Sunday, September 1, 2013

#2: John A. Wakefield

John Allen Wakefield and his family arrived in Kansas Territory on June 8, 1854 and, after exploring the countryside between Lawrence and Topeka, settled on a piece of land about six miles west of Lawrence in the area of what would become Kanwaka on July 19th. Wakefield was born February 11, 1797 in Pendleton, South Carolina. His father, William, was a native of North Carolina and spent most of his time as a teacher. His mother, Diana, was a native of South Carolina. John was named after Major-General John Allen who was a cousin of Diana.

When John was seven, his family moved to Tennessee and then moved to Kentucky shortly after before moving to Illinois Territory. John, even though he was only 16, enlisted in the company of Captain Jacob Short during the War of 1812. At the close of the war he went to Cincinnati, where he studied medicine diligently for a considerable period, afterward going to St. Louis to finish his studies. But it seems that once in possession of his diploma, he decided medicine did not offer him the field anticipated, and at once turned to studying for the bar, to which he was admitted when in his twenty-first year. He married Eliza Thompson in 1818 and settled in Vandalia, Illinois until 1837 where he lived with Abraham Lincoln for the last three years of his stay. In 1832, Wakefield served in the Black Hawk War. After the war, Wakefield moved to northern Illinois and then Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa before coming to Kansas.

A list of voters in Kansas including John Wakefield's name, his farm's name, occupation, birthplace, age, marital status and political affiliation.
Wakefield named his homestead "Elysian Plains" and became a prominent Kansas citizen, routinely becoming the leader of area free-staters, being chosen as State Treasurer and served as a State Legislator starting in 1864. On September 1, 1856, Wakefield's house was burned down by pro-slavery advocates. Total losses estimated $10,000. Wakefield died at the age of 77 on June 18, 1873 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.

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