Sunday, May 22, 2016

Manliff Jarrell Wrenn (1858-1934)

Portrait from the History of North Carolina: North Carolina Biography, 1919.

   Very likely the only "Manliff" ever to be elected to public office in the United States, Manliff Jarrell Wrenn was for many years a leading figure in the business and political life of High Point, North Carolina. A wealthy furniture manufacturer, banker, and telephone company executive, Wrenn served four years as Mayor of High Point and in 1928 was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention held in Houston, Texas.
   The son of Merritt and Nancy Jarrell Wrenn, Manliff Jarrell Wrenn was born in Randolph County, North Carolina on August 25, 1858.  A descendant of a family long prominent in the history of Randolph County, Manliff J. Wrenn's unusual first name also has a variation in spelling, being recorded as "Manleff" in addition to the spelling given here. 
  Left fatherless at a young age, Wrenn removed with his mother and siblings to High Point, North Carolina in 1865 and until the age of twenty-one resided with his maternal uncle and namesake, Manliff Jarrell. Wrenn would attend school in that city and as a youth worked in his uncle's hotel. He would later leave that employ to take work as a clerk in a grocery store and for two years continued in that profession, eventually accumulating enough money to go into business for himself.
   Wrenn's grocery business later saw his brother Thomas join as a partner, and this partnership continued on for nearly a decade. Thomas Wrenn would later turn his attention to establishing a furniture store in High Point, a business venture that greatly interested Manliff, who would join his brother in the High Point Furniture Company, a business noted for being the first of its kind in the city. After become "financially interested" in that company, Manliff Wrenn bought out the shares of the business's other partners and saw the company expand significantly, seeing the original buildings replaced by "modern brick structures" outfitted with then state of the art machinery. Wrenn would also serve the company as it's nightwatchman during its formative years.
   By 1900 Manliff Wrenn had become the sole owner of the High Point Furniture Company and in the succeeding years had made his name known in other commercial areas of High Point, including service as a director for the Atlantic Bank and Trust Company, the owner of the Union Brokerage Co. and was a half owner of the Wrenn-Columbia Furniture Company, established in the early 1900s.
  While a leading figure in High Point business circles, Manliff Wrenn also made substantial headway in that city's political life. He would serve as a member of the city's Board of Aldermen for several years and in 1904 was elected to the first of two terms as Mayor of High Point; his four years in office being noted as ones of "substantial municipal progress" for the city. 
   In the years following his time as Mayor Manliff Wrenn continued with his earlier business pursuits and married on June 11, 1918 to Elise Louise Clinard (1880-1948). In 1921 he took on the position of President of the North State Telephone Company, continuing in that office until his death. Around this same time, Wrenn became active in the construction of the Southern Furniture Exposition Building, being both a stockholder and vice president (holding the latter until his death.) In the 1928 election year, Wrenn served as part of North Carolina's delegation to the Democratic National Convention that nominated former New York Governor Alfred E. Smith for the Presidency.
   After many years of prominence in High Point, Manliff Jarrell Wrenn died in Florida on February 18, 1934. He was survived by his wife Louise, who succeeded him as head of the High Point Furniture Company.  In 1937 Louise donated funds to establish the M.J. Wrenn Memorial Library, located on the campus of High Point College. Following her death in 1948 Louise Wrenn was interred alongside her husband at the Oakwood Cemetery in High Point. 

Manliff J. Wrenn, from the High Point Enterprise, Sept. 4, 1938.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

San Francisco (1881-1939)

Portrait from the 1909 Kansas Legislative composite; Author's collection.

"Perhaps Mr. Shakespeare's guess is right. Just because this representative's name is San Francisco, it does not necessarily follow that an earthquake will strike him before the session closes. It is evident that his parents had a wide streak of humor about the time they named him, but it is not a bad name. "San" means Saint. This young man from the classic Cimarron may not be a saint, but he is highly respectable...Every San Francisco should have a Golden Gate, so Mr. Francisco follows the occupation of bank cashier."
   Such was the description given in the January 19th, 1909 edition of the Garden City Telegram in its write-up of San Francisco of Gray County. Before anyone accuses me of making up a name to post here, I can assure you that Mr. Francisco was an actual person, and while he shares his name with the famed California city, isn't believed to have had any connection with that area (despite the latter portion of his life being spent in the neighboring city of San Diego.) A one-term member of the Kansas State House of Representatives from 1909-11, little could be found on Mr. Francisco, hence why his article here will be on the short side!
   Born in Adair County, Missouri on April 15, 1881, San Francisco was a son of James Detroit and Mary Ellen Hilton Francisco. Research has shown that by 1900 San Francisco was a resident of Ingalls in Gray County, Kansas and married there in December 1902 to Enid Studebaker, with whom he would have one daughter, Enid Elaine (1915-1996). 
  Sometime following his marriage San Francisco removed to the neighboring town of Cimarron and was still a resident of that town when he became the Democratic nominee for the Kansas State House of Representatives. Remarked as being one of the youngest candidates ever to run for representative, the 1908 Topeka Journal (article below) notes that Francisco's name would be of aid during the upcoming campaign!
  San Francisco would win election to the Kansas legislature in late 1908 and served during the 1909-11 session. During this term, Francisco held seats on the committees on Irrigation, Horticulture and Forestry, and Banks and Baking. Around this same time, he became affiliated with the Capricorn Mining Company in California, of which he would serve as President. 

From the Topeka State Journal, April 22, 1908.

   Following his time in state government, San Francisco served as a Vice President and director of the Gray County State Bank at Cimarron. San Francisco later removed to San Diego, California, where he died in 1939. He was later interred at the Greenwood Memorial Park in that city and was survived by his wife Enid, who died in 1945.

You Can Help!

 I am currently searching for further information on San Francisco (the man, not the city) and need your assistance!! If there are any readers or possible relatives that have further information on Mr. Francisco to share, please don't hesitate to contact me here or via the Strangest Names In American Political History Facebook page!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Orvus Burke Wyman (1847-1900)

Portrait from the Proceedings of the State Bar Association of Wisconsin, 1902.

    There were few men more prominent in turn-of-the 19th century Vernon County, Wisconsin than Judge Orvus Burke Wyman. A former Vernon County District Attorney and County Judge, Wyman also served as Village President of Viroqua, Wisconsin (the Vernon County seat) and was the first mayor of that city following its classification as a city. Wyman's public career reached its apex in 1894 when he was elected to the first of two terms as Circuit Court Judge for Wisconsin's Sixth judicial circuit, dying in office in 1900.
   A native of Vermont, Orvus Burke Wyman was born on July 7, 1847 in Windsor County, being the son of Asahel Bundy and Roxanna Perkins Wyman. Wyman's unusual first name has a slight variation in spelling floating around online, being listed by some sources as "Orvis". However, both the State Bar Association of Wisconsin and Wyman's headstone spell it as "Orvus", and it is that spelling that is believed to be the correct one. 
   The Wyman family resided in Vermont until Orvus was seven years of age, whereafter they removed to Dane County, Wisconsin. Their stay in Dane County proved to be short, as they relocated to the neighboring county of Vernon in 1856. Settling in the village of Hillsborough, Orvus Wyman would attend local schools and was later a student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He began a career as a school teacher around this same time, teaching in several schools throughout the Vernon County area. 
   In 1874 Orvus Wyman was named as Vernon County Superintendent of Schools, an office he would continue to hold until 1880. He married on December 28, 1875 to Hillsborough native Emma Hammer (1855-1935), to whom he was wed for a nearly a quarter century. The couple would have two sons, Bernard (1880-1896) and Fantus (1885-1902). 
  Following his marriage, Orvus Wyman turned his attention to law in the late 1870s and after a period of study was admitted to the Wisconsin bar in 1878.  Establishing his law practice in the village of Viroqua, Wyman would form the firm of Rusk and Wyman in January 1880, taking as a partner one Lycurgus James Rusk, a future Wisconsin state assemblyman and the son of Jeremiah M. Rusk, noted Wisconsin Governor and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Their firm would continue until 1883, being dissolved when Lycurgus Rusk removed to Wisconsin's state capitol. 
  In 1881 Orvus Wyman began the first of two terms as Vernon County District Attorney, holding that office until 1885. During his time as District Attorney Wyman also occupied the office of Viroqua Village President, being elected to that post in 1882. Notice is given as to Wyman being the "first mayor of the city of Viroqua" after it had been classified as a city, but no available source mentions his dates of service. 
  Wyman continued his rise in Vernon County politics in 1890 when he was elected as County Judge. He was returned to the bench for a second term in 1892 and continued to serve until his elevation to Wisconsin's Sixth Judicial Circuit Court. Elected for a six-year term in 1894, Wyman would win a second term just a few months prior to his death from cancer in Buffalo, New York on December 3, 1900. Newspaper reports denote that he had been ill and under treatment for some time prior to his passing, and following his death was returned to Wisconsin for burial at the Viroqua Cemetery in Viroqua, Wisconsin

From the Rock Island Argus, December 3, 1900.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Helmus Wells Thompson (1867-1918)

Portrait from the March 4, 1908 Oregon Morning Post.

   From the city of Yakima and Reidar Dare Rovig we journey to Washington's neighbor to the south to profile Helmus Wells Thompson, who made his name (politically speaking) in Oregon. Removing to Oregon from Wisconsin in the late 1890s, Thompson practiced law in Eugene for many years and was later appointed as Judge of Lane County. Born in New York City on December 14, 1867 (or 1868, depending on the source), Helmus Wells Thompson was the second of five children born to Col. Clark W. and Rebecca Wells Thompson.
  A former member of both the Minnesota and Wisconsin legislatures, Clark W. Thompson moved his family to La Crosse, Wisconsin around 1870 and it was in that city that his son Helmus would attend school. He graduated from the La Crosse High School and in the mid-1880s entered upon the study of law at the University of Minnesota, graduating with his B.A. degree in 1888. Following his graduation, Thompson continued study in the St. Paul-based law of office of Clark, Ellar and Howe and later enrolled at the Harvard Law School, from which he would graduate in 1892.
   Helmus W. Thompson returned to La Crosse after leaving Harvard and for several years practiced law in that city. During his Wisconsin residency, Thompson became a primary organizer of the Waukon Electric Light Company located in Waukon, Iowa. He was joined in that venture by his brothers Clark and Mackay and following the construction of this municipal lighting company served as its Secretary.
   In 1897 Helmus Thompson removed to Eugene, Oregon and was admitted to practice law in that state that same year. Soon after his arrival, he joined Charles Hardy in the law firm of Thompson and Hardy, a partnership that would extend seventeen years. In the years following his resettlement in Eugene Thompson's name grew to be one of the most prominent in the vicinity, being both a "leader in patriotic and public movements" as well as a distinguished club-man. Thompson held memberships in a number of local fraternal groups, including the Knights Templar, the Elks, the Knights of Pythias and the University Club of Portland.

Portrait from the Bench and Bar of Oregon, 1911.

  In 1909 Helmus Thompson received the appointment as Judge of Lane County, Oregon. He later won a four-year term on the bench and during his five years of service saw "the first macadam roads" built in the county. Thompson left the bench in 1914 and towards the end of his life took part in the ongoing war effort by serving as chairman of a Red Cross civilian relief committee for Lane County.
   Ill health marred Thompson's last year of life, and a trip to the South Sea Islands in the months before his death did little to improve his condition. Thompson died in Eugene on August 10, 1918 at age 50. A lifelong bachelor, he was survived by two brothers and was interred at the Masonic Cemetery in Eugene.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Reidar Dare Rovig Sr. (1877-1943)

Portrait from The Rotarian, February 1943.

    Norwegian native Reidar Dare Rovig is yet another in a bevy of new strange name discoveries, and despite attaining high political office (that of Mayor of Yakima, Washington), little information could be located on him! 
  Born on November 26, 1877 in Namsos, Norway, Reidar Dare Rovig was the son of Olaf and Petra Rovig. Little is known of Rovig's early life or education, as well as the date of his immigration to the United States. Beginning in 1892 he began a lengthy connection with the Chicago, Milwaukee, Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad, being employed as a telegraph operator. He would continue to be affiliated with that railroad until 1910, last being a "northwestern passenger agent" based in Bismarck, North Dakota. Rovig married in 1905 in Minnesota to Jane M. Matthews (1883-1964) and later had four sons: Walter Dare (1906-1973), John Forsyth (1909-1993), George Virtue (1912-1919) and Reidar Dare Jr. (1913-1945).
  Upon leaving railway work Reidar Rovig migrated to Washington to make a name for himself in the retail lumber business. Settling in North Yakima, Rovig would establish the Rovig Lumber Co., which in 1916 could boast of having "$100,000 capital". He held the post of manager of that company and around this same time became affiliated with the Superior Lumber Company, of which he would serve as vice-president.
  After gaining a firm foothold in the Yakima business community, Reidar Rovig turned to politics, announcing his candidacy for Mayor of Yakima in 1920. Running under the slogan of the "business man's candidate", Rovig won the election on December 6th of that year, defeating Earle J. Barnes by a vote of 2,327 to 2,073. Rovig would serve one term of three years and was defeated for reelection in the November 1923 primary by William B. Dudley, who would go on to win the general election that December.
   Following his time as mayor Rovig continued to be active in the business and commercial life of Yakima, serving as the secretary of that city's Rotary Club. He would hold that post for over twenty years and in the late 1930s also served as a member of the Yakima County Advisory Welfare Board. Reidar D. Rovig died at age 66 in Yakima on March 27, 1943. He was survived by three of his sons and his wife Jane, who would later remarry to Milford Roy Knauft. Both Rovig and his wife were interred at the Terrace Heights Memorial Park in Yakima.