Biography of John Wesley Wheeler

John Wesley Wheeler. Forty-five years ago when the greater part of Kansas was still an unbroken prairie and open cattle range, John Wesley Wheeler pioneered into the southern part of the state, and his subsequent activities as a homesteader, farmer and stock raiser, have enabled him to amass a competence sufficient for all his future needs. In the meantime he has provided liberally for his family, has borne an upright and commendable part in local affairs. He is now living retired at Havana in Montgomery County.

He is descended from Scotch-Irish ancestors who located in Pennsylvania. Mr. Wheeler himself was born at Findlay, Hancock County, Ohio, April 11, 1839. His father, Jesse Wheeler, was born in Pennsylvania in 1788, about the time that the American colonies were confederated under the United States Constitution. He was reared and married in his native state, and moved from Little York, Pennsylvania, to Seaeca County, Ohio, where he was a very early settler. He afterwards moved to Hancock County, Ohio. His early years, from eighteen to twenty-one, were spent according to the fashion of the times, as a “bound boy” in apprenticeship to the carpenter’s trade. That trade gave him an occupation for all his subsequent years, and he followed it until too old to work any longer. He began voting as a democrat, but when the republican party was formed sixty years ago he became aligned with that organization. For many years he was active in the Methodist Episcopal Church. His death occurred in Findlay, Ohio, in 1874. He married Elizabeth Edgar, and three of their children were born in Pennsylvania before they removed to Ohio. She herself was born in Pennsylvania in 1806, and died in Hancock County, Ohio, in 1872. A brief record of the children is as follows: William H., who was a merchant from boyhood up in Findlay, Ohio, but late in life went to Georgia for his health and died in that state; James Jackson, who died in Findlay, Ohio, was a painter by trade, and later became a merchant associated with his brothers, W. H. and O. P. Oliver Perry, who died at Findlay, learned the carpenter trade when young under his father and later became a merchant with his brothers; Adam Clark also learned the carpenter’s trade from his father, went out to California in 1850, and died in that state in 1852; Edward Smith, who died in Webster City, Iowa, was a merchant with his brothers back in Ohio and afterwards had a store of his own in Iowa; John Wesley was the sixth in age; Mary Elizabeth married A. M. Pence, an attorney, who died in Paris, France, while her death occurred at Chicago, Illinois; Samuel M. spent his early years clerking in his brothers’ store in Ohio, and in 1871 moved to Colorado, where he was engaged in mining until his death at Leadville in 1912; Jesse B. was a consumptive and spent some years as a sheep herder at Leadville, Colorado, where he died.

Gaining his early education in the public schools of Findlay, Ohio, John Wesley Wheeler had his first practical experience as an employe in the store conducted by his brothers. He worked in the store from the age of fourteen to the outbreak of the war. Mr. Wheeler is one of the honored veterans of the great Civil war. He enlisted at the first call for troops on April 27, 1861, and went out with the Twenty-first Ohio Infantry, a three months’ regiment. When this term expired he re-enlisted October 9, 1861, and became a member of the Fifty-seventh Ohio Infantry. At the second enlistment he was made a first lieutenant, and afterwards was promoted to captain of Company B of his regiment. He was in service until April 14, 1863, for nearly two years. During those two years he took part in the siege of Corinth, in the battle of Pittsburg Landing, or Shileh, was through the siege of Vicksburg, and also at the battle of Missionary Ridge.

Having discharged his duties faithfully and well as a soldier of the republic, he returned to Findlay and continued his employment in the store there until the spring of 1870. At that time he moved to Kansas, spending a few months at Fort Scott, and in October, 1870, took a claim of eighty acres in Chautauqua County, Kansas. That claim, now developed as a fine farm, Mr. Wheeler still owns. After nearly forty years of capable management of his farming interests, Mr. Wheeler retired into Havana in 1909, and now lives in a residence which he owns on Main Street. For his military services he also enjoys a pension from the Government. Politically he is a democrat.

In 1885 at Independence, Kansas, Mr. Wheeler married Miss Anna Rogers, who came from Indiana. Her father, James Rogers, now deceased, was also a veteran of the Civil war. Mrs. Wheeler died in 1892 on the old home farm. Her children were: Mary, wife of A. H. Hartman, an oil worker living at Eldorado, Kansas; Bessie and Etta are still at home with their father; James spent three years on a large wheat ranch in the State of Washington, and is now a farmer near Nampa, Idaho.


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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