EMMETT M. TAYLOR. Prior to the early '80s the Western Kansas counties had no population except the catle[sic] men. The cattle men were the lords of the land, but had no interest in it except as it provided grass and water for their stock. They ranged their cattle over thousands of acres, without the restriction of a single fence, and most of them were naturally somewhat resentful of the settlement of farmers and homesteaders.
These actual settlers on the land began arriving in Scott County about 1885. In a couple of years practically every quarter section was taken up and had its frame shanty. But the enthusiasm of these pioneers was short lived. One or two seasons of crop failures, and most of them had spent all their money and began getting out of the country, either going back east or seeking locations farther west. The abandonment of claims was a frequent occurrence in 1887, while in 1888 the great exodus took place, when it seemed that everybody was outward bound. The cattlemen naturally hailed this exodus with joy, and thought that they were coming again into their proper rights. However, there were some of the settlers who determined to remain against all that might come and refused to be beaten by climate or other circumstances. One of these who elected to stand in Scott County through thick and thin was Emmett M. Taylor. He has always felt satisfied with his choice, and for a number of years has been enjoying prosperity and good position in the Friend community of the county.
Mr. Taylor came to Scott County in March, 1887. He had spent the three years previous in Lafayette County, Missouri, but not satisfied with farming conditions there he sought a better home on the western frontier of Kansas. He is a native of Georgia, and although he came out to Scott County in the early days he found the country almost as thickly settled as his old Georgia community, but, as already stated, these early settlers soon disappeared.
Mr. Taylor was born in Taliaferro County, Georgia, October 30, 1859. He grew up on a southern plantation. His father, Joel Taylor, was a cotton raiser, owned a number of slaves, and was also a native of Taliaferro County. During the war he served in the Confederate army. He was of Scotch ancestry. Joel Taylor married Frances Moore, a daughter of Isaac Moore, who operated an extensive farm in Taliaferro County. Joel Taylor died at the age of sixty-seven and his wife when about sixty-five. Their children were Edward, Rodolph, James, Eunice, who married Walter Stevens; Emmett M. and Isaac.
Emmett M. Taylor was the only one of his brothers and sisters to leave Georgia and seek a home among a new people. To Scott County he brought his wife and children, and homesteaded the northeast quarter of section 20, township 20, range 32, in what is now Lake Township. As his pioneer house he put up a sod structure 14x24 feet. It was plastered with lime and sand. He also had a sod protection for his stock. Untried and unversed in the conditions of Western Kansas, he started farming by breaking out about twenty acres and planting it chiefly in corn. He had fodder but no grain. Corn raising was a favorite experiment with him for several years, but returned him little or nothing for his pains. Like other pioneers he resorted to work for others in order to pay expenses. He did work as opportunity offered on timber claims, dug wells, freighted from Garden City to Scott City in 1887 and also hauled goods west from Scott City to stores scattered here and there over the country. The season of 1891 he spent in the harvest fields of Pawnee County. By various maneuvers and shifts he managed to brave out the adversities of Scott County until seasons became more fruitful. In 1892 he secured some seed wheat on the shares, sowed a large field and had a generous crop. That was his first experience in wheat growing. The next year he also sowed a generous quantity. The year 1893 will be recalled as one of continued drought in Kansas and the seed did not even sprout in the ground. After that for ten years Mr. Taylor refused to consider wheat as a crop.
His next shift was to cattle. He secured a few head, and has developed this branch of his business as the surest profit taking all seasons together. During the past three years, 1914-15-16, he has had three crops of wheat, the best consecutive seasons he has known.
He had not been in the country long when he commuted his homestead and soon after took a pre-emption, the northwest quarter of the same section. Land became so worthless that he could not get sufficient money to prove up. He sold the relinquishment for $50, and, as he says, "it took two men to buy it at that." His next location was a tract of school land, the southwest quarter of section 16. Several years were spent there and again he and his family lived in a sod house of his own construction. Later he put up a frame house, which was destroyed by fire in March, 1893, and the fire also took all his household goods. A week before he had been visited by fire, which destroyed his outbuildings and 400 bushels of grain. Any disaster like this in Western Kansas was a signal for the generous outpouring of sympathy and practical help on the part of the neighbors. His friends supplied the family with clothing, bedding and shelter and in a short time he mustered up courage to take another round with fate. He got a contract to herd cattle at 15 cents per head a month, and for several years this gave him a living. In a few years he sold his improvements and became a hand on the ranch of Fred Schultz, with whom he remained a year.
About this time the tide began to turn in his favor. He moved to the northeast quarter of section 18, his present home, and acquired that land as a homestead. He was one of the few men who exercised that right under the changed federal law. His improvements there began with a small frame house. This is still part of his larger room. Other rooms have been added from time to time, including a cement basement or half dugout, which serves the family as kitchen and living room.
Mr. Taylor has continued his farming and stock raising, and has added other land until he owns an entire section and eighty acres. Of this 170 acres have been brought under cultivation. Ten acres of this is in alfalfa.
Looking out for himself and his family has not been the only occupation of Mr. Taylor in Scott County. He assisted in putting up the first school house in District No. 9. It was a sod house. For several years he was a member of the school board, for several terms was trustee of his township and also clerk and treasurer of the township. In the early days, he recalls, county politics afforded a great deal of excitement and diversion. Party lines were closely drawn, and every candidate went through a campaign before elected to office. He was elected trustee on the democratic ticket. In 1912 he was elected commissioner of the Third District and was re-elected for another four year term in 1916. During his service as commissioner a county high school has been built, and another important work besides the routine affairs of the county was supplying the farmers with seed wheat in 1913.
Mr. Taylor's home is at Friend. For eleven years he served as postmaster of Friend, though the handling of the mail and the clerical details of the office were largely performed by Mrs. Taylor.
Mr. Taylor was married at Lexington, Missouri, November 13, 1884, to Miss Bettie Wedin. Her father went from Missouri into the Union army, was an officer of his company, and died while in service. Mrs. Taylor was born in LaFayette County, Missouri, November 25, 1859, and has a brother, John Wedin living at LaFayette in that state. Mr. and Mrs. Taylor have two children. Ben is a grain buyer at Scott City. He married Minnie Sutton, and they have two children, Gertrude and Mildred. Joseph Taylor, the second son, is a stockman and farmer in Colorado, and by his marriage to Carrol Halsey has a daughter, Willetta.
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.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
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