JAMES U. McCoy. There is material for real history in the career of every man who went into Western Kansas thirty years or more ago, endured all the stings and arrows of bad fortune, continued to hope when there was little to hope for, work when work apparently had no profit, and managed to live when the barest necessities were luxuries.
One of the seasoned veterans who came out of that period of trial and with rewards of prosperity such as none can properly envy him is James U. McCoy of Lane County, whose home is in Dighton. For many years Mr. McCoy was associated in all his business undertakings with his brother, Hiram. This brother had prospected for a place in Western Kansas which would be beneficial to his health. Finding what he desired in Lane County, he then sent word to his brother James, who soon followed. James McCoy had come by railroad to LaCygne, Kansas, on March 1, 1884. The following season he spent in farming in that community. On getting favorable word from his brother he went from LaCygne to Lane County, and arrived within its borders on February 25, 1886. He was at that time unmarried, young and strong and ambitious, and well fitted for the hardships which in later years he was compelled to face.
The two brothers secured public land, entering homesteads that cornered. James McCoy's quarter was the northwest quarter of section 12, township 18, range 30. It required eighteen months to prove up on his claim, and he then took a preemption fourteen miles north of Dighton. That he also proved up, living in the meantime in a good sod house. He broke fifty acres of ground, and altogether put in about two years there. Returning to his first locality, he bought a school quarter in section 36, township 17, range 30, but declined to pay it out. Subsequently he bought another quarter section in the same community, the southwest quarter of section 12, township 18, range 30, and on that land he made his home for about three years. His first permanent improvements were made there. He built a house and barn that were unusual structures of their kind for that day, and from the proceeds of his labors he acquired two other quarter sections of land. In this and subsequent activities his brother Hiram was always his partner.
The best investment the brothers made in those early days was the purchase of a threshing machine. Though crops were very scant in Western Kansas, the brothers conducted the outfit with considerable profit to themselves. They bought the machine when they were in debt, and continued its operation for nine seasons. At the end of that time they could look back upon their efforts with a great deal of pleasure, because of the financial aid it gave them in carrying on their other enterprises. Eventually their joint stock of cattle, horses, mules and lands all brought in their quota of profit.
Perhaps the tightest year Mr. McCoy experienced was in 1888. He found it necessary to leave his brother as manager of their lands and stock, while he himself found work by the day earning money to give them food and also meet their obligations. Going to Hutchinson, he worked for the Northwestern and Riverside Salt Works for three years, and his salary proved a mainstay to the partnership, allowed them to keep their affairs together and pay interest on their debts. The first good wheat crop came in 1891. The brothers threshed 960 bushels in that year. The seed had been drilled into the ground by a neighbor who owed the brothers for drilling him a water well.
When the brothers left that community they bought the old Carson place of three quarter sections near Alamota. There they centered their efforts more particularly on the raising of cattle, horses and mules, and they also sowed some of the land to alfalfa. The change to this location was a beneficial one, and for four years of the time spent there Hiram McCoy conducted the ranch while James was busied with the duties of a county office. Altogether they remained in that locality about six years, and effected considerable permanent improvement on the land. They built many rods of fence and also added to their original acreage. At that point the brothers dissolved partnership, dividing the ranch, James McCoy exchanging his share for stock and securities and then locating in Dighton.
At Dighton, the county seat, James McCoy was a hardware merchant two years. He then traded his store for land three miles east of Dighton. The exact location of his home was on the northeast quarter of section 21, township 18, range 28. In that locality he owned 880 acres, had 280 acres in section 16 of the same township and range, and a quarter section in section 22 of the same township and range. Of his total holdings he had about 500 acres under cultivation, one of his chief crops being wheat. Almost the entire tract of land was under fence and he rebuilt his commodious home and did much to improve his farm buildings. This farm he recently sold. As a stockman he handled cattle and mules.
After this brief outline of his work and achievements as a business man and farmer, something should be said of Mr. McCoy's connections with the various communities in which he has lived, since he has been actuated by public spirit and a desire to help forward the wheels of progress whenever possible. Politically he has always been a democrat and has expressed his convictions in local affairs. While living on the west side of the county his home was in three different school districts and he helped build as many schoolhouses. In District No. 29 he was a member of the board. He was also connected with the school board of the Eureka school on the east side of the county. In 1902 he was elected County Clerk of Lane County to succeed Frank Freeman, and his own successor was S. S. Edmondson. Mr. McCoy became a stockholder of the Exchange State Bank of Dighton when it was organized, and he owns some of the stock in the Farmers' Elevator at Dighton and some choice town property. Fraternally he is a Mason and Odd Fellow and has attended the Grand Lodge of both orders.
Mr. McCoy's grandfather was James McCoy, who on coming from Ireland to the United States was employed on public work, but finally moved to Illinois and spent his last years upon his farm near Plymouth, in Hancock County. He died there in 1870, at the age of eighty-seven. James McCoy married Isabel Arbuckle. They were married in Ireland and their children were: Thomas, who was accidentally killed by a team in Hancock County, Illinois; Archibald, who was murdered in Hancock County; John, who was murdered in Andy Holmes' barn in Hancock County; Hiram, father of James U. McCoy; Biddie, who married John Clarke and died in Hancock County; and Mary, who married Stephen Rook and spent her life in Hancock County.
Hiram McCoy, who was a native of Ohio and was taken to Illinois as a child, spent his brief life as a farmer. He was thrown from a horse and killed at Carthage, Illinois, on March 8, 1864, when only about thirty years of age. He married Nancy Angeline Dodd, a daughter of Uriah Dodd, who was reared in Kentucky. Mrs. Hiram McCoy, who died April 3, 1915, more than a half century after the death of her husband, became the mother of the following children: James U.; John, who died in infancy; Allie B. C., wife of T. C. Wristen, of Dighton, Kansas; Hiram B. G., of Dighton, former partner of James U.
James U. McCoy, whose ancestry and family connections have thus briefly been traced, was born in Hancock County, Illinois, August 13, 1858. He grew up in that community, attended the public schools of Plymouth, but early in life he began making his own way in the world and relying upon his own efforts for success. As a boy he learned the tinner's trade at Plymouth, but that trade was of no particular advantage to him after he left Illinois, except during the period he was in the hardware business at Dighton.
In Lane County, June 15, 1898, after he had passed the period of adversity and was well established in his ranching and other business affairs, Mr. McCoy married Miss Nettie Tucker. Mrs. McCoy, who was born in Hancock County, Illinois, June 13, 1879, is a daughter of William I. and Lucinda (Wright) Tucker. Her father, who was born in July, 1851, also in Hancock County, Illinois, came to Kansas and settled in Gray County in 1886, taking up government land and spending many years in Southern Kansas. He moved to the Dighton community in 1916. Mrs. McCoy's younger brothers and sisters are: Edna B., wife of Clarence J. Sprague; Herman L.; Charles E.; Oren, who died in young manhood; Josie May, wife of Sidney Castle; and James William P.
Mr. and Mrs. McCoy have children, James D., Adelpha May and Caleb U.
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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