WILLIAM WALLACE COMBS. One of the first permanent settlers of Richfield Township, Morton County, is found in William Wallace Combs, a prosperous farmer and stockman and a reliable, trustworthy citizen. Mr. Combs was born March 28, 1855, near Richmond in Madison County, Kentucky, where he later attended the common schools and continued to live until he came to Kansas in April, 1885. His parents were William B. and Fannie (Harden) Combs.
William B. Combs was born in February, 1817, in Clark County, Kentucky, and was a son of Cuthbert and Miss (Daniels) Combs. Cuthbert Combs moved to Kentucky from Virginia and settled near Richmond in Clark County, and died in that county near Indian Old Fields. He was a slaveowner and as a farmer raised hemp and tobacco. It is probable that he was a whig in his political views, as his son, William B., was an adherent of that party prior to the Civil war. The children of Cuthbert Combs and his wife were many, and the following names have been preserved: John and Mack, both of whom moved early into Missouri and nothing is known of their subsequent lives; William B., father of William Wallace Combs; and Mrs. Polly Osburn, Mrs. Arky Allen, Mrs. Nancy Allen and Mrs. Sally A. Fritts.
Although William B. Combs had but meager educational advantages, and was so afflicted with deafness that he was not considered available for military duty, he was a man of force of character and as a millright during his earlier years was considered reliable in his mill building industries. For some years he owned and operated a combination saw and grist mill and a carding factory near Speedwell in Madison County, to which he had moved in 1847, and was also a small farmer there. He came to Kansas about the same time as his sons and entered and proved up two claims in Morton County. In his later years he was identified with the democratic party. His death occurred in 1894. He married Fannie Harden, a daughter of Thomas Harden, who had married a Miss Spurr, both families being early settlers in Clark County and prominent people there to this day. Mrs. Combs died in December, 1885, in Kentucky. They had the following children: James E., who died in Kentucky; Julia, who married W. H. Crisman and both died in Kentucky; and Milton C., and William Wallace, both residents of Morton County.
William Wallace Combs, accompanied by his brother and his family, came to Lakin, Kansas, by rail, where he unloaded his car of stock and household goods, and then finished the journey toward the borderland of frontier Kansas with his own team. There was not a house in sight for eighty miles of this journey, and only one house did the travelers find at Richfield settlement when they reached here. Farm implements had been bought at Lakin and Mr. Coombs[sic] immediately entered his pre-emption claim northwest of Richfield, it being the northwest quarter of section 20, township 31, range 42. A dugout was the home of the family during the six months while he was proving up. He then entered his present homestead, the northeast quarter section 24, township 32, range 42, on which he built another dugout. This pioneer home was a single room, 10 by 12 feet in dimensions, with no flooring and with a board roof "dirted over," two windows and a homemade door. The family lived in this retreat for about eighteen months and were comfortable. The family consisted of Mr. Combs and his wife and five children, and their quarters accommodated also a cook stove, a table, two beds furnished with seven feather mattresses, a bureau, six chairs and a sewing machine. At the end of that time the present substantial home began to appear, the first room of which when completed gave an area of 14 by 28 feet.
As this is a true and reliable record of the steady progress made, under many difficulties, by one of the present independent citizens of Morton County, no information concerning his activities of those early years is lacking in interest. At that time money was scarce and men were willing to accept jobs of different kinds away from their own farms for a time in order to secure enough to tide them over until their land should yield. Mr. Combs with this end in view once furrowed out ten acres on a tree claim near Elkhart, fifteen miles distant, camping out in the meanwhile and carrying with him water for himself and team. For four days of this work he received the sum of five dollars. He was satisfied because it brought him "real" money. When opportunity offered he hauled freight from Syracuse to Richfield, a distance of fifty-five miles, at fifteen cents per hundred weight, taking four days to make the trip. He hauled fence posts for others a distance of 100 miles, cutting them in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, bringing down 150 posts on a load, using four horses and taking eight days, and was paid 8 1/3 cents a post. To his scanty income in those days eighteen Brown Leghorn hens he had brought from the old Kentucky home contributed, and the faithful family cow did her share with the hens in providing sustenance for seven normal, healthy people. These homely details put pioneering in its right light and emphasize the fact that very sturdy traits dwell with the pioneers who have developed the great State of Kansas.
Mr. Combs commenced his farming operations with planting corn and millet, and met with success with the latter, but when his first corn was in full tassel a hail storm damaged it badly. Conditions seemed to change later on and the seasons appeared to be unfavorable for the growing of the above products and Mr. Combs then turned his attention to wheat, and cane for forage. With the wheat he made several excellent crops, but the land appeared to be lacking, possibly in nitrogen, for wheat, later on, and as kaffir corn and maize were being exploited by that time as sure dry-country crops, he substituted them for wheat and they have proved satisfactory. He realized fifty bushels to the acre in field corn in 1915, and seventy bushels in kaffir corn and maize. From the beginning he has taken an interest in stock and in early times there was plenty of free pasturage, but when the county began to be more generally settled he bought pasture lands and now his grass is within his own fence. When he came to Kansas he brought with him the sum of $500, and after $300 had been necessarily expended he showed a sense of thrift in placing the remainder with reliable real estate men, who paid him five per cent a month. They loaned much money to other settlers, who, otherwise, it was contended during this bonanza period could not have proved up or commuted their pre-emptions. Later Mr. Combs invested money in calves and began the cattle business in earnest. He kept on adding to his land and now is cultivating 160 acres and his pastures embrace twelve entire sections, much of which is leased land.
In Madison County, Kentucky, Mr. Combs was married December 27, 1877, to Miss Millie Fielder, who was born in that county October 8, 1855. Her parents were William and Elizabeth (Burgess) Fielder, the former born in Madison County, Kentucky, in 1813, and died in August, 1861, and the latter born in that county, and died February 7, 1874, aged fifty-two years. Their children were: Ambrose, who lived in Clark County, Kentucky; William T., who served through the Civil war in the Union army, and died, at Waco, Kentucky; Dillard, who died in Madison County, Kentucky; Unity, who married Samuel Rodes and died in Madison County, Kentucky; Margaret, who married Milton C. Combs and died in Morton County, Kansas; Millie, who became the wife of William Wallace Combs; John C. B. who resides in Madison County, Kentucky; and Harvey C., who died in childhood.
Mr. and Mrs. Combs have had children and grandchildren as follows: Fannie, who was the wife of F. G. Glenn, died in Morton County and is survived by a daughter, Mary Mildred, who lives with her grandparents; Maggie, who was married first to William Glenn, and second to Guy M. Tipton, has two children, William Ralph Glenn and Fay Tipton; Julia, who married Thomas O. Morgan, of Stevens County, Kansas, has five children, Olive, Edna, Lee, Lillie and Ray; Cuthbert B., who married Beda Richardson, lives at Hugoton, Kansas; Lizzie, who is the wife of Charles Orth and lives in Richfield Township, and they have seven children, Mildred, Will, Wallace, Cuthbert, Fannie, Esther and Ruth; and Allie M., who married Clay Tipton, of this township, and has a son, Hugh, and a daughter, Dale. All these children have had public school advantages and as far as their parents have been able have been prepared for lives of usefulness wherever their homes may be. They were reared in the Presbyterian faith, to which church both Mr. and Mrs. Combs belong.
In politics Mr. Combs is a democrat and naturally the success of his party in both local and national campaigns is pleasing to him, but in the strict sense of the word he has never been a politician. In 1896 he was elected register of deeds of Morton County and served faithfully for two years in that office. Frequently he has served as a delegate to county conventions of his party, his sound and ripened judgment being valuable at all times, but outside of the office above mentioned and that of school director in district No. 6 he has accepted no public offices.
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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