CHARLES J. PRIEST. It was the aspiration and striving for better things that led most of the early settlers into Western Kansas, and those who had the grit, and the persistence to remain until they evolved better conditions have had every reason to be satisfied with their determination and the results. One of these old timers in Sullivan Township of Grant County is Charles J. Priest, who has lived in Western Kansas more than thirty years.
The first time he was away from the scenes of his boyhood home back in Indiana was when he came to Kansas in 1884. Mr. Priest was born near Bainbridge in Putnam County, Indiana, December 1, 1859. His grandfather, George Priest, is believed to have been a native of Kentucky and was a pioneer settler in Putnam County, Indiana. He married Sarah Lane, and their children were: Margaret, who married George Smith and died in Texas; Jemimah, who married George Miller and died in Kansas City, Missouri; Mary, who died at Mount Sterling, Kentucky, the wife of Sterling C. Brewer; Sarah, who married John Lane and died in Putnam County, Indiana; Elizabeth, who married Lewis H. Rudisil and lived in the Dakotas; John, the oldest son, who spent several years in California as a forty-niner, accumulated a fortune there, but died soon after his return east; and Joseph H., father of Charles, Jr., who was third from the youngest child in the family.
Joseph H. Priest was a native of Kentucky and went with the family to Putnam County, Indiana, at the age of sixteen years and lived continuously at the farm where his family first settled until his death. He died in February, 1906, at the age of seventy-six. His first wife and the mother of his children was Sallie Regan, daughter of Reuben Regan, who came to Indiana from Virginia and was a nurseryman, fruit grower and farmer. Mrs. Sallie Priest was born in Putnam County, Indiana, and died in 1866. Her children were: Carrie, who married D. C. Allen and died in Indiana; Charles John; Lizzie, who became the wife of M. B. T. Allen and died in York, Nebraska; Addie, wife of A. D. Dorsett, a resident of Chicago; Artie, ex-Dean of the University of Washington at Seattle and now in Paris, France, as manager of the Young Men's Christian Association work for Washington. These children were all well educated and all of them at some time in their careers taught school except Charles J.
Charles J. Priest grew upon his father's farm and during the summer seasons worked eighteen hours a day in the fields and in handling the fruit crops of the old place. He had a common school education and remained at home until past the age of twenty-one.
In 1885 Mr. Priest arrived at Garden City, Kansas, from Butler County, where he had spent the previous year, several months of it as a farm hand in the vicinity of Potwin, which was then only a farm house but is now a station on the Missouri Pacific Railway. In Finney County he found employment as a rancher on his own account, and for two years grazed a bunch of livestock. It was the work in the open and the breathing in of the healthful ozone of the prairies that restored his health and doubtless gave him the physical vigor he has since enjoyed.
After a time, seeking the opportunity to obtain free land he came into Grant County and entered a homestead on the Cimarron River. For seven years he remained there, proved up, and did cattle ranching on the shares. For his first home he secured an abandoned pioneer schoolhouse, and was its sole owner and occupant, a bachelor, all the time he remained there. Later he sold his claim and engaged in the livery business at Santa Fe. While on his claim Mr. Priest accumulated a bunch of cattle, and had some of the most eventful experiences of his Kansas career. One time he ran out of corn in the midst of severe winter weather, when the prairies were deep under the snow. He managed to get word to his father at Garden City to send him a load of corn, but it was two days in coming. The 2,200 pounds cost him $1 a hundred, while the charge for hauling it fifty miles was $28.90. The total cost almost outrivaled the price of corn today, but the cost was negligible compared with the value of saving his cattle, some of which had already begun "to tail." One other time he experienced feed shortage. That was in the dead of winter and he traveled the forty-two miles to Plains for a supply of oil cake. The cake had not yet arrived at the station, and he had to remain away two days. The load was not on the wagon until the sun was behind the horizon, and he was cautioned not to undertake the journey at night through the bitter cold and the deep snow. However, he knew that the cattle were hungry and that his wife was at home alone, and he started away, walking almost the entire distance to keep himself from freezing and arrived at the farm just at daybreak.
Mr. Priest's experience as a liveryman in Santa Fe continued eighteen months. It was a profitable business, and he got out of it before the automobile became a serious competitor. As a speculation he bought up some horses, made a further profit from them, and then removed to his present locality and bought the southeast quarter of section 4, township 30, range 35. In this locality, near Lawson, he has had his home ever since. It is a farm and small ranch, and his stock graze on the limited open range. His success represents the gradual accumulation of a number of successive years keeping cows, hogs and a few horses. The chief source of revenue during the summer months is eggs and cream, and in the fall and winter he markets some seed and a few steers and hogs.
Mr. Priest cast his first vote for the republican ticket at Greencastle, Indiana. He has never been much of a politician, but has interested himself in local affairs, and while living in Haskell County was a county commissioner and is now clerk of Sullivan Township in Grant County and has been treasurer of school district No. 4 ever since locating here. His wife encourages church work, teaches in the community Sunday school and is a contributor to the religious activities of the locality.
In Haskell County, Kansas, August 20, 1902, Mr. Priest married Miss Cora Snavely, daughter of Judge Jacob and Mary A. (Lewis) Snavely, Her father was a pioneer of Haskell County, a veteran of the Civil war, and he and his wife reared eight children. Mr. and Mrs. Priest have no children of their own, but have brought up in their home Frances Lucas, who is still part of the family circle.
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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