Movement To Kansas

Family of Anthony Reser
Great-Grandfather of
Sana (Shedden) Gillett)

Family of James Shedden
Grandfather of
Sana (Shedden) Gillett)

Anthony Reser was born April 7, 1816 in Pike County, Pennsylvania, the son of John and Margaret (Ennis) Reser. He married Phylecta Soule in Brooklyn, Ohio May 16, 1837.

One of their daughters, Elmira Jane Reser who was born February 23, 1838 in Brooklyn, Ohio, married James Shedden on October 17, 1856 in Kane County, Illinois. James was born April 7, 1836 in Scotland, the son of Robert and Margaret (Young) Shedden.

The Resers and Sheddens were living in the Udina, Kane County area of Illinois, just west of Elgin, Illinois. The Civil War was over and James Shedden and the Resers had all returned from service and were back into their normal routines.

John B. Reser, brother of Elmira Jane (Reser) Shedden and the son of Anthony Reser, grew tired of teaching and he started the trek of the Sheddens and Resers west.

The Federal Homestead Act had recently been passed permitting Civil War veterans to take up to 160 acres of land as a homestead. Therefore in 1869, John Reser, a veteran of the Civil War, headed west to Topeka, Kansas, where the U.S. Land Office was located to learn what lands were open to veterans.

He then followed the old Oregon Trail northwest up through Pottawatomle County to Marshall County, Kansas. At the time, the land in this area had very few trees but a lot of deep grass; therefore, John Reser thought this might be the best land to settle and farm. The area he chose was also close to the thriving town of Marysvllle. The Union Pacific Railroad was just to the point of building tracks through a number of towns in the area: Frankfort, Barrett, Bigelow, Irving, and Blue Rapids.

John Reser returned to Kane County, Illinois, to get his family and any of the others who cared to venture west. Since the area around Udina, Illinois, was starting to get crowded (and the head of the Shedden family, Robert Shedden, had passed away on June 14, 1870) the following Shedden and Reser family members decided to make the journey to Kansas.

  • James and Elmira (Reser) Shedden and their four children
    James was 34 years old at the time; his wife, Elmira, was 32 years old. Their children ranged in ages from 19 months to 11 years.
    • George Shedden
    • Margaret Shedden
    • Leonard Shedden
    • Alanson Shedden.
  • Anthony and Phylecta (Soule) Reser (then 54 and 53 years old) and all their children.
  • Lloyd and Armina (Reser) Lathrop, (Armina was a sister of Elmira (Reser) Shedden). Lloyd and Armina were 40 and 30 years old, respectively, at the time. Probably one or two of their children were born in Illinois and therefore made the trip with them.
  • Charles and Morllla (Reser) Lewis, sister of Elmira (Reser) Shedden. At the time they were 23 and 28 years old, respectively. Their youngest daughter, Susan, was born in 1870, the year of their journey.
  • Charles and Louisa (Ward) Reser, brother of Elmira (Reser) Shedden. He was 26 years old at the time.
  • John and Phoebe (Ellithorpe) Reser, founder of the trip and brother of Elmira (Reser) Shedden. They were 24 and 19 years old, respectively.
  • Alanson and Emma (Dedrick) Reser, brother of Elmira (Reser) Shedden. They had Just been married four months when they made the trip. Alanson was 23 years old at the time.
  • Mary Reser, sister of Elmira (Reser) Shedden. She was 23 years old at the time.
  • Ellen Reser, sister of Elmira (Reser) Shedden. Ellen was 17 years old at the time.
  • Florence Reser, sister of Elmira (Reser) Shedden. She was 12 years old at the time.

In October of 1870, they began their trip to Kansas. They started by hauling their furniture and household goods to a railroad box car and sent it ahead over the Burlington Railroad to St. Joseph, Missouri. It was then switched down to Atchison, the eastern terminus of the old Jay Gould (Central Branch) of the Union Pacific Railroad. That road took their box car full of their possessions to Frankfort, Kansas. Their goods were then hauled by wagon the remainder of the way.

While the box car was traveling west to Kansas, the Sheddens and Resers took their small caravan of prairie schooners, now loaded with children, women, and enough clothing and food for making the trip in horse drawn wagons. The route by wagon was much the same as the box car by rail. Through or near Quincy, Illinois, where they crossed the Mississippi river, then through north central Missouri, from Hannibal, Missouri through Palmyra, Macon, and Chillicothe to St. Joseph, Missouri.

There they crossed the Missouri River and on to Frankfort and their new homes in the soon to be community of Reserville, Kansas.

They all had settled close to one another in the Clear Fork Township of Marshall County. The center of the area was a county cross-roads that became the neighborhood center, which was called Reserville because of all the Resers in the area. It was approximately nine miles southwest of Frankfort, Kansas.

All that remained of the area in the 1980ís was the cemetery and school house which was rebuilt in 1880. The cemetery is about half a mile from the school house. Some of the family also lived in Bigelow Township and nearby Pottawatomie County.

The James Shedden farm contained 160 acres, as did the farms of Anthony Reser and John B. Reser. The area at first contained only six-foot high prairie grass, but they soon had it planted with trees and orchards of apples, cherries, peaches, and pears.

The school house was the center of activity, which also served as church and for social gatherings. Many of the itinerant ministers, such as Preacher Burdette (a black minister), a lady preacher (Miss Neuman), the Indian preacher Burton, and Reverends Northup, Calvert, and Baker came there.

The pillar of the area was Anthony Reser, the father of Elmira (Reser) Shedden. He was very slight in build, being only 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing about 135 pounds. He did not wear a very long beard, which was common at the time but he always wore side burns down to a very short and sparse beard. He owned the first threshing machine in the area driven by four horses. He had a wealth of farm machinery that was scarce or altogether missing on the farms around there.

But the years were not always good for the Resers and Sheddens as they had to fight the Kansas climate and animals -- wind, dust, drought, floods, tornadoes, winter cold, blizzards, snakes, coyotes, wild cats, and grasshoppers. There was also sickness from diptheria and scarlet fever. They also had huge prairie fires.

Therefore, some of the families soon grew tired of the problems and regretted the decision of moving west. They started to move back east with the Charles Lewis and Charles Reser families being the first to leave. They had been eaten out by grasshoppers three years in a row.

In 1888 or 1889, Anthony and Phylecta (Soule) Reser were also convinced that they had enough of the Kansas adversity and returned to the Kane County, Illinois area. They were 72 and 71 years old at the time.

Of all the families and their children making the trip to Kansas, only two families remained in the area for their lifetime:

  • George William Shedden, son of
           James and Elmira (Reser) Shedden
  • John and Phoebe (Ellithorpe) Reser.
George William Shedden was the father of Sana (Shedden) Gillett and was a newspaperman, not a farmer.

Phylecta (Soule) Reser died shortly after returning to Illinois on April 24, 1895 in Dundee, Illinois at the age of 78 while her husband, Anthony Reser, passed away at the age of 94 on May 25, 1910. Both are buried in the Udina, Illinois cemetery.