ABSOLOM B. HARVEY. Some of the interesting events and experiences of pioneer life in Western Kansas are intermingled with the personal story and record of Absolom B. Harvey, one of the oldest residents and most prominent farmers of Seward County, where he located more than thirty years ago in 1885.
Mr. Harvey is one of those men whose years from earliest childhood have been spent in close touch with the serious and practical things of life, oftentimes with real hardships and for long periods with scantiest provision of money and other resources to separate him from the dire status of poverty. Mr. Harvey was born in Tipton County, Indiana, August 28, 1858. His grandparents were Absolom and Edith (Brown) Harvey, who came out of North Carolina and were pioneer settlers in Tipton County, Indiana, where both of them are buried. Their children were: Doctor Reuben, who spent his life as a physician at Lancaster, Indiana; Randolph, who was a Union soldier during the Civil war and otherwise lived in Tipton County; James M.; Mrs. Tenny Acres; and Mrs. Elizabeth Plummer.
James M. Harvey, father of Absolom B., was born in Tipton County, Indiana, when that region was still new and sparsely settled. He had a limited education, and about the time the Civil war closed he took his family from Indiana and settled along the west line of Labette County, Kansas. He was one of the pioneers in Southeastern Kansas, acquired a claim, proved it up and remained there a farmer the rest of his days. He died in 1880, when forty-five years of age, and is buried at Oswego. Considering his rather brief career and the circumstances and time in which he lived he gained a fair degree of prosperity for himself and for those dependent upon him. He married Mary Bailey, daughter of David Bailey. She died in Tipton County, Indiana, in 1860, leaving two children, Absolom B. and Reuben, the latter a resident of St. Clair County, Missouri. For his second wife James M. Harvey married Delilah Bailey, a cousin of his first wife, and a daughter of Ruth Bailey. By this marriage there were two children, Ida and Minnie, both of whom died unmarried.
All the schooling Absolom B. Harvey had was obtained before he was ten years of age. He could read and write, knew something about the four rules of arithmetic, and had just enough of the fundamentals to serve his purposes and enable him to build up a practical education by experience with men and affairs in after life. He grew up in Labette County when that was by no means as populous and well improved a section as it is today. While a school boy he worked out as a "close herder" on the small ranches of Labette County, or gained some experience as a farm hand. On December 25, 1878, before he was twenty-one years of age, he married Miss Ruth A. Murphey, who was born July 25, 1859, daughter of Jesse Bell and Eliza (Johnson) Murphey. John Johnson was Mrs. Murphey's father, and her mother was Sarah Moore. Jesse B. Murphey's father was William Murphey who married Nancy Simmons, both of North Carolina, and both the Murphey and Moore families were pioneers in Cooper, Manitou and Putnam counties, Missouri. Jesse B. Murphey was reared in North Missouri, was a farmer and Baptist preacher and spent his life in Missouri, being buried in St. Clair County, that state. The Murphey family were Mrs. Sarah Scott; William; Mrs. Lou Turner; Mrs. Ruth Harvey; Mrs. Margaret Harvey, who married Absolom Harvey's brother, Reuben; John, who died as a young man; and Eliza, who married John Williamson.
At the time of his marriage Mr. Harvey had a team, wagon and harness and a couple of cows, with some other farm equipment. He married in St. Clair County, Missouri, and he lived there about five years before coming into Western Kansas. On coming to Kansas in 1885 he brought along a span of ponies, an old wagon, loaded with household goods, and his wife and two children. All the cash he possessed he brought with him, less than $10.
Arriving in Seward County he took a homestead along the Cimarron River, in section 7, township 32, range 33. This homestead is now part of his hay ranch. He also proved up a pre-emption in the county, northeast of old Fargo. These two entries completed his taking up of the public domain. His first home in the county was a sod shanty on his preemption. On his homestead he erected a pioneer home of two rooms, one room being a sod kitchen. With that simple shelter he managed to exist for seven years while proving up. The only evidence of that habitation still visible is the mound where the kitchen stood. While making a living and getting started in this new country Mr. Harvey took in cattle to graze and winter, and looked after the few stock he owned himself. All the actual cultivation of the soil he did was handling a small garden. For provisions he went to the Santa Fe Railway at Cimarron or Garden City, from which point he freighted until the Rock Island Railway was built through Seward County and a station established at Arkalon.
After some years Mr. Harvey was able to buy a quarter section adjoining his homestead, and this he comfortably improved by planting forest trees and moving his own home from the lowlands along the river to its healthier and sightlier place, where he made ample provision for his children as they grew up. Through all the years Mr. Harvey has continued in the stock business. The nucleus of his herd was two cows which he bought on credit. They represented the common stock of that day, but he has bred up to a good grade of White Face cattle. When his industry was at its height he had about 250 head of cattle on the range on pasture and usually shipped his own stock to market. With the surplus of his operations as a cattle man he continued to buy land when it was cheap until he had developed a ranch of twelve quarter sections. His home is now on section 26, township 33, range 33, where he owns a half section, all improved under his own supervision. Here he does some farming in connection with ranching, raising the feed stuffs best adapted to this region.
Mr. Harvey tasted of the hardships of this region so frequently up to 1890 that he then sought a new district which he hoped would be better adapted to farming. Following the impulse to find something better in a strange land he moved clear to Oregon and in Union County attempted to raise a crop of wheat. However, most of his time in the Northwest was spent as a worker in a sawmill. It did not take long for him to realize that conditions in the Northwest were not favorable to a man who had to rely upon his individual efforts and did not have the capital to hire labor and facilities. Fortunately he had kept the lands he owned in Kansas and he decided to return to this state and give it another trial. The trip back to Kansas he made overland, and was almost three months on the way. It was not a journey fraught with experiences with hostile red men or other dangers, and his chief embarrassment was due to lack of ready money to buy supplies. However, being without money was a condition to which he had been inured practically since he was twelve years of age, and when he returned to Kansas without money that was merely one more thing that made him feel at home in this state.
Mr. Harvey has done his part as a good citizen. He helped organize the old Fargo Springs School District and served as a member of its board. He has served as trustee of Fargo Township, and as a democrat frequently attended party conventions in former years. Mrs. Harvey cast her first ballot as a prohibitionist and has been an active church woman all her life, being a member of the Missionary Baptist faith.
Mr. and Mrs. Harvey have five children and a number of grandchildren, and they have now reached the time in life when they take their greatest satisfaction in the joys of the younger people who have gone out from their home. The oldest child is William Lee, who graduated in law at the head of his class in Washburn College, Topeka, then read law with Gleed, Ware and Gleed there, served one term as county attorney of Seward County, and then went to the Rocky Mountains and resumed his practice until he began church work at Notus, Idaho. He is now a Baptist preacher in Notus, Idaho, where he practiced law eight years. He married Annie Kessler and their children are John, Alice and Pauline. James D., the second son, is a prospering young farmer in Haskell County, Kansas, and by his marriage to Jessie Lamberson has five children, Chester, Clarence, Fred, Gertrude and Myrtle. The third son is Thomas V., of Seward County. He married Eleanor Rollins and has two sons, Richard and Don. The second child of the family, Grace, has two children, Ruth and Maxine, by her first husband, Price Pritchard, and she is now the wife of Frank Sullivan, of Indiana, by whom she has sons, Downey Maxwell and Absolom. Mary, the youngest child, died at Twin Falls, Idaho, February 22, 1917, leaving two surviving sons, Lawrence and Frank, by her marriage to Frank Phillips, and her children are growing up in the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Harvey.
Numerous incidents which serve to show how poor this Harvey family was might be cited here, but space forbids the mention of them all. Food was so scarce that economy was one of the virtues that Mrs. Harvey learned early here. During the day and night of the big blizzard of 1886 they were out of coal and to keep from freezing they burned the wagon box, and their homemade dining table. The scarcity of fuel not infrequently forced Mrs. Harvey and the children to go to bed to keep warm.
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
Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project