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Porter J. Coston

PORTER J. COSTON, born in Ashtabula County, Ohio, August 29, 1849; when three years of age his parents moved to McDonough County, Illinois. In the fall of 1859 his father moved, overland, to Kansas, settling first in Linn County, but the following year the great drouth that prevailed in that state, drove him to Fort Scott, which has been the residence of the family ever since.

In those days there were no schools in Kansas, and the father of young Coston put him in a printing office to learn the trade, thinking that the best substitute for a school. He served his apprenticeship of four years, and subsequently became identified with newspapers in Southeastern Kansas and Western Missouri as printer, publisher and editor. At the time of the Gunn City massacre, as it is known in the history of that region, in Cass County, Missouri, in 1872, he was publishing the Harrisonville Democrat, a Republican paper in that town, and had many thrilling experiences during the excitement connected with and following the murder of the County Court by a mob.

He refers to his experience now as his effort to publish a Republican newspaper in that hotbed of Democracy, at a period in life when he had more enthusiasm than judgment. His newspaper plant was burned by the same mob in the fall of 1872. He then went to Colorado, where he remained a couple of years, when the "law fever" developed in him, and he returned to Fort Scott, where he read law in the office of W. J. Bawden. and was admitted to the bar. He has been actively engaged in the practice ever since in the Slates of Kansas, Colorado and Missouri, except seven years, during which time he held the office of assistant attorney in the Interior Department in Washington City. He came to Nome in July, 1 900, and immediately started in the practice.

In 1903 the City of Nome concluded to make an effort to get a patent for the townsite, the titles to lots at that time being held only under the settlement laws of the United States, and Mr. Coston was employed by the city for that purpose. The difficulties surrounding the procurement of patents in that region are colossal, owing to our remoteness from the capital of the district and the land office. But his thorough knowledge of all procedure in that particular line of professional work enabled him to take in the situation, and by characteristic persistency he succeeded in about fourteen months in making an entry of the land. To do this involved a visit to Washington, where he spent four months in perfecting the details. He was appointed trustee by the Secretary of the Interior for the purpose of making this entry for the benefit of the occupants. The expedition and thoroughness with which this work has been done, and the remarkably short time that it has been accomplished in, is thought to be without a precedent in the history of the land office, especially when our isolation from the outside world is considered.

Mr. Coston married Miss Kittie E. Gibson in Buena Vista, Colorado, in 1862. Their oldest son is now in the sophomore year in the Kansas University, and Mrs. Coston and two younger children are residing in Nome.

Source: Nome and Seward Peninsula by R. S. Harrison. Seattle: The Metropolitan Press, 1905.



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