Gurdon Grovenor, of Lawrence, was born in that part of the town of Suffield, Conn., known as Boston-Neck, Sept. 13, 1830. His father's name was Gurdon Grovenor and his mother was Maria Phelps, daughter of Captain Seth and Phoebe (Hastings) Phelps. Mr. Grovenor is of the seventh generation in direct descent from John Grovenor, who came to this country, with his wife, Esther, from Cheshire, England, in 1680, and settled in Roxbury, Mass. On his mother's side he is of the seventh generation in direct descent from William Phelps, who came from Tewksbury, England, in 1630, and later settled in Windsor, Conn. Mr. Grovenor's father died when the son was but six months old, and his mother sold her home in Boston-Neck and went to live with her father, Capt. Seth Phelps, at Suffield. There the mother and son lived until the latter was ten years of age, when the mother married Capt. Warren Lewis, of Suffield, with whom Mr. Grovenor lived until twenty years old, when he bought his maternal grandfather's farm, in 1850, and commenced farming for himself. On Oct. 28, 1852, he married Ellen Maria Crane, daughter of Amos S. and Fanny L. Crane, and he and his wife continued to reside on the farm until the spring of 1857, when he sold the farm, and in the following autumn they came to Lawrence, Kan., where they arrived Oct. 5, and here Mr. Grovenor has since resided.
Mr. Grovenor's preliminary education was received in the district schools of his native town and was supplemented by one term of fourteen weeks at the Wesleyan Academy, at Wilbraham, Mass., in the winter of 1847-8. The winter after his eighteenth birthday he taught a district school in Feeding Hills, Mass., and the following two winters he taught in Bristol, Conn. The next three winters he taught in his native town, Suffield, teaching in all six winters, and during the intervening summers farmed. Farming was not profitable in New England in that early day, his wife was not in good health, and therefore Mr. Grovenor sold his farm and came west. It was with regret that he found it necessary so to do at the time, but it proved a wise course, as in the West greater opportunities for doing well in life and leading a useful life have been afforded him.
Immediately on arriving in Lawrence he bought a lot, the north half of No. 8, Massachusetts street, on which he erected an 18x30 frame building, which served at once as a residence and business house, he formed a partnership with Alexander Lewis and the firm engaged in the grocery business, on a capital of $500. In the fall of 1859 Mr. Grovenor's brother, Henry P. Grovenor, came to Lawrence and bought the interest of Mr. Lewis. The new firm added lumber to their line of business and continued a profitable trade until October, 1863, when the brothers dissolved partnership, Mr. Grovenor retaining the lumber business and his brother the grocery business. From that time on Mr. Grovenor remained in the lumber business until 1899, a period of thirty-six years, during which time he was interested in lumber yards at Lawrence, Ottawa, Garnett, and Iola. In 1865 he sold his Lawrence yard to Elijah Sells, but previously he had established the Ottawa lumber yard, which he sold in 1871, but in that same year, having also sold lumber yards which he had established at Garnett and Iola, he formed a partnership with E. D. Redington, under the firm name of Grovenor & Redington, which firm bought from Mr. Sells the old lumber yard at Lawrence. Owing to the financial panic of 1873 and the drought of 1874, the profits of the business fell off so greatly that they could not support two families, and in the spring of 1875 Mr. Grovenor bought his partner's interest in the business. From that time on Mr. Grovenor's son, Charles, worked with his father on a salary until Jan. 1, 1882, when he was admitted to a partnership. The firm became G. Grovenor & Son, and continued a profitable business until the spring of 1899, when, on account of the son's failing health, he had to retire and, Mr. Grovenor's health not being good, the business was sold. The career of Mr. Grovenor in the lumber business was attended with gratifying success. Each year, save two, some money was made. The two years excepted were the drought years of 1860 and 1874, the latter following the financial panic of 1873. Soon after coming to Lawrence, Mr. Grovenor had so prospered in business as to be able to build a comfortable home at No. 1002 New Hampshire street. This home was destroyed by fire at the hands of the guerrillas, in the Lawrence raid, and afterward Mr. Grovenor built, on the same lot, his present residence. At the time of the Lawrence raid he narrowly escaped losing his life. Three guerrillas came to his house and, with the butt of a musket, smashed in one of the front windows. Mrs. Grovenor, seeing that they would come in anyway, opened the door and admitted them. They ransacked the house, taking such things as they fancied, and then set the house on fire, above and below. After they had left Mr. Grovenor and his wife put out the fire below, but the fire above had gotten too strong a headway for them to extinguish it. Just then a whiskey soaked guerrilla rode up to the house and ordered Mr. Grovenor out, leveling his pistol at him and saying: "Are you Union or Secesh?" It was the trial of Mr. Grovenor's life. His wife, with her babe in her arms and her little boy clinging to her side, was standing near by. On his answer his life seemingly hung. Mr. Grovenor, however, displayed patriotic courage, replying that he was "Union," whereupon the guerrilla snapped his pistol, but it failed to fire, even after a second attempt. Just then a half dozen other guerrillas rode up to the house and their leader commanded the enemy not to shoot Mr. Grovenor, whom he ordered to come to him, and of whom he inquired: "Were you ever in Missouri, stealing niggers and horses?" Mr. Grovenor replied that he had never been in Missouri, except as he had passed through the state on his way to and from the East. The answer seemed to satisfy the leader of the party, who told Mr. Grovenor that if he did not want to get killed he must get out of sight, for all were getting drunk and would kill everybody they saw. Mr. Grovenor went to the cellar of his burning house and remained there until the fire reached him, when he escaped by way of an outside bulk-head door.
To Mr. Grovenor and his wife, Ellen M., there were born three children: Charles Phelps, born Aug. 25, 1855, at Suffield, Conn., died in Colorado, Jan. 11, 1902; John Crane, born May 9, 1863, at Lawrence, died June 19, 1865; and Fanny Maria, born at Lawrence, Oct. 7, 1865, died Sept. 27, 1872, at Monson, Mass., where she had gone on a visit. She was an affectionate, bright and happy girl, and gave promise of being a bright scholar and useful woman, and in her was centered much hope by her father, to whom her death was a great loss and sorrow. His son, Charles, was a good boy and a good man, and competent in business. At the age of twelve he made public confession and joined the Baptist church. He was forty-three when he died, and his death brought deep sorrow to his father and family. On April 6, 1869, the mother of these children, after a lingering illness of nearly three years, died, in a firm hope of a heavenly home. On May 22, 1871, Mr. Grovenor married Miss L. Maria Bliss, of Monson, Mass.
Mr. Grovenor has never been a politician. He never wanted or sought office, preferring his business and home to the cares and annoyances of civil office, but several times he was, at the solicitations of friends, a candidate for office. He was elected a member of the Lawrence city council in the spring of 1860, and again in 1861. He was later elected a member of the city school board and, in 1865, was elected mayor of Lawrence, and was reëlected in 1870 and again in 1871. In 1893 he was appointed to fill an unexpired term as a county commissioner, with which office he closed his public service as an official. In 1852 he cast his first presidential vote for Winfield Scott, the Whig candidate. When the Whig party ceased to exist he became a Republican, helping to organize that party in his native town in Connecticut, and with that party he has since worked and voted.
In the spring of 1872 Mr. Grovenor made a public confession of religion and united with the Baptist church. He has continued to be a zealous Christian and an ardent worker in his church, for which, perhaps, the most useful work of his life has been devoted. He has served as treasurer, and deacon, as chairman of the board of trustees, and as a member of the Kansas state convention board, of which he was several times president; and he was twice president of the convention. For a number of years he has served as a trustee of the Ottawa University, and was several times president of the board of trustees. He has been a liberal giver of his means to the church and to mission work, and has won universal recognition among his acquaintances as an earnest and consistent Christian. He has passed the eighty-first milestone of a useful, active and exemplary life, and while many deep afflictions and sorrows have come into his life, many blessings have come his way, perhaps, because he has trusted his life to Divine direction. He has been a success in the business world, and as a citizen has borne a commendable part toward the public welfare. In the community where he has lived, all who have known him have respected him for his strict regard for probity of character. With his fellow men he has been honest in all business transactions and his word has always been as good as his bond. His course in life has been directed with charity toward others, with truthfulness and fairness, and as a citizen he has always stood for the higher and better things of life and for the public good, while as a Christian Mr. Grovenor has always been willing to aid in the building up of the church and in the spreading of Christian truth.Pages 347-350 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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