George Theis, Jr.In the development of the State of Kansas, from the raw prairies of the early '50s to one of the greatest agricultural commonwealths of the Union, many men have achieved distinction and success, and of those personal successes the greatest have been attained from the smallest beginnings. Among those citizens who have been of potential influence in various phases of her growth, few have realized a more substantial success than George Theis, Jr. He was born in St. Louis, Mo., Jan. 1, 1862, son of George and Anna (Kaburick) Theis. The father was born in Prussia, July 12, 1830. He came to America, in 1850, and located in St. Louis, Mo., where he secured employment in a flour mill, an occupation which he followed until 1858, when he established a general store. This business he sold, in 1866, and removed to Tipton, Mo., where for two years he conducted a hotel. In 1869 he took up his residence in Kansas, locating in Columbus, Cherokee county, where he purchased land, which he farmed successfully and also resumed his commercial activities, establishing a general store and operating a flour mill. In 1884 he removed to Clark county, where he took up Government land. Two years later he was one of the active influences in the organization of Morton county. In 1890 he returned to St. Louis, reëngaged in the mercantile life of that city, and retired in 1900. His death occurred in St. Louis, Feb. 9, 1903. He was a consistent advocate of the principles of the Republican party and a member of the Presbyterian church. Mr. Theis married, in 1856, Miss Anna Kaburick, a native of Bohemia, Austria, born Aug. 17, 1833, who came to St. Louis, Mo., with her parents, in 1852. She is a communicant of the Catholic church, and with the following children survives her husband: Amelia, born July 21, 1859, is the wife of John L. McReynolds, of Longton, Kan.; George, Jr., is the second in order of birth; Clara, born Aug. 31, 1863, is the wife of W. L. Tilton, superintendent of the Railway Mail Service at Ft. Scott, Kan.; Charles, born Aug. 31, 1865, is a prominent business man of Spokane, Wash.; and Albert, born Nov. 26, 1872, is a shoe manufacturer at St. Louis, Mo. Katie, born Feb. 3, 1868, died May 21, 1898, at Ft. Steele, British Columbia. She was the wife of Richard Hirtz. Anna, born July 26, 1870, died April 17, 1902, at Knoxville, Tenn. She was the wife of M. L. Haun.
George Theis, Jr., secured his educational discipline in the public schools of Columbus, Kan., supplemented by a four-months course, which he completed in 1877, in the Kansas State Agricultural College, at Manhattan. His early years were spent in assisting his father in carrying on his farm. A breakdown in the health of the latter necessitated a change of climate and, in the spring of 1879, with his son George he went to Colorado, where they engaged in freighting in the mountains, returning to Columbus late in that year. In 1880, George Theis, Jr., initiated his commercial career. He secured a clerkship in a drug store at Columbus, with the intention of becoming a pharmacist. His salary was $8 per month and board, and his aptitude for the business was evidenced by a raise to $60 per month within his first year. The law of the state, relating to the sale of liquors by retail druggists, was in conflict with his convictions and resulted in his securing other employment. He first secured a position as clerk in a general store and, in 1882, he secured a position as bookkeeper in the Ritter & Doubleday bank, at Columbus, where he remained until 1883, when he purchased an interest in the general store where he had formerly been employed and formed the firm of Murray, Theis & Foster. He disposed of this interest, in 1884, and removed to Ashland, at that time in the first stage of settlement. There he purchased two business sites and, in the spring of 1885, with John W. Ayers and Isaac P. West, he organized the Clark County Bank, the first financial institution to be established in that section of the state. The following year the business, which had been highly successful, justified its owners in taking out a national bank charter, and the First National Bank of Ashland was established, in 1886, with Mr. Theis as cashier and controlling executive. In 1887, he was elected president, and possessed the distinction of being the youngest chief executive of a national bank; and Harry C. Barroll, then but twenty-one years of age, who succeeded him as cashier, enjoyed a distinction as regarded a national bank cashiership. Mr. Theis continued as president of the institution until 1902, when he retired to take active charge of his extensive personal interests. In the organization, development, and administration of the business of this institution Mr. Theis was, during his connection, the dominant executive, and to his progressiveness, energy, and resourcefulness was due the strength and high reputation of the organization. He became known to the banking fraternity of Kansas as an able and discriminating financier and as one who had brought the administrative policy of his bank up to the point of highest efficiency. From the time of his entrance in the field of finance he engaged in buying securities in western Kansas and Oklahoma, and his activities in this line were extensive and uniformly successful. His faith in the agricultural development of Kansas caused him to become a buyer of large tracts of raw land, until his holdings are among the largest within the state. He is the owner of four stock ranches, in Clark and Meade counties, aggregating 30,000 acres, which have the best that can be purchased in the way of improvements. He is known as one of the most extensive stockmen of the state, marketing an average of $200,000 in cattle each year, and is a large raiser of wheat, alfalfa, Kafir-corn and cane. Mr. Theis has important capitalistic interests in numerous financial, manufacturing, and mercantile enterprises in Kansas, and is an officer and director in several of them. In 1909, with O. A. Boyle and others, he organized the Arkansas Valley Interurban Railway Company, of which he is vice-president. He is also a director in the Farmers' and Bankers' Life Insurance Company, of Wichita, of which he was one of the organizers. He is president of the Midland Water, Light & Ice Company, of Dodge City, and a director of the Geuda Springs Townsite & Municipal Water Company, which is now developing Kansas' one health resort, and he is also a director of the Union Stock Yards Company, of Wichita. Since 1905 he has been a resident of the city of Wichita and has been since that time one of the most active factors in her commercial and civic betterment. Mr. Theis has been a lifelong Republican. Essentially a business man, he has had neither time nor inclination for public office, though often importuned to accept nomination. He has been closely identified with educational and charitable work, his donations in support of various institutions have been generous, and he has also given liberally of his time, serving as trustee of several.
Mr. Theis has been twice married. On May 23, 1883, he married Miss Alice Haseltine. Of this union five children were born: Otto Palmer, born at Columbus, Kan., March 28, 1885, a graduate of the Ashland (Kan.) High School and Wentworth Military Academy, Lexington, Mo., completed a two-years course in Kansas University, in 1907, and is general manager of the Midland Water, Light & Ice Company, at Dodge City, of which he and his father are owners; Esther Inez, born at Ashland, Kan., Sept. 20, 1886, is a graduate of Mt. Carmel College, Wichita, and completed a one year course at Kansas University; Anna Marie, born at Ashland, Kan., May 7, 1889, died Jan. 6, 1891; Lillian Elena, born at Ashland, Kan., Sept. 21, 1891, is a graduate of the Kansas City (Kan.) High School and became the wile of David W. Graham, editor and publisher of the "Norborne (Mo.) Leader," June 3, 1911; and Gertrude Marie, born at Ashland, Kan., Nov. 24, 1895, is a student in the Wichita High School. On Nov. 15, 1904, Mr. Theis married for his second wife, Miss Jennie E., daughter of William and Lydia K. (Long) Michael. She was born at Milo, Warren county, Iowa, July 20, 1874, removed to Clark county, Kansas, with her parents, in 1887, and at the time of her marriage was a teacher in the Clark county schools. She is a lady of broad culture and refinement and is popular in the social circles of Wichita.
Mr. Theis is in all respects a high type of the conservative, unassuming American, diligent in his various duties and commercial affairs, and conscientious in all things. He has realized a large and substantial success in the commercial world, through his own well directed efforts and by methods which have been clean, capable, and honest. He is an ambitious and tireless worker and his business integrity is unquestioned. He has accumulated one of the large estates of Kansas, an estate which presents the brain, pluck, and energy of one man, who, with his peculiar natural tact, has always seen the propitious moment and availed himself of it.Pages 448-451 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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