JAMES MADISON WOOD. It is not claiming too much to say that the name of James Madison Wood will long linger in the annals of Meade and Meade County as one of its most prominent pioneers. Mr. Wood has had an exceptional variety of experience and achievement even for a Western Kansan. His work has always been on the plane of enlightened self interest, and in many ways he has contrived to serve the public welfare as well as his own.
Mr. Wood settled in this locality in September, 1884. He still owns the old homestead and also the tree claim, which constitutes the east half of section 4, township 32, range 28. On his homestead he built his first Kansan home, a box shanty 14 by 20 feet, some of the materials for which were shipped to Kansas from his old home in Bureau County, Illinois. That house served him as a residence during the period of proving up. He also shipped from Illinois an emigrant car to Dodge City with seven head of horses, plows, wagons, buggy and the material for the house above mentioned. He had his own family of wife and three children, and also his brotherin-law, William Aldrich, accompanied them.
Besides this equipment Mr. Wood brought with him to Kansas $1,000 in cash. He used most of it to buy a bunch of cattle, which turned out to be "locoed" and most of them died. This brought him to a critical phase of his career and as a last resort he went to freighting from Dodge City. He was in that business both winter and summer and many a night he spent on the prairie awake all the hours for fear that he would freeze to death if he went to sleep. He hauled goods to Meade and Englewood, though Meade was his chief point after the old Town of Carthage had been absorbed by that locality. He also secured a star route contract for carrying the mail from Meade to Ashland. This was 160 miles for the round trip, and the compensation was $2.80 for each trip. Out of that money he had to feed three horses and himself. In the meantime his wife at home was doing washing, and after eleven months of joint effort and denial on their part they found themselves possessed in the spring of $40 in capital. This sum Mr. Wood employed to enable him to return to his old home and settle up his father's estate. He showed such judgment and energy in this transaction that he accomplished in thirty days what it would have taken an administrator two years and would have cost the heirs $600. He settled it without cost to his brothers and sisters.
On his return to Meade Mr. Wood planted another crop on his farm, but as it failed he sought an opportunity to go into business. With $800 left from his patrimony he established a lumber and coal yard at Meade. This was in 1892. His stock embraced just what his capital would buy. Eighteen months later the Stockgrowers Bank at Meade failed, and that shut up most of his active capital for almost three years. Mr. Wood sold coal to purchasers who lived sixty miles away. He did a cash business, perhaps the first strictly cash business in this section of Kansas. In the town and immediate surrounding district he delivered the coal to purchasers, while his wife looked after the office and did the weighing.
With an additional legacy from home Mr. Wood invested in forty head of cows and established himself as a modest rancher. He has turned his investment over and over until it now represents 1,270 acres of ranch land, with 200 acres under cultivation. It is the home of a herd of high grade Hereford cattle, and the stock business now constitutes most of his active work. For many years he has shipped stock, and he continued to do so until some commission men robbed him of a car of the best cattle that he had ever sent to market. Since then as a matter of protection he has confined his dealings to home buyers. His lumber and coal yard is still part of his property, but its management after twelve years was turned over to his son. During the twelve years in the coal business he spent every Sunday on the ranch looking after his stock.
Mr. Wood was one of the original shareholders in the Meade Townsite Company. It was the plan of this company to sell every settler twenty-five shares of company stock for a dollar and thus secure his influence and support for the town proposition. Mr. Wood now owns the lot upon which the first house in Meade stood. It was a frame shanty moved in from the country. He has witnessed the growth of the town, until at one time it contained many more people than it does now, and many of the former houses of Meade were moved out to farms in the surrounding country.
During the era of depression Mr. Wood and some other young men succeeded the old residenters as members of the city council. When they took an inventory of city matters they found the town in debt $72,000 and with a total assessed valuation of only $32,000. The new council employed Judge Madison of Dodge City to go east and visit the security holders and arrange a compromise. Judge Madison was able to get a compromise by which the debt was scaled down to $13,000, drawing three per cent interest. For his services Meade City paid the judge $1,000 and even so the community was saved more than $50,000. As there were five councilmen it is correct to assume that the services of each one were worth to the community over $10,000.
Mr. Wood has done much on his own part to build up and maintain the position of Meade as a commercial center. He built several homes in the town and as well his ranch improvements. His residence at Meade is one of the largest in the town and each of his four children have homes which he built. In public affairs he would never consent to hold any office except that of councilman. He is a democrat and cast his first presidential vote for Peter Cooper in 1872. He has always voted his party ticket. He is a member of no lodge or church. His heart is in the cause of his country at the present time, and at different times he has responded with others to the call of duty and patriotism and his hand goes into his purse for worthy objects.
James Madison Wood was born in Bureau County, Illinois, October 4, 1852. His grandfather, Dudley C. Wood, moved from Kentucky into Owen County, Indiana, and spent his life as a farmer there and in Martin County, but finally came to Kansas. He died October 25, 1870, at Leroy, just a week after his arrival in this state. He was born March 31, 1806. Dudley C. Wood married Sarah Butler, who was born in Virginia January 18, 1811, and was brought to Indiana in 1822. She died at Leroy, Kansas, February 10, 1885. Their children were: Casann E., who died unmarried; John C.; Lusan E., who died unmarried; and James Butler, who is living unmarried at Leroy, Kansas.
John C. Wood, father of James M., was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, about 1827, and in Clinton County, Ohio, married Eliza Ann Fisher, daughter of David Fisher, a native of Virginia. In Ohio John C. Wood cut cordwood, farmed and freighted from Wilmington to Cincinnati. About 1849 he moved to Bureau County, Illinois, and died near Sheffield in 1891. His wife died two years previously and his children were: James M.; Susann, wife of Richard Wiles, of Sheffield, Illinois; and John W. of Burlington, Iowa.
James M. Wood married in Bureau County, Illinois, November 4, 1877, Olive R. Aldrich, daughter of William Aldrich and Maria (Heath) Aldrich. Both the Heath and Aldrich families came from Salem, Canada, and settled at Neponset, Illinois. William Aldrich had a son, David, who served in the Union army. The children of William Aldrich and wife are mentioned briefly as follows: Flora, who married Ed Sandels and lost her life at Valisca, Iowa, by fire; Fannie, who died unmarried at Meade; Annie, who married Ed Scoville and now lives in Canada; Mrs. Olive Wood; David; and William, who as mentioned, came to Kansas with Mr. Wood and is now living at Duer, Colorado.
Mrs. Wood died in April, 1916, the mother of the following children: Clifford A., of Wichita, who first married Lizzie Eldridge and had a daughter, Verda, and married for his second wife Eunice Johnson; Goldie M., wife of John Russell, of Plains, Kansas; Pearl is the wife of Roscoe Smith, who is one of the teachers of the Meade schools and served four years as county superintendent of Meade County; and John W., manager of the Wood Lumber and Coal Business at Meade, and by his marriage to Mary Eilison has a daughter, Hazel Loraine.
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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