PHILIP S. NEATHERY has been in Stevens County perhaps as long as any of the settlers still found here. His own career reflects the community history of the last thirty years, and many events and experiences of those early years will be lost to memory when Mr. Neathery and his contemporaries have joined the great silent majority.
It was September 5, 1885, when Mr. Neathery filed on his claim. Then in March, 1886, he arrived with his family and began the home making which has proceeded without interruption to the present day. On one of those March days that now seems so far back in history, after a railroad journey from Kentucky to Garden City, he arrived at Fargo Springs on the Cimarron, a place that has long since disappeared as a distinguishing mark and even the name is kept alive only in the memory of Mr. Neathery and a few other old-timers. Here on the prairie, from which the buffalo had only shortly been driven, the family spent the first night, and the next day traveled out to the homestead. This was and is the southwest quarter of section 9, township 32, range 35. That land, which was then hardly to be distinguished from any part of the great Kansas prairie, has been the scene of all his struggles as a homemaker and farmer and of the recurring reverses and successes.
In some respects Mr. Neathery was more prudent than many of the early settlers. He refused to exhaust all his ready capital in improvements the first year. Therefore he contented himself with a half-dugout instead of a frame structure corresponding modestly to his Kentucky establishment. This dugout was 16 by 24 feet, roofed with boards, tar paper and sod, with a coating of dirt above it all. On the floor a layer of straw was covered with gunnysacking as a carpet.
When a man came into this western country he heard all sorts of advice and superstitions. One of these to which Mr. Neathery yielded some degree of credence was that horses could not live on these western prairies. Therefore he equipped himself with a yoke of three-year-old steers. These oxen dragged a plow through the tough virgin sod, and occasionally enabled him to earn a few welcome dollars by hauling freight from Hartland and Garden City. He also paid $40 for a two-year-old heifer. Some of the cattle on the farm today trace their ancestry back to this ]one Durham.
As a result of his careful buying and husbanding of resources he had by the time he was squared away and ready for Kansas farming in earnest the sum of $1,000 still left as insurance against the inevitable "lean times." Having had a very thorough farming experience back in Kentucky, Mr. Neathery rented a farm plot the first year he was in Kansas, and sowed it to millet. It made a fine crop, but the harvesting of that portion of the field lying adjacent to the road was taken care of by the "movers" who going and coming would rush out, gather an arm load of it and drive on. The same year he planted Indian corn on sod, but the dry weather burned it to the silk. About that time he was induced by a neighbor to buy fourteen head of hogs "guaranteed to live and grow fat on the buffalo grass," but the guaranty was not even a worthless "scrap of paper," and to keep the swine from starving he hauled corn from Hartland fifty-five miles away. But still he was not through with his experience with pork production. When they were prime for market he found a purchaser in a restaurant proprietor at Woodsdale, who paid him $3.50 down and promised the rest. The promise was uncollectable, except as Mr. Neathery and some of his friends boarded it out.
His work animals the first seven years were his oxen. From the proceeds of his cattle he invested in mares, and took to raising horses, the strain of the males being high-class Percherons. In recent years a span of colts descended from these mares sold for $550. It might be said that the mares provided all the horses that have been on the farm since, and several thousand dollars worth of stock sold from the farm represent the posterity of these pioneer mares.
As a cattleman he has been no less successful. When he had a maximum of pasture he ran about 150 head. His herds have been consistently graded up with Shorthorns. Gradually he has learned the secret of agricultural success in Western Kansas. Many years ago he discovered that rice corn was well adapted to this region. Another trustworthy crop was "browndora," the forerunner of the popular maize and kaffir corn. Some good yields of wheat have also come from his land, though it has not been in his regular rotation nor has he ever regarded it as a dependable crop. In 1891 he got fifteen bushels to the acre and in 1892 twenty bushels.
Having proved to his own satisfaction that he could solve the problem of existence in Kansas, Mr. Neathery began using his surplus to get more land. He filed on a tree claim and in time his land holdings embraced thirteen quarter sections, but subsequent sales and division with his children have reduced his area to four quarters. Two years after he began his labors on his homestead he constructed a basement and a one-room frame addition, and with the three rooms the purposes of a home were served until toward the end of 1917, when he and his family moved into a new bungalow of six rooms, adequate with every comfort for his remaining years.
It would not be just to assume that Mr. Neathery in all these years had been completely absorbed by the activities and interests above described. He helped organize school district No. 29, was on its board several times and Mrs. Neathery is a member and clerk now. He has been trustee of his township and clerk once or twice. His politics has been an undeviating allegiance to the democratic party, and he has supported every democratic presidential candidate since Horace Greeley ran in 1872. Mrs. Neathery has been a Methodist since she was a girl, and has always encouraged church work and church affairs, while Mr. Neathery has never failed to let it be known to the preacher profession in this region that his home was theirs if they could not find a better place to stop. For sixteen years Mrs. Neathery was postmistress of old Moscow. Only toward the very end of her administration was her office ever visited by a postoffice inspector. The office finally occupied a corner of her kitchen. The Neathery home was always a sort of common stopping place for travelers, and they regarded it as a sort of necessary evil and a duty to feed stock and people passing by the highway.
Something should be said of the family record. Philip S. Neathery was born in Clinton County, Kentucky, near Albany, March 23, 1849. His grandfather, Samuel Neathery, married Rachel Smalley and moved to Kentucky from Virginia. Their children were: Wesley; Nancy, who married Micajah Hunter; Margaret, who married Joseph Warner; Abner; Mrs. Sallie Thomas; Preston and Tillman, both of whom moved to Texas; Elizabeth, who married Columbus Winfrey; and Allen, who died near New Orleans.
Robert Neathery, who was also one of Samuel's children, and father of Philip S., was born in Clinton County, Kentucky, in 1822, and spent his life as a farmer on the Cumberland River. He died in 1888. In the war he served as a Union home guard, and the only losses he sustained during that struggle were the occasional depredations of bushwhackers among his stock. He accumulated a good estate. His vote was cast as a democrat and he was an active Methodist. He married Martha Winfrey, daughter of Israel Winfrey, who also went to Kentucky from Virginia, and was a slaveholding planter. Mrs. Robert Neathery, who survived her husband until 1910, was mother of the following children: Susan, who married Samuel Morgan, spent most of her life in Kentucky, but now resides at Kileen, Texas; George A., of Cardwell, Missouri; Philip S.; Lizzie married David Orton and lives on the old Kentucky homestead; Doctor Israel, of Russell Springs, Kentucky; Martha J., wife of Crit Goff, of Bakerton, Kentucky; and William, who is the present register of deeds of Stevens County, Kansas.
Philip S. Neathery spent his youth on his father's farm. That was during the '50s and the '60s, when school facilities were none too plentiful anywhere, The school he attended was kept in a log house, and many days he sat on a split-log bench without a back. He carried water from the spring and drank from the gourd dipper, as was the custom of those healthy days.
On July 11, 1871, when he was twenty-two, Mr. Neathery married a Cumberland County girl, Miss Ida B. Spottswood, daughter of Isaac and Julia (Maynard) Spottswood. Her mother was born and reared in Cincinnati, and her father, of German descent, was a native of Wisconsin and at the time of his death was a furniture merchant in Nashville, Tennessee. Mrs. Neathery, who was born December 19, 1854, in Nashville, Tennessee, had a sister and two brothers older than herself: Laura, who married Robert Moore and died in Nashville; Harry C., a resident of Nashville; and George W., who died in Nashville.
Mr. and Mrs. Neathery take pride and pleasure in their children and grandchildren, practically all of whom live near enough to keep in fairly close touch with the old home. Laura K., the oldest, is the wife of H. H. McNutt, of Beggs, Oklahoma, and her children are Ross, May, Ralph, James, Homer and Teddie. Julia E., the next of the family, married Homer H. Eidson, of Liberal, Kansas, and has two children, Carrie and Arthur. Addie is the wife of Samuel Hubbard, also of Liberal, and the mother of one son, Robert C. The fourth daughter is Mary Lizzie, wife of John Blundell, of Chetopa, Kansas, and their five children are named Alice, Ida, Bessie, Addie Winifred, and Dorothy. The fifth and youngest of the family is Mattie, who married Emmet Ballinger. They live in the vicinity of Moscow, and have a frolicking group of children named Dale, Elaine, Juanita, Philip Spottswood and Ralph Harry.
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
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