DAVID H. HEATH went into Seward County as a permanent settler in 1886, the same year the county was organized. He took up a homestead and went to work to provide the necessities for his wife and children. If there was ever a time when a man needed all his resources, all his strength, all his endurance and all other possible aids it was at the outset of a pioneer adventure in Western Kansas. Mr. Heath has succeded[sic] more than ordinarily, but it is important here to emphasize the character of that success by mentioning the heavy handicap which was imposed upon him almost at the beginning of his Kansas career. He lost his right hand accidentally by gunshot, and when many men were barely making a living and were falling by the roadside of failure one by one possessed of two good hands and all the strength of their bodies, Mr. Heath managed to get through the ordeal and win the fight with only one sound arm.
Mr. Heath had a long and interesting life and has now rounded out three-quarters of a century of existence. Seventy-five years ago, on July 13, 1843, he was born in Crawford County, Pennsylvania. The year after his birth, in 1844, his parents moved to Huron County, Ohio, and in that section of the old Western Reserve he grew up on a farm and had a country school education.
He was not yet eighteen when on April 22, 1861, a few days after Fort Sumter was fired upon, he enlisted at Monrovia, Ohio, in Company G of the Twenty-Fourth Ohio Infantry, under Capt. Henry Terry and Col. Jacob Ammon. This regiment rendezvoused at Camp Chase and from there went into the West Virginia campaign, where he had his first engagement at Greenbrier. Later the regiment went into Tennessee and Kentucky, and he was at Shiloh, through which terrible conflict he came with only a single scratch of buckshot, and some months following was in the fight at Stone River or Murfreosboro. He was also in the great battle of Chickamauga and was in the preliminary fighting which opened up the great Atlanta campaign. He fought at Buzzard's Roost and in April, 1864, he was discharged at Acklin Place near Nashville. He then returned home and hired out by the month as a farm hand, and in September re-enlisted, this time in Company I of the Twenty-Fifth Ohio Infantry, under Col. Nat Houghton and Captain White. He joined his command at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and his first engagement was at Honey Hill, where a hole was shot through his clothes, and following that he was in the fight at Deveaux Nook, three days later at Indian Hill, and then in daily skirmishing for two or three weeks in South Carolina. He helped capture Charleston and subsequently did garrison duty at Columbia, South Carolina. He was finally given his honorable discharge at Charleston and came out of the army sound in body. Mr. Heath has always taken a great interest in the Grand Army of the Republic, which he joined while still living in Ohio. He has long been a member and is ex-commander of Liberal Post No. 205, Grand Army of the Republic. He attended the national reunion when it was held at Kansas City.
When Mr. Heath arrived in Seward County, April 8, 1886, he had a family but less than $500 in capital to stay him through the period of settlement. His first destination was old Fargo Springs, which was then the temporary county seat. He had staged from Garden City to this point. His family consisted of himself, his wife and four children. He selected as his location the northeast quarter of section 31, township 33, range 34, a pre-emption, located in Stevens County. This was the first tract of land to which he received a title. He lived there in a frame building 14 by 20 feet for a year and then entered as a homestead the southeast quarter of section 25, township 33, range 35. On this he built a sod house of two rooms, with a dirt floor and a board and sod roof. Four years passed before he was able to improve this home, and these four years were the hardest he had to endure in Kansas. Being unable to make a complete living from his own land he earned wages by working on the timber claims for absent settlers and by freighting from Cimarron to Fargo Springs. The improvement of his claim, the buying of equipment, including a team and plow, had absorbed all the modest capital which he brought with him, and in order to secure a deed to his homestead he mortgaged his pre-emption and eventually lost that land altogether. The first four or five years he spent in Kansas Mr. Heath gradually felt himself slipping backward instead of making progress. About that time, having secured a cow or two, he engaged in the cattle business on a modest scale, from that made his first real money, and then began the slow climb up hill again. He also attempted a crop of broom corn, and that proved profitable, while as Indian corn and other grains had cost him more money and effort than they brought. After the crisis had been passed and his fortune had begun to mend Mr. Heath undertook to secure more land and bought a section of school land, at $1.25 per acre. At the present time his land holdings comprise an even section. In the way of permanent improvements Mr. Heath had to satisfy himself by moving in buildings acquired from absent settlers and abandoned homes, and thus made himself a composite house, it being in fact four or five original homes gathered together in a group and arranged and systematized for his own convenience. He also constructed a barn 36 by 40 feet.
This old home and farm sheltered him and furnished opportunity for his busy career for a period of twenty-seven years. Mrs. Heath died there, and finally Mr. Heath leased the farm and has since made his home with a son.
Mr. Heath helped organize the first school district in this part of the county, District No. 4, and while living in Stevens County he filled every office in Lincoln Township and was County commissioner for a portion of one term, when he became disgusted with office holding and resigned. Politically he has frequented county conventions as a republican delegate and attended two state conventions from Stevens County. In a Topeka convention he helped nominate Governor Merrill for a second term, and at Hutchinson he helped nominate Governor Stanley for his first term. Mr. Heath cast his first presidential vote for General Grant and has been steadfastly republican for a period of fifty years.
Mr. Heath comes of an old and substantial American family. His grandfather, Henry Heath, was born near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and an interesting feature of his record is that he served as a soldier in the War of 1812 under Capt. James Cochran in the One Hundred Thirty-Fifth Regiment of Pennsylvania troops. He was a farmer and also a gunsmith. He had three wives, the second being Mary Hunter, the grandmother of Mr. Heath of Kansas.
The latter's father was John H. Heath, who was born in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, and came to manhood with only a limited education. He learned the trade of blacksmith and some years later gave up work at his trade to become a farmer. He was never in politics, had no desire for political prominence, and was quite content to live as a private citizen. He died in October, 1878, at the age of sixty-eight. Most of his mature years were spent in Huron County, Ohio. He married Caroline Crouch, who was born in New York State, daughter of Silas Crouch, and died a number of years before her husband. She was an active Baptist. Her children were: Elizabeth, who married Willard Reeves and died at Oberlin, Ohio; Mary, who married Edgar Munson and died at Milford, Iowa; Nancy, who married S. A. Misseldine and died at Milan, Ohio; David H.; John L., who served as a Union soldier and died at Norwalk, Ohio.
It was only a few years after he returned home from the army that David H. Heath married in Huron County, Ohio, January 26, 1869, Miss Sarah A. Wheaton. Mrs. Heath was born September 29, 1841, a daughter of John and Sarah (Clark) Wheaton. Both parents were natives of England, and her father was a butcher by trade. Besides Mrs. Heath the other Wheaton children were: William C., who served in the Union army with an Ohio regiment; Annie, who married John A. Krepps and lives in Toledo, Ohio; Phoebe, deceased wife of Ed Dare; Edward, of Siloam Springs, Arkansas; Carrie, wife of Alexander Chamberlain, of Toledo, Ohio. For more than forty years Mr. and Mrs. Heath traveled life's highway together as man and wife and in that time their children came to manhood and womanhood. Mrs. Heath died on the old homestead June 2, 1912. Of the children the eldest is Harry B., now living at Optima, Oklahoma, who married Minnie Giertz and has two children, Mabel and Hazel. Ralph M., the second child, a farmer near Liberal, married Cora Coats, daughter of William H. Coats, and their children are Estella, Elnora and Freda. Walter W., the third son, lives at Paul, Idaho, and by his marriage to Frances Cates has a lively household of children named Wilson, Helen, Hugh, Sarah, Dorothy and Bonnie.
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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