Peter Percival Elder, former lieutenant-governor of Kansas, was born in Somerset county, Maine, Sept. 30, 1823, and at this present time he is nearly eighty-eight years of age, and residing at Ottawa. Of his ancestral history inquiry has developed the information that the Elder family is of Scotch-Irish lineage. The first representatives of the family in America came from the North of Ireland, and as early as 1717 settled in Cumberland county, Maine, with the history of which county the family has since been prominently identified. The paternal grandfather of Mr. Elder was a soldier of the American Revolution, serving as a private under General Stark, and participated in that memorable battle and victory at Bennington. Isaac Elder, the father of Mr. Elder, was born and reared in Cumberland county, Maine, whence he removed to Somerset county, where he was engaged in farming and the lumber business, and there died in 1848, aged seventy years. His wife bore the maiden name of Mary Quint, and her father was a Revolutionary soldier, taking part in the battle of Bennington and others. Unto Isaac and Mary (Quint) Elder were born eight children, of whom Hon. Peter Percival Elder is the only survivor. The first thirty years of his life were spent in his native county. He attended the Farmington (Me.) Academy and then the Wesleyan University at Reedville, Me. At the age of sixteen he began teaching school, and for the next eight years of his life he was either a teacher or student in school. From an early period in life he was an ardent Abolitionist, and in 1857 he came to Kansas to cast his lot with those who sought to make Kansas a free state. On coming to Kansas he located in Franklin county, where he took up a claim near Ohio City, at $1.24 per acre. Immediately after coming to the territory Mr. Elder became a member of the Kansas militia, and in 1861 President Lincoln appointed him agent for the Osage and Seneca Indians, at Fort Scott. This position he held until 1865, when he resigned. He held the position during the Civil war and rendered invaluable services to the Union, keeping the Indian tribes on the side of the Federal cause. On resigning this position Mr. Elder returned to Franklin county and located at Ottawa, which town had but recently been laid out. In 1865-6 he erected the first substantial residence at Ottawa, hauling the material therefor from Kansas City and Lawrence. In 1866 he established the banking firm of P. P. Elder & Company, which continued a successful business up to 1871, in which latter year the First National Bank of Ottawa was organized, of which bank Mr. Elder was president for two years, then selling out his interest therein. For more than thirty years thereafter he was engaged in farming and stock raising, handling and feeding more cattle during the time than any other cattleman of the county, and owning 1,200 acres of land, most of which was in one body. The later years of his life have been spent in retirement from active business cares.
The political career of Mr. Elder is one of unusual interest. From the time he came to Kansas he has been prominently identified with its territorial and state politics. As early as 1859 he held his first position of political honor. In that year he was elected clerk of the territorial house of legislation. In 1860 he was elected to the territorial council. Under the "Wyandotte constitution" he was elected to the state senate, serving in the first session, which met in Topeka under the proclamation of Governor Robinson in March, 1861. He was then appointed agent for the Osage and Seneca Indians, mention of which is made above. In 1868 he was elected to fill a vacancy in the senate. In 1870 he served as chairman of the Republican state central committee, and in the fall of that same year was elected lieutenant-governor of Kansas. As lieutenant-governor he presided over the senate with honor and distinction. In 1875, 1876 and 1877, he served in the house as chairman of the ways and means committee, and in 1877 as speaker of the house. While he was again serving as a member of the house in 1883 the first railroad bill became a law, and he was a member of the last conference committee. In 1890 Mr. Elder was elected to the house of representatives on the "Alliance" ticket, receiving the largest majority ever given a legislative candidate in the district. He was unanimously chosen speaker of the house, an honor worthy of mention. Equally prominently has Governor Elder been identified with public affairs in the city of his residence. He has held the position of mayor of Ottawa and has borne a prominent part in the development of the city. He was the organizer and president of the company that built the railroad from Ottawa to Olathe, thus making a short cut to Kansas City. This road is now a part of the Santa Fe railroad system. It was through the efforts of Mr. Elder that the machine shops of the Santa Fe were located at Ottawa. In 1896 he founded the "Ottawa Times," which he published and edited for a number of years.
In 1845 Mr. Elder was married in Maine to Miss Catherine, daughter of Daniel Felker, a Maine farmer. Unto the marriage were born two childrenAldamar P. (see ), and Mrs. Lena E. Fuller, of Ottawa. The accompanying portrait group presents three generations of the Elder family. Reading from left to right they are Aldamar P. Elder, Pierre P. Elder, Jr., and Peter P. Elder. Peter P. Elder is eighty-seven years of age, and thirty years older than his son, Aldamar P. Elder, who is thirty years older than his son, Pierre P. Elder, Jr.
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