SIMON HENRY FERTIG. A varied picture of Western Kansas life as lived by the pioneers, and one rich in incidents and experiences, is presented by the career of Simon Henry Fertig, a farmer of Logan Township, Pawnee County, who settled there in 1878.
He was born September 2, 1855, in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, Augusta Township, now Rockefeller Township, three miles southeast of Sunberry, and is of German ancestry. His father, John Joseph Fertig, was born in Weisbaden, Germany, and when seven years of age came with his father, Anthony Fertig, to America. Anthony Fertig settled in the coal regions of Pennsylvania, and he had two sets of children. Anthony and Adam were sons of his first wife, and the children of the second union were John J., Francis M., and Mary. Mary became the wife of John Kramer and spent her life in Pennsylvania. It is said that the son Anthony, on reaching New York City, gazed about him rather disgustedly and asked "how soon does the first boat go back," and suiting his actions to the word immediately returned to Europe. Adam and Francis M. both died in Pennsylvania.
When Simon H. Fertig was born his father was in the employ of Congressman William Durard. In 1859 the family moved to Snyder County and occupied the Durard farm. The father was a renter, and a year later moved to the Dunbaugh estate nearby, and in April, 1861, went to the J. K. Davis farm a half mile from Selins Grove. In 1878 John J. Fertig moved to the Kreider farm. In the meantime Simon H. Fertig had been growing up in the Selins Grove locality and obtained his education in the Ott schoolhouse there. As a boy he always did his part in the work of the farm, and on attaining his majority started his independent career. When twenty-three years of age he had accumulated several hundred dollars of his own.
On the 9th of April, 1878, the same month that his father moved to the Kreider farm, Simon Henry Fertig started for Kansas and arrived in Pawnee County on the 12th of April, three days later. Early in March, 1879, his father followed him here. In this state John J. Fertig continued as a farmer and took as a homestead the southeast quarter of section 10, township 22, range 15. He proved it up and improved and developed a splendid property before his death. He and his wife were buried on the old homestead. He died November 5, 1907, at the age of eighty-one, and his wife passed away February 6, 1917, and would have been eighty-five on the 14th of that month. She was born in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, of Pennsylvania Dutch stock, her maiden name being Catherine Welker. She was one of the twelve children of Peter Welker. John J. Fertig and wife had the following children: Simon H.; Wilhelmina, who died unmarried in Pawnee County; Mary, who lives near her brother Simon, John W., who married Virginia Umberger, also of Pawnee County; Catherine and George H., both of whom died in childhood. John J. Fertig lived honorably and usefully all his career, though his vocation was confined simply to farming. He was much interested in religious matters and was active in the Evangelical Association. In politics he was a democrat practically throughout his career. On reaching Pawnee County Simon H. Fertig bought a tract of school land, the northeast quarter of section 16, township 22, range 15, which was appraised at $4 an acre. After making his first payment on this quarter section, on August 17, 1878, he had just $1 left to live on. His pioneer house was a frame structure 12 by 16, containing two rooms and basement, and in this home his children grew up. His first work animals were a "plug team" which, with harness and plow, cost $175. He made no crop in 1878, and worked around at farm labor as he could get it. The year 1879 is remembered as perhaps the hardest year of all the frontier ones. That season Mr. Fertig harvested twenty-one bushels of wheat from eight acres of his own land and fifteen bushels was his share from forty acres of rented land. The rest of his crop that year consisted merely of the hay cut from the prairie.
In the fall of 1875 Mr. Fertig took upon himself the responsibilities of a home of his own. He was married October 18th, at New Berlin, to Miss Sarah Benfer, of Pennsylvania German stock. Her mother was Magdalena Dreese. Mrs. Fertig was one of a family of six daughters and two sons. The son Abraham was a Union soldier during the Civil war. Mrs. Fertig has two living sisters, Mrs. Amelia Wetzel and Mrs. Elizabeth Price of Paxinose, Pennsylvania.
From his meager crop of 1879 Mr. Fertig took what was necessary for flour for himself and wife during the following year and sowed the remainder. The stalks reached a height of about six inches but the heads were so close to the sod that it could not be cut and the entire sowing was lost. As there was no crop prospect that year Mr. Fertig went to New Mexico and sought employment with the Santa Fe Railway Company on construction as "a bridge and tic wrestler." The Santa Fe Company passed him out and back twice for this purpose. He started work near Las Vegas and worked to San Marchiel, Fort Craig, and then returned home. During August, 1880, he made $39.50 clear above expenses, and that was more money than the whole Township of Pleasant Valley had altogether.
From 1880 to 1900 crops in the community fluctuated up and down, some years almost nothing and other years with abundant yields. Altogether there was hardly enough to keep the Fertig family going without resort to outside work, and Mr. Fertig was never slow to accept outside employment when he could get it. Ten years after moving to his farm he owed $10 more upon it than the original purchase price.
In the early days it was his custom to select the best of the nubbins of corn for bread for his family, and he ground the meal himself on a "sweep grinder." They had fried mush and water for breakfast often and vice versa for the next meal. Black-eyed peas and rice corn were an important part of their food. A dollar's worth of sugar lasted a year, whereas now it requires four hundred-pound sacks.
About 1890 Mr. Fertig was in a position to buy more land, and paid cash, $900, for his first quarter. Up to that time he had bought many horses on time payments, and it taxed his utmost resources to keep a team force. At one time his horses were reduced to one old gray, and making a pair of shafts he hitched this "plug" to his Mitchell wagon and did his hauling with one horse. Later he traded about so as to get rid of this horse and supplied himself with a team of mules, and with that began plowing and sowing wheat. For the mules he had given his note for an additional $160. His wife asked, "now that you have the mule team and more debt, what are you going to do?" His reply was "I am going to sow wheat this fall and if I don't get a crop I am going to hitch the mules to a wagon and we'll drive out of here." Fifty-one weeks after his wheat was sown he had the crop threshed. He sold the crop for more than $1,400. This success encouraged him to try again, and buying a second span of mules, he sowed another big crop and from it got nothing in the way of harvest and not even repayment for wages. That was perhaps a sample of the vicissitudes suffered by him and other pioneers. Later things began to look up, and after he had been about twenty years in Pawnee County he enjoyed witnessing the first general rain, whereas before the country had been favored with nothing more than thunder showers.
During the '80s Mr. Fertig and a neighbor usually spent Friday afternoons shooting prairie chickens and jackrabbits. They sold them and bought groceries for the following week. In all those years "chips" were gathered for fuel, sometime varied with corn stalks. He and Charles W. Norris and brother hauled 2,100 bushels of chips out of George E. Ripple's corral one winter.
In making permanent improvements Mr. Fertig built as his first barn a structure that cost $175. It was 16 by 32 feet, with a shed the same dimensions. It stood and did good service twenty-one years and one month before it was replaced, in 1916, by a new iron barn, 42 by 52 feet in ground dimensions, 12 foot to the eaves, and 33 feet to the comb. It also has a shed in the rear 24 by 32 feet. Mr. Fertig has a granary with 5,000 bushels capacity, and these are a few of the more important of his permanent improvements. His home is 18 by 32 feet, two stories, with a wing 12 by 16, and this was erected from August to December, 1890. Later a kitchen and bathroom were added. Besides his extensive interests as a farmer Mr. Fertig has a small amount of stock in the Solid Rock Creamery at Larned.
He is not a party man in politics, and has kept out of offices of all kinds, except one year as township clerk. He holds his religious membership in the Evangelical Association.
Mr. Fertig and his wife have three children: John Philip, the oldest, was born February 7, 1880, and by his marriage to Addie Hinkle has two children, Donald and Kenneth. Mollie May, the second child, is the wife of L. R. Weekley, of Bent County, Colorado, and has two children, Gretchen Marie and Emmet Henry. The third and youngest has shown ability not only as a practical farmer but as a machinist and he is now in the army, a machinist in the aviation corps.
Mr. Fertig is the oldest settler left in Logan Township. He possesses a keen comprehension and memory of incidents and conditions that tried the wits and mettle of pioneers while laying the foundation of society and agriculture in the heart of the great American desert which his school geography told him of back in the Ott School in Pennsylvania when he was a boy.
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
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