Israel L. Diesem, president of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture and one of the best known agriculturists and horticulturists of the state, is especially well known in western Kansas through his interest and efforts in the direction of irrigation and the upbuilding of that section of the state. Mr. Diesem comes of sturdy German ancestry and in appreciation of the German influence in the United States it may be said that no other nationality has contributed more largely to the upbuilding, liberation and preservation of this nation or has striven more valiantly and successfully for the culture and advancement of mankind in general than have the Germans. As agriculturists they have been eminently successful everywhere and in the various branches of industrial activity their enterprise and influence are in continual evidence. Mr. Diesem was born in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, June 28, 1852, to his parents, Christian and Catherine (Stark) Diesem. Both father and mother were natives of County Backnang, Württemberg, Germany, where the father was born in the town of Bartenbach on May 8, 1811, and the latter in Steinenberg, on Sept. 3, 1812. They came to the United States in 1836 and settled first in Pennsylvania, but in 1853 they removed to Ohio and located on a farm in Ashland county. Christian Diesem was a carpenter by trade, but after his removal to Ohio he gave his whole attention to agriculture.
Israel L. Diesem attended the country schools of Ashland county until fifteen years of age, when it became necessary for him to give his whole time to assisting in the duties of the home farm. In 1869, when but seventeen years of age, he went to the city of Mansfield, Ohio, and there mastered the blacksmith's trade, an occupation he followed for eight years. During that time he worked for the Buckeye Mower & Reaper Company, of Akron, Ohio, the Bucyrus Machine Company, at Bucyrus, Ohio, put in one season at the Thornton Carriage Works at Roseville, Ind., and afterward was employed at Galion, Ohio, on work on locomotives for the Atlantic & Great Western Railway Company. At Galion, Ohio, on April 25, 1876, Mr. Diesem married Miss Maggie Cook. In 1877 he left the railway service and engaged in the mercantile business at Clinton, Ohio, but after three years there he and his wife and son, Harry Custer, left Ohio, in the spring of 1880, to make their future home in Kansas. He located first at Silver Lake, Shawnee county, where he remained five years, but his mercantile business not being satisfactory there he sold out and removed to his present home at Garden City in 1885. Purchasing an eighty-acre tract of land in Finney county, he went back to his earlier occupation of tilling the soil. Besides improving what is now one of the best farms in that county he engaged in other lines of business, was energetic and never found to be idle. For a number of years he was the owner of a coal yard at Garden City and after the hard blizzard of Jan. 7, 1886, was the first agent in western Kansas to prepare for similar storms in the future, by providing storage coal. This business he later disposed of to R. M. Lawrence, whose heirs are still conducting it. Mr. Diesem next engaged in the ice business which, together with his farm duties, occupied his attention until he was appointed postmaster of Garden City in February, 1907. He resigned that position in the fall of 1909, however, and retired on Jan. 1, 1910. During his incumbency the streets were named, the residences numbered and the free delivery of mail was established.
Mr. Diesem has been president of the Finney County Agricultural Society for twenty-one years and for nineteen years has been a member and is now president of the state board of agriculture. He has always taken a deep interest in the subject of irrigation and its possibilities of accomplishment and has attended nearly half of the annual sessions of the National Irrigation Congress since its inception. He was president of the Western Kansas Irrigation Association during its life of five years and at one time took a very prominent part in enlisting government aid to utilize the underflow of the Arkansas valley. He was the first man in western Kansas to put in a large pump for irrigation purposes. This was done in 1889, when an 8-inch pump and a 14-foot wind mill were installed and he succeeded in pumping enough water to irrigate an eight-acre orchard that today is in its prime and is bearing fruit.
After leaving the postoffice he formed a partnership with O. V. Folsom in the fire insurance business, the firm being known as Folsom & Diesem, and in their pleasant office Mr. Diesem is ever ready to greet his friends and lend help and influence to any project which has for its aim the upbuilding of western Kansas. In 1911 he sold the farm which had been his home so many years and erected in Garden City a fine three-story cement business block, which now houses the Garden City Mercantile Company, wholesale grocery. He is also a stockholder and a director in the Garden City National Bank.
Two children, Lee C. and Emma, were born to Mr. and Mrs. Diesem after their removal to Kansas, the former having been born at Silver Lake in 1882, and the latter at Garden City in 1887. All three of their children are graduates of the Garden City High School and both sons are graduates of the civil and electrical engineering courses of the University of Kansas. Harry Custer Diesem, the eldest son, now resides in Idaho and is assistant engineer on the Woods River irrigation project. Lee C. Diesem is with the General Electric Company, of Schenectady, N. Y., and has charge of their railway equipment. Miss Emma Diesem became an assistant to her father when he was postmaster and is now chief clerk in the postoffice at Garden City.
Mr. Diesem has worked hard to advance the best interests of irrigation, agriculture and stock raising in western Kansas, and also to build up horticulture and as a monument to his efforts in the last named direction his orchard will stand for years to come. He has never been too busy to observe the Sabbath, as is shown by the records of the Presbyterian Sunday school at Garden City, where he has been its active secretary and treasurer for nearly twenty-two years. He is an enthusiastic member of the Masonic order, in which he has attained the Knight Templar degree. Mr. and Mrs. Diesem reside in a very pleasant new home at 603 North Eighth street, where their charming and cordial hospitality is greatly enjoyed by their many friends.Pages 1548-1550 from volume III, part 2 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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