Biography of Josiah Thomas Genn

Josiah Thomas Genn. Sixty years ago, when Kansas was a territory and the bone of contention between the slavery and anti-slavery forces, Josiah Thomas Geun arrived and homesteaded a tract of land just south of the Kansas River, not far from the Town of Wamego. In the same year that he took his homestead Pottawatomie County was organized. Mr. Genn still had that homestead, a highly developed farm, had much other land in addition, and gives more or less active superintendence to the growing of his crops. With the growing weight of years he retired to a home in Wamego and had gradually resigned many of the responsibilities which formerly engaged his time and energies. He had long been one of the prominent men in that section of the state.

He comes of an old Maine family. During colonial days three brothers of the name Genn came from Scotland. One went to Massachusetts, one to Virginia and the other, great-grandfather of Mr. Genn, established a home at Buckaport, Maine. Josiah Thomas Genn was born at Atkinson in Piscatiquis County, Maine, August 22, 1832, eighty-five years ago. His father, Capt. Thomas Genn, was a sturdy and honest seafarer. Born in Maine in 1799, he was a fisherman from the age of thirteen, and year after year he regularly took his boat to the banks of Newfoundland and made his annual eatch of fish. The only exception to this work was when he went to California in 1849, spending two years in the gold country. He died at Atkinson, Maine, in 1858. Politically he was a democrat and was always an earnest Christian and a supporting member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He married for his second wife Mrs. Betsey (Lewis) Studley. That was her third marriage. Her first husbands were named Cook and Studley. Capt. Thomas Genn and wife had six children: Sallie Jane married Gilman Lyford, a carpenter, and both died in Piscataquis County, Maine; Mary Lewis married Washington Varney, a farmer and a veteran of the Civil war, and they died at Mila in Piscataquis County; Servina married W. E. Gould, a merchant and township official most of his life at Milo, where both of them died; Sabrey died at Dover, Maine, in 1911, and her husband, Zebulon Dow, a farmer, died at the same place in 1915; the fifth in age is Josiah Thomas; Helen, who now lives at Lawrence, Kansas, married W. F. Cotton, and they came to Kansas in 1857 and settled on a farm in Waubaunsee County, where Mr. Cotton died. The mother of these children was born in Maine in 1799 and died in Wabaunsee County, Kansas, in 1863.

Josiah Thomas Genn secured his education in the public and private schools of Atkinson, Maine. At the age of twenty-four he began working on a farm for himself and soon afterward, in 1857, came to Kansas, locating in Wabaunsee County. On April 1, 1857, he took up a homestead of 105 acres located a mile south and a half mile west of Wamego, near the south bank of the Kansas River and in Wabaunsee County. Mr. Genn still owned that homestead and altogether had 300 acres. In earlier years he was a successful horse and cattle raiser and had done much diversifled farming. In 1917 he supervised the planting of 150 acres in corn and fifty acres in wheat and at this writing both give promise of excellent crops.

Since 1899 Mr. Genn had lived at Wamego. In that year he became a depositor in the First National Bank, soon afterwards was elected a director and is now its vice president. He is also a stockholder in the Wamego State Bank and is the owner of considerable real estate. including his home on Ash Street and other dwelling houses on Ash, Vine and Maple streets.

Many times Mr. Genn had been called to office and public trust and responsibilities. His first big public service was when he enlisted in 1862, on May 20th, in Company L of the Eleventh Kansas Cavalry. This regiment for a time was commanded by Col. P. B. Phumb and afterwards by Colonel Moonlight. He saw active service along the frontier and in the campaigns against the Indians in the far Northwest. Mr. Genn participated in several fights with Indians in Montana. He went in as a private and was mustered out in September, 1865, as a sergeant. He had always remained a faithful old line republican. While living in Wabaunsee County he served as a justice of the peace, and at Wamego was elected to the city council, serving six years. On account of advancing age he finally resigned that office. He was also street commissioner six years and park commissioner fifteen years, serving as president of the board ten years. Formerly he was president of the Wamego Cemetery Association. He is a Mason, being affiliated with Wamego Lodge No. 75, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, is king of Wamego Chapter No. 53, Royal Arch Masons, and belongs to Topeka Consistory No. 1 of the Scottish Rite.

Mr. Genn married at Topeka July 3, 1858, the year after he came to Kansas, Miss Malina Hilarity Cotton. She was born at Hartland, Vermont, June 21, 1832, and died at Wamego, Kansas, in June, 1915, at the age of eighty-three. She and her husband were married almost fifty-seven years.



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.

1 thought on “Biography of Josiah Thomas Genn”

  1. There are a few inaccurate facts in Josiah’s biography. Josiah is not really from an “old Maine family” as his father and mother moved to Atkinson, Maine in 1829. Thomas Genn was born in Provincetown, Massachusetts in 1790. He married his first wife Sarah Polly Cook in 1811 and they had 3 daughters, Mehittable, Winnifred and Sarah. I believe Sarah Polly died having childbirth of her 4th daughter who lived a short time. Thomas re-married in 1821 to Betsey Lewis as you stated, and they came to Atkinson with their (then) 3 children plus 3 from Thomas Genns’ first wife. Josiah’s mother Betsey was not born in Maine, but in Yarmouth, Massachusetts in 1790, a daughter of Timothy Lewis. Josiah and his wife Malina had a daughter named Helen, born in 1864 and died in 1893.I am a descendant of Thomas Genn and Sarah Polly Cook as Winnifred Cook married my great great Grandfather John Haskell who lived in Detroit, Maine. As a further note…Josiah Genn is a Mayflower descendant of Josiah Cook II of Eastham, Mass. who married Deborah Hopkins, daughter of Giles Hopkins a Mayflower passenger!
    Tim Burr

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