The impressive arch observed over the gateway as one advances near the long avenue, lined by trees, announces the approach of "Prairie Lea," the modern country home of Richard Coughlen. Of the prosperity inherited by the settlers of the early 'sixties none are entitled to a more substantial claim than Mr. Coughlen. He came to the vast area of prairie when in its true pioneer state - when on the frontier in the real meaning of the term. He remained all through the strenuous times of its sisterhood and endured years of anxiety ere conditions assumed good working order. He came to the state in May, 1862, and pre-empted one hundred and sixty acres of land on Elm creek, built a cabin and lived there seven years. The settlement was comprised of but four families, Hagaman, Thorp, Fenskie and Czapanskiy. In 1870 Mr. Coughlen rented his land on Elm creek, homesteaded on section 26, and later sold the former. Our subject's dreams of broad acres, far reaching in agricultural splendor, herds of cattle and horses, droves of hogs (that when sold upon the market add very materially to his ducats), vast fields of corn, huge bins of wheat and a comfortable, happy home are realized. The Coughlen residence is situated in a bend on the bank of Oak creek and is surrounded on three sides, north, east and west, by the timber of this stream - a charming location. This was one of the first good dwellings in the community, built in 1874. The lumber in part was hauled from Waterville, the terminus of the railroad, and a portion was obtained by drawing logs to Concordia and having them sawed at Mr Lanoue's mill. While engaged in this stage of the work Mr. Coughlen found his labors arduous and met with many reverses among them he was upset in the river while hauling logs, but a ducking was the least of this misfortune. The external membranous covering of his own body was impervious to the waves of the Republican river, but they were demoralizing to the buckskin pantaloons he wore, which shrunk into so small a compass as to necessitate their being cut from his body. But "it is an ill wind that blows nobody good." Mr. Coughlen changed the relative position and value of his contracted garments by braiding them into an ox whip.
Mr. Coughlen is a native of county Kings, Ireland, born in 1838. When a small lad he emigrated to America with his parents and settled in Madison county, New York, where his father and mother died. Having been left an orphan he subsequently began to roam and resided temporarily in various parts of the United States. He is the second youngest of a family of seven children. Three sisters survive and live in Iowa, Chicago and Streator, Illinois, respectively. Mr. Coughlen came from LaSalle county, Illinois, to Nemaha county, Kansas, in 1859. He and a nephew had started for the famous gold fields of Pike's Peak, but as they encountered the returning crowds, traveling in various modes, walking, wheeling barrows, carts, etc., the fields elysian seemed less alluring, and discouraged many people en route to the Eldorado. When our subject and his comrade arrived at Ft. Kearney they decided to turn their faces toward the new prairies of Kansas, which, if less illusive, seemed a safer proposition, and they retraced their journey over the Little Blue to Nemaha county. From this point the actual career of Mr. Coughlen found its beginning. With three yoke of oxen he freighted over the plains from the Missouri river to the gold diggings known as "Buck Skin Joe," across South Park, near Hartzell, Colorado, and continued in this intrepid traffic all through and after the war. After coming to Cloud county he made one overland trip; he moved his family to Nehama county to protect them from the Indians and hauled freight from Missouri to Colorado. During this period Mr. Coughlen experienced some hair breadth escapes. In 1865 two men were massacred within one hundred yards of Mr. Coughlen's camp. They were night-herders; the savages shot and wounded the men and then scalped them while still alive. The second boss of the crew had two arrows fired into his body, but recovered. The two victims survived long enough to give the details of the assault. After firing all the cartridges in the chambers of their revolvers the Indians came so close the wounded men threw their guns at them. The band was pursued by soldiers and many of them were killed.
Their camp, with its government quota of sixty armed men was aroused one starlit night on the Platte river by an attempted attack. The mules on the grounds gave evidence of hearing or scenting danger, as the Indians were seemingly after the stock with the intention of running it off. The entire party was ordered to be close to the earth, a moment later the outlines of the redskins were sighted against the horizon, the signal was given and when the volley of deadly shot and bullets was turned into the advancing band of savages, from shotguns loaded with buck-shot and long-range rifles in the hands of unerring marksmen, they beat a hasty retreat from what was evidently one of the most complete surprises they had ever been treated to in their thieving expeditions. The freighters could not discern their movements through the smoke-laden atmosphere, but hastily reloaded to prepare for the second fusilade if necessary. Many a dead warrior would have been left on the field if he had not been strapped to his pony, as is their custom, that their slain may be carried away. Mr. Coughlen was a member of the Kansas Militia and wielded his Springfield musket and Smith's carbine for several years on the frontier. He retains the Remington six-shooter that he carried during those days; it is a formidable looking weapon, and he has killed buffalo with it. Mr. Coughlen was one of the fourteen men who were organized to rescue Miss White from captivity among the Indians.
Mr. Coughlen was married to Mary Robertson in 1861. Of their four children, all lived to maturity. William Lincoln was deceased at the age of seventeen years. Jenette is the deceased wife of John Empire; two children survive her, Flo and Clarence. The two living children are a daughter and a son. Lizzie is the widow of William Townsdin, an Oak creek farmer; she is the parent of one child, a son, William Ira.
Mr. Coughlen at one time owned two sections of land but he deeded to Mrs. Townsdin one hundred and sixty acres in Osborne county, a quarter section in Washington county, another near Aurora and one hundred and sixty acres in the Solomon valley. The son is David R. Coughlen, who was a prosperous Cloud county farmer and stockman, until compelled to leave the farm and seek returning health in the southern clime of California.
In 1884 Mr. Coughlen was married to Miss Eliza Moore, a daughter of William Moore, who emigrated from Vermont to Wisconsin, where Mrs. Coughlen was born. She was visiting a relative in Kansas, where she met and married Mr. Coughlen. She is a refined woman who possesses the admirable trait of making home attractive.
Politically Mr. Coughlen is an out-and-out dyed-in-the-wool Republican. He has been identified with the Odd Fellows for a quarter of a century.
Transcribed from E.F. Hollibaugh's Biographical history of Cloud County, Kansas biographies of representative citizens. Illustrated with portraits of prominent people, cuts of homes, stock, etc. [n.p., 1903] 919p. illus., ports. 28 cm.
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