JAMES B. REYNOLDS, of Johnson, is one of the most widely known men of Stanton County. His life has been one of strenuous activity in spite of severe physical handicaps. When he was about eighteen months old he was afflicted by a disease that was then scarcely known, but which a modern physician would probably diagnose as infantile paralysis. Since infancy he has never had the use of his legs, and this fact should stand out prominently in considering the many activities of his career.
He was born in Rock Island County, Illinois, March 27, 1858. His father, Charles Reynolds, was a native of Morgan County, Illinois, born January 4, 1827. He was educated in an old Indiana log schoolhouse, and when a youth went to Illinois with his parents. When the Civil war came on he enlisted in the Seventh Iowa Infantry, in Company A, under Capt. Alexander Irwin. Toward the close of the war the regiment was commanded by Lieut. Col. J. C. Parrott. During his early service he was under General Grant at Fort Donelson and Shiloh, was shot through the wrist at the latter battle, was in the siege of Vicksburg, and was with General Sherman in the Atlanta campaign. In November, 1864, he was discharged at Gordon, Georgia, while sergeant of his company. Always after the war he was an enthusiast in Grand Army work, served as post commander at Lone Elm, Kansas, many years, and later was a member of the Syracuse Post. He brought his family to Kansas in 1869, and lived for many years as a farmer near Lone Elm and Kincaid. He was both a stock and fruit grower. In 1902 he transferred his residence to Western Kansas, and died at the home of his son James in Johnson in 1912. He was a stanch republican but had no church or fraternal membership. He married Maria McNall, daughter of Enoch and Phoebe McNall. She was a real companion and housewife and mother to her children, and is gratefully remembered by her descendants and by all who knew her. She died in Johnson in 1913. Her children were: Phoebe, who married James Bell and died in Anderson County, Kansas; H. Norton, of Stanton County; James B., and Charles C., of Colorado.
James B. Reynolds was brought to Kansas when about eleven years of ago and grew up near Kincaid in Anderson County. He was educated in public schools, and when approaching years of majority studied telegraphy at Janesville, Wisconsin. On finishing his course he was employed three years as a commercial operator in Chicago. Returning to Kansas, he secured a mail contract and drove the route daily from Equity to Blue Mound, being on that route almost two years. He then came out to Western Kansas, and since then his associations have been largely with Stanton County.
It was in the early part of November of 1886 that he came to Stanton County and filed on his homestead, selecting his claim in section 3, township 27, range 39. Accompanying him were his two brothers, Henry N. and Charles C. They were also early settlers of the locality, and all three brothers were unmarried. After filing on their claims they summed up their possessions as a team, wagon, harness, and $10 in cash. They did the preliminary breaking of ground required by the Government laws, and then spent the next winter in Eastern Kansas. In the spring of 1887 they began their permanent residence in the county. Each of them put up sod houses, and they lived therein the required time in order to secure a patent. Primitive farming and working about on tree claims was the manner of providing a living. James B. Reynolds, unable to do the heavy work of pioneering, remained at home looking after the interests of himself and his two brothers, running errands, etc. His chief source of money making during this period was violin playing for local dances. With his violin he visited all the inland towns, playing in school houses where music was in demand, and became acquainted with the entire region westward to the Colorado line. Several times he drove from his claim eighty miles to Vilas, Colorado, to keep an appointment to furnish music for a dance. For the first three years the Reynolds orchestra, comprising himself, his brother and a cousin, furnished music and did the "calling" for a great number of such entertainments. They had gained their first experience as an orchestra back in Eastern Kansas.
After the organization of the district near his claim James B. Reynolds taught a couple of terms of school, and that proved a great financial help. Ready money was rare and hard to get in those years and still more difficult to keep after it was earned. Finally the brothers engaged in the stock business, investing their spare cash in cattle, cheap as they were, and thus developed modest interests as cattle men.
Practically from the beginning of his residence in Stanton County James B. Reynolds was active in republican politics. He was brought up under that faith by his father, and has never found a satisfactory reason to change his allegiance. He first entered Stanton County politics when elected township clerk, and filled that office eight years. He was elected a member of the school board of district No. 8, and served as its clerk for several years. In 1894 he was chosen county superintendent of public instruction. He held examinations, visited schools, assisted the boards in keeping proper records, held two normal institutes, one of them conducted by himself, and put in a very busy period as superintendent for two years. At that time the county was not on a cash basis, and the county warrants given him were refused payment when presented, and he brought suit to get the money. After leaving the county superintendent's office he remained on his ranch, gradually accumulated some stock and was more or less active as a farmer until 1905. At that date he gave up the farm and returned to the duties of official life. He was then appointed deputy county treasurer for J. A. Wartman, and had full charge of the office two years. In 1908, under a new law, he was appointed county assessor. He was the first and only county assessor Stanton County has had, and served two years of the law's operations. In 1910 he was elected county treasurer and re-elected in 1912. That completes his official record, and since then he has been in the real estate business at Johnson and one of the leading dealers in western lands.
Mr. Reynolds has been a prominent factor in the movement to build a branch railroad from Satanta, Kansas, to the Colorado line. He is secretary and active member of the right of way committee, having charge of all the correspondence and being custodian of all papers connected with this matter. At Johnson he has erected one of the best homes in the county and is living in the secure regard of all his fellow citizens, who admire the grit and perseverance by which he has overcome handicaps and also his sincere citizenship and personal integrity. For some years Mr. Reynolds served as state inspector of the Sons of Veterans of Kansas.
On June 2, 1902, he married Miss Sadie Aller. Mrs. Reynolds is deserving of much personal credit for her active Kansas citizenship. She homesteaded a claim in section 2, near that of her husband in Mitchell Township, proved it up, built a good house and barn, and maintained the land for the grazing of cattle. She was born May 6, 1877, and was brought to Kansas when a small girl, growing up in Stanton County and teaching about seven terms of school there. Her parents were Richard and Margaret L. (Smethers) Aller. The other children of the family were: William; Mrs. Emma Carrithers, wife of Frank Carrithers; and Mrs. Inez Stewart, of Syracuse. Her mother by a previous marriage had two daughters, Mrs. Mary Griffith, of Holly, Colorado; and Mrs. Minnie Webster, deceased. Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds are the parents of three children, Edith L., William and Clarence.
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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