Saturday, July 09, 2016

Whiz Bang #3: The First Children of Kansas

On August 18, 1587, Virginia Dare was born to Ananais and Eleanor Dare in the Roanoake Colony. Virginia was the first white child born in the British Colonies. It is assumed that Virginia did not live very long as no trace of the Roanoake Colony was found in 1590 when ships returned from England with supplies. It is generally accepted that the colonists were absorbed into the Croatoan or other nearby tribes but no evidence of what happened has been discovered.

The first child born in what would become Kansas, does not have that sort of tale attached to them but their lives could be considered interesting nonetheless. Please note that this history only include the first white children in Kansas. I wish I could include who the first Native American child who was born in Kansas but that will probably never be known.

Napoleon Boone
Daniel Boone, legendary American pioneer and frontiersman, was rumored to have hunted and fished on both sides of what would become the Kansas River in what would become Douglas and Jefferson Counties. One of Boone's sons, Daniel Morgan Boone, was appointed by the government to aid the Native Americans in agriculture in 1827 and moved his family to what would become Jefferson County near the Kansas River at what is known as Stone House Creek. On August 22, 1828, Napoleon Boone was born becoming the first white child born in Kansas. Napoleon was the last of the 12 children born to Daniel and his wife Sarah. Daniel remained in Kansas for four years before leaving for Kansas City, Missouri. Daniel Morgan Boone passed away in 1839.

Little is known of Napoleon's life after being born. He died in California in 1850 and is buried in Dardenne Cemetery in St. Charles, Missouri. For years along U.S. Highway 24 between Wiliamstown and Perry was a Kansas Historical Marker noting the Kansa Indian Agency that Daniel Morgan Boone worked at and the birth of Napoleon as "the second white child and first white boy" born in Kansas. Through all my research, I never found any white child born prior to August 1828. The new historical marker leaves out the Boones and focuses on the Kansa and Charles Curtis.

Susan Dillon
The Shawnee Mission was established in the late 1820s in the Turner area of what would become Wyandotte County. Susannah Yoacham was born to Daniel and Rosannah Yoacham on January 12, 1830 at the Mission. Daniel had settled in Westport, Missouri in 1825 where he operated the Yoacham Tavern, the first hostelry in Westport. It was located where Central and Ward Parkway intersect in present-day Kansas City.

Susan, as she was known, was the fifth of ten children. Sadly, Daniel, while on a cattle-buying excursion along the Santa Fe Trail, got sick and died in 1846. He is buried in an unmarked grave somewhere along the trail. Susan married saddler and outfitter William Dillon and continued living in Kansas City until her death in 1912. She is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery.
Via FindAGrave

On a side note, a massive shade tree that was located on the Yoacham property, that shaded travelers out west when they would arrive at Westport, was located at the intersection of Central and Ward Parkway until being cut down in 1957 at the estimated age of 313 years.

Elizabeth Carter

Elizabeth Simerwell was born January 24, 1835 at the Shawnee Mission to Robert and Fannie Simerwell, missionaries who came to Kansas from Michigan.

Via Kansas State Historical Society.
The Simerwells then moved to the Pottawatomie Mission near present-day Topeka in 1848. On March, 1866, Elizabeth married John S. Carter in Shawnee, Kansas and they had seven children: Fannie (1868-1918), John Robert (1870-1962), Edgar (1872-1935), Lydia (1874-1935), Sarah (1876-1880), Isaac (1878-1968) and Mary (1878-1952).

Her husband, John, was born in Bloomington, Indiana in 1837. I assume he came to Kansas shortly after it opened for settlement and that’s when he met Elizabeth. John would pass away in April 1912. Elizabeth’s diaries about life on their farm near Auburn are at the Kansas State Historical Society. Elizabeth is buried in Simerwell Cemetery which was started on her family's property.

Alexander Soule Johnson
1906 oil painting of Alexander
Soule Johnson by Jerome Uhl.
The son of missionaries Thomas and Sarah Johnson was born July 11, 1832 at the Shawnee Mission. A proud native of Kansas, Johnson was stationed along the Missouri border during the Civil War and raised a party that would become the 13th Kansas Militia. After the war, he went to work for the railroads, specifically the Kansas City, Ft. Scott & Gulf Railroad, until 1870 when he went to work for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe. He retired from business life in 1890.

He married Prudence Funk in 1852. She passed away in 1874 and married Zippie Scott who died in 1918. A prolific Topekan, Col. Johnson was the vice president of Central National Bank for 18 years and a member of the Knights Templar, First Methodist Church, the state historical society, and was president of the Topeka Club. He died in 1905 and is buried in Topeka Cemetery.

Photo by author

Based on the dates, it is clear that Napoleon Boone (b. 1828) was the first child--male or female--born in Kansas. Susannah Yoacham (b. 1830) was the first female born in Kansas. Alexander Johnson (b. 1832) would be the second male child born in Kansas, and Elizabeth Simerwell (b. 1835) would be the second female child. So why is Elizabeth Simerwell considered the first female child born in Kansas? My guess would be that Susannah Yoacham is a Missouri girl. She was born in Kansas but spent her entire life in Missouri. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Simerwell was born in Kansas and spent the rest of her life here. Even Napoleon Boone seems to be getting pushed to the side by Col. Johnson, who defended and helped build our state. It makes you wonder whether historians did that consciously or unconsciously.