George W. Pennell

GEORGE W. PENNELL. It is given to few men to win the prizes of life, and George W. Pennell, of Atchison, belongs to that much favored class. In the building of the great West Mr. Pennell has played a major part. As a young man he had the instinct and the vision uncommon in the average man, which led him away from a comfortable home in a settled community out into the Mississippi Valley, the wonder land of the world. From an inconspicuous youth of vigorous Revolutionary stock, raised on a New York farm, he has become one of the great lumber merchants of the West.

Mr. Pennell's great-grandfather fought as a soldier in the Revolutionary war and his progenitors were substantial New Englanders. His grandfather, John Pennell, was born in Massachusetts in 1774. John Pennell as a young man settled with his family in Ontario County, New York, and as one of the pioneers cleared the wilderness in that section, where he lived until his death in Honeoye, that county, in 1859. The father of George W. Pennell was John Pennell, Jr., who was born in Massachusetts in 1798. He married Sally Green, who was born in Vermont in 1817 and died at Honeoye, New York, in 1902, at the ripe old age of eighty-five. Like his father, John Pennell followed the plow. He was a staunch Presbyterian, a whig and later a republican and as such held the office of justice of the peace in his county for many years. He died at his home in Honeoye in 1884. John Pennell and his wife, Sally Green, were the parents of seven children, of whom George W. Pennell was the seventh child. The eldest brother was Frank G. Pennell, a farmer, who died at the age of eighty-four. Wesley Pennell, the second child, was also a farmer and death did not claim him until he was eighty-two, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Harriet, a daughter, married Myron Blackmar, a farmer, and both are now deceased. Almira married Thomas Reed, a farmer, and their home was always at Honeoye, but Mrs. Reed died in the State of Nevada. Three other children died in infancy.

George W. Pennell attended the rural schools of Ontario County, and was also a student in Alfred University in Allegany County, New York. He completed his education at nineteen years of age and returning to his father's farm, he remained there until 1866, when he turned his steps towards the West to seek his fame and fortune. His first stop was at Hannibal, Missouri, where he remained six years in the lumber business. Having acquired a practical working knowledge of that business in all its many details he was offered a position of large responsibilities by G. C. Hixon and he came to Atchison in 1872 as manager of the Hixon Lumber Company, with which he was actively identified for many years. Having subsequently acquired the entire business, he made of it the largest institution of its kind in Northeastern Kansas. It is not only the largest but it is also the oldest lumber business in Atchison.

But Mr. Pennell was not content to confine his efforts and large abilities to the retail lumber business exclusively. In connection with William G. Carlisle. he became part owner of one of the largest wholesale lumber manufacturing concerns in the entire West. The Carlisle-Pennell Lumber Company has operated on an extensive scale in the states of Arkansas, Texas and Washington, but in recent years this company has confined its operations to the State of Washington, where it has thousands of acres of valuable timber land and two of the largest mills in the Northwest, located at Carlisle and Onalaska, Washington.

While Mr. Pennell is a man of wealth and of striking appearance, he is devoid of pretensions and hates all forms of ostentation and display. He has retired from active work and is identified with no other business institution except the Commerce Trust Company of Atchison, in which he is a director. He makes his home in Atchison and with his wife, who was Miss Helen Sheldon, of Holly, New York. to whom he was married in 1885, he occupies a commodious and handsome residence. Mrs. Pennell is his devoted companion and helpmeet and is a woman of culture and refinement and a very prominent member of the Christian Science Church, to which Mr. Pennell also belongs.

In politics Mr. Pennell is a democrat of a decidedly liberal turn of mind, and he is also affiliated with Washington Lodge No. 5, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, Washington Chapter No. 1, Royal Arch Masons, Washington Commandery No. 2, Knights Templar, Abdallah Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Leavenworth, Kansas, and Atchison Lodge No. 647, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

Mr. Pennell's first wife was Miss Amelia McGinnis, to whom he was married in 1872 at Gardner, Illinois. To them were born five children, two having died in infancy. Bessie, the eldest, who was greatly beloved by all who knew her, was a graduate of Lasell Seminary, near Boston. She died in Atchison at the age of twenty-five. Katherine, or Kate as she is more familiarly known, also a graduate of Lasell, is the attractive and popular wife of Dr. R. L. Hull, a physician and surgeon of Oklahoma City, where they live in a beautiful home, the gift of Mr. Pennell. Mrs. Hull has one child, a boy, who bears the name of his grandfather Pennell. Sarah, a graduate of St. Marys at Knoxville, Illinois, is the wife of Truman E. Snowden, who is now the manager of the Hixon Lumber Company. Mrs. Snowden has many charms and is a general favorite. They have three lovely children, Robert, Helen and Sally.

At the age of seventy-three Mr. Pennell is in good health and occupies his time in conserving what he has made, travels when he feels so inclined and enjoys the companionship and esteem of his friends and neighbors.


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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