LEVI L. DARKES. One of the men of exceptional standing as a citizen and as an example of industry and thrift worthy of emulation in Rush County is Levi L. Darkes, who was a settler in the year 1878. He had the ambition to make a home in Western Kansas resembling those fine and well ordered farms to which he had been accustomed as a boy back East, and this ambition he has carried out with splendid success. His surroundings reflect the character and enterprise which he has instilled into his work and life in Rush County.
Mr. Darkes was born in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, June 25, 1853, and is of an old American family. His great-grandfather was a Frenchman who followed General Lafayette to America to fight the battle of freedom for the colonies, and after the Revolution was complete he located in Pennsylvania and brought up a family. One of his children was Henry Darkes, grandfather of Levi. Henry's children were John, George, Samuel, Isaac and David.
David Darkes, father of Levi L., was born in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, spent his life there as a laborer and small farmer, and died in 1888. He married Nancy KitzMiller, who died in 1883. Their children were: Rebecca, John, Samuel, Jacob, David, Absolom, Sarah, Edward and Levi Lewis. Of the sons, John, Jacob, David and Absolom were Union soldiers in the Civil war. John lost a leg at the battle of Weldon Railroad, but all the sons returned home after the war. The daughter Sarah married William Heller.
Levi L. Darkes grew up on a small farm and attended the public schools until he was sixteen. He then apprenticed himself to learn the shoemaker's trade and served two years. Seeking further advantages in the way of an education, he attended an academy, later the county normal, and at the age of twenty-one secured a license and taught country school every year until the spring of 1878, when he came to Kansas.
On April 6, 1878, Mr. Darkes arrived at Hays City, and two days later reached Rush County. He bought out the interests of a squatter on the northwest quarter of section 5, township 17, range 20. He was then a young married man with one child, and had only $50 cash to begin life in Western Kansas. His first home was a stone house 16 by 20 feet. He quarried the stone and a borrowed team hauled it and he laid most of the walls himself. He put down a board floor, had a shingle roof, and his house was considered almost a mansion for that time. As a means of sustaining himself and family he spent the summer of the first year as a harvest hand in McPherson County. The second summer he went to the harvest fields of Saline County. Having only 50 cents in cash, he beat his way on the train to Salina. He produced no crops the first year because he had no team. During the winter he taught a subscription school in the basement of his own house. He was also elected trustee and assessor of Hampton Township in 1880, his territory covering an area 10 by 12 miles. In taking assessments he walked over every foot of this territory,
About this time he made his trade as a shoemaker count toward the upkeep of the home. He cobbled shoes for the neighbors during the winter season. In the summer of 1879 he got some of his land broken up, sowed it to wheat, and on the 20th of May he and a friend beat their way to Denver on the Union Pacific Railway. From Denver he secured a railway pass to Pontius Springs on the Denver and Rio Grande for work on their extension from Marshall Pass. He helped grade the road down to Gunnison. He was a railroad worker on the western slope of the Rockies until the following September. He saved all he could and returned home with the largest amount of capital he had had at one time since coming to Kansas. With this money he bought a yoke of cattle and a cow. It was the last time he had to resort to work outside the county, though his misfortunes were by no means ended. One of his oxen broke his neck, but he bought another by breaking ground for its owner. He bought the ox on time, employed it for breaking. the owner's land, and at the same time began growing crops of his own. In the summer of 1880 he raised twenty bushels of wheat to the acre. What flour the family needed was made from the wheat at the two-burr mill at LaCrosse. The surplus was marketed at Hays City and he hauled it to that point with his cattle.
The old stone house which has already been noted now forms the kitchen of Mr. Darkes' extensive and commodious country residence. The larger home he developed from time to time as prosperity gave him the money for it. Besides farming he has branched out considerably as a stock man, has raised the better grades of horses and cattle, but has never shipped on his own account. As a result of many years of careful husbandry and thrift and energy he has added to his homestead 400 acres. All the land is fenced with stone posts and wire. He hauled the posts eight miles, and the fencing was done by himself with the assistance of his family.
Mr. Darkes has found many opportunities to serve his community. He has contributed toward churches and schools. His oldest children were pupils in a sod schoolhouse. His children went from the public schools to the State Normal at Hays and Emporia, four of them graduated from the Hays Normal and all of them became teachers. In politics he cast his first presidential ballot for Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, and has been a regular republican ever since. For four terms he served as trustee of Hampton Township in November, 1916, was elected county commissioner by a vote of more than two to one in his home township, while his majority in the district was 177. Fraternally he is affiliated with the Modern Woodmen of America and the Masonic Order. The family attend the Methodist Church.
Mr. Darkes was married in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, October 8, 1876, to Miss Catherine Metz. Her parents were Jared and Lavina (Burkhart) Metz, of old Pennsylvania families. The children of the Metz family were: William, John, Isaac, Peter and Mrs. Darkes. The latter was born December 23, 1858. Mr. and Mrs. Darkes have six children: Resto M. lives in the Province of Alberta, Canada, where he is engaged in farming; Mrs. Hannah Wilson lives at McCracken and has a son, Levi Paul; Miss Carrie Darkes is principal of the county high school at Tribune, Kansas; William is still at home; Ida is a teacher in Alexander, Kansas; Mamie is a high school teacher in Utica, Kansas.
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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