LEGENDS OF KANSAS

 

History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs

 

Historic People of Kansas - "E-F"

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E

 

Peter Percival Elder seatedPeter Percival Elder (1823-1914) - Politician, Indian Agent and businessman, Elder was for many years intimately connected with Kansas affairs. He was born in Somerset County, Maine on September 20, 1823 and educated in his native state. In 1857 he came to Kansas, settling in Franklin County, which he helped to organize. In 1859 he was a delegate to the Osawatomie Convention which organized the Republican Party in Kansas, and in 1860-61 he was a member of the Territorial Legislative Council. President Abraham Lincoln appointed him Indian Agent of the Osage and Seneca tribes at Fort Scott, Kansas and while serving in that capacity he recruited a regiment of Osage men for service in the Union army in the Civil War. Alter four years as an Indian Agent, Elder resigned and in 1865 engaged in the banking business at Ottawa. In 1870 he was elected Lieutenant-Governor on the Republican ticket. Subsequently, he served several terms in the state legislature; was speaker of the house in 1878 and again in 1891. He was still living in Ottawa in the early 20th century, but by then was retired. He died in 1914.

 

Rush Elmore (1819-1864) - One of the first Associate Justices of Kansas Territory, Elmore was born in Autauga County, Alabama on February 27, 1819. He was educated at the University of Alabama, before studying law and being admitted to the bar at Montgomery, where he began his practice. In a short time he had established a lucrative business, but upon the breaking out of the war with Mexico, he raised a company in Montgomery, was elected captain, and served to the close of the war. Afterwards, Captain Elmore formed a partnership with his brother, John A. Elmore, and William L. Yancey. He was also made brigadier-general of the Alabama Militia and held the office until appointed Associate Justice of theKansas Territorial Court in the fall of 1854. After serving about a year he was removed, at the same time Governor Reeder and Judge Johnston were removed, but in the spring of 1857, was reappointed by President Buchanan and continued on the bench until the establishment of the state government in February, 1861. In addition to his judicial duties, Judge Elmore was one of the delegates to the Lecompton Constitutional Convention, where he made a fight to have the Constitution submitted to the people. When Kansas was admitted as a state, he moved to Topeka, where he formed a partnership with John Martin and continued in the practice of law until his death, which occurred on August 14, 1864.

 

F

 

Alfred Fairfax (1840-??) - From Chautauqua County Fairfax was a Civil War veteran and the first African American elected to a state legislature. He was born a slave in Loudon County, Virginia but was reportedly sold after he tried to escape. He was then moved to Louisiana just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1862 he escaped and joined the Union Army, where he learned to read. After the war Fairfax became active in politics and became a minister. In fact, he was so active in Louisiana politics that he was elected to Congress in 1878; however, he wasn't able to take office as Democratic mobs forced him to flee. As southern white men fought for control during Reconstruction, Fairfax began to look elsewhere for a better place to live.

 

ExodustersLike numerous other "freedmen," Reverend Fairfax chose Kansas, which provided much "hope" for those fleeing oppression in the south. Though they didn't find a "Utopia" in Kansas, they did find more freedom and less resistance from their Kansas neighbors. Fairfax soon gathered up some 200 families and in 1880, they began to make the trek to Kansas, most of whom settling in Chautauqua County. Fairfax established the Little Coney Colony, obtained a 200-acre farm, raised cotton and other farm products, operated his own cotton gin, and became the pastor at the New Hope Baptist Church in nearby Parsons. Little Coney Colony was incorporated in 1881 and was called home to about 56 families. 

Fairfax achieved political distinction in 1888 when he was elected to represent Chautauqua County in the Kansas State Legislature. Although he served only one term, he was the Chairman of the House Committee on Immigration, worked to repeal the segregation provisions of the 1879 Kansas school statute, and introduced a bill which provided all children equal access to Kansas Public Schools. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass. During his short tenure, he received much praise from both the white and black press. In return for his hard work, he asked: "that the great state of Kansas, the glorious leader of every reform, shall not take a backward step by continuing to legalize distinction and discrimination against a loyal, brave and true race even though their faces be dark."

 

 

 

David W. Finney (1839-1916) - A farmer, miller and Kansas legislator, Finney was born in Parke County, Indiana on August 22, 1839. He received a limited education in his native state, served through the Civil War as a member of Company A, Eighty-fifth Indiana Infantry, and in 1866 became a resident of Woodson County, Kansas. Since the time he became of legal age, he took an active part in politics as a Republican and in 1867 he was elected to represent Woodson County in the Kansas Legislature. He was frequently called upon to act as delegate to state or district conventions; was a state senator from 1876 to 1880, representing the district composed of Woodson and Coffey Counties; was president of the senate when the first prohibition law was passed; was receiver of the Topeka Land Office for about three months in 1877; was Right-of-Way Agent for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad Company for a time, and in 1882 was elected Lieutenant-Governor. The legislature of 1883 changed the name of Sequoyah County to Finney in his honor. After his term as Lieutenant-Governor he became the senior member of the firm of Finney & Co., operating a large flour mill at Neosho Falls. He died on November 1, 1916 and was buried at Neosho Falls.

 

Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of Kansas, updated March, 2017.

About the Article: The majority of this historic text was published in Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Volume I; edited by Frank W. Blackmar,  A.M. Ph. D.; Standard Publishing Company, Chicago, IL 1912. However, the text that appears on these pages is not verbatim, as additions, updates, and editing have occurred.

 

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