Biography of Lew Wallace Duncan

Lew Wallace Duncan. The close of the Civil war launched a new era of settlement in the West. Young men who had lately fought the battles of freedom and restored the unity of the nation abandoned their birthplaces and “hit the trail” leading to the boundless and trackless region beyond the “border.” Distance alone separated them from the beckoning prairies of an unknown plain and the scream of the locomotive had not been heard west of St. Louis, so that the “prairie schooner” method of reaching their destination had to be resorted to. Once across the Mississippi the mecca of the homeseeker was reached and the pioneer emigrants from Ohio, Indiana and Illinois began to “fall out” and squat among the guerillas and Bushwhackers of Missouri. James P. Duncan, one of this patriot band of homeseekers, did this and dropped down near Gooch’s Mill in Cooper County in the wilderness of forest and wild turkeys.

Mr. Duncan’s stay in that semi-hostile region was a brief two years before he moved on to Kansas. He chose his location at Lawrence when the classic crown of “K. U.” was being added to the dome of Mt. Oread and he settled on the Colmore farm whose early owner was one of the victims of the Quantrell raid. Two years later the call of the Missouri wild beckoned him back among the “pukes and mossbacks” of Grundy County where he spent a season and raised a crop on the banks of Grand River near Trenton. But having once breathed the Kansas air and learned the Kansas tongue, Missouri environment failed to soothe and charm and the privileges and opportunities of the “Sunflower State” were again sought, and this time he settled along the Neosho River near Humboldt. In Allen County he had since lived and grown old in humble service as a farmer and as a public official and when he became a county officer he established his home in Iola where it had since been maintained.

James Proctor Duncan was born near New Maysville, Putnam County, Indiana, March 22, 1840. His boyhood and youth were given to the clearing and cultivation of his father’s woods farm and in brief terms of school in the log schoolhouse nearby. Education then was regarded more in the nature of a luxury than an important necessity and a little readin’, spellin’, writin’ and cipherin’ satisfied the demands of the times. Mr. Duncan married during the period of his youth and established his humble home not far from the Red schoolhouse which subsequently figured in the local events of the Civil war.

He enlisted in 1862 in Capt. A. J. Haun’s company of the Seventy-Eighth Indiana Infantry, commanded by Colonel Farrow. He saw service in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and in Ft. McHenry, Maryland, and was discharged at the expiration of his enlistment. He re-entered the army later as a member of Captain Allison’s company in the One Hundred and Fifteenth Indiana Infantry, under command of his old captain, now Colonel Haun. During his service with this regiment he was in Burnside’s corps and was under rebel fire twenty-five days in the siege of Knoxville and was again discharged when his time expired. In 1865 he enlisted in Company “K,” Eleventh Indiana Zouaves, the old regiment of Col., later Gen. Lew Wallace, and his company commander was Captain Palmer. He served again amid the scenes of active operations in the East and was discharged at Baltimore, Maryland, at the end of the war. He identified himself with the patriotic order of the veterans of the rebellion, the Grand Army of the Republic, when the organization reached Kansas and had been a frequent attendant upon its State and National encampments.

Mr. Duncan identified himself with the republican party when he became a voter and trained with that historic and righteous organization without deviation, save in 1912 when his convictions carried him to the support of the Progressive movement and the candidacy of Colonel Roosevelt against the regular republican nominee. He served Humboldt Township many years as its trustee and was appointed Register of Deeds to succeed Jesse Fast in May, 1883. He was elected three times to that office and retired from it in January, 1890.

Mr. Duncan married September 20, 1858, Mary Ellen Bailey, a daughter of Zacharia and Eliza (Frame) Bailey, the former of whom was born in Bath County, Kentucky, in 1812, a son of William Bailey, and settled in Hendricks County, Indiana, as a young man. Mr. Bailey was a farmer and “writing master” and left Indiana in 1867 and settled at old Lanesfield, Johnson County, Kansas. For about ten years he resided there and then moved to Butler County, Kansas, where, near the old postoffice of Bryant, his wife died. He followed some of his children to Topeka soon after this event and passed away there in 1889.

The children of Zacharia Bailey and wife were John W., who was a union soldier and was killed at Ball Town, near Harpers Ferry, by a rebel sharpshooter; Mary Ellen, born April 14, 1841; Wm. F., who served in the Eleventh Indiana, is a resident of Pasadena, California; Mrs. Sallie Welch who died at Lawrence, Kansas; Howard Asbury, of Pasadena, California; J. Milton, of Watts, California; Maggie who died as Mrs. Chris Pickerell in Nebraska; Lorenzo, of Phoenix, Arizonia; Mrs. Matilda Norden, of Los Angeles, California; Zacharia, who died at Rush Springs, Oklahoma; and Lottie, now Mrs. Robert Simcock, of Los Angeles, California.

The issue of James P. and Mary E. Duncan, are Lew Wallace, of Iola, Kansas; Lenora C., who died in Iola in 1884 as the wife of O. P. Rose and left a son, Ora D.; Eldora C., twin sister of Lenora, is now Mrs. O. P. Rose, of Kansas City, Missouri; Horace Otho who died as a dental student in Iola in October, 1886; Harry E., a dentist of Eureka, Kansas; and Millie Agnes who passed away in July 1898, as Mrs. Earnest Brown and left daughters, Mrs. Nita Primmer and Miss Loise Brown. Mrs. Duncan pased away January 23, 1893, and Mr. Duncan then married Mrs. Margaret Swearingen who had children, Fuller and Josie. The former served in the Twentieth Kansas under Colonel Funston in the Philippine insurrection and died in Iola in August, 1916, while Josie is now Mrs. Kuhlman, of Iola.

James P. Duncan was a son of James Duncan, born in Bourbon County, Kentucky, October 12, 1806, and resided in that state till twenty-three years of age when he followed the course of empire northward and settled in Putnam County, Indiana, when the state was but twelve years old. He resided and carried on his work of the farm near New Maysville till just before the rebellion when he moved to Hendricks County and passed away near North Salem in August, 1885. As a youth he acquired sufficient education to teach and he did school work in Kentucky two terms. No incident of more than local interest affected his life and he lived a modest farmer and participated in his community affairs. He was a strong union man during the war and was a central figure in the “battle of Ft. Red,” a political row and neighborhood fight between the union men and the “butternuts” and “copperheads” attending church at the Red schoolhouse during the war. The scene of this somewhat sanguinary struggle was afterward called “Ft. Red” and was so known long after the advent of the railroad changed its name to Barnard and only lost its name and fame when those who were in it and those who witnessed it faded away.

James Duncan married his first wife in Kentucky and was the father of eleven children by this union. Mrs. Duncan was Anna, a daughter of Jas. Buchanan and Lizzie (Tudor) Proctor. The Proctor family abandoned Kentucky for Indiana when the forests of the latter were still virgin but were Mississippi settlers of Kentucky. Valentine Tudor married a Miss Hicks and was himself a descendant of the English “house of Tudor” and was a slaveholding farmer in Kentucky. Mrs. Duncan died in 1855 and was the mother of Mary who married Wm. Woodard and died near North Salem, Indiana; Coleman C. who died in Clay City, Indiana; Dr. William whose death in Indiana resulted from ill treatment and winter exposure at the hands of the Hickory County, Missouri, rebels during the war; Annie died at Humboldt, Kansas, as the widow of Champ C. Yeager; Miranda married A. J. Stephens and both died at Rich Hill, Missouri; Amanda married Frank Zimmerman first, a union soldier whose own pistol accidentally killed him, and she subsequently married Allen Ray and died in Indianapolis; George W., of North Salem, Indiana, one of the heroes of the battle of “Ft. Red”; John W. who died at Humboldt, Kansas; Nancy passed away as Mrs. John Gosnold, in Kansas City, Missouri; Kittie was Mrs. Wm. Long when she died at Holden, Missouri. James Duncan married Mrs. Amanda Dean for his second wife and their issue were Ruth who married William Peck; Benjamin, of North Salem; Belle, wife of Geo. Davenport; Elmer and Della, twins; Charles, a Nebraska ranchman; and Minerva.

James Duncan passed through the period of settlement and home-building in Central Indiana, where the forest was deep and dark and tall, and contributed his might to that development himself. He was first a whig, then a republican, and his name was on the roll of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He passed away as the roll of Indiana pioneers was being called “up yonder.”

The father of James Duncan was Henry Duncan whose family formed a part of the exodus to Kentucky from Fauquier and Culpeper counties, Virginia. Madison County, Kentucky, received them and he subsequently lived in Bourbon County. In 1835, or about that date, Henry Duncan brought his numerous family, yet at home, to Missouri and settled in Cooper County where he passed away. The family was a member of the Lone Elm locality of the county and there he is buried. Henry Duncan married Sally Combs and among their numerous children were Matilda who married Coleman Covington, of Covington, Kentucky; Miranda became Mrs. Wm. Barnett and Margaret died as the wife of Wallace Stone, of Cooper County. The sons of Henry and Sally Duncan were James, the only one to settle in Indiana; Hiram, a Missouri colonel of Confederate troops in the Civil war; Jeptha, Jackson, Granvil and George whose posterity is numerous throughout Missouri and the West.

In reviewing further the history of this numerous and colonial family we present Wm. Duncan as our remote American ancestor and family founder. He was born in Dumfrieshire, Scotland, December 28, 1690, and was a grandson of Rev. Wm. Duncan who lost his life by refusing to take the “Jacobite oath” during the reign of Charles the Second. The name “Duncan” means “brown chief” and as clansmen the tribe was a neighbor of the McDougals and tradition says they were enemies from every point of view. Their meeting accidentally or by design always meant a battle until the Duncans were vanquished for lack of numbers. The Duncans finally denied their name when they fell into the clutches of the McDougals but the latter had prepared themselves for this eventuality with a test that never failed. The Duncan clan was equipped with a large and generous mouth, a distinguishing characteristic, and the McDougals made a born spoon just the size to forcibly fit the Duncan mouth so that when they captured a strange clansman who denied the Duncan name they said “by the great horn spoon we will test you” and if the spoon fit he paid the penalty of their wrath for his carelessness in being caught.

William Duncan of Dumfrieshire settled in Virginia in 1724 and married there Ruth Rawley, a daughter of Matthew Rawley, a Church of England man who came from Wales in 1720. William and Ruth Duncan’s children were Margaret Haldane, Mehitable, Ruth Elizabeth, Mary Ann, Rawley, William, Jr., Charles, James and Townsend. Rawley and Charles served in the command of young George Washington in the British army in the battle which General Braddock lost in 1755 and when Benedict Arnold, as a traitor, led a column of Cornwallis’ army into Virginia the brothers responded for the defense of their capital. Although many of these Scotch Presbyterian pioneers were tories and aided the British against the colonies all of William Duncan’s posterity was true to the cause of American liberty.

The sons of William and Ruth Duncan were born in Culpeper County, Virginia, where Rawley married Sallie McLane, James married Sina Browning and Charles married Susan Bourn. Rawley Duncan was the father of Margaret, Elizabeth, Charles, Edward and James, and it is believed that James, who was murdered by the Indians at the mouth of Paint Lick Creek in Kentucky, November 7, 1792, leaving a widow and three children, was the father of Henry Duncan, the grandfather of James P. Duncan, the founder of this Kansas branch of the family.

Lew Wallace Duncan was born near North Salem, Indiana, June 22, 1861, and came to his majority in Kansas. Farm work was his portion while growing up and he essayed a modest part as a pupil of the country schools. It was his mother who insisted that he fit himself for a station different from the farm and after he taught a few terms of country school in Allen County he enrolled in the State Normal School at Emporia and finished the elementary teachers’ course there in 1886 as president of the graduating class. He was principal of the schools at Troy and later at Sedan following his exit from the normal, and then abandoned school work for something more suited to his tastes and qualifications. For a time he was next engaged in abstracting and preparing a set of abstracts of Allen County for his father, then Register of Deeds, spent a few months with a surveying party in the resurvey of the Utah Central Railway, was a field man on the flax inspection force in the Chicago Board of Trade in the fall of 1890 and, early in 1891, he engaged with the Goodspeed Publishing Company as a solicitor and biographical writer in Mississippi and Louisiana. In August of that year he entered the service of the Lewis Publishing Company and went to Texas in the same work. He had continued with this old and progressive firm of publishers almost wholly since.

In 1901 he formed a partnership with Chas. F. Scott and the firm of Duncan and Scott published a history of Allen and Woodson counties, Kansas. He continued the business alone for two more years and published editions of history embracing Neosho and Wilson and Montgomery counties. Having satisfied his thirst for fame and for profit as a publisher he resumed his position with the Lewis Publishing Company where he is still doing time. And it is only just to add that his labors have brought together some of the most interesting and historically valuable personal data published in these volumes.

Mr. Duncan married in Iola, June 22, 1887, Miss Anna M. Keyser who accompanied her parents to Kansas in 1882 from Frederick County, Maryland, where she was born March 9, 1862. Her parents were Benj. and Frederica (Zeigler) Keyser, both natives of Frederick County, Maryland, and farmers there and in Kansas. Mr. Keyser was born October, 1821, and his wife November 16, 1824. He was a son of Philip Keyser and she was a daughter of Henry and Joanna (Schaffner) Zeigler, Wurtembergers or Schwabenlanders who came to the United States in 1819 and settled in Frederick County. Mr. Keyser died January 9, 1888, but his wife survived till August 31, 1904, and both are buried at Iola. They were frugal and earnest Christian people and their lives were marked by good deeds quietly done and for neighborly consideration. Mrs. Keyser was a devout Christian through life, was a daily student of the scriptures and an intelligent expounder of the “written word.” She was the spirit of modesty itself and her memory is ever fresh in the hearts of those who knew and loved her.

The children of Benj and Frederica Keyser were Charles H., of Aspen, Colorado; Milton W., who died as a farmer of Edwards County, Kansas, in October, 1909, married Mary Mitchell and left a son Chas. E.; Alice J. of Iola, Kansas; Frank A., of Platteville, Colorado, married Hannah Fletcher and had a son Franklin; and Anna M., now Mrs. Duncan, who became a teacher when she came to Kansas and, until she married, was a grade teacher in the Iola schools.

L. W. and Mrs. Duncan are the parents of Edna L., Alfa I., Lue W. and Clifford Morrill Duncan. The two former are graduates of the Iola High School and Edna L. is on the editorial staff of the Iola Daily Register while Alfa is assistant purchasing agent of the American Trona Company of Los Angeles, California. Lue W. is a vocalist and C. Morrill is assistant wire chief of the Bell Telephone Company. He married Margaret P. Webb, September 30, 1916. Margaret Pearl Webb came to Kansas from Pawnee City, Nebraska, and is a daughter of Philip Nolan and Janet (McIntosh) Webb, of Louisville, Kentucky, both of whom are deceased. To C. Morrill and Margaret Duncan was born September 6, 1917, a daughter, Ann Janet.



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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Access Genealogy

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top