JOHN S. COMPTON, of Morton Township, Pawnee County, is of that class of Kansas farmers whose achievements are frequently mentioned in the agricultural journals and other secular publications. He has spent nearly all his life in Kansas, and has been a farmer and rancher in Pawnee County since 1901. It was in 1877 that his parents located in Barton County of this state. Mr. Compton is of old Virginia, and Southern ancestry. The Comptons were in Virginia from colonial days. Several generations of them lived on the extreme frontier in the remote southwestern section of the state. His grandfather. William Compton, was a farmer and stockman and in early times kept a tavern for the mule drivers going between Kentucky and Baltimore. William Compton acquired a considerable estate, but never owned slaves. He was one of the active leaders in the Methodist Church and his home was the rendezvous of the preachers visiting and laboring in that country. He was thoroughly southern, and one of his sons was a soldier in the Confederate army. William Compton died in 1887. He married his cousin, Nancy Compton, a daughter of James Compton and a sister of Colonel John Compton of the Confederate army. Nancy Compton died in 1910, when nearly ninety years of age. Their children were: Martha, who married William Ashworth and lives in Virginia; J. Watson; Mollie, who married W. B. Bruce and came to Kansas with other members of the family and now lives in Wichita; Marion, of Bland County, Virginia; John, of Rhea, Kansas; James, who died in Virginia; Callie, who married Clint Harmon, of Bluefield, Virginia; Jefferson, of Hale, Missouri; Lee, who died at LeCompton, Oklahoma. leaving a family; Wiley, of Athens, Virginia; and Elvira, who married George Beavers of Bland County, Virginia.
J. Watson Compton, father of John S., was born in Bland County in the southwest corner of Virginia. He grew up in the country and became a stockman and for seven years was a drover and shipper of cattle. Much of his experience in that industry was acquired before the advent of railroads in this part of Virginia. His market was at Baltimore and Richmond. He was a soldier in the Confederate army when ordinarily he would have been a boy at home in school, and, therefore, acquired a very limited education. As a Confederate soldier he was in General Early's Corps until just before the battle of Winchester. He was then transferred to the cavalry and was home for the purpose of securing a horse when that battle occurred. He was later wounded in a cavalry raid but continued in the war until its close. He suffered greatly from exposure as a soldier, particularly while defending Richmond in the trenches, and the last few years of his life he was practically an invalid. On coming out to Kansas in 1877, J. Watson Compton brought his family from Bland County, Virginia, overland to Princeton, Kentucky, where they embarked on a boat for Cincinnati and from there by railroad to this state. J. Watson Compton bought railroad lands ten miles west of Great Bend and six miles north of Pawnee Rock. He developed a farm from the native grass and prairie and again took up stock raising. He was especially successful in this business and was widely known over this part of the state. He handled his stock on a very small margin of profit when the times were hard, and for a couple of years it is said that his living came chiefly from the chickens and cows on his place. He continued as a fixture and permanent settler in that locality until his death in 1891. He served as a school director from the date of his settlement until his death, and a school directorship was in the family for twenty-five years, either he or his wife being on the board. He also served as an official of the township. His political support was given to the democratic ticket, and he was a regular contributor and active member of the Baptist Church and helped to organize the Walnut Valley Church.
In March, 1872, J. Watson Compton married Miss Mattie Bird daughter of Benjamin and Catherine (Saunders) Bird, of a German family. Her father was owner of a large estate in Virginia, had numerous slaves before the war, and on his plantation he carried on considerable manufacturing and milling. Mrs. Compton died in 1914. Their children were: John S.; Rosa, wife of Charles Button, of Barton County: William B., who was killed by lightning in 1903, leaving a wife; Minnie, wife of Henry Zimmer, of Great Bend; George W., of Rozel; and Lee, also of Rozel.
John S. Compton was born in Brand County, Virginia, February 1, 1873. and was about four years of age when he accompanied his parents to Western Kansas. He grew up on the range and frontier and had the advantages of a few terms in the country schools near his father's home. At the age of sixteen he began working on his father's place and continued in that until past his majority. When he started for himself it was as a planter and as a Scotch farmer. On coming to Pawnee County Mr. Compton first settled at Larned, where he was in the livery business a year, and after that he was for several months engaged in shipping and buying cattle. He then bought the northwest quarter of section 30, township 21, range 18, in the Prose settlement. Taking possession of the land, he proceeded forthwith with what has proved the main and most profitable business of his life, farming and stock raising.
Widely known over Kansas is Mr. Compton's Elm Grove Stock Farm on the Pawnee. It is the home of fine horses and fine hogs of the thoroughbred strain. His horses are Percherons. He owns "Prince Albert," who won the blue ribbon as a two-year-old at the Kansas National Stock Show at Wichita. Another horse in his stables is "Roscoc," sired by the imported "Jacquemont" from France. His strain of Duroc Jersey hogs has also contributed to the fame of his stock farm, and many of these animals are now found on widely scattered farms in the state.
While his specialty seems to have been stock raising, Mr. Compton has also been one of the successful wheat raisers. He now owns the entire section 30 and has three quarters of it in cultivation. His experience with the silo covers three years, and he considers it one of the most valuable adjuncts to farming enterprise in Kansas. His preference is for the pit silo, which has the advantage of keeping the ensilage in perfect condition, preserving all the food qualities, and the silage never freezes, as it sometimes does with the silos above ground.
Mr. Compton was one of the early stockholders in the Rozel State Bank and is now on its board of directors. He is president of the Union Grain Company of Rozel, and a stockholder in the Sanford Grain Company. He has also done his part in local affairs, has been helpful in the matter of public schools, and has served as township clerk. He is a democrat, is affiliated with the Modern Woodmen of America, and he and his family are all Methodists and he is one of the official board of the Rozel Church.
Some of the improvements which give character to his fine stock farm are the splendid barn 56 by 60 feet, with room for the storage of 100 tons of hay and other food stuffs. Another feature is the silo, and he has an equipment of cement cattle sheds.
On October 23, 1895, in Barton County, Mr. Compton married Miss Nina Button. They had a fine family of young children: Laura, Glenn, Gladys, Mildred, Bonnie, Archie and Raymond. The two older children, Laura and Glenn are both graduates of the Rozel High School, and Glenn is a student at Fairmont College, Wichita, in training for military service.
Mrs. Compton, who was one of the victims of the great influenza epidemic in November, 1918, was the daughter of one of the noted pioneers of Barton County, Almon M. Button, who located there in 1872 and homesteaded and proved up a soldier's claim. He was born in Rensselaer County, New York, and represented a family of the early Dutch settlers in that section. When he was a boy of twelve years the family moved out to Illinois and located in Peoria County near Chillicothe. A. M. Button had brothers and sisters named Rodney, Hezekiah, Samantha, Adeline and Charles, all of whom went to Illinois when children and grew up near Chillicothe. Samantha married a Mr. Green and Adeline married Mr. Stillman.
A. M. Button enlisted from Illinois as a boy of fourteen and served during the last year of the Civil war in a regiment of infantry in General Hooker's army. He married Annie Slinn, who was born in England, a daughter of Robert and Betty (Wagstaff) Slinn. The Wagstaff family history goes back in England to the year 1303. Betty Wagstaff, from whom the Wagstaffs in America are descended, was born July 20, 1816, in England and married Robert Slinn, a mill manager. She died May 29, 1853. Her daughter Annie came from England with her aunt and uncle Noble. Her brothers and sisters were: John Slinn, James Slinn, Polly, who married Mr. Lyons, Lizzie, who married Mr. Slater, and Tillie, who married George Cummack. The Wagstaffs are one of the oldest families of Glossop, England. There was a Simon Wagstaff, vicar of the parish church of Glossop between the year 1362 and 1408. Rev. William Wagstaff was vicar from 1673 to 1682, when he was succeeded by the Rev. Robert Wagstaff, who remained the vicar until 1721. In the succeeding generations and centuries there were others mentioned as land owners, merchants and manufacturers, and all the information at hand shows that the Wagstaffs have from the earliest times been a family of influence and wealth and that they took their share of the management of local business.
Almon M. Button died in 1896. He and his wife had the following children: Charles, a resident of Barton County who married Rosa Compton; Alice, wife of Charles Heath, of Greeley, Colorado; Harry, of Rush County, Kansas; Mrs. Compton, who was born in Barton County March 2, 1876; and Dr. Edwin C., of Great Bend, who married Edna Lewis of Pawnee Rock.
Almon M. Button and wife had all the joys and hardships of Kansas pioneering. They were in this section of Kansas during what might be termed the romantic period of its history. Wild game and fowls of all kinds filled the country and contributed to the table luxuries, and for several years were so plentiful that Mr. Button would often shoot all he required from the door of his house. His life was led as a plainsman, and when he was away over night the ranch work and the lonely vigil devolved upon his wife. During the early days of their residence the buffalo shared the prairie with the Indian, and Mr. Button was an important link between the distant past of the frontier epoch and the modern times which developed before his death.
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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