ROBERT A. WOLFE has been a resident of Edwards County since November, 1885. He is still living on his country place in Wayne Township, near the town of Lewis, where he is considered one of the foremost citizens. Mr. Wolfe's success in Kansas is due to several causes. In the first place, when he came to Kansas, he came to stay and anchored himself firmly here in spite of all adversities. He was a man of resources. When one crop failed he was ready with another to take its place, and when labor on his own land ceased he was ready and willing to do something for others and eke out a livelihood. By practice and experience he came to know several trades and has used his skill effectively in building up the pretentious and efficient equipment of his farm and home.
Mr. Wolfe also represents some of the sturdy ancestry that is familiarly called the Pennsylvania Dutch, though German blood is prominent in his veins. There were three Wolfe brothers who came from Saxony, Germany, and settled in the colonies just before the American revolution. They all saw active service in the Colonial armies, and they made settlement in three different localities, one of them in Virginia, another at Louisburg, Pennsylvania, and another at old Fort Duquesne or Fort Pitt, now Pittsburg. This Lewis branch of the family is descended from the brother that located at Louisburg, Pennsylvania. The great-grandfather of Mr. Wolfe is believed to have had the name of Michael. That was also the name of the grandfather, who in the early days moved from Pennsylvania to Sandusky County, Ohio. He was a farmer, and also with his two sons conducted a grain elevator business and a country store at Lindsey, Ohio. He was a man of considerable means. He died and is buried near the old home farm near Fremont, Ohio. He married Margaret Engleman, and their family consisted of four sons and three daughters: Levi; Solomon; Josia; A. Jackson; Ellen, who married A. D. Hook; Annie, who married William Baker; and Sivilla, who married James Hensel. All these sons were soldiers in the Civil war, enlisting with Ohio regiments.
Levi Wolfe, father of Robert A., was born in Pennsylvania and was about seven years of age when his parents moved from Union County, that state, to Sandusky County, Ohio. He followed in the footsteps of his father and was a farmer for the most part. He completed his education in Oberlin College and in early life was a teacher. He possessed much literary taste and had a splendid library for a farmer, was a man of information on many subjects and could make a creditable speech when the occasion required. He took an active part in the affairs of his township. While a member of the Methodist Protestant Church, he was not active in church affairs, and in Politics became a republican after the war, though previously a Jackson democrat, Levi Wolfe married Matilda Lantz. Her father was John Lantz, of an old German family early settled in Pennsylvania. Levi Wolfe died at the age of sixty-five and his widow passed away in January, 1917, at the age of eighty-one. Their children were: Robert A.; Dillie and Cecelia, twins, the former the wife of A. J. Stein, of Sunbury, Pennsylvania, while Cecelia died in infancy; Emma, wife of E. T. Fox, of Lewis, Kansas; Ella, wife of D. A. Swinehart, of Fremont, Ohio; James H., who died near Lewis, Kansas, March 29, 1917, leaving a family; Chester E., of Fremont, Ohio; Michael J., also of Fremont; Mrs. C. A. Benner, twin sister of Michael, living at Eads, Colorado; and Addie, wife of William Hensel, of Fremont, Ohio.
Robert A. Wolfe was born in Sandusky County, near Fremont, Ohio, October 31, 1858. He had the advantages of the common schools, and his early experience was that of a farmer. He lived with his parents until past his majority, and in November, 1879, at the age of twenty-one, he married, and two children were born in Ohio. There were several reasons that brought Mr. Wolfe to Kansas. He was not a robust man physically, the climate of Western Kansas was better suited to him, and he also hoped to find here a place where a man of little means could accomplish more than among the staid and settled people of Ohio. Thus it was that in the month of April, 1886, accompanied by his wife and children, possessing a few hundred dollars in cash and with a few household goods, he reached Kansas by rail, leaving the train at Kinsley. He then bought the quarter section of land where he still resides. It is the northwest quarter of section 13, township 24, range 18. He paid $4 an acre in cash for it. It was raw prairie, and his pioneer home was a small frame house 16 by 24 feet, and a sod stable 20 by 50 feet, with a "Kansas roof.", As his first equipment he paid $300 for a mule team, wagon and harness, and $35 for his first cow. The first year here he planted a sod crop of corn and raised enough to feed his team and cow during the next winter and also fatten a few hogs. In the fall of 1886 Mr. Wolfe sowed wheat and the next season harvested about twelve bushels to the acre. That year his corn was a failure. In 1888 a severe hail all but destroyed his wheat crop, though from the second growth there was enough for seed. This was perhaps the chief disaster he experienced in the early days. It was his handiness with tools that enabled him to tide over this period. He was able to repair wind mills and do all kinds of skilled work, and by employment for others he was able to support his family until another crop could be raised.
Mr. Wolfe's experience is exceptional in the fact that he never had to leave the farm, as did so many other early settlers in this part of the state. However, he had to find work about the community, and at first wages were high, but eventually a day's work brought such a small wage that it was difficult to be self supporting from that resource. But by this time Mr. Wolfe was himself hiring men. Occasionally men would come to his home and offer to work for their board, but Mr. Wolfe was not inclined to accept that class of workers. Gradually he acquired some extra teams, broke prairie for others on the shares, planted wheat for a couple of crops, and did quite well with wheat raising, though the price of that cereal went down to 35 and 40 cents a bushel. He never sold any of his wheat for less than 45 cents. In one of those early years he made a record yield of wheat, 44 bushels to the acre. In all his experience he never failed to get his seed back. On new ground wheat has never yielded less than from 10 to 12 bushels to the acre, and there was never a time when his supply was so low that he was obliged to buy seed.
The traveler along the road where Mr. Wolfe's farm lies is at once attracted to the small forest that surrounds his home. When he broke his first sod land he began planting trees, and continued setting out cottonwoods, black and honey locusts, box elders and mulberries until his home surroundings are now a forest of shade. He also experimented with orchard crops, including apple pear, plum, peach, cherry, apricot and grape, and from all these he has gathered fruit. He early discovered that the drouth affected the grapes so that the fruit fell off before ripening. He then prepared to water the vines, and with this help they have born regular fruit.
His living conditions have vastly changed since he first came to Kansas. His little pioneer shanty with some additions served him until 1910, when he built a cement block house of ten rooms, with a complete water and lighting system. The first sod stable was succeeded by a small stable of frame, and that in turn was succeeded by the present magnificent barn in 1904. This barn is 62 by 68 feet, with a capacity in the mow for 100 tons of hay or forage. He was one of the early builders of a silo, and after four years of experimentation he has found that the most valuable equipment of his farm. He has a granary and machine sheds 35 by 66 feet, with room for all his implements and the storage of 6,000 bushels of grain. Among other permanent buildings is a milk and wash house of cement block, with power plant for pumping water to his truck patch, his arbor and to his home.
After he had been in Kansas about a dozen years Mr. Wolfe began investing in other land. He bought one-half section for $1,500, later paid $3,000 for another half section, and for one quarter section the price was $1,550. Of this he still owns three quarter sections, and it is all in use for agricultural purposes.
In many different ways he has shared his individual prosperity with the community. He is a stockholder and director in the Farmers Elevator at Lewis and the Home State Bank. He assisted in building the old Methodist Church at Lewis and the first schoolhouse of that village. That schoolhouse is now used as a printing office. In politics he has been a republican, has served his school district as a director, has been trustee of Wayne Township, and in the early days attended county conventions and was a member of the congressional convention which nominated "Prince" Hallowell for Congress.
All the foregoing indicates that Mr. Wolfe is one of the men properly looked up to and esteemed as a substantial factor in the community. His prosperity has been won by his hard and well directed efforts as a Kansas farmer, and he pays devoted allegiance to Kansas as a home for the poor and ambitious man. On his farm he has done his own carpenter and blacksmith work, though of course in the construction of the larger improvements mentioned above it has been necessary to employ other mechanics. When he had brick to lay he laid them, and likewise stone, and his usefulness and versatility in these different directions have saved him much expense.
Mr. Wolfe married for his first wife Miss Mary J. Druckenmiller, daughter of Daniel Druckenmiller, who came from Pennsylvania and located in Sandusky County, Ohio. Mrs. Wolfe died July 24, 1914. There are three children: Blanche, wife of John Pinnick, of Scott County, Kansas; Harry, a farmer on the home place and unmarried; and Clyde, who lives at Flagler, Colorado, and by his marriage to Alice Matthews has a son Jack and a daughter. The present Mrs. Wolfe was Mrs. Mildred (Wolfe) Ray. Their marriage occurred March, 30, 1916. Mrs. Wolfe was born near Piqua, Ohio. Her first husband was Henry Ray, and of that marriage the surviving children are Othello, of Webster, Iowa; Mrs. Gladys Snakenburg, of Adrian, Texas; and Carl D. Ray, who is a soldier in France in Company C, One Hundred Thirty-Seventh Infantry.
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