IRA ARMSTRONG STONER. An interesting story of early settlement in Stevens County is that of Ira Armstrong Stoner and family, who were called upon to endure many hardships at first but now enjoy one of the most comfortable homes in this section, Mr. Stoner's farm lying adjacent to Hugoton, his holdings comprising three quarters. He came into this locality on March 28, 1886, on the Lakin stage, to which place he had come by rail from Columbia City, Whitley County, Indiana.
Ira Armstrong Stoner was born in Huntington County, Indiana, February 14, 1865. His parents were William and Sarah (Armstrong) Stoner. William Stoner was born in Fairfield County, Ohio, a son of Joel and Elizabeth (Huddle) Stoner, who lived in Fairfield County and had children as follows: William, father of Ira A. Stoner; Mrs. Sarah Reed; Daniel, who was a soldier in the Civil war; Noah, who was also a soldier in the Civil war and lost his life from exposure during that period; Mrs. Martha Palmer; Mrs. Eliza Sterling; Mrs. Mary Myers; Susan and Matilda, both of whom died unmarried; and Jacob and John. William Stoner in early manhood went from Ohio to Indiana and was a farmer both in Huntington and Allen counties, and died in the latter in 1903, when aged sixty-seven years. He was married in Huntington County to Sarah Armstrong, who had come to Indiana from Poughkeepsie, New York, a daughter of Ira and Mary (Johnson) Armstrong. Mrs. Stoner died in 1883. She was a faithful wife and devoted mother, and her memory is tenderly preserved. Mr. and Mrs. Stoner had children as follows: Ira A.; Edith, who died in childhood; Charles R., who lives in Whitley County, Indiana; Lula, who resides at Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Olive, who died in Allen County, Indiana.
Ira A. Stoner enjoyed excellent educational advantages, first attending quite regularly the public schools in his native county and later both the North Manchester and Roanoke academies. When seventeen years old he became the teacher of a country school, and taught several terms. He had no ambition, however, to be anything but a farmer, and as his opportunities in Indiana were limited he gave attention to the favorable reports of former settlers from there in this section of Kansas. These old neighbors all proved up land here but own none at present. It was upon the heels of a big blizzard that locater Rogers took Mr. Stoner out to the claim that he preempted on the northeast quarter of section 18, township 33, range 38, and shortly after he filed he occupied the claim and made his dugout home, the usual and popular one of the white man in those days in this region. His household equipments were only the bare necessities, a bed, a sheet-iron stove, a home-made table, while boxes served for chairs.
In the spring of the year Mr. Stoner broke a few acres with an ox-team borrowed from a friendly neighbor, but his efforts came to naught, as his sod crop of corn was cleaned up in July by a bunch of rancher's cattle. He occupied himself with such jobs of work as he could secure, one of these being to help make the mortar for the construction of the old Creek Hotel at Hugoton, long since moved away. About this time he also joined the crowd of defenders of Hugoton in the business of watching its environs for the appearance of Woodsdale people reported to be coming with the intention of burning the town in order to release Colonel Wood, then a captive there on local issues almost lost to memory. He proved up on his pre-emption in the fall of 1886 in Garden City. Then he went to McPherson, Kansas, and worked there in a furniture store all that winter, but before he did this and while still at Garden City he solicited the trains for L. P. Hudson, a landman there, for immigrants coming in to get land. He earned his board at the hotel in this way. In the spring of 1887 he secured grading work on the Rock Island Railway, following a wheel scraper, and later worked as a farm hand in McPherson County. In the following June he returned to his old home in Whitley County, Indiana, and remained there for fourteen years.
Mr. Stoner was married in Whitley County, May 15, 1890, to Miss Lizzie Sickafoose. who was born in that county, Indiana, March 16, 1866. Her parents were Levi and Mary (Wolf) Sickafoose, who were natives of Stark County, Ohio. The father was born in 1830 and spent all but three years of his life in Whitley County, where he died in 1902. The mother died in Whitley County in 1910, at the age of seventy-five years. Mrs. Stoner had three sisters and one brother, she being the third in order of birth: Mrs. Stallsmith, who died in Whitley County; Mrs. Laura Howe, who died in Wood County, Ohio; and Maud and Charles, of Whitley County. Mr. and Mrs. Stoner have two daughters and two grandchildren: Ruth R., who is the wife of R. W. Ellsaeser, of Stevens County, and they have a son and daughter, Frank and Florence; and Mary Lenore, who is the wife of Delmer Tingle, of Kansas City, Missouri.
When Mr. Stoner returned to Kansas he brought his family by train to Liberal, dropping into a smallpox epidemic just as he did when he arrived at Lakin in 1886. They began their life in Kansas on their homestead where his residence now is, the northwest quarter of section 4, township 33, range 37, an abandoned tree claim. Here they made a dugout, surrounded it with trees, and for fourteen years lived in the one-room shelter, 14 by 26 feet, or until the elements dissolved it. Of these early days Mrs. Stoner says that so great was her disgust and homesickness during the entire first year that she would not have given "ten cents for the whole county." However, when she came to Kansas she was practically an invalid, while now, in middle life, after facing privations untold and hardships undreamed of, she is rugged in health and contented and happy and ready to declare her affection for this great state.
It cannot be denied that those early times were very trying. Crops continued to be unreliable, and nearly all grain, even for their team, had to be hauled from Liberal. Mr. Stoner did much freighting from that place for merchants and for others who had hauling to be done. For years "chips" picked up from the prairie by Mr. Stoner and his little daughters had to serve for fuel. It was a difficult matter to secure a satisfactory milch cow from the range cattle, and there was a period when the family had neither milk nor butter and lived too far distant and at a time when no satisfactory substitutes could be procured in any trading stations. Finally Mr. Stoner managed to accumulate a dozen cows, but lost one half of them from old age and the effects of feeding on bad corn. For some years also the only horses he could secure were old and incompetent, but later, when at last he had found good horses, he had better luck with his farm operations and prosperous days gradually came on. Mrs. Stoner became interested in the chicken business when she first came here, and felt elated when her dozen hens hatched out eighty chicks, but through lack of knowledge of the cunning of the prairie coyotes they not only lost the chickens but all but three of the hens.
In 1905 Mr. Stoner began expanding his land holdings when he bought the southwest quarter of section 9 for $35, and soon afterward he added another quarter, for which he paid $60. He is devoting 100 acres to broom corn and feed for his cattle and horses. In addition to his rural acreage he is the owner of seventeen acres of town lots at Hugoton. He is one of the pioneer settlers of this county who in every way has "made good." He has served faithfully and usefully on the School Board and for sixteen years has been a justice of the peace in his township and has had many notable cases brought into his court. One of these was the first test case of the "night-riders," a body made up of certain white men with the avowed aim of running the colored settlers out of the country. Judge Stoner was a witness in this case in the Federal Courts at Wichita and Topeka. He was reared in good old republican doctrine in Indiana and cast his first presidential vote for Hon. Benjamin Harrison, then for Hon. William McKinley, and still later for Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, but at all times has been an active factor in promoting prohibition sentiment. In the old Indiana home the family attended the United Brethren Church, and all are strictly orthodox in religious sentiment and are fine people. In a most interesting manner Mrs. Stoner recalls events and occurrences of early days here, and among these is a thrilling description of a prairie fire that threatened to consume them, a danger that for many years was ever to be guarded against.
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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