Irvin F. Benest

IRVIN F. BENEST. The Benest family came to Kansas in 1871. Two years later came the great financial panic following the failure of Jay Cooke on the famous Black Friday. It was an era of wide spread distress, but Kansas people during those years had even more grievous burdens than hard times. The grasshoppers came as a plague, there were successive seasons of drouth, crops were a rarity, and there was little market for what the farmers did produce.

It was during the height of the hard times of that decade that Irvin F. Benest, a lawyer and president of the Greenwood County Bank at Severy, was born, October 24, 1876. His birth occurred near where the Village of Severy in Greenwood County is now located.

His grandfather, Joshua Benest, was a Frenchman, born in France in 1826. Soon after his marriage in London, England, he immigrated to the United States, settling in Iowa, where he followed farming and also the trade of carpenter. He died in Marion, Linn County, Iowa, in 1886. His oldest daughter was born in the City of London.

F. J. Benest, father of the Severy banker, was born in Linn County, Iowa, in 1851. He grew up and married in his native county, and followed farming as his regular vocation. When he came to Kansas in 1871 he took up a claim of 160 acres two and a half miles west of Severy. In spite of the vicissitudes that beset the early settlers he remained and eventually found a handsome prosperity. He was on his farm until 1889, when he moved to the Town of Severy, and for several years was president of the Greenwood County Bank. He died in Severy in 1907, and at the time of his death he was owner of 540 acres of land. In politics he was a republican, and filled the office of county commissioner and was a member of the township board. He was a Baptist, and was affiliated with Twin Groves Lodge No. 213, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, at Severy, with the Knights and Ladies of Security and the Anti-Horse Thief Association. F. J. Benest married Mary Elizabeth Jordan, who was born in Linn County, Iowa, in 1852, and still resides at Severy. Of their four children only two are now living. Walter died in infancy and Nellie E. at the age of nineteen. The youngest of the family is B. M. Benest who occupies the old home farm in Greenwood County.

Irvin F. Benest, the third in age of his parents' children, was educated in the public schools of Severy and in 1898 graduated from the high school of Des Moines, Iowa. He is a lawyer by profession, having followed up his high school work with a course in the law school of the University of Kansas. He was graduated in 1902, with the degree LL. B. While in University he became a member of the Alpha Tau Omega and the Phi Delta Phi college fraternities.

After his graduation he spent a year in the law office of Amiden & Conley at Wichita, and after that engaged in active practice at Severy, until 1909. During 1909-10 he was county attorney of Greenwood County, and in 1911 he became president of the Greenwood County Bank of Severy, to the management of which he gives his chief attention.

The Greenwood County Bank was established under a state charter in 1889. Its present substantial home was erected in 1900. This building is at the corner of Main Street. and Kansas Avenue. The bank has a capital of $20,000, and surplus of $12,500. Associated with Mr. Benest in the executive management are G. L. Shoemaker, the vice president, and J. C. Shoemaker, the cashier.

Mr. Benest is a stockholder in the Fall River Oil Company, owns his home on Greenwood Avenue, and 480 acres of farming land, 320 acres located near Severy and a quarter section northwest of Eureka, Kansas. He also owns some real estate in Severy.

Mr. Benest is a republican and has served as city attorney of Severy. He is past master of Twin Groves Lodge No. 213, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and a member of Eureka Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and of the Knights and Ladies of Security.

He married at Severy in 1903 Miss Maude E. Girard, daughter of T. B. and Angeline (Stanley) Girard. Her mother is now deceased, and her father is a farmer at Severy. Mr. and Mrs. Benest have four children: Vernon, born September 12, 1905; Dale, born January 29, 1907; Frederick, born April 6, 1910; and Marvin, born January 28, 1912.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed 1997.
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