PETER P. ELDER

PETER P. ELDER, deceased, ex-lieutenant governor of Kansas, and for many years a resident of Ottawa, was one of the most notable characters of Kansas and one of the select few who gave it a unique and substantial standing among the western states of the Union. He was a native of Maine, born in Somerset County, September 30, 1823; was of North-of-Ireland ancestry and Revolutionary stock. Mr. Elder spent the first thirty-four years of his life in his native county, getting an education and teaching school. He became an ardent abolitionist early in life, and in 1857 located in Franklin County, Kansas, prepared to do his part in defending his principles and possessions. First taking up a claim near Ohio City he commenced farming, immediately joined the Kansas militia, and in 1861 President Lincoln appointed him agent for the Osage and Seneca Indians at Fort Scott. In that position he rendered valuable service to the Union by keeping the Indians to its support, and when he resigned the agency he returned to Franklin County and located at Ottawa, which had been recently platted.

In the late '60s Mr. Elder erected the first substantial residence at Ottawa, and also established the banking firm of P. P. Elder & Company. It continued a successful business until the organization of its successor, in 1871--the First National Bank of Ottawa, of which Mr. Elder was also the first president. For the succeeding thirty years he developed into one of the largest and most successful farmers and stock raisers of the county. During all that period he had also been very active and prominent as a republican. His career as a public man commenced in 1859, when he was elected clerk of the Territorial House of Representatives. He was elected to the Territorial Council, and after serving in the first session was appointed Indian agent, as noted. In 1868 he was elected to fill a vacancy in the State Senate; in 1870 was chosen chairman of the Republican State Central Committee, and in the fall of the same year was elected lieutenant governor. In that capacity he presided ably over the Senate. He served in the State House of Representatives in 1875, 1876 and 1877, as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and (1877) as speaker of that body. In 1883, while he was also a member of the House, the first railroad law was passed. In 1890 he was again speaker of the House, being unanimously chosen for that honor. Locally, Mr. Elder was one of Ottawa's prominent promoters; was a mayor of the city; organized and was president of the company which built the railroad from Ottawa to Olathe, which is now a part of the Santa Fe System; was mainly instrumental in locating the machine shops of the railroad at Ottawa, and in 1896 founded the Ottawa Times, which he edited and published for a number of years. At his death in 1914 he was acknowledged as one of the most prominent men in Kansas.


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 by Carolyn Ward, instructor from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, September 1997.
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