JOHN S. CRAFT. While his home has been in KinsIey for the past nine or ten years, John S. Craft still exercises his capable supervision over his large landed and farming estate in Edwards County. Mr. Craft came to Edwards County over thirty years ago, in 1886, a poor man, and has found here the opportunities his ambition craved, and out of the struggles and ordeals of earlier years has evolved a handsome business and a financial independence.
He was born in Stark County, Illinois, April 23, 1862, grew up on a farm, and had an education in the country schools. He was a young man of twenty-four when in 1886 he set out for Kansas. He came alone, and in order to be on the safe side he bought a return ticket. The presence of a relative, W. H. Haragdine, in Edwards County caused him to locate there. Having no capital, he expected to make his way by the labor of his hands and the resources which a reasonably keen intelligence could command.
Mr. Craft found no openings for farm labor, and his first employment was at the sorghum mill in Kinsley. People were then too poor to hire farm labor. A steadier employment was furnished him as a hod carrier during the construction of the Edwards County courthouse. Out of his earnings he was eventually able to buy an ox team, and then started farming his claim. His first tract of Kansas land was the result of his purchase of a relinquishment on the northeast quarter of section 31, township 26, range 19. It had a shanty 10 by 12 feet, and this was his first permanent Kansas home. There he lived and kept bachelor's hall for five years. Six days of the week he spent in Kinsley working on the courthouse or at other labor, and every Saturday night he walked back to his claim, carrying provisions on his back, and spent Sunday at home.
After proving up and getting his title he put a mortgage on the land, as was customary with most of the early settlers. The proceeds of the loan were used for the purchase of some cows. He also had improved his farm, and somewhat later he took up a homestead on the southwest quarter of section 20, township 26, range 19. There he erected a four room frame house. He was still unmarried, and dedicated this house to bachelor purposes. He broke up some of the land, but did not get a crop for a year or two. While he planted corn and sorghum, the sorghum seemed to mature better than any other crop. He found some advantage in the cows, which produced milk, and gradually got into the cattle business. In a few years he was converted to the wheat industry, and gradually expanded the area of this crop and made a success as a wheat grower. When the mortgage on his pre-emption fell due he allowed the company to take the land, but several years later bought it back.
With all the trials and hardships he went through Mr. Craft never lost faith in nor grew tired of Kansas. It is the land of opportunities for him. He put his faith to the test by seeking every opportunity to acquire additional land. Sometimes he was unable even to make the first payment. His first additional quarter cost him $240. He paid $25 in cash, and met the recurring payments out of the proceeds of the land. For another quarter he paid $190, also making a small initial payment and paying for the rest out of the crops. For his third quarter he paid only $160, $1 an acre, and paid for this in the same way. By the time his land buying was ended he had six quarter sections in one locality. All of it was enclosed with fences, and he has erected three distinct sets of improvements. About 800 acres have been brought under cultivation. Mr. Craft has planted wheat to the extent of 500 acres. His best yield was thirty-three bushels to the acre, and the best average yield about twenty-four bushels. In 1912, when the machine left the fields, he had 10,000 bushels of wheat. His experience shows the remarkable range in wheat prices. He sold No. 2 good wheat at 33 cents a bushel. In that phenomenal year of prices, 1917, he sold some wheat at $1.90 a bushel.
Before leaving the farm he erected a substantial eight room residence and a splendid set of farm improvements, including a barn 32 by 56, with mow room for forty tons, and a granary with 5,000 bushels capacity. As an improvement Mr. Craft considers the best investment he ever made on his farm the construction of a silo. His was the first cement silo in Edwards County. Since 1910 he has been handling registered Hereford cattle, marketing them at his farm. He secured two registered heifers, and now has a herd of about twenty registered animals. He also had some satisfactory experience with the breeding of Poland China hogs, but turned from swine to cattle because he always had grass, but not always corn.
Mr. Craft became a resident of Kinsley in 1907. In that town he built a modern home, and by living there with his family he is able to keep in close touch with his farms. He is also a stockholder in the Farmers Grain and Elevator Company at Kinsley. Mr. Craft has not neglected the community welfare while attending to his private business. He served as trustee of Brown Township, and assisted in making ready the first rural school in his community, District No. 44. In 1906 he was elected to the office of county treasurer, succeeded W. D. Erwin and served two terms with efficiency and credit. He was elected on the republican ticket. Mr. Craft and wife are members of the Methodist Church, and fraternally he is affiliated with the Knights of Pythias and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
His father, Samuel Craft, was born in Logan County, Ohio, about 1827, and when he was a small child his family moved west and located in Stark County, Illinois. Samuel Craft spent the rest of his life on a farm in that section of Illinois. He was always a private citizen, never seeking office, and while a man of exemplary qualities as a neighbor and good citizen he had no church membership and belonged to no fraternity. He was descended from the Virginia family of Crafts. Two of his sisters came out to Kansas in the early days and located in Cloud County. One of them was Mrs. Levi Jones and the other was Margaret Craft. Samuel Craft married Sophia Jones, daughter of Jacob Jones, of Logan County, Ohio. She died in 1902. Her children were: Annie, who married Marion Kirschner, of Illinois; Ellen, who married Joseph Parker; William H., who died in Stark County, Illinois; Alice, who married Albert Bonnell and died in Illinois; John S.; Effie, who married Olaf Lindblad, of Illinois; and Frank, a resident of Winfield, Kansas.
About five years after he came to Kansas, in Edwards County on June 28, 1891, John S. Craft married Miss Martha McCray. Mrs. Craft was born February 22, 1863, a daughter of Joseph and Martha (Baird) McCray. Her mother was a daughter of Charles Baird. Joseph McCray was born at Blacklick in Indiana County, Pennsylvania, and he enlisted from that state for service in the Union army. He was a member of the One Hundred and Eighteenth Pennsylvania Infantry in the Army of the Potomac. He afterward moved west to Bureau County, Illinois, and died there at the age of seventy-four. His widow is still living at Lamoille in Bureau County. Her children were: Charles; Mrs. Craft; Sarah, wife of Lewis Bowers; Melissa, who married Arthur Barrett; James L.; Delsena, who married Frank McDonald; John; Ida, wife of Warren Mercer; Frank; Albert; Scott; and Gertrude, wife of William Lutz.
Mr. and Mrs. Craft have six capable sons and daughters. Leo R. is a farmer in Edwards County, and by his marriage to Martha Ficken has a daughter, Naomi Jane. DeWitt is connected with the Kinsley Garage. Mary H. is now a student in Southwestern College at Winfield. Clarence D. is the fourth in age. Joseph O. is assistant manager of Fairview Farm. The youngest is Hollis W.
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