WILLIAM H. PRICE. Through hard years and good William H. Price has lived in Pawnee County since the month of September, 1878. There were seasons when his most strenuous exertions were unable to coax a living from the land. But adversity served only to steel his determination, and in the end he acquired not only prosperity but perhaps an even greater affection for Western Kansas than if his course had been one of plain sailing and ease throughout. Mr. Price now has everything that a man of quiet ambition could desire, a fine farm in Pleasant Ridge Township, a good home, the comforts of living, influential position, and a happy family.
He is a native of Wisconsin, having been born in Jefferson County, that state, at Watertown, March 14, 1854. He is a son of Henry and Eleanor (Parsonage) Price, both of whom were natives of England. In 1849 the parents set out from Cheshire for America, and landed in New York City the third day of July. The next day their first American child was born. From New York they went direct to Wisconsin, and made their home at Watertown. Henry Price was a painter by trade. He lived the career of a plain and hard working citizen, acquired independent circumstances, and died at Watertown, Wisconsin, at the age of ninety-four. He was born September 14, 1813, and died August 28, 1907. His wife was born April 26, 1822, and died April 3, 1897. He and his wife were members of the Episcopal Church. His children were: Jemimah, living at Waukesha, Wisconsin, widow of Thomas Evans; Mary Ellen, or Nellie, wife of Harry Downing, of Watertown, Wisconsin; William H., and Lizzie, wife of George Snere, of Creswell, Oregon.
The early memories of William H. Price center around the old German community of Watertown, Wisconsin. He had a common school education and when quite young began learning the machinist's trade. He followed it as his occupation for eight years, being employed in the locomotive shops of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway at Watertown. This trade gave him a living, and his familiarity with mechanics has not been without great value on his farm, where in earlier years especially he did everything from plowing the land to making his own house and repairing his own tools.
He gave up his work in the railroad shops to come out to Western Kansas, where, as already stated, he arrived in the month of September, 1878. He made the journey with his family by railroad to Garfield in September, 1879, and brought with him his wife and two babies. A carload of household goods were shipped, including a wagon, some implements and several horses. He soon made a contract for some land owned by the Santa Fe Railway Company. He was to pay $5.40 an acre, and had six years in which to pay out. He made only a few payments, and conditions were such that he was unable to continue and finally lost his equity. The first fall he sowed ten acres of wheat, but the grain never even sprouted, since there was no rain from September until the following May. On his land he also built a sod house, dug a well, and he and the family lived in the soddy for several years.
He abandoned the railroad land to move to his present place. This was a timber claim. By his own labor he constructed a dugout in the bank of the draw which drains his front yard. It was a two-room structure, plastered with the native lime. In his struggles to make a living he had used up all his financial capital, and was at the time worth less than nothing. In the way of stock he had a few cows and a few chickens. A "windfall" came to the family about that time, and it was invested in cattle. The cattle seemed to promise large returns. All the old timers recall the disastrous winter of 1885. Mr. Price's cattle were kept under an open shed. In the fatal blizzard of 1885-86 almost all of them perished. In the morning after the storm the cows were dug out of the drifts and lifted out of the shed through the straw roof. He had been milking about twenty-five cows before the blizzard, but not one of the survivors produced any milk the rest of the winter and practically all of them died before spring.
The only offset to this loss was the fine crop of corn and feed that was raised in the following year. But in those years large crops seemed almost a misfortune. Corn was so cheap that much of it was used for fuel. However, enough was sold so as to acquire a cash capital sufficient to carry them through another year and a few more cattle were bought. The fight went on and gradually there came a measure of independence and family comfort. In 1892 a splendid wheat crop was produced and gave the Price family such resources as to enable it to withstand the four consecutive crop failures registered from 1893 to 1896. When that never-to-be forgotten period was over the Prices were almost at the end of their resources, as was every one else in the country who had remained. Thousands had given up in despair and had moved away. In 1897 a splendid wheat crop filled the "vacant spaces," and from that time forward farming was a surer and more profitable occupation. Mr. Price has never failed to sow wheat, and on the whole it has been one of the chief factors in his success. His best yield per acre was thirty-two bushels for a large field. The biggest total yield was 8,000 bushels in a single season.
If all the hardships that have been enumerated and many more that are not mentioned had befallen a single family in any one year they would have been more than human will and courage could withstand. However, they were sufficiently distributed so that people of the persistence of the Prices never completely lost heart and with all the adversities Mr. Price was only the more firmly convinced that Kansas was a good state for a hard working man. Gradually his material comforts and improvements were raised above the plane of his first condition. The roof of his dugout was raised, a kitchen added, then came a splendid barn, and finally his present comfortable rural home. He also showed his faith in Kansas by buying land. The first tract was purchased during the '90s and cost him $2.50 per acre. Another quarter section was bought for $500, still another at a later time for $400, and he paid $900 for the fourth quarter, while his final quarter represented an investment of $1,000. Altogether he had acquired five quarter sections, and his present place now includes 880 acres. All is under cultivation except 200 acres, on which he is growing alfalfa in a limited way. With the fencing off of the range the livestock industry was decreased and for a number of years Mr. Price has not figured actively as a cattle man.
He was one of the men who organized school district No. 66, though his children were educated in the old district No. 23. He was a member of its board of directors for a number of years. He has also served as township trustee, and was chosen county commissioner for the Third District, being on the board seven years. Among his colleagues during that time were Commissioners Gilkerson, Shady, Posey and Brinkman. The business of the board was largely routine matter, except the construction of the big steel bridge across the Arkansas River at Larned and several steel bridges over the Pawnee. Mr. Price was elected to the Board of County Commissioners as a democrat. He had gravitated into that party from his experience in the Alliance movement.
Mr. Price is not only one of the extensive farmers and land owners of Pawnee County but is a stockholder in the Farmers Elevator Company at Garfield, in the Farmers Elevator Company at Sanford, and was one of the original stockholders in the Garfield State Bank.
A couple of years before he came to Kansas Mr. Price was married in his native town of Watertown, Wisconsin, November 29, 1876, to Ella Spencer. Mrs. Price was born September 14, 1853, a daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Spencer, both natives of England. Mrs. Price was the second in a family of four children, the others being: Mrs. Maggie McFarland, Mrs. Lillie Wilber and Abraham L., the last dying in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Mr. and Mrs. Price became the parents of three sons. Theodore B., the oldest, is a successful farmer in the Price community of Pawnee County. Charles was accidentally killed by a Santa Fe train in 1912, being then unmarried. June F. is a merchant at Dousman, Wisconsin, and by his marriage to Lucy Podewels has a daughter, Elizabeth.
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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