Reverend R.P. West, the subject of this sketch, is one of the most prominent of the pioneer settlers and figures very conspicuously through the pages of this volume. He was not in reality one of Cloud county's settlers, but was jointly connected with this and Republic county, where he resided.
Vermilion county, Indiana, is the place of his nativity. He was born August 10, 1829. His father, Jacob J. West, was born in Greene county, Pennsylvania. He was a carpenter by trade, but later turned his attention to agricultural pursuits. A chapter in Mr. West's grandfather's life bordered on the romantic. At the age of nine years he was kidnapped in Liverpool, England, taken on board a vessel, brought to Philadelphia and disposed of to a Quaker for the consideration of twelve dollars. He lived with this family for a number of years and received uniform and kindly treatment. He used a gun on the British in the famous battle of Lexington, when but twelve years of age.
After several times enlisting he finally entered for five years and served during the war. At the battle of Cowpens he received a severe saber wound on the head that disabled him the remainder of his life. When on a scouting expedition he suddenly came upon a squad of red coats and instantly recognized one as his brother. He revealed to him his relationship, but the brother refused to believe him until shown a mark well known to the brother, which no longer left a doubt in his mind as to his identity. They embraced each other, but the next moment the "Johnnie Bull" began upbraiding him for being a rebel. Jacob West died deaf and blind from the effect of the saber wound. He was a self-made man, and, although he had received but a common school education, by assiduous reading he became a compendium of history and famous for his extensive knowledge of current events. He settled in Illinois in 1837, He died in 1864. His wife died on the same day. They laid aside the joys and burdens of life and together entered the mysterious beyond.
When troops were called upon to protect the stars and stripes and the honor of the nation, Reverend West was among the first to respond and joined the Twenty-first Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry, June 11, 1861. Although not in any engagements he was constantly at the post of duty and dangers until he fell ill and was forced to enter the hospital. Failing to fully recover his health he was honorably discharged March 27, 1862.
Reverend West was married October 22, 1848, in Piatt County, Illinois, to Miss Margaret Murphy, who is a most estimable woman and member of a highly esteemed family. Not having been blessed with children of their own Mr. and Mrs. West adopted little May Glovin, a bright child of eight summers, whom they reared and educated. At the age of twenty-one years she was married to William H. Vicker, a very worthy man. One child, Earl, was born to them, but scarcely three years of married life had elapsed ere the "grim reaper," death, had taken her home, preceded by her infant child two months.
Reverend West has always been active in politics, believing that all great reforms must be brought about through the intelligent use of the ballot. He is a staunch Republican, although he has not at all times approved of the action of his party's conventions, and believing that an honest Democrat is better than a dishonest Republican, he occasionally put that belief into practice.
In 1869-70 and also in 1876 he was elected to the house of representatives of the state of Kansas, and at each session he distinguished himself in aiding the progression of important work. Among the many good bills he was jointly responsible for was one to refund his county's (Republic) indebtedness, whose finances were in such condition that its credit had sunk to twenty-five cents on the dollar. The passage of his bill immediately brought it up to par, where it has since remained.
As an "objector" Mr. West was a terror to all who had "jobs" before the legislature, each and all of which he opposed with the vigor and ability he possessed. He is the man who unearthed an attempted eight thousand dollar bond steal of the late Colonel Samuel Wood, who was killed in Stephens county several yearse[sic] ago. During the discussion of the case Wood became so infuriated at the remarks of Representative West that he lost control of his vicious temper and violently hurled an ink bottle at Mr. West, who, fortunately, dodged the missile.
In the early 'eighties Reverend West's friends put him in the field as an Independent Republican candidate for the state senate, the district being composed of Republic and Cloud counties, but he was defeated by the regular Republican nominee, through the dishonest tactics of his opponent's friends and workers. He has been active in politics ever since and probably always will be until be is gathered to his "Father's home."
In 1882 Reverend West moved to the then territory of Washington and engaged in farming, but his old love for Republic county, where he had spent nearly twenty years bravely overcoming, the hardships of frontier life, and finally rewarded with peace, pleasure and plenty, caused him to return. He bought a home in Osborne county, and from there moved Concordia, locating in the eastern part of the city on Fifth street, where himself and wife declare they will live the remainder of their lives in this pleasant home.
Reverend and Mrs. West were pioneers of Republic county and settled on a homestead near where Bellville now stands, in 1863, when great herds of buffalo tramped over his farm, both springtime and autumn, and when the coyote and the Indian were too frequent visitors to make life safe and enjoyable. Here this worthy couple kept "open house," where the weary and hungry traveler always found a welcome to rest and partake of their bounteous meals without charge.
Reverend West was licensed to preach by the quarterly conference of Tuscola-Paris district of the Illinois conference and was ordained in Manhattan, Kansas, in 1866. Immediately after coming to Kansas he began his life work of preaching the "everlasting gospel" in his own inimitable style and he was "the right man in the right place." He was always present to bury the dead, to chase the marauding bands of Indians, or to hold protracted meetings in every settlement from Manhattan, Riley county, to Jewell county on the west, and was eminently successful in bringing souls to Christ and organizing congregations, nearly always at his own expense.
Reverend West withdrew from the conference on account of his wife's failing health, who, from the beginning of his ministerial labors had borne much of the burden of supporting the itinerant circuit rider's home. Beside dispensing free salvation, Reverend West probably contributed more of his worldly stores than many of his parishioners accumulated in the same length of time. Mrs. West was an important quantity, and while commending this fearless clergyman and politician the credit due his devoted companion must not be overlooked. She at all times shared in those days of grief and romance and while speaking of these attributes, Reverend West facetiously remarked, "To Margaret Ann be all the honor." This venerable and worthy couple have always enjoyed the confidence and esteem of their fellow citizens and when the parting adieus are said and life's journey ended, their many good deeds will live on in the hearts of their neighbors and friends.
- [Reverend R.P. West, the pioneer circuit rider of more than a quarter of a century ago departed this life at his home in Concordia on the 11th of December, 1902. He traveled over the prairies on horseback before the days of roads and bridges, administering spiritual advice and comfort to the settlers of Cloud, Republic, Washington and Clay counties. Since his advent in the state in 1863, he was a prominent figure in church and political affairs as references in various parts of this work signify. His aged wife survives him. - Editor.
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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