JAMES T. SMALL, president of the J. T. Small Lumber Company, of Scammon, and one of the county's prominent and influential citizens, whose portrait accompanies this article, was born in Miami County, Ohio, in 1836, and is a son of John and Margaret (Betson) Small.
John Small spent his whole life in Ohio, where he died at the age of 85 years. He was a successful farmer, and was called upon to occupy local positions of trust and responsibility. His wife, whose memory is cherished by the subject of this sketch with the greatest affection and gratitude, died also in Ohio, at the age of 95 years. They reared seven sons and two daughters to maturity. Four of these still survive, namely: Martha A., widow of Daniel Sutton; David B.; James T.; and Lewis C.
James T. Small has had a most interesting career, and by tracing the gradual steps by which an ambitious youth overcame obstacles and perseveringly conquered adverse fate, a lesson may be learned by those similarly situated. Mr. Small was born before the school privileges, now thrust upon the alien child as soon as he touches our shores, were within the reach of the common plowboy, and thus it was that he had reached the years of his legal majority, without having had any educational advantages, whatever. Although his father seems to have been a man of consequence in his locality, and the possessor of lands and stock, little provision was made for the education of the children. To his mother the youth turned, and she, with the maternal affection and sympathy which make mothers what they are, brought out a few hoarded gold pieces, and thus gave him a chance to attend the winter sessions of school in the neighboring town. His summers were devoted to farm work as usual, but in the winter, he willingly walked to the town in the morning, and back in the evening, three miles each way. He thus continued to attend school at Piqua, Ohio, and subsequently, by cutting logs and splitting rails, obtained the means to continue in the high school, his great desire being to gain sufficient knowledge to secure a certificate entitling him to teach. This he accomplished, and taught his first term of school near Sidney, receiving for this service $25 a month.
After the closing of his school term, he returned home and again worked hard and attended school, but this proved too much of a drain on his health, and he was obliged to change his methods for a time. However, another examination was in view, and this he later passed by means of the same hard toil. He then secured a school three miles from home for a five months term, and walked to school and back every day. Finally he went to Dayton, Ohio, and in that vicinity rented a farm of 30 acres, on which he raised corn and tobacco. In the following fall, he secured a school in Montgomery County, which he taught about nine months, his remuneration being $40 per month. This was gratifying, as it was an advance on his former pay, but his pupils were not very intelligent. The work was not in the least inspiring, and he returned to farming, continuing thus until the outbreak of the Civil War. Mr. Small was one of the first to offer his services, but the state of his health caused him to be rejected by the recruiting officer, and he returned to Montgomery County and secured a school at $60 a month, which he taught three terms. In 1862 he joined the Ohio National Guards, and in the spring of 1864 accompanied his regiment when it was ordered out for 100 days' service. His command had charge of Fort Federal Hill and Fort Marcy, as long as the danger of invasion was imminent. He returned for another term of school in Montgomery County, and in 1866 was married. After his marriage, he settled down on a rented farm in Miami County. This he operated during the summer, and taught school during the winter, for three years. Just about this time, the agents and prospectors of Western lands aroused the whole East as to the desirability of the country west of the Mississippi River as place for settlement, and Mr. Small, ever ambitious and progressive, was easily convinced. He sold his property, and prepared to move to one of the newly opened regions of what was then considered "away out West." Before the time of departure came, however, his mother-in-law, fearing for the personal safety of her daughter and her grandchildren, made so many objections, and submitted so many valid reasons against the removal, that Mr. Small gave it up for awhile. As he had sold his property, he rented another farm, which he operated in connection with teaching.
In 1872, Mr. Small removed to Cherokee County, Kansas, and joined his brother-in-law, W. A. Wheatley, who had previously settled in Pleasant View township. Here Mr. Small settled on a section of land which was favorably located, but for which he could get no title for seven years, as the trouble between the Land League and the railroads was then at its height. The "pros" and "cons" of this conflict need not be discussed here as they are matters of State history.
Doubtless the little family many times remembered the comforts of the old home in Ohio, as they were subjected to unaccustomed hardships, always incident to the settlement of a new country, and in this case made worse by the intrigues of the "land jumpers" and the depredations and threats of the still savage Indians. In time, however, more settlers ventured into this goodly land, who took chances and secured farms after much trouble. The little settlement grew, fear was banished and law prevailed, and Mr. Small continued to peacefully and successfully pursue his agricultural operations until he gave up farming, in 1890.
For a time he remained at Baxter Springs, assisting his brother-in-law in his lumber business, and for a short time connected with a grocery store. Then he located at Scammon, Mineral township, and went into the lumber business for himself. Shortly afterward, he added a stock of furniture, hardware and builders' supplies, and built up a large business, which by 1895 required the admission of a partner. He accordingly associated with him his son-in-law, T. B. Pryor, the firm name becoming, J. T. Small & Company. In the following year the firm opened a lumber yard, furniture store, and builders' hardware store at West Mineral. The concern prospered to such an extent that, in 1903, it was incorporated as the J. T. Small Lumber Company. The officers of the concern are: James T. Small, president; Charles Switzer, vice-president and general manager of the West Mineral store; T. B. Pryor, secretary; and Alonzo Robb, treasurer. The business has a most encouraging outlook, and is a testimonial to the enterprise, courage and ability of its founder. In its conduct and expansion, he has shown the same perseverance which marked his course as a youth, in the pursuit of his education. Mr. Small's marriage to Hannah Wheatley took place in 1866. She was born in Montgomery County, Ohio. They have four children, namely: Emma R., born in Ohio, who married David Mackie, Jr., and has two childrenElsie and Mabel, both born at Scammon; Mabel E., born in Ohio, who married Thomas B. Pryor, and has one child,Irene, born in Scammon; Mary, born at Baxter Springs, Kansas; and Herbert E., who was born in Pleasant View township, Cherokee County.
Mr. Small and his family attend the Presbyterian Church. He was one of the pioneers in establishing a church and Sunday-school in Pleasant View township, and has always taken an active interest in its affairs. The family is also prominent socially.
History of Cherokee County Kansas and its representative citizens, ed. & comp. by Nathaniel Thompson Allison, 1904, transcribed by Michael Goodrich, student from USD 508, Baxter Spring Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, 4/24/97.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project