Biography of James Bassett

James Bassett was a pioneer figure in Kansas. He arrived in the territory in 1857 and from that time forward until his death which occurred at Dover in Shawnee County, December 26, 1915, he was an upright, conscientious, hard working and successful citizen.

He came to Kansas from Onondaga County, New York. A native of England, he was born in Glastonbury, January 25, 1856, and was one of the nine children of Joseph and Elizabeth (Hale) Bassett. Some years later, in 1849, Joseph Bassett set out for America, determined to establish a home for himself and family in the New World. He found a favorable location in Skaneateles, New York. A year later he went back to England and returned with his family to America. The rigors of a long voyage on board a sailing vessel, which was meagerly provisioned and watered, proved too much for Mrs. Bassett, who died a few days after landing in this country. Joseph Bassett married again, and he and his wife spent the remainder of their days in Skaneateles.

The late James Bassett was thirteen years of age when brought to this country, and altogether he received only eleven months of schooling, but by his wide reading he came eventually to be highly educated, and he kept this up to the end of his long and useful life. He grew up on a farm in and about Skaneateles until about twenty years of age.

In 1857 he started west on a prospecting expedition. By February he had arrived at Leavenworth. From there he walked across the country to Dover, and that community remained his principal home for nearly sixty years. In Dover two of his married sisters had already located, Mrs. Alfred Sage, and Mrs. John Sage. His early employment in Kansas was as a farm hand. He also pre-empted a tract of land, and by developing that as a farm contributed something to the progress of the state. Though he was a witness of many of the strocities committed during the border warfare period, he possessed none of the radical views of either side, and so far as was consistent with an honorable course he remained neutral.

His real patriotism was manifested when, on December 1, 1861, he enlisted in Company F of the Second Kansas Regiment of Cavalry. He remained with that regiment throughout its campaigns and service, and was not discharged until January 18, 1865. He left the army at Leavenworth as a corporal. As a volunteer he was many times called upon to do dangerous scout duty and was often under the direct fire of the enemy. He was in the Battle of Poison Springs, from which so few of his comrades escaped alive, and in that hurried retreat through the timber received an injury to his right eye which destroyed the sight later and made it necessary to remove the eyeball.

At the close of the war he returned home, and thereafter made three trips across the plains to Colorado, Pike’s Peak being his destination once. Eventually he settled down to the quiet life of a farmer at Dover. In that community he experienced all the hardships incident to pioneer life. He combated drought, the grasshopper plague, the starvation prices of farm produce and engaged in the relentless warfare of the early Kansas settler against the rigid and forbidding conditions of an environment, which as a result of men’s continued efforts gradually changed for the better. Through it all by rigid economy and with the help of a good wife, James Bassett contrived to prosper.

He was also an effective unit in his community. He was one of the organizers of the Dover State Bank, of which he was a director until a short time before his death. He was also among those who established the Dover Cemetery. A member of no religious denomination or secret fraternity he believed in and practiced the Golden Rule and hated cant and hypocrisy. He was charitable in thoughts and in deed and for his upright life was universally respected and loved. He was “Uncle Jim” to the community where he had lived for over fifty years, and young and old came to him for advice and counsel, knowing they would get from him the truth without fear or favor.

On November 17, 1866, Mr. Bassett married Ann Sage, daughter of Arthur and Keziah Sage, of a prominent pioneer family of Kansas, who survives him. To their marriage were born four children, two girls and two boys: Miss Mary Bassett, a teacher of ability; Hattie B. Aldrich, M. D., a physician of Caney, Kansas, and wife of Harry L. Aldrich, M. D., a member of Kansas State Board of Health; Albert J. Bassett, a teacher for many years in Kansas, and is now a prominent hardware merchant of Dover; and Harris T. Bassett, the eldest, a director of the Dover State Bank, and a successful farmer of Dover.


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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