JAMES D. WATERS. - A man of strong convictions, able, aggressive, sagacious and honest, James D. Waters, of Bonner Springs, has contributed in no small measure to the progress and prosperity of this beautiful little city, being ever among the foremost to assist in the establishment of any legitimate enterprise conducive to the advancement of the community. A son of Aaron P. and Elizabeth (Stroup) Waters, he was born November 25, 1860, in Kansas, on a farm lying six and one-half miles south of Leavenworth.
Aaron P. Waters was born and bred in Ohio, and married an Illinois girl. Coming to Kansas with his family in 1859, he located on a farm south of Leavenworth, where he remained about seven years. In 1866 he bought a large tract of land in Wyandotte county, near Paw Paw Bend, now called Loring. The entire tract was covered with timber, with the exception of twenty acres which had been farmed by the Indians. He cleared all but forty acres of fine timber, selling the wood which he cut to the Union Pacific Railway Company, which at that time used wood instead of coal in firing its engines. He improved the land, and in addition to tilling the soil was an extensive stock raiser, the farm today being one of the best in Wyandotte county. In 1875 his wife died, and her body was laid to rest in the Bonner Springs cemetery. Three years later, in 1878, he, accompanied by his three sons and three daughters, started overland in a covered wagon for Washington territory, passing enroute through western Nebraska, in which Kearney City, then a border town, was a supply town for cow camps. When, in May, he reached Cheyenne with his family a snow storm was in progress that lasted three days. While there he was taken ill with mountain fever, died, and was buried at Cheyenne.
James D. Waters, the special subject of this sketch, was the third child, and the two older sons are also residents of Kansas. Heck Brothers, of Cheyenne, the leading cattle men of Wyoming, noticed the little funeral procession that left their stable in a spring wagon, in which the mourners were sitting beside the coffin on the way to the cemetery, and when the children came back with the wagon Mr. Heck questioned James D. regarding his financial situation. On being told that the entire assets were the horses, wagon, harness and about seventy dollars in money, asked the lad what he proposed to do. He told Mr. Heck that his father had requested him to send two of the girls back to Kansas, and that he proposed to send Janie to Colonel Baker, an oldtime settler of Leavenworth, while Lillie was to be sent to Robert Jaggard, also a pioneer of Leavenworth county. The older girl, Alice, he wished to place with some one in Cheyenne, and Mr. Heck asked for the privilege of taking her into his own family and giving her a home. The brother at once assented.
Charlie Waters, the fourth son, also returned to Kansas, while William Waters, the youngest boy, secured a position with a cow outfit eighteen miles from Cheyenne. On the day that he left for the cow station, at Laning ranch, Willie asked his brother James for ten cents to buy a plug of tobacco, and James, who had not before known that Willie chewed tobacco, went into a store and gave fifty cents, the only money he had between himself and the world, for a plug of tobacco, which he gave to William, at the same time bidding him God speed.
James D. Waters having found homes for his brothers and sisters, was hired by a big Missourian to work for F. M. Phillips, the "Metallic h" Cow Outfit, at the mouth of Chugwater, Wyoming, ninety miles away. The big Missourian loaded a four-mule team with provisions and started the tender-foot northward, telling Mr. Waters that when overtaken by night he was to stop at certain cow ranches, and when the meal was called walk in, sit down at the table and satisfy his hunger, and after a good sleep and his breakfast, hook up his team and continue his journey without offering to settle for his bill. This kind of proceedure[sic] did not appeal to Mr. Waters, who asked for money with which to pay his expenses. The Missourian laughed, and told him to tell the people along the line that if they needed money to charge the bill to F. M. Phillips. Mr. Waters found, however, that in those days no charges were ever made for meals or accommodations at the cow outfits. Meandering across the prairie and through the canons with his load of provisions, he arrived at his point of destination in a few days, and after working a short time for Mr. Phillips, hired out to Charlie Charlton, who was hauling freight from Cheyenne to the Black Hills. Mr. Waters whacked bulls from Cheyenne to Leeds and Deadwood two trips, living at night in the open air with nothing but the stars of Heaven above him, with buffalo chips to warm himself, that being the only visible supply of fuel, and now often tells of the cow birds that accompanied him across the dreary trail.
In the fall of 1878 the Charlton outfit went into camp for the winter on the head water of Hat creek, one hundred and sixty miles north of Cheyenne. Shortly after establishing the camp, Heck Brothers, who owned the C. R. Cow Outfit, bought Charlton's freight outfit, and Mr. Heck, the man who had befriended Mr. Waters at Cheyenne and given his sister Alice a home, became his employer. Giving to his employer his best service, he was made foreman of the outfit, a position that he filled ably and well for six years. In the spring of 1884, Heck Brothers sent Mr. Waters to the John Day country, Oregon, to buy three thousand head of cattle, which he was to take across the trail to Wyoming during the summer. The price of twenty-five dollars a head for all Oregon cattle that were branded, three-year old steers being cut out, seemed prohibitive to Heck Brothers, who wired Mr. Waters to return and seek cattle in Texas.
On his return trip Mr. Waters visited his uncle, Jacob Stroup, an old forty-niner then living at the mouth of Payette river, Idaho, and through the urgent solicitation of his uncle wired Heck Brothers asking if they objected to his remaining in Idaho. The reply stating that the firm had no objections if he could thus better his condition, Mr. Waters concluded to stay, and bought the improvements on a tract of land containing one hundred and sixty acres, lying a mile from the present site of Payette City, paying the owner, Ross Clements, two hundred and seventy-five dollars for improvements. Going to Boise City, Idaho, Mr. Clements released his claim back to the government and Mr. Waters filed a pre-emption act.
Returning then to Payette river, Mr. Waters, with others, organized the first irrigation ditch company that took water from that stream, and after proving up his claim sold it and also his stock in the irrigation ditch to Henry Irvin. The trade being completed, he had a receipt from the land receiver at Boise City for the money he had paid to the government for the land, on the back of which he indorsed - "For in consideration of four thousand dollars, I hereby relinquish my right, interest, and title within described land to Henry Irvin," and took in payment for the same Henry Irvin's note drawing interest at the rate of one per cent a month. The note he placed in his inside coat pocket.
Accepting then a position at the Emmon Brothers horse ranch, under foreman John Lackey, Mr. Waters, with Tom Hall, a Texas lad, "busted bronks" for a year. Becoming then foreman for Mr. North, general manager of the Clover Valley Cow Outfit, he drove three thousand head of cattle across the trail to the Humboldt river, Nevada, and continued with the company until the spring of 1887. Having then arranged to enter the employ of the C. R. Outfit, of Wyoming, then under the management of Tom Swan, of Indianola, Iowa, Mr. Waters left Golconda, Nevada, with six hundred dollars in cash reposing in his inside coat pocket beside the nearly worn-out note given him by Henry Irvin. After stopping two weeks at Ogden, Utah, he spent a month in Salt Lake City, going thence to Colorado Springs, Colorado, and a week later to Denver.
While in Colorado Springs, Mr. Waters wired to the Outfit to send a draft to him for one hundred dollars at Denver, realizing that his cash would be exhausted soon after he reached that city. During the eleven days that he remained there, he visited the post office seven times daily, but failed to find draft, and for the first time in all of his wild and woolly experience was broke, and owed the hotel proprietor twenty-two dollars. Pawning his diamond ring, he went to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he was to wire the landlord money that he owed him, while the landlord was to express to him his bed, saddle, spurs, bridle, ring and trunk, the trunk being a seamless sack with a buckskin string as a lock. Reaching Cheyenne the following morning, one of the first men that greeted him as he walked up the street was Henry Irvin, of Idaho, who was there for the purpose of selling three thousand head of three year old steers. After, as a matter of course, the two men had taken a little duck fit, Mr. Irvin asked Mr. Waters what in the world he had done with his four thousand dollar note. Replying that he still retained that portion of the paper not worn out, Mr. Irvin advised him to loan the money to some one in Wyoming. Indorsing the note, he delivered it to Tom Swan, manager of the C. R. Outfit and the Western Live Stock people, and having figured up the interest thereon took Mr. Swan's note in lieu of Mr. Irvin's. Mr. Waters subsequently worked either for the C. R. Outfit and the Western Live Stock people or the Node Outfit until the fall of 1899, when he returned to Bonner Springs, Kansas, and married Rose M., daughter of Dr. Doherty.
After his marriage Mr. Waters was in the employ of the Fred Heim Brewing Company, of Kansas City, Missouri, as bookkeeper, until 1893, having charge of the Kansas City side of the business. Making a race into the strip country in 1893 from the south side, he secured one hundred and sixty acres on Turkey creek, and having proved up bought an adjoining tract of one hundred and sixty acres. Moving back to Bonner Springs, Kansas, in 1895, Mr. Waters matriculated at the Electric Medical School, of Kansas City, Missouri, from which he secured a diploma in 1898. For several years he was connected with Dr. Coy's Sanitarium, leaving it in 1901, when he organized the Farmers' State Bank at Bonner Springs, of which he has since been cashier. This is a strong financial institution, with a capital which has been increased from five thousand dollars to twenty-five thousand dollars, and has paid large dividends.
Mr. Waters has been prominent in the installation of all the Bonner Springs enterprises. A stockholder of the Electric Light plant, he acted as secretary and treasurer of the same, and is a stockholder and the president and manager of the Wyandotte County Telephone Company, which is a Bonner Springs organization. The organizer of the Bonner Springs Oil and Gas Company, a thirty-thousand dollar organization, he was active manager of the same until its holdings were sold to the Bonner Portland Cement Company for the neat sum of fifty-three thousand dollars. He afterward became treasurer of the Bonner Portland Cement Company, and when it passed into the hands of a receiver tendered his resignation as treasurer and severed his connection as an officer. He also organized the Lake of the Forest Club, which has a membership of two hundred, and is part owner of the property known as Forest Lake.
A "booster," always pushing ahead for advancement, Mr. Waters entered the fight for the separation of the colored school children from the whites, and during the six years that he served on the school board was successful in securing the same. He also fought for the Bonner High School building, and secured the same, the building being erected at a cost of twenty-five thousand dollars. He has ever been among the foremost in advancing the growth and prosperity of his home city, and built the first business house on Oak street. Mr. Waters at the present time owns three business houses and has a half interest in three others, in addition owning considerable vacant property throughout Bonner Springs and residential property in Kansas City, Missouri. Born in Kansas fifty-one years ago, Mr. Waters states that the Kansas flag is good enough for him to live under, and that in all of his travels there is no little town he likes as well as the little town near the western border of Wyandotte county called Bonner Springs.
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