Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jonathan Millikan

Push to enlarge.

Jonathan Millikan, Olathe, Kan. A work of this character, devoted to the lives and deeds of those who led the vanguard of civilization and paved the way for the subsequent developments, not only of Johnson county but of the great West, can find no more fitting subject within the borders of Johnson county than Jonathan Millikan. He is the dean of the community, the grand old man of Johnson county, and his experiences as an early-day plainsman are equal to many whose careers have been sung by the bards and told and retold in history. Mr. Millikan came to Johnson county in 1857 and is the oldest settler of Olathe living in that place today. He is a native of Indiana, born in Monroe county, January 7, 1827, and a son of Jonathan and Sybetha (Lowder) Millikan, natives of North Carolina, of Scotch-Irish ancestry. The father came to Indiana from North Carolina at a very early day and settled in Park county and there chopped a home out of the wilderness, and spent his remaining days in that county where his wife also died. Jonathan Millikan is the only survivor of a family of ten children, eght boys and two girls. He remained with his parents in Indiana until he was twenty-one years old, and in 1848 went from Indiana to Fort Des Moines, Iowa, making the trip with a saddle horse, alone.

This was a distance of over 400 miles, across the plains of Illinois and Iowa which at that time were sparsely settled, and Mr. Millikan encountered no trouble with the exception that houses, or settlers, were so few and far between that he found difficulty in finding places to stay over night, and on some occasions had to sleep on the prairie. After remaining in Iowa about three months, he returned to Idiana on foot, and in a short time walked back to Fort Des Moines. On these long trips through the unsettled and wild country, Mr. Millikan never carried arms of any kind. From Fort Des Moines, he went to Burlington, Iowa, making that trip on foot and after remaining there about six weeks, he crossed the ice on the Mississippi river, which was a hazardous undertaking, at the time, and walked back to Indiana, again, and remained there over winter. His next expedition was a trip to New Orleans, as an employe on a flatboat. This was in the early fifties and after making the New Orleans trip, he returned to his Indiana home and after spending some little time went to Iowa again, but this time he drove a team and wagon.

He went to Warren county where a brother of his resided, and followed teaming for two winters and in the spring of 1857 he and two other men, Messrs. Wood and Grebb, started to Kansas with a team and wagon. On their way here they heard all kinds of rumors about Indians and border war and all the terrible things imaginable about Kansas, but the worse the stories were the more their curiosity was aroused, and they wanted to see Kansas at all hazards, and when Mr. Millikan reached Olathe, in May, 1857, or rather where Olathe now is, there were perhaps twelve or fifteen men here and one woman, a young' lady who came from the East with her brother and who later became the wife of Mr. Millikan. This was Miss Emily L. Whittier, a native of Manchester, N. H., and a daughter of Ebenezer Whittier and Emily L. Nutt, both natives of New Hampshire and of old New England stock. Emily Whittier traced her ancestry back to English royalty and she was a fifth cousin of Queen Victoria, and she was also a second cousin to John G. Whittier, the great American poet.

Her brother, who came to Kansas with Mrs. Millikan before her marriage, now resides at Decatur, Neb. His name is Jackson B. Whittier.  To Mr. and Mrs. Millikan were born four children, as follows : Minnie E., born in Olathe and is now the wife of Isaac Lyons and resides at Olathe; Mardie B. resides with her father; Ella married A. A. Troy, Prairie Grove, Ark., and O. W. resides in Pittsburgh, Pa. The wife and mother passed away July 22, 1914. She was an unusual woman and possessed a great deal of literary ability, but for several years before her death, was not strong physically. She took a great deal of interest in old settlers and old settlers' affairs and wrote considerable of the early times in Kansas. One of her articles along that line appears elsewhere  in this volume. Mr. Millikan built the first frame residence in Olathe in 1857, and this house is now standing and is occupied and has been kept in a very good state of preservation. It does not differ in appearance from the average residence. It is located at 109 West Poplar Street. 
Push to enlarge.

When Mr. Millikan came here the old Santa Fe Trail, or "The Road," as he calls it, was in full operation and the trail passed through his claim, which was located a half mile east of town where he still lives. He relates many interesting incidents concerning travel on the old Santa Fe Trail in the fifties. He has seen hundreds of Mexican ox drivers, frequently with trains of fifty wagons and from ten to twenty yoke of oxen to each wagon, trudging along through the dust of each other's wagons following the trail across the plains. Mr. Millikan says that the cruelties of these Mexican ox drivers to the oxen baffles description. He says the drivers were much inferior to the oxen. He has frequently seen them bareheaded, barefooted, with no clothing except a shirt, and he says "that their hair would be so full of dirt that you could grow cabbage on top of their heads." Since coming to Kansas Mr. Millikan has followed farming and stockraising, and has been uniformly successful, and is one of the well-to-do men of the country.

He retired in 1913, and since that time has rented his land and devoted himself to looking: after his various interests. His Millikan is a Democrat and was the first assessor elected, of Olathe township, receiving his commission from Territorial Governor J. W. Denver, to 1857, and Mr. Millikan still has in his possession the old time-worn and stained commission. He held the office of justice of the peace for twelve years, but is not much of a "court to hear and determine causes." He induces most of the litigants to settle outside of his court and go on about their business, and then they don't bother each other or the court.

He and ex-speaker Joe Canon were brought up together and were friends in their boyhood days, but they hadn't met in years until the spring of 1915 when they met at Kansas City, Mo. Mr. Mjillikan was one of the organizers of the crange, and was the first master of the Olathe lodge, and is perhaps, the oldest Mason in Johnson county. He loves to travel and makes frequent trips to various places throughout the country. He has been to the Pacific coast and in 1906 went to the Sandwich Islands, 2,180 miles from San Francisco. He visited the Maunaloa volcano on the Sandwich Islands. The volcano was not in action and he was inside the crater and made many interesting observations. He tells many interesting instances of his travels. He loves nature and likes to visit remote places that have never been desecrated by man.

No comments: