James P. Pendergrass

JAMES P. PENDERGRASS. Among the many worthy veterans of the Civil War who turned theeir[sic] faces Westward after their noble struggle for the old flag, was James P. Pendergrass, now and for long years one of the prominent farmers in Lola township, who resides on the northwest quarter of section 27, township 33, range 22. The subject of this sketch arrived in this county on October 1, 1866, after an overland journey of 17 days from Illinois.

Mr. Pendergrass was born in Athens County, Ohio, April 2, 1844. The death of his parents when he was quite young caused him to be taken into the home of C. A. McNeil, and under the guiding care of that gentleman, which was all that could have been expected even from a parent, he grew to manhood. The family moved to Macoupin County, Illinois, in 1858, and it was there that Mr. Pendergrass watched the gathering of the storm cloud of war, which in 1861, burst with such fury upon the country. His resolve to do his duty by the Union was made good when, in 1862, as a youth of 18 years, he shouldered his musket and went to the front as a member of Company I, 122nd Reg., Illinois Vol. Inf., Col. John I. Rinaker commanding. This regiment was brigaded in the right wing of the 16th Army Corps, and saw service throughout the West, from the campaign in Missouri against Price, to the Spanish Fort engagement at Mobile. The subject of this sketch was in service for three years, and participated in several hot engagements and numberless skirmishes. He remembers Tupelo, Mississippi, and the scenes of Mobile, most vividly. A prolonged attack of that soldier's affliction, the measles, kept him away from his regiment while it helped to chase Price out of Missouri; but with this exception he was under arms during the entire period of service, and received an honorable discharge at Carlinville, Illinois.

After reaching home, Mr. Pendergrass made a lengthy visit to Ohio relatives. On returning to Illinois, he found that a brother of the gentleman in whose home he had been reared was about to move to the "Sunflower State," and he at once resolved to accompany him. Upon his arrival in the county he entered the quarter where he now resides, and immediately began its operation. During the first year he hired help to break 10 acres, at $4 per acre, and put up a log house, 14 by 18 feet, in dimensions. The first year or two he worked away from the claim a great deal, doing teaming, as most of the supplies for the settlers had to be brought from trading points in Missouri. The country was, of course, sparsely settled. There were but three or four houses in Oswego, in Labette County, and a few shacks scattered about on the prairie. Game was plenty, consisting of deer, prairie chickens and turkeys; there were many wild cats. Mr. Pendergrass soon established a reputation as a crack; shot, and he and his chum, Charles Jackson, soon had the record of champion deer hunters.

But those days rapidly passed away. Setlers[sic] became more numerous and game grew scarce and shy. Evidences of civilization began to present themselves everywhere, and the adventures of the pioneer were soon a thing of the past. Mr. Pendergrass, after two years of bachelorhood, took unto himself a wife, and began in earnest the work of perfecting his home. Trees were planted, and shacks gave way to substantial buildings. The log house served until about 1881, when the present comfortable farm house was erected. It is little wonder that the early settler only parts with his first farm under necessity, as it represents years and years of hard labor and thoughtful care. Indeed, it comes to be looked upon almost as one of the children, whom he has nursed from a tiny infant to a lusty maturity. Mr. Pendergrass expects to spend his days on the handsome farm property which stands as the result of his life's work, where he is surrounded by old friends and neighbors, who love and respect him for his true worth.

The father of the subject of this sketch was James P. Pendergrass, a carpenter and stonemason by trade. He died while still in middle life. He married Mary Ann Buckston, of English parentage, but a native of Ohio. Eight of the 13 children born to these parents lived to maturity, as follows: Catherine, the eldest daughter, who died in early womanhood; Edward, the eldest son, deceased about three years ago, who was a veteran of the Civil War, having enlisted in 1861 in the 1st Reg., Ohio Vol. Cav.; Franklin H., who resides at Sheffield, Missouri; Maria, who is married and lives in Ohio; Mrs. Marinda Crocket, of Neosho County, Kansas; James P.; Joel, of Pike County, Ohio; and Mrs. Mary Peterson, of Neosho County, Kansas.

As stated, Mr. Pendergrass married as soon after coming to Cherokee County as he could get things in what he considered proper shape, that event occurring in 1868. The maiden name of his wife was Rachel Mattocks. She was born July 19, 1842, in Missouri, and was a daughter of John G. and Elizabeth (Pitney) Mattocks. She proved an excellent helpmeet to her husband, and a kind and loving mother to their five children. She died September 22, 1903. Of the children, John F., born February 15, 1869, died December 11, 1877; Mrs. Mary E. Ballenger, born June 3, 1871, died January 11, 1892; Charles, born October 22, 1872, died August 22, 1873; Martha E., the youngest daughter, who is the wife of Malden E. McKee, and who resides with Mr. Pendergrass, together with her husband and little daughter, Rachel Edith; and James J., the youngest son, a railroad fireman, living in Monett, Missouri, who married Tillie Martin, and has two children,--Lela and Charles.

In speaking of the life which Mr. Pendergrass has lived in Cherokee County, strong words of commendation may be used. His influence has ever been thrown on the side of right, and during the earlier days, when men of strong moral character were needed to combat the evil influence of the rough characters who found it unhealthy to live in the more crowded sections of the country, he was a tower of strength in upholding the law and the rights of citizens.

In his political belief, the subject of this sketch leans toward Republicanism. He joined the Union Baptist Church in early manhood, but later transferred his membership to the Christian Church, and this organization has received liberal support from him, financially and otherwise. Mr. Pendergrass is a worthy member of the G. A. R., and was one of the organizers of the A. H. T. A.


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, 3/11/97.


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