From the upcoming book about Northeastern Kansas
Connection to the Past
Submitted by Terry Love of Shawnee, KS
My wife, Carol, and I worked for almost 40 years and it was time for us to retire. We chose Johnson County, Kansas because that is where I was born and raised. We wanted a new house so we could have the amenities that we had always wanted. So we went to the Parade of Homes. Luckily, we found a great developer who could build a new home just the way that we wanted it.
The location had to be in developing suburbs to the west where there was open land for lots. Then we found the perfect lot and built our dream home. It is in western Shawnee on the sight of the old Garrett farm. Samuel Garrett pioneered the area and had about 1000 acres of land. He built his farmhouse where Garrett Park is now located. Our new home is just a few hundred feet from where the old Samuel Garrett farmhouse is.
Years ago, I wrote the Love family history record. My great-grandfather was Peter G. Cowardin. He was born to a very large Irish family on 17 November 1824 in Wayne County, Illinois. He married Ruth Jewell on 12 April 1850. She was part Indian. The first three years of marriage produced three children.
Since there was not enough land available to Peter to farm on in the Illinois area, he moved to near Monkstown in Fanning County, Texas on the Red River and found a ranch to settle on.
In 1861, the Civil War started and Texas was on the southern side. Local Fanning County residents knew that Peter was from Illinois so they ran him and his family out of there across the Red River into Indian Territory, which is present-day Oklahoma. Peter proceeded north until he came in Monticello, Kansas in Johnson County. Even with all of the bushwhacking going on, he felt that the family would be safe there in town.
Peter felt that he had to do his part in the Civil War, so he enlisted in Company H, Sixth Regiment Kansas Cavalry. He was in a few battles. His last one was the battle at Massard Prairie at Fort Smith, Arkansas in July of 1864. The Fort Smith Municipal Airport is now located where the battlefield was. This is one of the few battles after 1863 that the South won. Peter was taken prisoner and forced to march to a POW camp called Camp Ford in Tyler, Texas – just a few miles from where his Texas ranch had been located. Peter suffered greatly in the POW camp, as did all of the Northern soldiers. There were no shelter, hospitals or doctors there, and very little food. The prisoners were unable to correspond with anyone.
After the war was over in April of 1865, Peter spent a couple of months in a hospital recovering from the effect of the POW camp. He was mustered out of the Union Army on 26 June 1865. All Union soldiers that were killed in the war received nothing. However, all Union soldiers that survived were authorized a $300 bounty. That was a lot of money in those days.
After Peter recovered, he eagerly traveled back to Monticello in Johnson County, Kansas to see his wife, Ruth and his two surviving daughters. But, Peter found his wife, Ruth and two daughters, living with a Jasper Johnson in Monticello, and she had a baby by Jasper.
Peter was extremely irate but he tried to work it out. So he borrowed a wagon and one day’s ride north of Monticello (about 20 miles) was Fort Leavenworth. So Peter and Ruth went to the Fort and picked up his $300 bounty for suffering and service during the war. Then went over to the General Merchandise store and bought $300 worth of goods. Peter forgot something and went back inside of the store to get it. When he returned, he found Ruth, the wagon and all of the merchandise gone! He never saw her again nor Jasper Johnson nor their child.
Peter returned to Monticello where he immediately filed for divorce from Ruth. Divorce was very rare in those days. It was very involved. The notice had to be printed in all area newspapers and the sheriff had to serve papers on the divorcee Ruth. She was never found nor was Jasper Johnson. Of course, you had to have a lawyer, even in those days. Peter was granted one of the first divorces in Johnson County. During the war, there was no postal mail service. A postman delivering mail would have been bushwhacked. All of the Monticello area farmers came into town to get their mail at the Reed Hotel where the Post Office was located.
So, when Peter returned to Monticello, he became the first rural route delivery postman in Monticello. Part of his route was delivering mail to Samuel Garrett.
Sooooo, my great-grandfather rode his horse, delivering the US Mail to Samuel Garrett, right by new home, every day, 150 years ago. I often look out the window of my home and image my great grandfather riding by on his horse on his delivery route. I even occasionally wave in that direction to my great-grandfather! He died in 1911, decades before I was born. Quite a small world that we live in!!!