JOHN VANDIVEER KILLION, present receiver of the United States Land office at Dodge City, is an old and prominent settler in Western Kansas, has been identified with the doings and happenings of this country for more than thirty-three years and was many years earlier a farmer in Butler County.
When it is recalled that Mr. Killion came to Kansas in 1873 those who are familiar with the history of this state from that year forward will understand the vicissitudes he had to contend with to make a living as a homesteader. He came to Kansas from Appanoose County, Iowa, driving overland across the country until he reached Butler County on March 12, 1873. His early life was spent in Iowa, where he was born, in Davis County, in a log cabin two miles north of Drakesville, April 16, 1848. His grandfather was David Killion, and his great-grandfather, in turn, is believed to have been the pioneer who founded this family in America. Thomas J. Killion, father of John V., was born near the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, and the family was on its way migrating from Kentucky to Indiana the night of the historic falling of the stars in 1833. Thomas J. Killion grew up and married in Indiana. His wife was Jeanette Ann Vandiveer, whose father was a Baptist minister. She died in Jetmore, Kansas, in 1889, at the age of sixty-four. Their children were Mary Ellen, who died near Monroe, Missouri, wife of J. L. Melson; John Vandiveer; Jeannette A., who married T. B. Mitchell and live at Graveland, Kansas; George, who died in youth; Amelia, who married W. T. Bland and died at Garden City in 1912; Thomas Wesley, of Centerville, Iowa; and William J., who died in Los Angeles, California.
John V. Killion grew up in Iowa, secured a common school education and had to assume the serious responsibilities of life at an early age. His father was a merchant at Orleans, Iowa, and died there in 1861, when John V. was thirteen years of age. From that time forward the latter had to contribute to the support of the widowed mother and the other children on a farm, where he remained until he started life for himself.
When he came to Kansas in the spring of 1873 John V. Killion brought with him a team and wagon, his wife and two children. He established himself on a tract of Indian trust land 2 1/2 miles west of Walnut River and seven miles southwest of Augusta. His first Kansas home was a house 12 by 16 feet, bought of a former claim taker. It served as his shelter in Kansas until his means justified an increase in its size. As a farmer he made an effort to get a crop during the year 1873, but it was almost a failure. In the winter season when funds were low he went to the forests along Walnut River, paid $1 for a half cord of wood in the tree, cut it and hauled it home and there converted it into stove wood and hauled it to Wichita, eighteen miles away, where he exchanged it for flour. He furnished the seed and ground for forty acres of wheat in the fall of 1873, and planted it on the halves. A crop of twelve bushels to the acre rewarded him in the harvest of 1874. That was the famous grasshopper year in Kansas. He had some land planted in corn, but in August the grasshoppers came and the following day nothing was left of it but the stalk. The next winter he fed his horses on prairie hay and the wheat that he raised.
Mr. Killion saw the first railroad constructed in Butler County and he worked on the construction of the Frisco line with his team all one winter. He remained in Butler County until accumulated debts almost discouraged him with the entire country, and he sold his farm for $2,500 and started west in search of Government land. A new location was found on Pawnee Creek in Finney County, where he took a homestead and timber claim.
Mr. Killion entered his Finney County land at the Garden City land office and located October 12, 1885. On his homestead he built a three room frame house and a sod barn. About two months after his arrival the historic blizzard of January 7, 1886, struck Western Kansas, but he had very little stock to suffer from the severity of that storm. He remained on his claim until the fall of 1889, and left it to locate at Eminence, where he engaged in merchandising, and he continued a merchant in that locality until his appointment as receiver of the Dodge City land office.
Mr. Killion was at Eminence when Garfield County was organized. He served one term as probate judge of the county, and for six years later was a county commissioner of Finney County, from 1895 to 1901. In the fall of 1912 he was again elected commissioner, and resigned that office to accept the appointment as receiver of the land office in Dodge City, where he succeeded L. J. Pettijohn.
Mr. Killion began his political career as a democrat and has always been a sturdy upholder of the principles of the party. He was old enough to vote in 1872, when Horace Greeley was the candidate of the party, but he failed to attend the polls that fall. His first presidential vote was cast for Samuel J. Tilden in 1876. He was frequently a delegate in local and district and also in state conventions.
In Appanoose County, Iowa, in 1867, Mr. Killion married Miss Louisa N. Rucker. Mrs. Killion was born in Sangamon County, Illinois, June 25, 1851, a daughter of Milton and Margaret (Ashby) Rucker. Mr. and Mrs. Killion have reared a family of competent sons and daughters, most of whom are now established in homes of their own. The oldest is Milton, of Garden City. He married Minnie Dawson, and their children are Raymond, Orville, Glen and Howard. The next child, Frank F., lives at Eminence, Kansas, married Anna Gentry and has two children, Carl and Veda. Elmer W. is a minister of the Christian Church now located at Princeton, Kansas, and by his marriage to Mary Pearce has a son, Lyle. Lenna L. now Mrs. Phelps, has five children: Joseph, Sadie, Lutie, Alma and Evert. Another son, Roy, lives at Eminence, married Maude Douthitt, and has a daughter, Gwendolyn. The youngest of the children is J. V., Jr., who lives at Eminence and married Bessie Henry.
Mr. Killion and his wife are active members of the Christian Church, and he is one of the elders in the congregation at Dodge City. Fraternally he is affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Fraternal Aid.
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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