COL. FLETCHER D. WEST was one of the notable figures in the life and affairs of Western Kansas. He located in Edwards County in 1884, and during thirty years his interests assumed such broad proportions that it would be difficult to classify him by any one occupation. He was a veterinarian, auctioneer, farmer, business man and public spirited citizen, and his name and influence were sought for many worthy projects. Only recently Governor Capper designated him as a member of the committee for Edwards County to speed up farm and garden production during the period of the war.
Colonel West was born at Cadiz in Harrison County, Ohio, September 22, 1850. As a boy he attended the country schools near that village. In looking back to that time he declared that "Arithmetic and devilment" were his chief studies in the country. His first ambition was for a medical career. With that in view he attended Jefferson Medical College, having in the meantime read medicine under Doctor Wirtman of Cadiz two years. As he progressed toward his goal he became convinced that his true calling was not as a physician. He therefore abandoned his studies and took up veterinary and began practicing that profession on a certificate. For a year before coming to Kansas he had lived in Wapello County, Iowa.
On coming to Edwards County Colonel West bought relinquishments on the northwest quarter of section 10, township 26, range 19, and the southwest quarter of section 3, township 26, range 18. Both these places he patented and he improved the homestead and lived on it twelve years.
For several months Colonel West lived in one of the crudest claim shacks of Edwards county. Its dimensions were 7 by 11 feet. It was merely a board box. It had at least the virtue of convenience. He could he abed and build the fire in his stove and get breakfast without lifting himself from the covers. While on this claim he did general farming, raising corn, oats and broom corn, and was able to get a living out of the soil. At times it was a very short living, but in the words of Colonel West "It never got below sorghum molasses and corn cakes." Colonel West had taught school back in Ohio, and after coming to Kansas his wife followed the same profession for six years. Her wages were an important contribution to the family treasury in those hard years.
From the very first Colonel West practiced veterinary surgery. Another chief occupation was trading. From the time he came to Edwards County he began trading in land and stock, and that work combined with his profession as auctioneer and veterinary, made him a useful factor in the community. For thirty-five years he was active as an auctioneer and verterinary, and only abandoned the latter profession recently. As an auctioneer he cried sales from Kansas to California, including Colorado. He was active in the organization of both the State and National Auctioneers associations, was president of both bodies and chaplain of both. The business of auctioneer reached its high tide during the dry times in Western Kansas, when about half the people left the country. It was Colonel West's opinion, based upon long observation, that four-fifths of the old settlers either left the county or have died.
Colonel West during his career in Western Kansas owned many farms and bodies of land, built houses and barns, repaired and remodeled other structures, and thus provided facilities for new comers. He bought and shipped hogs and cattle, and had extensive cattle interests along the Arkansas River, dealing in and breeding the Delaware strain of cattle. His farm lands include 480 acres in Edwards County, a half section in Gray County, and 800 acres in Finney County. His cattle ranch is in the latter county.
Colonel West had much experience as a wheat grower. The average of his crops taken through the years was over twenty-nine bushels to the acre. The biggest acreage he had was 600, and his largest threshing yield was 10,000 bushels. The only complete failure he had in thirty-three years came in 1916-17. In the fall of 1916 he sowed 1,600 acres to wheat and not a spear of it escaped the dry weather and cold, and in the spring of 1917 the ground was replanted with corn and kaffir. Though exercising active superintendence over his farms Colonel West lived in Kinsley from 1895 until his death.
He was a stockholder and served as a member of the official board of the First National Bank of Lewis, and was a stockholder in the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Kinsley, the Kansas Life Insurance Company of Topeka, the Bankers Savings Life insurance Company of Topeka, the Monarch Portland Cement Company of Humboldt, the big Walnut Oil Company and the Pratt County Oil and Gas Company.
Colonel West began voting as a republican and never deviated from it in spite of the many vagaries to which politics in Kansas has been subjected. His maiden vote for president was given to General Grant in 1872. He then voted successively for Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, for General Garfield in 1880, for James G. Blaine in 1884, for Gen. Benjamin Harrison in 1888 and 1892, for William McKinley in 1896 and 1900, for Mr. Roosevelt in 1904, for Mr. Taft in 1908 and 1912, and in 1916 his vote and hearty support were accorded to Mr. Hughes. He was a member of the convention of 1912 nominating Mr. Taft. In 1904 Colonel West was elected a member of the Kansas Legislature. He served one term and at the next election was defeated by only one vote. While in the Legislature he gave his active support to the woman's suffrage bill and the state oil refinery bill. He was an original universal suffrage man.
He was a Blue Lodge, Chapter and Knight Templar Mason, and on April 26, 1918, he was given the thirty-second degree. He was affiliated with Larned Commandery and was a past grand in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and a member of the Rebekahs. Though reared a Methodist, he was for thirty-five years identified with the Christian Church. He helped build eleven churches of different denominations in Edwards County. He was an elder of his home church for thirty-three years, and Mrs. West is active in the same work and in the church auxiliaries.
Colonel West was descended from Scotch-Irish stock. The exact date of the coming of the West family to America has been lost. His grandfather, Thomas West, married a Miss Underhill, and their children were: "Teen" Augustus, John, Emanuel and Albert. Teen was a Union soldier, enlisting from Harrison County, Illinois, in the Civil war, and all the brothers were farmers.
Albert West, father of Colonel West, was born in Harrison County, Ohio, and died August 8, 1891. He married Mary Plummer, who died October 4, 1859. She was a daughter of John and Nancy Plummer. The Plummers are of English origin and all seem to have been farmers in America. Albert West and wife had the following children: Rachel, living at Deersville, Ohio, widow of Isaac Vickers; Hattie, wife of George Cramblett, of Tappan, Ohio; Esther, who married Thomas McGill and lives near Deersville, Ohio; Anderson, of Harrison County, Ohio; Pinkney L., of Belmont County, Ohio; Colonel West; Leander, of Massillon, Ohio; Sarah, who died in Ohio, wife of Marion Hammond; Martha J., wife of Joseph Timmerman, of Denison, Ohio; and Hannah, who died unmarried.
On December 25, 1883, in Harrison County, Ohio, Colonel West married Mary E. McGill. It was only a few weeks after their marriage that they came west and located as pioneers in Edwards County. Mrs. West was a daughter of John and Nancy McGill, and died at Kinsley April 30, 1904. There were no children of their marriage. On December 25, 1914, at Bristow, Oklahoma, Colonel West was married to Ella K. Knisley. The wedding ceremony was performed by Rev. S. S. McGill, a brother of his first wife. Mrs. West was born at Aledo, Illinois, November 13, 1869, a daughter of Daniel and Martha (Meeks) Knisley. Her father came out to Kansas, and both he and his wife are buried at Kinsley. Mr. Knisley was born in Ohio, but his parents were Virginians, living along the Potomac River. The Meeks family came from Kentucky. Mrs. West was the youngest of her parents' children. The others are: George, of Stockton, California; Laura, wife of B. V. Brown, of Kinsley, Kansas; Daniel, of Stockton,, Colorado; Frank, of Tippecanoe, Ohio; and Lucy, who died at Lathrop, California, as the wife of C. O. Wilson. Colonel West passed away July 14, 1918.
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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