WALTER R. HOSKINSON. It is a proof, if proof were needed, that Western Kansas is a very new region, that a man only forty years old can be called a pioneer in a district where he was one of the first to settle and begin the work of improvement and where in a few brief years he has become more than well to do in lands, crops, improvements and all those things that from time immemorial have been accepted as security against poverty and the other ills most feared by mankind.
This young pioneer of East Center Township of Stevens County is Walter R. Hoskinson. He is a native of Kansas and his own children represent the fourth generation of the family to spend some years in the Sunflower commonwealth. His grandfather, Benjamin Hoskinson, was a West Virginian, moved his family from there to Iowa in early days and thence came to Kansas, locating in Wabaunsee County, but died at advanced age in Barber County. Among the children of his first wife were James W., Mrs. Hannah Bishop, Frank and Miner. He married a widow Brown, and by this union had George, Mrs. Hattie O'Flarity and Mrs. Nettie Sheddy.
James W. Hoskinson, father of Walter R., was born in West Virginia and was small when the family moved to Iowa. From that state he enlisted in the Union army in the Seventh Iowa Infantry. Four years of his life were passed as a soldier, and for all his exposure to danger he was never wounded nor captured. He was in Sherman's army most of the time, including the great campaign from Atlanta to the sea. After the war he moved to Wabaunsee County, Kansas, but spent most of his active farming years in Stafford County. He also filed a soldier's claim in Stevens County, and proved up by occupying it the required time. He finally moved to Liberal, and he died November 25, 1915, at the age of seventy-six. He was among the first to join the Grand Army of the Republic, and was much interested in the success of the republican party, though he sought no publicity for himself. By appointment he served once as a state oil inspector. In religion he was a member of the Friends' Church.
James W. Hoskinson married Pruella Dowd, daughter of Wesley Dowd. She was born in Miami County, Indiana, August 30, 1853, and died in Stafford County, Kansas, June 7, 1908. Their children were: Ira B., of Deer Trail, Colorado, married Emma Bond; Irwin W., of Grant County, Kansas, married Hattie Owens; Walter R.; Fred, a farmer of Stevens County, Kansas, married Angie Titus; James, Jr., of Moscow, Kansas, married Alice Dickson; Benjamin, a farmer of Stevens County, married Sena Campbell; and Jesse, of Moscow, married Lucy Gray.
When Walter R. Hoskinson was six years old his parents moved to Stafford County, nine miles south of Stafford, and there he passed the remaining years of his boyhood with such advantages as the common schools could bestow. In that locality he also raised his first crops on rented land. There was none of the wide choice of public domain for him such as had been open to his father and grandfather, and in order to get what was left of cheap land he came to the region where the inhabitants reckon time according to the mountain standard and took his homestead in East Center Township of Stevens County.
The possessions he brought with him were chiefly two teams, two cows and a calf. He had entered his claim the preceding January. It was a community absolutely new, though years before some claims had been taken and abandoned. The Hoskinson land was covered with a heavy growth of red bunch grass. Nine families, including the Hoskinsons, opened up this community, have made it blossom as the rose, and have been enriched by their efforts.
His experience at farming and grain raising back in Stafford County Mr. Hoskinson applied to his new claim in Stevens. Broom corn was his chief crop, and gave him profits of $35 an acre. He put up a shed to handle and cure the crop, and marketed it all at Liberal. For about three years he slackened up on this crop and tried wheat. There was a fine response for a season or two, after which the unreliability of wheat became notorious, and broom corn once more came into favor in his sight. He has kept growing such stock feeds as kaffir and maize, and in a number of seasons has experienced exceptional success with rye. One year as an experiment he sewed twenty bushels of seed rye, and was rewarded by a yield of 600 bushels. Mr. Hoskinson's judgment on corn is this: "On the sandy soil of this farm, and averaging the results of a five-year period, Indian corn will pay its way and return a profit, and it is of course the best fattening grain of them all."
On coming to Stevens County Mr. Hoskinson set out an orchard. His cherries and peaches have justified all the effort expended upon them. The Morello cherries not only gave abundance of fruit but the trees have proved invaluable as a windbreak to stock. The third year after setting he picked peaches, and every subsequent season has furnished some of this fruit to put away in the cellar for winter use.
There has been of course a regular progression in building improvements. The first house on the homestead was a frame 12 by 26, containing three rooms. That was the nucleus out of which was developed by addition and remodeling the comfortable home of six rooms which housed the family until 1918, when a modern nine-room bungalow was erected. The first barn was 14 by 24 feet, and this gave way to one 28 by 40, with a mow capacity of forty tons. Other buildings include a granary, poultry house, cow-shed, garage 12 by 20, broom-corn shed, cement milk house, and a windbreak for the stock.
Mr. Hoskinson, like the enterprising man he is, had not been here long when he began reaching out for more land. For the first quarter section he paid $750, and the last tract cost him $2,000. Out of the various purchases he has a farm of 960 acres, and fully 600 acres have been turned over by the plow and are capable of growing crops. Mixed farming has always been his ideal if not his practice. Dairying has been a regular part of the farm activities, and it has helped repair deficits in some other departments. He secured a separator and other equipment, and the sale of butter fat and butter from his Red Polled cows made him an average per month of $37.50 at the Liberal market. An adjunct of the dairy has been a drove of good hogs, and some of the profit from these might properly be credited to the dairy.
Mr. Hoskinson has also had a share in community building. He helped establish the first school, in district No. 35, and has been a member of the board since it was organized. Another early institution was a church society. Meetings were held in the schoolhouse for a few years, and later a church edifice was erected on the Hoskinson farm. This church is supported by the Friends denomination, a faith in which Mr. Hoskinson was reared. Incidentally, it may he stated that this was the third church built in Stevens County. When the first schoolhouse was built the district could not be bonded for more than $200. This sum barely provided the lumber, the carpenter work being donated, while the seats were bought on the installment plan. Nevertheless it was a red-letter day in the history of the community when Miss May Bowers opened the first session of school, and probably meant more to the people than the dedication in 1917 of a pretentious temple of learning built at a cost of $2,500 and all paid for.
Mr. Hoskinson was reared in the atmosphere of republican doctrine, and when he became of age cast his first presidential ballot for William McKinley. In 1912 he was elected county commissioner for the second district as successor of Commissioner Woodcock. His first colleagues on the board were Ed Musher and W. V. Crotts, and later were Crotts and Schmock. Of his four years' service he was chairman two years. One of the chief problems contended with by the board was dealing with the "blow sail." By planting to feed and properly cultivating several hundred acres they provided one form of anchorage. Another achievement was putting the county on a cash basis, by paying off a floating debt of over $30,000, chiefly scrip. During a few hard years Stevens County developed a few cases of destitution, and the board wisely expended several hundred dollars in arranging for the pour by distributing them in homes around the county. Mr. Hoskinson was for several years secretary of the County Farmers Institute. He is a stockholder in the Equity Creamery at Liberal and in the Hugoton State Bank.
In Stafford County January 6, 1908, Mr. Hoskinson married Miss Mary E. Titus, who was born near Trenton, New Jersey, November 4, 1876, daughter of Azariah H. and Jane (Reed) Titus. Her father, a native of the same state, came to Kansas in the early '80s, and spent his active career as a farmer in Stafford County, but is now living retired in Liberal. He is a republican and with his family gives allegiance to the Friends Church. Mrs. Titus died in Stafford County December 4, 1903. Her children were: Mrs. Hoskinson, Mrs. Etta Hall, Mrs. Angie Hoskinson, Joseph, Mrs. Flossie Van Sickle and Mrs. Jennie Chaffin.
The family of Mr. and Mrs. Hoskinson consists of five children, namely: Wilford Ray, Orval James, Clemma, Floyd and Azariah.
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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