Charles W. Kent of Coffeyville is a veteran newspaper man of Kansas. His has been an interesting past. He served as a boy soldier in the Union army, and several of his brothers also bore arms for the Stars and Stripes. In a half century of active experience he has largely been identified with the newspaper business, and has been in Southern Kansas about a quarter of a century.
On July 7, 1893, he established and brought out the Gate City Independent, the forerunner of the present weekly Independent. For a number of years Coffeyville was familiarly known as the Gate City, since it was in fact the gateway leading from Kansas into old Indian Territory. Since its establishment Mr. Kent has been sole owner and editor of this old and influential newspaper. He now has a modern plant and equipment at 208 East Ninth Street. He also owns the building from which the paper is published. Starting out with a weekly issue, six months later Mr. Kent changed it to a semi-weekly paper, and six months later still he made it a dally and semi-weekly. Since the Spanish-American war the daily has been discontinued and in 1908 he abandoned the semi-weekly edition. It is now a weekly, and this change was made largely to adapt the paper to the needs and demands of the farming community surrounding Coffeyville. The Independent has a splendid country circulation, and goes to patrons on the farms and in the nearby towns all over Southeastern Kansas and Northern Oklahoma. It is essentially a home newspaper and specializes in news of the farms and in country correspondence. Another feature is the fashion department maintained by the McCall Company, and this appeals to the farmers’ wives and to women generally. Politically it is an independent republican paper.
Charles W. Kent was born May 1, 1848, in Richland County, Illinois. His ancestors came originally from England. In fact there were two brothers of the name who came to this country at the beginning of English settlement. Mr. Kent’s direct ancestor came over in the Mayflower, landing at Plymonth Rock, while the other brother went to Jamestown, Virginia. John G. Kent, father of the Coffeyville editor, was born in Ohio in 1808, was reared in that state, and was a cabinet maker by trade. In 1844 he moved to Southern Illinois in Richland County, where he followed his trade, and in 1854 located at Cuba, Illinois, where he died in 1862. He was an old line whig and later a republican, and very active in the Methodist Episcopal Church. At one time he also served in the state militia. John G. Kent married Margaret Hannah Gardner, who was born in Ohio in 1812. She died in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1900. Of their children Eliza A., who died in Canton, Illinois, married Hiram Myers, a farmer, who is also deceased. The son John F., who died at Canton, Illinois, saw three years of active service in an Illinois regiment during the Civil war, was taken prisoner on April 6, 1862, at the battle of Shiloh, was sent to the Confederate prisons in Belle Isle and at Cahaba, Alabams, being paroled after a year, and finally rejoining his regiment; by trade he was a carpenter. David was also a soldier and was killed the morning of the first day of the great battle of Shiloh on April 6, 1862, and his brothers John F. and Elmer were taken prisoners while carrying him off the field. Next in age after David were Elmer G. and Charles W. Sarah first married James Barricklow, who was a merchant in Coffeyville, Kansas, at the time of his death, and she is now the wife of William Bowers, an electrician living at Davenport, Iowa.
Charles W. Kent received most of his early training in the public schools of Cuba, Illinois. When about sixteen years of age on May 4, 1864, he enlisted in Company D of the One Hundred and Thirty-seventh Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He re-enlisted February 11, 1865, in Company B of the One Hundred and Fifty-first Illinois Infantry, and was finally mustered out January 24, 1866. In a fight at Memphis, Tennessee, August 21, 1864, he was wounded, was taken prisoner, but was recaptured the same night by his own company. His wound kept him in the hospital until the term of his regiment expired and on his second enlistment he was detailed as Right General Guide of the First Brigade, Second Separate Division, Army of Georgia. The rest of the time he carried a United States flag. From Nashville, Tennessee, to Atlanta, he was in the great campaign leading up to the fall of the latter city, was then on Sherman’s march to the sea, and was then assigned to duty with his regiment at Columbus, Georgia, to relieve another regiment which had been sent to the frontier on account of Indian troubles. During the last months of his service he was chiefly engaged in keeping down the guerrillas. He was finally mustered out at Columbus, Georgia.
After the war returning to Canton, Illinois, he was soon working at the printing trade in an office there, and that experience proved valuable not only in giving him a substantial trade but also in enabling him to complete an education which had been necessarily neglected during the war. From Illinois he went south and conducted a republican newspaper at Columbia, Tennessee, during the years of 1876-77. On his return to Canton he was in the newspaper business a year, and then was traveling representative for the Illinois Transcript of Peoria.
Coming to Kansas in 1887, Mr. Kent was first located at Coffeyville for a year, and the following three years were spent in Eureka Springs, Kansas, on account of his ill health. For a time he was engaged in the insurance business at Coffeyville until he established his present paper in 1893.
Politically Mr. Kent is a republican, and is an active supporter of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He has held all the offices and is past commander of Post No. 90, Grand Army of the Republic at Coffeyville, and also belongs to Gate City Homestead No. 104, the second largest lodge in the Order of Homesteaders.
In 1869 at Laclede, Missonri, Mr. Kent married Mrs. Mary (Eastwood) Brickel, whose first husband was killed by the bushwackers during the Civil war. Mr. Kent has three children by this union: Leon Ulysses, who is a cigar manufacturer at Elmwood, Illinois; Henry Elmer, a professional musician whose home is in Indiana but who also travels as his profession demands; Lilly May, wife of G. Epley, proprietor of a restaurant at Elmwood, Illinois. At Independence, Kansas, in 1889 Mr. Kent married Mrs. Jennie Thomas, who died the following year. In September, 1893, at Coffeyville he married his present wife, Miss Mary Rout, a daughter of William Rout, who is a retired resident of Coffeyville. Mr. and Mrs. Kent have two children: Harry, who graduated from the Coffeyville High School with the class of 1916; and Ruth, who completed the eighth grade of the public schools, took a business course at Muskogee, Oklahoma, and is now living in California.