ROYAL E. BRAY. The largest store in the town of Syracuse is conducted under the name R. E. Bray. That is only one of the many distinctions of its owner and proprietor. Mr. Bray came into Hamilton County over thirty years ago, had a part as a pioneer in developing this section of the state, has been interested in practical farming, irrigation, and varied business enterprises, and in later years has become well known over the state at large through his valued services in the Legislature.
Mr. Bray was born in Vinton County in Southern Ohio July 24, 1861. In 1871, when he was ten years of age, his parents moved to Caldwell County, Northwest Missouri. His early environment was a farm, and he finished his public school education at Hamilton in Caldwell County and later took a commercial course in Ridenour's College at St. Joseph, Missouri.
It was with this general experience and with this training that Mr. Bray came to Western Kansas. He was influenced to throw in his lot with Hamilton County as a result of extensive advertising of the lands and possibilities of that section. He brought with him very little cash capital, and soon after arriving at Syracuse, in the spring of 1886, entered the real estate and loan business. He had no particular experience for that line of work, but was in a short time making a living and continued the business until 1891. He acquired a knowledge of titles and conveyancing which has proved of great value to him ever since.
In 1891 Mr. Bray entered upon his duties as clerk of the District Court. He filled that office two terms. From the Court House he engaged in merchandising as a partner in the firm of Inge & Company, and in 1900 became sole proprietor and since then the store, the chief feature of Syracuse's business district, has been conducted under his individual name. In earlier years, before the building up of outside towns, this store drew patronage from all the livestock districts over a territory eighty miles in a radius around Syracuse.
The profits of his large and lucrative commercial enterprise Mr. Bray has invested in farm lands. He has gathered together along the river near the county seat a farm and ranch of 1,400 acres. From this ranch practically every year a large string of mules is sent to the market, and the chief agricultural product is alfalfa. He has also specialized to some extent and in a commercial and profitable way in growing alfalfa seed. His cultivated land is irrigated, and he built at a cost of $2,000 a pumping plant with a capacity sufficient to water 160 acres.
Mr. Bray assisted in organizing the Valley State Bank of Syracuse and has been vice president and a director since its organization. He is also a director of the Fort Aubrey Ditch, and treasurer and director of the Alamo Ditch.
No citizen of Hamilton County has been more liberal of his time and energy in behalf of the public good. He has served as a member of the Council of Syracuse and is now a city commissioner in charge of the water and light department. For three terms he was a county commissioner. The board of which he was a member built the steel bridge over the Arkansas River at Syracuse and also wooden bridges at other points along the river. This board also put up the county jail. For the building of the steel bridge $22,000 worth of four per cent bonds, running twenty-five years, were sold at $700 premium, the best record for the sale of western bonds ever made in this region. This board of county commissioners also put forth earnest efforts in behalf of improved highways, and the history of the good roads movement in Hamilton County might be dated from the time of that board.
In 1884 Mr. Bray cast his first presidential ballot for James G. Blaine. He has never missed an election since then and has never wavered in his choice of republican candidates for office. He was elected to the Legislature in 1914 as the successor of H. J. Laubach. During the following session, under Speaker Stone in the House, he was assigned to the ways and means committee. He was a member of the conference committee with the Senate over the matter of appropriations, which as a result of squabbling between the two bodies were tied up for twenty days and the conference committees engaged in a four days discussion before a result was reached. He was also a member of the irrigation committee in that session. In November, 1916, he was re-elected and under Speaker Keene became chairman of the irrigation committee and was assigned to the committee on rules and on railroads. Several local bills introduced by him affecting irrigation and appropriation for extension of irrigation systems and cleaning local ditches, were passed. He also introduced a bill for the inspection of brands of cattle and hides. This is a strictly local law applicable only to the western counties of Kansas. It provides for the inspection of all cattle hides by the sheriff, who is required to issue an inspection certificate to the railroad company before shipment can be made. In the Legislature Mr. Bray favored all the important prohibition bills enacted. It was through his initiative and labor that the State Legislature and the City of Topeka were brought together on the matter of providing a "white way" about the capitol grounds.
Mr. Bray's grandfather was John Bray, whose father was one of five brothers to emigrate from England to Connecticut in colonial times. From these five brothers a large posterity of the Brays has descended and is now scattered over the entire United States. John Bray moved from Connecticut to Southern Ohio and spent most of his active life as a farmer in Vinton County. He was also chosen judge of one of the local courts. His children were John, Henry, David, William and James. The three oldest all served as Union soldiers. James was a pioneer in Nebraska.
William Bray, father of Royal E., was born in Vinton County, Ohio, and became noted in that region as an extensive stock buyer and drover and also as a dealer in wool. He was one of the organizers of the old monthly sales stock at Piqua, Ohio. After moving to Caldwell County, Missouri, he continued his stock activities on a more modest scale, and died there at the age of seventy-three. The maiden name of his wife was Sarah Swaim. Her father, Michael Swaim, was an Irishman and a successful farmer in Vinton County, Ohio. Mrs. William Bray died in 1892 in Caldwell County, Missouri. Her children were: Celeste E., who died in St. Joseph, Missouri, the wife of G. T. Smith; Marietta Ruth, who married S. R. Bay, of Bucklin, Kansas; Vinton C., a rancher at Lamar, Colorado; Michael V., a successful sheep farmer near Syracuse, Kansas; Daniel Americus, proprietor of an automobile agency and garage at Clifton, Kansas; Flora Belle, wife of A. E. Guy, of Montrose, Colorado; and Cinderella, who married Dr. J. J. Brown, of Macon, Missouri.
Royal E. Bray married in Hamilton County, Kansas, April 22, 1891, Miss Martha C. Inge. She is a sister of George T. Inge a prominent banker and old time business man of Garden City, mentioned on other pages of this publication. Her father, George B. Inge, was an early Kansan settling on an Indian Reservation near Neosho Falls, where he followed farming and stock raising until he came to Hamilton County in 1888. Before coming to Kansas he lived in Indiana, and served as sheriff of his county during the Civil war and was an intimate friend of Governor Morton. He kept the governor advised of political conditions in his county during war times. During the '70s he was president of the Neosho Falls Fair Association when President Hayes and General Sherman were guests of the Association. George B. Inge was a member of the Kansas Legislature and always an active and influential republican. He married Sophie Slavens. Their children were: Reuben C. of LaJunta, Colorado; George T., of Garden City; William, an extensive oil operator, living at Independence, Kansas; Lycurgus L., of Syracuse; and Mrs. Bray, who was born near Rockport, Indiana, March 28, 1858. Mr. and Mrs. Bray have three children, Georgina T., William Melville and Royal Elan.
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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