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John Holt Rice, better known to the people of his day in Kansas I as General Rice, was born in 1825, in Bedford county, Virginia. He came of an ancestry that had long been prominent in the civic and religious affairs of that historic commonwealth.

 

He grew to manhood at Greenville, in East Tennessee, and was educated at Tusculum College at that place. He emigrated to Cassville, Ga., and was admitted to the practice of law in 1845. At the same time he became interested in newspaper enterprises, and from that time to his death he was continuously connected with the printing and newspaper business either as editor or contributor.

The beginning of the Civil War found him at the head of the Franklin Printing Company, of Atlanta, Ga., the largest printing house in the South. A physical breakdown and the depression incident to the war ruined his business, and at the close of the war, having a large family of boys and girls, he came west, believing that it afforded a better opportunity for rearing his family.

He settled on a farm in Miami county, Kansas, but soon drifted back into the newspaper business as editor and proprietor of the Paola Republican.

From this time on he was one of the factors in the growth of Kansas. Still suffering from the physical infirmity acquired by his breakdown of years before, he walked with a crutch, but with even that handicap he worked with wonderful energy and accomplished much in the promotion of the things in which he was interested.

In 1879 he disposed of the Paola Republican and bought the Fort Scott Daily and Weekly Monitor. Taking this paper at a time when its fortunes were at a very low ebb, he soon made it the strongest and most influential paper in southeastern Kansas and with a high rank among the representative papers of the state. He was a contemporary of F. P. Baker, D. R. Anthony, J. K. Hudson, Sol Miller, George W. Martin, Marsh Murdock and others of that time who formed a galaxy of really brilliant and able newspaper men.

General Rice continued as the editor of the Monitor until about 1892. He spent a short time in promoting a railroad in Louisiana and Arkansas, and again returned to the newspaper field as editor of the La Porte Chronicle, at La Porte, Tex.

The atmosphere of Texas was too languid and sleepy for General Rice, and a few years later found him as the editor of the Sedalia Capital, of Sedalia, Mo.

In 1898, having spent an even fifty years of almost uninterrupted work in the newspaper field, he resigned his control of this paper and announced his retirement from further active work. He returned to Fort Scott and did not again engage in active business.

The Kansas City Journal on the occasion of his retirement from newspaper work feelingly referred to him as follows :

"General John H. Rice announces his permanent retirement from journalism. Just forty years to a day after he began work he laid down his pen and left the field to younger men. His has been an active, interesting and useful professional life. He was one of the most vigorous and aggressive writers Kansas has known since the slavery days, and his body and brain were never idle ; even when suffering from severe physical ailments he continued to work unceasingly, giving to the younger generation and to the world a most excellent example of patience, endurance and indomitable will power. His was a strict code of ethics in politics, morals and journalism. He lived up to the letter and spirit of that code and demanded that all others do the same. He was a gentleman of the old southern school; kindly, affectionate in his family, and admired even by his enemies for his uprightness and his fairness, even in the heat of contests. The Journal wishes him many years of quiet, happy life. He has earned them by his long and excellent work, and he can afford to rest upon honors worthily won."

General Rice continued to reside in Fort Scott, contributing occasional articles to the newspapers, and following, with the same interest he had ever shown, the trend of public affairs. General Rice was united in marriage to Nancy Russell at Cassville, Ga., in 1847, and this union, blessed by ten children, continued a happy one until 1904, a period of fifty-seven years, when it was severed by the death of General Rice, Mrs. Rice surviving him a few years.