JOHN H. VERMILION has been a factor in the settlement and development of Ness County since 1886. He came from Unionville, Missouri, and arrived in the Ransom community August 6th, and that has now been his home for more than thirty years. The preceding year he had come out to Western Kansas and had filed on and won his claim, which was the southeast quarter of section 12, township 17, range 24. His Kansas home has been on that spot of ground ever since. When he came in 1886 he brought his wife, whom he had married about two years before, and one small child.
Mr. Vermilion is one of the men who is competent to give a very trustworthy and detailed description of early conditions in Ness County. He may have been somewhat more prosperous than many of the early settlers, he may have used more industry and judgment and persistence than some, but on the whole his experience covers the entire story of home development and the conversion of this district of country to the uses of civilized men.
The equipment with which Mr. Vermilion began life in Ness County were a team, two yearling mules and a cow. His cash capital amounted to not more than $300. Then and for some years later there were heavy demands upon this capital. The hardest work of the pioneers brought in little income from the cultivated fields, and until the experience of the early settlers enabled them to put agriculture on a self-supporting basis the settlers were put to every resource to make both ends meet.
One of the great laws of architecture is that buildings and improvements should harmonize with the surrounding landscape and the conditions of local topography. In this respect the early homes of Western Kansas left nothing to be desired. In fact, they were so harmonious with the landscape that they blended perfectly with the topography and travelers might easily pass by the "soddys" without even noticing them. The first work Mr. Vermilion did on arriving in Ness County was to erect a sod house, 14 by 14 feet. It contained a single room, the interior was finished with native plaster, it had a sod roof, and there were three windows and one door. This single room contained a bed, a cupboard, a stove and three chairs, and this furniture and the little family nearly filled the room. Nearby he erected a sod stable for his stock. As soon as these necessary improvements were completed Mr. Vermilion set about to break up some land, and in the spring of 1887 he planted a crop of corn. The corn crop that year was a failure, and that particular season was not an exception, since there were lean years for nearly a decade. When his fields failed to produce a source of revenue Mr. Vermilion applied himself to some of the heaviest tasks of manual labor. He worked by the day at 75 cents a day, digging wells, making hay, but unlike many of his neighbors he went outside of Ness County for work only one season and that was in 1893, when he made a hand in the harvest fields of Barber County.
In the years 1891 and 1892 he had a crop of wheat which was of much importance to the family, and the proceeds from that crop for the first time, brought the family larder and the family wardrobe up to normal. It was only as a result of several years that Mr. Vermilion proved wheat the most promising crop for this section. Since then he has sowed wheat every year. As rapidly as he could he engaged in the cattle business, finally becoming a dairyman, and for twelve years he milked a herd of cows and sold the cream. That was perhaps the most important part of his farm economy, since it brought in cash money every week. There has never been a time since he engaged in the dairy industry when the Vermilion family did not have some surplus means.
For many years he has handled from twenty to sixty head of grade cattle, has also found profit in horses, selling a small bunch every year. The aggregate of his fortune as a Kansas farmer has enabled him to purchase eight quarter sections of land, giving him 1,280 acres, all of which is under fence and 720 acres under cultivation. He has two complete sets of improvements on his farms, and the improvements on his home place are among the most conspicuous along the road between Ness City and Ransom. He and his family lived for six years in the sod home, and in 1892 he made the beginning of his present substantial stone house. Additions have been made from time to time, and his numerous barns and other buildings have come along as needed and as finances warranted.
Mr. Vermilion also figured as a pioneer educator in Kansas. He taught the first term of school in his Kansas district, that term being held in a sod schoolhouse. He assisted to organize School District No. 62, and the first term was held on the Mulvaney farm in a stone residence. The first regular school building was a sod house about 16 by 18 foot, and the first teacher in the district was Miss Maude McGibbon. That schoolhouse was a temple of learning for the Vermilion children, and four of his daughters went from the school to become teachers themselves. The higher education of his children was acquired in the Salina Wesleyan College, the normal schools at Hayes City, Kansas, and Kirksville, Missouri, and the Kansas State Normal.
Considering Mr. Vermilion's family and personal history the following items should be added. He was born near Unionville, Missouri, June 14, 1861. The name Vermilion is of French origin. His grandfather, Cornelius Vermilion, was a Kentuckian, moved to Indiana in pioneer days, spent most of his years as a farmer in Vigo County, and died there. By his marriage to Miss Sanford he had children named George, John, Henry and Reason.
Henry Vermilion, father of John H., was born in Vigo County, Indiana, in August, 1831, and spent his years as a farmer and stockman. Though he acquired little schooling he practiced all he knew and was a man of substantial judgment and industry, which put him far ahead in the race of life. He moved to Missouri, and was in that state during the war. He entered the Missouri Militia from Putnam County. His death occurred in that county in 1913. He was a leader in the United Brethren Church, was a republican, served as township trustee and as a director of his school district. He married Sarah McAdams, who died in 1916 in Missouri. Her father was Harry McAdams, of Vigo County, Indiana, and there was an admixture of German stock through the McAdams branch of the family. Henry Vermilion and wife had the folowing[sic] children: Emma, who married George Williamson, of Lemon, Missouri; Hattie, deceased, who married Ed McPherson, of Pawnee, Oklahoma; John H.; Charles F., of Lemon, Missouri; Sherman, of Marlow, Oklahoma; George W., of Lemon, Missouri; Frank, of Goodwin, Oklahoma; Clara, who married Charles Fleshman, of Lucerne, Missouri.
John H. Vermilion grew up on a farm and had the advantages of the common schools, which he wisely improved. Before coming to Kansas he taught several terms of district school. In his home district of Ness County he served as a director for eighteen years and for one term was clerk of Nevada Township. When the Ness City Flour Mills was a prosperous organization he was one of its directors. He was brought up as a republican, casting his first ballot for James G. Blaine in 1884, subsequently became identified with the populist movement, and since that party disbanded he has been practically a free lance in politics, with strong prohibition tendencies.
In Putnam County, Missouri, on March 13, 1884, Mr. Vermilion married Miss Hattie A. Good. Mrs. Vermilion was born near Unionville, Missouri, November 24, 1863, a daughter of Abe and Sarah J. (Kaup) Good. Her father spent his life as a farmer, was a member of the Missouri Militia during the war, was active in church and a republican in politics. He and his wife now live in Kiowa, Kansas. Their children were: Margaret, who married Manford Campbell, of Kiowa, Kansas; Mrs. Vermilion; David, of Hardner, Kansas; Mary, wife of Leslie Elmore, of Capron, Oklahoma; Effie and Samuel, of Kiowa; and Lura, who died at Alva, Oklahoma, the wife of John Burns.
Myrtle, the oldest of the children of Mr. and Mrs. Vermilion, coming with them to Kansas in 1886, completed her studies in the Kansas State Normal, holds a diploma from the Salina Wesleyan College, also a diploma from the Kansas State Normal, and has taught in the schools at Ransom, Plainville, Bownell and Kiowa, Kansas. Rosa, the second child, has also taught in the public schools, has been a student in the Salina Wesleyan College and at the Kansas School at Hayes City and Emporia and is now teaching in Ransom. Bertha took some of her work in the Kansas Wesleyan College and has also been a teacher. She is now Mrs. Ira Stutzman and has a daughter, Evelyn Marie. Ray was accidentally drowned in 1915, being then twenty-six years of age. Lura is the wife of Charles Stutzman, of Ness County. Three other children, all at home, are Frank, Edith and Ira.
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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