Friday, July 22, 2011

Parkinson Isaiah Bonebrake (1835-1920)

   With a name that combines both a degenerative nervous system disorder and bone fracture, the humorously named Parkinson Isaiah Bonebrake rose to become a prominent public office holder in Kansas, serving as auditor of that state for three consecutive terms. The rare portrait of him shown above was discovered in the 1905 work Men of Kansas, available for reading via the Kansas Memory digital archive website!
  Parkinson I. Bonebrake (recorded as "P.I." by most period sources) was an Ohioan by birth, being born on September 25, 1835, in Preble County, Ohio, the son of George and Eliza Adams Bonebrake. His birth year is also given as either 1834 and 1836, and it is known that he migrated to Kansas in 1859, settling in Shawnee County. Bonebrake married in December 1857 to Ms. Martha Jane Lowe (1837-1905), with whom he had four children: Edith (died aged sixteen), Otis (died aged seven), Frank M. (birthdate unknown) and Fred Buel Bonebrake (1872-1943).
  Within a few years of his relocation, Bonebrake made his first foray into Kansas politics, winning election as Shawnee County clerk in 1866. He served in this office for exactly ten years, and in his last full year as clerk won election to the Kansas State House of Representatives from Shawnee County. Bonebrake took his seat in the state legislature in 1876 and served only until November of that year, as he was appointed to fill a vacancy in the office of Kansas State Auditor. He was elected to that office in his own right a few months later, continuing service until 1883.

From Andreas' 1883 History of Kansas.
    As his final term in office came to a close in 1883, Bonebrake turned his attention to other public affairs, including the development of the Central Bank of Kansas. He had previously organized the Central National Bank of Topeka in 1882 and served as its president for thirty years, retiring in 1912. Bonebrake was also active in state fraternal organizations, including service as Secretary of the Masonic Mutual Benefit Society of Kansas. Topeka also benefitted from Bonebrake being the founder of the original city waterworks, of which he served as president and secretary. He would remain connected with that utility until retiring "when the water supplying system was sold to the city."
   P.I. Bonebrake continued to be socially active in his native city of Topeka well into his eighth decade and in 1919 celebrated an unusual record--having been present at the inauguration ceremonies for every Kansas state governor from Charles Robinson (inaugurated in February 1861) to Henry J. Allen (first inaugurated in January 1919), a spread of nearly sixty years. Bonebrake died at the St. Francis Hospital in Topeka on March 19, 1920, aged 84. Widowed in 1905, he was survived by his two sons, Frank and Fred, and was subsequently interred at the Topeka Cemetery in Shawnee County. Bonebrake's wife Martha and son Fred are also interred at this cemetery.

From the Topeka Daily Capitol, March 19, 1920.

From the Hays, Kansas Free Press, April 1, 1920.


  1. It seems that this man might be my great, great, great grandfather, cool.

  2. And he is also the great, great, great grandfather of DJ Bonebrake, who is in a band with another John Doe, but whom I suspect is also likely the great great great grandson of the renowned P.I. Bonebrake.