One of the most eccentric characters and interesting individuals of Cloud county is W.J. Ion, of Grant township, whose farm lies on the, northeast quarter of section 21, town 5, range 5 west. In the Ion family William is an ancestral name, dating back many generations, and also a historical one, covering kings, poets and other great men. Mr. Ion is a native of Merionethshire, Wales. His birthplace was Castleton, where he opened his eyes to the light of day, October 29, 1846. Castleton derives its name from Wentlouge Castle, the present seat of Sir George Walker, a brother-in-law of Lord Tradegar.
When Mr. Ion was a small boy his father was deceased and his mother returned to the home of her parents. Her people were mechanics, and driftinG in their footsteps, our subject began learning a trade in the iron works of Ebbwvale, when a youth of ten years. Subsequent to his mother's second marriage, home became distasteful to him and the aspiring youth decided to forsake the parental roof and try his fortunes in America, where many of the same foreign birth had preceded him. With a wild stretch of imagination and only four cents in his pocket the venturesome lad of fifteen years arrived friendless and alone in the great metropolis. As he was brought face to face with the stern realities of his condition, the little stranger was plunged into deepest melancholy. His sad face attracted the attention of a kind hearted physician, one of his own countrymen, whose sympathy brought valuable assistance. There was a transition in the sad faced boy as his benefactor led him to a good hotel, ordered food for the young emigrant, followed by a collection, whereupon enough money was received to secure him transportation to Pittston, Pennsylvania, where he was given employment in the coal fields. The realization of his hopes were not what he had contemplated. To a youth of his tender years, who knew no language but that of his mother tongue, the arduous life in the coal regions was disillusioning to his dreams of the New World, and had his finances been equal to his longing for a mother's loving care, the ties of home and associates, he would have indulged his heart's longings by returning to Wales.
"Breathes there a man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said
This my own, my native land;
Whose heart ne'er within him burn'd
As home his footsteps he has turn'd
From wandering on a foreign strand."
There was no alternative for Mr. Ion - by force of circumstances he was compelled to push on, and he joined the army, which proved one of the best trainings he could have had, for in the service he not only rapidly acquired the English language, but gained an insight into the manners and customs of his adopted country. Mr. Ion enlisted in the regular army, served the term of enlistment, which was three years, and was discharged with the word "excellent" inscribed on his papers.
He enlisted in 1864 and was made a corporal of his division, which was Company E, First Battalion, Sixteenth United States Infantry, and was offered the promotion to orderly sergeant if he would re-enlist. The discipline Mr. Ion received in the service was equivalent to years of ordinary experience.
After his withdrawel from the army, Mr. Ion located in Indianapolis, Indiana, and worked at blacksmithing with one of his countrymen for one year, when he removed to St. Clair county, Illinois,, and resumed that vocation. He later settled in Ray county, Missouri, and worked in the mines near Camden for a brief time.
The fame of Kansas was being proclaimed throughout the world and our subject became ambitious to own and operate a farm, and forego a previous desire for the gold fields of Colorado. Hence, in 1869, he moved further westward, and upon reaching Topeka, he decided the state held forth wonderful inducements. While visiting the land office in Pottawattomie and Marshall counties, Mr. Ion met with parties who induced him to join them on a trip to Cloud county. This was in 1870, and his comrades were Columbus Hinman; J.F. Hannum, the late John Wilson, ex-sheriff of Cloud county, Reverend J.P. Sharp and Mr. Hatcher, who afterward became sheriff of Mitchell county.They drove overland with a two yoke ox team and traveled as far west as Rooks comity, looking over the land in Cloud, Mitchell, Osborn, Smith and Rooks counties, but found no country that surpassed Cloud county, where the most of the homeseekers in the party located, where three of them still remain - Ion, Hinman and Hannum - and where John Wilson died. While enroute to the country further west they camped on Mr. Ion's present farm, the land that attracted his attention at the time they were quartered there, for it was beautifully situated in the magnificent Buffalo creek valley, intersected by that stream and covered with a luxuriant growth of grass.His comrades rather derided his choice of a claim, but after roaming around for a considerable length of time, he saw nothing so near his ideal for a home, and notwithstanding the derision of his friends he returned the following spring, made entry upon this land and has never repented his choice of a homestead. Assisted by W.R. Ansdell, James Carter and James Kiggan, Mr. Ion erected a cabin 13x13 feet in dimensions, with a roof of poles and Kansas soil. Mr. Ion began making history early in life and continued long after this period, for like all the pioneers he met with reverses and hardships.
Mr. Ion descends from British stock. Both his paternal and maternal ancestors were reared in the highlands of Great Britain. His mother having mourned the death of her family, joined her son in 1879 and at the age of seventy-five years is a bright, vivacious little woman, who enjoys life with Mr. Ion and the comforts of his home. She clings to the pleasant memories of her old associations and is fond of conversing in her native tongue, the Welsh language.
Mr. Ion was married October 19, 1881, to Miss Minerva L. Patty, whose father was of North Carolina birth; her mother was a native of Pennsylvania. They both drifted to Ohio, where they met, were married and later removed on a farm near Indianapolis, Indiana, where Mrs. Ion was born. Mrs. Ion is a woman of more than average intelligence, a lover of literature, and manifests a marked interest in her husband's researches. Four children came to brighten the Ion home, three of whom are living. The eldest son, H.M., graduated in the common branches and from the Jamestown High school. He is a remarkable student and inherits his father's fertile mind. Ivor S., has more of a taste for athletic sports and although not of a studious bent, is a statistician and during the Spanish-American war, though a mere child, he memorized and could give the displacement of every vessel or man-of-war that sailed the seas in the interest of the two countries. Their only daughter is Gwladys, a promising young girl of fifteen years.
The educational advantages of Mr. Ion were very meager, though from childhood he longed for knowledge, craved an education, and had his earlier life admitted of an academic training, his extraordinarily retentive memory would have enabled him to distinguish himself. However, he has studied and read until his mind is a storehouse of useful, practical and historical knowledge. He is a rare conversationalist, and can entertain his listeners with an unlimited recital of poems, of which Burns is his favorite, bits of historical lore, and scenes incident to travel, as he can recall and relate in a graphic way all the incidents of his ponoramic life and retains the contents of every book he has read, either ancient or modern. He is interested in pre-historic lore. Evidences point to his farm having been a location where implements of war were manufactured. Flint is foreign to this locality, where various varieties of arrow points are found. He also has a pre-historic hammer, and several have been found on his land. From these facts it is concluded the material was brought from other parts of the country to the "blacksmith" in that locality. Mr. Ion possesses many trophies and relics, some of which would be valuable acquisitions to the cabinets of the Smithsonian or Cooper institutes
Mr. Ion owns four hundred acres of land, two hundred and forty of which is fertile bottom land, and in a seasonable year, as in 1892, it produces fifty bushels of wheat to the acre, and fine corn. He is also an entensive stockman, raising both cattle and hogs. His cattle are of the Polled Angus breed, and at the head of his herd he has a fine pedigreed bull. Mr. Ion is a Republican, but admits having wandered away from the fold. He has filled minor offices and has been a member of the school board. He was reared in the Church of England. The Ions have a commodious home, situated about two miles east of Jamestown, to the comforts of which their labors justly entitle them.
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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