It has been said biography yields to to other subject in point of interest and profit. Especially is this true of the foreign element who have progressed along the various lines of business since seeking homes in America. Many of them have gained wealth and position by taking advantage of the opportunities afforded in the new world.
The subject of this sketch has adapted himself to the methods and customs of the American people, and is one of them in spirit, as well as by adoption. Mr. Elniff is a native of Denmark, born in Schleswig, in 1862. Had he been born two years later, would have been a German subject, and, like hundreds of Danes, the Elniffs came to this country rather than take up arms against their native land. When ten years of age Mr. Elniff, with his father's family, sailed for the United States, with Kansas as their final destination. They came directly to Grant township, where they purchased one hundred and sixty acres of Normal School land now included in the farm owned by Mr. Elniff, he having bought the interests of the other heirs to the estate prior to his father's death.
Mr. Elniff's parents were Hans Christian and Catherine M. (Maybol) Elniff, both natives of the Kingdom of Denmark. They owned a small tract of ground in their native country but the father supported his family principally by daily labor until coming to Kansas. Mr. Elniff is one of five children; four of whom are living. John is in architect of superior ability, and resides in Kansas City. He designed the handsome residence recently erected by O.W. Peterson. Fred H., now of Denmark, was a resident of Jewell county, just over the line from Cloud county, for more than a quarter of a century. He sold the farm and original homestead to Hans Nelson. He is now a retired farmer, with an income that enables him to live without labor.
Anna, their only sister, has been twice married. Mr. Erickson died leaving her with several children. She is now married to J.M. Iverson, and lives in Denmark. Both her former and present husband were coppersmiths.
Mr. Elniff received a common school education in his native country but what he has acquired in English, has been gained in a practical way, for he started upon his career young in life. He bought the homestead in 1883, receiving a bonded deed, until he had attained his majority. One hundred and fifty dollars, the sum total of hoarded wage money, was all the capital Mr. Elniff could command towards the purchase of a three thousand dollar farm with no improvements other than a dugout. But this was the consideration to be divided among five heirs. The papers were drawn up in the Danish language by themselves and nothing was expended in attorney's fees. Provision was made for the parents in their life time to live on the homestead with the son who purchased it. It was also stipulated in the contract that a comfortable place be at once provided, for the father was afflicted with asthma, whereupon Mr. Elniff immediately erected the residence where he and his family now live, and was one of the first good dwellings in the neighborhood.
Mr. Elniff's friends considered him in the light of an inexperienced boy, and predicted a sudden collapse of his "castles," but he was steadfast in his purpose and did not build on the sand. He bought the farm on payment and by raising hogs and cattle, never failed to meet them as they fell due. The father died one year after his son had bought the homestead, and the mother was deceased in 1896. By industry and perseverance Mr. Elniff has met with well deserved success on this side of the Atlantic and stands today one of the most progressive farmers and stock men in Grant township. His farm consists of four hundred acres, and is a valuable, well improved estate, equipped with good, substantial buildings.
Mr. Elniff for the past few years has been growing wheat and alfalfa. The proceeds from the latter, in 1902, exceeding those of his wheat. He has a field of fifty acres of alfalfa that yielded largely, and sold for a good round figure. Forty acres of his farm is pasture, while the remainder is largely bottom land.
In 1885 he erected a barn 18 by 48 feet in dimensions with ten foot posts. In 1901 he built a basement barn 20 by 44 feet with sixteen foot posts, and in 1900 a commodious structure that includes a granary, implement shed, corn crib and wheat bins. The main building is 36 by 44 feet with nine foot posts. Through the center is a 14 foot driveway. His farm is one of the most complete in the county.
A reservoir 88 by 88 feet and seven feet in depth is stocked with German carp. A net drawn through the water will bring up from two to three hundred fish. The reservoir is fed by water drawn from the well by a "Jumbo" windmill. The wheel is a ponderous one, and if it were set upon a tower, instead of so close to the earth, it would be a landmark, such as are seen in Holland, and other European countries. From this pond of water, an ice house 15 by 17 feet in dimensions and eight feet deep is filled with clean cakes of well stored ice. Then there is a stone chicken house with plastered walls and a blacksmith shop equipped for his own convenience.
Mr. Elniff undoubtedly possessed the attributes necessary to building up a home in a new country, although for years the resources were not by any means varied nor was there an illusion of excellent prospects, except in a distant and uncertain future. There were repeated crop failures, and at one time Mr. Elniff became discouraged with drought, grasshoppers, and chinch hugs, and in 1889 left Cloud county, determined on finding a home elsewhere. After looking over the situation further west he returned within a month fully satisfied, no better place than Cloud county could be found. He worked very successfully for the Trower Brothers Commission Company, of Kansas City and St. Joe for sixteen months, but decided to give his time and attention to his farm and resigned that position.
On February 28, 1885, Mr. Elniff was united in matrimony with Elena Amelia Ruud, a daughter of H.A. Ruud, one of the oldest and most highly respected citizens of Grant township. To Mr. and Mrs. Elniff five children have been born, four of whom are living: Sophia Catherine, a young girl of sixteen years. The second daughter is Anna Christina. The third daughter, Martha. Helgelena, is named for both her maternal grandparents. May, the fourth daughter, is deceased. William Richard, their only son, is a bright little fellow of three years. Mrs. Elniff is a gentle woman, devoted to her family and home. Her father left Norway, their native land, and came to America in 1868. Mr. Ruud had learned the tailor trade in Christiana and was also night watch in the military service. After coming to America, he worked on the railroad, doing construction work, and went as far west as California. Returning to Chicago, he sent for his family and in the meantime hearing of the new homestead law of Kansas, joined a company of men going to Junction City, the terminus of the railroad. From this point they walked over the country, and drifted into Cloud county. Mr. Torneby, who was one of the company and a bachelor, had a dugout on his claim and offered shelter for Mr. Ruud and his family. Mr. Ruud then sent for them, and the family accepted the proffered hospitality until enabled to erect a dugout of their own.
The family at this time consisted of but one child (Mrs. Elniff), the other two having died of scarlet fever. The remaining five children were born in Kansas. The Ruuds experienced many hardships and were twice drowned out by the flood. The first time their home was destroyed, provisions, articles of furniture, and clothing, floated around on the water. Mr. Ruud rescued his family from drowning by pulling them through the one window of their dugout. They were visited by a second disastrous overflow in 1878, compelling the family to flee for their lives. There were a pair of twin children; Mrs. Ruud taking one of them in her arms and Mrs. Elniff, carrying the other, waded through water which reached to their shoulders. Mr. Ruud had been without a team for several years, and when the flood came upon them Mrs. Ruud risked their own peril to cut the ropes that lariated a horse and some cattle. Through the shocks of wheat that were floating all around them these terror stricken women waded to dry land.
Mr. Ruud secured a yoke of steers and just as he had succeeded in breaking them for use, one was struck down by a bolt of lightning and instantly killed. He was then compelled to work for others and take breaking in exchange. Thus he was handicapped for a considerable period. But the days of adversity passed and he now owns two hundred and forty acres of land and is in comfortable circumstances. He is one of the few who live on their original homesteads, many of them having been swept in by mortgage.
Mr. and Mrs. Ruud have been unfortunate with their children. Ida, a young girl, just dawning upon womanhood, died at the age of sixteen years; Alma died at eight years; Lucy, a very excellent young woman, died at the age of twenty-two; Albert, an exemplary young man of twenty-six years, died in the autumn of 1902: Anton, the only living child, except Mrs. Elniff, is unmarried and lives at home.
The subject of this sketch was a Republican in his early career, but he has developed into a reformer, and takes much interest in political issues. He has filled several minor offices, having served as trustee of his township two years, and as member of the school board. Himself and family are members of the Jewell county Lutheran church. Mr. Elniff is a public spirited man, and any enterprise for the benefit of the community receives his staunch support. He is an industrious, energetic, jolly, wholesouled fellow, who counts his friends by the score, and is deserving of the success which follows his undertakings. He began with neither capital nor influence, and, unaided, has forced his way to prosperity. From a tract of raw land a fine farm, well stocked, and supplied with all the latest improved machinery, subbstantial buildings, windmills, etc., has developed. Thus is verified the old adage that "Nothing succeeds like success."
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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