BARTHOLD H. CORDES, a surviving veteran of the American Civil war and a former resident of Missouri, has been identified with Western Kansas almost continuously for thirty-four years. He and his family have prospered in Meade County, and everywhere in that section the name is spoken with the respect that is due to worthy accomplishments and good citizenship.
Mr. Cordes was born in Hanover, Germany, at the Village of Oese, not far from the court town of Bremervorde, on August 15, 1844. While he has always been a hard worker and has had his share of hardships, Mr. Cordes still enjoys good health and strength at the age of seventy-four. His parents were Berend and Mary E. (Luehrs) Cordes. When Barthold H. was ten years old these parents brought their family to the United States, sailing from Bremen to New Orleans and coming up the Mississippi River by boat, being two weeks on the journey. They located at the historic old Town of Boonville on the Missouri River, and from there went by wagon to Cole Camp in Benton County in the southern part of Missouri. Berend Cordes had been a blacksmith and farmer in Germany, but in Missouri was altogether a farmer. He died in 1866, at the age of seventy-two, and his widow survived him ten years and was the same age at the time of her death. Their children were: Jacob; John; Erend; Berend; Barthold Henry; Catherine, who married John Brunyes; and Annie, who married Henry Heisteberg.
Barthold H. Cordes lived in Germany to the age of ten years, and his education during that time was in his native tongue. After coming to Missouri he attended one term of English school. While he never served an apprenticeship at a trade, he has always been exceedingly skillful and handy with tools, and his various improvements on his lands in Western Kansas attest this skill.
He was only seventeen years old when the war broke out between the North and the South. He and a number of the young men in Benton County were pronounced Unionists. The Southerners gave them three days to leave the country or join the Confederate army. This time was finally reduced to three hours. The Union men hastily organized for personal protection a home guard regiment and Mr. Cordes took his place in this regiment as a member of Company D. Later he enrolled in the state service in the Missouri Enrolled Militia. He was in the fight at Cole Camp. He saw a great deal of the guerrilla fighting that made life and property unsafe in the State of Missouri throughout the war, but personally he escaped wounds. When the war was over he resumed farming on his father's old farm, which he had bought, and he remained in that locality for nearly twenty years. He served as clerk of his school district and also did jury service while in Missouri.
In November, 1884, Mr. Cordes came out to Meade County, and in March of the following year began his residence here. He started his journey from Sedalia, Missouri, shipping a car load of stock, post and wire fencing and household goods. He also brought four horses and a pair of mules. He had enough fence to surround 160 acres. This was rather a generous equipment and marked him out even then as a man of substantial interests among the early settlers. He entered his homestead in section 9, township 34, range 28, and on that tract built his first Kansas home. It was a dugout of a single room but was gradually enlarged to two or three rooms.
Mr. Cordes came by railroad as far as Dodge City and from that point hauled his goods to his claim. He at once put the land under fence and planted a crop of sixty acres of corn and twelve or fourteen acres of millet. On the 15th of June there came a tremendous hail. Mr. Cordes describes the appearance of his corn field after that visitation by saying that it looked as though cattle had chewed and spit out the corn. But it came up again thicker than ever and even the tassels went to corn. He also raised twelve big stacks of millet hay that year. This furnished feed for his thirty-five head of cows and they went through the winter in good condition. Thus he was highly encouraged until in the following season the cows were found to be "locoed" and many of their calves died. He got rid of the rest of the stock as soon as possible and invested his money in cattle bred up from the hardy Texas strain. Mr. Cordes has always raised cattle, and even now has a bunch of about forty head. In his prime as a stockman he and his sons had from 200 to 250 head on the range.
In his first location Mr. Cordes and his family used the dugout and the stone house which he subsequently built for fifteen years. In seven years time he proved up his homestead and later developed a ranch of three quarter sections. This property he then sold and went to Southeastern Kansas, to Crawford County, and for three years lived on a farm near Brazelton. This was not very far from his old Missouri locality, and there he again suffered from a recurrence of the malarial malady which had so affected him in Missouri and had been one of the primary reasons why he went to Western Kansas. For similar reasons he again pulled up stakes in Crawford County and returned to the ozone laden atmosphere of Meade County. He bought land in Odee, Cimarron and Meade townships, comprising 1,280 acres, and this, with the aid of his sons, he developed into a fine ranch and farm. He built an extensive barn and modest home, and subsequently improved another locality of the farm as his place of residence. His residence is now in Odee Township on section 30, township 33, range 28. Part of the many years in this county Mr. Cordes spent as a resident of Meade while his sons looked after the ranch.
As would be expected of a man who did his part to preserve the Union during the Civil war, Mr. Cordes has always exemplified good citizenship in his community. He served several terms as trustee of Odee Township and also of Cimarron Township, and for one term was a county commissioner. He resigned that office when he went to Crawford County. While on the board of county commissioners he had as associates William Baty and Harry Hayden. This board made an effort to defeat railroad bonds to the amount of $220,000. An attorney contracted to win the suit, but he failed and eventually the case was settled by compromise. The board also compromised delinquent taxes at forty per cent of their face value, and as a board found it very difficult to keep up county improvements through the very limited revenues. In matters of politics Mr. Cordes began voting as a republican and has always kept to that faith in national affairs. In local matters he supports the man instead of the party. He is a member of the Lutheran Church.
In Benton County, Missouri, in April, 1865, Mr. Cordes married Margaret Stich. Her father, John Stich was born in Hanover, Germany. She died in 1872, leaving three children, all of whom are in Western Kansas; John, Jacob and Margaret, the latter the wife of Henry Heinson. For his second wife Mr. Cordes married Annie Haase, daughter of Claus Haase, also a native of Hanover. The second Mrs. Cordes died in 1894. She was the mother of Claus; William; Herman G.; Annie, who married Louis Feldman; Catherine, who married Herman Feldman, brother of Louis; and Mary, who became the wife of George Borger. Mr. Cordes married for his present wife Mrs. Alice Meyers, daughter of John Feldman, likewise a Hanovarian. The children of this marriage are: Albert L., Bernhard E., Henry W., Barthold A. and Tille. Mrs. Cordes has children by her previous husband: Margaret, wife of Claude H. Cordes; Mattie, who married Berend Cordes; and Freeda, wife of William P. Mohler. Mr. Cordes is a real patriarch, the father of fifteen living children, his wife's children making eighteen, while he has about sixty grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
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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