DAVID B. DENNEY, a veteran of the Civil war, was one of the early settlers of Comanche County. Though more than half a century has passed since he left the army he is still vigorous and active, and resides on his farm and ranch in Lexington Township.
On May 13, 1917, Mr. Denney attained the age of three score and ten. His life of usefulness and honor began in Monroe County, Indiana, May 15, 1847. His father, Dawson Denney, was barn in Georgia, moved when a child to Kentucky, and at the age of seventeen went to Indiana. He was born January 9, 1808, and died in Edwards County, Kansas, in 1889, at the age of eighty-one. He had lived in Kansas for four years, his home being near Lewis. He was a republican in politics and a member of the Baptist Church. He married Rebecca McNeely, daughter of William McNeely. She died in 1860. Her children were: William, who died in 1861; Susan, who died in 1864; Sarah, who married Chris Smith, died in Iowa, in 1867; James, who died while a soldier in Company, D of the Thirty-Ninth Iowa Infantry; Emeline, who married William Smith in Edwards County, Kansas, and died there; David B.; Rebecca, who married Thomas Cristeson and died in Edwards County; Dawson, who died in Lane County, Kansas; John, living with his brother David B.; Eliza, who died in Iowa the wife of Alexander Agee.
When David B. Denney was seven years old his parents removed to Iowa, and in Clark County of that state he grew to years of responsibility. His early life was spent on a farm and in a locality where educational opportunities were few. Another reason why he did not complete the work of the common schools is that when just past sixteen years old, in October, 1863, he enlisted as a soldier of the Union.
His army career was with Company H of the Ninth Iowa Cavalry under Captain Charles A. Frick and Colonel M. M. Trumbel. This regiment was assigned to the difficult and dangerous duty of fighting and keeping order on the frontier in Southern Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas and Indian Territory. The commander of the forces in this section of the west was General Steele. Mr. Denney saw his first fight at Hickory Station, Arkansas, against Shelby's troops, and was in the following skirmish with the same forces at Clarendon, Arkansas. For the greater part his command was employed in fighting the bushwhackers and in preventing depredations to life and property. He was at Little Rock when the war ended. He was never wounded nor captured. The nature of his duty entailed frequent fighting between small detachments of parties, and several times when he was confronted with greatly superior numbers he made his escape from danger by reason of his swift horse.
After the war Mr. Denney returned to Clark County, Iowa, and lived there for about fifteen years, during which time he accumulated very little capital but made the beginning of a family. He married in Clark County September 11, 1876, Miss Mary Davenport. She was born in Louisa County, Iowa, June 11, 1846, daughter of John Davenport, who moved to Iowa from Ohio. A few years after their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Denney set out for Kansas by wagon across the country, and their first location was in Sumner County. There they spent three and a half years, as farm renters and during that time they harvested three good crops. These were converted into the cash which Mr. Denney brought with him for Comanche County.
He arrived in Comanche County in April, 1885, and on the 15th of that month established his home on the claim he had entered on the northeast quarter of section 6, township 32, range 20. This claim be proved up, improved, and finally lost it to a loan company. Later he repurchased it and still owns it. That brief record alone indicates some of the severe trials he had in Kansas, encountering drought and the other sufferings of the frontier. He made his beginnings there with four horses and as many cows, and with about $400 in cash. At the end of two years this money was all gone, and he had to fall back upon a familiar resource of picking up and selling bones from the prairie. There were many days when he and his family did not know where the next meal would come from. But though it was so difficult to stay there was a greater bar to his leaving the country, since he could not do so honorably as long as he was in debt and he determined to stay and pay up. Probably the thing that enabled him for do this more than anything else was raising feed and selling it to cattle men. Gradually he made a start as a cattle man himself, and the course of years brought him a more encouraging outlook.
His old quarter section was his home until 1904. When he moved to his present home on the southeast quarter of section 36, township 31, range 21, Mr. Denney was not as well off financially as when he reached the county twenty years before. After losing his claim he had to begin life all over again. For one who possessed even a small amount of capital there were opportunities at that time in Western Kansas such as there will never be again. Mr. Denney accepted one when he bought his homestead, a tract of school land, paying for it and all its improvements only $80. There stood upon the land a five-room frame house which cost at least $500 to build. He undertook the raising of feed and selling it to stockmen and in the course of time had his debts paid and was able to acquire land beyond his simple quarter section. The quarter section he first bought cost him $250 and is now worth $9,600. His purchases continued until he now owns 1,260 acres in a body, all fenced, and improved with three sets of farm buildings. His own home, the successor of the pioneer frame house above mentioned, was erected in 1908. This contains eleven rooms, with modern facilities of water and light, and is one of the good and roomy farm residences of the county. In 1917 he constructed the barn 42 by 56 feet with mow capacity of 100 tons, has a granary with capacity of 8,000 bushels, a garage, poultry house and other improvements that indicate some degree of his prosperity and the enterprise of one of the most estimable of the citizens of Comanche County. Mr. Denney has had considerable success in growing apples, having had some fruit on hand every year. Hail has been a menace to fruit trees, occasionally barking them and destroying the crop. As a stockman, when at the zenith of his activities Mr. Denney had about 325 head. He was an occasional shipper from this county. He left the business on a large scale in 1917. He began with grade animals, but gradually supplanted them with Shorthorns.
The only local office Mr. Denney has ever filled was school treasurer, and he has been treasurer of district No. 41 ever since he lived in that locality. In politics he is a republican and in 1864, while with the army in Arkansas, he cast a ballot for Abraham Lincoln. He is a member of the Christian Church, as was his wife, and is affiliated with Ashland Post of the Grand Army of the Republic.
Mr. and Mrs. Denny were happily married nearly forty years. Mrs. Denny died in October, 1914. A brief record of their children is as follows: Annie, who died in childhood; Fred, still with his father; John, a farmer near Elkhart in Texas County, Oklahoma, married Alta Pike, and they have two children, Paul and Mary Ellen; Blanche is the wife of Mont Towner, a farmer near the old Denney place, and their children are Ruth, Clearmont and John Glenn; Sadie is still at home; William, a farmer on the home land, married Ina Helvey.
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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