Thanks so much to Charla Gatz Johnston of McPherson, Kansas for sharing this story of her ancestor
From: A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed October 1997.
The Honorable John T. Denton
While John T. Denton has been a staid and substantial banker, business man and public spirited citizen of Grenola and Elk County for over thirty years, he has covered a great deal of territory in the course of his earlier experiences, and he came through difficulties and hardships on the road to success. He was left an orphan boy in Kentucky, was reared in the home of relatives, started out to make his own way in the world when sixteen, and has always considered it fortunate that he came to Kansas in the early days of the state, and has found his real destiny in her commonwealth.
Mr. Denton was born at Wyoming, Bath County, Kentucky, March 9, 1850. His ancestors were English people who settled in Virginia in Colonial days. His great-grandfather was born in Virginia, and as a young man crossed the mountains into Kentucky. Mr. Denton's grandfather was William Denton, who spent many years of his life in Kentucky as a farmer, but died at Huntsville, Indiana, in 1850.
Abraham Denton, the father of the Grenola banker, was born in Bath County, Kentucky, and died at Wyoming in that locality in 1855. He spent all his life in Bath County, was a farmer, stockman, merchant and a hotel proprietor. In politics he was a whig, a follower of the great Henry Clay, and was a member of the Christian Church. His wife, Elizabeth Barber, spent her life in Kentucky, dying at Wyoming in 1852. Thus John T. Denton was two years of age when his mother died and five years old when he lost his father. He was the youngest of six children. William, the oldest, a soldier in the Civil war, became a farmer, and died in Lewis County, Kentucky, in 1872. Jane, who now lives at Owensville, Kentucky, is the widow of John Jackson, who was a farmer. James, who died in May; 1915, in Marshall County, Kansas; was a pioneer farmer and stockman in that county, and was a local leader in the republican party, serving as township trustee. Magdaline, who died in Bath County, Kentucky, during the '80s, was the wife of George Jackson, a farmer also deceased. Eliza, who died in Fleming County, Kentucky, in the '80s, married Robert P. Finley, a farmer now deceased.
After the death of his parents John T. Denton was reared by Reuben and Jane Denton in Kentucky. Reuben Denton, who was a double cousin to Abraham Denton, died in 1862, and his wife in 1875. As a boy in their home at Wyoming, Kentucky, John T. Denton attended the public schools, but in 1866 he removed to Hancock County, Illinois, and for a time attended the high school at Hamilton in that county. At the age of sixteen he began working for himself on farms and in other occupations, and in 1870 went west to San Francisco, California. He was employed in a hotel, spent six months in the gold mines of Nevada, and for four years was foreman on a cattle ranch near Portland, Oregon.
In 1875 Mr. Denton returned to Kentucky to visit Jane Denton on her deathbed, the woman who had made a home for him during his childhood and for whom he felt the affection of a son to a mother. In 1876, in Kentucky, Mr. Denton married Miss Leah Elizabeth Havens, daughter of Alfred and Maria (Lloyd) Havens, both of whom are now deceased. Her father was a farmer.
For several years after his marriage Mr. Denton and wife had to struggle for a living. Following his marriage he returned to Hancock County, Illinois, spent one year as a farmer there, and when he came to Kansas in 1877 his principal capital consisted of a horse. This horse he traded for a claim and water hole in Cowley County This claim was situated sixteen miles west of Grenola. He worked his claim and went through all the hardships of early farming until 1884, and in that time had brought his quarter section to a reasonable degree of improvement and cultivation. In the meantime he had acquired other lands and had developed a large ranch.
Mr. Denton has been a banker at Grenola since 1884. In that year he brought about the organization of the Grenola State Bank, and has been its active head for many years. The officers of this institution are: J. E. Denton, president; D. E. Ware, of Grenola, vice president; Alfred A. Denton, cashier; Wellington B. Denton, assistant cashier. The bank has a capital stock of $20,000, surplus and undivided profits of $5,100, and it is a bank which has rendered a splendid service to the community and it has weathered all the financial storms since it was founded. In 1910 the bank erected its modern home on Main Street.
Prosperity seems to attend the efforts of John T. Denton in whatever direction they turn. He has always been one of the prominent farmers and stockmen of this part of Kansas, and he owns farms aggregating 1,500 acres in Elk County. His fine home is situated two blocks north of the bank in Grenola.
Mr. Denton has long been prominent in republican politics in his part of the state. In 1896 he was chairman of the County Central Committee of Elk County, and has served on various other party committees for a number of years. In 1907 he was elected a member of the State Senate, and by re-election continued in that office for eight years, his present term expiring January 1, 1917. In the Senate he has served on the Banks and Banking Committee, the Congressional, Judicial and Legislative Apportionment Committee, the Mines and Mining Committee, the Oil and Gas Committee and the committee on Claims and Accounts. Whenever the Legislature has been in session John T. Denton has been accounted one of the strong and influential men of the Senate.
He rendered an important service to the state at large when in 1915 he was asked to represent the Kansas commissioners on the ground at the Panama Exposition at San Francisco and San Diego. Senator Denton had introduced and had been influential in securing the appropriation by the Kansas Legislature for these expositions, and he remained in California from June 1st until December 4, 1915, looking after the financial and social interests of the state and lending all his expert skill as a business man to the adjustment of the matters entrusted to his care.
Senator Denton is a member of the Kansas State and American Banking associations. His fraternal relations are with Canopy Lodge, No. 248, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, at Grenola, with Wichita Consistory, No. 2, of the thirty-second degree Scottish Rite, with Midian Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Wichita; with Grenola Lodge No. 86, Ancient Order United Workmen; the Degree of Honor, and the Anti-Horse Thief Association.
Mr. Denton has two sons, both of whom are now associated with him in banking and are able young financiers. Alfred A. is cashier, while Wellington B. is assistant cashier of the Grenola State Bank.
Mr. Denton and his sons are also heavily engaged in the stock business. Mr. Denton has been identified with this vocation for many years and has become recognized as one of the largest stock dealers in Southern Kansas. During the past year he handled 2,000 cattle.