OSCAR ADELBERT HARTLEY. The great American problem is and always has been how to get along and how to get ahead. The solution of that question is more important to the individual than the broader issues which divide people into political partes and which confront the nation as a whole. The individual has very little leisure or inclination for politics or for anything else until he knows how to meet the economic demands that are represented by bread and butter, home and shelter.
Nearly every successful man in Western Kansas has had his own peculiar experiences in solving these problems. Not the least interesting among them is the experience of Oscar Adelbert Hartley, now a successful merchant at Brownell in Ness County.
Mr. Hartley came to Kansas in 1891. He came from the East and was induced to make the trip through a cousin who already lived in Ness County. He arrived at Brownell by railroad, and was possessed of about $50 when he got off the train. That money he invested in seed wheat, put in a crop, and the following year reaped a bountiful harvest. Though wheat then sold for only a fraction of the price it now commands, he made a profit out of the venture. In 1894 Mr. Hartley entered a homestead in Bazine Township.
The first thing he did in the way of improvements was to build a house. He secured the material from an old chicken house at Brownell. The dimensions were 8 by 12. He tore down the house at Brownell, moved it out to his claim, and set it up, and when ready for occupancy he brought his young wife there. It was a very small room, not much larger than an average bed room. A storm came up, rose to the fury of a Kansas blizzard, and as his horses were without protection he brought them into the narrow quarters occupied by himself and the family. He and his wife went to bed in order to make more room for the stock. The horses repaid the kindness by eating the hay from the bed-tick. As might be imagined, the house was only a box, there were cracks between the planks on every side, and there was no necessity for providing the elaborate means of ventilation which are found in modern homes.
In the fall of that year Mr. Hartley bought $5 worth of coal as his winter fuel supply. When the next spring arrived the coal pile was undiminished. He had also gathered cow chips and made a pile of them as high as his house, and these proved adequate as fuel, so that no call was made upon the coal.
Those various experiences he can now look back upon not without the pleasure of recollection. At the same time his venture in developing a claim proved somewhat profitable. He acquired a few cattle, and that was the most profitable branch of his enterprise. For eight years he and his family lived on the claim, and he then exchanged his farm for land near Brownell. He also established his home in the town, and besides looking after his farming interests he earned enough for the support of the household by employment as a section hand at daily wages of $1.25. He worked ten months on the section, and at the end of that time an opportunity came to purchase an interest in a store, and he is now a member of the prosperous firm of Coughenour & Hartley.
Mr. Hartley was born February 21, 1868, near Logansport in Cass County, Indiana. Most of his youth was spent in Jackson County, West Virginia. He came to Kansas from Liverpool, West Virginia. Jackson County borders the Ohio River, and as a boy he lived on both sides of that river and in the states of Ohio and West Virginia. His education came from attending local schools a few months each year, and he had to walk three or four miles between home and schoolhouse. He made his home with his mother until he came west, but in the meantime was paying his own way by work, and as a boy he was not so particular as to the kind of employment as many young men are in the present time. He was employed with a bridge gang on the R., S. & G. Railway of West Virginia, also worked at monthly wages on the farm, and did any other employment which offered itself.
His father, Peter J. Hartley, was born in West Virginia, and during the Civil war he enlisted in the Eighteenth Ohio Infantry and served three years and six months, being wounded in the battle of Chattanooga. Aside from his military experience he spent his active career as a farmer. He died in 1883, at the age of fifty-five. He married Sarah Harper, whose father, Temple Harper, was a West Virginia farmer. She is still living at the age of seventy-five and makes her home at Akron, Ohio. Peter Harley was a republican and he and his wife Methodists. Of their seven children only two are now living. The four who grew up were: Winfield S., who died in West Virginia leaving children; Oscar Adelbert; Thornton, who died in West Virginia unmarried; and Eva Belle, now Mrs. M. S. J. Walter, of Akron, Ohio.
About two years after coming to Ness County, on September 23, 1893, Mr. Hartley married Miss Clara E. Vastine. She was born in Henry County, Missouri, a daughter of William B. and Emeretta (Kinnie) Vastine. Her father was a Pennsylvanian, and on coming west he spent some time in Illinois and Missouri and finally located in Kansas. He and his wife had the following children: W. A. Vastine, who died in Ness County leaving children; Mrs. Hartley; Daisy, wife of William Parks, of Brownell; and Captain Lewis, who lives in Pendennis, Kansas.
Mr. and Mrs. Hartley have two children: Daisy E., a student of music in Ottawa University, and Ward D., also attending school in Ottawa.
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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