William Layton, an enterprising farmer of Buffalo township came to Kansas as early as 1863, when the state was designated as "bleeding, suffering Kansas," and settled in Nemaha county, near the Brown county line. He freighted in 1865 from Nemaha county to Fort Collins, over the unsettled plains when the mail was carried from Atchison to Denver, Colorado, in stage coaches. Marysville, Kansas, was about the size of Jamestown, and Beatrice, Nebraska, could not boast of much more than a dozen houses.
Possessed of the restless spirit that pervaded most men at that time, Mr. Layton sold the land he bought in Brown county, and in 1873, in company with his brother, pushed westward into Cloud county, where he bought the relinquishment of Charles H. Salters. They were visited by a heavy rain soon after moving into their new quarters a combination dugout and log hut with dirt covered roof, which was practically dissolved and washed away under a three days' pouring down of the elements. They spent six weeks in that abode, and as if to make it more uninhabitable the place was infested with myriads of fleas. The house was then enlarged by adding a few logs, covered by a shingled roof, and pronounced one of the best dwellings in the country; not without a little sarcasm, perhaps, for the settlers began to feel a little envious of the new comer who located in their midst and did a little too much "fixin' up."
Although Mr. Layton has experienced numerous discouragements, withstood two grasshopper raids - for the one that visited Nemaha county in 1866 exceeded the ravages of this insect in Cloud county in 1874 - he is loyal to the state, came to stay and does not regret it. Taking his own experiences as a basis, he asserts anyone coming to Kansas with a stock of perseverance and well directed energy, can make a success, and also contends when all the advantages are considered there is no better country on earth.
Mr. Layton's farm consists of three hundred and twenty acres. For several years, he carried on diversified farming, but of recent years he has given his attention to wheat raising and the growing of alfalfa. One season he had a tract of two hundred acres that yielded twenty-eight bushels of wheat per acre. He has a field of fifty-five acres of alfalfa and considers this one of the best crops grown in this part of the country, from a financial standpoint.
Mr. Layton has an interesting war record. On January 1, 1862, he enlisted in Company H, Thirty-second Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and served until the following September, when he was discharged for disability, occasioned by a gunshot wound received in the evening of the first day's fight at Shiloh. His right arm was broken, but with his left he picked up his gun, resolving he would not leave it for the rebels. He also received a gunshot wound in the thigh and still carries the ball. Dining the few months he served in the army he was taken at a rapid gait and experienced hard fighting. After the battle, our subject was numbered with the slain, but instead of being dead, he, with others, were thrown into a cotton gin, which was converted into a temporary hospital, its puncheon floor strewn with wounded soldiers. Had he been left there for any length of time, Mr. Layton would have succumbed, for his wounds were of a dangerous character. But a boat came cruising down the Ohio river for the purpose of rescuing the boys of the "Buckeye" state who were in the improvised hospitals. Realizing that a little strategy meant salvation for him, Mr. Layton feigned he was from that commonwealth and was tenderly carried on board. Upon arriving at Cairo, he acknowledged the deception, revealed his identity and beat his way home on a train. But his ardor had not cooled, and as he stood watching the soldiers marching to the front great tears would well up in his eyes because he could not join their ranks again. The Thirty-second was a depleted regiment. Every commissioned officer went down in the first battle of Shiloh; also every non-commissioned officer with the exception of two. The regiment was almost exterminated, but Mr. Layton's brother, Preston, came through without a scratch. Mr. Layton was a sufferer from his wounds for a period of fifteen years.
Just after the close of the war our subject was married to Mary Goodpasture, whose father, John Goodpasture, was one of Nemaha county's pioneers, having settled there as early as 1859. He had sold his farm in Illinois during the war, but the parties to whom he sold were unable to meet the payments and the property reverted to him. Later on he returned to Illinois, where he died in 1891. The Goodpastures descended from an old Holland family. Mrs. Goodpasture's maiden name was Emily Long, and she was of southern lineage. Mrs. Layton was a small child when her mother died, and she was reared by a step-mother, who is still living. Mrs. Layton is one of six children, four of whom are living: Mrs. Jobe, of Prescott, Arizona; Mrs. Sarah McCarthy, who resides on a farm near Jacksonville, Illinois, and Samuel Goodpasture, of Concord, Morgan county, Illinois.
To Mr. and Mrs. Layton five children have been born. Their eldest child and only daughter married Robert Jones. She was a woman of gentle, attractive character, and her death in January, 1902, was mourned not only by her husband and family, but by a large circle of friends and acquaintances. George, their eldest son, is a successful business man and a member of the firm of Layton & Neilson, druggists, Concordia. Their second son, William Waldo, died at the age of six years. John M. and Roy B., the two younger sons, are practical farmers.
In 1884 Mr. Layton erected a handsome two-story residence of nine rooms, and in 1892 a fine basement barn. Anxious to have their home surrounded by a grove of trees, Mr. and Mrs. Layton planted six hundred box-elders, and many of these are living. Later they planted elms, ash and cedars with good results. While they were planting the switches that later developed into trees, their little family of children, now grown to manhood, watched the proceedings through the windows.
Mr. Layton is a man esteemed for his sterling worth of uprightness. His career has been one of industry and perseverance, and his methodical system of farming has brought its returns in the development of a beautiful country place, where, surrounded by his excellent family, he enjoys the fruits of his labors. Socially, he has been a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows about twenty years, and also belongs to the Grand Army of the Republic. Politically, he is a staunch Democrat.
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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