ZACHARIAH F. HODSON'S experience in Western Kansas covered chiefly two counties, Reno and Edwards. These experiences are the material for history since they show the conditions under which the pioneers wrought out homes and the institutions of civilization in the great plains. His life was a factor in Western Kansas. Besides his achievements here Mr. Hodson deserves the credit of the present and succeeding generations, for the valiant service he rendered as a Union soldier during the war.
Before taking up the story of his experiences in Kansas it will be appropriate to refer to his early life. He comes of a family of pioneers. This is well indicated by naming his birth place and the date of his birth. It was in Iowa on April 30, 1843. Iowa was still a territory and the Hodson family had gone there and hewed a home from the wilderness. His grandfather, Zachariah Hodson, was a North Carolina man. Mr. Hodson's father was Benjamin Franklin Hodson, who was born and reared in Indiana and in early life went to Iowa, where he died in 1844, at the age of twenty-five. His son Zachariah was his only child. Zachariah's mother's maiden name was Rachel Smith. She was born and reared in Indiana, daughter of Reuben and Margaret Smith, who also came from North Carolina. She survived her husband many years, marrying again, and died as Mrs. Van Doren at Ocean Side, California, in 1893, at the age of eighty-three. By her second marriage she had children as follows: Malinda, Isaac, Mary, Martha and Jasper, all still living except Malinda, who died in Nebraska in 1916.
Zachariah F. Hodson grew up in Iowa when it was still a raw and new country. He got his education chiefly by mixing with the world and by studying as opportunity presented and mastering the rudiments of reading, writing, arithmetic and history.
He was still under age when he answered the call of patriotism and enlisted at Vinton, Iowa, on August 1, 1862, in Company D of the Twenty-Eighth Iowa Infantry. His Captain was Henry M. Wilson and his colonel, B. W. Wilson. He was mustered in at Camp Pope, went from there to Davenport, and got into the enemy country at Helena, Arkansas. By individual service he knew practically all the details of the great Vicksburg campaign. He fought at the battle of Port Gibson on May 1, 1863, and was in other engagements around Vicksburg, Edwards Depot, Rocky Springs and Champion Hill, at which latter place he was wounded. He was in the armies which besieged Vicksburg for forty days and was there when the surrender occurred on the 3rd of July, 1863. He then helped chase General Joseph E. Johnston through Kentucky, and from there was sent back to Vicksburg, Natchez and to New Orleans for the winter. His next experience as a soldier was in the somewhat disastrous Red River campaign under Banks. He was at the battle of Sabine Cross Roads, Pine Hill and other engagements. With his regiment he then returned to New Orleans and was soon transferred to the eastern scene of hostilities, going from Washington into the Shenandoah Valley. He fought at the battles of Winchester, Fisher's Hill, Cedar Creek, the scene of Sheridan's ride. He was mustered out at Savannah, Georgia, July 31, 1865, almost three years to the day from the time he entered the army.
After the war Mr. Hodson married and began farming in Tama County, Iowa. From there he came out to Kansas in the spring of 1872 and took up a soldier's homestead in Albion Township of Reno County. Accompanying him to this state were his wife and one child. His wealth, besides the possibilities of his own industry, consisted of three horses and two cows. He brought no capital to Kansas. His first home was a box house 12 by 14 feet, a single room with a shingle roof. It should be recalled that the year 1872 was an extremely early one for permanent settlers in Western Kansas. The Indians had not yet ceased their hostilities and the countless herds of buffalo still roamed at will over the wide and unfenced prairies. In fact, during his first year in Kansas the buffalo supplied Mr. Hodson with his chief occupation. This was in killing and skinning the buffalo, and it was not until the spring of 1873 that he broke up fifty acres of land and planted it to sod corn. He had an abundant crop that year and he repeated the same process in 1874, having in the meantime acquired a few cattle, and altogether his outlook was extremely bright. Besides the first fifty acres he broke up twenty acres more, and this corn was all thrifty and had tasseled out when in the early days of July the scourge of grasshoppers came in such numbers as to shut out the light of the sun and in a few hours they had consumed everything green, leaving nothing but the bare stalks of the corn and taking everything in garden and field.
When one considers what complete ruination such a calamity caused it is marvelous how as many of the Kansas pioneers stood the test as well as they did. Mr. Hodson apparently had no thought of giving up the fight merely because of this calamity. There was no possibility of growing another crop the same year, and he began hauling buffalo bones to Hutchinson. The price for bones that year was between $6 and $8 a ton. He managed to make a living by hard and continuous work. At first it was not difficult to secure a load of bones in the immediate vicinity of his homestead. Gradually the bones were picked up and he had to go farther and farther away. Toward the close of the year it required a day to drive his wagon where bones could be collected, another day to gather a load, a third day to return home, and the next day was spent in making the journey to Hutchinson. With another day to return home he had put in five days of labor for one load of bones, which averaged about a ton. This occupation gave him means whereby to sustain his family and put in a crop. The year 1875 was more fortunate and his crop put him on his feet financially.
The grasshopper year was the climax of his misfortunes in Kansas. After that there was never a time when he was without means of making a living. In the early days grazing land was plentiful and he had to raise very little feed in order to fatten a steer for the market. As a cattleman he built up a herd of about 125, and finally sold his land and stock and in 1884 moved to Edwards County.
Edwards County was still pretty much of a wilderness and he was able to buy three quarters of a section of railroad land for $1,200. He went to work to improve this and at the end of eighteen months sold 160 acres for $1,000. This sale enabled him to get out of debt, and all the surplus he invested in stock. His first Edwards County home was another box house, with a stable of the same kind, and at one end a granary. His rising good fortune enabled him in 1890 to build on his farm a commodious eleven-room, two-story frame house, and in 1895 he put up a barn 30 by 40 feet, with sheds on three sides. This barn gave him storage for twenty tons of hay and room enough for eight head of horses and shed room for his cattle. He also had a granary with capacity of 2,000 bushels.
When Mr. Hodson came into Edwards County he did so with the expectation of getting into the cattle business on a large scale, but in two years from the date of his settlement all the land had been taken up by homesteaders and rather than seek the opportunities of ample range elsewhere he decided to remain and give his children the privileges of the better educational opportunities found in this settled community. He assisted his children to acquire land for themselves and has contented himself with the ownership of a half section. In farming his main crop was wheat. In 1906 Mr. Hodson sold all his stock and then built a five-room house at Lewis, where he passed away. He owned stock in the Farmers Elevator at Lewis.
Mr. Hodson assisted in organizing the Lone Star School District in Reno County, was a member of other school boards and in other local offices. Politically he was a republican and confined his attention to local affairs in a political direction. He affiliated with the T. A. Howe Post, Grand Army of the Republic, at Kinsley. He gave his children good educational advantages and his success was such in Kansas as to constitute him one of the most loyal citizens of the state.
On September 17, 1868, about three years after he returned from the war, Mr. Hodson married Anna Jewell. She was born in Wayne County, Indiana, January 3, 1849, and her father, Reuben Jewell, was a native of New York State of Scotch descent, and died at Hutchinson, Kansas, June 17, 1899, at the age of eighty-four. Her mother was Marrianna Van Zant, born in Ohio. Mr. and Mrs. Hodson have a number of grandchildren. Their oldest daughter, Myrtle, is the wife of L. L. Brown, of Chandler, Oklahoma, their children being Freeman, Constance, Keith, Paul, John, Clara and Victor. Gertrude, the second daughter, married D. A. Guthrie, of Edwards County. Their family consists of Gilbert, Elton, Austin, Edith, Lawrence and Donald. Cora, the third daughter, married Bert Wilkerson, of Edwards County, and is the mother of Vernon, Milton, Anna, Frank, Leola, Vivian and Edwin. The only son is Warren Adelbert, who resides at Pierce City, Missouri, and married Virgia A. Martina. Mr. Hodson passed away June 3, 1918.
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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