Biographical History of Central Kansas, Vol. I, p. 749
published by The Lewis Publishing Co, Chicago & New York, 1902
A leading representative of the agricultural interests of Rice county is William Handy, who owns and operates a fine farm pleasantly located near Chase. He is most practical and yet progressive, and his untiring industry and capable management have brought to him a handsome competence. He was born in Clark county, Illinois, October 27, 1850, a son of Austin L and Hannah (Bennett) Handy. The parents were born, reared and married in Illinois. The paternal grandfather, Samuel Handy, was a native of Virginia and became an early pioneer of Clark county, Illinois, where he entered land and improved a farm. In 1855 he sold his property there and removed to California, where he was engaged in agricultural pursuits, and there remained until his death. He was a plain, honest farmer and had no aspirations for public notoriety. He was the father of six children, namely: Austin, the father of our subject; Albert, a resident of California; Nancy, now Mrs Malone; Naomi, who became Mrs Brown; Louisa, the wife of A David: and Amanda, who became Mrs Dawson.
Austin Handy was reared in the state of his nativity, and after arriving at years of maturity he engaged in farming, remaining in Illinois until 1874. In that year he came to Kansas, locating in Rice county, where he secured a homestead claim. Like most pioneers he had but small means, having “all to make and nothing to lose.” He underwent all the deprivations and hardships incident to pioneer life, but he was not afraid of hard work and the obstacles and difficulties which beset his path were overcome by determined purpose and unfaltering industry. Game was plentiful in this locality at that time, but he had no time to hunt, as his time was fully occupied in his labors to improve his farm. He was obliged to go a long distance to mill and his nearest trading point was Raymond, but the rapid advancement of civilization soon brought to this locality all the comforts of the older east, and he lived to see the country dotted by thriving towns and cities, well cultivated farms and inhabited by a prosperous and contented people. He was an active worker in the ranks of the Republican party, and on its ticket was elected to a number of positions of honor and trust, including that of justice of the peace. His first wife, who bore the maiden name of Hannah Bennett, was reared in Illinois and was a daughter of James Bennett, a native of the Empire state. He became an early settler of Clark county, Illinois, where he remained until his death. His children were Sanford, James, Susan, Margaret and Hannah. Mrs Handy died on the old homestead in Rice county, in 1883, and the father was again married, his second union being with Mrs Sarah Graves, but this union proved an unhappy one and in 1897 he sold his property to his son and joined another son in Missouri. He has been a third time married, and he now resides in Barry county, Missouri, living retired from the active duties of life. He has reached the ripe old age of seventy-nine years. Unto Austin and Hannah Handy were born eight children, namely: Thomas, a resident of Missouri; William, the subject of this review; James, also a resident of Missouri; Millard, whose residence is not known; Lincoln, a farmer of Rice county; Douglas, who died when young; Amanda, who departed this life at the age of eighteen years; and George, a resident of Stafford county, Kansas. Mr Handy served with distinction in the Mexican war, having entered the army from Illinois and served until the close of the struggle. In his social relations he was connected with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
William Handy, the immediate subject of this review, was born and reared in Illinois, and remained in that state until the age of twenty-four years. In 1874 he assisted his father in organizing a colony to locate in the Sunflower state, and during the first winter after his arrival here he was employed by the government in freighting supplies to Red river, where a temporary camp was located. On his return trip he went to Nebraska, where he was employed as a cowboy for one year. On coming to Rice county he had pre-empted a quarter section of land, receiving his title for the same two years afterward, and in 1879 he was married and located upon his land. The place is now under a fine state of cultivation, and there he is engaged in general farming and stock-raising. He keeps well informed on the issues and questions of the day, taking an active interest in everything for the public good, and in the ranks of the Republican party he is an intelligent and diligent worker. He has filled many positions of honor and trust, having been justice of the peace for two years, while for one term he was county commissioner. In all his public service he has ever been found true to the trusts reposed in him.
For a companion on the journey of life Mr Handy chose Miss Lydia F Burch, who was born in Warren county, Indiana, January 1, 1861, a daughter of Moses and Luticia (Moffitt) Burch, the former a native of Warren county, and the latter of Pennsylvania. Their marriage was celebrated in the Hoosier state. The paternal grandfather, James Burch, was a native of Kentucky, but became an early settler of Warren county, Indiana, where he became a prominent and highly respected farmer. He subsequently sold his property in Warren county and in 1871 came to Rice county, Kansas, where he also became an early pioneer, and there he remained until his death. His children were Moses, Lydia, Isaac, Nell, Charles, Josephine, Abner, Sarah, Rachel and Perry. The latter died while serving his country in the Civil war. The mother of these children was a member of the Methodist church. In 1871 Moses Burch and his family accompanied his father and a small colony from Warren county, Indiana, to Kansas. The first stop which the party made was at Salina, where all located claims, Mr Burch securing his land in Farmer township. He afterward improved a number of farms and became a prosperous man. In 1898 he sold his farming property and removed to Arkansas City, where he and his wife are enjoying the fruits of a well spent life.
In 1862 in Warren county, Indiana, he enlisted for service in the Civil war, becoming a member of the Seventy-second Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry. He enlisted for three years’ service and was elected captain of his company. He was assigned to the Army of the Tennessee, where he saw some hard service, but was never wounded or taken prisoner, and on the expiration of his term of service he received an honorable discharge and returned to the quiet pursuits of the farm in Warren county.
The mother of Mrs Handy is a daughter of John Moffitt, a native of Ireland, who on coming to the new world first located in Pennsylvania and later in Warren county, Indiana. He afterward took up his abode in Kansas City, Missouri, where he spent his remaining days. He had four children, - Francis, Luticia, Thomas and John. Moses and Luticia Burch were the parents of seven children, as follows: Lydia, the wife of Mr Handy; Dermont and Benjamin, residents of Arkansas City; Emma, the wife of J F Crocker; Ida, now Mrs Shafer; Samuel, who resides in Oklahoma; Bird, now Mrs Bellew of Arkansas City, Kansas; Moses and John, who are residents of Arkansas City. The union of Mr and Mrs Handy has been blessed with two children, - Albert, who died at the age of two years; and Frank, who was born July 11, 1883, and is now operating the home farm. The parents are consistent and worthy members of the Methodist Episcopal church, and socially he is connected with the Fraternal Aid Association. He has a wide acquaintance and by all who know him is held in high regard, for his life has been well spent.