JAMES WELSH. Lasting honor should be paid those men and women who sacrificed much, endured much, and worked hard and long for the development and prosperity which the present generation of Kansans enjoy. Among these real developers of Central Kansas, particularly the Great Bend community, one whose connection has been long and most honorable and fruitful in its results is James Welsh, who settled there in 1880.
Mr. Welsh was born in Washington County, Wisconsin, October 27, 1858, and is the same age as the late Colonel Roosevelt. His father, William Walsh, a native of County Cork, Ireland, came to the United States when a young man, landing in Boston, where he married Catherine Ryan. He died when his son James was a small boy. He was the father of three children: Johnnna, who died in young womanhood; James, of Great Bend; and Margaret, who married Michael Sullivan and died in Wisconsin. Mrs. William Walsh married for her second husband Owen Fay. She died at the home of her son in Kansas November 26, 1900. She was active in the Catholic Church and reared her children in that faith.
James Welsh grew up in a country district of Wisconsin, had district school advantages, and learned to grow grain and handle stock under his widowed mother's supervision.
He was a young unmarried man of twenty-two when he came west by railroad to Great Bend in 1880. He had no knowledge of this region and he adapted himself to circumstances as best he could. Part of the small capital he brought was used to purchase an ox team. He bought a relinquishment in section 20, township 19, range 12, Great Bend Township, and resumed the work of improvement where his predecessor left off. Forty acres had been broken, and Mr. Welsh built a frame shanty 12 by 16 feet. He lived in that structure for a time without either plastering or ceiling. The early crop years were poor and there was hardly sufficient harvest to keep himself and his stock until the following season. To make up the deficiency he worked for wages as a farm hand. He was paid $15 a month and board, but at that time $15 would provide several times as many of the necessaries of life as the same amount of money today. Altogether agricultural conditions in Central Kansas during the early '8Os were most discouraging. Not until 1884 did Mr. Welsh harvest a real crop, when he had a wheat yield of between twenty-five and thirty bushels. Acting on that precedent, he continued to sow wheat as long as he made his home on the farm. He had many fine yields, but several years lost everything he planted. This was the case even as late as 1913. He was paid as low as 45 cents a bushel for his wheat and never received more than $1 a bushel until the period of the World war, when part of one crop brought him $2.60 a bushel.
Mr. Welsh had been in the county about fifteen years before he felt able to acquire more land. He then paid $10 an acre for a quarter section and paid higher prices for other lands, up to $65 an acre, at which time he stopped buying. He bought and sold lands on numerous occasions, and at one time had 1,600 acres in his own name. He now owns four quarter sections. Three of them constitute the home place, all in a body, and practically all in cultivation to grain. Another quarter section lies in the Walnut and Arkansas bottoms and is alfalfa land. Alfalfa has proved his most consistently profitable crop. In the earlier years he took advantage of the open range and developed a considerable herd of cattle. He handled grade Shorthorns, and after raising and maturing the stock sold them locally. As the country settled up he left the stock business and concentrated his attenion[sic] upon wheat. His banner wheat yield came in 1914, when he threshed about 7,000 bushels.
In November, 1912, Mr. Welsh left the farm and has since lived practically retired in a comfortable home he built at 1431 East Tenth Street in Great Bend. While living in the country his chief public interest was in maintaining good schools, and he served as a director and clerk of the board of district No. 3. He has always been a democrat, but beyond voting has never used his influence to shape party affairs.
Mr. Welsh went back to his native Wisconsin county to claim his bride. On February 18, 1903, Miss Mary Catherine Harns became his wife. She was born November 12, 1873, daughter of John F. and Catherine (Burke) Harns. Her father was born at Caledonia, New York, son of Owen Harns. Owen Harns came from Ireland to the United States in 1843 and later went buck to County Louth and married Mary Campbell. On returning to America he made his home for four years in Monroe County, New York, four years in Genesee County, and in 1854 brought his family to Wisconsin and spent the rest of his life in that state as a farmer. John F. Harns was seven years old when taken to Wisconsin, and he has always been a farmer and is still living in that state. He and his wife had the following children besides Mrs. Welsh: Elizabeth, who died unmarried; George, of Milwaukee; John, of West Bend, Wisconsin; Rose, of Mayville, Wisconsin; Joseph, who died in Wisconsin; Ellen and Agnes, both deceased. Mr. and Mrs. Welsh have three children, named William, Catherine and Margaret.
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
Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project