Thursday, January 10, 2013

Channel Pickering Townsley (1833-1907)

    A native son of Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, Channel Pickering Townsley removed to Missouri at an early age, and as an adolescent sought his business and political fortunes in the county of Pettis. A one-term member of the Missouri State Senate, Townsley later became a district court judge in Missouri before removing to Barton County, Kansas, where he found further prominence as a newspaper publisher.
   Channel P. Townsley was born in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania on February 14, 1833, one of several children born to Channel Pickering and Mary Griffin Townsley.  The Townsley family left the confines of Huntingdon and resettled in Boonville, Missouri, where Channel Sr. engaged in the manufacture of carriages. The Biographical History of Barton County, Kansas (which gives a decent overview of the Townsley family) notes that Channel Sr. was bitten by the gold rush bug in the early 1850s and migrated to California. Here he became acquainted with Asian natives who were conducting trade in San Francisco. Channel Sr. is later mentioned as visiting China, where he died sometime in 1856.
  Channel P. Townsley, the subject of the profile, received his education in Boonville at the Kemper Institute, while also learning the carriage building trade at his father's shop. In the early 1850s, Townsley began pursuing a career in law and was eventually admitted to the bar in Pettis County. Soon afterward he established a law office in Georgetown, Missouri and in the late 185os became city attorney for Georgetown, serving in this capacity until 1861.
   Townsley put his law practice on hold in 1861, signing on for service in the Civil War. He joined the 40th Regiment of the Missouri State Militia. He served throughout the duration of the war, seeing action at Wilson's Creek and eventually reached the rank of captain. Townsley was mustered out of service at the war's conclusion and returned to practicing law in Pettis County. In December 1865 Townsley married to Laura Moses (1848-1915), with whom he would have ten children, including Channel P. (1867-1921), Florence Evelyn (born 1869), Laura Emma (1870-1874), Theodora Alice (died aged three months in 1872), Jessie Stuart (died aged five months in 1874), George Leopold (died aged five months in 1877), Edward Moses (died aged seven months in 1879), William Lawrence (born 1881), Charles Reuben Francis (born 1884) and Laura (born 1891). Two of Townsley's sons went on to distinction in their own right, with Channel P. becoming a noted American artist while William Lawrence became the editor of the Great Bend Tribune.
   In 1866 Channel Townsley was elected as attorney for Pettis County and in the following year won a seat in the Missouri State Senate as a Republican. His two-year stint in the senate saw Townsley serve on the committee on the penitentiary, and a roster from that legislative session (bearing his name) is shown below.

   Shortly after his Senate term concluded in 1869 Townsley was elected as a judge for Missouri's Fifth Judicial District, serving on the bench for six years. In 1875 he removed from Missouri to Barton County, Kansas and shortly after his arrival established a law practice in the town of Great Bend. In 1876 Townsley switched his attention from public service to publishing, becoming the founder of the Inland Tribune. The Biographical History of Barton County notes that the paper "pertained to the interests of the Republican party and the farming community" and it received "a wide circulation throughout the Arkansas Valley, where its influence was widely felt." Townsley's paper underwent a name change in the early 1880s, switching to the Great Bend Tribune. One can also note that the Tribune is still in existence today, nearly 140 years after its establishment!
   The remainder of Townsley's life saw him become a figure of distinction throughout Barton County, being acknowledged as "unswerving in his fidelity to the people, honest in his beliefs and politically often took a stand foreign to the desire of party bosses, but which in the end proved him right." Townsley died in Great Bend at age 74 on August 4, 1907, "after a period of three years of suffering from a nervous breakdown." He was later interred at the Great Bend Cemetery and was survived by his wife Laura, who died in 1915 at age 67. The rare portrait of Mr. Townsley shown above (and very likely the only one to be found online) was featured in the earlier mentioned Biographical History of Barton County, originally published in 1912.

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