John Elliott, of Topeka, one of the early pioneers of Kansas, who for the past fifty years has been a prominent figure in Topeka's business circles, was born in Buckfastleigh, Devonshire, England, on April 15, 1831. He received his education in the common schools of his native land, and in his youth learned general mason work under one of the best mechanics in England. In 1852 he left his old home and early associates and came to America to see the land and to build his own career. He landed in Quebec, Canada, on May 29, 1852, with a capital of twenty-five cents, the vigor of young manhood, a stout heart and the will and willingness to do. From Quebec he worked his way to Cleveland, Ohio, where he arrived on Friday, secured a job on Saturday, and on the following Monday went to work. That was the beginning of a career, which for over a half century has been one of continuous activity. He remained in Cleveland four years and from there went to Chicago, in July, 1856, where he remained until the following November. Dec. 15, 1856, found him in Lawrence, Kan., and on April 7, 1857, he came to Topeka, where he engaged in general contracting and continued that line of business there until his retirement, in 1907. Though no longer engaged in contracting, much of his time is employed in the management of other personal business interests, for though he has reached the age of eighty, the habit of work is still with him. He erected nearly all of the earlier Topeka buildings. One of the first to be erected was the Farnsworth Building on Kansas avenue, built in 1857, and now replaced by the New England Building. In 1859 a building for F. W. Childs was erected and is yet standing; it is now owned by Frank P. McClellan. Besides these Mr. Elliott built many of the business buildings and residences erected in the later '50s and early '60s, which then were regarded as fine buildings but most of which, as the city has grown in population and wealth, have since been replaced by larger and finer buildings. In 1873 he erected the buildings occupied by Felix & Sons, clothiers, on Kansas avenue, and still owns one of the buildings.
The parents of Mr. Elliott were John and Elizabeth (Roper) Elliott, the former of whom was a woolen manufacturer. They were both born in England and spent their entire lives in their native land. William Roper, the grandfather of Mr. Elliott, fought under Wellington at the battle of Waterloo. John and Elizabeth (Roper) Elliott became the parents of eight children, all born in England, of whom John Elliott of this review was third in order of birth. Of their four sons, John, Peter and William came to America in the order named, and of the whole family, our subject and William Elliott, of Topeka, are the only ones now living (1911). Peter Elliott fought to sustain the Union during the Civil war and was a member of Company H, Eleventh Kansas infantry.
On Jan. 9, 1856, at Cleveland, Ohio, John Elliott and Mary Ann Cox were united in marriage. Of the children born to this union, two grew to maturity, namely: Mary E., now Mrs. W. R. Martin of Topeka, and Jesse C. Elliott, now engaged in business in Topeka. The mother of these children died in 1873. She was a member of the Congregational church. In 1876 Mr. Elliott married Miss Sarah A. Norman of Topeka. Both Mr. and Mrs. Elliott are active and devoted members of the First Congregational Church of Topeka, of which Mr. Elliott has served as a director. He built the old Congregational church, in 1860, and in 1880, when the present edifice was erected, he served as president of the building committee. In politics Mr. Elliott has been a Republican all of his life and cast his first ballot in Waukegan, Ill., for John C. Fremont. He served as a member of the Topeka city council fourteen years and also served for a time as superintendent of sewers. He is a Royal Arch and a Knight Templar Mason. He was well acquainted with Lane, Ritchie and Brown and nearly all the leaders of the early free-state movement in Kansas, and two of his apprentices, Whipple and Keagle, were hanged with the famous John Brown at Harper's Ferry. He served under Col. George W. Veale in Company B, Second Kansas state militia, in the battle of the Blue, and mingles with his old comrades in arms as a member of Lincoln Post, No. 1, Grand Army of the Republic, at Topeka.
Mr. Elliott was one of those early settlers of undaunted courage and staying qualities who proved the backbone of the future great commonwealth of Kansas, and he has a justified pride in having been one of its builders. In Topeka, where he has been identified with its commercial, social and religious life for over half a century, he is esteemed as one of its most useful and honored citizens. He and his wife reside in their pleasant home at 915 Topeka avenue.Pages 1530-1531 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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