JOHN TAYLOR, of Protection, is widely known as one of the settlers of Comanche County. His experiences in the early days have been unusual, coming here a fairly well to do man, losing all his property in the times of adversity, and then regaining it and still more through his efforts as a ranchman and stockman. He has well earned the comfortable retirement he now enjoys.
Mr. Taylor was born in DeWitt County, Illinois, October 10, 1838, so that the record of his life covers a span of fourscore years, and he recalls when as a boy the advent of a railroad was as much talked about as are now the wonderful inventions and engines of air and land employed in the great war. His father, Joseph Taylor, came from the State of Maryland to Ohio and later to Illinois. He died in the fall of 1850, when about forty-five years old. The mother's maiden name was Letha Gardner, who died in 1865. The children of this worthy couple are briefly recorded as follows: Polly, who married R. H. Baker and died in McLean County, Illinois; Andrew J., who served as a lieutenant in the Twentieth Regiment of Illinois Infantry and died in Butler County, Kansas; Margaret, who married Joseph Baker and now lives in McLean County, Illinois; John and Thomas, twins, the latter of whom died at Oklahoma City on April 20, 1918; Joseph T., who was a soldier with his brother John and died at Shawnee, Oklahoma; Elizabeth, died as the wife of D. W. Ellington in Chase County, Kansas; George W., a soldier in the Third Illinois Cavalry, died at Bloomington, Illinois; Catherine, died in young womanhood; and William, the youngest, died at Coldwater, Kansas, January 1, 1918.
The early life of John Taylor was spent on his father's farm in DeWitt County, Illinois. His boyhood experiences were those of a rural district, and rural life and its occupations have constituted his main experience in the world and he retired to Protection about ten years ago. In the '40s and '50s, while he was growing to manhood, there was little opportunity in the country districts of Illinois to acquire an education beyond that imparted by the rude district schools. A few months each year he spent in such a school. He was only twelve years old when his father died, and that event further shortened and abbreviated his opportunities. As already noted, he was one of several children, he and his twin brother were fond and bosom companions, and their lives were spent much in the same way. On reaching his majority John Taylor continued to live at home with his mother until he entered the army.
His army record begins with enlisting in Company B of the One Hundred Seventh Illinois Infantry. His captain was James Turner, and the regiment was commanded for a time by Col. Thomas Snell and later by Col. Kelley. During the first winter the regiment did guard duty on railroad bridges in Kentucky against the Morgan band of raiders. After that the regiment went into the heart of the Confederacy, joining some of General Schofield's troops under General Sherman. But before that time Mr. Taylor was sent back to the rear for recuperation in hospital and never rejoined his command. At Cincinnati he was detailed to help guard rebel prisoners and deliver them to Camp Chase, Columbus. After two months of invalidism in a hospital at Camp Madison, Indiana, he was given his honorable discharge December 26, 1863. On leaving the army he returned home unfit for further military duty and it was over a year before he was sufficiently recovered to be of any practical use on the farm.
On September 10, 1864, he married Sarah J. VanValey. Mrs. Taylor was born in DeWitt County, Illinois, August 19, 1840, and was one of the six children reared to maturity by her parents, Joseph and Theodaty (Ackerson) VanValey. Mrs. Taylor has a sister and brother still living, Emeline Cunningham and Lorenzo VanValey, of McLean County, Illinois.
After his marriage Mr. Taylor located in the neighborhood of his birth and there owned his first land. He came to be known in that community not so much for public service as for hard working industry and all-around good citizenship. He was being reasonably prospered as a farmer, but the growing to maturity of a family of young sons caused him to leave and seek a region of greater opportunity as he supposed, at least a region where land was more plentiful and cheap. This was what brought him to Kansas. He joined with thousands of emigrants from the east and thus in March, 1886, arrived in Comanche County. Here he bought a quarter section of deeded land four miles south of protection. Early as it was, the first settlers had began to abandon the country because of trying conditions, and this exodus continued until only here and there was one found with the courage, or perhaps chained down by circumstances, to remain. In the course of a few years Protection was reduced from a village to less than a hamlet, and at one period, as Mr. Taylor says, "five thousand dollars would have bought the whole townsite and everything on it."
Mr. Taylor's condition on coming to Kansas was in decided contrast to many other home seekers of the time. He shipped out here a car of household goods, two mares and a span of mules, and had a cash capital of about $4,000. But in the course of a few years he was reduced to the same condition that many were who came less prepared to make a stand against adversity. The growing of crops was an impossibility so far as measured by the standards he had learned to expect back in the great corn belt of Illinois. His cash was rapidly paid out until at the end of three years he was reduced practically to nothing. His farm was mortgaged when he bought it and eventually the mortgage took it away altogether and it was sold at sheriff's sale. After that he remained on the farm as a tenant, and in the course of time was able to buy it back, and had the satisfaction of selling it later with other accumulated lands amounting to 800 acres for $35 an acre.
With such old timers as Mr. Taylor there naturally came at different times tremendous problems and occasions when it was necessary to make a vital decision one way or another. One time he had before him the alternative of leaving the country, if that could be arranged, or of diverting his energies and modest equipment from farming to stock raising. He made the decision to stay and after some difficulty secured wire enough to fence several quarter sections, traded for a fine horse and a bunch of cows, and from that time forward there was a change in his fortunes. His farm and ranch produced many of the good horses raised in this district, and at times he had as many as 114 head, while of cattle his herd numbered about 300. Though this period of his career was embarrassed with the accumulation of debts, his growing and increasing herd of livestock enabled him to carry such obligations without special worry, since his real resources were always ample to offset his liability. Gradually he paid off his debt, and in course of time had a modest ranch of five quarter sections. On retiring from active business he sold this and invested in property in Protection. Here he bought portions of eight blocks of land on the townsite, and for several years has been selling lots, erecting houses for rent, and has given the town nine residences.
Mr. Taylor is a man of quiet demeanor, has attended strictly to his own affairs, and while an interested citizen has seldom put himself in the way of an office. About the only office he ever held was as member of the school board in the country district. Politically his record as an old time democrat is worthy of special note. Back in 1860 he supported Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois for President. Then in 1864 he supported General McClelland. There has never been an interruption to this democratic affiliation.
It remains now briefly to note the children of Mr. and Mrs. Taylor, who are one of the oldest married couples in Comanche County, having celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1914. Their children number three, William R., Charles F. and Laura. William R. is a resident of Protection and married Gertrude Thares. Charles is a Comanche County farmer and by his marriage to Leona Brittenham, has a family of three children, Mabel, Carl and Helen. The daughter, Laura, is the wife of C. W. Moore of Protection, and their family numbers four, Earl, Eugene, John and Kirby
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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