Wilder's brigade. He saw a great deal of arduous service, taking part in the battles of Chickamauga, Selma, Missionary Ridge, in the many battles of the Atlanta campaign and in the Wilson raid. When the war ended he was at Macon, Georgia. He was always content to serve as a private in the ranks, and he went through his experience without wounds or capture. For a time he was on detail in hospital service, and he assisted in caring for the last lot of prisoners that left Andersonville. After the war for many years he was stanchly aligned with the Grand Army of the Republic and in politics he was first a republican, then a populist and finally a republican.
Joseph M. Brannan came to Kansas with his family in 1883. The first year he spent in Harper County, and in 1884 started with a covered wagon to Meade County. In Harper County he had proved up a claim on the Osage ceded lands. He came into Meade County in June, 1884, and his real residence began there in October of the same year. He entered land in section 31, township 31, range 27. His first home was his barn. In the spring of 1885 he erected a house constructed of lumber hauled from Dodge City. For one of the early settlers in this western country he had more than the average amount of capital, and part of this he used in providing one of the best country residences in the county at the time, a square two-story house which is still doing good duty. He also brought with him to Meade County three teams and wagons, and his family consisted of his wife and three children. Mr. Brannan fenced his ranch and in course of time most substantially improved it. Of his 3,200 acres he brought under cultivation about 900 acres, devoted to grain, alfalfa, etc. He was in his time noted as one of the most successful stock men of the county. Much of his stock was grade cattle, and he also bred large numbers, of Percheron horses. He continued farming and stock raising and kept his residence on his farm until 1906. By that time he had accumulated 32,000 acres. When he left the country he moved to a comfortable home in Meade, where he spent the last twelve years of his life. He always took an active interest in politics and was a member of the first election board in Meade County. However, he never held a county office. He did much to encourage schools and churches, was a Methodist and a working temperance man.
Joseph M. Brannan married Nancy J. Anderson daughter to Robert Anderson, a first cousin of Robert Anderson, the daring patriot soldier at Ft. Sumter. Robert Anderson, who was a South Carolina man, moved to Ohio and thence to Warren County, Indiana, where he homesteaded and followed farming. Mrs. Brannan's brother Samuel served in the Union army. Mrs. Joseph M. Brannan died in 1907, leaving the following children. Clara B., wife of David H. Mitchell, of Meade County; Eddie G., of St. Paul, Arkansas; Mary E., wife of Alvin Martin, of Meade; and Robert Adams, of Meade.
Robert A. Brannan, son of the late Joseph M. Brannan, was born in White County, Indiana, January 4, 1869. He was fourteen years old when the family left that state, and he finished his schooling in old district No. 1 at Meade. At that time this district included all of Meade County and a part of Seward County. After his schooling he remained on the Brannan ranch until he was thirty-six years of age. He was closely associated with his father in the management of the ranch and stock interests, and he also took a claim, the northwest quarter of the section where his father homesteaded. On leaving the ranch Mr. R. A. Brannan engaged in the telephone business as a partner in the Southwest Telephone Company, doing both toll, exchange and rural business, with Meade as a headquarters. His father was president of the company for a time, and Mr. R. A. Brannan became its secretary and is now virtually its owner. When he became interested in the exchange there were about 200 telephones while there are now 700 subscribers and the company is also interested in the Southwest Long Distance Telephone & Telegraph Company, exclusively a toll company. Mr. Brannan is vice president of that company. The Southwest Telephone Company owns more than 200 miles of pole line and 500 miles of wire, while the long distance company has a circuit at Meade, three circuits from Bucklin to Hutchinson and a toll checking station at Pratt.
Along with other substantial interests Mr. Robert A. Brannan, his father and others of the family, acquired some extensive land holdings on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico. These lands are now in a state of arrested development awaiting the restoration of peaceful conditions in old Mexico. R. A. Brannan has been a republican since the demise of the populist party. He is a Methodist and has served on one of the church's official boards ever since he moved to Meade.
In Meade County August 30, 1905, he married Nellie Sourbeer, who was one of the first white children born in this section of Western Kansas. Mrs. Brannan was born in Meade County June 14, 1881, daughter of Frank and Anna (Kessler) Sourbeer. Her father was one of the pioneers in this part of the state. He came here in 1879 from Indianapolis, Indiana. Frank Sourbeer served with a Pennsylvania regiment in the Civil war, and since then has been a farmer. He is still living at Meade. Mr. and Mrs. Sourbeer have six children: Charles, Mrs. Ida Smith, Mrs. Grace Black, of Bakersfield, California, William H., of Meade, Mrs. Brannan and Mrs. Anna Griggs, of Meade. Mr. and Mrs. Brannan have three young sons, Robert Fenton, Joseph Franklin and Charles Eddie.
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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