ELI F BOUTON
A detailed history of no resident of Nemaha county would probably give a more accurate record of the condition of affairs in this locality in pioneer days than that of Mr. Bouton, who is numbered among the early settlers. For many years he experienced difficulties and hardships in his attempt to establish a home in this section of the country, but determination, perseverance and unflagging industry enabled him to overcome these and today he is accounted one of the prosperous agriculturists of Berwick township. He was born in Virgil, Cortland county, New York, April 8, 1833. The ancestry of the family can be traced back to John Bouton, who landed in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1635, when twenty years of age, and became the progenitor of the family in America. Nathanael Bouton, the grandfather of our subject, was born at Power's Ridge, in 1778, and was wedded, on the 22d of May, 1801, to Rachel Stevens. After her death he married her sister, Lydia Stevens, and removed to Virgil, Cortland county, New York. By his first marriage he had four children: James, Nathan, Louis and William, the last two being twins. The children of the second marriage were Rachel, David, Millie, Joseph and Nathanael.
Nathan Bouton, the father of our subject, was born in Virgil, New York, July 27, 1802, and was a farmer and school teacher. A recognized leader in the community in which he made his home, he served as town supervisor and was also a member of the legislature in Albany, New York, in 1857. The cause of temperance found in him an ardent advocate and he believed most firmly in the instruction of young people in the bible. During twenty-five years he served as superintendent of .the Sunday school, and he was only twice absent in that quarter of a century. He possessed considerable literary ability and wrote the first article in favor of the construction of the New York & Erie Railroad, of which his father was the projector. For thirty-five years he served as a surveyor and in that manner became widely known throughout the county. He married Miss Mary Gee, a native of New York, her parents being early settlers of Virgil, that state. Her father was of English descent and her mother of German lineage. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Bouton were born eight children: Louisa, born January 20, 1825, and died in Virgil March 11, 1846; James, born October 1, 1826; Samantha, born in Virgil November 28, 1828; Andrew, born April 10, 1831; Eli F., born April 8, 1833; William, born February 22, 1836; Lewis, born May 26, 1838; and Charles, born December 19, 1841. The mother died in Virgil March 7, 1842, and the father afterward married Emma Robinson, by whom he had two children. The elder, Emma M., born in Virgil August 24, 1843, is now the wife of Charles J. Drew, mayor of Topeka, Kansas. Edward B., the younger, was born in Virgil June 12, 1846, and was married, in 1888, to Julia Lacy. They now reside in Witchita (sic), Kansas. For his third wife Nathan Bouton married Emma Hubbard, about 1847.
Eli F. Bouton, of this review, was the fifth child and third son of his in his father's first marriage and was reared in his native county, attending the common schools through the winter months and working on the farm in the summer. He spent one term in the Courtlandville Academy and one term at Homer Academy, and when twenty years of age his father gave him his time, after which he began working as a farm hand for thirteen dollars per month. In the winter he taught school for fifteen dollars per month and in the year prior to his twenty-first birthday he saved a hundred dollars. His father then wrote for him to come home and he worked on the old homestead for twelve dollars per month, teaching school through the winter for sixteen dollars per month, the session continuing through a half-day on Saturday. Going to Steuben county, New York, he attended the Troupsburg Academy, and later taught for four months in Prattsburg, New York, receiving twenty dollars per month for his services. He also taught three other schools in that locality and further perfected his own education by study in the Prattsburg Academy. On the 7th of March, 1860, Mr. Bouton married Miss Fanny Waldo, and on the 8th of April, of that year, arrived in Nemaha county, Kansas. It was not until the following year that the state was admitted to the Union. He first rented a partially improved farm in what was then Rock Creek township, but is now Berwick township. .He operated this place on shares and, as it was the year of the big drouth, obtained only a small crop. Corn brought seventy-five cents a bushel and by close economy he was enabled to meet his expenses. In 1860 he purchased eighty acres of raw prairie land on section 30, Berwick township, but he built his first home in Albany in the spring of 1861. His father sent him twenty-five dollars which he invested in the lumber. Not having a team, he entered into partnership with Edgar Cone, who owned a team and was a carpenter. He hauled the lumber from White Cloud, a distance of thirty-five miles, and built a two-room house, 16x20, and for his pay owned and occupied one-half of the house. It was the third house in the village. There he lived until August, 1861. The little house was set up on blocks and was made of boards sixteen feet long, cut in two twice. The roof was also of boards. There were two doors and two windows and a partition divided the house into two apartments. The money sent to Mr. Bouton by his father covered the entire money cost of the house. He added to his income by digging a well, working for seventy-five cents per day and boarded himself. He also worked at Albany in the spring of 186o for seventy-five cents per day, digging a cellar, and willingly accepted any other employment that would yield him an honorable living. After a time he removed from Albany to a farm three miles southwest of Sabetha, remaining there only a short time. The house he built not being fit to winter in, he sold it in the fall of 1861 and Went to live with P. W. Seaman, and for his services received a bushel of wheat per day. In this way he earned about thirty bushels and thereby his larder was somewhat improved. He also had two cows and two calves and the milk supply of the family was a valued addition. He chopped wood in the forests for Mr. Seaman, having to go ten miles to his work, and in the midst of the forest cut saw-logs, which he hauled to the mill, four miles distant. In the spring of 1862 he began working on the farm on shares, his services to be rewarded with one-fourth of the crops.
Feeling that his duty was to his country, however, on the 3d of September, 1862, Mr. Bouton enlisted in Company G, Thirteenth Kansas Volunteer Infantry, as a private. His wife and family remained on the farm until spring. Later they returned to her home in Prattsburg, New York. Mr. Bouton was with the army on the frontier under General Blunt. The company was formed by several enlistments under command of W.. S. Blackburn, of Marshall county, Daniel Auld, of the same county, and Mr. Hensell, of Nemaha county. Mr. Bouton enlisted under the last named and he and his comrades reported at Atchison, where the regiment was organized. These three different detachments of men were then consolidated to form Company G, Mr. Blackburn being made captain, Mr. Hensell, first lieutenant, and Mr. Auld, second lieutenant. Our subject was made commissary sergeant and after remaining at Atchison until the 20th of September, was mustered in with his company and went to the front. By steamer they proceeded to Leavenworth, where they were furnished mules, wagons and other necessary supplies, with which they proceeded to Fort Scott, Kansas. Mr. Bouton remained with his regiment until July, 1864, when he was detached to serve as lieutenant of Company E, First Kansas Colored Regiment, with which command he continued until the close of the war, on the 3d of October, 1865. He was then mustered out and received an honorable discharge at Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He made his way homeward by boat, stopping at Memphis and St. Louis, and he was twenty-six days on the river. Six men died during the trip up the Mississippi and four were buried in the sands along the way.
Mr. Bouton went to New York for his family and with them again returned to Kansas. He located on eighty acres of land on section 35, Berwick township, and for a time engaged in the cultivation of his farm, but sold that property after building a house, at a cost of five hundred dollars. While on that farm, in 1867, he was called upon to mourn the loss of his wife. By their union were born three children: Rosa, the elder, is a native of Nemaha county and a graduate of the State Normal School of Nebraska. She has taught in the schools of Sabetha, Kansas, and, having made a specialty of the study of chemistry in the State University of Nebraska, she is now one of the professors in that institution. Henry W. was born in Nemaha county June 11, 1863, and is a graduate of the State Normal School of Nebraska and for a time engaged in teaching. He is now engaged in fruit raising at Webster, Texas. Lewis, the youngest child, died in infancy. Mr. Bouton was again married, March 18, 1868, his second union being with Mrs. Nancy J. (Slawsen) Graham, widow of John L. Graham, who was killed in the war in 1863.
By the second marriage there is one daughter, Mary L., who is still with her parents.
Mr. Bouton now devotes his time and energies to his business affairs and is the owner of one hundred and fifty-four acres of rich and arable land. He carries on general farming and his well-tilled fields indicate to the passers by his careful supervision. He is a stanch advocate of temperance principles, has always favored the prohibition of the liquor traffic and voted for the first prohibition amendment in New York in 1854. He cast his first vote in New York and has for many years been allied with the Republican party, exercising his right of franchise in support of the men and measures of that party. In 1869 and 1870 he was county commissioner of Nemaha county, has also been clerk of the school district and for four years was justice of the peace. In all of these offices he has discharged his duty with promptness and fidelity, winning high commendation. He is a member of Sabetha Post, No. 175, G. A. R., and has filled many of the offices. Holding membership in the Congregational church at Sabetha, he has labored earnestly for its success for many years. He has 'been deacon for twenty years and is also its treasurer. He contributed liberally to the building fund for the house of worship and at all times has done whatever he could for the welfare and advancement of the church. As a citizen he is public-spirited and withholds his advocacy from no measure which is calculated to secure advancement along educational, social, material and moral lines. In his business career he has met with obstacles and difficulties which would undoubtedly have discouraged many a man of less resolute spirit, but with determined purpose he has steadily pushed forward and to-day is one of the wealthy and influential citizens of his community.