WILLIAM A. WYATT is a resident of Plains, Meade County. He came to this state more than forty-five years ago, and since then half a dozen localities in several counties have responded to his labors and his management, and if all the land he has plowed and developed toward an improved condition could be gathered into one body it would comprise a very considerable estate. He is one of the men who have truly made Western Kansas what it is today as a source of food and other products that are required by the hungry world.
Now in the shadow of his seventieth year Mr. Wyatt has come a long way and has passed through many arduous as well as pleasant experiences since his birth occurred in the hills of Southern Ohio, in Vinton County, August 10, 1848. He grew to man's estate on his father's farm, had a country school education, and began using his hands and the strength of his body in some useful toil even when a boy. He married before he attained his majority, and he and his wife finally left the rugged region of the Ohio Valley and moved to Illinois, where they spent about three years on a farm near Princeville in Peoria County. Then in March, 1872, accompanied by his wife and two children, he journeyed into the Sunflower state, and this has ever since been his home.
Mr. Wyatt homesteaded an eighty acre tract of land along the Marion-Dickinson County line. His box house, 12 by 18 feet, ten miles from the nearest neighbor, was the shelter of his family in the early years. The Wyatts reached Abilene, Kansas, by railroad and found that town at the height of its notoriety as one of the most lurid points along the great border of the cattle country. Only a short time before "Wild Bill" Hickok had located at Abilene and had attained the fame of marshal of the town. Mr. Watt bought two yoke of oxen and used them to drag the plow through the virgin prairie of his homestead. The first year he broke about forty acres and raised twenty bushels of corn to the acre, which, as his subsequent experience proved, was a rather remarkable crop. He planted the corn in the sod with an ax. The next fall, in order to have some wheat, he borrowed $5 from a ranchman, and with it bought two bushels of seed wheat at $2.10 a bushel, the 80 cents remaining he spent for tobacco. From this seed he harvested thirty bushels the next year, and all of that he saved for his subsequent crop, and the next year his harvest was 600 bushels. This success encouraged him to continue sowing wheat. His succeeding crop was planted on fifty acres, and it went through the winter well and gave him 1,250 bushels. Some of that he sold at $1.10 a bushel, and this was the first real money he made in Kansas and did much to replenish his poverty stricken purse. Like the gambler, he doubled his stake, and that fall sowed 100 acres. His neighbors assured him that his prospects for a crop were forty bushels to the acre. Everything went well until the heads began to fill, when black rust struck the field and there was practically nothing to show for his labors at harvest time. The disaster did not discourage him and he continued with wheat and from time to time lost his crop either through chinch bugs or rust.
In the meantime he had bought another eighty acres, and his continued failure of crops put him deeply into debt. In order to pay out and make a living he hired out breaking prairie, but found this too slow a process. One day he returned home and announced to his wife that he was "done with that sort of work." "What are you going to do then!" questioned his wife. "Buy cattle." he said, "on borrowed money." Suiting his actions to the word, in a day or so he interviewed a banker at Hope and asked for a loan. The banker was somewhat evasive: "Money is a little scarce, but if you will come back in about a week I can give you an answer." During that week the banker looked up the record of Mr. Wyatt. Ten days later, when the latter approached his banker friend with "What about the money!" the reply was direct and encouraging: "You can have it." The banker stipulated that Mr. Wyatt could go ahead and buy cattle and give a mortgage on them for security. The first lot of stock he bought was spring calves, averaging a price of $7 a head. Not long afterward he sold the sixty-three head at $12 apiece, and this sale was the basis of his encouraging report to his financial backer. He finally dealt in big cattle, and continued the business at a good profit. Through these operations financial independence came to him rapidly. Mr. Wyatt continued in the cattle business for fifteen years. In the meantime he sold his Dickinson County land and bought a small ranch in Morris County, where he resumed farming and stock raising. After that he was never troubled with mortgages in Kansas.
His Morris County ranch he sold at a profit of seventy-five per cent, and moving to Ford County bought near Bucklin three quarter sections at $15 an acre. Three years later this land was sold at twice that price, and he then came farther west.
Since September, 1909, Mr. Wyatt has had his home in Meade County, and his land interests are now in Meade, Seward and Haskell counties. However, his farming operations are carried on only in Meade County. On coming here Mr. Wyatt established his home at Plains, around which he planted a small orchard. By aid of irrigation he has demonstrated that peaches, cherries and plums can be successfully grown.
Mr. Wyatt has acted on the theory that his best service to the community and the world could be rendered through the active and diligent prosecution of his private affairs. The only thing in the nature of a public office he has held was as a member of the school board in Dickinson County. For many years his voting was done as a democrat, but more lately he has cast an independent ballot. He is a member of the Masonic order and the Modern Woodmen of America, and he and his wife are members of the Christian Church.
Mr. Wyatt's grandfather, Joseph Wyatt, came from England, first settled in one of the Carolinas and afterward moved to Southern Ohio. He married in the Carolinas. In the early '50s he left Ohio, moving to Iowa, and spent the rest of his days near Iowa City. He attained the remarkable age of 100 years. By his first marriage he had the following children: William, Mrs. Isaac Fry, Rachel, who married Adam Garis, Mrs. William Graves and Rebecca, wife of Eli Graves. He had a second wife, a Miss Graves, and there were two sons by that union, Charles and Isaac.
The father of William A. Wyatt was William Wyatt, a native of Vinton County, Ohio, and a farmer there for many years. He married Elizabeth Cozad, daughter of John Cozad, an Ohio farmer who died in Vinton County. The children of William Wyatt and wife were: Rachel, who married Elisha Henderson and died in Ohio; Sarah A., who married James Ziegler, of Vinton County; John, who was a soldier in the Second Virginia Cavalry during the war and died in Ohio; Joseph, who was a member of the Ninetieth Ohio Infantry, was captured and died a prisoner of war at Andersonville; Benjamin, who was also with an Ohio cavalry regiment and died in Ohio; William A.; and Job, who died in Ohio.
On January 27, 1867, William A. Wyatt married Miss Lucretia L. Fry. Her father, Henry Fry, was of remote German ancestry and a native of Pennsylvania. From Pennsylvania he moved to farm in Ohio, and married in Vinton County Sithey Darby. Her father, Samuel Darby, came to Ohio from North Carolina, settling in Highland County, where Mrs. Fry was born. John Darby, a brother of Samuel, is said to have been a soldier in the American Revolution. Henry Fry was crippled by a premature explosion of a blast in a stone quarry, and lived the rest of his life as an invalid, dying when quite young. His wife afteward[sic] married a Mr. Sperry and died in Vinton County, Ohio. The Fry children were: Catherine, who married Henry Hidlebaugh; Samuel D., deceased; Elihu S., deceased; Charity R., who married Job Cozad; Britton D., of Hope, Kansas; Mrs. Wyatt, who was born May 28, 1847; and Henry V., who died in Iowa.
The region in which both Mr. and Mrs. Wyatt grew up is what is known as the Hanging Rock iron region of Ohio, a rugged district, many of the hills being filled with iron ore. It was among those timbered hills that Mrs. Wyatt spent her girlhood and acquired a very limited schooling, spelling being one of the chief branches taught in the schools of her day. She remained on the farm until her marriage.
Besides their own children Mr. and Mrs. Wyatt have twenty-three grandchildren and one great-grandchild. This family of splendid American men and women count in the aggregate as the biggest contribution, outweighing all material gains and properties, made by Mr. and Mrs. Wyatt through all their years of toil and sacrifice. The names of their children in order of age are Addie A., Fannie E., Eddie F., Pearl, Mabel, Perry Curtis, Viola and Alta G. Addie is the wife of Thomas Demmitt, of Clark County, Kansas, and their children are: Violet A., a teacher; Chelsea T., who is in a training camp in California for the war; Imogene, wife of Curtis Henderson; Avis, Troy W. and Quinby. The daughter Fannie married Milton Wyatt, of Clark County, Kansas, and her children are Leonard, Velma, Lucretia, Milton, Ralph, Delpha, Melvin, Kermit, Cleo Addie and Helen May. The son Eddie, a resident of Meade County, married Nettie B. Inman and has three young sons, Paul Alexander, Lawrence C. and Lee Edward. Pearl is the wife of Carl Hutchinson, of Morris County, Kansas, and their family consists of Cecil, Lois, Edith and Kenneth. The daughter Mabel married Eugene McGinnis, of Sumner County, Kansas, but has no children. Perry Curtis is a resident of Meade County and married Edith Geisinger. The two younger children are still unmarried.
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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