WILLIAM P. COLES. For the enlightment of the future generation it is most appropriate to give record in these pages to such careers as that of William P. Coles of Great Bend, one of the earliest settlers in that region. He had many experiences with the hard and difficult times of the early days, and altogether his life has been one of productive benefit both to himself and his community.
He was born August 20, 1845, in Warren County, Ohio, but spent most of his early life until coming to Kansas in Iowa. His grandfather, Oliver Coles, was a merchant on Long Island, New York, and afterwards in Warren County, Ohio, and spent his last days in Dayton, Ohio, where he is buried. Among his children were William, Robert, Ephraim, Joseph, Andrew, Zippora and Anna. Robert moved out to Chariton, Iowa, and served as a member of the Legislature of that state.
Ephraim Coles, father of William P., was a native of Long Island, New York, and spent his early life in Warren County, Ohio. He followed his brother Robert to Iowa, locating at Chariton July 4, 1855, and died just a year later. Ephraim Coles married Mary Patterson, a daughter of Isaac Patterson, who was a carpenter and farmer and moved from New Jersey to Ohio in 1818. Ephraim Coles and wife were married in Warren County, Ohio. They had the following children: Josephine, who died in Great Bend as the widow of Warren C. Cheney, leaving children; James, who spent most of his life in Colorado but died at Salt Lake City in 1898, leaving no children; Wesley, who died at Topeka in 1910, leaving a son and two daughters; Phoebe, who married Asa Jones and died at Grand Island, Nebraska, leaving a son and a daughter; and William Patterson, who is the only survivor of the family.
William P. Coles before reaching his thirteenth year was bound out to learn the trade of blacksmith. His term of service was to be until he reached his majority, with wages of board and clothes. His master went into the Union army for the Civil war, releasing his apprentice, therefore Mr. Coles began his own career at that time. He rented a shop in Chariton, Iowa, and the best he could say of his efforts there was that he made a living. He early had an ambition to get a home of his own, and he had such a home before leaving Iowa. He came to Kansas from Lucas County, Iowa, and they arrived at Great Bend January 31, 1876. He was accompanied by his mother who was his housekeeper until her death on March 12, 1879. Since her death he has chosen to remain a bachelor. But the home instinct has always been strong upon him, and after coming to Kansas, as soon as possible, he had a house built and never again lived under a rented roof.
He came to Kansas to get land, but his first act was to establish a blacksmith shop in Great Bend. Great Bend was then a small village and his was the third shop in the town. This shop was located on William Street, just south of the old Opera House, and for about twenty-eight years he wielded the hammer upon anvil at that place. Since abandoning his trade he has lived in retirement. As a builder and developer he put up the Friedman Garage and also his own home at the corner of Morton and Forest streets.
While doing what work came to his shop in town Mr. Coles took up government land in what is now Stafford County, then in the south edge of Barton County, and he kept his residence on the land sufficient to satisfy the law and obtain his patent. His pioneer home was a good frame building, but was removed by a cyclone June 20, 1885. Otherwise he has contributed substantial farm improvements to the county, and he still owns the claim and also an additional quarter section, bought when land was cheap. He now depends on the farm for his chief income.
Mr. Coles gave his attention to hard work and doing his work well, and has never sought an active responsibility in the civic affairs of the community beyond casting his vote. He attends the Men's Bible Class of the Methodist Episcopal Church and for many years has been identified with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, being a member of both the Subordinate Lodge and the Encampment.
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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