Biography of Elizabeth Tantum Spencer

Elizabeth Tantum Spencer was born near Jerseyville, Illinois, September 28, 1871. She attended the rural schools in Jersey County, Illinois, and Woodson County, Kansas, was graduated from the Yates Center High School (a member of the first class) in 1890, and from the Kansas State Normal at Emporia in 1894.

She taught three years in the rural schools of Woodson County, during the first year riding fourteen miles each day. Since that time she had taught in the schools of Yates Center, Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri.

In 1912 she became deputy county treasurer of Woodson County under her brother, H. Scott Spencer, county treasurer, where she served until 1915, when she entered upon her duties as county superintendent of schools. In 1916 she was re-elected. Under her supervision are the schools of Neosho Falls, Vernon and Toronto, the Rural High School and sixty-four rural schools. In these various school districts are eighty-seven teachers and 2,200 pupils.

Miss Spencer is a democrat, a member of the Presbyterian Church and superintendent of the primary department of its Sabbath school in Yates Center. She holds membership in the Kansas State and the Southeast Kansas Teachers’ associations and in the National Association of Superintendents.

Ferdinand Hayward Spencer, father of Elizabeth Spencer, was born May 22, 1838, in Monmouth County, New Jersey. He moved with his parents to Jersey County, Illinois, in 1839 and came to Woodson County, Kansas, in 1879. He spent his active career as a farmer and died near Yates Center, Kansas, July 19, 1904. He was a democrat, a deacon in the Presbyterian Church and while in Illinois belonged to the Grange. He married Sarah Ross Parsell, daughter of Peter Ross Parsell and Eliza (Smalley) Parsell. Sarah Parsell was born near Bound Brook, New Jersey, January 17, 1850, and is living in Yates Center, Kansas.

Beside Elizabeth Tantum there were six other children. Charles Herbert died in infancy. Walter Hayward, a graduate of the Kansas State Agricultural College and of the Kansas City Veterinary College, is a veterinary surgeon in Yates Center. He married Ethel Pyke. Their children are Hayward Herbert and Warren Vinson. Lila Steele, a graduate of the Emporia State Normal, married Hayes M. Coe, a farmer near Yates Center. Mr. Coe is county commissioner. Their children are Merle and Thelma Ruggles Coe (brother and sister adopted). Harry Scott Spencer was county treasurer from 1911 to 1915, before which he taught in the Yates Center schools. He is now in the Government mail service at Yates Center. He married Winifred Camac. Their children are Howard Camac and Harold Ferdinand (twins) and Margaret Winifred. John Oliver is a farmer near Newton. He married Dean Bruce. Their children are Oliver Eugene, Mary Isabel and Donald Bruce. Sophia Isabel married Ray T. Singleton, a merchant in Yates Center. Their children are Maureen Elizabeth and Robert Dale.

John Longstreth Spencer, grandfather of Elizabeth Spencer, was born in Philadelphia, December 11, 1800. He died in Jersey County, Illinois, 1868. He married Elizabeth Tantum, who was born 1798 at Crosswicks, New Jersey. She died 1873 at Jerseyville, Illinois.

Miss Spencer’s ancestors on her father’s side were among the earliest English Quakers–close friends of George Fox and of William Penn. Her first direct ancestor to come to this country was Mahlon Stacy, who with his wife, children and men and women servants came to West Jersey in 1678. Together with William Penn and other Quakers he was creditor of the proprietor of West Jersey and received as his share 800 acres of land. His house was built on the present site of Trenton and his home was called Ballifield in honor of Ballifield Hall of the Stacy estate in England, said to have been held by them since the time of William, the Conqueror.

Another direct ancestor was Joseph Kirkbride, who came to Pennsylvania in 1682. The second Lord Wigton (or Wilton) in the time of King John divided his estate. His second son, Adam, a knight, received as his share the parish of Kirkbride and his descendants, according to the custom of the time, were called “de Kirkbride.”

The Spencer family through the Kirkbrides are descendants of John and Mary (Loftus) Sotcher–steward and stewardess of Pennsbury, Penn’s country home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Their marriage certificate, signed by William Penn as witness, hangs in the Washington headquarters at Morristown, New Jersey. A cradle and chest brought from England by Penn and handed down through the Sotcher and Kirkbride families are in the State Historical Library in Philadelphia.

Bartholemew Longstreth, a direct ancestor, came from England to Pennsylvania in 1699. He was of Saxon stock. All four of these men served in the Assembly.

Miss Spencer’s great-grandfather, Samuel Spencer, and her great-great-grandfather, John Longstreth, in 1800 owned the two ferries between Morrisville and Trenton–one of these was the oldest on the Delaware. They also owned Groveville, New Jersey, with its woolen, grist and sawmills, its store and its fifteen dwellings.

On her mother’s side Miss Spencer is descended from the Parsells–French Huguenots who came to Ravenswood, Long Island, at the time of the religious wars in France. Oliver Parsell, a cabinet maker in New York City, was her great-great-grandfather.

Through her maternal grandmother’s mother, Marggaret (Peggy) Steele, who married Isaac Smalley, she is descended from John Steele of Somerville, Somerset County, New Jersey, who was a soldier in the Revolutionary war.


Biography, Women,

Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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