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Joseph Hays

   This descriptive sketch is from Portrait & Biographical Album of Johnson and Pawnee Counties Nebraska published by Chapman Bros., Chicago, 1889 (p. 618)

JOSEPH HAYS.  It has been the privilege of him to whom we now call attention to watch for a period of over twenty years, the growth and development of this county.  He first migrated to this region in 1866, during the Territorial days of Nebraska, and although naturally a courageous man, the outlook was so forbidding he retraced his steps to the confines of civilization.  He noted, however, that there were undoubtedly vast natural resources waiting for development, and so in the fall of 1867 repeated his experimental visit, this time to stay.  He bought nearly an entire section of land, only forty acres of which had been disturbed by the plowshare, and proceeded after the manner of the early pioneer to battle with life on the frontier.  He has, perhaps had more than most men to contend with: he has met with loss and affliction, but these have developed a character of more than ordinary excellence.  There is no surer indication of a man's moral worth than the estimation in which he is held by his neighbors, and in whatever respect otherwise Mr. Hays may have failed in realizing his ambitions in this he certainly has reasons to rejoice and be glad. 

Before proceeding further it will perhaps be well to take a backward glance at the childhood and youth of our subject.  He was born in Pope County, Ill., March 4, 1819, and lived there with his parents two years, when they removed to Morgan County, that State, and sojourned in the latter a period of forty-five years, settling there when the now flourishing town of Jacksonville had not even a name.  Young Hays passed his boyhood after the manner of most farmers' sons, receiving a limited education in the common schools and employing himself at farming pursuits mostly, although for two years upon approaching manhood he was engaged in mercantile business at Yatesville. 

Farming, however, proved more congenial to the tastes of Mr. Hays than merchandising, and he soon returned to his legitimate business.  He had been carefully trained under the home roof, and grew up to be a worthy member of the community, receiving that recognition among his fellow-citizens which resulted in his being elected to the office of Justice of the Peace, which he held seven years, and to other positions of trust and responsibility.  When about twenty-three years of age he took unto himself a wife and helpmate, being married at the home of the bride, Nov. 11, 1842, to Miss Mary T. Bowen, a native of Morgan County, Ill.  The young people began the journey of life together upon a farm in Morgan County, and lived in Illinois until crossing the two great rivers and settling in the farther West. 

Upon the purchase of Mr. Hays in Table Rock Precinct, when first coming here there stood a small frame house.  He had a large family of children, and hence arose the necessity of providing more commodious quarters as so as possible.  The summer following he put up the large frame dwelling which he still owns and occupies, and which is still in a good state of preservation.  He fenced 100 acres with smooth wire, put out two miles of hedge, and began planting cottonwood trees, which are now three feet in diameter.  He also set out an orchard of apple trees which are now nineteen years old, and has abundance of the smaller fruits, which provide in their season many luxuries for the household.  In due time he began raising grain extensively, and finally drifted into the breeding of live stock, keeping large numbers of cattle, horses and swine, and at one time had a flock of 400 sheep which yielded him a good income. 

Mr. Hays and his family from the first enjoyed excellent health, and only one of the fifteen in his family ever had the ague.  Mr. Hays assisted in building the first bridge over Long Branch on the Brownville road and also in laying out the roads through Table Rock Precinct, there being one highway at the time of his coming here.  The precinct then comprised two school districts, one of the school-houses being near the present site of Table Rock.  Mr. Hays sent his seven children into Richardson County to school one winter, the nearest point elsewhere being five miles away.  He assisted in the organization of School District No. 52, being the prime mover, going personally to every voter.  He was appointed County Superintendent of Schools, and was one of the most active men within its limits to introduce facilities for the education of the young. 

It naturally followed that Mr. Hays was also elected Moderator of his school district, and he has since held that office.  A small frame building was put up at a cost of $400, and a teacher was employed whose salary was insured by the issuing of bonds.  Game was then plentiful in this region, also Indians.  The settlers were obliged to take their produce to market at Brownville, thirty miles away, the trip occupying two days' time, and then receiving only thirty cents per bushel for their hard earned wheat. 

Mr. Hays witnessed the erection of the first house at Humboldt.  Upon visiting Pawnee City on the 3d of June, 1867, he found the court-house in process of erection, just three feet above the ground, but there was a place provided at which to pay taxes.  There was also a post-office and one or two stores.  Court was held first in the house of the Postmaster, J. L. EDWARDS.  In the building of his own house, Mr. Hays did much of the work himself.  It was quite an imposing structure for those times, covering an area of 32x24 feet, with a 12-foot addition, and was at the time the largest house in this part of the county.  Included among its inmates were eight daughters and two stalwart sons.  Each year witnessed some improvement in the property, and the Hays homestead in due time was familiar to people all over the county as the home of one of its best citizens. 

The precinct voted railroad bonds to the amount of $20,000, but on account of irregularity they sought a release, which the railroad agreed to in case the county would vote a tax.  Mr. Hays was made Chairman of the committee appointed to fight the perpetuation of the bonds, which were drawing ten per cent, interest, and was so successful in his efforts that he saved for the precinct the sum of $30,000, a result for which the people ever hod him in grateful remembrance. 

Mr. H was also frequently summoned as a juryman, and was often sent as a delegate to the various County Conventions.  He has cast his ballot in Table Rock Precinct when there were only three Democratic votes within its limits.  The Democracy is now sixty strong. 

Mrs. Mary (Bowen) HAYS was born in Morgan County, Ill., March 12, 1825, and is the daughter of Andrew BOWEN, a native of Kentucky, who spent his last years in Morgan County.  He emigrated to Illinois when a young man, and married Miss Penninah HARDIN.  They became the parents of four children.  Mr. Bowen died when his daughter Mary was a young child.  He was a farmer and mechanic combined, a peaceable and law-abiding citizen, who provided comfortably for his family, and was a good neighbor.  The wife and mother departed this life in Jasper County, Iowa, in 1883, at the age of seventy-four. 

To Mr. and Mrs. Hays there came a family of nine children, one of whom died when twenty-nine years old, and eight are still living.  These were named respectively: Sarah Ellen, Penninah Jane, Mary Elizabeth, Amanda Melvina: Frances Josephine, deceased; Isabelle Ann, Olive Henrietta, Rosetta Melissa and Hardin W.  They also reared a little girl, Minnie May, who was taken into their family when three weeks old.  The eldest daughter, Sarah E., is the wife of John F. SMITH, of Montana, and they have four children; Pennianah is the widow of Michael STOCKTON, and is also the mother of four children; Mary, (Mrs. Benjamin SAGE), lives in Morgan County, Ill.; Amanda married John I. LATHAM, of Harper County, Kan., and they have three sons and two daughters; Isabelle Ann is the wife of James SAGE, of Jasper County, Iowa, and they have four children: Olive is the wife of Mr. A. McCLINTOCK, of Table Rock Precinct; they have three children; Rosetta is the only child at home.  They were all given a good practical education, and without exception possess fine musical talents.  

[Added by transcriber: Hardin W. Hays married Melina J. KEISER d/o of Nimrod and Mary E. Martin KEISER, see Keiser Bio same book] 

William HAYS, the father of our subject, was born on the Yadkin River, in North Carolina, in 1793.  Thence he migrated first to Kentucky, and then to Illinois, settling on a farm in Morgan County, and employed himself considerably as a mechanic.  He married Miss WEBB, a native of Kentucky, and they became the parents of seven children, all of whom lived to mature years.  The elder Hays took up land in Morgan County, Ill., where he improved a good farm, and where his death took place in 1844.  He was one of the earliest pioneers of the section, a good an worthy man, respected by all who knew him.  The wife and mother survived her husband until about 1860.  Both were devoted members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, with which Father Hays was identified for a period of forty years, and the mother probably about that length of time. 

The paternal grandfather of our subject was Joseph HAYS, Sr. who settled in Kentucky, and later served as a soldier in the Revolutionary War.  in which he sacrificed his life to his country.  His widow was subsequently married, but kept her son William with her until he started out in life for himself.  Moses WEBB, the maternal grandfather of our subject, was a drummer boy in the Revolutionary War four years, under the immediate command of Gen. Washington.  He served two years in a cavalry regiment.  He spent the last two years of his life with his son-in-law William, and enjoyed a pension from the Government.  He lived to be seventy-two years old, surviving his wife, who had passed away several years before. 

Mr. Hays, during the earlier days of Illinois, and during his boyhood, went on foot from his home in Morgan County to Alton, that State, driving a herd of swine, which he sold a $1.50 per 100, net weight. 

Transcribed for this site by Sondra Riley Peterson, 1999.


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