JAMES LAHEY. Probably no new country ever so completely tested and tried the resources and staying qualities of its inhabitants as Western Kansas, and every representative of a family still there after thirty years or more can take pride in the reasons which enabled the family to stay on and fight the battles of existence until prosperity came.
One of this old-settler class in Grant County is James Lahey, who has lived close to the boundary line between Grant and Stevens counties since 1886. He was then a young married man not yet thirty, and came to this new and untried country with a number of relatives. Mr. Lahey was born in Warren County, Ohio, June 24, 1857. His father, John Lahey, who was born in County Tipperary, Ireland, and married there Alice Butler, came to the United States soon after marriage, and after a few years in Warren County, Ohio, moved to Illinois, and broke up his home in Dewitt County of that state in order to come to Kansas. He too was a Western Kansas homesteader, and lived through the era of hard times into an even prosperity and died in Grant County in 1903, at the advanced age of eighty-three. His wife died in Illinois. Both were devout Catholics. Their children were: Michael, of Crawford County, Kansas; Mrs. Margaret O'Dea, of Stevens County; John, a farmer in Stevens County; and James.
The family party that left Illinois and came to Kansas in 1886 contained John Lahey, Sr., his brother Thomas, and his own sons John and James. Traveling by rail to Arkansas City, they made the rest of the journey by team, reaching Grant County on March 3d. The only knowledge they had to guide them in selecting this country for a home and in meeting the other problems of pioneering was what they had obtained from others, and that was very little.
James Lahey homesteaded in section 9, township 31, range 35, and took possession of his claim at once. His shelter while proving up was at first a single-room dugout of his own construction, with sod roof and no floor. This was afterward supplemented by a modest frame structure. He sold the homestead for $100 after having lived on it seven years, and, as he says, having "hauled water up hill all the time." His first equipment consisted principally, outside of implements and household goods, of four head of mares. A crate of chickens and turkeys which they shipped around by Lakin was lost in transit. All he had to show for his labor at raising a crop the first year was fodder. Having come from the Illinois corn belt he naturally tried that cereal, but nearly every year was additional proof that corn was not the thing. Mr. Lahey used up most of his surplus capital before he had convinced himself of the truth of his experience, and he was by no means the only one in the same situation in those days. Eventually he adapted himself to a program of such crops as maize, cane and other rough feeds.
Having sold a pair of mares, he bought with the proceeds three cows, and these were his start in the cattle industry. His herd was increased by trades and purchases, and he also had good luck in raising horses from the mares he brought to Kansas. The progeny of these mares that have been sold off his ranch have represented a value of many thousands of dollars. Though it requires but a few sentences to outline the manner in which his prosperity was gained, it was only through the hard toil and hardship of year after year that the pleasant side of the story could be told.
In addition to the homestead Mr. Lahey took up a tree claim along the river, but it was a long time before he was able to buy land outright. A few tracts came to him through abandonment by other less determined settlers and by tax titles. At the present time Mr. Lahey owns five quarter sections, two in section 4, township 31, range 35. In 1905 he built his present home, a substantial frame house of eight rooms, with comforts and conveniences beyond his most extravagant fancies when he first came to Kansas. Other buildings have come from time to time, and after the residence he built a barn thirty-two feet square. When in the high tide of the stock industry he had from fifty to a hundred head on pasture. At various times in past years he has taken his own stock to market at Kansas City.
Mr. Lahey has not allowed his presence in the community to remain without some positive expression of helpfulness and public spirit. He helped organize the first school district, which his own children attended, and has served as a member of the board, has been township assessor, and once was appointed township treasurer. He cast his first democratic vote for General Hancock back in 1880, is now a member of the county democratic central committee, and has strayed away from formal party allegiance but once, when he supported Colonel Roosevelt in 1904.
While living in Dewitt County, Illinois, Mr. Lahey married Mary Folkers. His second marriage occurred in Chicago, to Miss Bridget Nihill. She left him a daughter, Mrs. Cliff Bell, who has one son, Oliver. For his present wife Mr. Lahey married in Stevens County Miss Mary Fleming. Her father, Benson Fleming, a native of New York State, saw active service as a Union soldier during the Civil war, and otherwise was a farmer through his mature years. He died in Western Kansas, and his wife at Pawnee, Oklahoma. Their children bore the names of John, Benjamin, Frank, Mrs. Lillie Mehaffey, Mrs. Sophie Camp, Emma, who died in California, and Mrs. Lahey.
The children who have grown up in Mr. and Mrs. Lahey's home in Western Kansas are Frank, James, Edna, Crystal, Violet and Wayne.
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