FRED EUGENE PETTIT is a veteran business man and merchant of Marion County, and until he retired a few years ago conducted one of the largest stores at Peabody.
Mr. Pettit was reared and educated and gained his first mercantile experience in the State of Illinois. He was born at Wyoming in Stark County, Illinois, January 8, 1861, a son of Peter and Mary Anne (Bailey) Pettit. Peter Pettit was born in New York State and located in Illinois in 1851, when the country was new and undeveloped. After a few years he lost his health and suffered invalidism throughout the latter part of his life. He died at the comparatively early age of forty-six years. Mary Anne (Bailey) Pettit was born in Devonshire, England, in 1830. When she was six years of age she came with her father to America. The Baileys first located at Oswego, New York, moved from there to Wisconsin for three years, and then returned to New York State and located near Syracuse. It was at Syracuse that Mary Bailey married Peter Pettit in 1851. After their marriage they moved to Wyoming, Illinois, and she continued to make her home in that state for many years, but finally came to Peabody, Kansas, where she died in September, 1911. Peter Pettit and wife had four children: Edgar A., deceased; Maggie May, Mrs. J. D. Smith, of Peabody; Fred Eugene; and George T., deceased.
His father being an invalid, Fred Eugene Pettit had an early realization of the responsibilities of life and found it necessary to make his own living when the average boy is attending school. Thus he worked on farms in the summer months and found it difficult to attend school regularly even in the winter seasons. Most of his early education was acquired in the common schools at Wyoming, Illinois.
At the age of eighteen he entered the firm of Matthews & Holman, general merchants at Chillicothe, Illinois. The three years spent there gave him the foundation of his mercantile experience. After that he was connected for a similar length of time with Ottenheimer Brothers, clothing merchants at Peoria, Illinois.
Mr. Pettit came to Peabody, Kansas, in May, 1886. Associated with S. L. Van Petten, he engaged in the general merchandise business under the name of Van Petten & Pettit. They soon built up an extensive trade, covering a large territory, and they handled a stock of goods comprising everything required for the needs of the community. Much of their success they traced to energetic and consistent advertising. In November, 1892, Mr. Pettit bought the interest of his partner and after that conducted the store alone until September, 1911, when he retired from active business.
In the meantime, in March, 1895, he had become associated with Mr. D. E. Lamb, the first clerk to enter the services of Van Petten & Pettit. Together they opened a store at Herington in Dickinson County, Kansas, under the name Pettit & Lamb. This store has been conducted ever since and is a high grade merchandise emporium and would compare favorably with similar stores in much larger cities. The stock is unusually complete and the trade has grown until thirty people are now required to handle the work. The store was started under favorable auspices and has grown constantly from the beginning until it is now the chief mercantile establishment of Herington. After ten years the business was incorporated under the name of Pettit & Lamb Mercantile Company, and Mr. Pettit has since been president.
In later years Mr. Pettit has given his chief attention to looking after his investments as a land holder in Kansas and Oklahoma. Politically he is a stanch republican. He believes that the principles upheld and advocated by that party are the fundamentals of good government. After retiring from business and having some leisure for public service he was elected by the people of Marion County to represent them one term in the Kansas State Legislature of 1915, declining the nomination for a second term. Fraternally he is affiliated with Halcyon Lodge, No. 120, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, at Peabody; Delta Chapter, No. 19, Royal Arch Masons, at Marion, Kansas; Newton Commandery, No. 9, Knights Templars, at Newton, and has been a member of Camp No. 909 of Peabody of the Modern Woodmen of America, since 1891. His religious views are those of the Christian Science Church.
In Chillicothe, Illinois, February 15, 1888, two years after he had come to Kansas, Mr. Pettit married Hattie Leora Alvord, daughter of John J. and Catherine A. Alvord. They are the parents of two children, Fred Eugene, Jr., and Mildred Esther. Fred E., Jr., twenty-eight years old is a graduate of the Peabody High School, took his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Kansas, spent one year in Harvard University, and graduated from the law department of Leland Stanford, Jr., University of California. At present he is general attorney for California for the Salt Lake Railroad with offices in Los Angeles. He is a member of Phi Kappa Psi and Phi Alpha Delta fraternities, is a Mason and a member of the University Club of Los Angeles. The daughter, Mildred Esther, also graduated from the Peabody High School, spent three years in the University of Kansas and also had a course in domestic science in the Kansas State Agricultural College. She is a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority. She is a thoroughly educated and accomplished woman. She is now Mrs. Benjamin A. Walter, of Los Angeles, California.
A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, 1918, transcribed by students from Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, March 9, 2000.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
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