ROBERT DAVIES. Seward County was formally organized in 1886. Organization is of course subsequent to the advent of at least a small group of permanent settlers. Most of the pioneers of Seward County were cattlemen, and even to this day the cattle industry has been its chief productive enterprise. Of the oldtimers still living probably none enjoys a more substantial position, has been more genuinely successful, than Robert Davies, whose ranch and attractive home is on the banks of the Cimarron River in Fargo Township. Mr. Davies has lived in this region for fully thirty-five years.
The enterprise which has made him successful here was manifested still earlier in his career when it impelled him, the only member of his family, to leave a little farm in Wales, where opportunities for making a living were exceedingly meager, and come to the broad prairies and the abundant opportunities of the New World. Robert Davies was born in Dembighshire, North Wales, on May 7, 1847. His people for generations had lived in that shire and practically all of them were farm tenants upon estates owned by people of wealth and title. His parents were William and Mary (Jones) Davies, who spent all their lives as Welsh farmers. Farming in the old country meant raising wheat, oats, barley, potatoes and beans, and as a rule the area cultivated was only rarely 200 acres and not infrequently it was no more than ten acres. Before coming to Kansas Mr. Davies had seldom seen anything but homes solidly constructed of stone and thatch, and the schools where he learned his lessons were supported by community enterprise and were conducted for eleven months in the year. Mr. Davies was one of five children, Edward, Robert, Lois, William and Ellen. Lois died as a young woman, while all the others married and all except Robert Davies remained in Wales.
With an education acquired in the schools of his native country Mr. Davies immigrated to the United States in 1868, when he was just twenty-one years of age. Fifty years have passed since then and he has never been back to his old home. He came with a neighbor's son, and their first lengthy stay was at Reading, just east of Emporia, Kansas. That was pioneer times all over Kansas, and Emporia as well as counties much further west were strictly frontier. His companion bought railroad land near Emporia, and young Davies remained with him a few months. He then returned east to Macomb, Illinois, where he worked on a farm by the month. Thus when later he returned to Kansas he had about $150 in capital, but continued a wage worker in and around Emporia until he came out to Seward County. At Emporia he met Thomas Price and was in Mr. Price's employ for about ten years. It was with Mr. Price and S. R. Taylor, both of Emporia, that Mr. Davies made his pioneer prospecting tour over Seward County in May, 1882. Their object was to find range and proper opportunities and facilities for the cattle industry. Thomas Price was never a settler in Seward County, but as a capitalist he furnished cattle to both Mr. Taylor and Mr. Davies in their pioneer efforts here.
When Robert Davies arrived in Seward County in May, 1882, he began handling the Price cattle over this region, and that industry went on with increase and profit until the famous blizzard of January, 1886, when thousands of stock belonging to all the cattlemen in this part of the West perished with the cold. At that time Mr. Taylor returned to Lyon County and Mr. Davies severed his connection with both Mr. Taylor and Mr. Price and started farming and cattle raising on his own account. About that time he homesteaded the northwest quarter of section 31, township 33, range 31, and on that tract he made his first permanent home in the county. The few cattle he had left after the blizzard became the nucleus of his ranching enterprise. The storms and cold of 1886 killed nearly two-thirds of the stock which had been handled by Mr. Davies, and that was the greatest misfortune he has ever experienced from a material point of view in Kansas. Even for that day he and his associates handled some very good grades of mixed blooded cattle, far superior to much of the long-horned stock which then was the prevailing feature of the ranch and range in the West. With this early start Mr. Davies has never found it to his advantage to handle anything but the best possible grades, and years ago he developed some thoroughbred White Face herds, which have been his pride and which have enabled his shipments to top the market not infrequently.
In the early days he drove his stock to market across the prairie to Dodge City. He kept his herds growing until he had over a half a thousand head on the range, and at the present time about 600 head of White Faces are under his ownership and control. Mr. Davies refers regretfully to the times now gone by, perhaps forever, when some first class cattle went from his range and ranch to the Kansas City markets and sold as low as $2.65 a hundred. The same grade of cattle he has sold in recent years for $10.50 a hundred. His own experiences reflect the history of the cattle industry in this section of Western Kansas. In early days it was not customary to feed cattle through the hard winter spells. Largely for that reason the losses were tremendous in every hard winter, and the blizzard storm of 1886 was only exceptionally severe and practically every other winter was a time of loss and hardship to the western cattleman. Gradually the farmers and ranchers learned to grow the popular feeds of kaffir and maize and others, and with these crops as resources the cattle has been well taken care of, and the Davies ranch has had few losses on account of cold and lack of forage through a long period of years.
Mr. Davies is not exclusively a rancher, and as a farmer has raised some wheat, though his main dependence is stock and the feeds necessary to maintain them. In the thirty odd years he has spent in Western Kansas he has gathered up lands and titles until his ranch now comprises thirty-three quarter sections. Thirty-six hundred acres of this lies in a single body, and he has all his lands under fence. Two sets of improvements have been added to the ranch and two families besides his own live on the lands and help operate them and enjoy some share of their prosperity.
The Davies home and the ranch headquarters are a generous cottage amid shady surroundings on the banks of the Cimarron River. Here are found all the comforts and conveniences that a life of successful industry can provide. Mr. Davies is a man of genial and generous character and of many interests outside his business. He has his home provided with good books and periodical literature, enlivened with the charm of good music and good cheer, and all the premises show the finest results of productive activity. No better cattle can be found in Seward County and other livestock is kept up to the same high standard. The little country school where his own children had their first lessons stands guard almost at the front gate.
Mr. Davies, as already noted, came into Seward County before it was organized. In the work of organization he had no special part and he was not interested and did not allow himself to be drawn in as a participant in the county seat troubles which followed and concerning which so much has been written and about which some blood was spilled. His interest, however, was aroused in the more vital problem of getting educational advantages, and he helped organize school district No. 17 and has been a member of its board for almost thirty years. Many years ago he served his township as trustee. While he always votes, he has never felt himself a leader in politics, has never attended conventions and has been well content to do his duty in other ways, and most people would agree that his means of rendering service to the community are on the whole vastly superior to those followed by many who get more credit for public spirit and political prominence. Mr. Davies is a republican and cast his first vote in Osage County, Kansas, for General Grant as president. As a boy he grew up under strict discipline imposed by his Presbyterian parents but has never given his membership to any church.
On coming to Kansas Mr. Davies' pioneer home was a sod house. In it be kept bachelor's hall for six years. In Seward County on February 22, Washington's birthday, 1888, he married Willia J. Buchanan. Mrs. Davies came from Kentucky to old Fargo Springs and was herself a homesteader and a pioneer. She filed on a tract of land near Mr. Davies' homestead, proved up and did not marry until she had secured her title. Mrs. Davies was born in Taylor County, Kentucky, daughter of William and Susan (Miller) Buchanan, farmers and old timers of that region. Mrs. Davies was one of eight children, and two of them came to Kansas, herself and her sister, Mrs. Nora Van Tyle, the latter now a resident of Iowa.
While their land and other material interests have been growing and prospering under their labors Mr. and Mrs. Davies have also had children growing to maturity under their roof. The oldest is Susie, now wife of Victor Oman, of Leonardsville, Kansas, and the mother of two children, Robert J. and Donald V. The second child, William, died in December, 1915, at the age of twenty-four, unmarried. Price J. is now in France. Ruth finished her education in the Kansas Agricultural College and the Hays City Normal and is now a teacher in the public schools of Seward County. The two youngest children are Rice and Robert, Jr., the former a student in the Salt City Business College at Hutchinson, 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.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project