Biography of Samuel Dexter Houston

Samuel Dexter Houston. One of the very first settlers in Riley County, Kansas, was Samuel Dexter Houston, who located a claim on Wildcat Creek and built a cabin there, in December, 1853. He was one of the county’s foremost citizens for more than a half century and his name is linked with some of the most important events in its early history and with those of other representative men of his time. He was conspicuous in the councils that worked on the construction of the Kansas State Constitution.

Samuel Dexter Houston was born at Columbus, Ohio, June 11, 1818, and died at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Luke Parsons, at Salina, Kansas, February 29, 1910. He was a son of Caleb and Elizabeth (Purdy) Houston. His father was born in New Hampshire, from which state he emigrated to Ohio in 1812 and there married Elizabeth Purdy, who was a native of Pennsylvania.

When Samuel Dexter Houston was twelve years old, his parents removed to Illinois and there he grew to manhood. His first visit to Riley County was made in the winter of 1853 and his impressions of the country were so favorable that he located a claim that was situated not far from the mouth of what is still known as Wildcat Creek. On the shore of this secluded little sheet of water he built his primitive log cabin. He returned then to Illinois but in the spring of 1854 brought his family to the pioneer home and for many years they lived in the cabin in the fertile valley of Wildcat Creek.

In 1842 Mr. Houston was married to Miss Mary Jane Rankin, who was a daughter of Rev. William C. Rankin. She died March 8, 1848, in Iowa, where Mr. Houston was engaged in farming. They had the following children: Catherine Amanda, who was born January 10, 1843, is the wife of Luke Parsons and they reside at Salina, Kansas; Annie Elizabeth, who was born November 22, 1845, resides with her sister, Mrs. Parsons; and Sarah Hunter, who died in infancy.

Mr. Houston returned then to Illinois and on May 20, 1850, was married there to Tabitha Kimble, who was born at Cadiz, Ohio, June 10, 1825, and died in Riley County, Kansas, November 18, 1904. To this marriage the following children were born: Loretta, who died in infancy; Samuel Dexter, Jr., who was born July 11, 1852, is now residing in Texas; Mary Luellen, who was born November 1, 1853, is unmarried and lives at Denver, Colorado; Charles Sumner, who was born June 20, 1855, in Riley County, has always resided in this county and with his sister, Mrs. Charles A. Green, occupies the old family homestead; Angelica, who died in infancy; Lawrence Nile, who was born July 9, 1858, is a resident of Okmulgee, Oklahoma; Ulysses Grant, who was born November 23, 1860, was graduated in 1881 from the Kansas State Agricultural College and is now a lecturer, his home being at Enid, Oklahoma; Hortense L., who was born April 8, 1863, is the wife of A. G. Martin, of Miami, Oklahoma; and Lablanche, who was born January 17, 1869. She is the wife of Charles A. Green, who was born in Sweden, November 29, 1873, and at the age of six years was brought to America by his parents. Mr. and Mrs. Green reside on the old parental homestead in Manhattan Township, Riley County.

Dipping into the authenticated history of Riley County it is proved that Samuel Dexter Houston played an important part in public affairs. In the fall of 1854 he, with Judge S. W. Johnson, of Ohio; Judge J. M. Russell, of Iowa; E. M. Thurston, of Maine, and Dr. A. H. Wilcox, college graduates, met at the mouth of Blue River and located a town site and named it Canton. On March 24, 1855, Isaac T. Goodnow, Luke P. Lincoln, C. H. Lovejoy, N. R. Wright, C. N. Wilson and Joseph Wintermute, committee of a New England company, appeared upon the scene. They were soon followed by the other members of the New England company and the new town they named Boston. In April, 1855, a Cincinnati colony appeared. Mutual agreement was made between the parties and eventually the name Manhattan was accepted. Mr. Houston aided in laying out what is now the prosperous City of Manhattan and one of its principal thoroughfares was named Houston in his honor.

In July, 1861, Mr. Houston was appointed by President Lincoln, receiver of public moneys at the Junction City Federal land office. An ardent antislavery man, he bore an active and influential part in the struggle that made Kansas a free state, and, as previously mentioned, assisted in formulating the first state constitution. When the republican party came into existence he felt that he could safely unite with an organization that so entirely expressed his own principles and he continued this affiliation until the close of his long life. He was the first state senator from Riley County and represented Riley and Pottawatomie counties in the state Legislature from 1860 to 1862. At the outbreak of the Civil war Mr. Houston participated in the military movements that succeeded in keeping the Confederate General Price and his legions off of Kansas soil.

Mr. Houston was a man of great force of character and courageous in advocating the principles he believed to be right. He was a fine organizer and so judicious and so enlightened, having been well educated, that his opinions were acceptable to any body of his fellow citizens whose aims were as high as his own. As a husband and father he met every demand and as a neighbor his helpfulness, especially in the early days when assistance was needed on every side, made strong bonds of friendship. His finely improved property including a handsome, commodious stone residence, have long been admirable examples of what the early settlers of the county produced notwithstanding pioneer hardships, and probably his homestead farm ranks with the very best in the county. An exemplary citizen and in every sense a worthy man, he ranked with the builders of the great State of Kansas.



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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