Joseph L. Denison
In presenting the subject of this review, we do so with a feeling uppermost that his wide acquaintance and universal
popularity, both as citizen and lawyer, render any extended introduction superfluous and unnecessary. He has been
in the Neosho valley and identified with its affairs so long that a plain statement of the facts concerning his
life work will prove sufficient to distinguish him as a leading character in all that pertains to pioneer and present
day events in that valley.
Joseph L. Denison started on the journey which finally led him to Kansas, in 1856, from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
He hesitated briefly at Princeton, Illinois, but proceeded to southwest Missouri where he remained till 1860 when
he crossed the line and cast his lot with the pioneers of Allen county, Kansas. He was born in Westmoreland county,
Pennsylvania, on the 11th of July, 1837, and is a son of a miller, David Denison, who was, by direct descent, a
Scotchman and born also in the Keystone State. The latter married Elizabeth Rhodes who bore him five sons and three
daughters; four sons yet surviving. Our subject entered Franklin Academy at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, with a
fair education and finished his school days in that institution. It will be observed that he was only nineteen
years of age when he left his
native state, with western inclinations, and somewhere enroute to Kansas he adopted the law as his calling and
began reading for admission to the bar. He reached the vicinity of Iola, Kansas, at twenty-three years old, and
was induced by the surroundings to enter a piece of the public domain. He went through the usual formalities of
filing on and proving up his "claim" and finally patented it. In 1861 he enlisted in Company E, Ninth
Kansas cavalry, and was promoted during the course of his service through the grades to regimental adjutant and
has now in his office the old regimental desk which went through the war. In July, 1865, he reached home after
three years and eleven months of service, a veteran volunter [sic] of the civil war.
In December, 1865, Mr. Denison located in Neosho county, where he established a post for Indian trading, the firm
being Roe & Denison. This business venture was conducted as such firm till the autumn of 1867 when our subject
withdrew to assume the duties of county clerk to which office he had been elected. He became clerk of the court
by appointment and filled both offices, afterward being elected to both. In 1870 he retired from the office of
county clerk and in 1875 from that of clerk of the court and he then turned his attention to the law, he having
previously been admitted to practice in Kansas, and the first case with which he was connected as counsel was one
between Humboldt and Iola factions contesting for county offices. He prepared the first petition to the Governor
of Kansas asking for the removal of the county seat from Humboldt to Iola, which was granted, and the seat of the
county government removed.
Beginning the practice of law regularly, Mr. Denison had as a partner C. F. Hutchings, a leading attorney, now,
at the bar of Kansas City, Kansas, and their office was established in Osage Mission January 10, 1875. Mr. Denison's
connection with the bar has been continuous, and has grown with the passage of time in prominence and importance.
He has been identified with many noted criminal cases of southeast Kansas, chief of which was the Frankie Morris
ease in which attorneys participated who have attained state reputation as lawyers since. For fifteen years he
has represented the Santa Fe Railway company as attorney. He has served four years as county attorney of Neosho
county, from 1887 to 1891, and since 1887 he has resided in Erie.
In the month of November, 1868, Mr. Denison married, in Allen county, Kansas, Miss Mattie Hogueland, a daughter
of the Rev. Isaac Hogueland who preached the first protestant sermon preached in Erie, Kansas. The latter came
to Kansas from Illinois and was well known in the Neosho valley in an early day. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Denison
are Anna, Charles S. and Todd.
In Republican politics Joseph L. Denison is well known in eastern Kansas. He has done much campaigning in his county
and more or less of it in his congressional district. He is a forceful and effective speaker in public as well
as at the bar and his addresses indicate careful preparation and a thorough knowledge of his subject. He organized
the first Masonic lodge south of Humboldt in 1868, by special dispensation, and has been somewhat active in Masonic
circles in southeast Kansas since. He was High Priest of the Osage Mission chapter for six years, was a charter
member of the Parsons Commandery and holds his membership at present in the Commandery at Chanute. [Source: History
of Neosho and Wilson Counties, Kansas, Pub. by L. Wallace Duncan, Fort Scott, Kansas, Monitor Printing Co., 1902;
tr. by VB]
John Dewitt, who lives in the township of Milo, Bureau County, was born on Long Island, State of New York, March
29, 1769, and is now, consequently 101 years old. He has been confined to the house for the last three months from
erysipelas in his feet, but his bodily health is quite good. His memory and conversing powers are perfect. He often
tells of his mother hiding the cow in the cellar to keep the British from killing her. He remembers many events
of the Revolutionary war; saw General Washington many times. He lives in Ohio and Indiana before coming to Illinois;
was in Cincinnati when there were but three houses there. He has buried three wives, and is now living with the
fourth; has had thirteen children, of whom but two survive. He has been a member of the Methodist Church eighty
years. --The Chicago Tribune, 8 July 1870. Contributed by Cheryl