Benjamin F. Pancoast, a pioneer merchant of Iola, Kans., who for over fifty years has been engaged in the jewelry business in this State, was born in Fayette county, Ohio, December 11, 1833, and is a son of Shreve and Polly (Myers) Pancoast, the former a native of Pennsylvania, and the latter of Virginia, both of Danish descent. The Pancoast family was founded in America by Isaiah Pancoast in 1806. He had two brothers, Jonathan and another brother, who afterwards became dean of a Philadelphia medical college, and his sons are now eminent surgeons. Jonathan Pancoast was a brick mason and settled in Cincinnati, Ohio, when that city was a mere village. Isaiah, the grandfather of Benjamin F., was a farmer and followed that occupation in Pennsylvania, and later removed to Ohio. His son, Shreve, the father of Benjamin F., was also a farmer. Benjamin F. Pancoast was educated in the public schools of Ohio, such as they were in those days, and in early life learned the jewelers' trade, and in 1859, came to Kansas, locating in Allen county, where Iola now stands. He was a member of the Iola townsite company, and one of the organizers of the town of Iola. He located in Allen county largely by accident. He and a cousin, A. L. Messmore, were on their way south from Independence, Mo., and when they reached Allen county they were favorably impressed by that locality, and as there were plenty of government land there, they took claims and remained. When they located in Allen county, there was a local debating society which held weekly meetings in a log school house, and at the first meeting which Mr. Pancoast attended, the society passed a resolution organizing itself into a townsite company, and thus Mr. Pancoast became a member of the original Iola townsite company. He was elected secretary of the company, and held that office until the affairs of the company were closed. One of the quarters of land which the committee selected was owned by J. F. Colbam, and the townsite was named in honor of Mrs. Colbam, whose Christian name was Iola. The company was limited to fifty members, and each one was assessed $20, which gave the company a $1,000 capital. One of the first by-laws of the organization, required each member to build a house on the townsite at a cost of not less than $300.00, or forfeit his interest. Coffachiqui, an Indian trading post, two miles south, consisted of about twenty houses, and the Indian agent there, become a member of the Iola townsite company, and was instrumental in moving the trading post to the new town of Iola. All goods and supplies were hauled from Leavenworth, and the nearest railroad was Warrensburg, Mo., and mail was brought from Lawrence twice a week by stage coach. Mr. Pancoast took an active part in the early development of the new town. When the Iola Battalion was organized he became its adjutant. Later this Battalion was consolidated with the Ninth Kansas Regiment, and as that office, was already filled he resigned and returned to Iola. In 1861, he went back to Ohio to visit his parents, and about a year later returned to Kansas, locating at Olathe where he worked at his trade until 1869, when he returned to Iola and engaged in the jewelry business, which has occupied his attention since that time. He has been in business longer than any other merchant in Iola. In addition to his business interests, Mr. Pancoast has been interested in other local enterprises and has always endeavored to promote the best interest of his city and county. He has taken a commendable interest in advanced and improved methods of horticulture, and was one of the organizers of the Allen County Horticultural Society and has been its secretary since organization. He is also a member of the State Horticultural Society, and for the past two years has been trustee for the second district. Mr. Pancoast was married in 1861, to Miss Mary Cowan, a daughter of J. M. Cowan, a Kansas pioneer who located in Allen county in 1860, coming from Indiana. Mrs. Pancoast was reared and educated in Indiana, and came to Kansas with her parents. To Mr. and Mrs. Pancoast have been born four children: Lonie M.; Herman L., cigar manufacturer, Iola, Kans.; Ernest L., jeweler, La Junta, Colo., and Milo B., automobile machinist, Kansas City, Mo. During Mr. Pancoast's long career as a merchant, he has gained many friends, and, by his upright business methods has won the confidence of the public.Pages 258-260 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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