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Capt. John W. Kennedy Biography


This biography appears on pages 1177-1178 in "History of Dakota Territory" by George W. Kingsbury, Vol. V (1915) 

Captain John W. Kennedy has lived practically retired in Gettysburg since 1903 but still looks after the residence property which he owns and engages in the loan business to some extent. He was born in New York city on the 18th of April, 1838, of the marriage of Alexander and Agnes (Finney) Kennedy, both natives of Scotland, where they grew to mature years and were married. About 1830 they emigrated to America and located in the city of New York, where the father was engaged in mercantile pursuits until about 1839. In that year they removed to Delaware county, New York, and there the father followed merchandising for a number of years. Both passed away in that county. 

Captain John W. Kennedy attended a private school in Roxbury, New York, was for a time a student in the public schools and completed his education in Roxbury Academy. He took his first lesson in penmanship from a sister of Jay Gould and John Burris and Jay Gould were both schoolmates of his. When eighteen years of age he put aside his textbooks and with an older brother, Dr. David Kennedy, made the long trip to California. He engaged in mining for a short time but subsequently found employment as a clerk in a general store in Nevada City, north of Sacramento. After spending two and a half years in the west he returned to the Empire state and for about five years assisted in the operation of a farm which his father had purchased. At the end of that time he enlisted in Company F, One Hundred and Thirty-fourth New York Regiment, and was soon promoted to sergeant. Later he rose to the rank of captain and proved at all times a brave and loyal soldier. He was in the service for three years and was fortunate in that he was never wounded nor confined to a hospital from sickness. He participated in the battles of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville and a number of skirmishes. He was taken prisoner at Gettysburg, was for nine months confined in Libby prison and was also for nine months in other prisons, eighteen months in all being spent in Confederate prisons. He escaped from Columbia, South Carolina, and rejoining his regiment at Savannah, marched thence with Sherman from "Atlanta to the sea." 

At the close of the war Captain Kennedy was honorably discharged and returned to his father's farm in New York. At length he once more made his way westward and settling in Chicago, engaged in the mercantile business there for about nine years. In 1883, however, he came to South Dakota and built the first frame house in the town of Gettysburg. In fact, it was he who suggested the name of Gettysburg for the settlement. He entered land from the government four miles from Gettysburg and there engaged in farming and stock-raising until 1903, when he sold his land and took up his residence in Gettysburg, where he is now living practically retired. He still owns residence property, however, and loans money at interest and he personally manages all of his business affairs. 

Captain Kennedy was married on the 10th of November, 1872, to Miss Eliza M. Chamberlain, who was born in Massachusetts, a daughter of Jason Dexter and Elsie Grace (Kruger) Chamberlain, both also natives of the Bay state. The father, who followed agricultural pursuits for many years, at length removed to Chicago, where he lived retired for some time. Both he and his wife spent their last years with our subject and both died in this state. To Captain and Mrs. Kennedy three children have been born, namely: Jessie, the wife of Clarence Taber, of Evanston. Illinois' who is general agent for the publishers of Webster's Dictionary; Horace D., who is engaged in the real-estate business in Chicago; and Alice, the wife of William A. Ronald, of Boston, who is engaged in the theatrical business, Alice being well known on the stage as Alice Kennedy. 

The Captain is a republican and is at present serving his eighth year as justice of the peace, his continuance in the office indicating the confidence which his fellow citizens repose in his ability and integrity. He was the first city auditor and was at one time a member of the state central committee and assistant sergeant at arms of the legislature in 1911. He was also the first secretary of the Commercial Club and has always taken a great interest in the efforts of that organization to promote the business expansion of Gettysburg. Fraternally he belongs to the Masonic blue lodge at Hobart, New York, and he is the oldest Mason in point of years of connection with the order in Potter county. In his daily life he exemplifies the spirit of brotherhood which is at the basis of the fraternity and thus proves himself a Mason in deed as well as in name. Through his association with Meade Post, No. 32, G. A. R., of Gettysburg, of which he is adjutant, he keeps in touch with others who fought for the Union when it was assailed. In times of peace as well as in war he has proven ready to subordinate personal interests to the general good and his public spirit has added to the esteem in which he is generally held. He has reached the advanced age of seventy-seven years and his long life has been so spent that he enjoys the confidence and the respect of all who have come into contact with him.