One of Comanche County's early day settlers, James Monroe McCay (13 April 1855 - 13 May 1947) was one of nine children born to Abner and Susannah Waggoner McCay at Calfax, Indiana.
He came to Comanche County in 1884 with a cousin, Kerry Kendall. The two men brought their grubstake in a covered wagon via Old Kiowa where Scott Cummins, the poet, had a store called "The Last Chance." Deerhead had just been started. The men crossed Mule Creek at the Estill Ranch and landed in Nescatunga; at the time there were only camps of schooner wagons. They liked the looks of the soil in the New Eden neighborhood and each staked out a 160 acre claim, and each built a sod dugout and began living in their soddies. Mr. McCay bought a yoke of oxen for $100 and an old wagon for $10. During the summer he broke out eight to ten acres of sod for himself and about eight acres for some neighbors, but the weather was so hot that he raised nothing that year. In the fall he went to Anthony, Kansas, and shucked corn during the winter for two cents a bushel. In 1885 he plowed more sod and raised a little corn and some millet. He also made some trips to Kinsley with the oxen hauling lumber to Nescatunga, receiving $10 for the five day trip.
The greatest dread of the settlers was prairie fires. Once J.M. and his cousin had to ride their horses at a dead run when West of Wilmore they were about caught in a prairie fire.
In the early days there was a spirited county seat fight between Coldwater and Nescatunga. Most of the traffic of the prairie schooners headed West out of Medicine Lodge until they reached a point three miles East of Mr. McCay's claim, then they headed Southwest to Nescatunga. Some enterprising young men from the new town of Coldwater mowed a swath of prairie grass West toward Coldwater, put up a store building and hired a man to direct the wagons toward Coldwater.
In 1897, Mr. McCay built a box house of wood, and that year he married Miss Carrie Behler. She was born in Shelbyville, Illinois, May 31, 1875. Her father's name was John Henry Behler. Her mother's, Alwida Royce Behler. She was the oldest of six children and came here in 1887. Her family came by train to Anthony, bringing their household goods and livestock in what was called a leased car.
They had two sons, James McCay, Jr. and Oliver Paul; and two daughters, Effie and Gene.
Mr. and Mrs. McCay moved to Coldwater from the New Eden area in 1914. They erected a business building which is now the Herd Insurance building. They were always active in community affairs and both took part in the activities of the Methodist Church. They celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary by holding open house for some 175 of their friends and relatives. Their cake with the years 1897-1947 decorating the top was baked by Mrs. Helen Mahan. The stories of their daughter's lives are listed here. Their sons' stories with their families are listed elsewhere (in this book).
By Effie McCay
Comanche County History, published by the Comanche County Historical Society, Coldwater, Kansas, 1981.
The Western Star, May 16, 1947.
Death Comes to Pioneer SettlerFor 63 Years J. M. McCay Was A Resident of Comanche County
J. M. McCay, who had been a resident of Comanche county since 1884, passed away quietly at his home in this city Tuesday morning of this week after an illness of two weeks which followed a flu attack.
Funeral services were held at 2:30 o'clock Thursday afternoon in the Methodist church in this city and were in charge of a former pastor, Rev. Major W. Parker of Caldwell, assisted by the pastor Rev. Oscar Matthew. There was a profusion of flowers as mute testimony of the respect in which Mr. McCay was held by all who knew him.
Mr. and Mrs. Gurney T. Hadley sang, "So You May See" and "He Quiets the Storm," accompanied by Mrs. Hobart McMillen on the organ.
The pallbearers were Hobart McMillen, Geo. H. Helton, Alvah York, Gus Bramlett, Oscar Taylor and E. L. Orr. Burial was in Crown Hill cemetery.
James Monroe McCay, son of Abner and Susanne McCay, was born April 13, 1855, at Calfax, Indiana.
He departed this life May 13, 1947 at his home in Coldwater, Kansas at the age of 92 years and one month.
Mr. McCay had been in reasonably good health for a man of his years, until about two weeks ago. However, his sickness was not thought to be such that the end would come so soon. He seemed to realize that the end was near and advised the family that he would go before morning. He was conscious until the end when he went to sleep to waken in a new world and a new home for which he has spent many years in preparing to enter.
Out of the rich and fruitful life of this early pioneer comes many blessed experiences but none greater than his undaunted faith in his God and these western plains. He helped to break the sod and build the schools and churches which we now enjoy. He was a member of the present board of trustees of the Methodist church of this city.
He was a faithful member of the building committee when the present Methodist church was erected, and took great pride in having had a part.
As a young man he came west to Weston, Mo., in 1878. He returned to Indiana for a few years and then returned to Kansas to visit relatives in Sumner county. In 1884 he came west to homestead and located near New Eden, east of Coldwater.
On February 21, 1897, he was united in marriage with Carrie Behler near Coldwater. To this union four children were born - two sons and two daughters.
He is survived by his faithful wife and the children - James M. McCay Jr., Wilmore; Oliver Paul McCay and Effie McCay, Coldwater, and Mrs. Gene Fleener, Wichita; also by six grandchildren and one great grandchild, besides a host of friends.
The McCay family lived on the homestead until 1914 when they moved to Coldwater and continued to make their home here.
Early in life Mr. McCay was converted in the Christian faith and united with the United Brethren church in the New Eden community. When this church was abandoned, the Methodists took over and he united with this new church. He transferred his membership to the Coldwater Methodist church in 1914 and was a faithful and valid member to the end.
Mr. McCay was one of Comanche county's most highly respected citizens. His keen sense of humor, his fairness, his sound advice and good business judgment and his encouragement of the better things of life combined to make him a man who will be greatly missed by the entire community.
The Western Star, February 11, 1938.
A PIONEER STORY
J. M. McCay of this city recently received from a relative, a copy of the December 31st last issue of the Methodist Protestant Record, published in Baltimore, Md., which paper contains a picture of the Old Harmony church, the first Methodist Protestant church in West Virginia. The church was made of hewn logs, was 50X40 feet in size, and was built in 1810. The article contained some pioneer history connected closely with Mr. McCay's great uncle and the Indian raids of that early day, which makes very interesting reading. We shall copy a paragraph from the paper, and follow it with Mr. McCay's story. The article said in part:
"From the time of the earliest settlers in Hackney Creek, W. Va., until 12 years after the Revolutionary war, the Indians from beyond the Ohio river continued to claim West Virginia for their summer hunting grounds, and the early settlers never knew when their stock would be stolen or some of their people massacred by savage bands of red men from across the river. Peter Waggoner, who became one of the charter members of Old Harmony church, had once been captured by Tecumseh and a small band of Indians. The raid occurred in May, 1782, when Peter was six years old. Notwithstanding the murder of his mother and four of his brothers, the horror of which must have made a vivid impression on the mind of the child, after 20 years of captivity it was with great difficulty that he was induced to return to his people."
Now read Mr. McCay's story about it:
John Waggoner, Peter's father, and who was my great grandfather, lived on a farm in West Virginia. One day, while he was at work clearing his land, a small band of Indians came through the country on one of their raids, and coming to my great grandfather's house, and finding his wife and seven small children alone, they murdered and scalped four of the little boys and the mother and set fire to the house. The first warning my great grandfather had of the presence of the Indians was when an arrow went through his shirt sleeve. He at once hastened to his house to find it in ashes., The boy, Peter, mentioned in the above article (my great uncle) and his two sisters, who were eight and ten years of age, were carried away as captives, by the Indians.
Some time after this happened, the Indians signed a peace treaty with the whites, and the two girls were returned to their home, but the boy, Peter, remained with the Indians for 20 years and married an Indian girl.
When his father and friends tried to get him to return home he was unwilling to do so, but finally was persuaded to return for a visit. They restrained him from returning to the Indians for quite a long time, and then he was afraid to return, and so never did. Later he married, and lived to be 90 years of age. My great grandfather also married again after the massacre and raised a large family. My grandfather, Paul Waggoner, was the eldest child of this marriage, he being born in 1800. He, my grandfather, emigrated to Indiana in 1826. My mother at that time was a small girl.
J. M. McCay.
Alwilda (Olders) Behler, mother of Carrie (Behler) McCay.
Red Cross Fund Oversubscribed, The Wilmore News, 28 June 1917.
Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above obituary and news article to this web site and to Bobbi (Hackney) Huck for typing and contributing the Comanche County History article!
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