Henry Kingman was born at Deer Creek, Tazewell County, Illinois, May 7th, 1842. His father having drowned while crossing a river in high water, Henry was left fatherless at age five. Henry’s mother let a room to a man by the name of Bogardus in order to pay for Henry’s schooling. Bogardus was a Harvard graduate; very educated and somewhat wealthy. This man later became Henry’s stepfather.
At a very young age (nine) Henry realized he had itchy feet. He was always looking for an opportunity to run away from home and see the country. Anywhere but home seemed a good place to Henry. A neighbor was preparing to head off to Arkansas with his wife. Henry asked if he could join them and was told he could. So, on the morning of the departure, Henry got up to make the fire and get the coffee started. Then he slipped quietly out of the house and rode his horse to the neighbors. The first day of travel they made it 15 miles and stopped for camp. The next morning after they had eaten breakfast and loaded the wagon they started another leg of the journey. They didn’t get very far that morning when Henry saw two of his brothers riding to catch up with them. Henry hid under some things in the back of the wagon, and the neighbor made like he didn’t know anything about Henry. The brothers searched the wagon and of course found Henry. Henry was not willing to go home and likely wouldn’t have if it wasn’t his mother who had sent for him.
About three years later Henry tried again. This time he ran off to a cousin about fourteen miles away. There he worked for twenty five cents a day for about two weeks, when his step father and mother pulled into the yard. They had heard where he was and came to get him. Henry managed to stay home one night and took off for cousin Pratt’s again. There he worked till corn husking and moved around from place to place receiving employment and room and board. At a young age he was quite capable of taking care of himself. He bought his own boots, shoes, shirts and pants and they very well may have been better than he would have received at home.
After several years of working here and there, going home occasionally but mostly being away, he and his two brothers arranged to go to boarding school. This was the winter before his seventeenth birthday. The previous year gold had been discovered at Pike’s Peak; naturally all the boys in school were talking about it and dreaming of becoming rich. Some of the boys started making arrangements to head to the gold fields; Henry was excluded as they thought seventeen too young. A week before the boys were to depart they decided to let Henry come. They were in need of his wagon.
Henry prepared for the trip by taking a file to the blacksmith to have sharpened into a Bowie knife. He found a stag horn to fix to it for a handle, and then took it to the harness maker to have sheath made for it. Henry and his brother Charlie, who was also going on the trip, went home one more time to say good bye to the family. Mother charged Charlie to take care of Henry and keep him out of trouble, and then cried as she told Henry to ‘do be a good boy”.
Six young men dressed in jeans, hats, rubber boots (except Henry who wore rubber leggins because he couldn’t afford boots) started out over the prairie for Pike’s Peak. They were prepared for Indian attack as there were reports of hostile Indian activity. As they got closer to Pike’s Peak they were more discouraged by the reports of travelers coming back. Wagons with ‘Bound for the Gold Fields’ or ‘Pike’s Peak or Bust’ painted on the canvas were returning with –‘ed’ added or ‘Busted by G-d’. After a bad report by a group of men returning from the Peak, the boys changed their plans and decided to head for California and try their luck there.
Henry had more than a few run ins with the Indians. It amazes me that he didn’t get himself scalped or killed some of them himself. On the way to California the men were eating pancakes and sitting round the fire when four Indians rode up. The captain of the party spoke some Indian and asked them to sit and he would fix them some flapjacks. One Indian had finished his own and then politely reached over and snatched Henry’s pancake and meat and wiped the plate clean with it and would have finished it off if Henry hadn’t slapped him square in the face. Now that was insulting in any culture and more so with the Indians. Fortunately they were able to calm everyone down, but Henry was advised to keep on the alert as they would likely try to get him.
It was on this trip that Henry saw his first Indian burial. The travelers saw something up in the branches of a tree and at first glance thought it was some big animal. When they got closer they found it was an Indian that had been sewn up in a hide and left up in the tree. Henry climbed up and with his knife cut the hide open to see what was inside. All that was left was the skeleton of some old Indian. Henry grabbed a handful of the beads that were in the hide as a souvenir. They met with more of these along the way but left them untouched as their curiosity was satisfied with the first.
When last we left Henry Kingman and company they were camped at Devil’s Gate. It was there they decided to part ways. Henry, brother Charlie and McClellan headed for California and Emer Ramsey, Free Kingman and Al Clark to Denver. It was but two days later when Henry’s party went into camp that they met the later party catching up with them. They changed their minds and decided to go to California.
It was near the Steamboat and Soda Springs that Henry was encamped with Campbell’s train. The morning of departure Campbell’s train took Sublette’s cut off and Henry’s party took the Fort Hall road. The Fort Hall road was nearly one hundred miles longer but afforded good grazing for the stock. Henry was very fortunate he took this road because the Campbell train was massacred by Indians. Only one woman in the train lived to tell of it, and Henry got to hear her story at Green river where she was taken by her rescuers. She said that the murdering was not done by Indians only. Two white men had abused her and left her for dead.
Some time later the party arrived in Honey Lake Valley where they split up once again, this time the Kingman brothers remaining for the winter. The brothers decided to open a saloon out of boredom, and finally convinced the hotel owner to let them board up a side porch to use. The bar was made of rough boards; card tables of over turned boxes. They bought whiskey and gin by the barrel and peach brandy which came in wide mouth jars with three, sometimes four or five peaches in them. They ran the saloon for about three months when brother Charlie headed to Virginia City to get rich in the quartz mines. After two weeks he returned with claims staked and the two brothers bought provisions to open a restaurant. Snow interrupted their trip over the mountain and so it was postponed for a time.
In the valley there were about a dozen women. Dances were held often in the small towns of Richmond and Susanville. A company of Cavalry was stationed at Susanville to keep an eye out for the Piute Indians. The soldiers had been drinking and came into the dance hall with their revolvers on and insisted they would run the dance. They danced with all the women and about midnight when the whiskey had taken full effect, a free for all fight broke out. Fifteen or twenty shots were fired in the small hall but apparently the soldiers were too drunk to hit anything. So, Henry and the other fellows lit into the soldiers and knocked them down and took their revolvers and threw them down the stairs. That was the end of the cavalry attending the dances.
During the time that Henry was in the Nevada and California area the political boundaries were a bit blurry as state lines had not been drawn yet. Nobody had heard of stuffing the ballot box as of yet, however in Susanville the ballot box for Nevada was on one side of the street and for California on the opposite side. The men voted at both locations since they didn’t know exactly where they were at. Henry was proud to have cast his vote for Abraham Lincoln.
Not only did the absence of state lines create difficulties with the voting, it also caused miniature wars between officials. Both sets of officials tried to hold court and getting into a fight the California officers tried to arrest the Nevada officers and the later resisted. The Nevada officers turned a log cabin into a fort and fired on all officers who came near. They killed two men, one being a judge in Plumas County California. The Plumas county officers sent for a mountain howitzer with which they planned to blow the cabin into toothpicks. At this point the locals got involved and carrying flags of truce went in to act as arbitrators. They sent over the mountains to Virginia City to both Governors to get their decision in the matter. Response came back that neither party had any authority to do anything until state lines were drawn, which was done later that year.
Charlie and Henry eventually made it to the Sierra Nevada Mountains to do some surface mining. They built a cabin and a dozen sluice boxes to trap the gold. They also put quicksilver in the riffles of the sluice boxes to attract the gold. The quicksilver could be burned off saving the gold. The Kingman brothers worked for about four months making from $1 to $2.50 per day.
After many other adventures of avoiding Indians, traveling the desert, romance, fortune and disappointment, Henry turned for home. Passing through the Salt Lake he stopped to see the sights. He went to the Brigham Young Theatre where he watched a string of women come in and was told they were Brigham’s wives. He also went to see the temple that was being constructed and to Brigham’s headquarters. No one was around and so Henry strolled right in where after he had made it some distance was told by someone to leave as it was private property.
After five years away from home Henry returned looking something like Wild Bill Hickok. Leather jacket and pants with fringes, long hair and beard. His first stop was the barbershop.
Although Henry’s taste of adventure in traveling had been mostly satisfied, he now had a sense of adventure in business. After sundry business ventures Henry Kingman made his way to Council Grove Kansas in May of 1884. He purchased one thousand acres where present day Delevan is, returned to get his family and bring them back. They lived in Council Grove two years and then Henry built a store house on the land he had purchased twenty miles west of the Grove. It was two stories, the upper serving as the family’s residence.
In 1885, Henry with the help of two other men platted out Grandview Township. What would later be known as Delavan was known as Rex by the Missouri Pacific. Those who lived there called it Kingsville. Henry submitted the name of Delavan to both the government and the railroad and it was accepted. The town was named after Delavan Illinois where Kingman had fond memories of his implement business with his brother. The little hamlet of Grandview, which was a little farther east of Delavan, strongly opposed the station being placed at Delavan.
Henry Kingman was the father of Delavan. He built, invested and cared for his community. One thing we learn which I have no more space to include details, is that Henry was the health officer at Delavan and during the 1903 small pox plague he was the one who tended to the sick in Delavan. He buried the dead with his own hands because no one else would do it. He tended to the sick because all others were afraid to. His life story shows that he was a man loved by all who knew him. At his 75th birthday party 400 friends came to see him from all parts of Morris and Dickinson Counties.
At the ripe old age of 85 Henry passed away the 20th of April 1927. He rests in the Delavan Cemetery. And now you know who Henry is.
Addenda: The Grand View post office, established June 28th 1876, was moved to Delevan July 20th 1886. Henry Kingman was the first appointee of Delevan post office. The post office closed August 15th 1992.