Pages 472-475, transcribed by Carolyn Ward from History of Butler County, Kansas by Vol. P. Mooney. Standard Publishing Company, Lawrence, Kan.: 1916. ill.; 894 pgs.


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Walter F. McGinnis

  HISTORY OF BUTLER COUNTY 472 cont'd

Walter Fletcher McGinnis.—Until recently, Butler county has been known only as one of the great agriculture and live stock counties of the commonwealth of Kansas. The development of oil and gas with hundreds of producing wells and others being drilled every day, has added a new and all important phase to industrial Butler county and bids fair to make this county one of the largest in population as well as in area in the State. The development of this great oil and gas district has not come about by mere chance nor accident, but by persistent working out of well laid plans, and Walter F. McGinnis is entitled to no small amount of credit in connection with the discovery and development in this territory, and may well be called the original oil booster of this district.

Mr. McGinnis become interested in the oil business as early as 1886, and he, with others, drilled a well at that time on Riverside, but without results. However, his interest in the delusive fluid did not abate. He kept turning the oil proposition over in his mind, and in 1912, he began taking oil leases in Butler county, and began to interest some outside oil capitalists in this field, and the result was that a test well on the Stapleton place in the fall of 1915, revealed the presence of oil in profitable quantities, at a depth of between 525 and 700 and 2500 feet. Then followed a wild scramble for leases and it was then that it developed that Mr. McGinnis' foresight had been working, and he had hundreds of acres leased before the test on the Stapleton farm proclaimed the glad tidings of the underground wealth of Butler county. His Linn farm lease alone, on which he, with three other gentlemen, have brought in a number of very profitable oil producing wells, has made a fortune already. Besides being the largest individual lease holder of Butler county, Mr. McGinnis has extensive lease interests in Elk county where he has interests in over 20,000 acres of prospective oil and gas lands, as he also has in Oklahoma. He is an oil optimist, but not the kind who just hopes for the best, but he is the kind of an optimist who gets busy and gets the best by going after it.


  HISTORY OF BUTLER COUNTY 473

Walter F. McGinnis is a native son of Kansas; he was born in Coffey county, October 31, 1860, a son of Dr. James Allen and Sarah Ann (Benedict) McGinnis, the former a native of Vermillion county, Indiana, and the latter of Meigs county, Ohio. The McGinnis family comes from an ancient and honorable line of Irish ancestors who trace their lineage back through ages of the history of Ireland; and members of this family were prominent in that country when the four ancient kingdoms of Ireland were in the zenith of their glory.

The McGinnis family was founded in America in the early part of the eighteenth century by John McGinnis who emigrated from Ireland, coming from County Antrim, and settled in Pennsylvania. The direct line of descent from him to Walter F. McGinnis, the subject of this sketch, is as follows; James, son of John; Edmund, son of James; Edmund, Jr., son of Edmund; Dr. Ira Edmund, son of Edmund, Jr.; Dr. James Allen McGinnis, son of Dr. Ira Edmund; Walter Fletcher McGinnis, son of Dr. James Allen McGinnis; and Walter Fletcher McGinnis, has a son, Walter Fletcher, Jr., who is the eighth generation of the McGinnis family in America, which, perhaps, covers a period of two hundred years of the family in this country. There were twenty-one members of this branch of the McGinnis family who served in the Revolutionary war, in behalf of the cause of American independence, and there has never been a white man's war in this country since that time in which some member or members of this family have not served under the stars and stripes. There were at least two in the United States fleet that landed at Vera Cruz, Mexico, during the late trouble with Huerta; and Ward Allen McGinnis, a nephew, an officer, is now with the Oklahoma militia on the Mexican border.

Dr. James Allen McGinnis, father of Walter F., was born in Vermillion county, Indiana, June 5, 1836; he married Sarah Ann Benedict, March 28, 1858. She was born in Meigs county, Ohio, December 23, 1837. Dr. McGinnis came to Kansas in 1854, when he was eighteen years of age. He settled in Coffey county and located on a claim adjoining what is now the town of Hartford. Because he was under age, a professional "claim-jumper" undertook to "jump" his claim, but the boy showed a clear abstract of title in the form of a rifle, and the bad man moved on in search of milder methods of opposition. Dr. McGinnis was a prominent factor in the early day development of Coffey county, and represented that county in the legislature in 1868-69. In 1869 he came to Butler county with his two motherless boys, and located twenty-five miles southeast of El Dorado, in Hickory township. That was an early day in the settlement of that part of the county. When he located there he built a good substantial residence, which was perhaps the best one in the county at the time; it was destroyed by the same storm that wrecked El Dorado, June 16, 1871. He took a prominent part in local affairs after coming to Butler county, moving to El Dorado, the nearest school or church, in November, 1873, and served


474 HISTORY OF BUTLER COUNTY  

six years as county commissioner, and in 1883 was elected registrar of deeds and served in that capacity four years. He also served as mayor and councilman of El Dorado. In 1894 he removed to Dewey county, Oklahoma, where he died April 5, 1912. His wife had preceded him in death a number of years, she having passed away March 13, 1867, in Coffey county. They were the parents of three children, as follows: Walter F., the subject of this sketch; S. Arthur, born November 10, 1866, a prominent attorney of Guthrie, Okla. He was captain of Troop I of Roosevelt's regiment of Rough Riders, during the Spanish-American war, and in his professional capacity, was attorney for the Daws Commission. One child, Flora Viola, died in infancy.

Dr. James Allen McGinnis was one of the first to enlist in response to President Lincoln's call for volunteers to defend the Union in the early sixties, and served for four years. President Lincoln appointed him first lieutenant in the regular army and assigned him to volunteer service. He was a member of Company D, Ninth Kansas cavalry and served in a manner befitting the brave soldier that he was. During the early days, he served in the secret service of the Government along the border. It fell to his lot to deal with the bad men of the plains, cattle rustlers and desperadoes that infested the new country and made life dangerous and property insecure on the frontier. Dr. McGinnis had many encounters with men of that type, and usually got his man when he went after him, and he went after a great many of them during his time. He was one of the dominant factors in organizing the vigilance committee who meted out summary justice to some of the notorious characters of the early history of Butler county, after which the property and lives of the early settlers were more secure. He practiced medicine for fifty years, twenty-one of which were in Butler county.

Walter F. McGinnis attended his first school in Coffey county, in an old log house, and later he attended more pretentious public schools as the country developed. After obtaining a good common school education, he attended business college at Topeka, Kans. He then studied medicine two years. It was then that he decided that a medical career was not to his liking, and he engaged in the real estate and loan business in El Dorado. He began business here in 1884, which he has successfully conducted to the present time. He has also been engaged in the general insurance business all these years. On January 1, 1913, the Home Insurance Company presented him with a silver medal in recognition of twenty-five years of continuous and successful work for that company.

Mr. McGinnis was united in marriage, June 23, 1885, with Miss Ida May Surdam of Towanda, Kans. She is a daughter of Tunis Surdam, a Butler county pioneer who settled in this county in the early seventies. To Mr. and Mrs. McGinnis have been born the following children: Jennie Faith, married Howard Bennett, an El Dorado attorney; Hazle Hope, married Jud P. Hall, El Dorado; Adah Aletha, a


  HISTORY OF BUTLER COUNTY 475

graduate of the El Dorado High School, class of 1916; Walter Fletcher, Jr., a member of the class of 1917, El Dorado High School, and Pauline Lillian, a student in the grade schools. The McGinnis family is well known and prominent in the community, and Mr. McGinnis is one of the progressive business men who are making a reputation for El Dorado as a city that does things.


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Pages 472-475, transcribed by Carolyn Ward from History of Butler County, Kansas by Vol. P. Mooney. Standard Publishing Company, Lawrence, Kan.: 1916. ill.; 894 pgs.


Tom & Carolyn Ward
Columbus, KS

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