Biography of John Henry Prescott

John Henry Prescott. At the close of the Civil war, in which he had played a gallant role as a Union soldier and had attained the rank of captain, Mr. Prescott came out to Kansas and from that time until his death on July 5, 1891, was a notable figure in the life and affairs of Salina and that part of the state. He attained high rank as a lawyer and as a jurist, and was also remarkably successful in business affairs. His name and memory may well be cherished by his descendants and by the people of the entire state.

Captain Prescott was born October 14, 1840, at Pittsfield, New Hampshire. He is of old New England stock, and this branch of the Prescott family goes back in American history to the year 1640. His parents were substantial farming people, John and Mary (Clark) Prescott, both natives of New Hampshire. John Henry Prescott was the second in a family of five children and the oldest of the three sons. His early life was spent on his father’s farm, and he completed his literary education at Pittefield Academy. When sixteen years of age he took up the study of law. He was still equipping himself for this profession when the Civil war broke out.

On August 10, 1862, Mr. Prescott enlisted as a private in Company F of the Twelfth New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry. He was almost immediately assigned to duty as commissary sergeant, and on the basis of merit and fidelity to duty was promoted through one grade after another until he became captain of Company I of the Twelfth Regiment. He saw three years of arduous service. He was in nesrly all the battles that make up the record of the Twelfth New Hampshire Infantry, including the three days battle of Gettysburg. He came out without wounds but not without weakness due to coustant exposure and hardship, though this impairment of his constitution did not betray itself until later years.

In 1865 Captain Prescott came to Kansas, first locating at Junction City, where for a few months he resumed the study of law. His location at Salina was in 1866. He was almost immediately elected county attorney of Saline County and filled the officethree years. In 1869 he was further honored by election to the State Senate from the Salina district, and was in the legislature four years, impressing his power and character upon much of the legislation enacted during that period.

In 1872 a new judicial district was created, including Saline County, and Captain Prescott was appointed its first judge. In the following election he was chosen for the regular term, and filled that office three consecutive terms, a total of thirteen years. He had both the temperament and the experience, as well as a sound knowledge of law, requisite for the impartial and prompt discharge of the duties devolving upon a judge. He enjoyed the confidence of the general public and the bar, and there are many of the older lawyers in that section of the state who recall with special appreciation many of the fine traits of Judge Prescott. His retirement from the bench was due to impaired health, consequent upon his earlier experience as a soldier. The rest of his life Judge Prescott dovoted to farming and stock raising and his varied business interests. He was unusually fortunate in his investments, and at the time of his death was possessed of over thirteen hundred acres of valuable farm lands in Saline County, besides a large amount of town property. He laid out Prescott Addition to Salina, and Prescott Avenue, where Mrs. Prescott, his widow, now resided and which was named in his honor. He not only handled his individual affairs in such a way as to promote the welfare of the city but was liberal of his means and influence in other directions. He did much to secure for Salina the location and establishment of both the Kansas Wesleyan University and St. John’s Military School. For many years he was president of the Board of Trustees of the Military School. He was an active member of the Episcopal Church, and belonged to John A. Logan Post No. 127, Grand Army of the Republic, of Salina. Throughout his career in Kansas he loyally aided the success of the prohibition movement.

Judge Prescott married at Manhattan, Kansas, January 6, 1869, Miss Mary Emily Lee. Mrs. Prescott’s grandfather, George Lee, came from Ireland in 1784. He made the voyage across the ocean in two months. He had royal connections in Ireland. Mrs. Prescott was born March 11, 1842, in a log house on a farm in Wayne County, Ohio, the third daughter in the family of William and Mary (Sinkey) Lee. Her father was born in Virginia and her mother in Pennsylvania. Mrs. Prescott came to Kansas in 1865 in the capacity of a teacher. Her first work was done in the Episcopal Female Seminary at Topeka, an institution which in later times became Bethany College. Her brother, Rev. J. N. Lee was at the time president of the Seminary. Mrs. Prescott taught there for two years. Another brother, Rev. J. H. Lee, was for many years professor of languages in the Kansas State Agricultural College at Manhattan, where he now lives retired.

Captain and Mrs. Prescott had six children, four sons and two daughters. Henry Lee, the oldest, was born April 13, 1870, and died November 30, 1880; Fred Clark, born September 29, 1871; Charles Frank was born January 30, 1874; Maude was born November 14, 1876; Edward Scott, born January 17, 1879, died July 12, 1879; Margaret was born February 3, 1888. Mrs. Prescott and some of her children enjoy the comforts of a fine old home at 211 West Prescott Avenue.



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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