John William Breidenthal, deceased, was during his life one of the men of Kansas singled out for his fine attainments, lofty ambitions, sterling manhood and remarkable financial career. He was born in Sibley county, Minnesota, June 22, 1857, the son of Matthew and Henrietta (Young) Breidenthal. His father was born near Pittsburgh, Pa., but at an early day removed to Minnesota. Subsequently he came to Kansas and in 1868 located in Elm Grove township, Labette county, where he took up land at a period when so many settlers were coming to the Sunflower State from the North and East. He was very successful and became one of the wealthy and prosperous farmers of the community. From the first he took a prominent part in local affairs and politics, being one of the first members of the Greenback party. He was a leader both politically and socially, being elected to various county offices which he filled with marked ability.
John W. Breidenthal was educated in the public schools of Minnesota and later went to Terre Haute, Ind. Upon completing his studies, he came to Kansas and ran a farm in Labette county from 1877 to 1880. The latter year he entered the real estate and insurance office of J. B. Cook, at Chetopa; became a partner in the firm in 1882, and from that time on was interested in many large real estate deals and investment companies. In 1884 he was instrumental in organizing the Neosho Valley Investment Company and was elected its secretary. This was one of seven companies in the field which lasted fifteen years. In 1890 Mr. Breidenthal became interested financially in a coöperative colonization enterprise in Topolobampo, Mexico, and was elected secretary of the organization. From the time he attained his majority and cast his first vote, Mr. Breidenthal took a keen interest in political affairs, and was nominated on the Greenback ticket, for lieutenant-governor of the state. He was elected chairman of the state central committee of the Progressive Labor Union party in 1887 and held many other important positions. In 1892 he was one of the most potential forces in the work of the People's party, served as chairman of the state central committee, and greatly assisted in the election of the party candidate, L. D. Lewelling, to the office of governor. In 1893 Governor Lewelling appointed him bank commissioner, an office to which he was reappointed by Governor Leedy in 1897. While holding this office, Mr. Breidenthal achieved results in its management and introduced reforms that have rarely been excelled. The revision of the banking laws of Kansas was largely due to his efforts and the changes made were substantially those he suggested. During his last term he recominended the passage of a measure which would guarantee the depositors of state banks against loss by failure. This was the first movement toward the state bank guaranty law which he lived to see passed in 1908. In 1900 he was the nominee of both the Democratic and Populist parties, for the office of governor, the nomination coming to him by acclamation and in the ensuing election he ran ahead of Mr. Bryan, the presidential candidate. In 1901 he organized the Equitable Union, a fraternal insurance society, and was elected its president. The later years of his life were devoted to the organization and management of banks, a task for which he was most admirably fitted. In 1903, the Riverview State Bank and the Banking Trust Company of Kansas City, were established through his efforts. He also organized the Park Junction State Bank of Kansas City and served as one of its officials. In 1908 he was the moving spirit in the organization of the Anchor Life Insurance Company, and was president of the organization until his death. He was a firm believer in the fraternal form of insurance, being a member of several such organizations, and he was also a member of the Masonic fraternity.
On Sept. 26, 1882, Mr. Breidenthal married Julia, daughter of Joseph J. Slaughter of Chetopa, Labette county, a descendant of the old colonial family of that name famous during the Revolutionary war and in later years, in Culpeper county, Virginia. Mr. Slaughter's father, John Slaughter, was born in Culpeper county, but moved to Ohio, and later to Illinois, where he died. Mr. Breidenthal is survived by his widow and the following children: Nellie M., wife of Charles Davies, with the Sherwin-Williams Company of St. Louis; Herbert M., who is engaged in the insurance business in Kansas City; Maurice L., a graduate of the University of Kansas with the class of 1910, now traveling for the Kansas State Horticultural Society; and Willard J., cashier of the Riverview State Bank of Kansas City. The last named was born in Chetopa, Kan., Dec. 1, 1884, and received his elementary education in the public schools of Topeka and Kansas City, Kan. He graduated in the Kansas City High School in 1905 and at once entered the Riverview State Bank, which was founded by his father. From one position of trust he was rapidly advanced to another, as he inherited to a large degree the marked business ability of his father, and in 1907 was made cashier, a position for which he was most admirably qualified. From the first Mr. Breidenthal has displayed those qualities of a shrewd financier and capitalist which were so marked in his father, and today he is a conspicuous figure in the banking life of Kansas. He enjoys the confidence of the bankers in Kansas City; is a director of the St. Paul State Bank, the Elsmore State Bank, and the Citizens State Bank of Bartlett; and in addition to these various banking houses he is a director in the bank of which he is cashier. On Dec. 31, 1907, Mr. Breidenthal married Mary, daughter of Dr. George M. Gray of Kansas City, and they have one daughter, Ruth, born May 9, 1909.Pages 30-31 from volume III, part 1 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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