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., [155] leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.


Lee S. Greathouse

LEE S. GREATHOUSE. One of the most attractive and prosperous sections of Western Kansas is Pleasant Valley Township of Finney County. Its history as the home of permanent settlers covers hardly more than thirty years and of the chief families who can claim to have participated in the development of these three decades none has been more prominent than the Greathouse. Much of the real and important history of the locality can be told incidental to the career of Mr. Lee S. Greathouse, who has spent the successful portion of his Kansas career in the vicinity of Terryton.

It was in March, 1886, that the Greathouse family came to Finney County. There were several families in the colony that located in Pleasant Valley Township that year, and Lee Greathouse's parents were leaders among those "who pitched their tents" and expressed their confidence in the far West. Lee Greathouse brought with him in an emigrant car a plug horse, a scrub mule, a filley and three heifers. He also brought along a house already framed, and a small barn. These he erected on the northwest quarter of section 9, township 22, range 32, his homestead. That was the scene of his maiden activities on the frontier. His cash capital was so short that he was obliged to borrow money to pay his freight bill before he could unload his car. Thus he started his Kansas career in debt. Another financial obligation was incurred when he commuted his claim and secured his patent from the Government. In the exercise of his right to the public domain he proved up a timber claim in Scott County.

For many years Iowa had been the home of the Greathouse family. That was and is a magnificent corn growing country. Mr. Greathouse's success in growing corn on the sod the first year he came to Kansas encouraged him, like others, to believe that this staple would flourish in Western Kansas. The next year he planted corn even more extensively, but the season was dry and the stalks dried up. The next year and the next were also years of little moisture, and the Greathouses had to figure closely how they would manage to live and still keep their interests in Kansas.

About that time Lee S. Greathouse acquired a tract of land in Iowa and decided to occupy it as a means contributing to the support of his father's household in Kansas. The father remained in charge in Kansas, while the son spent nine more years in Iowa, making periodical trips back to Kansas. During that time he witnessed the harvesting of some splendid crops, a matter which encouraged him eventually to return. The crop of 1892 produced twenty-five bushels of wheat to the acre, and the Greathouses had a large acreage that year. To many settlers who remained this famous crop proved both a blessing and a disaster. It encouraged them to continue sowing wheat until they were reduced to poverty, so many droughts having followed each other in succession.

Lee Greathouse fortunately was not snared by this profligacy of nature into pinning his faith to grain at the beginning of his second and permanent connection with Kansas. He chose the stock route to success, depending upon his soil to produce enough feed for the winter, while the free grazing of the wide expanse of everybody's pasture for stock food was sufficient in summer. It was a wise choice, since his combination of mixed farming and stock has so prospered him that his land domain has been widened and extended and for years he has enjoyed a reputation as one of the most successful and influential stock men of the country. His horses of the Percheron strain have been bred up to a grade pronounced by an expert to be the finest class in this region. With cattle he has crossed the White Face with the Shorthorn and has thus developed a beef animal unequaled by any other with which his experience has acquainted him.

Mr. Greathouse's ranch embraces eleven quarter sections. Nine of these were added by purchase at from $75 to $750 a quarter. His location is in the shallow water field and his supply of pure water at a depth of thirty feet is sufficient to slake the summer thirst of all the stock within reach of his wells. Pasture shade is the only essential lacking to make his locality the ideal one for grazing, and this feature might be supplied by giving more attention to tree planting on the banks of ponds filled from wells where windmills stand wide open to the breeze.

As everyone knows the prevailing season in this section of Kansas is dry. While it is therefore unfavorable for grain, some splendid crops have been harvested. Wheat at twenty-six bushels, barley at forty-four, and corn at thirty bushels to the acre are not unknown to the settlers who had such crops in the ground when these prolific years came along.

The Greathouses settled in Finney County during the rush of emigrants from everywhere to find free homes in this region. Within a year after they came almost every section in Pleasant Valley Township was occupied by three families. The township was twelve miles square. Schoolhouses were hurriedly built, school districts multiplied, churches were organized, Sabbath schools and literary societies provided for the benefit of the young and other community matters common to old established sections came into being during the brief prosperity of population this country enjoyed. Three years of drought acted like an evaporator upon the locality. The population fled almost as suddenly as it came. The "stayers" bought up the schoolhouses and residences left behind and used the fields for pasture where they did not cultivate them. There was a gradual shrinkage until fewer than fifty people resided in the Pleasant Valley proper, while not more than 100 occupied the 144 sections comprising the township's area. During these years Mr. Greathouse took a turn at being trustee of the township and also as a member of the board of Silver Dale School.

Lee S. Greathouse was born in Pendleton County, Kentucky, December 4, 1858. In 1871, when he was thirteen, the family moved to Putnam County, Indiana. His education came chiefly from the common schools there. He learned farming under a painstaking father. His chief occupation about the time he became a man was as a teamster, and at one time he showed signs of becoming a professional mule driver. When the family moved out to Wayne County, Iowa, in the fall of 1881 he became more closely connected with farming and stock raising, but had achieved only slight success in the accumulation of goods and chattels prior to his advent to Kansas.

The people of Finney County will appreciate a tribute to some of the qualities and activities of his honored father, the late Thomas S. Greathouse, who, as above noted, was a settler and homesteader in Finney County the year following his son. Thomas S. Greathouse was born in Warren County, Kentucky, in 1820. He was a man of splendid influence and accomplishment wherever he lived. As a boy he exhibited extraordinary musical talent. His accomplishments as a singer brought him a wide fame, and he was also known for his industry as a farmer and his church work as a local preacher. His musical talent was encouraged and trained, and he taught vocal music for many years, continuing active until past sixty years of age. During the rebellion he sang among the camps of Confederate soldiers, voicing the national airs of the Union and other favorite strains of Yankee music expressive of his own sentiments upon the issues of the war. None the less he was unmolested in his person, and was applauded for the splendid talent he possessed and the entertainment he furnished. In physique Thomas S. Greathouse was large and strong and had the endurance of a man of iron. Many stories are told of his physical prowess. He especially excelled in swinging the old fashioned grain cradle. While he lived in Indiana he was challenged to a test with the cradle by a young fellow of twenty-eight. This challenger clapped his hands and smacked his chops at the idea of meeting such a snap as "Uncle Tommy" would prove to be. When the race was on and not yet near the end, Mr. Greathouse leading, the youngster called to him and declared there was something wrong with him, his tobacco didn't taste good. Without pausing in the steady swing of the cradle Uncle Tommy replied "Yes, I know what is the matter with you, this exercise is too violent and you need a rest." He advised the young man to get under a bush nearby and recuperate. Then the veteran with the cradle went on at the same champion lick he had established and finished the day with his competitor following several laps behind. Thomas Greathouse retained perfect health until an attack of paralysis, which caused his death. He was a noted pedestrian. When past eighty-four he harrowed on foot and sowed a seventy acre field of wheat which harvested twenty-six bushels to the acre the year he died. His good and useful career came to a close in 1905. Among other lines of activities and responsibilities which he carried were those of preaching as a Missionary Baptist local minister. He knew his Bible and could quote long chapters of it from memory. Both he and his sons were republicans.

Thomas S. Greathouse married Anjemima Williams, daughter of Owen Williams, of Pendleton County, Kentucky. She died June 29, 1917. Their children were: Mrs. F. M. Smith, of Fresno, California; Lee S.; and Flem E., of Pleasant Valley Township. In their family circle Thomas S. Greathouse and wife were the first to die. Their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are all still living.

January 28, 1886, in Wayne County, Iowa, Lee S. Greathouse married Miss Stella Wood. Her father, Jeremiah Wood, went to Iowa from Ohio. The maiden name of his wife was Eliza Holderbaum. In the Wood family the children were Miss Mary Wood; Isaac M., of Nebraska; Mrs. Greathouse was born January 7, 1865, in Wayne County, Iowa; and Clarence, of that county. Mr. and Mrs. Lee Greathouse have five children. Rolland, a farmer near his father's place, married Mrs. Ida Clark and their children are Lawrence, Isabel and Clark. Ralph, who carried the active responsibilities of his father's ranch until his call to Camp Funston in August, 1918, is the second son. Mabel, the oldest daughter, is now the wife of P. A. Lindner, of Finney County. Olive married I. S. Ruth, of Scott City, Kansas, and they have two children, Ira Sankey and George Leander. Helen is the wife of John Craig, of Finney County. Mr. and Mrs. Greathouse are active Baptists, and he has served as superintendent of the Sabbath school. He and his wife are also members of the Yeomen Order.


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., [155] leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.

Volume 4 - Table of Contents

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