JOHN C. McCONNAUGHHAY. The early traditions of Pawnee County as the home of civilized men are part of the personal recollections of John C. McConnaughhay of Larned. He has lived there nearly forty years, and he knows both the bitter and sweet of experience in the West, has eaten his bread for years by the sweat of his brow, and the prosperity and the influential position he now enjoys are but the pleasant fruits of a long era of adversity.
He was eighteen years of age when he came out to Pawnee County in 1878. He accompanied his uncle, John P. Blount, to Western Kansas. Mr. Blount spent the rest of his life in Pawnee County and was a well known citizen. Mr. McConnaughhay and his uncle came to Kansas from Kentucky. They made the journey by rail, and in the next spring Mr. McConnaughhay's parents and other members of the family came on.
Mr. McConnaughhay was born in Nicholas County, Kentucky, October 11, 1859. The McConnaughhays are of Irish origin, but have lived in America since 1776, a year which various accounts unite in accepting as the date of the founding of the family. Mr. McConnaughhay's grandfather, John McConnaughhay, came to Kentucky from the vicinity of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He was a miller, a horse trader and a drover through the south before the war, and he died and was buried in Concord Cemetery near Carlisle, Kentucky. Late in life he became a follower of Alexander Campbell and a member of the Church of the Disciples. John McConnaughhay married Nancy Burns, also of Irish stock. Their children were: William, who died in Kentucky; James D.; Martha, who married William Price and lives at Carlisle, Kentucky; John A., of Kentucky; Katie, who married Henry Wells and lives in Nicholas County, Kentucky.
James D. McConnaughhay, father of John C., was born in Nicholas County, Kentucky, in 1831. He was a civil engineer by profession, having equipped himself for that work at Moorefield, Kentucky, filled the office of county surveyor of Nicholas County many times, and was also prominent in the milling business there, being proprietor of a combined saw mill and grist mill. Though he lived in Kentucky during the Civil war he was not actively connected with either side in the struggle. However, he had a brother in the Confederate army, and three brothers-in-law who were Union soldiers. As a democrat he cast his vote as his chief activity, and was active in the Masonic order and the oldest Mason at Larned when he died there in April, 1910, at the age of seventy-eight. He was a member of the Christian Church.
On coming to Pawnee County James D. McConnaughhay bought railroad land 1 1/2 miles from Larned and was actively engaged in farming it until 1885, when he sold out and moved into Larned. The rest of his active career he spent in the office of county surveyor. A large part of the lands of Pawnee County were surveyed and platted by him, and his work will probably remain standard in the records of land titles and descriptions for all time. James D. McConnaughhay married Susan Coliver, a daughter of James and Mrs. (Yates) Coliver, the Colivers coming from Virginia to Kentucky and three brothers of Susan were soldiers in the Union army. Mrs. Susan McConnaughhay was one of twelve children, and she died at Larned August 16, 1918. Her own children were: Nannie, wife of John H. Stewart, of Millersburg, Kentucky; John C.; J. William, of St. John, Kansas; and Mary E., wife of Delbert Harney, of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Mr. John C. McConnaughhay grew up in Kentucky, gained his education in the common schools and as a boy spent much of his time working around his father's mill. After coming to Pawnee County he worked for a time at wages on a farm, but when his parents came on he and his brother acquired a farm and bached together until the brother married. John then bought his brother's interests and continued farming alone and providing for himself in the house until he too established a family. He is still owner of the old homestead, the northwest quarter of section 19, township 21, range 16. As a farmer he has made his most reliable profits in the growing of wheat. His first Kansas home was the little frame one-room house he found on the farm when he bought it, and this provided him with shelter and a reasonable degree of comfort until he bought another farm nearby, which had still better improvements. He has expended much of his profits from the farm in increasing the building improvements, and now has a large group of barns, sheds, granaries and has the entire half section well equipped for general farming.
He and other members of the family experienced misfortunes and nearly all of those incidents so frequently noted in the life of the frontier. He was one of those determined people who chose to defy the rigors of climate and the other hard conditions and he stuck to his post through good and evil until he was rewarded. The McConnaughhays brought very little with them when they came from Kentucky, and were frequently forced to obtain manual labor outside of Pawnee County and often outside of Kansas in order to pay for their food. They laid little stress upon clothing, for anything a settler happened to wear was universally regarded in style, and anything he provided for his table passed muster for food. The McConnaughhays were able to harvest a small crop of grain about every two or four years from 1882 forward. Other years were "lean ones" and a living for the family had to be earned elsewhere and sent back through the mails. John C. McConnaughhay husked corn in the eastern counties, did manual labor on railroads in Colorado, teamed in Arkansas and in the coal fields of Kansas, and all that he thus earned after paying for his own keep was sent back to the folks in Pawnee who remained behind doing their part in conquering the wild region and establishing a home they hoped and prayed would be permanent. As late as 1895 the tragedy of famine threatened the plucky farmers of Pawnee County. There was a period of five years in which the conditions of old Egypt as described in the Bible were almost paralleled. Even these assaults of envious fortune did not weaken the determination of the McConnaughhays. John McConnaughhay not only made a living out of the soil during that time but had something like real prosperity as a grain raiser. The fall before 1895 he had sown 450 acres of wheat, having put in the crop all by himself, and from it he cut 10,000 bushels of grain. He has had other golden harvests since, and many other successes, and these tend to sweeten the era of bitterness which afflicted him in the fading and gloomy past.
He left his farm in 1907 to take the office of sheriff of Pawnee County. He was elected on the democratic ticket, succeeding Sheriff McCoy, and serving four years. While he was sheriff the old settler Neptune was murdered, his stock taken and shipped to Texas, and Sheriff McConnaughhay trailed the murderer and caught him at Dalhart, Texas. He saw the murderer convicted and sentenced for life and took him to the penitentiary. Aside from this notable crime his principal work in the enforcement of law was to suppress the violators of the prohibitory statutes. He proved a vigorous official and did much to clean out the remaining vestiges of the liquor traffic in Pawnee County. After this term in office Mr. McConnaughhay returned to his farm and remained there until 1916. On February 15, 1916, he entered upon his duties as postmaster of Larned, succeeding Frank Johnson. The postoffice was exceedingly well conducted while he was in active charge, but the duties were of such a confining nature that Mr. McConnaughhay resigned the office after fourteen months of service.
Mr. McConnaughhay helped promote the Farmers Elevator at Larned and is vice president of the company, and also helped organize the Ash Valley Telephone Company, and has since been one of its directors. For many years he served as a member of the school board of district No. 4. He became interested in politics when a young man, and was formerly a delegate to local and state conventions. He was a strong people's party man when that organization was in its prime, and he served as a delegate to the convention that nominated Governor Hodge. When McConnaughhay came to Kansas it was all but a crime to claim membership in the democratic party. Since then he has had the satisfaction of seeing and helping the party grow and thrive and finally give Kansas two governors. For twenty years Mr. McConnaughhay has been affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Follows, and has recently become a Master Mason.
On August 19, 1891, some thirteen years after he came to Kansas, Mr. McConnaughhay married Miss Alta McCrory. Mrs. McConnaughhay was born at Goshen, Indiana, daughter of Mick McCrory, of that city. She died August 16, 1906, just three days before the fifteenth anniversary of her marriage. She was the mother of three children: Leta, Gerald and Nancy. On May 1, 1909, Mr. McConnaughhay married Miss Pearl Higgins. Her father was a Tennesseean, from which state he served as a soldier in the Union army, and as early as 1873 came out to Kansas and was a pioneer in this state. He is now a resident of Blockwell, Oklahoma. Mr. and Mrs. McConnaughhay have four children, Lucile, John Martin, Anna Laura and William Leroy.
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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