Michael Willis & Gayle Yvonne Petty Harris Harden, Comanche County, Kansas Hosted by RootsWeb, the oldest & largest FREE genealogical site. Click here to visit RootsWeb.
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Michael Willis Harden & Gayle Yvonne Petty Harris Harden

Southwest Kansas - Clark and Comanche Counties
Northwest Oklahoma - Harper County


Sometimes when reading the Hutchinson or Wichita papers I find letters from fifth graders in different states, apparently they are studying American History and are doing reports on different states. I try to help them out those very special little ones who choose Kansas by sending them information about our state. I try to include postcards and different articles about in Kansas. I also send them a little history of me, who I am and where I am from and how much I love my home and heritage.

-- Gayle Harden

Kansas was organized as a territory in 1854, and became the 34th State, January 29, 1861. Primarily an agricultural state, beef production and processing is probably the greatest contribution to the nation economy. Kansas is known as the Sunflower State and the Jayhawker State. Kansas has plenty of buffalo, jack rabbits, prairie dogs, deer, antelope, and coyotes.

Oklahoma, Indian Territory, the famous land rush of April 22, 1889, the Sooner State, surplus land of the Kiowas, Comanches, Wichitas, and affiliated tribes was opened for settlement, August 6, 1901. And this time there was no run for the lands, the government distributed them by lottery. Oklahoma is the 46th State, receiving statehood on November 16, 1907.

Agriculture in this southwest part of Kansas had its beginnings in the 1870's. The earliest settlers were both farmers and stockmen. They drifted into the area with their meager belongings in wagons pulled by teams. Their stock was a milk cow; their farms, little more than dreams of good crop yield. Some scattered attempts at farming were made after 1873, but settlement was slow and for the most part cattlemen took possession of the land. The Osage Indians had ceded their land to the government, and cattlemen were allowed to use as much of the public lands as they wished.

The Last Indian Raid through Kansas was in Comanche County. It involved the Northern Cheyenne's flight from Fort Reno, 1878.

Family life in early Comanche and Clark Counties were centered around several themes - home, church, school, and agriculture. Even in various types of dwellings, family ties were strong, and pioneers worked together - often under difficult circumstances - to provide their homes with the necessities of life, and to make them comfortable and secure. Providing for a family was the first things a pioneer family needed to do, so each household planted a garden, and fruit trees. They canned what vegetables they could, dried fruit from their trees and raised pork and beef for their meat. Wild plums and greens were part of their staple foods.

Settlers brought with them their various religious beliefs, and the first organized religious services were presumabley held soon after the establishment of new towns and communities. Denominational differences were often put aside as citizens became eager for the chance to worship together. The first services in Protection, Kansas, Comanche County, for example, were held in a carpenter shop at the urging of a Methodist couple. A retired Baptist minister preached. The congregation, representing various faiths, were seated on rough planks stretched between nail kegs.

My husband's great grandfather, Charles E. Harden, came to Clark County, Kansas in October 1884. He was born in Indiana, later living at Indianola, Iowa and came to Douglas, Kansas, with his parents, the Nathan Harden family, before moving farther west in Kansas to the Lexington Community in Clark County. Mike's great grandmother, Agnes Gilchrist, came to Clark County, Kansas in 1887 with her family from Pennsylvania where she was born. The Gilchrist family filed on a claim about a mile from the Harden homestead. In 1908, the Harden family built the home, which is still occupied by a great-grandson, on land which was once a part of the old town-site of Lexington in Clark County, Kansas.

From Clinton, Missouri, in 1902, my grandfather, Charles Austin Petty arrived in the Protection, Kansas, Comanche County area with his parents, the Elijah E. Petty family, to make their home in Oklahoma Territory, eighteen miles south of Protection, Kansas. In August 1903, my grandfather, Charles A. Petty, married my grandmother, Mabel E. Selby, of Kansas City, Missouri. My grandmother came, with her new husband, to make a home in Oklahoma Territory. They lived in a two-room dugout until 1911, then they built their home in Northeast Harper County, the State of Oklahoma. One of their great-grandsons makes this homestead a home today.

There may well have been as many reasons or at least combinations of reasons why the early pioneers came to western Kansas. The availabiltiy of virgin prairie soil at a rather low price was possibly the major incentive that brought the pioneers. By 1884 the area was reasonably secure from Indian attacks, and some were looking for "elbow room" while others were looking for adventure and an outlet for their pioneer spirit.

It was mostly the open range and free grazing that attracted the range cattleman during the previous decade, 1875-1885. But nearly every incoming pioneer was touched with more than just a bit of eternal optimism.

Mike and I are privileged to make our home and living in this area of KANSAS. We farm and ranch in Clark and Comanche Counties, we live in Ashland, Kansas and I work at the Comanche County Farm Service Agency in Coldwater, Kansas. Our roots are deep in this area we love.

Between the two of us, Mike and I have five children, eleven grandchildren, two step grandchildren. The grandchildren love to visit and we love to have them come visit. We spend our time with them riding horses, feeding cattle, farming the land (Grandpa wants to make tractor drivers out of them), nature walks, cooking, cleaning, reading, working, and a lot of playing. We still drive cattle down the dirt roads to different pastures, and the grandchildren take part in it all. Grandpa is trying to get Trail Rides started for our grandchildren to enjoy.

Mike loves our history as much as I do, maybe a little more, he is the one that is on the Clark County Historical Society Museum Board. He is also the one that is interested in doing research on old oil sites in Clark and Comanche Counties. I think I just like to have fun with the grandkids.


Also see:

Pfc. Warren PETTY, US Army, KIA, 20 Dec 1944.
Surnames: Atkeson, Ellison, Harvey, Jess, Patch, Petty & Selby.

Thanks to Gayle Harden for contributing the above history to this web site!

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