Biography of Edward Thomas James

Among the veterans of the great Civil war who came in numbers to Kansas following the end of strife, was Edward Thomas James, whose useful and honorable life closed on December 6, 1915. For almost a half century he was one of the representative men of Shawnee County, an active force in the development of this section and one who will long be remembered for his sterling traits of character.

Edward Thomas James was born in Talbot County, Maryland, August 27, 1830. At the time of his death he was the only survivor of his parents’ family of three children. His only sister died in infancy. Between himself and his brother W. Lambert, three years his junior, there existed the closest affection until the latter’s death. In his youth Mr. James had only limited educational opportunities but a love of reading and contact with many phases of life provided him with information on every subject and caused him in later years to be chosen for offices of trust and responsibility in his community. In 1857 he moved with his family to Indiana and shortly after Civil war was declared he enlisted for service in the Union army, becoming a member of the Ninth Indiana Infantry. He fell sick and was- granted a furlough but subsequently re-enlisted and continued in the army until the close of the war.

In 1867, accompanied by his own and several other families, Mr. James made the overland trip to Topeka, from Brazil, Indiana, six weeks being consumed in the journey. Mr. James resided near Topeka until 1871 when he moved to a farm west of Rossville, purchasing eighty acres of land to which he subsequently added until he owned 120 acres. This land was all developed by himself or under his direction and is now a very valuable property.

Mr. James was twice married. In 1852 he was united to Elizabeth Stoker, who died in Indiana in 1860. They had five children born to them: Charles, John, Mrs. Amanda Reid, and two who died in infancy. In 1862 Mr. James was married at Shelbyville, Indiana, to Sarah Radifer and they had six children: Mrs. Chettie Kassebaum, Mrs. Lulu Kassebaum, Sherman, Harvey, Harry and one who died in infancy.

Although Mr. James had succeeded well in life despite his lack of schooling, it was one of his first desires after coming to Rossville Township, that a school should be established in his neighborhood so that his children could have advantages that had been denied himself. It required considerable effort at that time, as many of his neighbors were poor and taxes were already heavy, but he succeeded and the James school in District No. 65 was the result and probably he served longer on the school board than any other citizen in the district. In the early seventies he was elected county commissioner and it was through his honest efficiency that improvements were brought about without appreciable expenditure of the people’s money. For fifteen years he served as a justice of the peace and his rulings were accepted because men depended on his knowledge and relied on his judgment: At that time the validity of Indian titles often had to be proved or disproved and much trouble thereby was occasioned but when Judge James decided the case everyone was satisfied because of his knewn high character. He served at times in township offices, not from choice but because he knew that he could administer them efficiently, and his fellow citizens also recognized that fact. His death occurred at Rossville, having survived his wife since 1879. In early years he was a member of the United Brethren Church and throughout life exhibited the virtues of a true Christian man. He had never identified himself with any fraternal organization other than the Grange, in which he was an official many times, and he belonged also to the Grand Army of the Republic.


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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