JOHN B. COSSMAN, of River Township, Pawnee County, is one of the younger generation of progressive farmers in this section, but he came to Kansas with the pioneer element, and his father, Nicholas Cossman, now living retired at Larned, went through every experience and hardship connected with establishing homes and developing the frontier.
The Cossman family arrived in Kansas in 1877. John B. Cossman was born at Muscatine, Iowa, June 21, 1877, and was brought as an infant to this state.
Nicholas Cossman was born at Christ Daun, in the Rhine Province of Germany, June 1, 1844. When thirteen years of age he came to the United States. His father, Mathias Cossman, established his home in Lake County, Illinois, and there spent the rest of his days. Mathias Cossman married Mary Heins, who lived to be ninety-nine years of age and passed away only in 1916, in McHenry County, Illinois. The children of Mathias and Mary Cossman were: Alice, who married Peter Casper and died in Lake County, Illinois, in 1866, at the age of thirty-five; Peter, who died in Lake County, Illinois, on his farm in 1896, at the age of fifty-seven; Nicholas; William, a farmer in McHenry County, Illinois; Benjamin, a farmer at St. John, Kansas; Fred, who died in young manhood in Lake County, Illinois; Maggie, who died in Lake County in 1897, the wife of Benjamin Adams. The principal cause that brought Mathias Cossman and his family to the United States was the oppressive system of militarism which prevailed in Germany then as now.
Nicholas Cossman grew up in Northern Illinois, and, like many of his German compatriots, he proved his loyalty to the Union in the dark days of the Civil war by serving as a soldier, though only a boy at the time. He was seventeen when on August 9, 1861, he enlisted at St. Charles, Illinois, in Company A of the Eighth Illinois Cavalry, under Captain Jennings and Col. John F. Farnsworth. He served through the entire war, and was finally mustered out at Chicago July 10, 1865, nearly four years after his first enlistment. At the beginning of the Gettysburg campaign he was wounded at Rappahannock Ford in Virginia and was again wounded when the armies crossed the Rappahannock River following the Gettysburg campaign. He served at first under General Stoneman, then under General Pleasanton, afterward under General Buford, and was with the troops that contended against the Confederate guerilla, General Mosby. His military service was a particularly arduous and dangerous one, since he fought in the second battle of Bull Run, at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, at Williamsburg and in the Seven Days battle. The record which he made as a soldier will always redound to his credit and be cherished by his descendants.
Nicholas Cossman married Mary Varelius, who was born in Pond du Lac, Wisconsin, a daughter of John Varelius, who also came from Germany. Mrs. Nicholas Cossman died in March, 1896, and her only child is John B. Cossman.
When Nicholas Cossman came to Kansas he homesteaded land in Wheatland Township of Barton County. He proved up and lived in that locality until 1888, when he moved to Great Bend and engaged in the transfer business. Subsequently he resumed farming and finally followed his son into Pawnee County and has since been a part of the latter's family.
In Barton County John B. Cossman had his first conscious recollections of life and secured his education in the rural schools there. He also attended school at Great Bend. As a young man he went out to work for wages with neighboring farmers and was paid a salary of from $12 to $16 a month. He subsequently turned his energies and labors to his own profit as a renter. By that time he had acquired a team, and of the necessary equipment of implements he owned some and borrowed others. During the three years of his renting he made some progress. The crops he raised were fairly abundant, but grain was cheap then and in the early days he sold wheat as cheap as 33 cents a bushel and corn at 18 cents a bushel. On coming to Pawnee County Mr. Cossman made his first land purchase in River Township. He paid half cash and the remainder on time. This land was the fractional section 15, township 21, range 15. He broke the virgin prairie and brought under cultivation 240 acres. This was devoted to the customary crops of the country, wheat, corn and feed, and he also put up his improvements, a home 14 by 24 and a barn 14 by 28. On leaving his land he spent a few months at Pawnee Rock as a butcher. This occupation did not prove congenial and he traded his business for the northeast quarter of section 22, township 21, range 15. He farmed there several years, having moved the buildings from his former place. Next he bought a quarter section in section 23 and did some additional breaking on it, and is still farming the land. He then purchased the place where he now lives and in which his father is also interested. This is the southeast quarter of section 22, township 21, range 15, and the southeast quarter of section 27 was also included in the deal. This land had already been substantially improved by John Hunt, who had made a farm of it. The improvement added by Mr. Cossman is a barn 36 by 50 feet. Later he bought an improved eighty acres near Larned, the north half of the southwest quarter of section 27, and spent a year as a farmer there, but went back to his old home place in 1917.
Mr. Cossman now has the responsibility of managing 750 acres. His chief crop is wheat. His record wheat yield came from a second season on plowed land, which brought him thirty-five bushels to the acre. On a quarter section of this land his average was twenty-seven bushels to the acre. From this abundant crop he was able to pay for the land. In 1914 he threshed 12,000 bushels of wheat, and in 1915 he secured almost a record crop of corn, having 12,000 bushels that year. The best price he has ever obtained for his wheat was $2.25 a bushel. It has also been Mr. Cossman's practice to keep graded cattle, and his thrifty husbandry has brought notable results, as is plainly indicated by the foregoing facts and figures.
The welfare of the local community has also been a matter of interest with him and he served on the board of education of district No. 63 and has been trustee of River Township. He and his wife have been members and regular attendants of the Methodist churches at Pawnee Rock and Larned. Politically Mr. Cossman votes the republican ticket in national matters and locally favors the candidate he thinks best fitted for the place.
In Barton County on May 24, 1898, Mr. Cossman married Miss Maggie Layton. Her father, David Layton, was an early settler in Stafford County, Kansas, where he developed a homestead. Mrs. Cossman was born in Stafford County. They have a household of children comprising the following: Fred N., Chester F., Theodore R., Lester C., John V., David L., Vada and Lawrence Wayne.
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.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project