B. F. BROWN, who is now living retired in a comfortable home at Kinsley, on East Eighth Street, has had perhaps more than the average share of experience and hardships and the prosperity of the Western Kansas settlers. He is able to speak with special conviction on the subject of Kansas winds, their strength and violence, which more than once tested his building improvements. He was one of the early Kansans who left the country on account of discouraging circumstances, but after a few years elsewhere he returned and has never regretted the choice that made him a permanent factor in this state.
Mr. Brown was born in Illinois December 1, 1860. He was left an orphan in early childhood, and was reared in the home of his uncle, Hugh Brown. He got a common school education in Illinois, married there, and began life as a farmer in Mercer County.
Then in the spring of 1886 he brought his small family to Kansas and took a preemption on a quarter section in Pawnee County, about twenty miles northWest of Kinsley. It was one of the roughest quarter sections in that part of the country. The price he paid for the land was $800. Mr. Brown says the price was considerably more than the land was worth at that time, though now it is worth several times that. His first home was a small frame two-room shell of a house sixteen by twenty-four feet, with a lean-to kitchen ten by twelve feet. The previous occupant of the land had moved the house to that location, and it was considerably remodeled by Mr. Brown. For his stock he built sheds with straw roof and had a sod hen house. During the first year he got about twenty acres in cultivation, but for three years did not succeed in raising grain, only fodder. The only important crops were garden produce, onions, cucumbers and watermelons. This, together with the few cows and pigs, enabled the family to exist until Mr. Brown proved up on his claim in 1888. At that time he sold his stock, and his twenty hogs brought only one dollar apiece.
Very much disgusted with the country, but not completely broken in spirit and still thinking he might return some time, Mr. Brown then went to Lamar, Missouri, worked in that vicinity a year, and farmed two years at Meade, Nebraska, and for four years was employed by the firm of Condit & Austinberg, grain and lumber men. After another year spent in the butcher business Mr. Brown returned to Kansas.
In 1891 he traded his claim for a half section ten miles southwest of Kinsley, near where the town of Offerle now stands. From that town he moved a house to his farm, remodeled it and went to work at other improvements. The house was the object of some of the violent winds and was several times rudely moved from its site and restored by Mr. Brown. In 1908 he built on his home farm a six room, one-story house and a barn forty by fifty feet. The winds of the Kansas prairies seemed to have a special liking for his farm. Barns and sheds and outbuildings were moved around at will, and in 1912 a blast took house and everything else.
The tract of land which Mr. Brown moved to twenty-five years ago and where he started his life in Kansas over again was a raw prairie. It was the east half of section 20, township 25, range 20, Trenton Township. As a farmer he combined wheat raising and cattle feeding, and in a few years his efforts began to count on the credit side of the ledger. In 1903 he bought the south half of section 16, township 25, range 20, at $10 an acre. This was also open and unimproved prairie. In 1909 he paid $7,200 for the northwest quarter of section 21, township 25, range 20. It had fences, and some of the land was broken. His last purchase was in 1915, when he paid $7,200 for the northwest quarter of section 20, township 25, range 20. Mr. Brown has grown wheat on a bonanza scale. He has not only cultivated his own soil to that crop but has frequently rented other ground. Alternating have been crops of corn, barley and oats. The best average yield from a hundred acres was secured in 1914, when he harvested thirty-six bushels to the acre. In the same year he threshed 13,000 bushels in the aggregate. His experience in wheat growing on the whole have been exceedingly favorable and profitable. Until 1917 he never failed to get his seed back. The year 1917, after the long and hard winter, gave him a complete failure of crops, and the wheat fields were plowed up in the spring and planted to corn.
When Mr. Brown left Kansas in 1888, all but discouraged, he was able to carry away all his possessions in one wagon. Persistent failure had wrecked his resources, and in absence of work outside his own land there was nothing before him but to get away. His second experience was very different. After a little more than twenty years of successful farming he was able to retire in 1913 to Offerle, where he remained a year, and in 1914 removed to Kinsley in order to secure better school facilities for his youngest child. His home at Kinsley is a story and a half, six room house. Mr. Brown still owns an interest in the stock on his farm, though his sons have active charge of the land.
Mr. Brown's father was William Brown, a son of Benne Brown, who moved from New Jersey to Ohio in an early day. William Brown was born in Ohio, moved from there to Illinois, and then to Iowa, where he died at the age of forty-two, when his son B. F. was three years of age. William Brown married Nancy Meek, and she died a week after her husband, at the age of thirty-eight. They left a family of twelve children, the youngest only a few weeks old. The children's names were Isaiah, Mary, Dave, Phoebe, Louisa, Asa, Viola, Caroline, B. F., Harry and Walter.
B. F. Brown married Laura Knisley, who was born May 10, 1860. Her father, Daniel Knisley, was born in Adams County, Ohio, and when fourteen years old went to Fountain County, Indiana. He died at Kinsley, Kansas, in 1912, at the age of eighty-eight. He was also a Kansas settler in 1886. Daniel Knisley was a son of Samuel Knisley, of Pennsylvania Dutch stock. Daniel Knisley married Martha Meek, a daughter of Samuel and Margery Meek, who were natives of Virginia and moved from there to Pennsylvania and later to Indiana. Martha Knisley died in 1894, at the age of sixty-four. Her children were George, Laura, Dan, Frank, Lucy and Ella.
Of Mr. and Mrs. Brown's children the oldest is Leonard, who now operates a motor rural delivery service out of Offerle. He married Erma Nesbitt. The second son, K. F., is unmarried and lives on the home farm. Dan O., also on the home farm, married Mary M. Kent. Mabel is the wife of Bert Bitner, of Edwards County, and has a daughter Dorothy. Grace is still at home and a student in the public schools.
Mr. Brown helped to organize two school districts, No. 64, in Pawnee County and No. 43 at Offerle. He is now a member of the Kinsley School Board. He served on the township board of Trenton Township, and is owner of some stock in the bank and elevator at Offerle. Politically Mr. Brown is a republican, having cast his first presidential vote for James G. Blaine in 1884. He has attended several county and judicial conventions. He is affiliated with the Ancient Order of United Workmen, and he and his wife are active in the Christian church. He is an elder in the church.
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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