Frank J. Hess, one of the most enterprising and influential citizens of Arkansas City, Kan., while not one of the earliest pioneers of the state, is yet well informed as to frontier conditions and hardships, having gained his knowledge first hand, through actual experience on the plains of Southwestern Kansas and in the Indian Territory, in the latter '70s and early '80s.
Mr. Hess was born in Schnecksville, Pa., Feb. 1, 1858, and, on both the paternal and maternal sides, is a lineal descendant of ancestors that for generations back were Pennsylvanias[sic] by birth. His father, Jonathan Hess, was born in Pricetown and spent his entire life in that vicinity, where he was well known and highly respected, and where he died, in 1869. He was a carriage maker by trade, but devoted much of his time to the work of the Evangelical church, in which he was a local minister. In political views he was a Republican. Jonathan Hess was a son of William Hess, who spent his entire life in his native state of Pennsylvania. The mother of Frank J. Hess was a Miss Sarah A. Schneck, prior to her marriage to Jonathan Hess, and Schnecksville, the birthplace of Frank J., was founded by his great-great-grandfather on the maternal side.
Frank J. Hess received his education in Pennsylvania and practically educated himself, for his parents had both died when he was very young. He earned all that he could and saved what he earned until able to enter Swatara Institute, at Jonestown, Pa., where he remained a student until 1876. He secured a position as cashier in the largest cigar department on the Centennial grounds at Philadelphia, in that year, but was soon made manager of the business and continued there until the close of the Centennial Exposition, when the stock was closed out and Mr. Hess came west. That was in 1877. He began work on a farm, near where Arkansas City, Kan., now stands, but ill health caused him to give up farm work. He then engaged in freighting, with ox team, hauling flour to Fort Reno, but the venture proved disastrous, owing to the fact that he lost a number of his best oxen by Texas fever and the remainder were almost all stolen by Mexicans. He himself was half starved before he was able to reach his Kansas home. Once, when making his way home from Texas, he traveled at night and slept through the day, in order to escape the intense heat. His horse became sick and he applied at a farm house for a night's lodging. The farmer directed him to apply at the next place, and then quickly aroused the whole neighborhood to pursue a supposed horse thief. Mr. Hess was arrested. When explanations revealed to the farmer his mistake he tried to amend his error by extending the utmost kindness and hospitality. After his freighting experiences Mr. Hess decided to take up teaching, and to review his studies and to obtain a certificate he attended a country normal. His first term was taught in South Bend, Cowley county, and his vacation was spent herding cows on the town site of what is now Arkansas City. The next year he again taught school, but resigned before the close of the term on account of differences with the school director. He then assisted in patrolling the border of the state, to guard against Indian attacks, and while serving thus made trips all over the Indian Territory, trips that were attended by much hardship. There were then no signs of civilization there, and he and his comrades often would ride for days without seeing a single person. Mr. Hess was subsequently appointed deputy United States marshal and, while serving in that capacity, arrested one of the most desperate characters in the territory, Cherokee Bill, who afterward was hanged. Later Mr. Hess was appointed United States marshal and served as such two years, before entering commercial life as cashier in the Cresswell Bank, at Cresswell, Kan. He soon gave up his position in the bank, however, to engage in the real estate and insurance business, which has been his line of endeavor continuously since that time and in which he has prospered.
Mr. Hess has taken a prominent and active part in promoting all enterprises which would contribute to the growth and development of Arkansas City. He has been a prime mover in securing the erection of every large building in the city and in bringing to it each of the railroads that now enter the city. He is a director of the Missouri Pacific railroad for a number of years. He is now contemplating the erection of a large fire-proof building on his lot, one block east of Main street in Arkansas City, an exceptionally desirable location for a fine business block. He has always been aligned with the Republican party in his political adherency, but in recent years has been inclined to be independent in his political views and to support those men and measures which he deems best calculated to conserve the rights of the whole people. He has served as a school director several terms, and while acting in that capacity built the Fourth ward school house, in Arkansas City. He also served as councilman several terms and two terms as mayor, and retired from the office of mayor in April, 1911. He was once a candidate for the state legislature, but was defeated by the strong Populist movement of that time.
On Jan. 1, 1885, Mr. Hess was united in marriage to Miss Mary A. Johnson, of New Hampshire, who had come to Kansas to teach school and here met her future husband. Mrs. Hess is a daughter of A. B. Johnson, who removed to Kansas after his daughter's marriage. He was wealthy and owned several large cattle ranches, besides considerable bank stock and other property interests in Kansas. He organized the Johnson Loan & Mortgage Company, of Arkansas City, and died in that city. Mr. and Mrs. Hess have one daughter, Carrie A., the wife of C. L. Vaughan, with residence in Arkansas. Mrs. Hess is a member of the Church of Christ, Scientist, and her daughter, Mrs. Vaughan, is a communicant of the Episcopal church. Mr. Hess prominently affiliates with the Masonic order as a Knight Templar, a Noble of the Mystic Shrine, and as a Thirty-second degree Mason. He is also a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.Pages 378-380 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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