JAMES START, of McCracken, was one of the earliest settlers in Rush County, going into Alexander Township in the month of February, 1878. Forty years have passed since he saw the virgin prairies of Western Kansas, and his own experience reflects many items of real history concerning this section of the state. Mr. Start was over thirty years of age when he came to Kansas, and his life up to that time had included experience as a soldier in the Union army and also as a farmer in the State of Iowa.
He comes of the sturdy stock of Devonshire, England, and perhaps the thrifty virtues of that people and a little more enterprise than the average were the chief factors which enabled him to make a success of his life in Western Kansas. Mr. Start was born near Utica, New York, January 14, 1847. His father, Robert Start, was born in Devonshire, England, October 1, 1803, and in March, 1834, sailed with his wife from Plymouth. On reaching America they traveled up the Hudson and crossed New York State on canal boat as far as Utica, where they arrived in the month of June. Robert Start was a man of little education but a hard worker and did well by his family. He died September 8, 1886. Though fifty-nine years of age at the time he volunteered his services for the defense of the American Union, enlisting in 1862 in Captain Glaiscut's Company F of the One Hundred and Forty-Sixth New York Zouaves. His first great battle was at Fredericksburg, and he was in the fight at Gettysburg. He served as a private and was finally given his honorable discharge on account of disability. He became a democrat in American politics, and was a member of the Church of England. His wife was Mary Symmons, who was born in Devonshire, England, October 4, 1805, and died February 1, 1889. Their children were: Sampson, who died in Minnesota, leaving children; Robert, who lives in Central City, Nebraska; William, who died at Utica, New York, leaving two sons; Alice, who became the wife of John Ernst, of Rome, New York; Mary, who married Henry McNeil, of Preston, Iowa; Louisa, who married Martin Green, of Franklin Springs, New York; and James, who was the youngest of the family.
James Start grew up as a farmer boy. He had the advantages of the country schools only, and when seventeen years of age ran away from school to enlist in the Union army. He was assigned to Company E of the Second New York Heavy Artillery and joined his battery at Washington, D. C. His first fighting was at Spottsylvania, following which came the skirmishes at the North Anna and the South Anna rivers, and then at Cold Harbor and Petersburg. At Petersburg he was captured June 22, 1864, and was taken to Libby prison at Richmond. After remaining there eighteen days he was exchanged and went to Annapolis, Maryland, where he was put on detached service. He remained in that service until after the war. He was in two of the greatest and bloodiest battles of the war, but escaped wounds.
After the war his first experience was as coachman for Horatio Seymour at Utica, New York. Horatio Seymour was then governor of New York and later was candidate on the democratic ticket for president of the United States. Mr. Start was with the Seymour family for a year and a half. He soon afterwards married and moved out to Iowa, locating in Jackson County, where he spent ten years as a farmer.
Breaking up his Iowa house, he selected the goods from the household which would be available and also some livestock and farm implements, loaded them all into a car, and shipped to Hays City, Kansas. Though an acquaintance at Larned he was influenced to seek his home in Rush County. Arriving here in February, 1878, he entered the east half of section 21, township 17, range 21, as his homestead and timber claim. His outfit for serious work consisted of a team, cow, some chickens and farm implements. Instead of the usual dugout or sod house he put up a box house 10 by 12 feet of lumber hauled from Hays City. That was the family home until his stone house could be erected. The stone for his permanent home he hauled 8 1/2 miles and laid up most of the walls himself. It was a house of two rooms, one built above the other. The lower was really a basement, and it was the living quarters, while the upper story served as the sleeping room. To shelter his livestock he built a sod stable. In the meantime he had planted his crops, and they were coming along nicely when a hail ruined all his prospects. Though Mr. Start tried in Western Kansas the crops with which he had been familiar in Iowa, he apparently got more results from his efforts than many of the early settlers, and managed to support his family from what he raised on the farm. In fact, he was one of the few Western Kansans who did not have to leave the county to seek work when crops failed. He earned some money by work in his home locality, but with few exceptions has depended almost entirely upon his own efforts and capital to put him ahead in the world.
Mr. Start introduced the first steam threshing outfit into this part of Rush County. Contrary to the usual experience with such machines, he made it bring a profit. He had followed that business in New York, having operated a threshing machine while with Governor Seymour. In Kansas he followed the threshing business about thirty years. In that time he wore out five different outfits and did his last operations in 1914.
As might be surmised, Mr. Start has been an extremely busy man during the forty years he has spent in Kansas. However, he has not for that reason neglected an active participation in local improvements. He was one of those who helped to organize the first school district, No. 30, in his locality. The first term of school was held in a sod house, formerly occupied as a home by the Shoemaker family. This school was taught by Miss Millie Reed, who died recently in McCracken. Mr. Start aided in the erection of the sod school house, and has served as a member of the school board. He helped organize the Catholic Church, and donated toward the building of all the other churches. He and his family are members of St. Mary's Parish. Politically he has always been a democrat. His first presidential vote was cast for Horatio Seymour while he was living in Iowa. Since then he has never missed a presidential vote and has always supported the democratic candidate. Besides his support to the local schools Mr. Start has had charge of the road work as overseer.
While living at Utica, New York, August 27, 1867, Mr. Start married Miss Margaret Dugan. She was born in Inniskillen, County Fermanagh, Ireland, and died February 5, 1899. Mr. and Mrs. Start, became the parents of the following children: Robert, a farmer near McCracken, married Celia Mulroy, and their children are James R., Alice M. and William, James B. being in training at the Great Lakes Naval Station in the Tenth Regiment Band at Camp Luce. Albert, who lives as a neighbor to his father, has a son, Bryan, by his marriage to Emma Elias. Frank is also a farmer in Rush County and married Eva Swisher, and for his second wife Amelia Schutte, and is the father of two children, Mary L. and Albert. Mary married William Lovitt, of Sedgwick, Kansas, and they have a large family of children named Margaret Jennie, Charles, Jane, Robert, Cecilia, John, Frances and Woodrow. Charles is a farmer in Alexander Township, and by his marriage to Ann Hearity has two children, Margaret and Mary.
On November 20, 1900, Mr. Start married for his present wife Miss Sophia Tiede. Mrs. Start was born in Racine, Wisconsin, and came from that state to Kansas with her parents, John and Lizetta (White) Tiede, both of whom were of German stock.
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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