RHEES R. SINGLEY. An interesting illustration of the fortunes that attended the early settlement of many of the western counties of Kansas is afforded by the case of Rhees R. Singley of Plains Township, Meade County. Mr. Singley arrived in that region April 13, 1885. He had come overland from Harper County, Kansas, with a party driving seventeen teams, one of these teams being his own property. Thus there was a considerable party of adventuresome home seeking settlers, and all of them located in the vicinity of Plains. Doubtless there is something of interest in the story and experience of every one of those early settlers, but the point brought out here is that today Rhees R. Singley is the only one of the original colonists left in Meade County. Had all of them remained and faced the difficulties of existence as hopefully and determinedly as Mr. Singley it is not certain that they all would have shared like fortunes with him, but it is true that today Mr. Singley has every reason to be satisfied with his determination to remain and grow up with the country.
Before relating any more of his experiences in Western Kansas it will be proper to note his early life and his family connections. He was born at Macomb, Illinois, July 17, 1858. His father, George W. Singley, was of Pennsylvania German ancestry and was born in Indiana County, Pennsylvania, in February, 1820. He grew up near Blairsville in that state. His grandfather was a German who was brought to America and was sold to a Welshman to pay for his passage across the Atlantic. After "working out his time" he married the Welshman's daughter and thus since the first generation the elements of the German and of the Welsh have been strong characteristics in the descendants. George W. Singley had a brother and two sisters: Mary, who died unmarried; Catherine, who married William Sprangle and died in Pennsylvania childless; Rhees R., who died in California.
About 1859 George W. Singley moved from Illinois to Sullivan County, Missouri, where he spent the rest of his life as a practical farmer and farm owner, and as a citizen who endeavored to do his part in the building up of such institutions as schools and churches. During the Civil war he was a member of the Missouri State Militia. He was reared as a Missionary Baptist, but for convenience in worship joined the Methodist Church. In politics he was a republican. George W. Singley married Susan Jellison, who died in 1904. Their children were: Rhees R.; Robert C., a merchant of Green City, Missouri; Annie A., who married James G. Stickler, of Green City; William G., of Green City; Flora E., wife of Robert Davis, of Kirksville, Missouri; Nettie E., wife of C. H. Compton, of Parkin, Arkansas; and Minerva, who married Ben Lintner and died at Coffeyburg, Missouri.
Rhees R. Singley grew up in Sullivan County, Missouri, from early infancy, and spent his boyhood on a farm near Green City. His education was the fruit of limited attendance at the country schools. His early home life had one dominant characteristic, and that was work, work, work, a feature of the daily program for all members of the Singley household. Mr. Singley on leaving Missouri made a temporary halt in Harper County, Kansas, and from there came on as already noted to Meade County in the spring of 1885.
Here he selected as his claim the northeast quarter of section 7, township 33, range 29. His first habitation was a dugout. He was a single man when he came to the county. However, he soon went back to Sullivan County, Missouri, and on January 3, 1886, married Miss Rosetta Dillinger. Mr. and Mrs. Singley spent the first three years of their young married life in a dugout and then moved to a sod house, which was their habitation for seventeen years, and in which all their children except the oldest were born.
Mr. Singley's chief equipment on beginning life in Meade County was a team. Later he got a cow and had some surplus cash to keep him through the waiting period. He was very eager to secure what he thought was enough land, and he bought the relinquishment to another claim, thus using up all his available means. He paid $250 for this relinquishment and a few years later its value on the open market would not have exceeded $50. Like his neighbors, he began farming, and the first two or three corn crops were such as to encourage the settlers in that direction, but eventually led them to disaster, when a continuous period of drought and failure followed, beginning in the late '80s. From Indian corn Mr. Singley turned to the growing of kaffir and finally settled upon wheat as his chief crop for profit. Taking the years altogether wheat has probably made him more money than any other crop, and some of his neighbors have had a similar experience. He also as soon as possible began developing a herd of cattle, starting with a couple of cows. He raised and kept his heifer calves and exchanged the males for females until his herd finally numbered about 300. During the first two years there were on an average about three settlers to every section of land, and of course under such conditions the cattle range was extremely limited. However, in 1887 the drought began to drive out the settlers, and for a time it looked as though the whole region would revert to its former condition of an untenanted plain. It required almost the courage of desperation to hold on while his neighbors were leaving but Mr. Singley persisted and managed to live and provide for his family during those trying years. He proved up his two claims, but after that nearly twenty years passed before he undertook to buy other land. Since then he has gathered about him 1,120 acres, buying at a price from $250 to $3,500 a quarter section. He has in fact speculated considerably in land, and his judgment has enabled him to profit from these dealings, so that much of his present estate represents natural increase in value of Meade County farm lands. During the trying times of drouth in Kansas Mr. Singley could find no employment at either of his two trades so he assumed his wife's duties in charge of their little ones while she resumed teaching as a means of keeping the family commissary and family needs supplied.
The sod house in which he and his family lived for so many years gave way to a cement house 14 by 16 feet, and this in 1912 to the present modern frame dwelling of eight rooms, in which among other improvements has an individual electric lighting system. His farm represents a complete group of building improvements, barn, implement shed, granaries for over 5,000 bushels of grain, and all the buildings are kept painted and indicate on the face the thoroughness of the progressive farmer. Mr. Singley has also developed an orchard of small fruit, and has proved that cherries, seedling peaches and other tree crops will stand the rigors of the climate without artificial irrigation.
One feature of his enterprise and which has constituted a community service was the operation of a threshing outfit from about 1905. For some years prior to that he had been a regular employs of other threshermen, and in that year he bought a Reeves outfit. He is now using his second separator. He is one of the men engaged in such enterprise who have made it pay. He estimates that nearly 1,000,000 bushels of grain have gone through his machinery as one of the stages of preparing the crop for market. For some years Mrs. Singley took her part in the threshing season by managing the kitchen part of the outfit, serving warm dinners for the hands and two lunches between meals. At the present time Mr. Singley operates his machine only for his own crops.
Mr. Singley, associated with W. M. King of Garden City, shipped into Meade County the first cable well drill. This outfit performed an important service in the development of the water supply of this region. Hundreds of wells were drilled with the machine, and for about eight years the outfit was almost constantly busy sinking holes into the ground and bringing up the freshening and quickening streams of water to make the country more habitable for both man and beast.
Thus his practical work has been in the nature of a public service and beyond that he has discouraged all efforts on the part of his fellow citizens to promote him to official responsibilities. However, as he was a settler here before a school district was organized he bore a part in effecting that pioneer improvement, was for a number of years clerk of the district board, and for two terms was trustee of Plaine Township. That, however, was the highest office which he would consent to accept. Politically he is a republican, casting his first presidential vote for General Garfield, and it is his belief that he has voted for his party nominees at every presidential election since that year.
Mrs. Singley was born October 4, 1859, a daughter of John J. Dillinger. Her grandfather, Harden Dillinger, was a native of Kentucky, was a Confederate soldier, and remained unreconstructed until his death. From Kentucky he moved to Indiana, lived in that state for many years, but died in Sullivan County, Missouri. Harden Dillinger married Mary Beck, and their children were: John J.; Julia A. who married Benjamin Pate and died in Oregon; James, who died in Idaho; David, who died in Sullivan County, Missouri; Carrie, who married David Baker and lives in Oregon; Charlotte, wife of Palemon Beck, residing in Oklahoma; Nancy, who married John Modrell, of Sullivan County, Missouri; and Alfred, of Jefferson City, Missouri.
John J. Dillinger was born in Illinois in 1821, and was a scholar and teacher, largely self educated, and owned and occupied a modest farm. He came to Missouri from Indiana. At one time he ranked as one of the best known Masons of his state and was deputy grand master and state lecturer for Missouri. In religious belief he was a Universalist. John J. Dillinger married Nancy Cleeton, daughter of James Cleeton, of a Kentucky family. She died in 1866, leaving the following children: John W., of Spokane, Washington; James, of Reger, Missouri; Mrs. Singley; Thomas J., who died in young manhood in Meade County, Kansas; and Francis J., of Sullivan County, Missouri.
Mr. and Mrs. Singley are the parents of five children. Carl Rush, the oldest, is a farmer in Plains Township of Meade County, and by his marriage to Minnie Hempel has three daughters, Helen, Arvilla and Geneva. Flora E., the second child, married Vern Patton, of Seward County, Kansas, and has two children, Cloyd and Gwendolin. The son Homer E. is the soldier representative of the family, and is now in France as a corporal of the First Aero Squadron of the United States Signal Corps. The two youngest of the family are Flossie and Goldie F., the former a graduate of 1918, and carries a diploma from Kansas.
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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