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James Elizar Carpenter

My name is Jon Carpenter. My great-great grandfather, James Elizar Carpenter lived with Judge Powell (before he was judge) as a farm hand in 1850. In 1853 he married Rebecca Vanmeter in Jersey City, Illinois. In October of 1853 their first son, Charles, was born. In the late spring of 1854 they moved to Kansas Territory and settled in Douglas County near modern day Baldwin, Kansas.

The town that formed at that time was named Prairie City. Many important events took place in those first years of white settlement in Douglas County, Kansas Territory. The first vote in 1855 to determine if Kansas would outlaw slavery or not, the Battle of Black Jack between Captain Pate of Missouri and John Brown of Kansas was fought about five miles from the Carpenter homestead, and the Border Ruffian wars were some of the things going on around them. In fact, in Rebecca Carpenter’s 1914 obituary it mentions the fact that she nursed John Brown’s son-in-law’s wounds that Thompson received from the Battle of Black Jack. And, of course, the beginning of the Civil War and statehood for Kansas were all within the first seven years of their settlement there.

Undoubtedly Judge Powell was an influence on my great-great grandfather, perhaps even encouraging him to inhabit the Kansas Territory. It is hard to say. I do not know how long he stayed with Judge Powell or even how long he was in Jersey County, Illinois for sure.

James Elizar Carpenter was born in Herkimer County, New York January 18, 1830 along with a twin sister. He had nine brothers and sisters. His older brother William D. Carpenter also married his wife Jane Herring in Jersey County in 1851. Prior to coming to Jersey County the two brothers lived with the rest of the family in Hocking County, Ohio; having moved there in about 1843. They were sheep farmers.

James E. Carpenter was a First Sergeant in the 16th Kansas Cavalry. After the Civil War he and his regiment participated in the “Powder River Indian Expedition.” He was mustered out of service in December of 1865. His remaining years were spent farming his 160 acres in Douglas County, Kansas. He died in 1877 (only 47 years old) and his widow Rebecca claimed with a doctor as witness that his death was due in part to his Military Service, having slept on the cold, damp ground and dying of an illness that never left him since his return home in late 1865.

An interesting mystery involves James E. Carpenter’s grandfather, William Carpenter who was an earlier resident of Illinois. I cannot verify it, but he was supposed to have died in Illinois in either 1836 or 1838. His second wife, Charlotte resided as a widow in Bureau County, Illinois in 1840. I am sorry that I do not have more to add. I wish I could find out more about James Elizar Carpenter and his father William Carpenter. (William Carpenter was born in 1776 in Providence, Rhode Island and died in Illinois circa 1836/1838)

Information contributed by Jon Carpenter ([email protected]).

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