JAMES EMERY PENNINGTON
The Western Advocate, Mankato, Kan., in an issue of July, 1899, has this to say in part regarding one of the most remarkable family reunions ever held in Kansas or anywhere in the county: "Without doubt the most remarkable family reunion ever held in Jewell County has been for the past week at Burr Oak and among the various members of the family in that vicinity. It is the reunion of the eleven children, together with many of the sixty-four grand children of the late James Pennington and Susan WISDOM Pennington. The Pennington family is a Southern family, the elder Pennington being a native of Tennessee, and his wife of North Carolina. All of the eleven children, however, with the exception of the oldest son, were born and raised in Missouri. The Pennington family is remarkable in that there were just eleven children and they are all living and enjoying good health, although the youngest is now fifty years of age, the eldest being a little past seventy. These family reunions, which are an annual event, provide, that the family tree, nourished by the good old warm Southern blood, is still bearing the fruits of hospitality and good cheer. Once a year they get together, parents, children and grand children, and the ties of family of Kinship and affection are drawn a little closer. Hearts are cheered, lived are brightened and days are lengthened." Speaking of the gathering on Saturday of the reunion week, the Western Advocate goes on to say: "On this day a company of one hundred gathered around the banquet board, and the eleven brothers and sisters were weighed and their combined weight found to be 1,832 pounds, an average of 166 pounds each."
The father of this remarkable family was James Pennington, a native of Tennessee, born in that state in 1822, and was there married to Susan Wisdom. They migrated to Missouri in the early thirties and settled in Nodaway County, developing a fine farm until the discovery of gold in California. James then set out across the plains and mountains to the gold fields of the New Eldorado in quest of fortune. While in California he became a freighter and transported flour and provisions to the mining camps afoot. He could carry a fifty pound sack of flour a distance of sixteen miles and was paid at the rate of $50 per sack for transportation, the flour costing $50 per sack at the point of purchase and being valued at $100 when it was taken to its destination by the carrier. James, Sr., remained in California until 1851 and then returned to his home and family in Missouri, where he lived the remained of his days, dying in 1878, in Platte County. James and Susan Pennington were the parents of eleven children as follows: William W., born in 1837, died February, 1913 at Lebanon, Kan.; John Thomas, California, born in 1839; Mrs. Telitha THORP, Marysville, Mo., born in 1841; Mrs. Julia DENNEY, Benedict, Kan., born in 1842; Mrs. Clementine CONNER, Santa Ana, Cal., born in 1844, a widow; Mrs. Nancy MILLER, California, born in 1845, a widow; James Emery, with whom this review is directly concerned; Mrs. Sarah ROBERTSON, Elk City, Okla., born in 1848; Mrs. Mary ROBERTSON, Burr Oak, Kan., born in 1853; Mrs. Cynthia Jane JUDY, Burr Oak, born in 1855; Mrs. Rocksinah GRAVES, Burr Oak, Kan., born in 1857.
James Emery Pennington, retired farmer of Potter, Kan., was born on a farm in Nodaway County, Missouri, October 30, 1847. He was reared on the farm in Missouri until seventeen years of age, and he then left home and crossed the plains. The occasion of his going was because of the fact that two brothers and three brothers-in-law had already enlisted in the Union army for service in the Civil War, and the father felt that he could not spare his son, James E., so it was agreed between father and son that the boy should go west for a time. He made his way across the Missouri to Ft. Leavenworth and there joined an overland freight train which was bound for Salt Lake City, Utah. At that time all the freight and merchandise west of the Missouri River was transported in wagons, drawn by horses, mules or oxen. These wagons were loaded with from six to twelve thousand pounds of merchandise and were drawn by teams ranging in numbers form twelve to twenty-four animals. From twenty to forty men, wagons and teams constituted what was then known as a "freight train." The train to which young Pennington attached himself consisted of forty wagons, forty teamsters, two wagon masters, four assistants, two night herders, and two extras in all, fifty men, four hundred and ninety oxen and a few horses for herding purposes. Being a farmer boy and having a working knowledge of animals, young Pennington soon made himself indispensable to the outfit and received the name of "Our Boy" from the other men in charge of the train. The train proceeded its long way over the plains of Kansas and followed the valley of the South Platte to the Rockies without mishap, other than a few Indian skirmishes. In October of 1864, "Our Boy" stood on the crest of the Rockies with one foot on the Atlantic and one foot on the Pacific slope. Winter soon came on and stock perished and they arrived at their destination in the dead of severe winter. Young Pennington spent the winter in the home of a Mormon family , consisting of a Mormon and his seven wives. From Utah he went north into Idaho and Montana, and in that region took up his favorite pursuit of freighting, which he followed for four years. His operations were mainly from Ft. Benton, the head of navigation on the Missouri River, to which point the river steamers carried the freight destined for the mining camps of the mountain regions. He, with others, transported the first quartz mill to the mining camp, later widely known as Butte City, Mont. He returned home in 1869 and lived there for three years, coming to Kansas in 1872. He had saved some capital which he brought with him to Atchison County, and invested this money in a head of cattle which he grazed upon the free ranges, in this manner getting his first real start in life, and which was the beginning of his later prosperity. After his marriage in 1872 to Elizabeth SNODDY, he and his wife settled on the home farm of the Snoddy's, and at the end of one year the father of Mrs. Pennington deeded the young couple eighty acres of land which became the nucleus of their present acreage. This land is four miles east and one-half mile south of Potter, Leavenworth County, and the farm has been increased to 320 acres of well improved land. Mr. Pennington removed to potter in the spring of 1916, from the farm in Leavenworth County, and has recently completed a fine, modern, ten-room residence which will serve as his future domicile during the remainder of his days.
James E. Pennington was married February 1, 1872, to Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas and Margaret (BROWN) Snoddy, the former a native of Tennessee, and the later a native of Missouri. Thomas Snoddy first came to Kansas in 1854, and preempted the farm which he improved and where his children were reared. He was a Mexican War veteran and the government gave him for his services a grant of land in northwestern Missouri, which he sold for $1,600 and with the proceeds of the sale built his home on the preemption in Kansas. The upper part of the house was used as headquarters for the Kickapoo Masonic lodge for many years. Thomas Snoddy was born August 27, 1825, and died October 8, 1909. His remains were interred in the Round Prairie Cemetery. A remarkable fact about the Snoddy house is that the roof existed without repairs for over fifty-five years and at the time of its repair by Mr. Pennington, the excellence of the material which went into the building of the house excited newspaper comment. Mrs. Pennington was born on September 25, 1856, and lived her whole life on the farm which her father preempted.
The following children were born to Mr. and Mrs. James Emery Pennington: Rebecca, wife of William EHART, of Atchison County, Kansas; Bessena, wife of Joseph JAMES of Atchison County, a farmer and horse and mule dealer; Roxie, wife of John GOFF, of Potter, Kan., a thresher and farmer; Thomas W., living on the home farm; Frank P., a lumber merchant of Burr Oak, Kan., who was associated with his father in the grain business in Potter, in 1906; George, a farmer living in Leavenworth County; Mamie, a student in the Potter High School.
Mr. Pennington, with others in his neighborhood, organized and placed in operation the Farmers' Elevator Company, of which he was president. This concern built the Potter grain elevator and later sold it to H. A. ODE. He has long been identified with the Democratic party, but has never sought political preferment of any kind. At the time of the organization of the Potter High School district, Mr. Pennington was one of the prime movers in the building of the new high school building. Perhaps the best known trait of this grand old pioneer in his inherent hospitality, which has made him famous and one of the best loved men in his section of the state. Concerning a great Christmas celebration held at the Pennington home in 1911, the Atchison Glove, of December 27, 1911, says:
"J. E. Pennington, a well known farmer of the Round Prairie neighborhood, south of town, always provides a big entertainment for his immediate friends and relatives every Christmas, and spares no pains or expense to make these annual affairs highly enjoyable. The late holiday was no exception to the rule. On Monday quite a crowd gathered at Mr. Pennington's home, as usual, and spent a day of merriment. A big Christmas tree loaded with almost everything conceivable in the way of holiday gifts, was provided by Mr. Pennington; a big dinner was also served, and in the afternoon the men indulged in a hunt. A long wire was stretched across a field, with a horse hitched to each end of it. The wire was thus dragged across the field and in this manner all of the rabbits were scared up. The men followed behind the wire and shot the rabbits as they jumped out. Four jack rabbits were scared up and one of them killed; also many cottontails. It is said that Mr. Pennington expended nearly $200 on this affair. He is a very prosperous farmer and is noted for his hospitality."
History of Atchison County, Kansas
by Sheffield Ingalls - 1916
Clemi Higley Blackburn, September 2003