William E. Schermerhorn

WILLIAM E. SCHERMERHORN is a merchant at Wilson and for a man of thirty-five carries some very heavy responsibilities. He is a native of Kansas and son of a pioneer whose career recalls some interesting events and developments in the far West.

His father, E. D. Schermerhorn, is still living at Wilson, nearly seventy years of age. E. D. Schermerhorn was born near Troy, New York, in 1848. His ancestors were the Schermerhorn family of Holland established on Manhattan Island by three brothers in the time of Peter Stuyvesant. The name Schermerhorn is still found in local nomenclature in and around New York. When E. D. Schermerhorn was fifteen years of age he ran away from home and for many years lived close to the frontier of American enterprise and settlement. His first location was at White Pigeon in Southern Michigan, at that time a place of considerable importance. There he worked in a store and blacksmith shop, but in 1866 he came still further west and located at old Fort Ellsworth, now Kanopolis, Kansas. Here he found employment in the sutler's store for Judge Osborne, and was soon given active management of the store. In 1869 he went with Colonel Forsythe as a blacksmith for the Government and assisted in establishing Fort Sill in the Indian Territory; now Oklahoma. At old Fort Sill he had charge of all the blacksmithing work until he returned to Fort Harker, Kansas. The winters of 1870 and 1871 he spent hunting buffalo on the plains. He never killed a buffalo for its hide, though this business was afterwards developed to large proportions. He killed them only for the meat, and the hams were the only part of the buffalo which it was profitable to use. He spent the fall and winter of 1869-70 again at Fort Harker, and in 1870 was appointed sutler for the troops at Spirit Springs, now called Waconda Springs. He next resumed the cattle business north of Hays and soon went broke. At this stage of his affairs he went to work for Mr. Larkin at Ellsworth, was promoted to manager of the Larkin Store and then on April 5, 1879, opened a store at Wilson, of which he has been owner ever since. He proved a most capable merchant, built up a large department store, and the business has grown and prospered until it is now one of the leading mercantile enterprises of Ellsworth County. This store is situated on Michigan Avenue and North Street, in a building 50 by 90 feet, and the store occupies all of three floors.

E. D. Schermerhorn is a democrat in politics. He served on the city council several terms and for two terms was mayor of Wilson. His interests and associations with this section of Kansas make him one of the prominent men. He is a director and vice president of the Wilson State Bank, is vice president and director of the Central National Bank of Ellsworth and a director in the Sylvan State Bank at Sylvan Grove, Kansas. He is past master of Samaria Lodge No. 298, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, at Wilson, is affiliated with Ellsworth Chapter No. 54, Royal Arch Masons, Ellsworth Council No. 9, Royal and Select Masters, Ellsworth Commandery No 33, Knights Templar, and with Salina Consistory No. 3 of the Scottish Rite, in which he has the honorary degree K. C. C. H., and Isis Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Salina. He has for forty years been an Odd Fellow and is past noble grand of Wilson Lodge No. 225, Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

At Ellsworth in 1875 E. D. Schermerhorn married Miss Christine Calene. She was born at Stockholm, Sweden, in 1854. Three children were born to their marriage: Frank L., who was associated with his brother in the management of the store at Wilson, died at Kansas City, Missouri, in 1912; Pearl, the second child, died at the age of eighteen months; so that William E. is the only survivor of the family.

The latter was born at Wilson October 16, 1882, graduated from the local high school in 1899, from the Valparaiso, Indiana, Business College in 1900, and having an ambition to pursue a technical profession he entered Armour Institute of Technology at Chicago in 1902, completed the course and received the degree Bachelor of Science in 1906: While in college he became affiliated with the Delta Tau Delta fraternity.

Mr. Schermerhorn abandoned his intention of a profession since his father was getting along in years and instead returned to Wilson and took charge of the business. He is the active manager of the store and has not only kept the business flourishing, but in September, 1917, opened a branch store in says, Kansas.

Mr. Schermerhorn has served as a member of the city council of Wilson two terms. He is an independent democrat, and has fraternal affiliations with Samaria Lodge No. 298, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, Ellsworth Chapter No. 54, Royal Arch Masons, Ellsworth Council No. 9, Royal and Select Masters, Ellsworth Commandery No. 33, Knights Templar, Salina Consistory No. 3 of the Scottish Rite and Isis Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Salina.

On August 15, 1906, at Kansas City, Missouri, Mr. Schermerhorn married Miss Abbie Fletcher, daughter of J. J. and Ella Fletcher. Her mother lives in Kansas City, Missouri, and her father, deceased, was formerly traffic manager of the Frisco Railway system. Mr. and Mrs. Schermerhorn have one daughter, Eloise, born November 4, 1910.


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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