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Biographical Sketch
William D. Rife
Brown County, Kansas


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The following transcription is from a 750 page book titled "Genealogical and Biographical Record of North-Eastern Kansas, dated 1900.  These have been diligently transcribed and generously contributed by Penny R. Harrell, please give her a very big Thank You for her hard work!

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William D. Rife is one of the well known early settlers of Brown county and is an enterprising and successful man whose residence here dates from 1869.  He was born near Gettysburg, Adams county, Pennsylvania, on the 26th of January, 1841, and belongs to one of the old families of that state, of German descent.

His grandfather, David Rife, was born in Pennsylvania, and the father, Andrew Rife, was a native of Adams county, in which place he was reared to manhood.  After arriving at years of maturity he married Miss Sarah Stewart, also a native of Adams county and of Scotch-Irish descent.  They had six children, namely: Lavina, now deceased; William D.; Jane, who also has passed away; Rebecca, Alexander and John. Their father died in Westmoreland county, Penn., at the age of sixty-nine years. 

He was a stone-mason by trade and in connection with that business followed the occupation of farming in order to support his family.  In politics he was a Whig until the dissolution of the party, when he joined the ranks of the Republican party and continued to follow its banners until his connection with the affairs of life was terminated.  In religious belief he was a Lutheran.  His widow still survives him and is now living in Latrobe, Pennsylvania at the age of eighty-one years.

William D. Rife spent the first seven years of his life in the county of his nativity, and then accompanied his parents on their removal to Westmoreland county, Penn., where he was reared upon a farm.  His time was largely occupied with the duties of field and meadow, for he was early trained in the habits of industry and economy, a training which ably fitted him for life's practical duties in later years.

The public school system of the state afforded him his educational privileges.  He remained at home until after the inauguration of the Civil War, when, prompted by a spirit of patriotism he responded the his country's call for troops, enlisting in Company I of the Eleventh Regiment of Pennsylvania Reserves.

He was in the seven days fight at Gaines' Hill and was there taken prisoner, but was afterward exchanged.  Later he returned to Pennsylvania and engaged in farming until 1869, when he determined to seek a home in the Sunflower state.  Making his way westward, he took up his abode a mile and a half north of Hiawatha, where he lived for six years.  He then exchanged his property there for one hundred and sixty acres of land in Powhattan township, Brown county, and for a quarter of a century has lived upon
his present farm, which is now one of the best improved in the township.

His home is situated upon a natural building site and near by is a beautiful grove.  An orchard also adds to the value and attractive appearance of the place, and among the other improvements are large barns and other necessary outbuildings.  The straight furrows across the fields are an indication of coming harvests, and everything about the place is neat and thrifty in appearance and kept in first class condition.  A barn recently erected is 38 x 40 feet, with eighteen foot posts.

On the 23rd of March, 1865, Mr. Rife was united in marriage to Miss Kate Wilt, a lady from a good family, who has been to her husband a faithful companion and helpmeet on life's journey.  She was born in Somerset county, Pennsylvania, on the 28th of February, 1846, and is a daughter of Michael and Susan (Barret) Wilt, the former of German descent.  They had a family of twelve children, five sons and seven daughters, and four of their sons were loyal defenders of the Union during the Civil War.

Noah died in the war, Michael is now living in Pennsylvania, Reuben was killed at Antietam and Cyrus is living in the Keystone state.  The other son was David, and the daughters were Caroline, now deceased; Margaret, Rachel, Isabelle, Elizabeth, Mary, Kate and May.

The mother of this family died at the age of forty-four years and the father when seventy-two years of age.  He was a farmer and blacksmith, was a Republican in political affiliations and a Methodist in his religious faith.

The union of Mr. and Mrs. Rife has been blessed with ten children, namely: Mrs. Carrie Stratton; Stewart, a blacksmith of Powhattan, Kansas; Mrs. Nettie Fry; Mrs. Emma Hogan; George, also of Powhattan; Harry, of Fairview; Jesse, Myrtle, Cordie and Lloyd.

Mr. Rife exercises his right of franchise in support of the men and measures of the Republican party but has never sought or desired office, preferring to devote his time and attention to his business affairs, and in the public station has served only on the school board.

He belongs to the Grand Army of the Republic and he and his wife are members of the Methodist Church.  He is a man of sterling worth and strictest integrity whose word is as good as his bond.  His life has been upright and honorable and his unflagging industry has brought to him the success which he now enjoys.  He well deserves mention among the honored pioneers of Brown county, for few have longer resided within its borders than William D. Rife.

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Last update: Friday, July 18, 2003 20:22:21

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