Homer Huffaker

Homer Huffaker was related to the Hackney family in this way. His parents, married May 6 1852 at Council Grove, were Thomas Sears Huffaker and Eliza Ann Baker. Eliza Ann, born in 1836, was daughter of Joshua Wells Baker and Agnes Miller Inghram. Joshua Baker was a blacksmith for the Sac and Fox in Iowa. He died in 1849, the same year that his son W. W. Baker married Isabel Frances “Fanny” Hackney, sister of my family’s ancestor William S. Hackney, they also being of Van Buren, Iowa. So, Homer’s mother was a sister-in-law of Isabel Hackney Baker, who was sister of William S. Hackney. These may sound like removed relationships, but they are families who lived in proximity of each other and had a shared history of being early Van Buren settlers.

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Homer Huffaker

One of the pioneer white men in the Osage country, identified with the thriving Town of Fairfax since its beginning, now the head of one of the largest mercantile concerns there, and also one of the present county commissioners of Osage County, Homer Huffaker is one of the men who have made their influence count for improvement and development in this section of the state.

He belongs to one of the oldest and most prominent pioneer families of the State of Kansas. Homer Huffaker was born at Council Grove, Kansas, March 1, 1875, a son of the late Thomas S. and Eliza A. (Baker) Huffaker. In addition to the many honorable distinctions associated with his father’s name in Kansas, Judge Huffaker’s activities also extend into what is now Oklahoma. About 1870 he established a trading store at Pond Creek, Oklahoma, and conducted it a number of years. It was an important supply point for the Indians of that vicinity, and also for both the white men and the Indians during the high tide of the industry of buffalo hunting on the plains.

When Judge Thomas Sears Huffaker died at his old home in Council Grove, July 10, 1910, that event closed the career of one of the most remarkable of early Kansans. He was born in Clay County, Missouri, March 30, 1825, of a pioneer family in Northwest Missouri, and moving to Kansas in 1849, five years before the organization of the territory, his subsequent career was such that he was called “the grand old man of Kansas” first in Indian affairs and then in politics and public matters. He went to Kansas as a missionary teacher at the Manual Training School in Johnson County, but about two years later, in 1850, moved to Council Grove, where he was given charge of the Kaw Indians, who had recently been transferred to their reservation in the Neosho Valley. At Council Grove he founded a mission school, and the building is still one of the picturesque landmarks on the banks of the Neosho. It was built under the supervision of Mr. Huffaker in 1850, and was largo enough to furnish quarters not only for school but also for the residence of the teacher and his family. The school was opened in 1851, but the enterprise was not successful, since few of the Indians would allow their children to attend, and after a few years the school was abandoned. However, Judge Huffaker remained and soon became a man of importance in the community. He was one of the three incorporators of the City of Council Grove in 1858, was appointed the first postmaster, and soon afterward Territorial Governor Reeder appointed him president of the county commissioners. He was next elected probate judge of Wise County, his jurisdiction extending over portions of several adjacent counties of the present time. He later served two terms in the Kansas Legislature. Judge Huffaker was a Missouri slaveholder, and took his slaves with him to Kansas, but after the Kansas troubles had eventuated in the Civil war he took the side of the Union, and during the last forty years of his life was a stanch republican. He had come into Kansas as a missionary under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and the old Kaw Mission School was founded jointly ‘by that church and the United States Government. He was also a member of the Masonic Order. At the time of his death Judge Morehouse of Topeka described his personality in these words: “He was stately of bearing—like a judge. The Indians regarded him as ‘ father,’ accepting his decrees without murmur. Called to settle the many difficulties of the early days, he always was careful to learn both sides, and so advised as to make no enemies. He was rewarded by the love of all.”

The widow of Judge Huffaker and the mother of the Fairfax merchant is still living at her old home in Council Grove. She was born at Salem, Illinois, in 1836, and is one of the splendid pioneer women of Kansas. A year or so before the death of Judge Huffaker her career was chosen as the subject for a beautiful article by a Kansas writer, who wove her story into a collection of articles describing notable Kansas women. A few sentences are taken from that interesting sketch before introducing the career of the Fairfax business man, who has so many reasons to honor the memory and character of his noble mother: “On May 6, 1852, there was a wedding in the stone schoolhouse at Council Grove. The bride was a girl of sixteen. By her picture of the day she must have been a pretty girl, for her face is handsome at seventy. Her maiden name was Eliza A. Baker, and one of her brothers, Jesse Baker, was one of the victims of the border ruffian days in Morris County, Kansas. She was born in Illinois in 1836. She had lived in Iowa, where her father was blacksmith for the Sac and Fox Indians, and now at the age when our girls are beginning to talk of sophomore class parties, she became the wife of a frontiersman in the trackless Indian country. A missionary on his way to Mexico, a Rev. Mr. Nicholson, performed the ceremony. The duties of a home keeper, always strenuous on the frontier, were multiplied for Mrs. Huffaker. In the old stone house her children were born, and there a school for white children was soon opened. Council Grove, at first a mere trading point on the Santa Fe trail, had grown to be the trading point, then a village and later a city and county seat in the center of a rich productive valley. The old stone house began to serve other purposes. Travelers, explorers, missionaries and state officials slept under its roof when they came hither. The Civil war came and passed and then came fifteen years of fear of the plains Indians. The old schoolhouse became by turns council house, school building, church and fort. It was a refuge for the defenseless, where women and children fled to the stronghold for protection. Lost in the duties of wife and mother, housekeeper and teacher, friend and neighbor, Mrs. Huffaker’s years ran by. In all the stirring days of border strife and Civil war and the Indian peril, she bore her part. In the old stone house where she became a bride one May day, she lived through the scenes of territorial and state making. Children grew up in that home and went out to make homes for themselves. There are no great deeds to be set in bold faced type against Mrs. Iluffaker’s name. Her’s was the silent story that is written in good deeds and measureless influence, and yet her name was one of the very first to suggest itself to me when I conceived the idea of gathering together the names of the women of the State whose stories appealed to ine.”

At the death of Judge Huffaker six children survived him: Mrs. J. H. Simcock of St. Louis; Mrs. Louis Wismeyer of Fairfax, Oklahoma; Mrs. Fred B. Carpenter of Topeka; Homer Huffaker; and George and Carl Huffaker.

In Council Grove Homer Huffaker spent his youthful days until 1892, then a boy of seventeen, he came to the Osage Reservation with his brother-in-law, L. A. Wismeyer. He had attended the local schools and had grown up in a home which inspired in him the best qualities of manhood. He became an assistant at Gray Horse in the Osago Nation to L. A. Wismeyer in the trading store, and remained in that locality until 1903, when he joined in the business exodus from Gray Horse to the new railroad town founded by Mr. Wismeyer and named Fairfax. For two years Mr. Huffaker was assistant cashier in the Osage Bank of Fairfax. When the Wismeyer Mercantile Company was formed and incorporated he became its secretary and treasurer, and was identified with the concern in that capacity for ten years. In 1913 he organized the Big Hill Trading Company of Fairfax, and is now its president. This firm carries a large stock of general merchandise, and has extensive trade relations both with the white and Indian population around Fairfax. In many ways Mr. Huffaker has been identified with the business and civic upbuilding of Fairfax since it was founded. In 1907 he added to the improvement of the town by the erection of the fine home in winch he and his family now reside. He has also acquired farming and stock raising interests in that locality.

In politics he has been a republican voter for twenty years. In 1912 he was elected county commissioner of Osage county, served as chairman of the board during his first term, and was re-elected in 1914. He was also chairman of the first delegation which chose a representative for Congress from the Osage country, and assisted in nominating former Congressman Bird S. McGuire. Mr. Huffaker is a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason, belongs to the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, and is also a member of the Elks Lodge of Pawhuska.

In 1900 he married Miss Erma Robins Bates. She was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, September 29, 1879, was partly reared in Cairo, Illinois, and at the age of six years went with her parents to Council Grove, Kansas. Later her parents removed to Kansas City, Missouri, where she lived until her marriage. Her parents are W. T. and Mary (Hall} Bates, who are still residents of Kansas City. Her father is a railroad man. Mr. and Mrs. Huffaker are the parents of three sons: Thomas Bates, born June 23, 1906: Homer Hall, born October 22, 1908; and Darwin S., born August 10, 1912. Mr. Huffaker is a master of the Osage language, and readily acquired fluency in that tongue within a short time after coming to the Osage country.

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