Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Personal View of Kansas History

As we observe the 150th anniversary of Kansas' tumultuous entry into the Union, I have been re-reading some of the stories which document my family's long-time roots in our state. Counting a cousin in Haysville and me, there have been Hackneys and Hackney descendants in Kansas for 141 years.

My previous posting on this blog site mentioned O.J. and Magdalena Hackney, my great-grandparents, and their connections with Abraham Lincoln. Once again I would like to focus on this couple. This time, however, I will rely on the writings of others. The following article appeared in the Wellington Daily News in January of  1935:


Wedded sixty-seven years will be the record Monday of one of Wellington's best loved elderly couples, Mr. and Mrs. O.J. Hackney, and this pioneer Wellington couple will observe the anniversary in a quiet way at their home, 322 West Lincoln Avenue, with no celebration being planned. Neither Mr. or Mrs. Hackney have been in robust health this winter.

Mr. Hackney is perhaps the oldest city offical in the state and has enjoyed the respect and confidence of his fellow townsmen for a long period during which time he has occupied the position of Commissioner of Finance in the city of Wellington, Kansas for the past seventeen years.

Mr. and Mrs. Hackney came to Sumner County on September 10, 1870 before the town of Wellington was incorporated the following year, 1871. At the date of their arrival there were just twelve people here. Mr. Hackney relates at the time of their arrival from Mt. Pulaski, Illinois, they had nothing but the determination of youth to succeed in this country. Both had come from a comfortable home of plenty and had been used to good living. The took claim two and on-half miles southeast of Wellington, the home which they still own and where their son Frank Hackney and family now live.

Mr. and Mrs. Hackney were married January 28, 1868 at Mt. Pulaski, Illinois. Mr. Hackney came to Kansas first, and Mrs. Hackney and her infant son Edward T., now a prominent Kansas Democrat, arrived the following year at Newton, bound for Sumner County. "How Newton frightened me", Mrs. Hackney reminisces. "It was a cowtown then, on the border of civilization. The streets were full of heavily armed cowboys who had driven thousands of cattle to the place, which was then the terminus of the railroad. and the walls of the hotel, I remember, were buffalo hides."

Before coming to this state Mr. Hackney had, at the age of sixteen enlisted in the army and served as a private in the Seventh Illinois Infantry. He was wounded at Altoona Pass, Georgia, on October 5, 1864. His brother, W.P. Hackney, was injured on the battlefield, and it was there, too, that his brother-in-law, [Captain] Sam Walker, was killed in the same battle.*

In 1874 Mr. Hackney was appointed postmaster and served the office for three years. Then he moved back to the farm. In 1893 he was again appointed postmaster and again moved to town. He remained in this office for five more years. It was during this term as postmaster that Mr. and Mrs. Hackney bought the home at 322 West Lincoln where they still reside. For a number of years they moved back to the farm during the summer months and to town again during the winter to send the children to school.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Hackney were acquainted with Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator. Mrs. Hackney's [adoptive] father, Dr. John Clark, entertained Lincoln frequently at his home in Mt. Pulaski, and Mrs. Lincoln [?] rode in a parade there when Lincoln was a candidate for president.

Mr. Hackney's father was an old-time Abolitionist, and Mr. Hackney remembers going to Lincoln's office at Springfield, Illinois, often with his father to visit the young lawyer.

For some years Mr. Hackney traveled in the interests of the Aetna Mills of this city.

He served his first term as city commissioner for Wellington in 1908 - the year that the present city building was erected. For eighteen years he served on the city commission as Commissioner of Finance. His last term was completed a year ago and he declined to become a candidate for another term. His competence in office made him a popular candidate, always, and many referred to him as the "watchdog of the city treasury".

Mr. and Mrs. Hackney are the parents of six children, all of whom are living: Edward T. Hackney, well known attorney of this city and writer of "By the Way" in these columns; John Hackney of this city; Frank Hackney [my grandfather], farmer and dairyman, who resides on the old Hackney homestead southeast of Wellington; Will Hackney of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; Mayme Hackney Donahue, who with her family resides in Omaha, Nebraska; and Mrs. Katherine Hackney Dunlap who resides next door to her parents on South G Street. They are also proud of their grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

When interviewing these old time friends this morning we were told that Will, the son in Pennsylvania, had never missed writing home every week since he first left home to go to school. Mrs. Hackney's eyes have failed to a considerable extent in recent years and her greatest sorrow is that she is unable to write personally to her children and that she is not able to read. John, a son, comes each evening to eat dinner with them and spends the time reading aloud and telling  them daily incidents of the town life. Mrs. Hackney has led a busy life and now occupies her hands with knitting rugs as she says that is the only work that she can do with failing eyesight and in her own words she "must keep busy."

Lena, shown at the old farmhouse
"I have always been happy", says Mrs. Hackney. "I was happy back in Illinois, but our coming to Kansas didn't change things. We were eager to get established on the beautiful land and claim new friendships. I always held hope in the future."

It was indeed a delight to visit these charming friends in whose home we have spent many happy times during our high school days, and too we we loved being told that we looked no older and being complimented by Mr. Hackney, even though we knew better. He told us during the interview that he was an Irishman** - we believe he must have kissed the Blarney Stone....

[note - It is believed there may have been more to this article, but only the portion above survives.] In the future I shall post additional writings, additional stories through the eyes of others.

A gathering of Hackneys

* History books don't say much about the military action at Altoona Pass, treating it as a "mere skirmish." The accounts I have read were somewhat confusing, but apparently the Union forces had captured a railhead at this location and were using it as a supply depot. Rebel troops made several attempts to recapture this strategic depot, but were rappelled on each. They did succeed in wounding three of my ancestors, one mortally.

** Irish? Probably not. My genealogical research has yet to yield any evidence to that.

Monday, February 21, 2011

President's Day - "Up Close and Personal?"

This is the first time I have ever paused to consider President's Day from a personal perspective. Having been on the receiving end of an enormous amount of genealogical research done by others, followed by a little study on my own, I am fortunate to be aware of family connections (or possible connections) to Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, 
and George Washington.

The Hackneys and the Great Emancipator: The relationship of the Hackneys and Lincoln is well documented. The Hackneys are my mother's paternal ancestors. Both her grandparents on the Hackney side knew Lincoln from his days as an Illinois lawyer and circuit judge. My great-grandfather Oscar (better known as OJ) and his father William P. farmed near Mt. Pulaski and called on Lincoln for business or legal reasons. More reasearch is needed.

My great-grandmother, Magdalena Dorothea Binder, was orphaned as a small child within a year after her family's emigration to Illinois from Germany. She was adopted by Dr. John Clark and his wife, also residents of Mt. Pulaski. My mother has recounted stories of staying after school in town with Grandmother Lena, and hearing her grandmother tell of the many times Lincoln dropped by Dr. Clark's house across the street from the courthouse. Lincoln and her stepfather would sit on the front porch by the hour engaged in conversation, and little Lena was allowed to sit on the porch and listen or to play in the front yard. Great-grandmother also told of participating in a Lincoln campaign parade through Mt. Pulaski. Whether that was for state representative or a presidential bid is unknown.

OJ and Lena Hackney were early settlers of Sumner County (1871) and OJ would become Wellington's first postmaster, then served as "Watchdog of the City Treasury" for many years.

Magdalena (Lena) and Oscar (OJ) Hackney, 1930s

The Trebers and Andrew Jackson: Five miles northwest of West Union, Ohio, on the trail known as Zane's Trace, John Treber built a "large and modious" log cabin home. That was in 1798. Its location on the well-traveled trace caused the home to became a popular stopover for several decades - due in no small part to the reputation of Mother Treber's "most excellent coffee and biscuits." During its hey-day, Treber's Traveler's Rest (or The Old Treber Inn as it was called in later years), hosted such dignitaries as General Andrew Jackson, Thomas H. Benton, Henry Clay, and General Santa Ana. 

I am related to John Treber through my mother's mother's (Holmes) family line. He is a 4 great-grandfather to me. Additional information regarding the Old Treber Inn may be seen at: www.flickr.com/photos/kansasexplorer3128/136692453/

The Old Treber Inn, 1909 postcard view

Major George Gilchrist and George Washington: OK - this one's a stretch - one that includes some speculation. But definitely a possibility. George Gilchrist of Accomack County, Virginia, entered the Continental Army in 1776 (on July 4 according to one document) as a captain, an indication he must have been a man of means. Shortly thereafter, he was captured by the British and spent most of the war as a prisoner. He was released in an exchange of prisoners, promoted to major (strange?), and said to have been present at the closing battle of the revolution at Yorktown. I have yet, however, to find documentation of his presence at Yorktown. Did George Gilchrist know The Father of Our Country, or meet him at some point in time? As a Virginian of means, as an officer in the Continental Army, and if he was indeed present at Yorktown, there is a distinct possibility the answer is yes. Family stories, rarely a reliable source of information, say he fought with Washington. We may never know the answer to that question, but we will keep looking.

George Gilchrist is my 5 great-grandfather, on the Thompson side. His father Andrew, a merchant, came to the colonies from Glasgow, Scotland.