Biography of John H. Sperry

John H. Sperry. Among the men who have contributed to the upbuilding and development of Neosho County, and particularly of the City of Thayer, few are entitled to a greater degree of credit than John H. Sperry, ex-president of the Thayer State Bank, veteran of the Civil war, farmer and stockman, and a citizen who has always been representative of the best type of progressive citizenship. While he is now retired from active labors, Mr. Sperry continues to take a keen interest in the community in which he has resided for forty-eight years, and through his influence and example continues to be a force in promoting the things that make for advancement and progress.

On both the paternal and maternal sides of the family Mr. Sperry comes from sturdy German ancestry. He was born November 18, 1841, at Cambridge City, Wayne County, Indiana, his parents being George and Catherine (Delano) Sperry. His father was born in 1804, near the Rhine, Alsace-Lorraine, Germany, and as a youth learned the trade of cabinet maker, which he followed in his native land. There he was married to Catherine Delano, who was born in the same year and in the same locality, and in 1833, with one son, came to the United States and located at Dayton, Ohio. There he continued to work as a cabinet maker and followed that vocation for a time after he had removed to Cambridge City, Indiana, but eventually turned his attention to farming near Strawtown, Indiana, where his death occurred in 1853. He was a republican in politics, and both he and his wife were faithful members of the Evangelical Church. Mrs. Sperry survived her husband for many years and passed away on the farm of her son, near Thayer, in 1885. They were the parents of the following children: George, who fought through the Civil war as a Union soldier, subsequently took up milling at Noblesville, Indiana, and died there as the result of an accident; Samuel Alexander, who was a farmer and merchant and died at Strawtown, Indiana; Catherine, who married Anton McGassi, one of the great “Seven McGassi Brothers,” theatrical performers, now deceased, and died in 1915, at Rigsby, Oklahoma; John H., of this notice; Mary E., who married first Amos Cooper, deceased, a farmer, and married second Mr. Crooks, and died on a farm near Cicero, Indiana, where Mr. Crooks still resides; David, who enlisted in the Thirty-ninth Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry, which was later mounted and became the Eighth Indiana Cavalry, and was killed during the McCook raid in the rear of Atlanta, while fighting with the forces of General Sherman; Jacob, who is farming four miles east of Cicero, Indiana; and Charles, who died on his farm near Dennis, Kansas. Rear Admiral Charles S. Sperry belonged to the same branch of the family.

John H. Sperry received his education in the district schools of Hamilton County, Indiana, and the public schools of Cambridge City, but at the age of sixteen years gave up his studies and learned the carpenter’s trade, at which he was working when the Civil war came on. He had not yet reached his majority when, in the fall of 1862, he enlisted as John Sperry in Company I, Seventy-fifth Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry, with which organization he served until the close of the war, rising from private to corporal and later to sergeant. This regiment was organized at Wabash, Indiana, and was mustered into the United States service August 19, 1862, and two days later left the state for Lebanon, Kentucky, but retired to Louisville at the time of Bragg’s advance. It then moved to Frankfort, Scottsville, Gallatin and Cave City, in pursuit of Morgan, and was in camp near Gallatin during December, moving in January, 1863, to Murfreesboro, being engaged in scouting and brief expeditions with the Second Brigade, Third Division, Fourteenth Army Corps. On June 24th it started for Tullahoma and participated in the Battle of Hoover’s Gap, being the first regiment to enter the enemy’s works at Tullahoma. Moving then towards Chattanooga, it was engaged at Chickamauga, and remained near Chattanooga during the fall and winter, taking part in the Battle of Missionary Ridge. It moved to Ringgold, Georgia, in the spring of 1864, joined the campaign to Atlanta, and was engaged at Dalton, Dallas, Kenesaw Mountain, Peach Tree Creek, in front of Atlanta and at Jonesboro. At Atlanta Mr. Sperry was severely wounded, when part of his shoulder-blade was shot off by a shell. He was subsequently detained in a hospital for several months, but rejoined his regiment as soon as he was able for service. On October 4 the Seventy-fifth removed with its corps to Pine Mountain and arrived in time to threaten the rear of French’s Division of Hood’s army, which was investing the garrison at Allatoona, where he was acting captain. The regiment returned in time to join the march upon Savannah and the march through the Carolinas, participating en route in the battles of Fayetteville and Bentonville, and then moved with the advance of the army to Raleigh, thence to Richmond, and finally on to Washington, D. C., where it was mustered out of the service, June 8, 1865, having participated in thirty-seven engagements.

At the close of his military service, Mr. Sperry returned to his Indiana home, and there, in 1866 was married. For one and one-half years he was engaged in the mercantile business there, but in 1869 came to Kansas and pre-empted 160 acres of land eight miles south of Thayer, a farm on which he resided for twenty-seven years, and to which he greatly added. He also accumulated other farms, which he rented, but at the time of his retirement to Thayer, in 1897, disposed of his holdings to a large extent. Soon after coming to Kansas, Mr. Sperry embarked in the stock business, in which he gained a very edifying success. He frequently fed and shipped as many as sixty carloads of cattle during a year, and in the last year that he was actively engaged in that business shipped sixty-four car-loads in four months. He was also in the lumber business for several years and at one time had the exclusive grain business of the section in his control. During the twelve years that he acted in the capacity of president of the Thayer State Bank that institution grew and prospered and held a reputation second to no state bank in the county. He was urged to retain the presidency, but with increasing years resolved to transfer the responsibilities to younger shoulders. As a builder of Thayer, Mr. Sperry erected a large proportion of the business section of the city, as well as the first brick house in the community. He is still the owner of much property here, including several business structures, the postoffice building and his own residence on Neosho Street, in addition to which he has two farms in Labette County, comprising 320 acres, and one farm in Wilson County. Fraternally, he is connected with Thayer Lodge No. 339, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons; Parsons Chapter, Royal Arch Masons, and Parsons Commandery, Knights Templar. During his long and active life, Mr. Sperry has lived close to high ideals, and his citizenship has imparted strength and substantiality to all undertakings with which he has been associated. He splendidly stood the tests which the frontier imposed upon those who invaded its remoteness and the new order of things found him in accord with its aims, purposes and inexhaustible opportunities. His career has been an inspiring one, worthy of emulation by any youth who is entering life with his own way to make.

In 1866, on a farm near Strawtown, Indiana, Mr. Sperry was united in marriage with Miss Mary E. Dietrick, a daughter of Mrs. Susan Dietrick, now deceased. Mrs. Sperry died in 1909, the mother of six children, namely: Minnie A., who is the wife of Joseph Horr, of Thayer, a successful farmer and the owner of several farms; Dora E., who is the wife of Charles F. Petri, and lives on a farm near Dennis, Kansas; Pearl D., who is the wife of William Southwick, who has an insurance business at Parsons, Kansas; John F., who is the owner of the telephone exchange at Ness City, Kansas; Albert O., who is identified with the Pryor Bank, at Pryor, Oklahoma; and R. E., who is the owner of the telephone exchange at Fairfax, Oklahoma.


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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