CARY V. CHALFONT came into Finney County in March, 1886. He has gone through all the experiences of the struggling homesteader, the practical farmer and stockman, was one of the few who elected to remain in the country in the face of the agony of dry years, and did not leave the rural districts until he was a man of large possessions in improved land, and since then has been one of the leading bankers of Garden City, being vice president of the First National Bank.
Mr. Chalfont came into Finney County from Eastern Kansas, he and two other families having loaded an emigrant car with their goods. His own family consisted of himself, his wife and one child. For a homestead he filed on the northeast quarter of section 9, township 21, range 30. This was the northeast part of the county. Very few of the settlers had preceded him, but the next year he was joined by a phalanx of settlers who occupied almost the whole of that region and began the work of making homes.
After a few weeks the Chalfant family began to occupy and call home a two-room sod house, which was floored with boards and roofed with sod. Having a team, he next began plowing his land and the early summer found a promising crop of sod corn, millet and some hay. It was a rather encouraging outlook until a ranchman's cattle broke out and ate up every shock of his corn. That left him nothing to sell for cash and the next year was a complete crop failure. This caused him to resort to work at whatever he could find, and he began freighting from Garden City and Pierceville to Dighton. In that fall he and his wife went to Edward County, obtaining work on a ranch, his wife as cook and himself as laborer. His wages were $15 a month while his wife cooked for her board. His total earnings for the half year, $90, they took home and that money put them through the winter. In those early days, as Mr. Chalfont says, he has traveled all night in order to find a load of something to haul so that he could make a few dollars.
During 1888 he again put in a crop, and during spare time worked on a ditch. That year he raised some wheat and feed and on summing up his assets he found that he was a trifle better off than when he settled his claim. But after that came crop failures in such succession as to discourage him, though he refused to be driven out altogether and in the course of time he had title to his land. One neighbor was inspired by the same degree of persistency, and they were the only two families left in the entire school district, over a territory of 6 by 9 miles in extent. That he remained with the country and enjoyed its later prosperity is due in large part to his wife. Mr. Chalfont had mortgaged his claim with the expectation of leaving the country, but after a long family council it was decided that they should remain. They clung to the claim, finally paid off the mortgage, and this was possible chiefly by taking foreign cattle to herd on the wide range. After his debts were paid Mr. Chalfont became more contented with the country.
Nine years passed before he had any disposition to take up more land. He bought tax titles for several quarters and during the twenty-four years he spent in that part of Finney County he became owner of eleven quarter sections and on leaving the farm he owed not a man a dollar which he could not promptly pay. In fact it has been his policy throughout all his career to pay as he went whenever that was possible.
While living in the country Mr. Chalfont had an extensive experience in the cattle business. He improved good grades of Hereford cattle, and this stock helped materially to lay the foundation of his success. He also raised horses. For seventeen years the typical sod house served his family as a home, and they left that to enter a commodious and well convenienced home of two-story frame, containing ten rooms. It was a counterpart of the house erected by his neighbor, Carl, who had also remained with the country when time of adversity fell upon him. These two families found themselves alone in the district after the general exodus of other settlers, and both wives became school directors while the husbands were also active in school work. Mr. Chalfont organized the first school and the community donated labor and erected a little sod schoolhouse. Mr. Chalfont served as treasurer of Garfield Township, and for eleven years represented his section of the county on the board of county commissioners.
On moving from the farm to Garden City in 1910 Mr. Chalfont engaged in the loan and banking business. He acquired stock in the First National Bank of Garden City and has since been its vice president and a director. He is also one of the directors of the Otto Weiss Milling Company and is manager of the alfalfa mill in Garden City and also in Holcomb.
Mr. Chalfont grew up in an atmosphere of republican politics, brought that allegiance with him into Finney County and has frequently attended state conventions. He is a member of the Garden City Industrial Club, and as a delegate has attended irrigation congresses at Spokane and Sacramento, California. He has added one of the handsome homes to Garden City, a modern bungalow on First Street. He is active in the local lodge of Odd Fellows, being a past noble grand, and he and his wife are active Presbyterians and regular attendants and workers in its Sunday school.
Mr. Chalfont is all but a native of Kansas and represents some of the pioneer element of this state. He was born in Keokuk County, Iowa, July 28, 1858, but came with his parents to Kansas in 1859. His father, David R. Chalfont, was born at Hillsboro, Ohio, son of Richard Chalfont. David R. Chalfont died in Miami County, Kansas, soon after his settlement there and before the outbreak of the Civil war. David R. Chalfont, married Mary Johnson, and their only child was Cary. The widowed mother afterwards married James P. A. Lewis and died in Perry, Oklahoma. Her children by the second union were: Nora E.; Cora, who is married and lives at Richfield, Nebraska; Olive, wife of George Townsend, of Lewis, Idaho; and Clara, Mrs. John W. Ewing, of Carey, Oklahoma.
Cary V. Chalfont after the death of his father lived with his grandfather Chalfont, and the death of his grandfather threw him out of a home. He grew up in a country in which schools were meagerly maintained, and had to make the best of his limited advantages for training. After the death of his grandfather he wandered among strangers, and traveled by railroad to Columbus, Kansas, and then walked to Caney, Kansas, and saw much of life in old Indian Territory. He remained in that region herding cattle chiefly until he was twenty years of age. His wages he spent as he received them, but on returning to Miami County he rented and farmed a couple of years and then married. At the time of his marriage Mr. Chalfont had only one horse, and he continued a renter until he came out to Finney County.
Mr. Chalfont married Clara M. Matthews, who was born in Miami County, Kansas, March 11, 1863, daughter of Fred Matthews. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Chalfont are: Gilbert E., who when a young unmarried man started for New York City and disappeared from the knowledge of the family; Harlan J., assistant cashier of the First National Bank of Garden City, married Edith Larmor and has one son, Frank Arthur; and Arthur R., who is in the United States service stationed at Lansing, Michigan.
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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