Mrs. George Thacher Guernsey

MRS. GEORGE THACHER GUERNSEY. Her character, her intellectual attainments, her practical philanthropy and her prominent association with large movements make Mrs. George T. Guernsey of Independence one of the great women of Kansas. She has lived in Independence since 1879, and was first known in that city as a teacher in the high school. Her husband is one of the most successful and prominent bankers of Kansas, and the possession of ample means has enabled her to satisfy her cultivated tastes in the way of books, travel, art and literature, and her energy has impelled her to a position of leadership in the larger woman's movements.

In 1915 Mrs. Guernsey was candidate for the high office of president general of the national society Daughters of the American Revolution. That candidacy places her in a favorable position for election to that distinguished honor in 1917. Her name has thus become prominently known outside of her home state, and much has been written and said concerning this brilliant Kansas woman.

The state recording secretary, Daughters of the American Revolution, of Kansas, thus writes: "Mrs. George Thacher Guernsey of Independence has been chosen by many of the most thoughtful and earnest women of the Society as their candidate for the high office of President General, and in her they feel that the organization will have a leader of high efficiency.

"Mrs. Guernsey as state regent of Kansas, has been a member of the National Board of management for nine years and has been a faithful attendant at its meetings. Well versed in the work of the National Society, her knowledge will be of great value should she be elected to the office of President General, as she is well aware of the needs of the organization; and her practical, finely trained mind and splendid business ability will enable her to guide the financial affairs capably and to the best advantage. She is a good presiding officer, being fair minded and able to avoid personal preference. She will present a subject carefully and consider a question from all sides before giving decision, which is one of the most vital necessities in the duties of a president general. Her experience as chief officer of her state has been wide, and she passed successfully every test for capability during her nine years of service. She is emphatically a woman of deeds rather than words, and she has the happy faculty of keeping right at the matter in hand until it is settled. She is thorough in all her methods and will serve the cause into which she enters with absolute faith and honest endeavor. Personal feeling does not enter into the subject at all when it concerns the interests of any work she undertakes, for she is sufficiently broad minded to seek for the best and to listen to the opinions of all others who share the common interest.

"Mrs. Guernsey is a firm believer in upholding the constitution of the National Society--that Constitution, the work of far seeing minds, which formed the laws of the organization with a view to sustaining its power.... In regarding the Constitution as the will of the Congress and strictly adhering to its dictates, Mrs. Guernsey with the majority of the members, feels that all questions may be decided definitely and satisfactorily."

As the matter of the present article, will have a reading by many people not connected with the Daughters of the American Revolution, it will be appropriate to refer somewhat in detail to Mrs. Guernsey's ancestry. Her maiden name was Sarah Elizabeth Mitchell. She is a daughter of Daniel P. Mitchell and Ann Eliza Baker, his wife, reference to whom is made on other pages of this publication. Daniel P. Mitchell was the son of George Mitchell and Mary McCann, his wife.

George Mitchell was the son of Rev. John Mitchell and his first wife, Catherine Margaret Tetes. John Mitchell was born at Dawston, Lancashire, England, May 1, 1763, and came to America in 1774. He lived in Hampshire, Rockingham, and Harrison (later Lewis) counties, Virginia. He died April 29, 1840, and his tombstone is still standing in the old Harmony churchyard near Jane Lew, Lewis County, West Virginia, where he had "preached the Gospel forty years." This John Mitchell, Mrs. Guernsey's great-grandfather, according to the records in the War Department and Pension Office, served as a private in the Virginia militia and also in Capt. James Pendleton's company, First Continental Artillery. He was in battle at Petersburg and was present at the siege and surrender of Yorktown.

On her father's side Mrs. Guernsey is also descended from the Rev. Anthony Jacob Henkel, who came to this country in 1717 as one of the founders of the Lutheran Church in America. He settled in Pennsylvania and became pastor of the church at Faulkner's Swamp, the oldest existing Lutheran Church in the United States. Mrs. Guernsey's ancestors on her mother's side were pioneers in the early settlement of Maryland and Western Pennsylvania, and in addition to the Rev. John Mitchell, the following are among Mrs. Guernsey's Revolutionary ancestors: George Teter from Virginia, Patrick McCann from Maryland, Anthony Altman, Christopher and John Harrold from Pennsylvania. As elsewhere told, Mrs Guesnsey's[sic] father, Rev. Daniel P. Mitchell, went out to Kansas to organize Methodism throughout that part of the country, and was well known and beloved for his broadmindedness and keen sense of justice as well as for his knowledge and deep sympathy in his chosen profession.

Mrs. Guernsey was born in Salem, Ohio, and came with her parents to Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1863. She is a graduate of the Kansas State Normal School of Emporia, and after graduating taught school four years, coming to Independence in 1879 as principal of the high school. She was married in 1881.

Concerning some of her varied activities the writer already quoted goes on to say: "With her marriage to George T. Guernsey, then an ambitious young bank clerk and now one of the leading bankers and influential citizens of the state, Mrs. Guernsey entered into a partnership which resulted in the splendid business training she possesses. Side by side she and her husband built both home and fortune on a solid basis of loyalty, mutual understanding and good fellowship. Inheriting, doubtless, from her pioneer ancestors, her strong sense of right and wrong, her independence of thought and power of concentration, she has entered into those interests of her town and state and is identified with every movement for civic betterment. Wherever she has taken the leadership she has won and retained a devoted following. She could not be petty or small for her mind has been centered on the main object in view, and self has never entered into her plans. Before the days of the Federation of Women's Clubs, she was an active member of the Social Science Club of Kansas, and was president of the Ladies' Library Society of Independence. The library founded through the efforts of this society is now a Carnegie institution, but Mrs. Guernsey still selects the books for this flourishing institution, which is larger than that in many cities of equal population. She was at one time president of the school board. She is a member of the United States Daughters of 1812, a member of the National Council of Women's Section of the Navy League, National Society of the Patriotic Women of America, vice president of the National Star Spangled Banner Association, Eastern Star and many other societies which tend toward the higher education of women. She has traveled extensively both in this country and abroad and has read deeply. Her taste in music cultivated to a marked degree and she is exceedingly well informed in the history of her own country and in current events. Her summers, except for several spent abroad, she has passed at Chautauqua, New York, where she has a cottage always filled with family and friends. She is president of the class of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle of 1891, and the present prosperous condition of the Daughters of the American Revolution Circle of Chautauqua is largely due to Mrs. Guernsey's influence while president.

As it is with all great natures, so it is with Mrs. Guernsey. She is truly charitable and her philanthropy is far reaching. Deeply sympathetic and tender hearted though she is, generous to a fault, if such can be a fault, her gifts take that wise and yet most difficult philanthropy which consists in helping people to help themselves. She also follows the policy of keeping her left hand in ignorance of the doing of her right hand in work of this kind.

Her beautiful home Ridgewood at Independence was planned and the work superintended entirely by herself. It is one of the handsomest houses in Kansas. She drew the plans, selected the materials and saw that they were obtained and fitted into the appropriate place. The interior carries out many of the ideals of Mrs. Guernsey, and she has a wonderful selection of beautiful things gathered many of them while she was abroad. It is a home in every sense of the word and a very united family enjoys its beauty and comforts.

Mr. George T. Guernsey was born in Dubuque, Iowa, in August, 1859, and is descended from sturdy New England stock. His father, Jesse Guernsey, was a minister of the Congregational Church and a native of Connecticut, while Mr. Guernsey's mother belonged to the celebrated Eaton family of Massachusetts, her grandfather and great-grandfather Eaton having both fought in the Revolutionary war. Jesse Guernsey was sent out to Iowa in the early days in the interest of his church, and carried on much the same work in Iowa as Rev. Daniel P. Mitchell did in Kansas in the interests of Methodism. Both these men occupied very high places in their respective denominations. Jesse Guernsey had charge of the whole state of Iowa for his church and was one of those who planned and assisted in bringing about the founding of Grinnell College.

Coming to Independence in 1876, George T. Guernsey found a clerkship in the bank of W. E. Otis, a cousin. By strict application to his chosen profession he rose steadily, and for a number of years has been president of the Commercial National Bank of Independence, one of the largest and strongest banks in South Kansas. He also has extensive oil and gas interests, owns farm lands in Montgomery County, but banking is first and last his profession and the business which has received the best of his energies. He is an active republican, a member of the Independence Commercial Club and has worked consistently during the forty years of his residence there for the making of a greater and better Independence.

Mr. and Mrs. Guernsey's only living son is George T., Jr., who graduated from Colorado College, from the State University of Kansas, and from the law department of Yale University, where he received the degree LL. B,. Instead of the law he has followed the example of his father and become a banker and is now vice president of the Commercial National Bank of Independence. The junior Mr. Guernsey married Miss Joyce H. Taylor, daughter of Rev. Arthur Taylor, a minister of the Protestant Episcopal Church at York, Pennsylvania. Both George T., Jr., and his wife are members of the Episcopal Church. Their children are: Bonnie Bell, born in July, 1908; Jessie Elizabeth, born in December, 1909, and George Thacher III, born in July, 1916.

Mr. and Mrs. Guernsey had another son, Harold Mitchell, who was born in 1886 and died in 1901. Their only daughter, Jessie, graduated at Miss Somers' Mount Vernon Seminary of Washington, District of Columbia, and is now the wife of Mulford Martin, Jr., of Independence. Mr. and Mrs. Martin have one daughter, Sarah Elizabeth.


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 October, 1997.
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