Bernard Warkentin.To have performed so notable a work as did the late Bernard Warkentin in connection with the colonization of central Kansas would prove sufficient to give precedence and reputation to any man, were this to represent the sum total of his efforts; but Mr. Warkentin was a man of broad mental ken, strong initiative and distinct individuality, who left not only a lasting impression in the field of enterprise mentioned, but was a most potent, though unostentatious, factor in the commercial, religious and social life of Harvey county, where he took up his residence in 1873. He built and operated the first flouring mill within the county, was the founder of the Halstead Mill & Elevator Company and the Kansas State Bank, of Newton, the organization of which was the result of his ideas and efforts, and in the conduct of whose affairs, their policies and operation, his was the controlling spirit from the time of incorporation until his death. Bernard Warkentin was a native of Crimea, Southern Russia, and was born in Altona, a small town near Odessa, June 19, 1847, son of Bernard Warkentin, a native of Prussia, a miller by occupation, and an influential member of the Mennonite church, who operated a flouring mill at Altona, in the Crimean peninsula, Russia, and was the first to introduce Red Turkey wheat in that district. The son came to America in 1871, and after traveling over parts of Canada, the Dakotas and Minnesota, located in Summerville, Ill. There he married, and in 1873 removed to Kansas, locating in Halstead, Harvey county, then in the first stage of development. He built the first grist mill in the county, a small affair of some ten barrels capacity, which he operated by water power, his mill being built over the Little Arkansas river, which flows through Halstead. In 1878 he organized the Halstead Mill & Elevator Company, of which his father-in-law, Conrad Eisenmeyer, of Summerfield, Ill., was the principal stockholder and for a time president. Under the management of Mr. Warkentin the business was of sound and continuous growth and necessitated enlarging the capacity. This was accomplished in 1886 by the establishment of the Newton Milling & Elevator Company at Newton, of which Mr. Warkentin was made president and manager. A further increase in capacity was made in 1901, when the Blackwell Milling & Elevator Company, of Blackwell, Okla., was organized and a modern mill erected at that point, Mr. Warkentin becoming president and general manager. In connection with the milling interests some twenty elevators were placed in operation in Oklahoma and five in Kansas. From a daily capacity of ten barrels to one of 1,700from a grist mill to one of the large milling interests of the state, having a reputation for quality excelled by none, whose output was sold throughout the United States and Europecovers the identification of Mr. Warkentin with Kansas milling. His record in the establishment, conduct and success of flouring mills in central Kansas is without parallel, and he was justly proud of his record as a miller. He had early in life acquired the desire, the habit, and love of work. His shrewd business judgment and keen insight into business affairshis knowledge of men and things, coupled with indomitable will and energyenabled him to rank with the leading men in his field of endeavor in the state and to win a national reputation as such that was enviable. The following article from the "Northwestern Miller," of May, 1908, concerning the coming of Mr. Warkentin and of his work and influence in central Kansas, is herewith published in full:
"He was of Mennonite sect, the Mennonites being primarily a religious order originating in Western Prussia. They were a thrifty and well-to-do people and when, in 1783, the Turkish government ceded the Crimea to Russia, Empress Catherine II of Russia looked about for colonists for the new possessions. She was attracted by the Mennonites. These people had become more or less discontented in Prussia, and when she made them an offer of allotments of land, religious freedom, and immunity from military service for one hundred years, a large part of the people immigrated to Crimea. They disappointed Catherine's hopes in that, instead of mingling with other residents of the peninsula, they kept to themselves and lived exclusive lives. They proved to be excellent farmers, growing wheat almost exclusive of other crops. The grain produced was of the soft variety, and it was not until 1860 that the hard wheat, then grown in another part of Crimea, was introduced into the settlements. The early experiments of the new grain were made by the father of Bernard Warkentin. In the meantime the Mennonites' neighbors had become jealous of their prosperity. In 1870 and 1871 the Franco-Prussian war gave Russia an opportunity to conclude a new treaty, and the amnesty assured to the Mennonites was withdrawn by Russia, Germany stipulating that the people be given ten years in which to emigrate. The prospect of infringement of their rights led the Mennonites to at once look about for a new world for a location and their eyes turned toward America. Several delegates were sent here to find the best locality for a settlement and Kansas was finally determined the most promising section. Mr. Warkentin had at that time a nominal association with the immigration department of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company, and was largely influential in getting his countrymen to settle in Kansas. At one time a party of 1,000 landed in New York determined to go to Nebraska, but Mr. Warkentin was successful in directing them to Kansas. The people were well-to-do and many of them had as much as $50,000, and there was not an illiterate person among them. They purchased farm lands in 100,000-acre lots. At that time a small body of French settlers were growing hard wheat in central Kansas in an experimental way. The first party of Mennonites had about thirty bushels of seed wheat from Crimea. This seemed so well adapted to the soil and climate of Kansas that more was brought over, and the acreage of the new wheat spread rapidly. Within less than twenty years the new variety had crowded out the older soft winter wheat and it is now the principal grain grown in Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. About eight years ago it was decided that an infusion of new seed wheat would be desirable, so Mr. Warkentin, always an enthusiast in wheat culture, was the executive in charge of the importation and distribution of several thousand bushels of new seed. It is a singular coincidence that Mr. Warkentin's father should have been the first to intrduce[sic] the Turkey hard wheat among the Mennonites in Russia and that years later his son should have been the most active in bringing the same wheat to America." F. D. Coburn, secretary of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture, says of Mr. Warkentin, in the "Saturday Evening Post" of May, 1910: "Thirty years ago Kansas was not much of a wheat-growing state. The question of how much wheat she grew was of little moment to the rest of the markets of the world. At the present time and for ten years past Kansas has led in wheat growing, and much of the credit for making Kansas a great wheat state belongs to one man, the late Bernard Warkentin, of Newton, Harvey county, Kansas. It was through his efforts that the variety which has made the Sunflower commonwealth famous and rich, known as Red Turkey, or Russian hard winter wheat, was introduced, and through his perseverance and the demands of the white bread-eating public the millers were forced against their will to use it."
Mr. Warkentin held extensive commercial relations aside from his milling interests. He was one of the most active factors in the organization of the Kansas State Bank, of Newton, and served as its president until his death. He was a director of the Halstead State Bank, the Millers' National Insurance Company, of Chicago, the Terminal Warehouse Company, of Kansas City, Mo., and the Western States Portland Cement Company, of Independence, Kan., and he was a stockholder in other corporations. He was an ambitious and tireless worker, conservative in his business methods, and his integrity and honesty were unquestioned. He left at his death one of the large estates of Kansas, an estate which represents the brain, pluck and energy of one man who, with his peculiar natural tact, ever saw the propitious moment and availed himself of it. A member of the Mennonite church, he gave liberally of his time and money in support of the institutions of his sect. Bethel College, of Newton, received from him generous financial assistance, and his gifts in support of the Deaconess Hospital of the order were numerous. While making a tour of the Orient in 1908, accompanied by his wife, he was accidentally shot while on a train and taken to the Deaconess Hospital at Beirut, Assyria. It seemed almost providential that he should be taken to this hospital, a branch of the institution which had always been the object of his deep interest and liberal support. His death occurred on April 1, 1908, some fifteen hours after his injury. The tributes of respect, and in many cases of affection, called forth by the death of Mr. Warkentin have seldom been equaled in the passing away of a citizen. His own standard of life was high, and it was seen in the development of what grew to be, under his direction, one of the most successful milling enterprises in Kansas. In a large measure his life work was finishedit had met to a great extent the fullness of his ambition. But infinitely more precious and of personal consequence to him was the fact that he died rich in the possession of a well earned popularity, in the esteem which comes from honorable living, and in the affection that slowly develops only from unselfish works.
Mr. Warkentin married Aug. 14, 1872, Miss Mina Eisenmeyer, daughter of Conrad Eisenmeyer, of Summerfield, Ill., a native of Germany, a successful miller, as was his father, and a prominent and influential citizen of his country. Mr. Warkentin is survived by his widow, who resides in Newton, and a son and daughter: Edna Wella, a graduate of Bryn Mawr, class of 1898, and the wife of Morris L. Alden, of the law firm of McAnany & Alden, of Kansas City, Kan.; and Carl Bernard Warkentin (see sketch).
In 1910 the Bethel Deaconess Home, a modern and commodious structure for the use of the nurses of Bethel Hospital at Newton, was completed and given to the hospital by Mrs. Warkentin in memory of her husband. To do justice to the many phases of the career of Mr. Warkentin within the limit of an article of this order would be impossible, but in even touching the more salient points there may come objective lesson and incentive, and thus a tribute of appreciation. In his business life he was the embodiment of honor, as he was in his social and domestic life, the perfection of love and gentleness.Pages 1095-1099 from volume III, part 2 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.
TITLE PAGE / LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I
TITLE PAGE / LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
J | K | L | Mc | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z
Background and KSGenWeb logo were designed and are copyrighted by
Tom & Carolyn Ward
for the limited use of the KSGenWeb Project.
Permission is granted for use only on an official KSGenWeb page.
Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project