Lewis A. Markham

LEWIS A. MARKHAM was a physician by profession, but the services by which he will be longest remembered in Kansas as elsewhere were those he rendered as a devoted minister of the gospel. He spent his last years at Baldwin City, where the family have been prominent for over a quarter of a century.

Doctor Markham practiced medicine for six years in Ohio, part of the time in Akron and part of the time at Massillon. He was married at Akron, September 19, 1858, to Sarah Wirt. Sarah Wirt was of a family of pioneers. Her father was born at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and his ancestry went back to 1590. Her mother was a native of Canton, Ohio, and her maternal grandfather owned much of the land included in the present City of Canton. Sarah Wirt was born on a farm near Massillon, Ohio, September 19, 1835. She was educated in Toledo and Oberlin College, and while teaching she met Doctor Markham.

At the beginning of the Civil war Doctor Markham assisted in organizing a regiment of which he was to have been surgeon. The governor of the state instead asked him to remain in the barracks at Columbus and assist in recruiting. He then resumed his career as a physician, and was enjoying a large practice worth several thousand dollars a year. He finally became convinced that his duty lay in another direction and he determined to enter the ministry of the Methodist Church.

He joined the North Ohio Conference and his first appointment was at a salary of only $400 a year, whereas his medical practice had been worth ten times that amount. For thirty years he and his devoted wife labored together in ministering to the spiritual needs of the people as he had also ministered to their physical distress. Mrs. Markham co-operated with her husband in many ways, and her pleasing soprano voice she used with splendid effect. Over 3,000 people were added to church membership by these devoted people without the aid of special evangelists. Several churches and parsonages were built by them. On one circuit of three appointments within a period of three years they built three churches, two parsonages, and one was a fine large brick structure. Doctor Markham's ministerial labors were in North Ohio, and afterwards in the St. Louis, Missouri, Conference, and for three years he was stationed at Warrensburg and two years at Butler, Missouri. His chief idea in coming west had been to give his children opportunities to get ahead in the world. Though his salary as a minister was always meager, both he and his wife taught their children from early childhood that they must go to college, and those who grew up did receive college educations, three being graduates of Baker University at Baldwin.

In the spring of 1891 Doctor Markham and his wife moved to Baldwin City and the wife and children remained there in close touch with the advantages of Baker University, though Doctor Markham served as pastor of the church at Spring Hill. Doctor Markham died at Baldwin, August 23, 1893.

He was one of the most devoted and zealous workers the Methodist Church ever had in the Middle West. He was popular, was a keen reader of human nature, and the good he did can never be reckoned in terms of mortal achievement.

From the death of her husband Mrs. Sarah Markham, maintained her home at Baldwin, growing in grace as in age until she too was taken away from her sorrowing family when in her eightieth year. She died April 19, 1915. She had not only lived to see her own children graduate from Baker, but also grandchildren receive the same honor. Almost at the beginning of its organization she became a life member of the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society. She took the keenest interest in the unfolding of the young lives in her own home and in her community. She was a woman of varied talents and interests. In her old age she kept well informed concerning the great European war, and at death, in spite of all the struggles and hardships she had been through, she hardly looked to be over sixty-five. Concerning this much beloved woman of Baldwin is a beautiful tribute that may properly be inserted here and written by her son. "Some have gifts of speech, some have beauty, some have wealth and worldly honors, while others have poverty and humble station, but we all have that heaven born gift - a mother. As you have read what I have with varied emotions tried to relate, think of your own mother rather than of mine for mother would have it so."

Doctor Markham and wife were the parents of seven children. Two of them, Nellie Alta and Charles Fremont, died in early childhood. The five still living are: L. Wirt Markham of Lamar, Colorado; O. G. Markham and W. C. Markham, both of Baldwin City; L. Merrill Markham of Lamar, Colorado, and Mrs. Herbert A. Clark of Syracuse, New York.

Osmon Grant Markham, who for many years has been identified with the faculty of instruction at Baker University and is now its dean, was born while his parents were living in Ohio, August 21, 1865. He attended the Ohio public schools and was also a student in the Baldwin University at Berea near Cleveland in that state. He was graduated A. B. in 1886 and in the same year went to Missouri and taught school at Smithton.

In the fall of 1887 he removed to Baldwin, Kansas, and became principal of the Academy of Baker University. His connection with that institution has been continuous now for thirty years. In 1893 he was made professor of Latin, and has filled that chair to the present time. In 1905 he was elected dean of the college. He has been frequently honored both at home and in the state at large. He was appointed a member of the state board of education by Governor Hoch and reappointed by the governor in his second term. In 1909 his alma mater in Ohio conferred upon him the honorary degree Lit. D. Mr. Markham served as acting mayor of Baldwin one year, when the elected mayor removed from the state and for two years he himself filled that position by election.

When the Anti-Saloon League of Kansas was organized in December, 1916, O. G. Markham was elected its president. He has been a prominent Methodist layman and was three times elected delegate to the General Conference of the church, in 1904, 1912 and 1916. Dean Markham is a republican and a member of the Masonic fraternity. On August 23, 1894, he married Socia Buckingham of Leavenworth, Kansas. They have one daughter, Virginia Gatch.

William Colfax Markham, son of the late Dr. L. A. Markham and younger brother of Dean Markham of Baker University, is a Kansas man distinguished by exceptional talents and a versatile ability which have caused him to be referred to as editor, poet, playwright and enterprising citizen.

He was born at Bolivar, Ohio, September 10, 1868, and he spent his youth in the various places where his father was engaged in his ministerial labors. For three years he was a student in Baldwin University at Berea, Ohio, and in 1886 he moved with his parents to Missouri and subsequently entered Baker University at Baldwin, Kansas, where he was graduated A. B. in 1891. During the six years he spent in college his entire allowance was only $400, and he supplemented this by working as a janitor and at other sources of profitable employment. Mr. Markham was very prominent at Baker, and became founder of the class organization, the House of Hanover. This organization has been perpetuated at Baker to the present time. He also founded the Alpha Omega fraternity, which eventually became part of the Delta Tau Delta. He has the distinction of having been initiated by the Karnea at Cleveland, Ohio, when the Alpha Omega was incorporated in the Delta Tau Delta.

Immediately after graduating from Baker Mr. Markham went to Lamar, Colorado, where he was employed a year as deputy in the county treasurer's office. In 1892 he entered Johns Hopkins University at Baltimore and specialized in history and polities. While there he was a pupil under Woodrow Wilson.

Mr. Markham's chief vocation has been that of a newspaper man. Returning to Baldwin in the spring of 1893 he bought the Baldwin Ledger in August, and that paper has been under his editorial and business management ever since. The Baldwin Ledger is now in its thirty-fifth year. Mr. Markham was appointed postmaster at Baldwin, February 2, 1908, and served continuously in that office until February 9, 1915, when he was arbitrarily removed to make room for a democrat. While postmaster he served as secretary of the Kansas Postmasters' Association, composed of Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas, and during the life of the organization he was its secretary-treasurer. He also established and was editor of the Southwest Postal News located at Kansas City. He published this paper as a daily during conventions of the association. In 1914, at Denver, he was elected secretary of the National Association of Postmasters, and when the national convention met at St. Paul in that year he published daily issues of the Daily News.

In August, 1916, Mr. Markham was elected secretary of the Republican State Central Committee of Kansas, and is still a member of the committee. In May, 1916, he was elected president of the Kansas State Editorial Association. On April 4, 1917, he was made secretary of the Kansas State Highway Commission, with headquarters at the state capital, Topeka. This is one of the most important departments of state.

Besides his routine newspaper work and editorial writings Mr. Markham has frequently ventured into the fields of general literature. He has written two historical plays based upon scenes and incidents in the history of Kansas. The first, entitled "The First Christmas in Palmyra," a play in three acts, and representing the first Christmas celebration ever held in Kansas Territory by white settlers. The word Palmyra was used because the original name of Baldwin City was Palmyra, so named by the anti-slavery element, though the pro-slavery element called the township Calhoun. Mr. Markham's second play is entitled "The Spirit of 1856." This play was reproduced as the concluding feature of Baldwin City's Fourth of July celebration in 1916. The celebration and the play attracted wide attention over the state, and it is not out of place to quote what Charles S. Finch of the Lawrence Gazette had to say regarding the dramatic presentation: "The play was put on in the University Gymnasium early in the evening and the crowd that came was evidently a pleasant surprise to the author of the play. The play subordinates all else to historical accuracy. Mr. Markham has studied the early history of Kansas, and he gave to the big audience a piece of the real thing. The men and women who were the first to come to live there, at what is now the beautiful city of Baldwin, lived their parts in that tense history that the play so well portrays. It is hardly a play; it is a reenacting of real history and the characters portrayed lived and worked and some of them died for the state they loved. The dates, the actors, the events, not one word or one act but Mr. Markham has verified, and now has made into lasting and indisputable history.

"'There is no plot' someone said. There is the same plot that there was to the settlement and the early history of Kansas, and no greater, no more eventful, no more important plot was ever laid and worked out by the American people. To those who feel no interest in Kansas history and affairs, the play would not be deep and absorbing, but to those who know Kansas and her woes and glory, the play is one of the best things that can be heard or read. It is the final word on every point touched upon, and will stand as such."

Mr. Markham has also written considerable verse, and without question is one of the gifted writers of contemporary Kansas. He is a member of the Masonic fraternity. On June 24, 1896, he married Miss Carrie M. Hoover. Mrs. Markham is a graduate of Baker University. Their three children are Maurice William, Miriam and Ralph Harold.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, 1918, transcribed by students from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, March 15, 1999.

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