JOHN MELANCHTHON McNAY, one of the leading citizens of Cherokee County, who is secretary and general manager, at Columbus, of the Inter-State Mineral, Oil & Gas Company, which is operating in the Chanute oil and gas field, also enjoys an enviable reputation as a successful newspaper man. Mr. McNay was born near Waynesburg, Greene County, Pennsylvania, July 20, 1848, and is a son of Brown and Rachel (McConnell) McNay.
The McNay family is of Scotch-Irish extraction. At an early day seven brothers of the name came to America and all of them took part in the Revolutionary War. It has been distinguished in military affairs ever since, each American war finding members of the McNay family in the ranks of its loyal soldiery. One of the prized possessions of our subject is the sword, wielded by his father in the Mexican War.
The grandparents of Mr. McNay were John and Mary (Smith) McNay, both of whom were natives of Pennsylvania; the former was born December 9, 1781, and died June 16, 1864, and the latter was born March 9, 1782, died May 22, 1871. They had nine children.
Brown McNay, father of our subject, was born February 14, 1816, and died August 4, 1880. His wife was born September 1, 1828, and died February 5, 1870. Their nine children were: John Melanchthon; James S. B.; Alexander T.; Nancy M. J.; Chauncey S.; Maggie M.; Sarah J.; Anderson H. and Della M. Brown McNay followed agricultural pursuits all his life. In 1856 he moved to Iowa with his family, settled on a farm and continued to reside there the remainder of his life.
John McNay was reared on his father's farms in Pennsylvania and Iowa and had limited school opportunities. He attended the district schools at intervals and was assisted at home in the pursuit of knowledge by his mother, who had been a teacher prior to her marriage. But being the eldest of the large family many of the heavy responsibilities of the farm fell upon him. In 1864, although but 15 years of age, he enlisted for service in the Civil War, entering Company B, 4sth Reg., Iowa Vol. Inf., in which he served until the close of the Rebellion. After his return to Iowa, he took an academic course of three years at Washington, Iowa, and then taught school for one year in Knox County, Illinois. On November 29, 1870, Mr. McNay came to Kansas, and spent the succeeding 15 years in Ottawa and Clay counties. Soon after removing to Phillipsburg, in 1885, he established the Phillipsburg Dispatch, which soon became the Republican organ of that congressional district, and there he remained until June, 1894, when he removed to Columbus, and ere long became the editor in chief of the Columbus Advocate.
When Mr. McNay took charge of the Advocate, he had behind him a State-wide reputation as an editorial writer. He found here a poorly equipped office, old and worn out machinery, a load of indebtedness and but a lukewarm interest in what should have been the leading organ of the Republican party in this intelligent portion of the State. Under his able management, which continued through eight and a half years, conditions were so changed that at the time he disposed of the property in order to give his entire time to other interests, in 1902, no office in Southeastern Kansas was better equipped. Mr. McNay's policy and his judicious management had resulted in not only the advancement of the paper to a front rank in the State, but in adding to his laurels in the profession.
The Inter-State Mineral, Oil and Gas Company, in which Mr. McNay is the largest holder of stock, has a capital stock of $500,000, all fully paid in and absolutely non-assessable. Its principal holdings consist of a liberal lease on 160 acres of land owned by one of the directors of the company, which is located four miles southwest of Chanute, within three-quarters of a mile of the main pipe line leading from Chanute to the Neodesha oil refineries, and in the center of the West Chanute and Earlton fields, with oil wells on all sides, and as good producers as any yet discovered in this oil district.
The development of this field has proved so successful that a lease paying one-eighth royalty, covering three quarters of a section, one mile north of this land, recently sold for $30,000 and one quarter section, one mile northeast, sold for $25,000. This company thus has very solid grounds for believing that this particular section will prove to be one of the most productive in the State. The officers of this important concern are: J. Wilbur Logan, president, now engaged successfully in the farm, loan and abstract business at Columbus; George W. Rains, vice-president, an extensive mine owner and operator in the Joplin-Galena lead and zinc district, at Galena; John M. McNay, secretary and general manager; W. M. Barbee, treasurer, a prosperous and substantial real estate dealer, at Chanute; A. A. Godard, attorney, ex-Attorney General of Kansas, and president of the Topeka Savings Bank at Topeka; and J. W. Clayton, director, a capitalist and also a director in the Manhattan Mining & Milling Company of Wichita, Kansas.
Mr. McNay was married on December 21, 1875, to Ada B. Keeler, who was born on a farm near Valparaiso, Indiana, May 20, 1858, and is the youngest daughter of Alonzo R. and Mary J. (Brown) Keeler, natives of New Jersey and Ohio, respectively. Two sons have been born to this marriage, both of whom are successful business men, viz: Arthur S. and Claudian H. The former was born November 4, 1876, and is a clerk in a large hardware store in Columbus. The latter was born August 20, 1878, and is deputy district clerk of Cherokee County. He married Nellie Leeper and they have one son,John L. In continuance of the military record of the family, Claudian H. McNay was its representative in the Spanish-American War, serving as a member of Company F, 22d Regiment. Kansas Infantry, U. S. Volunteers.
Mr. McNay has been one of the active citizens of Columbus ever since locating here. During his career as an editor his pen was fearlessly employed to point out evils and to support improvements and he could always be depended upon to exert his influence to foster substantial, public spirited enterprises of the city. His pleasant social qualities have attracted men to his friendship and he possesses the faculty of keeping the friends once made. He has been offered many public offices by his party leaders, but the large business interests, over which he has had more or less supervision for some years, have given him little time to devote to public affairs.
Mr. McNay is a Mason, an Odd Fellow and a member of the Improved Order of Red Men and of John A. Dix Post, No. 59, Grand Army of the Republic. He is also connected with several beneficiary organizations, and he and his family take part in much of the city's pleasant social life.
History of Cherokee County Kansas and its representative citizens, ed. & comp. by Nathaniel Thompson Allison, 1904, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, instructor from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, 5/5/97.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
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