Transcribed from 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
DAVID PRAGER. It was the influence of his personality and character as much as his successful business activities that made David Prager so useful and valuable a citizen of Fort Scott, where he resided for over forty years. His career illustrates the fact that the successful man is not necessarily the selfish man. He did not keep the resources of his heart nor of his material means to himself, but dispensed them with free hand among his family, his friends and the entire community. He was one of Fort Scott's most beloved and best known citizens.
David Prager was born in a village in Bavaria, Germany, June 7, 1834. He lived in Kansas from territorial days until his death at his home, 224 South Crawford Street, in Fort Scott, November 26, 1911. His death, due to heart failure, came suddenly, and though in his seventy-eighth year at the time, it was a heavy blow to the community.
His early education was acquired in his native land. At the age of fifteen he came to the United States and joined an older brother at St. Louis. He also lived for a few years in Peoria and Alton, Illinois. On coming to this country he began an apprenticeship as a jeweler and goldsmith. He finished the apprenticeship at Alton, and in 1858 arrived at Lawrence, Kansas, then the chief center of the free state community of Kansas. He was a prosperous jeweler of Lawrence when Quantrell made his famous raid. The Prager store was one of those looted by the bandit and guerilla, and the entire stock, valued at $4,000, was carried away. That his life was not taken always remained a circumstance considered miraculous by Mr. Prager. The raiders at first proceeded to his home, and from there marched to the store. Mrs. Prager, then a young wife, never expected to see him again. He himself had a premonition that his life would be spared, and told her he would soon return. He was made to unlock his store, and was then told to get home quickly. He lost no time in obeying this order, and thus his only loss was his stock of jewelry. Some years later the state reimbursed him to the extent of $1,800.
After the Lawrence raid he soon removed to Leavenworth, and for a few years was in the hardware business in that city. David Prager came to Fort Scott in 1869. He opened in that year the jewelry store which he conducted until the time of his death, though for several years he had been practically retired, two of his sons having assumed the main responsibilities of the business.
All the kind words and tributes spoken of him at the time of his death were more than justified. He had hundreds of friends, and all knew him to be a man of worth and integrity. Those closely associated with him, either socially or in business affairs, during the forty-two years he lived in Fort Scott, held for him the highest respect and esteem, and it is probable that he had not a single personal enemy. Devoted to family and friends, he had that cheerful disposition and jovial good will which made him not only a practical friend but a spiritual tonic to all who came within the boundaries of his influence. He lived a long life, and this was due to the fact that he was even tempered, had clean standards, and possessed an almost perfect poise of mind and body. He was always young in spirit, even after years accumulated a heavy load upon his shoulders. His youthfulness was not a pose, but a direct outflowing of an eternal spring deep in his nature. He spent much of his time with younger people. All the boys on the street esteemed it an honor to be his friend. He had a kindly word, a jest or a token of sympathy for all. His generosity was not confined to words alone. Some years ago, it is recalled, he learned that a young friend, in whom he took a special interest and whom he had assisted previously, was in a tangle of financial difficulties. He came to his aid, and it was assistance well bestowed, and by his act the young man was permanently set on his feet, and he afterward repaid every cent Mr. Pregar[sic] had advanced him. He was not the type of man to make money-getting an end in itself. He enjoyed the prosperity that came to him, and lived comfortably, and beyond that he asked nothing more. In many ways he exemplified that spirit of service to his family and fellowmen which must always be placed in the scale above mere riches.
David Prager was long affiliated with the Masonic order, and at the time of his death was one of the four surviving charter members of the Eastern Star Lodge of Fort Scott, which had been organized thirty-five years previously.
In a business way Mr. Prager built up the finest jewelry store in his section of the state. He was also one of the men who helped to make Fort Scott a city. During the great era of prosperity in the early '80s, he and J. E. Westervelt and N. Greenfield built in 1883 the Union Block, and since its completion the Prager jewelry store has been a constant tenant of the building. About the same time Mr. Prager put up the fine residence on South Crawford Street, where he lived until his death. For over fifteen years he was a member of the public library board.
At Lawrence, Kansas, September 30, 1859, he married Miss Hattie Briggs, of that city. Mrs. Prager died in 1906. She became the mother of eight children, and all these are still living.
Minnie Prager, the oldest of the family, is now the wife of L. A. Rucker of Coffeyville, Kansas.
William Prager, the second child, was born at Lawrence, December 31, 1862; was educated in the Fort Scott public schools, and at the age of seventeen entered his father's store and learned the trade and business of jeweler. He remained with his father until the latter's death, and in the meantime he and his brother, Louis, became active partners in the business and since their father's death have succeeded to the old established house. William Prager is a democrat, but believes that there is good in both parties, and has often exercised freedom of choice in the matter of candidates. He is a thirty-third degree Mason and also a member of the Scottish Rite, belongs to the Chapter and Mystic Shrine, and is also a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. On February 24, 1897, at Fort Scott, he married Miss Lillie Stadden, daughter of Col. Isaac Stadden, of Fort Scott.
Fannie, the third child, is the widow of W. J. Smith of Fort Scott. Stella is the wife of Mr. Oscar Rice, the well-known insurance man of Fort Scott. Nettie married Mr. E. E. Reid of Fort Scott. Louis Prager has already been referred to as the associate of his brother, William, in the jewelry business established by their father.
Walter Prager, also a merchant at Fort Scott, married Miss Helen Kishler, who was born in Kansas City, Missouri, daughter of Samuel P. and Jane (Templeton) Kishler, now residents of Chicago. One son was born to their union, Samuel Kishler Prager, on March 31, 1916. Walter Prager is a member of the Masonic order and the Elks.
Catherine Prager is the wife of E. Clifford Gordon of Fort Scott, and they have two sons, David Prager Gordon and E. Clifford Gordon, Jr.
Transcribed from volume 4, pages 1966-1967 of 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; originally transcribed by students at Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, March, 1998, modified 2003 by Carolyn Ward.
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