Jacob B. Ehrsam.One day, forty years ago, or, correctly speaking, in 1872, a machinist who had been operating a sawmill and general store at Enterprise, Dickinson county, Kansas, conceived the idea of establishing at that point a plant for the manufacture of flour-mill machinery. That machinist was Jacob B. Ehrsam, and he had confidence in the future and faith in himself, in his ability to meet the needs of the day and to market his products, otherwise why build a factory 200 miles from any manufacturing center. He built the factory and founded what has grown to be one of the important manufacturing enterprises of the state. From the small beginning of 1872 has grown the business of the J. B. Ehrsam & Sons Manufacturing Company, whose products are marketed, not only in every state in the Union, but also have a large sale in foreign countries.
Jacob B. Ehrsam is a native of Switzerland and was born near the city of Berne, March 25, 1841, son of John and Anna (Rickle) Ehrsam. John Ehrsam brought his family to America in 1867. He remained for a short time in Lawrence, Kansas, and then located on railroad land in Geary county, where he engaged in farming. He died there in 1871, and the death of his wife occurred in Topeka in 1887. They were the parents of three children: John, born in 1839, became a clergyman of the Methodist Episcopal church and died at Wichita in 1902; Mary married Rev. Charles Buchtel, a Methodist clergyman, and died in Wichita in 1910; and Jacob is the youngest.
Jacob B. Ehrsam was educated in the schools of his native land and was apprenticed to the machinist's trade. On reaching the age of twenty he entered the army of the Swiss republic and attained the rank of first lieutenant, serving until the immigration of his parents to America in 1867, when he secured his discharge and accompanied them. He located in Geary county, Kansas, and was for a time engaged in farming. He resumed his trade of machinist and in 1868 secured the contract to erect a flour mill for Christian Hoffman at Louden's Mills, now Enterprise, Dickinson county. This was the first flour mill to be built west of Manhattan. Mr. Ehrsam was also employed in the erection of mills in several towns in central Kansas. In 1870 he located at Enterprise and operated a sawmill and general store. In 1873, with his brothers-in-lawChristian Hoffman and M. Sennhe built at Enterprise a woolen mill, which they operated for six years. In 1872 he built and equipped a factory for the manufacture of flour mill machinery and established a business under the style of J. B. Ehrsam. In a sparsely settled country, 200 miles from any important commercial center, and but lately infested with Indians and buffalo, was born the business of the J. B. Ehrsam & Sons Manufacturing Company, employing 100 skilled mechanics, whose output of flour-mill machinery, grain elevators and cement plaster mills have attained a reputation for quality second to none and are marketed throughout the United States, Canada and all countries of continental Europe. Associated with Mr. Ehrsam are his sonsWilliam J., a graduate of Rose Polytechnic Institute and an expert mechanical engineer, and Arnold W., also a mechanical expert. Since the founding of the business Mr. Ehrsam has devoted the greater part of his time to the manufacturing end of the business and has always insisted that his employees do the best thing they could today. That sort of work makes reputation. The reputation spread, the business continued to grow and the plant was enlarged and modernized as needed. This success has been obtained only through the hardest kind of effort,against seven competitors, and during the early years of business with extremely poor shipping facilities it has required pluck, energy and technical ability of the highest order, combined with the ability to secure and hold intact a skilled force of operatives. Mr. Ehrsam is known for his fairness to his employees, many of whom are the sons of men who composed his initial force. He has made them feel they are integral parts of the plant and they have responded with loyalty and zeal and hold him in affectionate esteem. Mr. Ehrsam is a director in the Dickinson County State Bank of Enterprise and was one of its founders. Essentially a business man, he had neither time nor inclination for public office, though he never neglected in the least his civic duties or obligations. He is a consistent advocate of the principles of the Republican party. He is thoroughly imbued with the spirit of American institutions, a true lover of Kansas and a firm believer in her greater development.
In 1870 Mr. Ehrsam married Mrs. Barbara Senn, nee Hilty. They are the parents of the following children: William, John and Arnold W., who are interested principals in the J. B. Ehrsam & Sons Manufacturing Company; Julia, Elizabeth and Lovernia. A son, Herbert J., died in 1896. Mr. Ehrsam and family are members of the Reformed church and give generously to its support.
Mr. Ehrsam has enjoyed a large and substantial success in the business world, and by methods clean, able and honest. He possesses the esteem and confidence of the community, and has been of potential influence in the social and religious life of Enterprise. He is thoroughly posted on the topics and questions of the day and his reminiscences of pioneer days are delightful word pictures enjoyed by his many friends and acquaintances.Pages 492-493 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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