On the roll of Putnam county's honored dead we find the name of John A. Kays, who was born on the farm in Magnolia township where his widow now resides, his natal day being March 7, 1851. His father, Henry B. Kays, was a native of Indiana, and from that state removed to Knox county, Illinois, but later came to Putnam county, making his home on the farm just mentioned until his death, which occurred in 1877. He left an estate of over eight hundred acres. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Rachel E. Read, was born in Indiana in 1820, and is also now deceased. In their family were seven children, but Mrs. Jane Bobbitt, of Magnolia; M. B. Kays, of Tonica, Illinois; and Mrs. Clara Cole, of Ottawa, are the only ones now living.
During his boyhood John A. Kays attended the district schools near his home and for a time was a student in the old academy at Henry, after which he pursued a business course at Poughkeepsie, New York. Having thus acquired a good practical education he engaged in teaching school for several years and later turned his attention to agricultural pursuits, becoming a most progressive, enterprising and successful farmer. He continued to follow that occupation throughout the remainder of his life, and at his death, which occurred on the 20th of February, 1906, he left a valuable farm of four hundred and fifty-three acres supplied with all modern improvements.
In 1881 Mr. Kays was united in marriage to Miss Mary A. Hartenbower, who was born in Putnam county, and still survives her husband. She is a daughter of Hon. J. H. Hartenbower, who was born in Kentucky in 1828 and died in Wichita, Kansas, October 28, 1903. He was at one time a very prominent citizen of Putnam county and was a prosperous farmer. In 1850 he made a trip to California, and after spending some time on the Pacific slope returned east by way of the isthmus of Panama. For twenty years he lived in Kansas, but previous to this time he resided in Iowa and Minnesota, where he served in the legislature. He married Miss Anna A. McCaleb, a native of Putnam county, whose parents came here in 1832. She died in Iowa in 1867. In their family were seven children. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Kays were born six children, namely : Victor C., who was for two years a student at Champaign University and was called home by the death of his father and now assists in the operation of the farm. He takes quite an active interest in public affairs, has served as school director and took a prominent part in the consolidation of the three districts into the John Swaney school. Lois L., the next of the family, died at the age of two years. Donald J., a graduate of the Northern Illinois Normal at De Kalb, is now engaged in teaching in the high school at Rockford. Albert R. is attending school in De Kalb. Mark E. and Lora G. are at home with their mother.
Mrs. Kays and her son, Victor C., now carry on the farm, and are meeting with excellent success in its management. The family is one of prominence in the community where they reside, and wherever known are held in high regard. By his ballot Mr. Kays supported the men and measures of the democratic party and took a very active part in local politics, being at one time the candidate for county judge on his party ticket. He was one of the leading and influential citizens of Magnolia township, and no man in the locality was held in higher esteem.
Source: Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties Illinois authored by John Spencer Burt and W. E. Hawthorne in 1907, page 172.