JUDGE JACOB L. SNAVELY for over ten years has discharged the duties and responsibilities of the office of probate judge of Haskell County. His residence in this county of far Western Kansas covers a period of thirty years. When not in public office he has put in his time as a farmer, and while there are many points of agreement between his experience and that of the other pioneers his career on the whole has the element of difference which makes it of unusual interest.
As Judge Snavely was more than forty years of age when he came to Kansas a considerable part of his life record was made outside the boundaries of the state. He was born in Boone County, Indiana, February 21, 1841, and it was from that section of the country that he came to Kansas. His grandfather, John Snavely, was a native of Germany, came to America more than a century ago, lived in Pennsylvania, later in Preble County, Ohio, and finally followed his son out to Indiana and died in Boone County. His entire career was spent as a farmer. He married a Miss Guntle, and their children were John, Mrs. Elizabeth Hennemeyer, Jacob, Julia A., who married Robert Hutchinson, and Phillip.
Judge Snavely's father was John Snavely, Jr., who was probably born in Preble County, Ohio, and moved from there to Indiana. He was born in 1812, had a very limited education, and went through life a private citizen. By trade he was a wheelwright, and in early days employed himself in making spinning wheels and chairs. With the development of mechanical processes which injured his trade he abandoned it and thereafter was a farmer. He died at the age of fifty-four. His wife, Lucinda Booher, daughter of Jacob Booher, lived to be seventy-three. Their children were: Irenius, who served as a Union soldier in the One Hundred and Fifty-Fourth Indiana Infantry and died many years after the war at Enid, Oklahoma; Elizabeth, who married Levi Uhler, of Clearwater, Kansas; Judge Snavely; Albert and Margaret, both of whom died young; Samuel D., who, also, died in childhood; and Catherine, wife of William Uhler, living in Sedgwick County, Kansas.
Most of the country districts in Boone County, Indiana, during the '40s and '50s did not present a highly favorable condition for a young man ambitious to acquire an education, and Judge Snavely had to content himself with the meager facilities of the country schools. At an early age he was also put to work as a contributor toward the support of the family. Thus his life went along until he was about twenty-one years of age, and then in August, 1862, he enlisted in Company I of the Eight-Sixth Indiana Infantry. His service with that gallant regiment was for tea months. The regiment rendezvoused at Lafayette, went to Indianapolis and thence to Covington, Kentucky, and Louisville, and took part in the pursuit of General Bragg's army as it retired from its threatened incursion against the Ohio River points. Judge Snavely witnessed the fight at Perryville, Kentucky. At first he was in the army under General Buell, later under General Rosecrans and finally under General Thomas. With the Thomas division and as part of General Sherman's command he went as far as Murfreesboro, in which great conflict he was a participant. That was his final battle. He was shot through the foot, and soon afterward was discharged at Gallatin, Tennessee, and sent home. Toward the close of the war he enlisted in Company B of the One Hundred and Fifty-Fourth Indiana Infantry and was out until the close of hostilities. He did not see an active engagement during the last enlistment, and spent his time in the Shenandoah Valley as, he says, "picking blackberries all summer." His final discharge was given at Indianapolis.
The war over, Judge Snavely settled down with determination to win for himself a moderate share of prosperity. He had already assumed the responsibilities of a family man, having married on August 7, 1860, when nineteen years of age, Mary Lewis, daughter of William and Susie (Lawrence) Lewis. In the years following the war he was steadily engaged in the quiet pursuits of the agriculturist in Indiana until 1883, when he moved out to Kansas, first settling in Sumner County. He lived there about four years and then gathered together his possessions and drove overland to Haskell County. He brought with him besides his team three cows, two pigs, and had about $40 in cash. His permanent home has been in Haskell County since November 4, 1867. He entered a preemption, had to contest his right to the claim and won it, but subsequently changed his filings to a homestead. He did not have the cash to prove up the preemption, since he had spent half his $40 for 100 shocks of corn to feed his stock. It was a case of actual necessity that spurred him to strenuous activity from the very day he landed in Haskell County. He did freighting from Garden City to various branches in Haskell County, and was glad to accept any legitimate opportunity to earn an honest dollar. He finally secured a patent to his homestead. For his first home he rented a dugout and subsequently built a 9 by 12 1/2 dugout on his own claim. For some six or eight months he and his wife and family of seven children lived in that one-room abode. Many people just now are reading about the congested quarters of the soldiers in the dugouts of France, but they have nothing on the experience of Judge Snavely, since his family of nine people lived crowded together in one partly underground room, and yet they were able to afford a welcome to the occasional visitor within their gates. Judge Snavely had been here several years before his farm became self sustaining. Later he bought a bunch of calves and adding these to his herd of cattle was able to make some money. Later he filed on and proved up a tree claim, bought another quarter section, and for a time made an honest effort at raising wheat. Only now and then could he harvest a paying crop, and the experience finally discouraged him altogether. Once he secured from a neighbor 100 bushels of wheat which he was to put in on shares. He worked strenuously getting his soil in perfect condition, sowed the grain, but so far as he was able to discern there was never a sign of germination and the grain was finally eaten up by the birds and mice or dissolved into its original element.
In the meantime, as time and means allowed, he kept up the improvements on his farm. He built a frame house 14 by 20 feet and subsequently bought a house at Santa Fe and moved it out, giving him his five room home. He planted a small peach orchard, from which he got one crop of peaches, but his apple trees all died. Hail ruined the peach orchard, and that concluded his attempts as a fruit grower. While Judge Snavely is disposed to take a somewhat humerous view of his farming and stock enterprise, on the whole it brought him considerable profits and he is by no means a pessimist regarding the possibilities of this region both for agriculture and stock husbandry.
About two years after he entered service as a county official he built a home in Santa Fe, and when the railroad was built through the county and Sublette was founded, he moved his home to that point, where he has since resided. Judge Snavely has always taken an interest in local politics as a democrat. He served as treasurer of Haskell Township and was for several years a director of his school district in the country. In 1906 he was elected probate judge, succeeding Judge R. E. Kells. Since that election he has filled the office continuously. The handling of estates for minors, the union of fond hearts and the routine work of the office have required practically all his time. Judge Snavely and wife are both active Methodists. He is a past noble grand of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and has frequently sat in the Grand Lodge and for two terms was district deputy grand master.
The children of Judge and Mrs. Snavely who came with them to Kansas are now grown up and practically all of them occupy homes of their own, some of them at a considerable distance from Kansas. The oldest of their children was Emma J., who died in childhood. John H., the second, lives at Farmington, Washington. A. Laura is the wife of Seth White, of Sumner County, Kansas. Mary Evaline is the wife of Ulysses Shoemaker, of Lincoln County, Colorado. Cora is the wife of Charles J. Priest, of Grant County, Kansas. Samuel lives in Haskell County and George is a farmer and stockman of that county. Lucinda married Orville Boland and lives at Satanta, Kansas. Susie, the youngest, is the wife of Rolla E. Wright, near Sublette.
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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