JAMES HARDENBURGH ELTING. Ness County has had hardly a more notable family among its residents than that of Elting, which has been identified with this community since the pioneer days of 1879. There are a number of the family who deserve more than passing mention. James Hardenburg Elting, a rancher and farmer in Eden Township of Ness County, is a son of the late Richard O. Elting, who was a man of distinction not only in Ness County but in Kansas affairs.
The family lineage goes back to Dan Elting, who with others received a grant of land from the English crown in the Province of New York. Cornelius Elting, grandfather of James H. Elting, married Catherine Hardenburg, who was of Dutch lineage, and her father had served as a Revolutionary officer under General Washington. Catherine Elting lived to advanced years and died in Ness County in 1880, being buried at Utica. Cornelius and Catherine had the following children: Richard O.; James H.; Cornelius H., who was a contractor and builder of New York City; and William, who is still living on Long Island, New York.
The late Richard O. Elting was born on Staten Island, New York, November 2, 1829. He grew up on a farm but acquired a liberal education, attending boarding school. When he became of age he worked as a clerk in a wholesale house in New York City, and four years later went west to Chicago, where he continued clerking for a few years and then engaged in the retail business for himself. He was in Chicago during the epidemic of cholera. Selling out in 1856 he went to Minnesota, took up land, but did not remain to prove up his claim. He then went to California, by the Panama route, followed mining in that state without success, and subsequently engaged in the truck and fruit business. He was doing well in that line when the Civil war broke out. He then enlisted in the Second California Cavalry, becoming quartermaster sergeant. The chief work of this regiment was in keeping down the Mormon outlaws in Utah and in defending the white settlements against Indian attacks. After the disastrous campaign of McClellan on the Virginia Peninsula, the company of which Mr. Elting was a member did its best to get transferred to the East, each soldier offering to defray his own expenses if the government would consent to the transfer, but this could not be accomplished. After being mustered out of the army, R. O. Elting started east with a large band of men, thirty teams being required to carry the party to Fort Leavenworth. Thence he went to New York, where he visited the home folks, and in 1865 he located in Shelby County, Missouri, near Shelbina. He engaged in farming there and endured the many difficulties caused by the presence of ex-Confederates and bushwhackers and the majority of population opposed to his political convictions. He not only had to battle with the adverse conditions of nature but also with his fellow citizens in establishing his home. Richard O. Elting was a man without fear, never compromised his convictions, and while living in Missouri he showed no tendency to back up from any position which he took as a matter of justice.
At the same time not desiring to bring up his family in that community, and also being desirous of securing cheaper lands, he sold out and came to Kansas in 1879. Here he entered land in Eden Township at Ness County. His brother James H. come at the same time, and was appointed the first county clerk of Ness County by Governor St. John. Richard O. Elting took an active part in the early politics of Ness County and was prominent in the county's organization. He proved up his homestead, went through all the preliminaries of pioneering, the only important exceptions being that his house was one with walls built of stone and the roof only covered with sod instead of being a sod house throughout, as were most of the early habitations. He also proved up a timber claim, and his old property is now owned by his son R. O. Elting, Jr. Richard O. Elting as a farmer always handled blooded cattle. He brought out with him from Missouri some thoroughbred Shorthorns, and he introduced what was probably the first pedigreed Shorthorn bull in Ness County. He always kept that strain of stock and his efforts resulted in the spreading of Shorthorn blood over the entire county.
Though his father was a democrat, Richard O. Elting changed from that party as a result of the issues of the war, and was a radical republican thenceforward. Though he had no special gifts as a speaker, he was always an effective worker for his party organization in Ness County. He admired the heroes of the party, including Blaine, McKinley and other leaders. He took part in many local conventions, always possessed convictions on live questions, and read everything that came to hand, becoming well informed on current events and history. In 1892 he was elected from Ness County to the State Legislature, and took a prominent part in the proceedings of the so-called "Douglas house." He was seated after a contest, and served through the session under the most trying times and under one of the most unusual situations ever developed in a legislative body. The Douglas and Dunsmore bodies of the lower house both occupied the representative hall and both attempted to legislate at the same time. Mr. Elting was one of the party which broke down the door of the house which the populists had locked in order to prevent entrance by the republicans. In this incident Representative Elting came near causing the death of Populist Clemens, who was merely a spectator, but had raised a club to strike Douglas when Mr. Elting drew a pistol and interrupted the battle. At the close of his one term he was defeated for re-election by a strong populist constituency. Mr. Elting was everywhere known as a fighter, and fear was not a part of his makeup.
He was also active in local affairs. He helped organize Kansada School District, and was postmaster of the Kansada country postoffice from its establishment until he moved out of that locality. His mother was a member of Doctor Talmadge's Brooklyn church, but he was never a church member, though believing in churches and was strong for temperance and a supporter of the statewide prohibition movement. He was a Master Mason, a member of the Cattlemen's Association and of the Anti-Horse Thief Association.
He spent his last years at Utica, where he died in November, 1905, and both he and his wife now rest in the Utica Cemetery. It was after he came to Shelby County, Missouri, that Richard O. Elting married Miss Mary Short, who was born there, a daughter of Rev. John Short, a Methodist minister. Rev. John Short married a Miss Adams, a descendant of John Adams and of an old Virginia family. Mrs. R. O. Elting died in December, 1885. Their children are: Cornelius H., a lawyer of Durant, Oklahoma; John S., who died in 1898, while serving as postmaster at Utica; Dr. William V., a physician and farmer of Ness County; James H.; Richard O., who occupies the old homestead; Dr. Catherine H., who graduated from the medical department of the University of Kansas in 1911, spent some time as assistant physician in the Lincoln State Hospital, Lincoln, Illinois, and prior to that was a physician in the Warren, Pennsylvania, Insane Asylum; and Scott D., who lives in Barry County, Missouri.
James Hardenburg Elting was born in Shelby County, Missouri, December 22, 1872, and came to Ness County with his parents at the age of seven years. He attended the country schools, had six months in the Central Normal College at Great Bend, and taught three terms of country school in Ness County. He then took up a homestead in Eden Township, in section 29, township 17, range 26, and became a farmer. A great incentive to his efforts were his wife and child, and his first equipment was a team and about four cows. His first home was a sod house, the popular dwelling of that time. He replaced it with a small structure of two rooms, and lived in that until he proved up the claim. The homestead is still a part of his landed possessions. The money he earned as a teacher he invested in his first cow, and by placing his dependence chiefly on cattle raising he was able to provide for his family until crop conditions became more favorable. His experience has demonstrated that a combination of growing rough feeds and the staple spring crops, together with cattle raising, is the most ideal and profitable for this section. As a stockman he handles the better grades, chiefly the White Face strain. As his farm has paid profits they have been invested in other lands, and he has added to his homestead 6 1/2 quarter sections. Of this 250 acres are under cultivation. Since 1893 Mr. Elting has made an effort to raise wheat, and in all the years subsequent he has had three failures, in 1911, 1913 and 1917. His business as a feeder of cattle has grown in recent years, and he has shipped many carloads to the Kansas City market.
Almost since he became of age Mr. Elting has served as treasurer of school district No. 59. He is now treasurer of his township, and served four years as county clerk of Ness County, having been elected in 1904 as successor to Lorin Ferrel. It was during his administration as county clerk that the forfeited school lands case was in the courts and was finally settled by an act of the Legislature, "backed up by public opinion," a situation that caused the Supreme Court to reverse itself in its former ruling regarding the case. Mr. Elting is a republican, has no lodge membership, and the family incline to the Christian Church.
In Osage County, Kansas, in November, 1896, Mr. Elting married Miss Henrietta Young. Her father, James Young, came to Kansas from Illinois, first locating at Bunker Hill, afterwards moving to Osage County, and he died at Pittsburg, Kansas. Mr. and Mrs. James Young, both of whom are now deceased, had the following children: Maggie, who died in Illinois as Mrs. George Foster; Nannie, who married Will Terry, of Newton, Kansas; Mrs. Elting, who was born November 2, 1871; Myrtle, wife of Richard O. EIting; Silas, of Wichita, Kansas; James and Eugene, of Ness County; Frank E., of Omaha, Nebraska; and Albert, of Ness County.
Mr. and Mrs. James H. Elting have the following children: Chester L., who is in the United States navy; Mary E., J. Richard, John S., Dwight, Wade and William Eugene.
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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