Friday, May 4, 2018

Esom Gatliff Farris (1844-1920)

Portrait from the Kansas Legislative Directory of 1903.

   The vast annals of the Kansas state legislature yield another oddly named representative in Esom Gatliff Farris, a two-term legislator from Sumner County. A native of Barbersville, Kentucky, Farris was born there on January 14, 1844, being the son of Cornelius and Nancy (Witt) Farris. Esom's youth was spent on his family's farm and at the dawn of the Civil War sided with the Union, enlisting in Co. F. of the 32nd Kentucky Infantry.  Following his service, Farris removed to Indiana to reside with his brother James and soon decided to pursue a career in medicine.
   Farris would enroll at the Central Normal College at Danville, Illinois and furthered his studies at the Central College of Physicians and Surgeons in Indianapolis. In the early 1880s, Farris would graduate from the Rush Medical College and in 1885 married in Greencastle to Sadie Bondurant (1850-1895). The couple would remain childless. Shortly after their marriage Farris and his wife left Indiana for Sumner County, Kansas, and after settling in the town of Conway Springs Farris established his medical practice. 
  More than a decade after his removal to Kansas Farris entered the political life of the state when he won election as Sumner County's representative to the Kansas legislature in November 1902. Taking his seat at the start of the 1903-05 session Farris was named to the following committees: Hygiene and Public Health, Roads and Highways, and Legislative Apportionment. Shortly after his election, Dr. Farris was profiled in a brief write-up in the Topeka State Journal, under the heading "Good Roads His Hobby". Coming out as fully in favor of the passage of road improvement legislation, Farris remarked:
"I think a physician is pretty well qualified to judge of the roads question, an I am for some sort of legislation that will give us better roads. People who travel over the country roads in the daytime can drive around the bad places, but a doctor goes over them night and day, and he knows what a bad road is."
   As a backer for improved roadways, Farris further related that he'd been in favor of the creation of a Kansas state engineering post, and office that would, in Farris's words, "have general oversight of roadmaking". In addition to the betterment of Kansas roads, Farris also proposed the prohibition or regulation of importing hogs from other states, as well as a measure that would
"Compel people to bury or burn their dead animals. He thinks dead carcasses which are left unburied are a fruitful source for the spreading of diseases, and if buried, insists that it should not be near water courses."
Portrait courtesy of Find-A-Grave.

  Acknowledged as a "sound-money Republican" and a "friend of the widow and orphan", Esom Farris won a second term in the legislature in November 1904, a term that saw him named to the committees on Penal Institutions, Roads and Highways, and the State Historical Society. In 1909 Farris removed from Kansas to St. Cloud, Florida, where he continued to practice medicine and also served on a soldier's pensions board there. Farris died in St. Cloud on February 6, 1920, aged 75 and was later interred at the Mount Peace Cemetery in that city.

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