Sunday, January 01, 2012

Preston's of Dodge City Kansas

This is the Preston story (England, Davenport Iowa, and Dodge City Kansas).

It was constructed from a number of letters Ella E. Preston had written to Dorothy Ruth Preston Smith about the family as she remembered it. The letters were written in the mid 1950s.

Stephen W. Smith

Thomas Preston lived Worcestershire, England near Severn on the Thames. He was an expert horseman, a complete authority on horses. For several years he was chief hostler on The Squire's Estate. His duties were to see that the other hostlers and foot-men performed their duties. Prestons in England
Thomas Preston brought his family to America from England in 1852. His wife, Elizabeth Hobbs, was a peasant but a wonderful woman. Their children ranged from William 14, to Maria who was born on ship as they came to America. The ship was a sailing vessel and it took them a month to complete the crossing. They landed in Philadelphia where they lived for several years before moving to Davenport, Iowa. Besides William and Maria there was Charles, Mary, James, Tom, Agnes and Annie.

My Father (Ella Preston's Father) William H. Preston was the oldest of the children. He was born in Worcestershire, England August 15, 1838. At the age of 23, William was involved in the Civil War. He served from 1861-1865 for the Union (Co.C. 20 IA INF). In August 1865, at the end of the War, he joined his brother Tom aboard a steamboat on the Mississippi River to return to Davenport. In Davenport they were to be mustered out of the service and return to civilian lives. The steamboat was slowly making its way up the Mississippi and one night, somewhere below Cairo, Illinois. William and Tom along with the rest of the returning soldiers were asleep on the deck. Suddenly, steam and sparks flew out of the stacks of the steamship. It showered down on the sleeping men waking them in a panic. Tom made a jump to get off the ship. William grabbed for him as he went over the side. His fingers raked Tom's trouser leg but he could not hold him. Tom was never seen again presumed drown. William continued his trip to Davenport to start his life. He would find himself married 3 months later.

Warren Cheney Brunson was born in Ithica New York. His parents were from the Welsh Highlands. Warren Brunson a tall distinguished looking man, was a candy sales-man and manufacturer. Later he turned to woodworking and millwrighting owning his own business. He married Sarah Carlyle, a physician, in about 1843. Her parents were both physicians also, her Father an Englishman and her mother, a Sherlock was Scotch. Warren and Sarah Brunson had three children. Warren Jr., Parmelia and Allison. I recall a story of a rough looking man pounding on the door of Warren and Sarah Brunson's home. He called Warren out to the porch and told him, "I want your wife to come with me to treat a wounded man. He is in Horse Thief Canyon about a mile north of Davenport. She will not be harmed and she will be able to return when he is recovering." Warren said goodbye to Sarah as he looked down the barrel of the stranger's gun. She did return safely.

My Mother (Ella Preston's Mother) Parmelia Annette Brunson was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts at the foot of Saddleball Mountain, May 14. 1848. She along with her family moved to Davenport, Iowa shortly after.

My Father and Mother, William Hobbs Preston and Parmelia Annette Brunson were married in Davenport, Iowa November 9, 1865 in a Baptist Church (although the Davenport records show it as November 11, 1865).

William H. Preston & Parmelia Annette Brunson Preston

1209 2nd Street, Dodge City, Kansas W.H. Preston in front

He was 27 and she was 17. Parmelia was a Baptist and William was as Episcopalian. A few years later he was converted and joined the Baptist Church. Not only did he change religious faiths he also had to become a naturalized American citizen. Even though he fought for four years for the Union in the Civil War he still could not vote (being born in England).

William and Parmelia had four children, William Charles born December 26, 1868, in Jackson, Michigan with Parmelia's uncle Dr. Bronson (that is how he spelled his name) in attendance. On May 12, 1871, George Henry was born In Davenport, Iowa. Parmelia Elizabeth was born in Kansas City, Missouri, February 3, 1884. I was born, Ella E ( sometimes Ella P. for Parmelia) in 1882.

My Father William Hobbs Preston was a letter carrier in Davenport when he was not learning the carpenter trade or helping his father-in-law Warren Brunson. (1870 cesus show he also was a grocer) Before the winter of 1877, at the age of 39, the doctor told him he could not survive another cold Iowa winter. The doctor told him to consider the New Territory opening up in the Southwest. The New Territory was supposed to have an ideal semi-tropical climate.

So in the fall of 1877, he went, by himself, to the Southwest. He filed a homestead claim and built a sod house.    

(note: 1862 Homestead Act. Allowed settlement of public lands and required only residence and improvement and cultivation of the land. Any person, a citizen or person intending to become a citizen, 21 years of age or older, and the head of a household could make application. With five years residence and improvements/cultivation, only a $15.00 fee was required to get 160 acres. Repealed in 1976. )

He returned to Davenport in the spring with tales of the wonderful mild climate and to get his family. That same spring (1878) my mother and the two boys (William C. age 10 , George H. age 7) made the long journey to the sod house
and limitless prairies. They left their comfortable house in the City, Father stayed In Davenport to make a living and put a little away while Mother and the two boys held down the claim. (1880 census shows that William was a farmer)

Mother at age 30 had never spent a night in the country before. The vastness! The stillness only broken by coyote howling was terrifying to her. The settlement was scattered and houses few. The settlement was in a radius of 6 to 8 miles. Mother said “I could stand in the yard and count 7 lights at night." Then came word that the Cheyenne Indians were leaving their reservation to the south, and going back north-west. Their trail was to lead right through the country where the new settlers were. Mother knew nothing of the planned Indian raid, till one morning she saw a horseman riding up the lane. She went out in the yard to meet the stranger, her hand ready on the gun in the pocket of her calico skirt. He said, "I'm a scout sent out to see where the redskins are and to see if there are any settlers here in the prairie houses." He told her to stay out of sight and watch. He said he would come back if he saw any danger. Mother and the boys gathered up quantities of big tumble weeds and piled them in a near creek. They put a jug of water and some food there and prepared to spend the night in the tumble weed shelter out of sight. About 11 O'clock AM, Ed Ott came riding out. Ed Ott, a lumber-man and new friend who lived in Offerle, about 5 1/2 miles north-east, had missed her when the lumber wagons rolled into town with all the new settlers and what household effects they could haul, but no Mrs. Preston and her boys. No one knew anything about her when he asked so he rode out to see. He saw that she and the boys where alright so he went out south to look for the Indians. He returned about 4PM and told her that the Indians had changed their route going a little west of her and north to avoid Fort Dodge. Then he told her, as the scout had done, to stay home and guard her possessions against thieves. It seems that she did not know her neighbors. The neighbors were always roughly dressed, in duck clothes with gunny sacks wrapped around their legs and feet. She was afraid of them. They were different. She had never seen anything but city clothes and city people, so I think the neighbors misunderstood her distant manner as snobbish and they left her and the boys alone. But she was a crack shot, and able to defend herself against anything in reason. The Indians went west of Dodge City, with the Fort Dodge soldiers following them at a safe distance, at least they did not catch up with them until they had massacred at least one family on a creek called the White Woman.

The Preston's (William H., Parmelia & family pictured W.H., Will, Ella, Parmelia, George) like all pioneers had their trials. They got a team and planted crops year after year. And year after year something happened. They were dried out, grass-hoppered out, hailed out, then dried out again (economic & demographic report of the area during the time). Every fall they went back to the City to make a living. One fall they went to Davenport. The next fall and for two more they went to Kansas City. I came back with them on the last trip from Kansas City in 1882 at the age of two months.

When it wasn't the lack of rain, the grasshoppers or the Indians their was the outlaws. Father had a run in with the now infamous Bat Masterson of Dodge City. Father was instructed to vote a certain way by the Wheatland Caucus. Bat came by to "make sure" the vote was cased the "correct" way. Bat said, "vote like your suppose to vote or I'll plaster you across the building." Bat was a big, well built man, Father slender and about 5'6" or 5'7". Father said, "Just maybe you will." A confrontation would have developed but something in Fathers piercing blue eyes or the way he said it, made Bat walk away.

In the meantime, Grandfather Brunson (Warren) had died. I think it was the last winter my parents spent in Daven-port. I was about 4 years old when my baby brother Albert was born. He lived only about 6 hours. I remember burying him in the backyard. Grandmother Brunson (Sarah) was with us then. I remember my mother telling me about the time that she was at age 13, her and her mother (Sarah) went to visit Sarah's mother at the beginning of the Civil War. Sarah's mother (Dr. Carlyle) was 80 years old then but they would go into the woods looking for herbs for medicines. Grandmother Brunson died about 3 or 4 years after baby Albert died.

Will, George, Parmelia E, and I all went to school in No. 6 in Wheatland TWF. Mother and Father helped organize that school district in 1878 or 1879 as soon as they arrived to the territory. I went there one year and one winter to Offerle School, riding horseback 5 1/2 miles morning and night when weather permitted. That I remember well. There was a long hill called Mule Head on the way.

In August 1896, we sold the farm. Father was 58 and Mother was 48. We moved to 1209 2nd Street, Dodge City, Kansas. I attended to Second Ward School and High School. Mother was a Good soprano singer. Also witty and so well read she could carry on a conversation on any topic. She had a keen legal mind and delighted at matching wits with lawyers she knew. Father (William H. Preston) was Probate Judge for 10-12 years in Dodge (records show that he married couples as well). Completely self educated, he was considered a good and fair judge and could have held the office longer had his health permitted. He resigned in January 1913 at the age of 75 and we began our Florida winters arriving there January 13, 1913.

Soon after the turn of the century Grandmother Preston (Elizabeth Hobbs Preston) died. Several years later Grandfather Preston (Thomas Preston) died. This was the generation that brought the Preston family from England.

William Hobbs Preston (my father) died April 23, 1918 at the age of 80. Parmelia A. Preston (my mother) died September 14, 1930 at the age of 82. They are buried in the Preston area at Maple Grove Cemetery in Dodge City, Kansas. WH Preston , Parmelia (The graves are in the old section of Maple Grove new the Civil War monument.)

Parmelia E. died June 10, 1967 at the age of 83.

A little about me (Ella Preston) and my family:
I taught school a term or two in the country at age 16 till I was old enough to teach at the Second and Third Ward Schools in Dodge City. You see, coming from an un-graded country school, I had an advantage over town children, when we moved into town. I was put in a grade ahead of my age. Then I went to Teachers College in Emporia. Kansas and held a lifetime teachers certificate. In 1911, I stopped teaching and learned telegraphy in the Santa Fe dispatcher's office. In 1912, I took the job as manager of the Western Union at Pratt, Kansas. I resigned in November to help Father close his Probate office and went to Florida with the Folks. In 1913, I was manager of the Western Union in Council Grove, Kansas, for a few months again taking time off to go to Florida. And so on til 1917. I managed the Postal Cable Company from September 16, 1913 until they made it a commissioned office September 29. 1939. After that I worked as a telegraph operator until they sold out to Western Union November 6, 1943.

I married Fred Kesler September 2, 1931. He died November 3, 1942 and he is buried in the Maple Grove Cemetery. He was a watchmaker, engraver and jeweler and left his shop to me. I already knew something of the business, from running it during his long sick spells so I then went to Kansas City to school to become a watch repairer. I owned and operated the Watch Hospital at 108 W, Chestnut in Dodge City until Feb. 22, 1951. I worked on the same block almost 33 years between the Postal and the Watch Hospital. I moved to 1209 Second Street February 22, 1951 the same house that my family moved to in 1896.

On June 23, 1946, I married Clarence Canaday he is an expert leather worker and saddle repairer. In his younger days he was a shoemaker, and operated a steam engine for 18 years. He is also a plumber and carpenter. He was born in Begard, MO Oct. 12, 1889. He came to Kansas in 1905.

My siblings:
Will (William Charles Preston)

Was a surveyor by trade. He was quite a poet, writer of interesting articles and a fair pen artist. When he was young, he was a good reader and was often called upon for entertainment. Here is an example of his poetry:

Said Uncle Sam in an early day
Whiskey must be kept at least five miles away From the Government kept Fort

He sure knew what he was talking about
for when whiskey gets in, their wits step out,
Then someone on money bent
Set up on the prairie, a little old tent.
The location, you see, just suited him fine,
For it was just over the five mile line,
In business there he started up
With a barrel of whiskey and a tin cup.

Others started a little store.
The gamblers and cowboys came by the score.
Dodge City was in full away
And has been up to the present day,
Things were different then from now.
At present most of the land is under plow,
Where thousand of cattle once roamed the plains
Now are covered with fields of grain,
What was Boothill when the gun did rule,
Now, there stands the Third Ward School,
And the town, for which we fought and slaved, Many of the streets today are paved,

W.C. Preston

George Preston

George was a carpenter by trade.

He was a good baritone and bass singer. He was known by all his friends for his ready wit and quick repartee. George died October 24, 1929 at the age of 58. He is buried in the Maple Grove Cemetery in Dodge City, Kansas.

This concludes the writings of Elle E. (Preston) Kesler Canaday. She died June 13th 1967 at the age of 85. She is buried beside Clarence Canaday in the Maple Grove Cemetery in Dodge City.

Clarence died March 20th 1971 at the age of 82. Elle was a very proper and educated woman. Her home was full of books and fine furnishings. I remember her being all dressed up and driving her 1930 Model A Ford around town in the early 1960s. She made a number of trips from Dodge City to Florida in that car.
She too had a flair with the pen. Here is a poem that she wrote while in Florida in 1929.

My Little Path
I tried to find my little path
That led around the brook.
And the log beside the brook left
A quiet, sandy nook.
Where I watched the shining fishes
Playing in the shining stream,
While I toyed in idle fancy
With some new, fantastic dream.

Now the path is gone.
The brook is dry.
A road runs in its place.
For Nature's art must step aside
When progress sets the pace.

The forest too, has disappeared.
Gone are the ancient trees.
There's nothing left of my regret
Nothing but the memories.

I sometimes wonder if at last
When the sun is hanging low,
And the evening shadows lengthen
In the golden afterglow.
Will I find my pathway waiting,
Waiting for me to come;
To guide my weary footsteps
To the Gate that leads to HOME.

Elle E. Preston
November, 1929
In Lynn Haven, Florida

Will & Daisey Preston Family

Will Preston married Daisy Ann Chambers December 11, 1892 .  (Source)
# 2 1 4 1
W i l l i a m   C   P R E S T O N   a g e   24   a n d   D a i s y   A   C H A M B E R S   a g e   16
both of Offerle Edwards County
1 1   D e c   1 8 9 2
by GF Ta ssell   JP at Offerle

He was about 24 years old. Daisy was about 16. Daisey was born March 11, 1877 in Girard, Kansas the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Chambers. The Chambers came to the Dodge City area when she was a small child.

Will and Daisy had 5 Children: Grace, Ruth, (Twins) Charles E., & Harry, & Voila

Ruth M. Preston - Leonard L. Muffitt

On April 23rd 1916, Ruth (22) and Leonard (26) were Married at the home of the Bride in Cimarron, Kansas. the witnesses were Mr Wm C Preston, Mrs. Daisy A. Preston. The Methodist Minister was the Rev Chas. E. Brown.

Ruth was a teacher, Leonard a farmer

Leonard Muffitt

Ruth and Leonard had a baby die after living only 5 days. Baby Maxine is buried beside Ruth in Cimarron, Kansas
One year to the day of baby Maxine death, Ruth died giving birth to twin girls.

It was said that Ruth had a premonition of her death and the birth of twin girls and told Daisey what to name them (the light one Dorothy Ruth and the darker one Louise Mary. The twin girls were raised by Daisey Preston and went by the Preston name.

Louise & Dorothy

Daisey with Louise and Dorothy 1918

Daisey Preston

Dorothy married Clyde Smith of Dodge City and they had 4 children: Larry, Patricia, Donna, Stephen. I am Stephen.


Anonymous said...

Stephen, I would like to get in touch with you. I descend from William's sister, Annie Elizabeth Preston Glover.


Anonymous said...

Hello Stephen - first of all, thank you so much for making this information available. It has been a wealth of information. My wife is the great-granddaughter of Grace May Preston, daughter of William Charles & Daisy. Up until today, we haven't had much information on the Preston family. Would you be willing to get in touch with me? I'd appreciate the opportunity to find out more information and share what I have as well.

Adam Zelka