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Biographical Sketch
William Denton
Doniphan County, Kansas


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The following transcription is from a 750 page book titled "Genealogical and Biographical Record of North-Eastern Kansas, dated 1900.  These have been diligently transcribed and generously contributed by Penny R. Harrell, please give her a very big Thank You for her hard work!

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William Denton.

There is not a more interesting family connected with the history of Doniphan county, Kansas, than the Denton family, different members of which are referred to somewhat at length in these pages.  In a biographical sketch of George Denton, the eldest son of William and Mary (Welbourn) Denton, which will be found elsewhere in this work, the early history of the family is referred to.

The subject of this sketch is the fourth in order of nativity of the children of William and Mary (Welbourn) Denton, and is the third William Denton in his family in direct line of descent.

William Denton, who was a pioneer of Doniphan county, Kansas, is a prosperous farmer and prominent representative of that worthy family in honor of whom the village of Denton was named.  He was born at Welton, Lincolnshire, England, January 17, 1831, and obtained a fair education in the schools then common to pupils of his station.  At the youthful age of thirteen years he began the actual struggle of life.

His term of service was by the year, his labor was on a farm and his compensation was two pounds.  As he gained strength and experience, his wages were increased accordingly, and when he entered his eighth year as a farm laborer he was drawing twelve pounds a year and board.  As he approached his majority he permitted himself to think seriously of leaving the old world with its plodding customs and poor opportunities for labor, for the new world and its push and rush, where men are equal in civil rights and merit wins.

He sailed from Liverpool, in 1852, on the Kossuth, and landed in New York seven weeks and four days after his embarkment.  One incident on the journey is worthy of mention as showing the streak of economy, with its attendant good results, that had been made a part of him by years of work and self-denial.  Many passengers, having as they thought provisions of their own with them sufficient for the voyage, fell into the custom of throwing away the food allotted to them by the vessel commissary.

This piece of criminal extravagance young Denton could not endure, and he procured a gunny sack for the reception of this food that it might serve some good purpose.  When one would declare, "I don't want these crackers, or this or that," Mr. Denton would say, "Throw it into the sack."  The vessel was becalmed, made no progress and was consequently delayed some weeks in reaching New York.  Some of the passengers ate all their own food and such full rations as the ship could supply and finally had to rely upon the young Englishman's gunny sack to dispel their hunger.

Mr. Denton, who was bound for Morrow county, Ohio, stopped at Caledonia two years, worked at odd jobs, including livery stable and farm work, but believed he was not yet far enough west.  He longed for the gold fields of the Pacific and in 1854 left New York harbor for San Francisco.  He crossed the Isthmus of Panama, partially by rail and partially on foot and when he reached the city of the Golden Gate he had but two dollars and fifty cents remaining.

Upon looking about for work he found a scythe waiting his acceptance and with it he earned, at hay harvest, forty-five dollars a month.  At the end of a month he made a demand on his employer, one Green, for his wages, and hurried away to the gold diggings on the Yuba river.  He hung around Barton's Bar a month before getting work and was then employed to help flume the river and placed on the pay roll at four dollars a day for the summer.

The following winter he went into the timber to the Union saw-mills and remained with the concern two or three years, cutting logs and doing such other labor as is needed round a mill.  Later for two years he was employed at a mill near Coloma.  He then went to farming in the Sacramento Valley at fifty dollars a month.

The second year he rented 100 acres from his employer and sowed it to small grain.  This proved to be one of his best ventures.  He sold his crop the following year and returned by the water route to New York.  He reached that city just after the draft riot had been quelled and while cannon were still visible on street corners.  Going back to Ohio Mr. Denton bought a small farm and held it two years.  He then sold it and came to Kansas, reaching Doniphan county in June, 1865, after a long trip by boat from Cincinnati to Atchison.

His first investment was the purchase of a 40 acre corn crop on Wolf River.  He afterward bought a small farm on that stream and lived on it until 1867, when he came to his present home near the village of Denton, a part of which is included in the town site.  To his original purchase of a quarter section, Mr. Denton has added another of the same acreage and the whole farm is one of the most valuable in the county.  He has developed into one of the most successful grain raisers and general farmers in Union township and has been reasonably successful at handling stock, though his operations in that way have been comparatively small.

Mr. Denton has for ten years been township treasurer.  Mr. Denton was married, in 1864, to Margaret Chaney, a daughter of James Chaney and a native of Bureau county, Illinois.  James Chaney's parents lived in Georgetown, District of Columbia, where he was born about 1787; both died when he was four years old.  He fell into the hands of a Virginian, a Mr. White who taught him the trade of cabinet maker and with whom he remained until, in the seventeenth year of his age, his master was intolerably abusive to him and he ran away before he had completed the term for which he was bound, and went to New Orleans.

There he enlisted for service in the Mexican War and he did soldier's duty until he was discharged.  He then came up the Mississippi river and on up the Missouri river to St. Joseph, then an outpost of civilization.  He drifted about the west for a time, but finally settled in Clark county, Ohio.  Later he moved to Bureau county, Illinois, and was engaged in farming there.

He was twice married, first to Sophia Layton, by whom there is no surviving issue, and secondly to Clarissa Marple, who bore him ten children, of whom Mrs. Denton was the second born.  Her brothers are: Samuel Chaney, of Hastings, Nebraska; James S. and George Chaney, a farmer and merchant, respectively, of Denton, Kansas, and prominent and successful business men, both of whom were Federal soldiers in the civil war and did their duty well and fearlessly; John Chaney, of Marysville, Kansas; David and Richard Chaney, of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.  Her sisters are: Ruth, the wife of William Heller, of Bedford, Iowa; and Clarissa, the wife of Oliver Heator, of Denton, Kansas.

Mr. and Mrs. Denton have an adopted daughter, Daisy, a young lady of much promise, born in Doniphan county, eighteen years ago.  The family affiliates with the United Brethren church.

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Last update: Saturday, January 17, 2004 15:38:23

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