LEVI M. OSGOOD. Human life becomes rich not by material surroundings and possessions but as a result of experience. So it is that the old timers of Western Kansas are endeared to the locality all the more because of the troubles and hardships they endured while establishing homes in the early days. One of the most fruitful careers and one of those deeply enriched by varied experience and vicissitudes in Pawnee County is that of Levi M. Osgood, who is living retired at Garfield.
Mr. Osgood has been a resident of Pawnee County forty-one years, since February, 1877. He was then twenty-two years of age and his early life had been spent in Pennsylvania. He was born September 8, 1855, near Job's Corners in Tioga County, Pennsylvania. His early environment was a farm and his education was acquired in country schools. He lived at home until he came out to Kansas, and when working away from home he dutifully gave his parents his wages.
His people have been in America for many generations. The founders of the family were three English brothers who sailed for the New World and settled in America right after the Revolution. Their first home was in Massachusetts. Grandfather Levi Osgood went from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania. He married Olive Cummins, daughter of a Revolutionary soldier. Levi and wife had the following children: Watson; Mary who married William Sturdevant; Lewis; John; Caroline, who married George Huntley; Samantha, who married Reuben Barnhart, a soldier of the Civil war; Orr and Asa, twins, the latter a Union soldier; Ruth, who married Ben Knight; Amanda and Miranda, twins, the former marrying David Crumb, a Civil war veteran, while Miranda died single.
Lewis Osgood, father of the Garfield citizen, was born in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, in 1814. All his life was passed as a farmer and he never reached the plane of financial independence. He married Lavina Lane, who died in 1858. She had two children: Abram A. and Levi M. Abram also came out to Kansas with his brother, but under the stress of Kansas drought fled from the country and now lives in Tioga County, his birthplace. Lewis Osgood married for his second wife Jane Bailey, and their children were Milton, Lloyd, William, Charles, Frank and James.
Thus when Levi M. Osgood came west to find a home in Kansas he was not unacquainted with hard work and with a condition approaching poverty. He took his homestead twelve miles northwest of Garfield, the southwest quarter of section 10, township 22, range 19. Borrowing a team, he plowed enough sod to lay up the walls of a house to the roof. Having accomplished this he started for Larned to get lumber with which to cover the building. He was one of the first farmer settlers in that community. Up to that time the cattle man had been lord of all he could survey, and naturally looked with hostility upon the advent of homesteaders. One such envious cattle raiser, probably with malice aforethought, turned loose his cattle in the vicinity of the sod walls while Mr. Osgood was away, and when he returned it was to discover his carefully laid sods in complete disarray from the horns of the cattle. That was only a minor discomfiture. He then used his lumber to build a small board shack only 6 by 12 feet in dimensions. That was his habitation for a year, and he kept bach and slept in those narrow quarters. When Mr. Osgood came out to Kansas he brought no ready money with him. When his provisions gave out he went to work as a section hand for the Santa Fe Railway. He has always been grateful for a law which Senator Plumb had passed through Congress. This law permitted settlers to leave their claims for a period of six months, with six months further grace to allow them time to get back. It was a most beneficent provision, since without it hundreds of early settlers would have been compelled to give up their claims altogether, as it was a very common thing for the homesteaders to leave the land and seek work in other communities. The two years thus allowed him under the law Mr. Osgood spent working at the coal chute of the Santa Fe Railway. It was heavy labor, but it enabled him to save $600, and that was the capital most vital to his success and permanence in Kansas. In 1878 he harvested a ten-acre crop of wheat, thirty bushels to the acre, but there was not another crop that paid for the seed until 1882. In the meantime he had worked out as necessity demanded, going at one time to Saline County to husk corn, and also harvesting for his neighbors. For several years he picked up all his fuel on the open prairie.
The first team he owned was a yoke of oxen. He used them three years and then sold the animals for beef. When he married he bought three ponies, and these were used to break prairie. A number of years passed after he had proved up and patented his homestead before he felt able or inclined to increase his land holdings. In 1892 he bought his first quarter section, paying $1,000, but only $200 in cash and $200 a year in installments. Another quarter was bought in 1901, the purchase price being $1,200. This was also a time transaction, $400 down and $400 a year. In 1904 he bought a quarter section for $2,000. At that time he was making money liberally from his cattle and wheat. Despite the four consecutive years of crop failures, 1893-96, Mr. Osgood continued to sow wheat every season. The producer was not only handicapped by numerous crop failures but also low prices. Had it not been for the livestock he could not have tided over these lean years. Even livestock commanded about the lowest market prices ever known in America. For cattle which he could sell today for $80 a head Mr. Osgood found a market during the '90s at only $12 apiece. However, stock raising was comparatively a sure thing. He was always able to raise each season a crop of fodder which would take his stock through the winter.
In 1905 Mr. Osgood bought his last quarter section, paying $2,800, $1,000 down and the balance on time. That ended his land purchases and gave him a section and a quarter. For a number of years he was one of the largest wheat growers in the county. Besides his own land he rented a large acreage for the purpose. His largest acreage in any single season was 800. His champion wheat crop came in 1901, when he threshed between 7,000 and 8,000 bushels. One hundred acres of his land had yielded 1,000 bushels that year. His maximum yields in other crops have also been gratifying. Some of his land produced as high as sixty bushels of corn to the acre, and he has had forty bushels of oats to the acre.
Naturally his pioneer improvements did not last long. As prosperity came his material circumstances were bettered. The old board shack in which he spent his first eventful years gave room to a four-room frame house when he married, and that was finally moved away and in 1909 a modern residence throughout, consisting of ten rooms and basement, was completed. In 1891 he built the first frame barn in all that section of the country. In 1898 he built other shelter for his stock, and his farm was one of the best equipped in the way of improvements in Pawnee County. As a stock raiser he always emphasized hogs, and he had meat to sell and never bought a pound of lard after coming to Kansas.
While a good deal has been said concerning his material fortunes and misfortunes, it is exceedingly creditable to Mr. Osgood that he has been liberal of his time and efforts in behalf of the public welfare. He assisted in organizing school district No. 27, was its treasurer a number of years, while Mrs. Osgood was clerk for nine years. For seven terms he served as trustee of Keysville Township. Politically he has acted with the republican party, has been in county convention work and as central committeeman for his township. Mr. and Mrs. Osgood helped organize Wilson Chapel of the Methodist Church, and he was one of the stewards fifteen years and his wife was superintendent of the Sunday school for some time. Mr. Osgood has attended local conferences of the church at Winfield, Dodge City, Great Bend and other places in the district.
Mr. Osgood was married on July 19, 1884, to Miss Nellie C. Marlatt, daughter of James Willard and Charlotte M. (Shafford) Marlatt, of an old Kansas family. Mr. and Mrs. Osgood have had no children. With none dependent upon them, they have none the less used their means liberally for the benefit of others, and in their years of leisure and financial independence have also spent much time in travel. They have gone a number of times back to Pennsylvania, have visited in New York and Boston, and have covered the Pacific Coast region from Vancouver, British Columbia, to San Diego. Their home in Garfield stands conspicuously as one of the best in the town, and suggests the thrift and well being of its owners.
Mrs. Osgood is a member of Fort Larned Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She is eligible to membership in this order as a direct descendant of the Revolutionary family of Colvins. Her father's mother was Cynthia Tubbs, whose mother was a Miss Colvin of Rhode Island, daughter of Caleb Colvin, a Revolutionary soldier. Caleb Colvin was born in 1750 and died in 1832, and his father, Joseph Colvin, was also a private in the Revolution. Joseph was in Capt. Samuel Hall's Company, Colonel Kasson's Regiment, Rhode Island Troops.
Mrs. Osgood's father, James W. Marlatt, came out to Kansas in January, 1880, and his wife and daughter followed him in June. He settled on a relinquishment in section 14, township 22, range 19, Pawnee County, which he bought for $200. When asked why he settled in such a deserted place upon the heels of the big drought of 1879, he replied that "the place to go was where everybody else was leaving," a bit of philosophic wisdom which has given success to many business men. He proved up his homestead and a timber claim, and lived out his career as a successful farmer until blindness overtook him, when he moved into Garfield and now makes his home with his daughter, Mrs. Osgood. James W. Marlatt was born at Woodhull in Steuben County, New York, January 2, 1839. He enlisted in 1861 for service in the Union army in the Eight-Sixth New York Infantry, and served in the Army of the Potomac. He was in the first Bull Run battle, but after a year was discharged for disability. He has never been a thoroughly well man since the war. His wife, Charlotte M. Shafford, was born in Knoxville, Pennsylvania, July 25, 1834. She has spent much of her time in church work as a Methodist, but Mr. Marlatt is a member of no church. Mrs. Osgood was the only child of her parents and was born November 3, 1866.
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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