William C. Pender

WILLIAM C. PENDER, a pioneer settler, prominent citizen and successful farmer of Lola township, who owns a farm of 320 acres in section 2, township 33, range 22, and section 35, township 32, range 22, was born at Ottawa, Canada, November 28, 1827, and is a son of Thomas and Isabel (Cavanah) Pender.

Thomas Pender was born in Ireland. He migrated to Canada at the age of 20 years, and located at what is now the city of Ottawa, where he followed the trade of stone-mason. In 1830 he removed to Watertown, New York, where he resided some years. His death was occasioned by robbers, at Detroit, who stole his money, took his life and endeavored to conceal their crime by burying his body in the Detroit River. His wife was Isabel Cavanah, who was born in Liverpool, England, and accompanied her parents to Canada when 12 years old. She survived until the year 1900, lacking but 1O years of rounding out a century. The children of this family were: William C., the only survivor; Mrs. Catherine Wandless; James; Thomas; Mrs. Mary Webster, of Los Angeles, California; and Mrs. Margaret Hills.

William C. Pender was three years old when his parents moved to New York, and he lived in and near Watertown until he was 16 years of age. He then started out to make his own way in the world, crossing Lake Erie to Buffalo and Detroit and spent 20 years at Ann Harbor and Ypsilanti, Michigan. He worked 12 years at blacksmithing, and then went into railroad work on the Michigan Central Railroad between Detroit and Chicago, being for two years a baggageman, and for eight years a passenger conductor. Mr. Pender then decided to try farming and bought 220 acres in Muscatine County, Iowa. He hired two assistants, who probably understood no more about the science of farming than he did, and this venture proved unsuccessful. Before again entering into agriculture, Mr. Pender made it a subject of study, which resulted in an entire change of view, and when he located on his present farm in Cherokee County, in 1866, he knew something about soils, crop rotation, fertilizing and drainage,—enough to enable him to cope very successfully with the hard conditions which presented themselves to Kansas pioneers.

Mr. Pender received a "treaty right" for the tract of 320 acres that comprises his present farm, half being located in Lola township and half in Sheridan township. As the land had not then been surveyed by the government, he did little improving for three years, but then took more interest, and broke the prairie farm with his ox-teams, which he had brought from Iowa. Quite a little settlement was started at this point, as several neighbors had accompanied him, having 11 teams in all. It took six weeks for the party to make the journey, and many grew homesick for the cultivated farms and civilized surroundings they had left behind, but none turned back. Mr. Pender built his first cabin of logs, 16 by 16 feet, in dimensions, which as his family increased, was replaced by another still larger, and again, by another; but the first cabin was the family home for 12 years.

With rural free delivery of mail almost at his door, it seems a long way back when he had to travel 60 miles to Fort Scott, to reach a post office and obtain the letters so inexpressibly welcome, and the newspapers which told of the doings of the country then recuperating from the effects of the Civil War. When Mr. Pender or his neighbors had a load of corn to sell, they consumed 10 days in taking it 25 miles to Joplin and returning home. All food stuffs were very high during those days, and, although Mr. Pender came to Kansas with a capital of $5,000, after living expenses were paid and his land entered, he had little left until his farm became remunerative. As soon as possible he started to make a fine orchard, and set out 600 apple trees, which, in 30 years, have abundantly yielded the fine fruit for which Kansas is noted. In addition to its fertility, Mr. Pender's farm has developed a mineral value, a two-foot vein of coal having been discovered.

Mr. Pender was married first, in 1848, to Mary Felt, who was born in Michigan and died in Iowa, aged 31 years. She was survived by three sons, namely: Frederick, who died at the age of 22 years, in Texas: Frank, who died in Cherokee County, aged 20 years; and Norris, a resident of Omaha, Nebraska, who has been a railroad man for 20 years. Mr. Pender's second marriage was to Lida Craig, who was born in Ohio, and still survives. She is the mother of the following six children: William S., a minister of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, of Malad City, Idaho: Olney, a resident of Cherokee County; Mrs. Mary Bergman, of Cherokee; Mrs. Nettie Johnson, of Scammon; and James and Mabel, who are at home.

In political action, Mr. Pender has always zealously supported the Republican party. From the first organization of township and county affairs. he has taken a leading part. He was one of the first county commissioners, when that body was elected by the people. He served three years and was largely instrumental in obtaining the success of the movement which changed the county seat from Pleasant View to Baxter Springs, whence the change was later made to Columbus by popular vote. The county business was disposed of by the commissioners, during the first year, in about 12 days.

In his early years in this locality, Mr. Pender was active in fraternal life, being both a Mason and Odd Fellow. He assisted in the establishing of a Commandery of Knights Templar at Fort Scott, and was prominent in the affairs of both orders. Mr. Pender is very well known and is probably as well informed concerning the early days of Cherokee County as any other resident.


History of Cherokee County Kansas and its representative citizens, ed. & comp. by Nathaniel Thompson Allison, 1904, transcribed by Lacey Myers, student from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, 03/11/97.


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