JOHN F. WEBSTER is a farmer citizen of Hamilton County, his ranch being located 4 1/2 miles west of Syracuse. He is one of the pioneers of this district, and has seen and experienced much that has a historic interest apart from his own achievements.
Mr. Webster and his brother George arrived in this western region in the month of May. He joined an acquaintance of his brother, Mr. Lessinger. The latter is well remembered as one of the early settlers of Hamilton County, and was a pioneer dairyman and also one of the men who made the catching of wild horses a business. The first thing the Webster brothers did was to send to Dodge City for a couple of saddles and they then engaged in the wild horse catching industry. They were associated with Mr. Lessinger and Ramsay Brothers. John F. Webster was furnished his horses until he caught and tamed some wild ones of his own. They continued running mustangs for about two years during the spring and summer seasons and in winter he made a hand on the Lessinger ranch, and later did similar work for the memorable pioneer E. P. Barber. Mr. Webster finally took leave of his employer because as he says he "was not making him a dollar." He then moved up the Arkansas River and found the "H. W. W." outfit, hiring to them and remaining in their employ around Wallace for about a year.
In the meantime Mr. Webster took a claim and when it came time for him to occupy it he left the ranch. His homestead was in section 28, township 23, range 41. This was proved up in the course of seven years and the time taken off from the claim was spent as a hand with some of the early settlers of the locality. For a time he was with the "Bar Double S" cattle outfit and also worked as a hand for Alfred Pratt. While with the cattle outfit a buffalo calf was picked up occasionally and there were also a few old buffaloes straying through the country to be gathered in.
Like all the settlers of that early period Mr. Webster lived in a dugout. Before proving up his homestead, however, he built a stone house. That house is still standing and is occupied as a residence. He quarried the stone, laid up the walls and did his own carpenter work in its construction. His claim furnished a good habitation but was a poor place to make a living, and after a few years he exchanged it for a portion of the ranch and farm he now owns and where he resides.
Mr. Webster came to his present home in the Arkansas Valley in 1895. He is owner of the west half of section 4, having bought it when it was in the open and as nature made it. Every tree of his forest of shade was planted by his own hand and every building standing there was erected by him. He developed his industry as a stock raiser as well as a farmer, and that combination has been the source of his profit in his present location. His land holding increases have been made from the income of his stock. He also helped build all the ditches for the irrigation of this region.
He was drawn into county politics upon his election to the office of sheriff, and he gave four years to those duties. Nothing unusual or extraordinary occurred during his term. The county seat battles had been finished and peace and order was well assured. At an early time he had been elected a trustee of Medway Township and was re-elected to the office as long as he could be prevailed upon to take it. He is now township treasurer and treasurer of school district No. 18. This school district he helped organize. With some of his neighbors he secured a claim shanty of one of the Laubach boys and carted it across the prairie a distance of fourteen miles, fitting it up with benches and in other ways to serve as a pioneer schoolhouse. Politically Mr. Webster is a republican, and cast his first vote in Hamilton County. His only fraternity is the Masonic Order.
Such have been his Kansas experiences and they stamp him as one of the sturdy and progressive men of Hamilton County. Now something should be said of his earlier life and of his family. He was born at Wayne in Lafayette County, Wisconsin, December 23, 1855. His grandfather, Francis Clark Webster, was a native of Pennsylvania. He and his family were very devout Christians and for many years he served as an official in the Free Will Baptist Church. His death occurred in Lafayette County, Wisconsin. By his marriage to Sylvia Belden he had the following children: Hiram, Samuel C., Seymour, Mrs. Mary Andrews, Mrs. Louisa Andrews, Edwin and Adrian. All the sons except Hiram were in the Union army and Edwin and Adrian gave up their lives to the Union cause.
The father of John F. Webster was Samuel Clark Webster, who was born in Ashtabula County, Ohio, and went to Wisconsin when a young man. He possessed a fair education and kept himself occupied with the duties of a private citizen all his life. At the outbreak of the rebellion he volunteered at the first call, and was enlisted in the Fifth Wisconsin Battery. By trade he was a blacksmith and was assigned to duty in that occupation or as an artificer in Captain Pinney's Company. At the close of his first term of enlistment he was mustered out and sent home on a veteran furlough and then returned and was with the army until the end. He was captured and was held as a prisoner at Libby, Salisbury and Andersonville, but was exchanged and was on duty in a Federal uniform when the end of hostilities came. He married in Lafayette County, Wisconsin, Miss Mary Eastman, daughter of John Eastman, also a native of Ohio. Both of them died at Delphos, Kansas. Their children were: John F.; Mrs. Ella Ballou, of Ottawa County, Kansas; George, of Magdalena, Colorado; Frank, Ottawa County; and Mrs. Silvie Porter, of San Bernardino, California.
When John F. Webster was twelve years old his parents moved to Afton, Iowa. A few years later the family came to Kansas, settling in Ottawa County, where his father took a homestead near Delphos. Mr. Webster was educated in the public schools of Wisconsin, Iowa and Kansas. The principal experiences of his school days which he remembers were the numerous "lickings" given him, and whether the teacher or the school environment or his own inclinations were at fault, he took little interest in his books. He lived with his parents until past his majority, and with his father learned the trade of blacksmith at Delphos. On leaving home he went to Kansas City, and for a time was established in a blacksmith shop at Rosedale. He had the spirit of adventure in him, and in wandering about over the country made a trip to Arkansas for the purpose of entering land at Bald Knob. He picked up a companion who evinced a similar desire, and they were en route from Walnut Ridge up the railroad toward their destination when in the darkness of night Mr. Webster was struck with a club by his companion and knocked down the embankment. His companion in striking him cried, "Give me your money." On rolling down Mr. Webster was lucky enough to pick up a rock or a cinder and this he hurled in the darkness toward his assailant and chanced to hit him, so that he too tumbled down. Mr. Webster was not long in putting a quietus upon his treacherous companion and he then returned to Walnut Ridge and stayed out in the woods during the rest of the night, well protected by a pile of rocks he had gathered to defend himself in case of another attack. The first freight train that came along going north found him a passenger, and he traveled in that way into St. Louis, from there to Kansas City, and there met his brother and forthwith began their adventures in Western Kansas, as already detailed.
A few years after getting settled in Hamilton County, on November 14, 1888, Mr. Webster married Miss Lydia House. She died at their home west of Syracuse in 1902. She was the mother of two children: Sylvia, the wife of Robert Logan of Peculiar, Missouri, has two daughters, Leta Frances and Sylvia Irene. The son, Ben Raymond, is still on the home farm. On December 27, 1904, Mr. Webster married Mrs. Annabel Woodley. She was born near Gurlaw, Illinois, October 2, 1867, a daughter of Isaac and Isabel (Thompson) Hogue. The Hogue family removed to Shawnee County, Kansas, in 1872 when Mrs. Webster was five years old, and in that locality she grew up. Her parents were both natives of Ohio. Her father was born in 1834 and died near Topeka in 1916. He had given six months of service as a Union soldier during the war. The Hogue children were: Mrs. Agnes Woodley of Topeka; Silas Hogue, of that city; Mrs. Webster; Mrs. Irene Woodley, of Stanton County, Kansas; and Austin, of Topeka. By her first marriage Mrs. Webster was the mother of two children: Mrs. Mabel Stone, who lives at Syracuse, Kansas, and has two children, Raymond and Annabel; and Homer Woodley, who is with the One Hundred and Thirty-Ninth Infantry of the National Army, and helping to fight the battles of the Allied armies in France for liberty and world freedom.
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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