Samuel James Reader


Samuel James Reader moved to Kansas in 1855 at the age of nineteen. Along with others of his family, he responded to the advertisements of cheap farmland in territorial Kansas. After traveling overland in a small wagon train from Illinois, Reader and the other members of his family staked out their land claims around the small town of Indianola, which was located north of Topeka across the Kansas River. Samuel Reader became a lifelong resident of the area. Farming remained his occupation, and among his pastimes he was a diarist, painter, and photographer.

The Reader family originated in Warwickshire, England, where Samuel’s father, Francis Reader, was born in 1798 in a family of eleven children. In the United States the family settled in Pennsylvania where Francis grew up and married Catherine James. The couple had two children, Eliza, born on December 15, 1833, and Samuel James, born January 25, 1836, in Greenfield (later Coal Center), Pennsylvania.

At the age of thirteen Reader started the practice of keeping a daily journal. The habit was encouraged by his reading of the Lewis and Clark journals and he copied their technique of including drawings and maps to illustrate the text.

After the outbreak of the Civil War, Reader was mustered into the 2nd Kansas State Militia regiment as quartermaster and ordered to report on September 1, 1863. The Battle of the Big Blue on October 22, 1864 was Reader’s only war experience. The battlefield was in Jackson County, Missouri, on the Mockbee farm near the Big Blue River.