Shaft Home History

William Common Shaft and Jane Parker were married March 26, 1837 in Michigan. They bought 160 acres of land in Michigan and farmed there for 20 years. They operated the stage line from Howell to Detroit, Michigan. They had ten children while in Michigan: William H., Carolyn, Mary, John, Clay, Martin, Jessie, David, and Daniel. One daughter died in infancy. The youngest daughter, Jessie, was born April 11, 1857, the same month that the family sold their Michigan holdings and loaded two wagons with goods. On April 23, 1857, the family left Michigan with the two wagons, the older children riding along on horses. The Shafts rented a farm in Chariton County, Missouri. A farmer agreed to pay the family with room and crop if they would break the sod for planting. Forty acres were soon planted with corn. William C. and his oldest son William H. left for the Kansas Territory in early June of 1857. They crossed the Missouri River at Fort Leavenworth. They traveled southwest to Council Grove and then on to the Cottonwood Valley in then-Wise County. The father and son pre-empted and filed claim to 160 acres each. Typical of early settlement patterns in Kansas, they built a small cabin on the claim and later enlarged it. They then returned to Missouri.

William C. arrived back in Missouri in time for fall harvest. He gathered the family and they relocated to the claim along Silver Creek by December 1857. The Shafts were one of the few settled families in the area north of present-day Clements at that time.

In early April of 1858, William C. traveled north to Council Grove to get mail and supplies. On his return trip, he drowned while trying to cross Diamond Creek at Harris Crossing. His wife Jane then planned to take the family back to Michigan, but her family persuaded her to stay. At this time, the nearest post office was twenty-five miles north in Council Grove and there were very few neighbors to rely upon. Death, droughts, grasshopper infestations, and prairie fires tested these early settlers. Despite these hardships, Jane remained on their land in Chase County for the rest of their lives.

The Shaft homestead was located along a well-traveled route. Family recollections printed in the Chase County Historical Sketches suggest the Shafts were accustomed to interacting with local Native Americans, many of whom lived in east-central Kansas and included the Osage, Kaw, and Potawatomi Indians. Additionally, their home served as the area post-office for several years. Jane operated a post office as did her son William H., who served as the official postmaster of Silver Creek from August 24, 1863 through 1867. Her son David was the postmaster in 1869 and again from 1871 through 1877. In 1881, this Silver Creek post office was absorbed by the Crawfordsville post office, which became the Clements post office in 1884.

Over the years, Jane Shaft hosted various events and celebrations at her house. One of the area’s first Sunday school classes met at the house. Jane was a charter member of the Presbyterian Church in Clements when it was organized in the 1880s. Many Chase County residents gathered at the Shaft home for a Fourth of July celebration in 1860. Featured speakers included Colonel Mouton and Sam N. Wood, an attorney from Council Grove who also ranched in Chase County. Mr. and Mrs. John Mack and Elisha Marden also participated. On New Year’s Day of 1872, the Old Settlers Organization met at the Shaft farm for a social and dance. The men went on a deer hunt. William H. Shaft helped organize the group and served as its president. To qualify as a member, one had to have come to the county prior to 1870.

Early twentieth century U.S. Census records confirm that several of the Shaft children remained in the Clements vicinity and raised their own children and grandchildren. The 1887 Official State Atlas of Kansas documents both Clay and John as farmers and stock raisers on the original homesteaded land. Jane remained on the farmstead for many years and she died May 25, 1903 at age 82.

The Shaft House was built with limestone quarried from the bluffs northwest of the house and walnut from trees in the homestead timber. The stones used on the front of the house were dressed more formally than those on the remainder of the house. As is common with mid-nineteenth century Gable-Front-and-Wing houses, the stone walls are load bearing, it features symmetrical fenestration, the stone lintels and sills are tooled, there are tooled quoins at the building’s corners, and there are wood double-hung sash windows with multiple panes. These wood windows are assembled with wood pegs. Originally, the roof featured wood shingles, with a gutter system that deposited rainwater in the underground cistern at the back of the house.

Margie’s parents bought this farm from her Dad’s parents. Margie’s Grandma Olive Wood was the granddaughter of Jane; and the only child of baby Jessie, who was just two weeks old when the family began the trek west from Michigan. In modern times the farm was known as the Howard and Peggy Wood farm, who lived there as newlyweds through 45 years of farming and raising a family. Margie remembers growing up in a very old house without heat in the upstairs bedrooms. Our children remember climbing the apple tree, playing in the tree house, throwing rocks from the bridge, having mud fights in the creek and riding the tractor with Grandpa.

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