Rufus Benton Peery

RUFUS BENTON PEERY, There appears on other pages of this publication a history of Midland College at Atchison. In this connection is found an appropriate place for some reference to the career of the president of that well known Kansas institution, Rufus Benton Peery, who after a long and distinguished service as a missionary and minister of the Lutheran Church took the president's chair in 1912.

Mr. Peery is of old American stock and Revolutionary antecedents. He was born at Burkes Garden, Virginia, April 9, 1868. The Peerys originated in England and in 1741 three brothers, Thomas, William and Edward Peery, immigrated and settled in Pennsylvania They had been English soldiers, but in the next generation members of the family turned from allegiance to the Crown and fought gallantly with the patriots for independence. Mr. Peery's great-grandfather, also named Thomas Peery, was a soldier in that struggle. He died in Pennsylvania. Mr. Peery's grandfather, also named Thomas Peery, was born in Pennsylvania, and spent his active career as a farmer and stock man in the vicinity of Burkes Garden, Virginia, where he died in 1871. He was a soldier in the War of 1812. The maiden name of his wife was Gose, who was born in Virginia, and died a number of years before her husband at Burkes Garden.

Capt. Thomas Peery, father of President Peery, was born at Burkes Garden, Virginia, in 1842, and continued the family record for patriotism and valor by serving two years in the Civil war as an officer in the Confederate army. He served from 1863 to 1865 and was captain of the Twenty-ninth Regiment of Virginia Infantry. This regiment was part of Corse's Brigade and in the famous Pickett's Division. Captain Peery aside from his service as a soldier was a stock raiser and trader and filled a number of county offices, including county commissioner and sheriff. He finally retired to Culpeper, Virginia, where two years later he died in 1908. He was a democrat, and an active supporter and for many years an elder in the Lutheran Church. Captain Peery married Sarah Henrietta Repass. She was born in Southwestern Virginia at Wytheville in 1843 and died at Burkes Garden in 1886. She became the mother of ten children, noted briefly as follows: E. W. Peery, a prominent physician and surgeon and a specialist in eye, ear, nose and throat diseases in Lynchburg, Virginia; Rufus Benton, who is the second in age; Walton S., a merchant at Norton, Virginia; Nora Kate, who lives at Norton, the widow of Thomas Spracher, who was a traveling salesman and was struck and killed by a locomotive in 1903; Anna S., wife of William Hansbarger, a farmer and stockman at Peterstown, West Virginia; John Carnahan, who is president of the Roanoke Woman's College at Salem, Virginia. Josephine, wife of Joseph Porter, a merchant at Norton, Virginia; Maude Cassel, wife of Oscar Veazey, a mining and electrical engineer at Pratt, West Virginia; Mary Elizabeth, wife of Stephen S. Cassel, a stockman and farmer at Rural Retreat, Virginia; and George G., who is professor of biology in Roanoke College, Virginia, and lives at Salem. Capt. Thomas Peery married for his second wife Lora Shawver, who is still living, her home being at Bluefield, West Virginia. Her children are: Claire, an employee of the Goodrich Rubber Company at Akron, Ohio; Sallie, a teacher in the West Virginia schools; Tommie, who lives with her half brother at Atchison and is a student in Midland College; and Margaret and Pauline, both with their mother.

Dr. R. B. Peery while a boy on his father's farm in Virginia distinguished himself by studious inclinations and early fixed his choice upon a career in the church. He attended the public schools at Burkes Garden, including the high school, and graduated from the Warttburg Private Seminary at Graham, Virginia. In 1890 he graduated A. B. from Roanoke College at Salem, Virginia, for two years was a student in the Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and in 1892 was ordained a minister of the Lutheran Church. He continued his studies while abroad under the direction of the University of Chicago and Pennsylvania College at Gettysburg, and in 1895 was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by the latter institution Doctor Peery is a member of the Phi Gamma Delta Greek letter fraternity.

In 1892 he went to the missionary fields in Japan, and was active in that oriental country under the auspices of the Lutheran Church until 1903. Among Kansans Doctor Peery probably has a more intimate and thorough knowledge of the Japanese country and its people than any other citizen. While in Japan he published a book entitled "The Gist of Japan," which had a wide sale and appreciation in England and America, and also in Japan. He also published "Lutherans in Japan," translated the Lutheran Hymn Book into Japanese, and was author of a volume "Addresses to Young Men," printed and circulated in Japan.

After returning from his long residence in Japan Doctor Peery in 1903 became pastor of a Lutheran Church in Philadelphia. In 1905 he was called to one of the prominent churches of Denver, Colorado, where he remained until he came to Atchison in 1912 to become president of Midland College.

Doctor Peery married at Wytheville, Virginia, in 1895 Miss Lettie A. Rich, daughter of W. W. and Mary (Cassel) Rich. Her father, now deceased, was a furniture merchant. Her mother still lives at Wytheville. Mr. and Mrs. Peery are both of Revolutionary descent, and he is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution. Doctor and Mrs. Peery have six children: Harold Rich, born in August, 1896, now a student in Midland College; Thomas Benton, born in 1898, a student at Midland; Rob Roy, born in 1901, also in Midland College; Paul Denver, born in 1907, and William Wallace, born in 1912, both students in the public schools of Atchison; and Donald Lee, born in 1915.


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 1997.
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