Biography of Cavaness, James M.

James M. Cavaness. The name Cavaness belongs to both the pioneer and modern era of Kansas. Anywhere in the southeastern part of the state the name is most closely associated with the newspaper business, and two generations are still active in that work, James M. Cavaness and two of his sons, Herbert and Wilfrid, all of whom are connected in some official capacity with the Chanute Tribune.

The origin of the Cavaness family was undoubtedly in Ireland, but the first of the name came to America in the colonial period and settled in North Carolina.

Urban C. Cavaness, father of James M. Cavaness, was born May 10, 1810, in Randolph County, North Carolina. He was reared and married in his native state, and his first child was born in Randolph County. In 1834 he removed to Indiana and was the pioneer shoemaker at Monrovia in that state. Later he became a hotel proprietor. In 1856 Urban C. Cavaness arrived at Lawrence, Kansas. Later he moved to Baldwin, where he kept one of the first houses of public entertainment in that college town, and he also had a hack for the conveyance of mail and passengers. He was identified with the movement to make Kansas a free state, and during the war saw some active service in helping to repel Price’s raid. Though he was a democrat by inheritance he later became a republican. He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church and of the Masonic fraternity. His death occurred at Baldwin, Kansas, January 11, 1899, when nearly ninety years old. In November, 1832, he married Miss Mary Amick, who was born in North Carolina in 1806 and died at Baldwin, Kansas, December 27, 1898, at the age of ninety-two. Their children were: Francis M., who died at the age of twenty-one; William F., who died when three years old; Alphcus A. B., who was a carpenter early in life, saw active service in the Union army during the Civil war, and was severely wounded, and on account of this injury subsequently conducted a book store at Baldwin, Kansas, where he died April 18, 1816; James M.; Sarah C., who lives at Baldwin, the widow of S. L. Clayton, who was a carpenter and farmer; Mary C., who died at Kansas City, Missouri, in 1914, and her husband, E. E. Gaddis, also deceased, was in the real estate business and also a weigher in a packing house at Kansas City; Alvira, who died in infancy.

James M. Cavaness was born at Monrovia, Indiana, March 29, 1842, and was a boy of about fourteen when his parents came to Kansas. In 1866 he was a member of the first graduating class from Baker University. He received the degree A. B. and spent the two succeeding years in work as principal of schools at Butler, Missouri, and Paola, Kansas. Since the fall of 1869, when he entered the Advance office at Chetopa, his work and interests have been constantly in the newspaper field. He was connected with the Chetopa Advance for thirty years, and twenty-five years as manager and editor. In 1899 he removed to Chanute and acquired the Tribune, and is still helping to run that paper. His political influence had always been given the republican party. For nearly eleven years he served as postmaster at Chetopa, and while in college served as postmaster at Baldwin, having been appointed to that office by President Lincoln. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and was formerly affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and Knights of Pythias.

In 1873 at Garnett, Kansas, James M. Cavaness married Mary I. Swallow, who was born in Ohio in 1853. Their children are: Ethel, wife of J. Luther Taylor, who is an attorney and also in the real estate and loan business at Pittsburg, Kansas; Wilfrid and Herbert, both mentioned in succeeding paragraphs.

James M. Cavaness is a well-known member of the Kansas Authors Club of Topeka, and of the Quill Club of Kansas City. His literary efforts have mainly been in the field of poetry. His brother, the late A. A. B. Cavaness, was a graceful writer of verse, and in 1896 he and James M. Cavaness published a book entitled “Poems by Two Brothers.” Later J. M. Cavaness published a book entitled “Jay Hawker Juleps.” This book is now in its third edition. Another product of his pen is “Rythmic Studies of the World,” published in 1911, a second volume in 1916. A. A. B. Cavaness in 1906 published “Rubaiyat of Hope.”



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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