Biography of James W. Blain

One of the really remarkable men of Riley County, Kansas, is James W. Blain, who notwithstanding the weight of ninety-four years, still is actively interested in all that concerns the welfare of his state and county. For many years Mr. Blain was one of Riley County’s most enterprising, public spirited and useful men, a pioneer upbnilder, an honorable public offlcial, a substantial and successful agriculturist and an irreproachable citizen. He is one of the best known men in the county and is respected and esteemed throughout its length.

James W. Blain was born at Warwick, Orange County, New York, September 17, 1822. His parents were Nathaniel and Polly (McCamley) Blain, both of whom were born in the United States, but the father was of Scotch-Irish lineage. When James W. was twelve years old, his parents moved to Goshen, New York, where his mother died, and a few years later the father removed to New York City. The boy had but limited educational opportunities and early was thrown entirely upon his own resources. He worked as a clerk in stores in New York City until he was uineteen years of age, when he secured a position with a land company operating as Hicks & Co., and went to Hicksville, in Northwestern Ohio. There he kept the books and did copying for the company.

In 1856 Mr. Blain came to Kansas, landing in what is now Riley County on April 29th of that year. He took up land, a part of his present homestead in Zeandale Township. The federal land office was then at Ogden and the land Mr. Blain bought was located by a land warrant. This was virgin soil and Mr. Blain broke the prairie sod. He developed it into a fine, productive farm and gradually made additions to his original tract until he was one of the large landowners of the county, but in later years sold these additions, keeping only his original homestead. Through prudence and industry he prospered and from a business standpoint he achieved success as a farmer and stockraiser. In 1883 he built his present two-story stone residence, which is one of the finest country homes in Riley County.

On February 23, 1846, in Paulding County, Ohio, Mr. Blain was married to martha C. Osborne, who was born in Connecticut and died in Kansas, February 23, 1897. She was an admirable woman and a true holpmate. They had the following children: Rodman P., who was born August 23, 1847, is now a prominent farmer of Ottawa County, Kansas, which county he had twice represented in the State Legislature, and served two years as a member of Company K, Eleventh Kansas Infantry, in the Civil war; Ransom O., who was born August 26, 1849; Chester B., who was born July 10, 1852; Julia, who was born September 26, 1856; Arthur T., who was born March 26, 1860; and Charlotte, who had born January 25, 1863.

When Mr. Blain came to Kansas political feeling was running high. Unalterably opposed to human slavery, he had identified himself with the Abolitionists. When the republican party came into being he joined that organization and ever since had supported its measures and candidates. He was soon recognized in his new home as a man of standing and reliability. That part of what is now Riley County in which he is located and where he had resided since coming to Kansas, was then a part of Davis County. He was elected probate judge of Davis County and held court several times in Ashland at an early day, and from his service in this office he had since very generally been known as Judge Blain. Subsequently he served four years as treasurer and then four years as deputy county treasurer and in every public position he served his duties were performed in a faithful and efflcient manner. He had witnessed wonderful changes since he came as a pioneer to Kansas and his had been a useful life in everything relating to the welfare of the people of Riley County. Judge Blain’s personal experiences have often been historical and his reading had been and still is wide, books, magazines and newspapers being daily companions, hence his knowledge and experience make him an exceptionally valued and interesting member of the Riley County Historical Society and he is also a member of the Library Board of Trustees. He belongs to the Congregational Church. He had been a liberal benefactor of many worthy projects, had been kind and considerate in his family and helpful to his neighbors and in his personal life had exhibited forbearance, kindness, courage and charity.


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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