William J. Rickenbacher

WILLIAM J. RICKENBACHER. The real estate business conducted under the name of William J. Rickenbacher has gone hand in hand with the development of Topeka for a number of years, and undoubtedly has contributed as largely toward the advantageous disposal of property and the honorable and satisfactory placing of loans as any concern of the kind in the city. Mr. Rickenbacher is one of the city's foremost realty men, and while his main necessarily is associated with one of the early families of Topeka, his success is self made, and in its scope and usefulness directs attention to qualities of perseverance, business integrity and ability and high regard for the welfare of the community.

John U. Rickenbacher, the grandfather of William J. Rickenbacher, was born in Switzerland, in 1818, and came to the United States in 1846. Here he joined the United States army and went with the forces of General Scott to Vera Cruz, Mexico. He was first slightly wounded by a Mexican musket ball, which passed through the rim of his ear, and a few days later, at the storming of Pueblo, received a much more severe wound. When peace was declared he returned to Ohio with his regiment and was mustered out of the service with his honorable discharge. Several years thereafter, in 1849, he was married and he and his wife became the parents of four children: William; Albert, who is a retired banker of Columbus, Ohio; Caroline, who married Hart Schrader, now a retired resident of near San Francisco, California, but formerly a large candy manufacturer of New York City; and John M., of Newark, New Jersey, engaged in the manufacture of candy. John U. Rickenbacher, after his return from the Mexican war, engaged in the tailoring business, and developed one of the largest establishments of its kind in Columbus, Ohio, which, during the Civil war, manufactured 100,000 uniforms for the soldiers of the Union army. He also became influential in public life, entered politics as a republican, and was elected sheriff of Franklin county, Ohio, an office which he held for four years. Later he was a candidate for Congress on the republican ticket but failed of election from the Columbus district. He was a total abstainer in a day and locality in which nearly every man used liquor of some nature, and in numerous other ways was worthy of the esteem and respect in which he was held. He died at Columbus at the age of seventy-three years, after a long, clean, industrious and useful life.

William Rickenbacher, son of John U. and father of William J. Rickenbacher, was born at Columbus, Ohio, in 1850, and there received his education in the public schools and the State Normal School. As a young man he joined his father in the tailoring business and continued with him until 1879, in October of which year he came to Topeka, Kansas. In the following year he entered the service of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, and for thirty-six years has been one of the most valued and trusted employes of the freight auditor's department. Like other members of the family he bears a splendid reputation for morality, honesty, industry and fidelity, and his long term of service with the road with which he is now connected is ample evidence of his staying qualities and the character of his ability. In 1871 Mr. Rickenbacher married Miss Henrietta C. Dressel, of Columbus, Ohio, and they have had six sons and three daughters: William J., of this review; Albert, who died in childhood; Theodore F., who is manager of the great Topeka department store, known as "The Fair;" Hartman W., city treasurer of Terlock, California, to which office he was elected as a republican in a strong democratic city; Charles Foster (named for an Ohio governor), who is also associated with "The Fair;" Caroline, who is now Mrs. C. B. Dodge, of Salina, Kansas; Louis H., who is chief engineer of the Terlock (California) Irrigation Company; Henrietta, who died in childhood; and Grace, a graduate of the Topeka High School and of Washburn College, who resides with her parents.

William J. Rickenbacher was born at Columbus, Ohio, and received his education chiefly in the schools of Topeka. On coming to his majority he chose the real estate business as his field of activity, and in this direction has attained a leading place among the realty men of the city. He has been the medium through which a number of important deals have been consummated, and has laid out and sold an addition to the city. He also is entitled to be numbered among the city's philanthropists, for he donated the large and valuable piece of property to the city which has since been laid out and developed into the beautiful Lakewood Park. As one of the strong and resourceful men of his community he was chosen chairman of the committee which succeeded in securing the services of Charles Mulford Robinson, the noted eastern expert, to make a survey of the city. In politics Mr. Rickenbacher is a republican, and has been honored on numerous occasions by being elected presiding officer of conventions and gatherings of his party. A shrewd and honorable man of business, he has gained a comfortable fortune through his own good judgment and foresight.

Mr. Rickenbacher was married to Miss Frances K. Smith, daughter of E. M. Smith, a pioneer real estate man of Topeka, and they have two daughters: Helen and Ruth, two very interesting and talented young ladies.


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 by Charla Logan, student from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, November, 1997.
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