George Plumb

HON. GEORGE PLUMB is one of Emporia's honored pioneers. He is a son of David Plumb, and is a brother of the late Senator Preston B. Plumb, who for years was one of the most striking figures not only in Kansas life but in national affairs. Mr. William E. Connelley, the author and editor of this history of Kansas, is the official biographer of the late Senator Plumb, and the reader is referred to other pages for the account of his career and of the family relationship.

While he has never gained the fame that fell to the lot of his distinguished brother, George Plumb has himself had a very interesting and active career. He was also one of the pioneers of Kansas and has taken a prominent part in its official affairs. He is now serving as finance commissioner of the City of Emporia.

He was born in Delaware County, Ohio, December 15, 1843, and came to Kansas in the spring of 1857 with his parents when he was fourteen years of age. He lived in the first house or shanty that was built in Emporia. As a boy he carried the chain in making the first survey of the townsite. For two months he was a student in the first prairie school of Emporia. The teacher was a private tutor and there were nine scholars altogether. He soon came into contact with the rugged life of the frontier and found plenty of employment for his energies at work on his father's claim of 160 acres just east of Emporia at the mouth of Plumb Creek, which was named for David Plumb.

He was not yet eighteen when he became a soldier in the Union army. November 13, 1861, he enlisted in the Eighth Kansas Cavalry, was afterwards transferred to the Second Kansas Cavalry and still later to the Ninth Cavalry. He served until honorably discharged December 19, 1864. Much of his military experience was in the Far West. He was a member of the escort who accompanied Governor Hardy, a first cousin, by the way, of Abraham Lincoln, across the plains to Utah in 1862. He then spent more than a year in Wyoming, where the presence of a large body of troops was required on account of Indian warfare. He assisted in laying out a new stage line from Cachlepowder to Green River in Wyoming, an overland trail that was established primarily as a protection against the Indians. On July 7, 1863, he was a participant in an all day's engagement with the Ute Indians in South Pass, in which several soldiers were killed and several wounded. After this battle on his return to the fort Mr. Plumb received an order to report to General Schofield at St. Louis. July 9, 1863, he took the stage, but on arriving at Medicine Bow it was found that the Indians had destroyed the station and the driver refused to go any further until persuaded to do so when Mr. Plumb got upon the booth and rode by his side. The station at Rock Creek was also destroyed. Rock Creek was thirty-two miles from the fort and it was twelve miles to the next station, and they were compelled to go through without a change of horses. At Cachlepowder River he took the Denver stage, which had three passengers, one of them being Dave Moffett, who was then postmaster at Denver, and another was a Jewish merchant, Pondsnasky. In this stage they journeyed overland to Atchison, but at the Nebraska line they were held up by road agents. At that time the drafting of men into the army had caused many to flee and take to the life of outlaws on the frontier. Pondsnasky had a large amount of gold dust with him. The holdup occurred after they had left the Cottonwood Station about two miles, and it was just dusk. The driver seeing that the stage was surrounded stopped his horses, but Moffett immediately threw open the door on one side while Mr. Plumb did the same on the other, and both quickly climbed to the top. The driver then whipped up his horses and the road agents, thinking it was a party of soldiers, fell back and allowed them to pass uninjured.

Arriving at Fort Leavenworth, Mr. Plumb went to headquarters for transportation to St. Louis and there found an order transferring him to General Ewing's headquarters at Kansas City, Missouri. He was then assigned with four others as an independent scout and spent the rest of that summer in that work. The next spring, 1864, he was in the Red River expedition, and participated in the engagement at Fort Bayou, Clarksville, Dardanelles and other places. When Gen. Sterling Price began his last great raid into Missouri accompanied by Raines, Marmaduke and other Confederate generals, the Southern forces crossed the Arkansas River below and above Little Rock and joined forces near the White River. General Steele of the Federal army sent out a reconnoitering party to discover where the Confederates were concentrating. At the head of this party was Major Pomeroy of the Ninth Kansas and ninety-seven others including Mr. Plumb. At a bridge across the bayou they captured a rebel picket and from him learned that the noted guerilla was having his horses shod at a cross roads known as West Point. Pomeroy then conceived the idea of capturing the rebel. It was about the middle of afternoon and the Federals made a wide circuit so as to arrive at West Point about dark. Coming into the main road they found a large frame house and on asking a man who stood by the well curb where West Point crossroads were they received the information that they had arrived and that General Price, Raines, Marmaduke and other leaders of the Federal forces had just gone into camp there. It was a dangerous situation, but they managed to make their escape without being captured by the largely superior force. At the conclusion of this campaign Mr. Plumb was mustered out at Leavenworth, Kansas.

After the war he took up stock raising in the vicinity of Emporia, and for thirty-one years was successfully engaged in raising sheep and cattle on a large scale. He is still one of the extensive cattle feeders in this section of the state and owns about 3,000 acres of farm land, though he has disposed of a great part of the landed possessions he once owned. He is a director in the Commercial State Bank of Emporia and a stockholder in the Emporia National Bank.

His extensive business affairs have absorbed his attention somewhat to the exclusion of politics, though he has always been an active republican. He was elected and served as a member of the legislature in 1905 and 1907, a period of much progressive legislation in Kansas. During that time the two-cent railroad bill was passed, the anti-pass bill and much other important legislation. In 1911 Mr. Plumb was elected railroad commissioner for two years, and was chairman of the body. When the public utilities law was passed he helped organize the board, and was its chairman during organization. His most recent public honor came in April, 1915, when he was elected finance commissioner of Emporia and is now giving most of his time to that important place of trust.

His home is at 628 Exchange Street in Emporia. Mr. Plumb is a trustee of the Methodist Episcopal Church, is affiliated with the Ancient Order of United Workmen and the Knights and Ladies of Security, is a past commander of Post No. 55, Grand Army of the Republic.

On August 21, 1867, at the home of the bride near Emporia Mr. Plumb married Miss Ella Cowles, a daughter of the late Francis Cowles who was a farmer and also preacher. Seven children have been born to their union. Edna and Preston B. are both deceased, the former at the age of thirteen and the latter at twenty-six. Maggie, who lives at Lang, Kansas, is the widow of Marion Roderick, who was a farmer and stockman. James R. is a farmer and stockman on the old home ranch at Lang. Joseph is a rancher and wheat grower at Lewiston, Montana. Inez is the wife of Carl Kinney, a stock rancher at Gunderson, Colorado. Kittie married Clarence DeLong, who is a farmer, and raiser of horses and cattle, living three miles north of Emporia.


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 October, 1997.
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