Volney P. Mooney, now probate judge of Butler County, had resided in this section of Kansas more than forty-eight years and had been successively teacher, merchant, lawyer and public official. The people of Butler County know him and trust him as completely as any other citizen.
His father, the late Rev. Isaac Mooney, was one of the notable men in this section of Kansas. He was the founder of a town and community, and throughout his life held that community up to his own high ideals. It is not easy to lose sight of the tremendous influence either for good or evil exercised by the first comers to a new country. It is an old saying that “Birds of a feather flock together,” and the presence of one good man and true in a community is an incentive to others of like ideals and aspirations, and thus the pioneer of lofty character becomes the nucleus for the upbuilding of a community in which his purposes and standards of thought and action remain dominant for many years.
That was true of the late Isaac Mooney. He was born in Miami County, Ohio, May 22, 1820, and came to Kansas in 1869. Coming into Butler County, he bought from J. R. Mead, the old Indian trader, the land lying south of Main Street in the present Town of Towanda. He took as his homestead the land north of Main Street, and occupied it in 1870. In 1871 he platted and laid out the Town of Towanda, and his home was in that community until his death on October 20, 1902.
In 1848 Isaac Mooney married Eliza Rhodehamel, of Miami County, Ohio. They were the parents of nine children: Mrs. G. W. Lane, of Pomona, California; Sol R. Mooney; Volney P. Mooney; Mrs. Dr. F. T. Johnson, now deceased; Mrs. A. Swigett; Walter Mooney; Mrs. E. A. Spalding; Joseph Mooney, and Mrs. M. Orban, Jr.
While throughout his active career Isaac Mooney was a farmer, both in Ohio and Kansas, the chief impulse of his life was through his effective work as a Christian minister and Christian citizen. He became a convert to Christianity in early life, and in 1843 was ordained a preacher. He made six days in the week count for his livelihood and provision for his family, and devoted the seventh day to extending the influence of the church, never charging a cent of pay for all his ministerial labors. His first sermon in Butler County was preached in June, 1870. He continued preaching until the time of his death. During the summer seasons he preached every Sunday, and in the winter he not only held meetings on Sunday but also many nights during the week. A part of his record was the marriage of more than 1,200 couples during his ministry, and he preached almost the same number of funeral services. His last act was a double wedding about a week prior to his death. It was said of him that he either married or buried almost every one he had ever known. His patriarchal presence in the community in which he lived so long was like a perpetual benediction, and by his goodness, his gentleness, his patience and his rectitude he compelled the respect, affection and reverence of all who knew him, and especially of the little children, to whom his arms, like the Master’s, were always outstretched in sympathy and kindness. The Walnut Valley Times, through its editor, Alvah Shelden, who attended the funeral, said: “Elder E. Cameron of Sycamore Springs, associated for a quarter of a century in church with Rev. Isaac Mooney, preached the sermon yesterday. The attendance was the largest ever known at a Butler County funeral. He was the founder of churches, an establisher of Sunday-schools, and a preacher of the Gospel without money and without price. At his death he left surviving him eight children, thirty grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.” In his death a large community felt that a truly good man had passed away. He came as near to living a perfect, unselfish, unblemished, patient forebearing, tireless and effective Christian life as any man ever lived next to the great Master himself.
Volney P. Mooney, probate judge, was born in Darke County, Ohio, September 23, 1852. When he was a boy his parents removed first to Whiteside County, Illinois, then to Henry County, and afterward to Bureau County in that state, and he was sixteen years of age when they came to Kansas. The first winter was spent in Emporia, and in the spring of 1870 they removed to Towanda in Butler County. In Illinois and also in Kansas Judge Mooney had the advantages of the rural schools. The last school he attended was held in a log house at Towanda. His larger education and his larger experience in life had been the result of a constant association with the world of hard knocks and a constant ambition to improve his circumstances. While on his father’s farm he proved a diligent worker, also helped in the store and for two years hauled merchandise from Emporia to Towanda. The winters of 1873 to 1875, inclusive, he taught school in Butler County. During the year 1874-75 he was principal of the schools at Towanda. Then after another two years in a store he removed in 1878 to El Dorado, where he had had his home now more than forty years.
On coming to El Dorado Judge Mooney engaged in merchandising one year. From 1880 to 1883 he was deputy county clerk, and in 1882 was elected clerk of the District Court, an office he filled with characteristic ability from 1883 to 1889. In the meantime he had taken up the study of law, read in private offices and at home, and in 1886 was admitted to the bar. In 1889, on retiring from office, he took up active practice at El Dorado and had been identified with much of the important litigation tried in the local courts for over a quarter of a century. In 1915 he was appointed probate judge to fill an unexpired term, and on November 7, 1916, was elected for the regular term of two years.
Judge Mooney is a republican. He had served on the El Dorado School Board for a number of years, is a member of the Baptist Church and is well known in fraternal circles. He is affiliated with Patmos Lodge No. 97, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons; El Dorado Chapter No. 35, Royal Arch Masons; El Dorado Commandery No. 19, Knights Templar; and is a past master of his lodge, past high priest of the chapter and past eminent commander of the commandery. He also belongs to El Dorado Camp No. 647, Modern Woodmen of America, and El Dorado Tent, K. O. T. M. Judge Mooney is a director in the El Dorado National Bank. His home is at 209 Star Street, and in 1909 he remodeled it, making a modern residence throughout. That home is endeared to him by many rich associations of a happy and ideal married companionship.
In 1876, in Butler County, Judge Mooney married Frances E. Mooney. Judge Mooney had four children: Cora Adelaide, a graduate of Ottawa University, and now librarian of the El Dorado Public Library; Earl R., who was graduated from the Dental College of Kansas City, Missouri, with the degree D. D. S., and is now practicing at Wichita, Kansas; Walter H., a graduate of the law department of Kansas City University, now claim adjuster for the Missouri Pacific Railway Company, living at Wichita; Volney Paul, Jr., a graduate of the El Dorado High School, class of 1917, is living at home and is now in the employ of the Missouri Pacific Railway Company. He will finish his education in the University of Kansas.
Mrs. Mooney was a daughter of Osburn and Adelaide (Kikley) Mooney. Her father was born in Miami County, Ohio, October 11, 1827, but at an early age went with his parents to Allen County, Indiana. The family located near the Village of Huntertown, about ten miles from Fort Wayne. There Osburn Mooney lived until the fall of 1872, when he came with his family to Kansas, locating on a farm on the west branch of the Whitewater, 2½ miles west of Towanda. This farm is still owned by his family and was occupied by them until 1897, when Osburn Mooney retired and moved to El Dorado, where he lived until his death February 2, 1908. On August 23, 1857, he married in Allen County, Indiana, Adelaide Kikley, also of that place. They became the parents of three daughters: Frances E.; Harriet E., now Mrs. William R. Green, of Towanda; and Nevada B., Mrs. William B. Gaskins, of Portland, Oregon.
Judge Mooney as a labor of love and as his contribution to the preservation of the local history of Kansas wrote the history of Butler County, published in 1916. At the beginning of this work is a beautiful dedication penned by him in the following words:
“Dedicated to the memory of my wife, Frances E. Mooney, who fell asleep–crossing the great divide–February 21st, 1916. For forty years my companion and friend; always assisting, never hindering; living on the sunny side, refusing the clouds; whose coming brought the light of gladness; whose departure took away the motive, the incentive, the inspiration of life, leaving an existence of chaos, desolation and gloom. Her household was her joy; her home her treasure; her friends her pride; her faith in Almighty God, and the immortality of the soul, her comfort. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.”