John W. Bartleson Biography: Preface
John Wool Bartleson (J.W.) was born August 15, 1846 in Pulaski County, Illinois, and died in Beloit, Kansas, April 18, 1944. Starting sometime in the late 1920’s, J. W. began transcribing his life story to Rachel Bates. This catalog of his life, spanning nearly 84 years at its completion in May, 1930, provides a unique vision of the life and times of a generation who come to age in the Civil War, later settling and building the rural communities of Kansas. These memoirs—typed by Ms. Bates later annotated and corrected in pencil by J.W.— are a historical trove of information. Alone they provide great historical record. But J.W. started a process—continued in fits and starts—by his children, grand children and now great grandson in documenting and sorting the record of this settler into a meaningful narrative.
J.W.’s narrative provides the starting point and frame for this story. Additionally he kept letters from relatives, Civil War colleagues, a scrap book of news clippings, funeral speeches, photographs, business cards, notes, foolscrap, and just plain jottings. Our purpose here is two fold. One certainly is to share this history of a young man, going off to the Civil War with a stint in Andersonville Prison and growing to become a town father and family settler in the period before the “closing of the frontier.” The other is to enlist our readership in helping make sense of this material by adding perspectives, insights, and understanding as this narrative grows.
Preparatory to this process is a brief understanding of how this record came this far. The Moses figure of our story—a term used to describe J.W. by Albert Jones who delivered the memorial service for him at the Christian Church in Beloit—started this process. But his daughter-in-law, Charlotte (Ingram) Bartleson preserved the record, adding to it and passed it on to her daughter Charlotte (Bartleson) Ross, my mother. With Charlotte Ross’s passing, my task as J.W.’s great-grandson, is to continue the development of this historical record. That task, but itself, involves several parts: adding and filling in missing pieces of the puzzle and using modern media technology to make and illustrative and informative whole. Another obligation of our effort is to share the story so others can connect their stories. A final part is to preserve the record the J.W. started by rendering the now fragile paper documents to an electronic format and move the paper record to those better able to secure it.
Coming full circle to the memoirs J.W. dictated to Ms. Bates, we have made an effort to leave them exactly as we found them by using the syntax, spelling, capitalization, usage and tenor exactly as the were taken down and signed off on in 1930. Modern electronic technology has allowed us to set the type face to carry off this effort by showing what was typed and what was penciled into the narrative. Additionally as the story grows we are able to identify people in photos and capture pictures of sites J.W. refered while media linking technology allows these without breaking the flow of J.W.’s primary work.
A small note of interest highlights how change—subtle, but interesting-- takes place in historical narrative. The original typing was done on the back of office stationary of The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee, Wis., J.W. Bartleson, District Agent, Beloit, Kas., E. W. Poindexter, General Agent, Kansas City, Kas. (Modern postal codes have decreed two-letter abbreviations for postal state codes in place of three.)
Editor's note: This biography will appear over the next several issues of Eye on Kansas, complete with referenced images, and additional annotation, as necessary to fully illustrate this story. We at the Eye would like to extend our thanks to Tweed for agreeing to share this wonderful story with us.
Memoirs of John W Bartleson: Boyhood
Chapter Two (Part One) - Youth and War
Chapter Two (Part Two) - Battle!
MChapter Two (Part Three) - Freedom and
Chapter Three (Part One) - Farming, Mules and Loss
Chapter Three (Part Two) - Kansas!
Chapter Three (Part Three) - Turn of a New Century
Chapter Three (Part Four): Havanna and Home