The history of pioneer life has long survived in interest the tales of battle and of life on the tented field. Without the roar of cannon and musketry or the inspiring notes of fife and drum, hosts no less brave and determined have gone forth to the wilderness to reclaim it for the purposes of civilization and have fought the battle of clearing and cultivating the wild land, cutting roads through the trackless forests and making each yield such elements as can be utilized for man. This is an arduous labor and one to which is due recognition and commendation, and therefore in preparing a history of northeastern Kansas it is with pleasure that we introduce the life records of such worthy pioneers as John Kirby, whose identification with the state antedates its admission to the Union. He now resides in Wayne township, Doniphan county, and is one of the progressive citizens and prosperous farmers of the community.
A native of England, Mr. Kirby was born in Yorkshire April 30, 1840, and is a son of John and Margaret (Nickolson) Kirby. His father was a brick and tilemaker by trade and died on the ocean in 1855, in crossing the Atlantic to America. He was then fifty-eight years of age. The mother of John Kirby continued her journey and became a resident of Center township, Doniphan county, where she died at the age of sixty-three years. Both were members of the Methodist church and lived consistent Christian lives. In their family were seven children, namely: Jonah, deceased; William, a resident of Wayne township, Doniphan county; Bessie, who is in England; Thomas, of St. Joseph, Missouri; John; James, deceased; and Mrs. Hannah Smith, who resides in Colorado.
John Kirby was a youth of fifteen years when he crossed the briny deep and with the family became a resident of Kansas. In his youth he learned the trade of brick and tile making and followed that pursuit for some time, but after the inauguration of the civil war, when President Lincoln issued his call for three hundred thousand men, he felt that his duty was at the front, and on the 20th of September, 1862, enlisted as a member of Company B, Thirteenth Kansas Infantry, under Colonel Thomas M. Bowen and Captain Hovercross. He served until June, 1865, when he was honorably discharged at Leavenworth, Kansas, having in the meantime participated in a number of engagements, including those at Cane Hill, Elm Spring and Prairie Grove. His regiment was a member of the Seventh Division under General Blunt and for much of the time was stationed in Missouri and Arkansas.
After the war Mr. Kirby returned to his home in Center township, Doniphan county. In the meantime he had married, in June, 1864, in Van Buren, Arkansas, Miss Elizabeth Jane Morris becoming his wife. She was born in Tennessee, a daughter of Zanus and Mary Ann (Roney) Morris, who had five children, namely: Margaret, Nancy, Charles Henry, Elizabeth Jane and Emeline. Mrs. Kirby also has a half brother, John, who resides in Tennessee. Our subject and his wife have six living children: William J., who aids in the operation of the home farm; Leslie a resident of Atchison; L. L., at home; Mary Belle; Hurbert E. and Anna E. They also had five children who died in infancy.
Mr. Kirby gives his political support to the Republican party and socially he is connected with Kennedy Post, G. A. R., of Troy, while his wife belongs to the Methodist church in Doniphan. In manner he is frank and genial and his social qualities have gained to him the warm regard of many friends. He is to-day as true to his duties of citizenship as when he followed the stars and stripes on the battle fields of the south.