Peter Kehoe.The semi-centenary of Kansas's statehood concluded an epoch in her history wherein were developed men, who from the standpoint of constructive, initiative and executive talent, rank with the most forceful in the annals of her sister commonwealths. Among those of her citizens who realized a large and substantial success was the subject of this article. His work in connection with the commercial development of Clay county would prove sufficient to give precedence and reputation to the average man, were this to represent the sum total of his efforts; but Mr. Kehoe was not only of material value in the field mentioned, but was of even greater usefulness in connection with the management of two of her successful financial institutions. Although he was not born a native of the State, he was a firm believer in the vast wealth of her natural resources, in the virility of her citizenship, their energy and ambition to do and to prosper, and while he closed out his interests on two different occasions, intending to resume residence in his native State, he always came back to Kansas, more enthusiastic than during his previous sojourn. During a residence of thirty-six years, broken by two short absences, he was actively concerned in practically every phase of Clay Center's development, and it is probable the city and county never had a better friend nor, within the limits of his activities, a more useful citizen.
Peter Kehoe was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, August 29, 1845, a son of Murtaugh and Eliza (Thompson) Kehoe. The family was founded in America by his grandfather, a native of Ireland, who settled in Virginia, where his father and mother were born. He was one of a family of nine children, but two of whom are living: Frank and Murtaugh, both residents of Portsmouth, Ohio. Those deceased are: Charles, John, James, Peter, Caroline, Mary Ellen, Anna, and the subject of this article.
Peter Kehoe was reared in his native city, Portsmouth, received his education in its public schools, and learned telegraphy. He became an expert operator and eventually was employed as a train dispatcher at Milwaukee, Wis., remaining in this line of occupation until 1870, when he came to Kansas, locating in Manhattan, where he established a retail drug store. He disposed of his business in this city, in 1875, returned to his old home for a year's vacation, and in 1877 returned to the Sunflower State and established a general store in Clay Center, then in its early development. Under his management the enterprise grew to be the most important commercial institution in the county, and was surpassed by few in Northern Kansas. His health was such that, in 1886, he sold his Clay Center interests and, with his family, spent the following year in travel as a means of regaining his health. He returned to Clay Center in 1887, and purchased a block of stock in the First National Bank, and was elected its cashier and a member of its directorate. He remained in this capacity for a few years, was of great value in furthering its growth, and attained recognition in the banking field as an able financier. Obeying a longing to return to his native State, he again sold out his interests and returned to Portsmouth, with the idea of remaining. After a short residence in his old home, he grew dissatisfied with conditions there and again returned to Kansas, which was to remain his residence until his death. On his return to Clay Center he promoted the organization of the Citizens' State Bank, was elected its cashier, and served in this capacity until February 22, 1906, when he passed to his last reward. In the organization, development and administration of the business of this institution, Mr. Kehoe was the dominant executive. The bank enjoyed a sound and continuous growth, paid satisfactory dividends, and attained recognition as one of the best managed and strongest institutions in the State. As a banker, he became well and favorably known to the fraternity, his ability as an able executive was often commented on, while his sound financial sense, together with his progressive conservatism, knowledge of credits and men, made him of great value in an advisory capacity. His banking interests were not confined to the Citizens' State Bank alone; he was at the time of his death a director in the First National Bank of Clay Center, the First National Bank of Wakefield, Kan., and the First National Bank of Stephensville, Texas. He was originally a Democrat, but from the time of McKinley's first nomination for the Presidency he was a Republican. Essentially a business man, he had neither time nor inclination for public office, although he was never neglectful of his civic duties and obligations, and was active and influential in the councils of his party. He believed in Clay Center as a commercial city of importance, as one of the ideal towns of Kansas from a residential standpoint, and any movement or measure which had its object the advancement and betterment of commercial, social or religious conditions, received not only his active support, but if money was needed in furthering its object, he could be depended upon for a generous contribution. He attained the Knights Templar degree in Masonry and was affiliated with Isis Temple Shrine. He was one of the most active members and generous supporters of the Episcopal church of his home city.
On October 14, 1873, at Manhattan, Kan., Mr. Kehoe married Miss Emma Peckham, a daughter of James Perry and Myra (Sheffield) Peckham, born in Sacramento, Cal., June 26, 1854. Her father, who was a native of South Kingston, R. I., was a miner and lumberman. He first visited California in 1849, journeying via Cape Horn, and later made the trip via the Isthmus of Panama. His mining and lumber ventures on the Pacific slope netted him a comfortable fortune. His death occurred in Manhattan, Kan., on December 9, 1886. Seven children were born of his union with Myra Sheffield, all of whom survive, viz: Emma, the widow of the subject of this review, Frank, William, Allie, Walter, Edwin and George.
Mr. and Mrs. Kehoe were the parents of three children, who are in the order of birth as follows: Emmabelle, born June 13, 1875, died March 3, 1877; William F., born June 9, 1879, who was educated in the Clay Center schools, subsequently completed a four-years course at St. John's Military School at Salina, graduated from the Portsmouth, Ohio, Commercial College, and is now a merchant in Superior, Neb. He married, in 1903, Miss Jennie Dawson, of Clay Center. The third child, Margaret Sheffield, born June 3, 1886, was graduated from the Clay Center High School with the class of 1905. On her father's death she succeeded him as cashier of the Citizens' State Bank, a position she acceptably filled for one year. She married, on August 28, 1912, Dr. Edwin C. Morgan, a prominent physician and surgeon of Clay Center. Mrs. Kehoe's ancestors, paternal and maternal, were among the early settlers of America and numbered among them are men who achieved distinction in the frontier life of those early days, in the commercial era which followed, in the French and Indian wars, and later in the War of the Revolution. Thomas Sheffield, the founder of the Sheffield family in America, was a native of Sheffield, England, named for the family, and came to the Massachusetts colony with Governor Winthrop in 1632. He was a man of influence in the organization of the colony and was one of the committee which selected the name Boston for their principal town, in honor of Boston, England. His descendant, Maj. Thomas Sheffield, served throughout the War for Independence with distinction. Her father, James Perry Peckham, was a cousin of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the hero of the Battle of Lake Erie, the homesteads of their parents, at South Kingston, R. I., adjoining each other. Mrs. Kehoe is a member of Parsons, Kan., Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution. Her daughter, Mrs. Morgan, is now organizing a chapter in Clay Center.Pages 369-371 from a supplemental volume 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 October 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM196. It is a single volume 3.
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