WILLIAM VALENTINE CROTTS. No book of romance has ever been written concerning the settlement of the great Middle West that is more interesting than the true tales that live today in the memories of the descendants of the pioneers. National and state records describe in full the territorial changes and the political upheavals in Kansas and their consequences, but the true history of this noble state rests in the lives of her people. Stevens County had many early settlers, but it was in Coffey County that Elijah Crotts and family, one of whom was a boy of nine years, William Valentine Crotts, now a substantial citizen of Stevens, found a home in Kansas in 1859.
William Valentine Crotts was born July 4, 1850, in Washington County, Indiana. His parents were Elijah and Sarah (Green) Crotts, and his grandparents were Valentine and Sallie Crotts. The grandfather was born in North Carolina and was a young man when he went to Indiana and took up a tract of Government land in Washington County, on which he passed a long life, dying when aged ninety-two years in 1880. He was married in Indiana, and both he and wife were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. They had the following children: John, who died in Indiana; Jasper, who lived and died in Washington County, Indiana and was a school teacher; Samuel, who died in Coffey County, Kansas; Elijah, who as mentioned above, came to Kansas in 1859, and Martha, Eliza and Sarah, all of whom died in Indiana, Eliza being the wife of John Overton.
Elijah Crotts, father of William V. Crotts, was not an unknown man when he came to Kansas. He had served in Colonel Bole's regiment in General Taylor's army in the Mexican war and had taken part in the historic struggles at Buena Vista and Palo Alto, and during his whole period of service had come nearest to being wounded when an enemy's bullet cut the sole of his shoe. He was born in Washington County, Indiana, in 1823, grew up on his father's pioneer farm, and in his very early manhood ran a country store. He was married there to Sarah Green, a daughter of Thomas and Mary Green, of Washington County, Indiana, and they had the following children: Thomas, who lives in Baca County, Colorado; William Valentine, of Stevens County, Kansas; John, whose home is in Reno County, Kansas; Mary, whose married name was Pry, died at Kingman, Kansas; David D., who lives in Stevens County; Charles, who lives in Reno County; James E. and Edwin James, twins, the former of whom was a farmer in Reno County, where he died and the latter died in Elk County, Kansas.
When the westward fever seized Elijah Crotts, away back in 1859, he probably little thought that within three years he would once more be shouldering a musket in defense of his country, but this was the case, for in 1862 he volunteered and entered Company H, Ninth Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, which regiment was commanded by Colonel Blount, and served with his comrades on the border of the Indian Territory and in Arkansas, and at the end of the war he had seventeen battles to his credit, among these being such engagements as Prairie Grove, Pea Ridge and Wilson Creek, and was taking part in the latter battle at the time the brave General Lyon was killed. He was a brave soldier and ever at the post of duty, but was fortunate to escape both wounds and capture, and was honorably discharged at Lawrence, Kansas.
Mr. Crotts brought his family from Indiana to Kansas in the typical emigrant wagon of those days, and when he reached the state had the sum of 50 cents in money and a good team. He settled in Coffey County, and entered land in Le Roy Township, and while proving up had to resort to many things to add to his income and provide for a large family. Sometimes he was able to secure a job at railmaking along the Neosho River and on more than one occasion made trips out to the Arkansas and Ninescah River countries after buffalo meat, killing that short grass animal himself. Other wild game frequently was drawn on to fill the larder. When Elijah Crotts first came here he largely subscribed to the opinion of many of the frontier men of that day that Kansas would never be anything but a trading country for Indians, trappers and hunters, and that the rivers were too small for navigation and therefore little travel would be indulged in as the old stage coach and the covered wagon would probably be the only means of transportation. Mr. Crotts lived to see a far different picture than the foregoing, and he helped with vigor in developing the country. Late in life he purchased a coal mine in Southeastern Kansas, and was operating it at the time of his death in 1890. His widow died afterward in Kingman County, Kansas. His long military service made him particularly interested and interesting in the Grand Army of the Republic. He voted with the republican party and was loyal to his party candidates, but he never accepted any office for himself. For many years he was a member of the order of Odd Fellows.
William Valentine Crotts had not completed his education when the family came to Kansas, and here he continued his studies in a log schoolhouse that had a big fireplace and hewed-log benches. He remained at home and assisted his father, and was not very old when he first began to handle a gun, finding rabbit and prairie chickens and sometimes deer along the Neosho. He had an ambition to hunt for larger game and made his first trip into the buffalo country, in Reno and Kingman counties, in 1870. This trip was made in company with his oldest brother and John Morgan, the latter being a nephew of Gen. John Morgan, the noted Confederate raider. This party did their hunting on the Medicine, the Ninescah and the Rattlesnake. Mr. Crotts made four expeditions into this country after buffalo, and when the party had enough to load its two wagons with hides they would go to either Wichita or Dodge City and sell their catch. For hides they were paid from $2 to $3 each, and a load of buffalo meat always went back to Coffey County when their hunting trip was finished. They frequently had adventures and thrilling experiences in sections from which wild conditions have long since passed away.
In 1876 Mr. Crotts made a trip to California, one of a company, and driving a team on the old trail to Grenada and then on to Denver, to Salt Lake City, Elk City in Nevada, where they stoped[sic] three months and worked on a ranch. On resuming their travels they moved on to Los Angeles, California, where he raised two crops of barley, corn and pumpkins, and then started northward in a prairie schooner. Mr. Crotts had suffered many hardships in travel before, but he describes this trip to the State of Washington as the worst experience he ever had. He encountered snow, rain and mud and very cold weather and often had to sleep in wet garments. It was a wild region at that time, and he had made but poor preparation for a battle with the elements. The party finally reached Spokane Falls, Washington, and there he worked for a year in the lumber camps.
Possibly by that time considerable of the spirit of youthful adventure had worked off, at any rate the party then loaded up pack horses and set their faces toward home and made the entire 3,000 miles in this fashion in three months. Mr. Crotts then resumed farming in Coffey County and continued until, in company with his brother David, he drove with his own team into Stevens County. Here they both entered land, William V. securing the southwest quarter section 21, township 31, range 27, and the southwest quarter of section 22, township 32, range 27, the latter being his timber claim, both of which tracts he still owns, three quarter sections of his land being in a body. He has 100 acres under cultivation, and on his ranch has put up a fine barn and a small residence, the latter serving his purpose for a comfortable and cosy home as he resides alone, never having married.
Mr. Crotts brought a small amount of money and a few extra horses when he came to Stevens County, and like many other settlers kept himself busy while not attending to his own property. He worked on tree claims for absent settlers and freighted a little from Hartland to Hugoton and Woodsdale, and during the first years lived in a little sod house he made on his homestead. He attempted to raise wheat and corn, but his early efforts did not satisfy him, but afterward experimented successfully with broom corn, maize and kaffir corn, which he found better adapted to this dry soil. Almost from the first he has been interested in raising horses and has found the Percheron strain most profitable, his market being a local one.
Mr. Crotts cast his first presidential vote for Ulysses S. Grant and has never changed his political fealty. His trustworthiness and his sound business judgment have been shown appreciation by his fellow citizens both in township and county. He has been treasurer of his school district and township treasurer. He was appointed a member of the board of county commissioners to succeed William Trueblood, and was later elected to succeed himself. Once more he became a member of the board by appointment, succeeding Russell Beatty, and it was during his membership on the board that trouble arose about the delinquent land tax matter, many acres becoming delinquent for taxes. His first associates on the board were George Storms, Solomon Cott, George Woodcock and John Hicks, and during his last term Walter Hoskinson and Mr. Mosher were also members of the board. Mr. Crotts has never united with any church or fraternity, but he has a wide circle of friends and is well known in different sections of the state.
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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