Pages 574-577, transcribed by Carolyn Ward from History of Allen and Woodson Counties, Kansas: embellished with portraits of well known people of these counties, with biographies of our representative citizens, cuts of public buildings and a map of each county / Edited and Compiled by L. Wallace Duncan and Chas. F. Scott. Iola Registers, Printers and Binders, Iola, Kan.: 1901; 894 p., [36] leaves of plates: ill., ports.; includes index.


James Townsend


JAMES TOWNSEND—Among the well known citizens of Allen county there stands out conspicuously that early settler, that thrifty farmer, that splendid citizen and gentleman, James Townsend. For more than thirty years he has gone about his duties of field and pasture amongst the people of his county winning a prominent position among her substantial men and commanding an enviable station in the respect and confidence of his fellow citizens.

James Townsend was born in Johnson county, Indiana, February 7, 1835. He is a son of a successful farmer and early settler of that county, Major Townsend, who emigrated from Kentucky to Indiana in 1820 and, in 1828 settled in Johnson county. Major Townsend was born in Maryland in 1796 and died in Indiana in 1846. Joshua and Sarah (Merrel) Townsend were his parents. Their other children were: William, Nancy, wife of James Reed; Joseph, married Miss Barnett; Charlotte, became the wife of William Hamilton; John, married Mary Wilson; Ann, wife of David Wear; Mildred; Joshua; Sarah, who became Mrs. Harrison Bess; Mary Ann, Mrs. William Bess and Leah, who married Thomas Pucket.

Joshua Townsend migrated to Kentucky near the beginning of the 19th century and, later, brought his family into Indiana and died in Clark county, that State, about 1821. He was a slave owner in Kentucky and was one of the strong exponents and earnest advocates of the Democratic faith.

Major Townsend, as a citizen, was much the man his father was. He permitted no man to challenge his Democracy but in the exciting days of Nullification and of the fiery congressional debates he saw troubles ahead for his party. He prophesied that the Calhoun wing of Democracy would cause a split in the party and that families would be divided, brothers against each other and father against son. How true the prediction was history will reveal. Major Townsend married Phebe Biggs, a granddaughter of an Irishman and patriot soldier of the American Revolution.

The Biggs family is one of the original families of the United States. Its history starts with that of our country and begins with Robert Biggs, the


Patriot. He was born in Erin's Isle and married Jane Miller, a Scotch lady. Their children were: John, who married Mary Jane Collins, Robert, Andrew, married Miss Criss and Nancy, Nicholas Criss; Joseph; Hannah, wife of Robert Carnes; Samuel; Mary, Thompson; Abner, married Miss Miller, and Elizabeth and Jane married Henry and William Criss, respectively.

John Biggs was our subject's grandfather. He was in the United States service at Jeffersonville, Indiana, in 1812, at the time of the historic Indian massacre of the Pigeon Roost. In this massacre many of our subject's ancestors were victims, both on the Biggs and Collins side, and a brief notice with reference to it will not be uninteresting. The place then known as the Pigeon Roost was in Clark county, Indiana, and the settlers were widely separated and within easy reach of the Red Man. In 1812 the latter fell upon this settlement and murdered William E. Collins' wife and many of his children. Mr. Collins was an Indian fighter and in this attack he killed three before his gun was disabled and then made his escape to the stockade. John Collins, Sichie Richie, Lydia Collins and Jane Biggs, by hiding, escaped death in the massacre; Jane Biggs traveled barefoot through the wood, all night, with her four children: Miller, Phebe, William and Robert and reached the fort the next morning, seven miles away. Her husband was in the regular army and she was compelled to find shelter and protection for their family.

The counties of Clark, Harrison, Jefferson and Knox, in southern Indiana, lived in a state of alarm during the years preceding the close of the war of 1812 and Zebulon Collins, a pioneer of Scott county, describing those days of peril said: "The manner in which I used to work in those days was as follows: On all occasions I carried my rifle, tomahawk and butcher-knife, with a loaded pistol in my belt. When I went to plow I laid my gun on the plowed ground and stuck a stick by it for a mark so that I could get it quickly in case it was wanted. I had two good dogs. I took one into the house, leaving the other out. The one outside was expected to give the alarm which would cause the one inside to bark and awaken me. I kept my horses in a stable close to the house, having a porthole so that I could shoot to the stable door. During two years I never went from home with any certainty of returning, but in the midst of all these dangers God, who newer sleeps nor slumbers, has kept me."

The Pigeon Roost massacre was the most noted one in Indiana, and was one that, for many years, was recalled with fear and horror. It occurred in the present limits of Clark county in a place called "the Pigeon Roost Settlement," the gathering place for myriads of passenger pigeons. This settlement, which was founded by a few families in 1809, was confined to about a square mile of land, and it was separated from all other settlements by a distance of five or six miles.

In the afternoon of the 3rd of September 1812, Jeremiah Payne and a Mr. Coffman, hunting for bee trees two miles north of the Pigeon settlement, were surprised and killed by a party of Indians. This party, which consisted of ten or twelve warriors, nearly all of whom were


Shawnees, attacked the settlement about sunset of the same day and, in an hour, killed one man, five women and sixteen children, some of their bodies being consumed in the fires which laid low their cabins.

The persons massacred in this settlement were Henry Collins and wife, the wife of Jeremiah Payne and eight of her children, Mrs. Richard Collins and seven of her children, Mrs. John Morris and child and the mother of John Morris. Mrs. Jane Riggs escaped with her children as before stated and reached the home of her brother, Zebulon Collins, in safety.

William Collins at seventy years of age, defended his house for three-quarters of an hour against the Indians. In this defense he was assisted by Captain John Morris. As soon as darkness came on the two escaped with the two children in the house, John and Lydia Collins, eluded their pursuers and reached the home of Zebulon Collins. The Indians engaged in the massacre escaped the militia of the county and the victims of the massacre were buried in one grave.

The Collins' were of German origin. William E. Collins, our subject's great grandfather, was a son of foreign parents. They seem to have settled in Pennsylvania and there he married Phebe Hoagland. Their children were: Richard, married, second, Nancy Collins; Carns, married Katy Cooper; Zebulon, married Mary Gearnsy; Henry, married Miss Houghman; John, married Jane Brodie; Elizabeth, wife of Abe Richie; Sichie, married John Richie; Lydia, wife of Harper Cochran, and Mary Jane, wife of the soldier, John Biggs.

The family of John and Jane Biggs are: Miller, who married Sallie McConnell; Phebe, wife of Major Townsend; William, who married Nancy McConnell; Robert, whose wife was Frances Dewey; Harrison, married Mary Patterson; Henry, our subject's father-in-law, married Sarah Bess; John, wife of John Hay, and Elizabeth, whose husband was Thomas McDonald.

Major Townsend's children are: Sarah J., in Johnson county, Indiana; Harvey; Lavina, deceased, married Lawrence Low; James, the subject of this notice; Harvey, who died in Indiana, leaving a family in Johnson county; Merrill and Alonzo Townsend, both deceased.

James Townsend was sparingly educated in the log cabin of his time. This necessitated a long and lonely tramp through the dense wood and getting an education was a trying ordeal then. He married at nineteen years of age and moved into a new neighborhood, clearing up a new farm to begin the battle of life. He possessed a horse and a suit of clothes and, with this as his capital in sight, he became the head of a household. He worked the first year of his married life at $14.00 a month. Next he became a renter and, as he accumulated he stored away for the farm he finally bought. In 1854-5 his taxes were $10.00 and in 1866 his taxes were $166.60. With his growing family he began to feel crowded in Indiana and he determined to seek a broader field of operations in Kansas. He came to this State first in 1865 and made a prospecting tour of the southeast


part of the State, finally deciding to locate in Allen connty.[sic] He purchased what is still his home place and, in 1868, brought his family hither.

In the years that Mr. Townsend has been a Kansan he has met fortune and misfortune, and fortune again. Security signing cost him all but his spirit and energy. He was given an opportunity to recover his losses and he made the most of it. He has paid interest enough in Kansas to buy a ranch and he is yet far ahead of his creditors. He owns nearly a section of the best land Allen county possesses and, in 1899, left the homestead to rest in retirement in Iola.

Mr. Townsend was first married to Sarah Branigan, in Indiana. Their children were; John M., who died in 1887 and left a son, Edward; Thomas J., Lawrence; Ira; Lavina, wife of Martin Cahalen, of Johnson county, Ind.; Abe L.; Mary, wife of Frank Cox, of Indiana, and George W. Townsend. For his second wife Mr. Townsend married Sarah A., a daughter of the late Henry Biggs. Their children are: Emma, wife of Fred Cramer, and Ella, deceased, married William Heese. She left one child, Henry Roscoe Heese, living in Allen county.

James Townsend has no man to blame for his politics but himself. His ancestors were Democrats and his first wife's people were rank Copperheads. He lived in a community that was almost solidly Democratic about the time he reached his majority yet, he rebelled against the practice and started in right the first vote he cast. He is entitled to be called a Republican because he was at the bedside when the party was born. He yields to no man the honor of being more American than he. He upheld the cause of the Union as against Secession and has been right on every important proposition of governmental policy since the war.

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