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., [155] leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.


Lewis J. Pettijohn

LEWIS JULIAN PETTIJOHN, former receiver of the United States land office at Dodge City and still carrying many responsibilities in business and civic affairs, is something of a pioneer in Southwestern Kansas, his experiences in this part of the state covering more than thirty years.

Mr. Pettijohn was born at Deming in Hamilton County, Indiana, July 7, 1862. His early life was spent on a farm and his education came from the common schools and also from a Quaker High School at Westfield, Indiana. When he was seventeen his father died, and having to support himself he began teaching school. His first school was taught in District No. 11 of Adams Township in Hamilton County, and he taught two terms in his native state and one term after coming to Kansas.

When he was about twenty-one years of age he came West and worked for the Santa Fe Railway Company in New Mexico. Two years later he came to Kansas, and in the month of February, 1885, located in Jackson County. During the following season he worked as a farm hand in the Hoyt locality of that county. The next winter he started back to New Mexico to resume employment with the Santa Fe, but when the train arrived at Cimarron every one seemed to be getting off and making for the short grass country of the Southwest. Mr. Pettijohn went with the crowd, and from Cimarron he drove by stage into Stevens County. There, in February, 1887, he entered a claim, the southeast quarter of section 22, township 33, range 35, thirteen miles east of Hugoton. That was the time when all that region was being rapidly settled up and before the collapse of the great boom in Southwestern Kansas.

Mr. Pettijohn had about $50 in cash when he arrived in Stevens County and was an absolute stranger in the locality and to its people. He at once went to work, building a dugout of one room covered with boards and dirt and without floor and his last $20 bill he gave for a mustang horse that had been recently captured. He broke or domesticated the animal, and it was the first piece of horse flesh he owned in the state. To make a living he drove a mule team, plowing tree claims for a farmer in Stevens and Morton counties. Later in the same year he organized a subscription school and taught the first district school ever held in Stevens County. His wages as a teacher were $1 a day. After school was out he became clerk in a real estate office at Hugoton and in the winter of 1888 became deputy register of deeds and was three times elected to that office.

Mr. Pettijohn was present and a participant in the county seat troubles in Stevens County. It was impossible for any man to live in the county then without taking some part in that fight, and he became one of the loyal partisans of Hugoton and had the satisfaction of seeing the county seat permanently located there. He was first elected register of deeds on "the farmers law and order" ticket and afterward on local issues.

In the meantime he had proved up his claim while living in the dugout and brought a few acres under the plow. One year he raised a crop of corn. In 1892 he took charge of a lot of land for different mortgage companies and cultivated a large acreage to wheat. His harvest amounted to about 5,000 bushels, but on account of low prices and distance to market be sold none of it but loaned it out to settlers for seed. The following year every one failed to raise wheat and thus there was little to show for his previous harvest.

For many years Mr. Pettijohn has been a factor in the farm activities of Ford County and has developed and improved some extensive tracts of raw lands. In this county his efforts at growing wheat have brought him an average of twelve bushels to the acre until 1917, when his entire crop was lost.

In April, 1896, Mr. Pettijohn was appointed clerk of the Appellate Court at Garden City, where he had his home for two years. In April, 1898, President McKinley appointed him receiver of the United States land office at Dodge City, as successor to A. B. Reeves. He remained in the office by two subsequent appointments from President Roosevelt and by one from President Taft. The land office remained in his charge until he was relieved by the Wilson administration. In the recent primary he was nominated for secretary of state on the republican ticket.

Since leaving office Mr. Pettijohn has been engaged in real estate, handling lands all over Western Kansas. Since 1916 he has been agent of the Santa Fe Railway Company's lands and large quantities of this property have changed hands through his office. He himself has shown his faith in this country by liberal investments and he has given his influence and his means to every movement for the development of various counties. Among other things he had an active part in the movement for the building of the Santa Fe branch line to Elkhart.

In 1914 Mr. Pettijohn was elected to the Legislature of Kansas from Ford County on the republican ticket, succeeding T. S. Lane. During the session of 1915 he was chairman of the railroads committee and member of the taxation, railroads and insurance committees. His record as a legislator is a creditable one. He secured the passage of the bill to stop the settlement on the so called "Islands," these being accreted lands along the rivers of Kansas. He also introduced the bills which were subsequently enacted abolishing the irrigation commission then in operation and amending the irrigation laws of the state. He was a member of the committee, investigating the penitentiary, which met in July and August of 1915 and which reported adversely to Warden Botkin upon the charges preferred against his management of the prison.

At the present time Mr. Pettijohn is a member of the Ford County War Council. In 1917 he was a delegate of the local Rotarians to the Atlantic Conference, and from there went on to Washington, District of Columbia, where he represented Ford County in a conference with the food conservation committee. Mr. Pettijohn is a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason, a member of Wichita Consistory, and his family are members of the Presbyterian Church.

Mr. Pettijohn is of French stock. The Pettijohns came to America about the time of the Revolutionary war and located at Lynchburg, Virginia. The name is spelled both Pettijohn and Pettyjohn. His father, Dr. Absalom L. Pettijohn, was born at Sardinia, Ohio, but practiced medicine for forty years in Indiana and died in Hamilton County of that state in 1878, at the age of sixty-four. He was one of the local leaders in his community, was a warm friend of Oliver P. Morton, the war governor of Indiana, but never filled any office himself, though a very active republican and abolitionist. He was a member of the Wesleyan Church. Doctor Pettijohn married Louisa Juliet DeHart, who was also of original French stock. She died in March, 1882, the mother of nine sons and one daughter, named as follows: Julius B., Orlando B., Laura, who married Dr. T. J. McMurtry, Otto B., Cassius M., Horace DeH., Lewis J., William L., Theodore J. and Guy A.

In Stevens County, Kansas, October 7, 1889, Lewis J. Pettijohn married Miss Emma D. Wright, a daughter of Charles R. and Elizabeth (Sargent) Wright. Her father came to Kansas from Iowa and was an early day attorney in Stevens County. Mr. and Mrs. Pettijohn have two children. Horace, the older, went to France with the Rainbow Division and is a member of the Kansas Company for the supplying of ammunition to the Division. The daughter Juliet, is the wife of J. C. Denious, editor of the Dodge City Daily Globe.


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., [155] leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.

Volume 4 - Table of Contents

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