William Allen Hayes

I recently checked the family history to see who the oldest living ancestors were in the year 1900.  This is the story of the earliest born Renschler ancestor who lived to see the twentieth century. He is the great-grandfather of my mother-in-law, Maxine Wymore Renschler.

William and Susan Jane Hayes about 1890. William had a widow’s peak and a thick head of hair.

William Allen Hayes, called “Bill” was born in Jackson County, Ohio, the son of Nathaniel Wilson Hayes and his first wife, Sally Detty.  There were no birth records in Ohio at that time.  The date of his birth, recorded in various documents, ranges from 1836 in his obituary to 1841 on the 1885 Kansas State Census.  After much research, I have concluded that September 1837, as recorded on the 1900 census, is the most likely date.   Bill was only eight years old when tragedy struck the Hayes family.  The mother, Sally, died after the birth of her fourth child, Nancy, in May 1846.  Nathaniel remarried in June 1847 to Ruth Clark.

Bill’s father, Nathaniel Hayes, never stayed in one place long.  By 1852 the family was living in Monroe County, Iowa.   The 1856 Iowa state census of Monroe County lists Nathaniel’s occupation as “smithing” and “Wm” age 15, as a farmer. Ruth is not listed, having apparently died after the birth of her fourth child, Abigail in early 1856.   It didn’t take Nathaniel, age 37, long to find another wife as he married Deborah “Terrell,” age 19, on October 20, 1856, in Wapello County, which adjoins Monroe County.

On March 8, 1860, in Wapello County, William A. Hayes married Susan Jane “Tyrell,” age 17.  The interesting note about this marriage is that he married his stepmother’s sister.  They would have 14 children.  The June 1860 census of Wapello County lists the occupation of both Nathaniel and William as “laborer.”  Neither one owned any real estate.

William joined Company E, 14th Iowa Infantry in October 1861.  He was described in the Regimental Descriptive Book as 23 years old, 5 feet 7 ½ inches high, light complexion, hazel eyes, and black hair.  He was mustered out in 1864 at the end of his three-year enlistment.  In a future story, I will tell about William’s Civil War exploits.

In 1870 both William and his father Nathaniel with their families were living in Long Creek Township, Decatur County, Iowa.  Both were farmers who owned no land.

In the spring of 1871 the extended Hayes family moved to Washington Township, Republic County, Kansas where they filed for homesteads; Nathaniel and his son-in-law William T. Stewart in Section 3, and William a half-mile south in Section 10.  Their homestead applications all stated they settled on May 13, 1871.

The William A. Hayes family on their homestead in the spring of 1886. Eleven children were raised in this small house.


William’s homestead application #10899 dated February 4, 1874, is for 160 acres in the northeast quarter of section 10, Washington Township.  The post office was Center Mound, Republic County, Kansas.  I do not know why he waited three years to file for a homestead.  The year 1874 was the famous grasshopper year when no crops were raised.  By October 1878, when his Homestead Proof was filed he had 55 acres under cultivation in corn, wheat, rye, and oats.  He had a frame house 14 by 24 feet, a stable, hog pen, chicken house, and 3 acres of forest trees and a hedge.  His Homestead Proof states that he lived in a “temporary” house until the frame house was built. The family tradition was that the family had lived in a sod house.

According to the 1880 census farm schedule, the farm was worth $1,500, he had $150 worth of implements and $250 worth of livestock.  By then 100 acres were tilled, and there were 4 horses, 1 milch cow, l other cattle, 7 swine.  2 cattle had been sold in the past year.  Produced in the last year were 50 dozen eggs, 100 pounds of butter, and 50 bushels of potatoes.  Grains raised were barley, Indian corn, oats, and wheat.

The March 1885 agricultural schedule of Republic County, Kansas, Harbine post office, shows:160 acres worth $3500, only $40 of implements, $50 wages paid during year past, 17 acres winter wheat, 15 acres spring wheat, 65 acres corn, 20 acres oats, ½ acre potatoes, 8 acres millet, 300 bu. Corn and 50 bu. Wheat on hand.  40 acres were still unbroken prairie which produced 25 tons of prairie hay.  $25 worth of eggs were sold, 400 lbs. of butter made;  4 horses, 4 milch cows, 39 other cattle, 38 swine.  5 cattle had died.  $400 of animals were slaughtered.  20 apple trees, 4 cherry trees, and 1 acre of maple trees were listed, and 1 dog.

Dryland farming on the plains was not easy or particularly successful.  William filed his patent (deed from the government) in October 1878 and took out a mortgage in November.  During his ownership of the land, he took mortgages in 1878, 1880, 1885, 1887, 1892, and 1895. The year 1894 was the famous drought year when nothing was raised.  He sold the homestead on May 9, 1896.  By that time his son Harmon, our ancestor, was married and living in the village of Harbine on the Kansas side of the Nebraska border.

The Byron Herald reported on March 11, 1898, that “W. A. Hayes has packed up his household effects and moved to Beaver City, where he will in the future reside.”  The family lived on a farm two miles southeast of Beaver City, Furnas County, Nebraska. In 1900 they were living in Beaver Precinct, on a farm they owned.  Three children, Ida age 38, Sarah age 17, and Ernest age 13 lived with them.  Ida never married and died in 1908 at Superior.  She is buried in the family plot in Washington Cemetery.

In December 1904, the family moved to Superior, Nebraska where William died on December 22, 1905, at the age of 68.  A short funeral service was held at the home, then, the remains were taken to the Washington Church in Republic County, Kansas where another funeral was held.  The Odd Fellows Lodge of Republic, Kansas conducted the burial rites at the grave in Washington Cemetery.

Washington church and the cemetery where many Hayes family members are buried. The church is long gone. The original photo is a postcard.

I visited William’s granddaughter, Annabelle Hayes Tavener, in 1979.  She told me stories about the extended family.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a tape recorder at that time, so I took notes.  She called him “Grandpa Bill,” and said he was a gentle, timid man.  His wife ran the household.    He was survived by his wife and eleven children.


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