Thursday, May 31, 2018

Sescoe Curry Isaacs (1897-1967)

Portrait from the West Virginia State Blue Book, 1948.

  The Strangest Names In American Political History begins its month-long stay in West Virginia for a look at the lives of several oddly named men who were elected to public office in the Mountain State. The first of these profiles takes us to Lincoln County and Sescoe Curry Isaacs, a World War I veteran, road contractor, and real estate dealer who served one term in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Born on May 1, 1897, in Sheridan, West Virginia, Sescoe Curry Isaacs was the son of  Greeley Horace and Annie Victoria (Midkiff) Isaacs
  Isaacs' early education occurred in both "public and private normal schools" in his home state and is mentioned as having been a veteran of the First World War. Despite the mention of his service in the West Virginia Blue Book (as well as his 1967 Charleston Gazette obituary) no information could be located on the duration of his service or his area of deployment.
  Sescoe C. Isaacs married on Christmas Day 1920 to Mae Damron (1901-1979). The couple were wed for over forty years and had several children, including Ivan Cecil (1920-1993), Virginia Marie (1922-1935), Sescoe Curry Jr. (1926-2000), Betty Jo (1931-2009), Don Chafin (1932-1989), Alma Mae (1934-2011), Anna Margaret (1935-2015), and Harold Greeley (born 1938). A self-employed road contractor prior to his service in state government, Sescoe Isaacs was also an oil and gas well driller, being affiliated with the Ray Gas Co. He is also mentioned as having been a real estate agent in his brief West Virginia Blue Book biography, being "engaged in buying, building, and selling homes." 
  Isaacs entered the political life of his state in November 1948 when he won election to the West Virginia House of Delegates from Lincoln County, besting Republican nominee B.R. Osborne by a vote of 4,473 to 4, 108. Serving during the 1949-51 session, little is known of Isaac's term or his life after leaving office, excepting notice of his being a member of the Welcome Home Baptist Church in Pleasant View, West Virginia.
   Sescoe C. Isaacs died at a hospital in Huntington, West Virginia on April 11, 1967, at age 69. He was survived by his wife Mae and several of his children and was later interred at the Sloan Cemetery in Lincoln County.

Frome the Charleston Daily Telegraph, April 1967.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Gelon Wilberforce West (1845-1890)

Portrait from the History of Tolland County, Connecticut, Vol. I, 1888.

    Lifelong Connecticut resident Gelon Wilberforce West lived to the age of just forty-four, and for half his life was a prominent jurist in Tolland County, serving as Judge of Probate for the Ellington district for two decades and at the time of his passing also held the post of judge of the city court of Rockville. Born in Columbia, Connecticut on August 31, 1845, Gelon Wilberforce West was one of eight children born to Samuel Ferdinand and Charlotte (Porter) West.
  West's formative years in Columbia saw him working the family farm and attending schools local to the area of his birth. He would graduate from the Ellington High School and at age seventeen left the farm and for two winters (1862-64) taught school. Deciding to pursue a career in law, West began his studies in the Hartford based office of Waldo and Hyde in January 1866 and was admitted to the Connecticut bar in July 1868.
  After receiving his law degree West established his practice in Rockville, Connecticut in November 1868. Just a few months following his settlement he was elected as Probate Judge for the Ellington district in April 1869 and officially entered into his duties on July 4th of that year. Gelon West would marry in Vermont in March 1870 to Ellen Goodwin Adkins (-1920) and later had two daughters, Inez Winifred West Antwis (1872-1944) and Ethel Belle West Black (1877-1946).
  Just 23 years old at the time of his election as judge, West would hold that post until his death in January 1890, continually being reelected "irrespective of party." His lengthy tenure on the bench was later remarked as "being the longest term, or consecutive terms, held by any judge of said district since its formation, in 1826". In addition to his judicial service, West would serve in several other political capacities, holding the posts of town clerk, treasurer, and registrar for Vernon, Connecticut (1883-1890), assistant clerk of the Superior Court for Tolland County (1875-), school board clerk, and until the time of his death was the municipal judge for Rockville.
  Active in the civic life of Rockville, Gelon West was a leading figure in the planned establishment of the Rockville High School, and " personally paid the expenses attendant upon issuing the first diplomas of that institution." West would be of further service to Rockville as a "prime mover" to see it incorporated and chartered as a city, which it became in 1889. After a number of years of service in Tolland County, Gelon W. West died in Rockville on January 17, 1890, due to a heart attack "following an attack of the grip". Memorialized as a judge of "sound judgment" and "tender sympathy", West was further praised in a Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors report, which noted that
"His faithfulness and integrity were proverbial, and his word was as good as his bond. While often negligent of the duties which he owed to himself, he ever failed in his obligations to his fellowmen. The perplexities of his many duties never tested beyond its strength that serene and abiding patience, which he always commanded, in sickness and in health."
 Gelon West was survived by his wife Ellen and daughters Inez and Ethel, all of whom were interred in the West family plot at the Grove Hill Cemetery in Rockville. 

From the New Haven Morning Journal and Courier, January 18, 1890.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Costello Lippitt (1842-1924)

From the Genealogical and Biographical Record of New London County, 1905.

  For many years a distinguished banker and financier in New London County, Connecticut, Costello Lippitt didn't enter the political life of his state until well into his sixth decade, winning election as Mayor of Norwich in 1908. Lippitt would achieve further distinction as a high ranking Mason in the state, and in 1911 began a term as State Treasurer of Connecticut.  Born in East Killingly, Connecticut on December 12, 1842, Costello Lippitt was the only child of Norris Greenleaf (1817-1887) and Eliza (Leffingwell) Lippitt (1819-1863).  He would attend the public schools of East Killingly and the Norwich Free Academy and later enrolled at the Wesleyan University in Middletown, earning his master's degree in 1867. 
  Costello Lippitt married in August 1864 to Emily Hyde Standish, to whom he was wed until her death in 1889. The couple would have two children, Mary Bell (1865-1908) and Norris Standish (1867-1928). Norris Lippitt would later follow his father into finance, serving as the assistant teller for the Norwich Savings Bank. Following his wife's death in 1889 Lippitt remarried in 1891 to Gertrude Hopkins Lamphere (1858-1922), whom he also survived.
  Lippitt first entered into the world of finance in 1864 when he entered into a clerkship at the Thames National Bank, continuing in the role into the following year. In 1865 he took on a similar post at the Norwich Savings Bank, and by 1881 had succeeded to the post of secretary and treasurer of that bank, which would grow to become the second-largest in Connecticut. In addition to this bank, Lippitt also was a trustee and director of the Norwich Savings Society and was president of the Merchant's National Bank, the former having a "savings deposit of nearly $15,000,000" during his tenure.
  With his name firmly established in Norwich's financial sector, Lippitt would achieve further distinction in the civic affairs of Norwich, being the first president of the board of trustees for the Norwich Hospital for the Insane. He would occupy similar posts on the boards for the Norwich Free Academy and the Eliza Huntington Memorial Home, and in the late 1890s served as a director for the Norwich Street Railway Company. A Mason of high standing in New London County, Lippitt became a Master Mason in the Somerset Lodge No. 34 in Norwich and would not only attain the 33rd degree but also became an Eminent Commander of the Columbian Commandery No. 4, Knights Templar and was a Past Grand Commander for Connecticut in 1892.

From the Norwich Bulletin, December 13, 1911.

   Costello Lippitt refrained from pursuing public office until well into his sixties. In early 1908 he was induced to run for Mayor of Norwich and in June of that year defeated longtime Democratic mayor Charles F. Thayer in a close race, with a "majority of only 75." Lippitt would serve a two-year term as mayor (his term concluding in June 1910) and would be succeeded by the man whom he had bested in 1908, Charles Thayer. 
  In April 1910 Lippitt announced that he'd be seeking the Republican nomination for State Treasurer, and throughout the succeeding months various Connecticut newspapers profiled Lippitt's candidacy, while also booming his past successes in banking and as mayor, with the Litchfield Inquirer remarking:
"It would be hard to imagine a man better equipped for the state treasurership. For many years he has held responsible positions connected with money institutions and his integrity is as strong as his executive ability is pronounced."
  In November 1910 Lippitt won the treasurer's office, defeating Democratic nominee Edward T. Brown by a vote of 79, 383 to 73, 511. Lippitt's tenure as treasurer extended until 1913, and in December 1911 was honored with a surprise birthday party by members of his staff, receiving multiple gifts and roses, as well as a humorous letter, stating:
"Costello Lippitt is hereby sentenced to a life term in the state treasurer's department, or else he should hang on to his present office for forty years. The culprit is hereby directed to choose which sentence he will take, and in either case the office force wishes him long life and much happiness."
  Following his leaving the treasurer's office Lippitt continued prominence in Norwich, being elected as grand treasurer for the Grand Commandery of the Knights Templar of Connecticut. He would continue involvement with the Norwich Savings Society (being vice-president, secretary, and treasurer), and in December 1921 marked 57 years of affiliation with that institution. Widowed for a second time in 1922 with the death of his wife Gertrude, Costello Lippitt died in Norwich on August 21, 1924, at age 81. He was survived by his son Norris and was interred alongside his wives and daughter Mary at the Yantic Cemetery in Norwich.

From Taylor's Legislative History and Souvenir of Connecticut, 1912.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Beppo Rolff Johansen (1909-1946)

From the St. Petersburg Times, January 19, 1939.

  Oddly named Clearwater, Florida resident Beppo Rolff Johansen is another curiously named American diplomat discovered recently, and despite his length of years (he died aged 37 in 1946) was a prominent member of the foreign service, serving as U.S. Vice Consul in Yokohama, Japan; Harbin, Manchuria; and Shanghai and Tientsin, China. The son of Valdemar Simon and Margrethe (Glent) Johansen, Beppo Rolff Johansen was born in Manhattan, New York on March 9, 1909. Born of Danish descent, Johansen was given the unusual name Beppo upon his birth and in the late 1920s began attending the University of Florida
   Following his graduation from that school Johansen decided upon a career in the diplomatic service, and in the mid-1930s enrolled at the Italian Diplomatic School in Florence, Italy. He passed the foreign service examination in the fall of 1934 and following the conclusion of his studies in Florence in late 1935 entered into his first diplomatic role, that of a language officer at the American Embassy in Tokyo
  By October 1937 Johansen had advanced to the post of Vice Consul and was stationed in Yokohama, Japan. His time in that post extended until February 1939, when, after a visit home to Clearwater, Florida, was appointed as Vice Consul in Harbin, Manchuria. While serving in Manchuria Johansen married Lucy "Penny" Norton (1910-2005) in 1939, who had been born in Korea to American missionary parents. The couple would later have two children, Rolff and Karin. 
   Johansen's consulship at Harbin ended in early 1941 and in January of that year entered into the post of Third Secretary of the U.S. Embassy in Peking, China. In December 1941 he saw the U.S. flag lowered at the embassy at the dawn of the war with Japan, and the Tampa  Times gives note as to his later being captured by the Japanese and held as a prisoner for six months. Johansen was later freed, and after traveling to East Africa was returned stateside on the passenger ship Gripsholm in June 1942. 

Beppo Johansen returns to China, from the Foreign Service Journal, Jan. 1946.

  In September 1945 Johansen returned to diplomatic service when he and Richard Porter Butrick (1894-1997), along with other diplomatic personnel, traveled to China to begin reopening America's Asian consulates that had been freed from Japanese occupancy. With headquarters in Shanghai, the group set about reestablishing consulates in Tientsin, Hankow, Canton, Hong Kong, and Tsingtao, and in February 1946 Johansen saw the American flag hoisted once again over the American consulate in Peking (Peiping), China. 

From the Harrisburg Telegraph.

From the 1936 Foreign Service Journal photo supplement.

   In February 1946 Beppo Johansen entered into the post of Vice Consul in Tientsin, China. He continued in his duties as consul until his death in Tokyo on July 22, 1946, his cause of death being attributed to "thrombosis". Just 37 years old at the time of his passing, Johansen was memorialized by his friend and fellow diplomat Richard P. Butrick as having been "effective without being aggressive" and "unassuming without being scheming", and further related: 
"Always ready and willing to be of assistance, Beppo would frequently anticipate the wishes of the department and of his chief. Gifted with common sense far beyond the average and genuine modesty, he was respected and beloved alike by all his associates, of whatever grade. The ranks of the service may close up, but for another generation there will always be a gap where Beppo stood.
 Following his death, Johansen was interred at the U.S. Army Cemetery in Yokohama, Japan. He was survived by his wife Lucy, who, in the wake of her husband's death, entered into the diplomatic service herself, being employed as a receptionist in the office of the U.S. Political Advisor in Tokyo. She would also see service in Switzerland, Canada, and Italy, and was later a resident of both Maine and Belgium, dying in the latter country in July 2005, aged 95.

From the St. Petersburg Times, July 24, 1946.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Elawson Carry More (1837-1902)

Portrait from the St. Louis Republic, July 26, 1902.

  Today marks a return to profiling an oddly named American diplomat, and Elawson Carry More (a former U.S. Consul General in Mexico City) fits the bill perfectly. An Arkansan by birth, More was widely traveled in his youth, studying abroad in France, Germany, and Spain. Remarked as a "fine classical scholar" with a "rare knowledge of general literature", More spoke multiple languages, practiced law, farmed in Missouri, and in the late 1880s was appointed by President Cleveland to a consulship in Mexico. More had earlier served as a two time Democratic National Convention delegate and was a Democratic presidential elector in 1884.
  The son of Elijah and Sarah Caroline (Owens) More, Elawson Carry More was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on December 27, 1837. The origins behind More's unusual name remain unknown and his middle name is variously spelled as Carry, Carrie, and Carey (the first given being the most frequent in sources mentioning him.) His last name is also variously given as both More and Moore. His early schooling occurred in the United States and during his youth spent time in Europe, studying in Paris, Spain, and in Hanover and Berlin, Germany. More's education in Europe saw him learn multiple languages, "speaking them as well as he did his own", and would later garner a reputation as a man of refined tastes, as well as "a devotee of the finer arts."
  Following his return stateside More attended Yale University and after graduating in the class of 1858 began the study of law at the Cumberland Law School in Lebanon, Tennessee. In April 1861 he graduated with his bachelor of laws degree and soon after joined the firm of Lackland, Cline, and Jamison in St. Louis, Missouri. Elawson C. More married in Nashville, Tennessee in 1862 to Julia Nichol. The couple would have three children prior to divorce in 1869 and four years later More remarried to Elizabeth Hunton Taylor (1842-1918), who would survive him upon his death in 1902.
  More's time in St. Louis extended until 1865 when he removed to Helena, Montana Territory to continue his practice. After one year of residence in that territory More removed again, and for the next several months traveled throughout the American West, visiting California, Oregon, and also ventured into Central America before finally settling in Columbia, Missouri in 1867. Elawson More practiced law in Columbia until the early 1870s, whereafter he gave up practice and began farming. He would subsequently purchase a farm near Columbia and following improvements began raising stock and  "also constructed a ten-acre lake on the farm and stocked it with fish."
   Elawson More first ventured into Missouri politics in 1876 when he served as part of the Missouri delegation to that year's Democratic National Convention in St. Louis that saw Samuel Tilden nominated for the Presidency. More would again serve as a delegate in 1892, seeing Grover Cleveland win the White House, and in 1884 was a Democratic presidential elector for Missouri, casting his ballot for Cleveland. More would also hold the post of president of the Missouri State Board of Agriculture in 1878.
  In early 1887 President Cleveland appointed More to the post of U.S. Consul General in Mexico City, succeeding James W. Porch, who had been removed. The Butler Weekly Times (by way of the Chicago News) lauded the appointment of More to the post, remarking:
"He is an exceedingly discreet, amiable, cultured and polished man, and his appointment to the Mexican consulship is a distinct gain to the state department service of our government."
From the Butler Weekly Times, February 23, 1887.

  More entered into his duties as consul in early 1887 and served until 1889, being succeeded by Richard Guenther, a native of Wisconsin. In 1897 More left Columbia and resumed the practice of law in St. Louis, forming a partnership with Wellington Adams that specialized in "patent, trademark, and copyright law." More's final years were marred by the effects of Bright's disease, and he later died at the home of his stepson in Peoria, Illinois on July 24, 1902, aged 65. He was survived by his wife Elizabeth and following an "unusually long" funeral procession, was interred at the Columbia Cemetery in Columbia, Boone County, Missouri.

More's name was misspelled as "Elanson" in the March 5 1887 edition of Frank Leslie's Weekly.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Walthall Robertson Joyner (1854-1925)

Walthall Joyner as he appeared in the August 23, 1906, Atlanta Georgian.

  On occasion, an oddly named mayor of a major American city manages to sneak past my purview, and that is the case with Walthall Robertson Joyner, who served a two-year term as mayor of Atlanta, Georgia in the early twentieth century. Despite his unusual name (and being mayor of Georgia's largest city), I had been unaware of Joyner's existence until a few nights ago when a chance look at a 1908 edition of the Omaha Daily Bee revealed a list of mayors who would be attending the convention of the League of American Municipalities. Our subject's name (misspelled in that article as "Jayne") was mentioned as the then-current mayor of Atlanta, and after finding out that those initials stood for Walthall Robertson, I promptly began work on the article you are now reading!
  A lifelong Georgian, Walthall Robertson "Cap" Joyner was born in Cobb County on June 30, 1854, the son of Richard W. and Lucrecia Catherine Joyner. His early childhood was spent in that county and at age seven removed with his family to Atlanta. Joyner's education took place in the public schools of Atlanta and in 1868 left school to take work as a retail clerk with the W.F. Peck and Co., continuing there until 1876. In addition to this clerkship,  Joyner entered into a long career as a fireman at age sixteen, joining the Atlanta Volunteer Fire Department. 
   Joyner would quickly advance through the ranks of the department, becoming a foreman at age nineteen and in 1876 was elected as department chief. Just 22 years old at the time of his election, Joyner served as chief for two years and subsequently declined renomination to that post. He married in May 1878 to Clio Belle Setze (1858-1917), and later had four sons, Richard Wall (1880-1956), Walthall Robertson (1885-1958), Harry Stockdell (1887-1940) and Ralph (1890-1926).
  In 1883 Joyner saw the Atlanta fire department become a paid department and, despite protests, declined the position of chief. Two years later he was again offered the post and this time accepted, beginning a twenty-one-year tenure as chief. Joyner's reputation as a fireman continued to soar through the 1880s and 90s, and in 1887 was elected as president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. The first Southern fire chief to be so honored, Joyner would be elected to that post twice more (in 1903 and 1904) and at the time was the only man ever to be selected as association president on three occasions.

From the Cotton States and International Exposition and South, Illustrated, 1896.

  Joyner's position as Atlanta fire chief stretched well into the early 20th century, and during that time several improvements were made to the department under his watch, including the following:
  • The first city chemical engine.
  • The city's first hose wagons and aerial ladder truck
  • The city's first water tower
  • Inaugurating the posts of an assistant fire chief, Chiefs Aide, and Fire Inspector
  • Brought the total number of men employed by the department to "10 companies and 139 men."
  In addition to his long tenure as chief, Joyner also ventured into the world of baseball. Purchasing the Atlanta Baseball Club in 1905, Joyner's interest in "America's Pastime" extended back to 1889, when he served as president of the Atlanta Baseball Club of the Southern League. Following the collapse of that organization in the late 1890s, Joyner and businessman John Dickinson formed the Atlanta Baseball League, of which Joyner was elected president in 1898. Following the purchase of the Atlanta Baseball Club Joyner and Dickinson renamed the team the "Atlanta Fire Crackers", and saw their team win two pennants. Joyner would later serve as president of the South Atlantic League in 1910.

From the Fire Protection Service, Vol. 82.

  In August 1906 Joyner entered the political life of Atlanta when he was elected as Mayor of Atlanta, besting his opponent Thomas H. Goodwin by a "261 majority." Acknowledged as having had "no political backer" as well as being the "architect of his own fortune", Joyner's ascension to the mayor's office was lauded by the Fire and Water Engineering magazine, which remarked that:
"In him the city will not only have an able chief executive, but one whose reputation for honesty of purpose and fixed determination to see the affairs of the municipality fairly and honestly administered is preverbial. It is, therefore, safe to prophesy that, under his regime, Atlanta's progress and increase in prosperity will be very marked."
   Joyner's tenure as mayor extended from 1907-09 and during his service was a trustee for the League of American Municipalities. Following his term he sold his interest in the Atlanta Baseball Club and in 1909 was named as Georgia State Fire Marshal, becoming the inaugural h0lder of that post. Joyner served as Fire Marshal for thirteen years, and his time in office saw him contend with the Great Atlanta Fire of 1917. During his later years, Joyner resided in a room given to him at Engine Co. No. 8, sharing quarters with his son, who was also a fireman. Joyner retired from the marshal's office in 1922 and died at the Grady Hospital in Atlanta on January 5, 1925, at age 70. Widowed in 1917, both Joyner and his wife Clio were interred at the Marietta City Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Folsom LaMont Glass (1892-1969)

From the Greenville Journal-Advocate, June 6, 1962.

  A two-term member of the Alabama House of Representatives from Greenville, Folsom LaMont Glass etched his name into Alabama history in 1959 when he introduced legislation that would see the camellia flower be designated as the official state flower. A lifelong Alabaman, F. LaMont Glass (as most sources list him) was born in Greenville on December 22, 1892, one of eleven children born to Ross Callen and Rebecca (Tillery) Glass. 
  Glass would be a student in the public schools of Garland and Georgiana, Alabama, and married in November 1917 to Lillie Belle Kerr (1895-1982). The couple's marriage extended over five decades and saw the births of two daughters, Elaine (1921-2002) and Floretta (1926-1984). Prior to his service in state government Glass had been employed as a telegraph operator for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, and would go on to become a merchant in the Greenville area. 
  In November 1958 F. LaMont Glass won election to the Alabama House of Representatives, polling 2,195 votes on election day. During the 1959-63 house term, Glass sat on the committees on Local Government, Local Legislation #1, and Transportation, and in mid-1959 introduced a bill that would designate the camellia as Alabama's official state flower. Prior to Glass' initiative, the Alabama state flower had been the Goldenrod (a type of weed), and Glass' constituents in Butler County eventually convinced him to put forth the camellia (the namesake of Greenville's nickname "The Camellia City") as a possible new state flower. In August of that year, Glass's measure passed the house and was signed into law. This term also saw Glass and fellow Butler County representative H.B. Taylor introduce a bill that would "revamp Alabama's state marriage law" in 1961, legislation that did away with a previous statute that noted that "couples were required to obtain a marriage license in the county where the woman lived, or in the county where the couple planned to wed." The effects of this legislation are still felt in modern-day Alabama, and as a piece of segregation-era legislation, the bill could be used to make issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples optional, rather than mandatory
   F. LaMont Glass would win a second term in the legislature in 1962 and during the 1963-67 session served on the committees on Agriculture, Local Legislation No. 1, and Rules and State Administration. Two years after completing his term Glass died in Greenville on August 20, 1969, at age 77. He was survived by his wife and daughters, all of whom were interred at the Magnolia Cemetery in Greenville.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Elhanan Van Lew Peterson (1835-1914)

Portrait from the Kansas Legislative Directory of 1903.

   The life of one term Kansas state senator Elhanan Van Lew Peterson is examined today, and, like Esom G. Farris (profiled a day or two ago), was a transplant to the Sunflower State from Indiana. Interestingly, Peterson and Farris served in the same legislative session (the 1903 term), albeit in different houses. A native of Seneca County, New York, Elhanan Van Lew Peterson was born in the town of Lodi on June 1, 1835, the son of Amos and Penelope (Van Lew) Peterson. His early life saw him working the family farm and attending the district school in that area, and at age sixteen entered into a teaching career himself.
  After earning enough money, Peterson enrolled at an academy near Albany, New York in 1854 and from there began study at the Union College at Schenectady. He graduated in the class of 1858 and soon after returned to teaching, his work eventually taking him to a school near Port Worthington, Mississippi. This school, located near a large cotton plantation, brought Peterson into contact with the plantation owner (a Mr. Lashley), a slave owner, and a cousin of Vice-President John C. Breckinridge. Peterson would even meet Breckinridge while visiting Baton Rouge, the two men having dinner with another relation of the aforementioned Mr. Lashley.
  Following his stay in Mississippi Peterson briefly taught at a boy's academy in Winchester, Tennessee before relocating to Alabama to accept a teaching position in the town of Athens. He remained here until the early 1860s, and shortly before the opening of the Civil War had relocated to Peru, Indiana, where in August 1861 he enlisted in Co. A., 39th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. Peterson would attain the rank of first lieutenant in that company and in January 1862 married in Ann Arbor, Michigan to Caroline Gregory (1832-1924). The couple were wed for over fifty-two years and would have two children, Henry Gregory (1866-1885), who was killed in a hunting accident, and Penelope (born 1868).
  Following his marriage, Peterson returned to service and in late 1862 saw the 39th Indiana change into a cavalry regiment (the 8th Indiana Cavalry), and would serve as a captain in company M. Peterson's tour of duty saw him action at some of the war's most notable engagements, including the battles of Corinth, Shiloh, Pulaski, Green River, Perrysville, Chickamauga and Chattanooga, and for a time was retained as judge advocate on the staff of Union Generals Joshua W. Sill and Richard W. Johnson.
   Honorably discharged in November 1864, Elhanan Peterson removed to Champaign, Illinois at the conclusion of his service and during his residency was a partner in the firm of Peterson and Lloyde, dealers in book, music, and paper stationery. In 1884 Peterson retired from that business and the company continued on under his partner D.H. Lloyde (albeit under a different name). By 1885 Peterson and his family had relocated to Norton County, Kansas, and after establishing himself in the town of Norton aided in the organization of the State Bank of Norton (later renamed to the First National Bank of Norton), of which he would serve as cashier. 
  In the succeeding years Peterson would serve as bank president and in 1886 was elected to his first political office, that of Norton's mayor. After retiring from banking pursuits in the early 1890s Peterson farmed, raised cattle, and in November 1900 was elected to the Kansas State Senate from the 40th senatorial district. During the 1901-03 session, Petterson sat on the committees on Assessment and Taxation, Banks and Banking, and Congressional Apportionment, and in January 1902 addressed the Kansas State Board of Agriculture on the importance of alfalfa to the state, with the Topeka State Journal noting that:
"He said that in a few years that alfalfa would assume the greatest importance of any product in the state; that as a forage plant it had no equal; that the semiarid regions of the western part of the state are particularly adapted to it."
  In the latter portion of his term Peterson would introduce legislation that would provide assistant state officers and chief clerks with a pay increase to $1,800 and $1,500, respectively, and in March 1903 was named as U.S. Postmaster of Norton, Kansas, a post he continued to fill until February 1907. At some point following his leaving the postmaster's office Peterson and his wife removed to Brownsville, Cameron County, Texas, and on December 19, 1914, Elhanan V. Peterson died in that city, aged 79. Peterson's remains were later returned to Kansas for burial in the Norton Cemetery under a modest white military headstone.

                          From Lockard's History of the Early Settlement of Norton County, Kansas, 1894.

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 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.