Joseph Norman Dolley, bank commissioner of the State of Kansas, ex-speaker of the Kansas house of representatives, and chairman of the Republican state central committee, is a native of the Old Bay State, born in the city of Boston, Mass., April 14, 1860, a son of Joseph Norman and Ellen (Broderick) Dolley. The father was born in Ireland, of Scotch-Irish Presbyterian stock, and was a seafaring man practically all his life. He died at Havana, Cuba, in 1882, while in command of a vessel lying in the harbor before that city. His widow survived until 1895, when her death occurred in the State of New Hampshire. Joseph N. Dolley received a common school education in his native city, and at a comparatively early age went to sea with his father. He continued to follow the fortunes of a sailor until 1885, when he came to Kansas and located at Maple Hill, Wabaunsee county, where he engaged in business as a country merchant and proprietor of a blacksmith shop. These were the earliest business enterprises of Maple Hill, where he was virtually the first settler and the founder of the town. From that day to the present time Mr. Dolley's course has been steadily onward and upward in whatever he has undertaken. The sturdy Scotch-Irish character inherited from his father, the rigid New England training, and the experience aboard ship all combined to make him a broad-minded, resourceful and courageous manone not to be intimidated or turned aside by obstacles within the limits of human possibility to overcome. Within a short time after becoming a resident of the Sunflower State he became interested in banking operations and other lines of business. Today he is president of the Commercial National Bank of Alma, and vice-president of the Stockgrowers' State Bank of Maple Hill, generally known as "Dolley's Bank." He is also president of the Mid-Kansas Milling Company of Alma, the Kansas Home Mutual Life Insurance Company of Topeka, the P. C. C. Oil & Gas Company of Chanute, the Maple Hill school board, and vice-president of the Wabaunsee County Telephone Company. He is an active and influential member of the Retail Merchants' Association of Kansas, of which he has served as vice-president, and is always a ready and willing helper of every movement for the advancement of the material interests of his adopted state.
The "Topeka Daily Capital" of Jan. 3, 1909, says: "Joe Dolley hadn't been in Kansas long enough to get the seaweed out of his hair before he was in politics. The first time he saw the county seat of Wabaunsee county was the fall following his arrival on Mill creek, when he was sent as the chairman of his township delegation to the county convention. He went to the next convention, but when he started for the third the first of many unsuccessful fights on Joe Dolley began. They must all be called unsuccessful, for he went to the third convention with an overwhelming majority behind him and has been going ever since. No stopping Dolley in Wabaunsee, where the farmers know him, trust him, believe in him and vote for him."
Therein lies the secret of his success. Those who know him best trust him the most implicity, and as the circle of his acquaintance widens he grows proportionately stronger. Although frequently importuned by his friends to become a candidate for county office, he persistently declined until 1902, when he was elected to represent his county in the lower branch of the state legislature. Here he served his constituents with such signal ability and conscientious fidelity that in the fall of 1904 he was elected to the state senate from the Twenty-first district, composed of the counties of Wabaunsee, Riley and Geary. After serving for four years in the senate he was again elected representative from Wabaunsee county, and in the session of 1909 was speaker of the house, a position requiring rare tact and a thorough knowledge of parliamentary usage, but he was never found wanting. In 1910 and 1911 he was favorably mentioned by several of the Kansas newspapers as a candidate for governor. As a political organizer Mr. Dolley has but few equals and fewer superiors. During the presidential campaign of 1908 he was chairman of the Republican state central committeewhich position he still holdsand with a fund of less than $20,000 carried the state for the Taft electors by a plurality of over 37,000. March 3, 1909, Mr. Dolley was appointed state bank commissioner by Governor Stubbs. The appointment was an appropriate one, as Mr. Dolley's long experience as a banker gives him unquestionable qualificatons for the discharge of his official duties, while his sterling integrity is a guarantee that these duties will he administered without fear or favor. As a member of the legislature he was interested in passage of the guaranty law, and as bank commissioner is doing much to strengthen and promote the banking interests of Kansas. Under the supervision of his department there are 870 state banks and 59 building and loan associations, yet by the exercise of his superb executive ability and a systematic direction of his office the condition of each of these financial institutions is well known to the department. Mr. Dolley is a prominent figure in fraternal circles, being a thirty-second degree Mason, a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Modern Woodmen, and the Fraternal Aid Association, and for several years he was honored with the local presidency of the last two named societies. In his church affiliations he is a member of the Congregationalists, and for many years has been a member of the Elliott Congregational church of Maple Hill.
On Oct. 13, 1887, Mr. Dolley was united in marriage with Miss Mary E. McClellan, a native of Pennsylvania, but who at the time of her marriage was a resident of Maple Hill. This union has been blessed with one daughterMiss Esther A. Dolleynow a young lady of nineteen years. While the public service of one kind and another has claimed the most of Mr. Dolley's attention for several years he finds his greatest enjoyment in his home and in the society of his wife and daughter. Evidence of his devotion to his family and of his strong domestic tastes is found in the fact that in the year 1910 he erected at Maple Hill a magnificent new homethe finest in Wabaunsee county and one of the finest in the statebut it was not decreed that he should be permitted to enjoy it even for a brief period, for about the time it was ready for occupancy it was totally destroyed by fire. Within the space of a few hours the structure, which in appointment and finish, represented the highest degree of modern skill and the construction of which had received his patient attention for several months, was reduced to a heap of ashes. Such losses have been known entirely to crush the spirit of some men, but happily Mr. Dolley is made of a fiber that enables men to be firm in the midst of reverses however severe. While he keenly felt and deplored it, he bore the misfortune with that forbearance which only strong men possess, and accepted the decree of fate with a resolution that is found only in vigorous determination and manly courage.
With but a single purpose in life and that to do right and to make his record, both in his private and public career, measure up to a high standard of American citizenship, Joseph N. Dolley is a broad-minded, conscientious and courageous man, and he possesses executive force and qualities of leadership to a marked degree. During his more than twenty-five years' residence in Kansas his personality has become stamped on her public affairs to an extent equalled by that of few others, and in political circles and all matters which relate to the public service, he is undoubtedly one of the strongest men in the state today.Pages 176-178 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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