James C. Lysle

JAMES C. LYSLE. The important industries of Leavenworth still include manufacturing and some of the soundest enterprises in this line at the present date their beginning back in the city's pioneer days. Immediately in this connection, comes the name of James C. Lysle to mind, for he was one of the earliest, one of the most persevering and one of the most straightforward manufacturers that the city has ever known. He was, entirely, a self-made made[sic] and in youth had but few educational advantages but through quiet persistence, faith in himself and his fellow men, and a determination he never departed from, to deal justly with every one, he became possessed of an ample fortune and beyond that was an influence for good that will long remain effective in the city in which he spent forty-four years of usefulness.

James C. Lysle was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, December 2, 1828. His father was William Wilson Lysle, who was descended from Scotch ancestors. James C. Lysle grew to manhood in his native place and had but little school training. While quite young he went to work in a paper mill at Mount Vernon and carefully saved his earnings and finally invested them in stock in the mill and lost them when the mill people became bankrupts. Later, with others, he leased the mill and because of his knowledge of the business would, in all probability, have prospered there, but just then the Civil war came on and once more he saw his investment worthless.

These backsets were serious for a young man just starting into business, but it is not recorded that Mr. Lysle was in any way discouraged. After the mill at Mount Vernon was closed he removed to Rochester, near Pittsburg, where he started a machine shop, in which he may or may not have done well, for about that time oil was discovered in West Virginia and Mr. Lysle with many of his neighbors, went to that section where he engaged for a time in prospecting. Recognizing, however, that his line of work was manufacturing, he visited Leavenworth in 1866, to look the ground over as to probable business opportunities, and finding the prospect favorable, in the following year established his home here and organized a hub and spoke factory. This seemed a very promising industry because of the numerous wagon trains organized here to cross the plains, and Mr. Lysle continued the business until the building of the railroads practically brought about the abandonment of the use of wagons.

Mr. Lysle then converted his plant into a furniture manufactory and later added a flouring mill. In these activities he was associated with such men as James Dilworth and John Kelley. In 1880 they were doing three lines of business, manufacturing furniture, flour and cornmeal. Finding their ready capital too limited to carry on all three lines profitably, they sold the furniture business and concentrated on milling. In 1881 the present mill was started and completed and put in operation in 1882 and has been in use ever since. James Dilworth had early withdrawn from the firm and in 1898 Mr. Kelley retired, but Mr. Lysle continued his interest although gradually relinquishing active connection with its affairs. His entire record as a business man was one of integrity. He lived through days of commercial upheaval, at a time when panic was often a business specter and when public conditions made his business one in which dishonesty might have been concealed and through which his coffers might have been filled. No one, however, who knew James C. Lysle could have distrusted him for a moment, so just and upright was his whole career.

Mr. Lysle was married in Pennsylvania, in May, 1861, to Miss Letitia S. Dickey, whose father was Thomas S. Dickey, and three children were born to them: May, who is the wife of Clarence W. Chase; Carrie B., who is the wife of William A. Jeffers; and Eugene D.

Eugene D. Lysle was born at Leavenworth, Kansas, May 10, 1871. In 1890 he became associated in his father's milling business and in 1898 took charge as the active business manager, in 1911 becoming president of what is now a corporation. He married Miss Grace Phillips, who is a step-daughter of Judge H. W. Ide, who was a former district judge and law partner of Judge Brewer. Mr. and Mrs. Lysle have two children: James C. and Charlotte Luise.

In many ways James C. Lyle exerted a beneficial influence. He was a religious man and for many years was an elder in the Presbyterian Church and was one of a group who founded the church at Leavenworth and continued its support until it became one of the greatest organizations for usefulness in the city. From the very beginning he was interested in the Young Men's Christian Association, was a large contributor to it at all times and through his efforts more than any other man, perhaps, was the first association building made possible. He was ever ready to give to the struggling and worthy and his charities were numerous. In his political views he was a republican but he had no political aspirations. He served, however, from a sense of duty, on the school board for many years and was at one time its president. Measured by every standard, James C. Lysle was a man of worth and his virtues may well be remembered, and with profit his honorable career might be emulated.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed November 11, 1998.

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