FERNANDO A. PARSONS. The career of Fernando A. Parsons, of Chanute, is remarkable in many ways, but principally because of the number of fields which it has invaded and the success which has attended the ventures in which its author has been engaged. From his youth when he paid his own way through college, Mr. Parsons has pushed steadily forward, always assisting his community's interests while advancing his own. With a handsome fortune gained through his good business ability and persistent labors, and at an age when most men are content to retire, Mr. Parsons still continues as an active factor in business life, and is now president and manager of the Kansas Co-Operative Refining Company.
Fernando A. Parsons was born at Readsboro, Bennington County, Vermont, September 29, 1849, and is a son of Benjamin Battles and Polly Maria (Blanchard) Parsons. The Parsons family came from England to Vermont during Colonial times, and on his mother's side Mr. Parsons is a direct descendent of Governer Winslow of Massachusetts. Benjamin Battles Parsons was born in 1872, in Vermont, and was there reared and educated, and became a farmer and stockraiser, as well as a noted horse trainer and breaker. He served for several terms as sheriff of Windham County, Vermont, and was a prominent leader in civic and political affairs of his community, where he resided until 1849. In that year Mr. Parsons went to Dodge County, Wisconsin, where he invaded the virgin forests and cleared a small tract, on which he erected a rude cabin. To his unsettled community he took his family in 1850, and there resided for eleven years, during which time he cleared his farm of timber, developed a productive property, and made a comfortable home. In 1861, the family traveled across the prairies in an open wagon to Waterloo, Iowa, in the vicinity of which place Mr. Parsons cleared several farms, which he subseqently sold, and finally purchased a farm of 280 acres, one-half mile of Waterloo, 120 acres of which still remain in the family possession, being the home of F. A. Parsons' sister, Mrs. Lenora E. Bishop. There the father passed the remaining years of his life, dying in 1908. He was first a whig and with the formation of the republic party, joined its ranks and continued as a stanch adherent of its policies during the remainder of his life. A pillar of the Universalist Church, he was a great investigator in religious and spiritual matters, and lived a life of probity and integrity. He was a member of the Masons and of the Odd Fellows. In all the affairs of his community he took a leading part, and was highly respected as a man of honor, who was true to every engagement and whose transactions were always carried on in a straightforward manner. Mr. Parsons was married at Readsboro, Vermont, to Miss Polly Maria Blanchard, who was born in that state in 1829, and died in Waterloo, Iowa, in 1906, and they became the parents of four children: Roscoe Murray, who was a physician and surgeon of Traer, Iowa, for thirty years, and died there in 1909; Fernando A.; Winslow Randall, an inventor and manufacturer of hardware novelties of Chicago, Illinois; and Lenora Eveline, who is the wife of William S. Bishop, and resides on the old home farm near Waterloo, Iowa.
Fernando A. Parsons received his early education in the district schools of Dodge County, Wisconsin, and near Waterloo, Iowa, and was graduated from the Waterloo High School. Later he pursued a course at the Mussleman Commercial College, at Waterloo, and then returned to his father's farm, where he remained until reaching the age of twenty-one years. Mr. Parsons was anxious for a more extensive education, and accordingly sought the ways and means of gaining one. He was possessed of $69.50 when he entered the Illinois Industrial University (now the University of Illinois), at Champaign, Illinois, and in order to pay his way worked at whatever employment he could find, no matter how humble. In his senior year he taught in the university and worked as a bookkeeper, and thus was able to complete his course, graduating in 1875 with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. Later the degree of Master of Science was conferred upon him by the same university. After his graduation he took charge of the commercial department of the university, beginning in 1876, and in the next four years built that department up until it had 145 students. In 1880 Mr. Parsons came to Wellington, Kansas, which community he had visited two years previously, and engaged in the hardware and implement business. This being before the advent of the railroads, it was necessary to haul all goods across the prairie from Wichita and a paying business was established when the railroads came through, Mr. Parsons' foresight being vindicated, for the enterprise grew and extended until Mr. Parsons and his partners had eight branch stores in Sumner, Harper and Barber Counties, and conducted them until 1885. The firm was known as C. G. Larned & Company, Mr. Larned being Mr. Parsons' father-in-law. While at Harper Mr. Parsons embarked in the banking business in 1880, the same known as Woods, Parsons & Company, and attracted a large list of depositors and erected a handsome banking house, and conducted the business until June, 1882, when he sold out. In this enterprise he established one of the greatest records in the history of Kansas banking, for in thirty months he paid back all capital and 212 1/2 per cent. dividends. In 1881 the business of C. G. Larned & Company suffered by a fire, their business buildings at Wellington being burned out completely in the great fire which swept an entire block, and the company rebuilt the Arlington Hotel, a three-story structure, 50 by 140 feet, a large hostelry in its day, still standing, and went on with their business, greatly enlarging and extending it. In 1885 Mr. Parsons went to Western Kansas, locating at what is now Scott City. He superintended the work of staking, surveying and platting the town of Scott City, which he located in 1886 and organized in 1887. This time marks the period of settlement and development of the western part of the State of Kansas, in which Mr. Parsons took a prominent part in the organization of the Counties of Scott, Wichita and Greeley, being instrumental in building up and securing the location of the county seat in each of these counties. He was secretary and manager of the Scott City Company, which town became the county seat of Scott County without a contest. He was a member of the Leoti Town Company which became the county sent of Wichita County in a contest with its rival, Coronado, although several citizens of Leoti were killed in the town of Coronado during the contest. He was the president of the Tribune Town Company in Greeley County, and conducted the election campaign which made Tribune the county seat over its rival, the town of Horace, notwithstanding that the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company favored the town of Horace and refused to build a depot at Tribune and ran its trains through the town of Tribune to its depot and division point at Horace.
Mr. Parsons took the matter up personally with the Board of Railroad Commissioners of the state, secured a hearing at Tribune and Horace and an order that a depot be built at Tribune, went into the campaign for county seat on this order and won out on the election by 126 majority for Tribune.
In 1886 he established stage line and mail route from Garden City to Scott City and Leoti and was influential in getting the railroads built to Scott City, Leoti and Tribune and by 1888 the former had a population of from 1,500 to 2,000, with four banks and twenty-one loan offices. At that time he organized the Scott County Bank, which he conducted until 1889 and sold. In 1885, with Mr. Larned, he also founded a hardware and implement store at Garden City, conducted under the firm name of C. G. Larned and Company. This company still retained ownership of the Arlington Hotel property at Wellington, Kansas, and Mr. Parsons went there in 1888 and built a $15,000.00 addition to this hotel in response to the demands of the public, which gave to Wellington a first-class, modern hotel for more than twenty years until it was sold by Mr. Parsons.
In the fall of 1889 Mr. Parsons disposed of the hardware business at Garden City, sold the property it occupied at a good cash price before the collapse of the boom, went to Pueblo and invested heavily in good business property at a dull time. The two contesting towns, North and South Pueblo, soon after combined and made a great and prosperous city and property there greatly increased in value during the decade of the '90s following the Kansas real estate boom which was the hardest financial period in the history of the state, when all loan companies failed, banks broke and men who counted their equity assets in six figures were wiped off the financial slate by foreclosures. During this period of serious financial depression Mr. Parsons sold their Pueblo property at a hundred per cent. advance, settled all company obligations and came through those hard times with a good cash surplus. After these varied and successful ventures, Mr. Parsons left Scott City and went to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he entered the loan business in partnership with the Gibson brothers. About this time Mr. Parsons became associated with James T. Elwell, whose properties he handled for nearly a year. Returning to Kansas at that time, he went to Kingman to adjust matters in regard to having a railroad to run through a ranch belonging to himself and Mr. Larned, and there formed connections that once again brought him back into the field of finance. From 1890 for two and one-half years he was cashier of the Farmers and Drovers Bank, and when the bank was closed was appointed receiver. He closed up the affairs of this institution in nineteen months, paying every dollar of indebtedness, an achievement that earned favorable comment from such newspapers as the Wichita Eagle as one of the best pieces of financial work ever done in Kansas.
For five years following his banking experience, Mr. Parsons lived on his ranch, which was situated in Valley Township, near Rago, and at the end of that time disposed of the property and gave up his interests as a shipper of cattle to the Kansas City markets. On December 31, 1899, he went to Kansas City with the intention of retiring permanently from active affairs, but his energetic nature and keen business mind would not allow him to remain idle long, and he was soon interested in a brick business at Villisca, Iowa. This he conducted for four years, building up what had been a non-paying venture into an enterprise that paid regular 10 per cent dividends. This he sold out in 1908. In the meantime, in 1903, he had become interested in the oil business at Chanute, and since then has drilled wells from Humboldt to Thayer and all over the country surrounding Chanute to the west and southeast, having drilled about ninety wells in the Chanute, Humboldt and Thayer fields. He has been interested as field manager and a director in eight producing companies, including the Leader, Success and Anchor companies, and, with his brother, W. R. Parsons, was one of the founders of the Parsons Drilling Company. He is now president, treasurer and manager of the Kansas Co-Operative Refining Company, the plant of which was built in the fall of 1905 as a direct result of the boycott placed upon oil from these fields by the Standard Oil Company. The plant is situated near the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad, southeast of the city limits of Chanute and has a still capacity of 1,000 barrels per day, in addition to which there is a lubricant plant run in connection. The offices of the concern are located in the Barnes Building.
Mr. Parsons' success is the result of a number of things combined. His insight into business conditions has always been keen and far-reaching; his knowledge of men profound, and his ability in grasping opportunities unlimited. Throughout his career he has maintained an unsullied reputation for honesty in all transactions; men have always known that they could depend upon his word. Such a reputation is an asset of incalculable value to the man of business, and Mr. Parsons has always possessed it in marked degree. He has a fine home at No. 803 South Central Street, Chanute, has an interest in the old home farm near Waterloo, Iowa, and valuable coal lands in Oklahoma. Politically he is a republican, but not a politician. He is a member of the Universalist Church of Kansas City, Missouri, and while living in that city was one of the church trustees and superintendents of the Sunday School. He belongs to the Chanute Commercial Club, and is a Knight Templar Mason, belonging to Kingman Commandery No. 34, Knights Templar, and a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
Mr. Parsons was married in 1881, at Champaign, Illinois, to Miss Mary S. Larned, daughter of the late Charles G. Larned, who died in 1893, and who for many years was Mr. Parsons' partner in various of his most successful business ventures.
Mr. and Mrs. Parsons have no children, but are great favorites among the young people everywhere. Mr. Parsons' liberality and friendship for young men and women has found expression in extending aid to them in their educational efforts. As an incentive to higher and better literary work in the Chanute High School, six years ago Mr. Parsons established an annual literary contest for Chanute High School graduates by giving four cash prizes aggregating $100 to the winners in thought, composition and delivery. These prizes have been a great help to many deserving young men and women in giving them a start in a college course.
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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