ORRA WIKOFF was one of the more substantial of the pioneer settlers in Wichita County. He located permanently there in 1886 and has considerably more property and capital than the average early comer. He has been identified with the county ever since, first as a farmer, later as a farmer and stock raiser, and has also given much of his time to public affairs.
Mr. Wikoff was born in McLean County, Illinois, January 31, 1856. He grew up on a farm in Yates Township, where his father had located in 1853. His education was supplied by the country schools, and on reaching manhood his experience had chiefly qualified him for farming. He continued to farm in his native county, was married there in 1877, and brought his wife and children to Kansas. He made his first trip over the western counties in the fall of 1885. In December, 1885, he entered as a homestead the northwest quarter of section 12, township 18, range 35 in Wichita County. Early in the following year he shipped his goods out from McLean County to Garden City, Kansas, and then freighted across the country to Wichita County. He was a stranger in the community and one of the very first settlers in Coronado Township. Mr. Wikoff brought to Kansas a couple of young stallions, a pair of mules, household goods, farming tools, and about $1,000 cash capital to sustain him during the hard years that might follow. In this equipment and capital he was decidedly better off than many of the early settlers.
His first home instead of being a dugout or sod house was a two-room frame house. He immediately put into practice the experience he had gained as an Illinois farmer, but found the Kansas prairies rather stubborn and backward in producing crops. Farming was unprofitable, though he secured a fair corn crop in 1886. In 1890 he transferred his efforts to wheat and had good crops until 1893, when he met with a total failure. In that year he lost 640 acres of wheat by drouth. That was a decided misfortune, but the misfortune probably turned out to be his salvation, since in the same fall he was staked with cattle on the shares, and thenceforward he has put perhaps his main reliance on cattle farming. A few years of experience convinced him that stock, even at the prevailing low prices, was a surer profit than grain growing.
Mr. Wikoff remained in the locality where he had taken up his first homestead twenty-two years ago. Those years on the whole brought him considerable prosperity. Out of his profits he acquired other lands still owns a half section there, and when he removed from that community he sold two sections. When he sold his land the average price was about $12.50 an acre. He had bought his holdings as cheap as $85 to $250 a quarter section.
On selling out his homestead Mr. Wikoff came to his present farm, almost adjoining the townsite of Leoti. He bought the north half of section 18, township 18, range 36. This tract had been substantially improved by Frank Fouts and Frank Campbell. In his new location Mr. Wikoff has been farming and raising horses. He keeps the better grades of Percheron and his horses have proved a very profitable enterprise. He is one of the managers of the Wichita County Fair Association, an organization about four years old, and it is creating much interest among the farmers of the county.
Mr. Wikoff began voting in McLean County, Illinois, casting his first presidential vote in Yates Township there in 1880 for General Garfield. He has steadily supported the national and state candidates of the republican party and was a delegate to the state convention that nominated Governors Bailey, Hoch, Stubbs and Stanley.
In his first location in Wichita County he assisted in organizing School District No. 17 and for several years was a member of the school board. He was also treasurer of Coronado Township and for six years was county commissioner. He was on the board with Commissioners Martina, Castor and Holden. While he was a commissioner an effort was made to settle with the Santa Fe Railway Company regarding the bonds issued by the county for that road. In 1888-89 he was deputy sheriff under Sheriff Moses Brown. He was also city marshal and night watch in Coronado during the outbreak which resulted so fatally in the county seat struggle. In that local factional fight he was a partisan of Coronado. He lived in that town a year and conducted a livery barn and restaurant there. Mr. Wikoff while living in Illinois joined the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, has filled the office of Noble Grand several times, has been in the Grand Lodge and holds a medal granted for thirty years' continuous good membership in the order. He is also a member of the Modern Woodmen of America. He was reared under Methodist church influences, but has not become identified with any church, though his wife is active in the Presbyterian denomination.
Mr. Wikoff's grandfather was William Wikoff, a farmer who died in Ohio. His widow subsequently died in McLean County, Illinois. Their children were: William, Bascom, Greenberry, James E., Mrs. Mary Metheney and Mrs. Emma Vance. Bascom Wikoff served as a soldier of the Union during the Civil war.
James E. Wikoff, father of Orra Wikoff, was born in Adams County, Ohio, where his parents had settled from Pennsylvania. From Ohio he moved to Illinois, taking with him his wife, and he was a farmer in that state until he was killed while working around a hay press in August, 1876. He had served as an official of the county.
James E. Wikoff married Phebe Holderness. She died in March, 1908. Her father, William Holderness, was born in England and moved to Illinois from Ohio. James E. Wikoff and wife had the following children: Orra; Sarah E., who married Frank B. Apperson and died in Los Angeles, California, in 1916; Hattie, who married H. L. Marshall and died in Eufaula, Oklahoma; and Grant, of Elsworth County, Kansas.
Orra Wikoff was married in McLean County, Illinois, January 31, 1877, to Miss Laura V. Gray. Her father, John Gray, was born in Indiana, spent his life as a farmer, and served in the Union army from Peoria County, Illinois. John Gray married Nancy Hunter, who is still living. Mrs. Wikoff is one of the following children: Pinkney, Mrs. Sarah Palmer, Thomas, John, Mrs. Wikoff, born March 10, 1858, Mrs. Annie Bickle, Abner, Ruth who married W. O. Wilson, and Frank.
Evans E. Wikoff, oldest child of Mr. and Mrs. Wikoff, is a farmer in Wichita County. By his marriage to Nettie Snodgrass he has children named Grant, Laura, Gladys, Genevieve and Orra. Jessie, the second child, is the wife of Otis Presson, of Junction City, Kansas. Their children are Ione, Laura and Lavina. Ida is the wife of Harry Lewin, of Leoti, and Carl is still at home.
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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