THOMAS RYAN, rancher, farmer, merchant, and one of the best known citizens of Ness County, has lived in this section of the state since 1878, when he was about fifteen years of age.
He comes of a family that has made successive migrations from state to state, and in every community there have been people of sterling worth and upholders of the best institutions of the country. His grandfather, Thomas Ryan, of Scotch blood, was an old Kentuckian, a stalwart democrat, and a member of the Primitive Baptist Church. He married Mattie Rice. He died in Rush County, Kansas, as did also his wife, and they are buried at McCracken. They reared the following children: William M.; Mrs. Nimrod Shepard, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; John D., of McCracken, Kansas; Marion, of Scott County, Kansas; Mrs. William Hays, of Purcell, Oklahoma; and Mrs. Andrew Hays, of Scott County, Kansas.
William M. Ryan, father of Thomas Ryan, was born in Whitley County, Kentucky, and from birth until his death his environment was chiefly that of the farm and country. He did not have a liberal education, but was a man of sound intelligence and always made his way in the world without help. After his marriage he took his family from Kentucky to the State of Iowa, where he lived about seven years. In 1874 he came to Kansas, first locating in Montgomery County, where he did his first farming as a Kansan. In his progress westward he stopped in McPherson County, raised a couple of crops, and then sought a location in Ness County, where he arrived in 1878, entering a homestead in the west edge of Rush County. This land was the west half of section 6, township 17, range 20. He lived in wagons until he got his sod house ready for his family. One of the teams which he brought to Kansas was a couple of yoke of oxen, and Thomas Ryan as a boy drove that team. The family lived in a "soddy" until they secured enough profit from the soil to build something better. William M. Ryan spent many years of his life on the land above mentioned. His principal success as a farmer was in wheat growing, but for the last five or six years of life he engaged largely in the stock business. He was a man of convictions, always voted the democratic ticket, but was not concerned with party factions and contentions. He belonged to no church nor lodge and never pushed himself forward into the conspicuous places of community affairs. He died in Trego County, on the Smoke Hill River, in 1908, at the age of seventy-six.
William M. Ryan married Sarah Stephens, a daughter of Elihu Stephens, a farmer of Whitley County, Kentucky. Mrs. Ryan is still living in Ness County, and very vigorous and active at the age of eighty-four. Her children were: Miss Sidney, who lives with her mother; Granvil M., of McCracken, Kansas; John, a farmer near McCracken; Elijah L., of McCracken; Thomas; Susie, widow of E. J. Thompson, of McCracken; Mrs. Will Towne, of Osborne, Kansas; Mrs. Sam Towne, also near Osborne; and William H., of McCracken.
Mr. Thomas Ryan was born in Whitley County, Kentucky, May 30, 1863, and gained his first educational training in Iowa and completed it in the shortgrass country of Kansas. He grew up in a primitive western community, and one of the schoolhouses he attended as a boy was a "soddy." Up to the time he was twenty-five he lived at home and helped make a living for the family. The beginning of his career was on a farm, and he bought a relinquishment and proved up a homestead in that county. Though of the second generation of the family, like many other citizens of the time he lived in a sod house until he could prove up his claim, and his house and barn were altogether, only a door separating the two quarters.
When the railroad was built through Ness County in 1886 Mr. Ryan joined his brother Granvil M. in the lumber business in McCracken. They established the pioneer yard there, and since then for a period of thirty years Mr. Thomas Ryan has been continuously in the lumber business. He now conducts a yard in Brownell. In the meantime he acquired ranch interests in Trego County, and for six years lived on the ranch and specialized in graded stock. His principal strain is the Herefords and they have been bred up to the point of registering. As a rancher he is a member of the firm of Ryan & Chenoweth. This firm does not pasture all of the 4,900 acres under their ownership and control, but have 500 acres under cultivation, and 250 acres in wheat. Among other permanent improvements are two large silos.
On leaving the ranch and moving to Brownell in 1907 Mr. Ryan bought the lumber and hardware business of George W. Davis and through his store and various other interests and activities has been an important factor in Brownell for the past ten years. He helped to organize the bank and was also one of the men in the stock company that built the hotel. He is a director in both institutions, and is also a stockholder in the Bank of McCracken, the Alexander State Bank and the Nacoma State Bank. He is a very busy and useful citizen, and his activities are of a benefit to others than himself. His devotion to business affairs has prevented any participation in politics beyond lending his influence to real improvements, and as a voter he is of the same political faith as his father. Until he moved to Brownell he was a director in his local schools.
At McCracken, Kansas, in 1887, Mr. Ryan married Miss Martha F. Howell who was born near Girard in Crawford County, Kansas. Her father, Homer Howell, was a Union soldier and died in Nebraska. Mrs. Ryan has a brother, W. F. Howell in Oklahoma and half-sister, Mrs. L. J. Huling also of that state. Mr. and Mrs. Ryan have the following children: Grace, wife of B. M. Skaggs, of Brownell; Claud T., a farmer in Trego County, who married Hazel Stetler; and William T., Gladys and Gayle, who are still at home.
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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