Frederick W. Wulfekuhler

FREDERICK W. WULFEKUHLER. There is no such word as luck in the vocabulary of business men who have attained distinction in the busy and competitive marts of Kansas. Long years of experience have convinced them that position and prosperity come only through the medium of persistent application of intelligent methods that require time for their development and full fruition. The highest order of executive attainments and organizing sense must be backed up by public confidence, and a further desirable quality is an intimate and concise knowledge of the field to be occupied, this latter to be gained only by gradual and well-timed approaches. It is certain that the success of Frederick W. Wulfekuhler, head of the great wholesale grocery house of Rohlfing & Company, of Leavenworth cannot be attributed to any lucky circumstance. His career has been one of slow and steady development, and the prosperity of the house of which he is the chief executive rests upon fifty-six years of constant and well-applied effort.

Mr. Wulfekuhler was born near Osnabruck, Germany, September 14, 1841, and until fourteen years of age resided in his native land, where he was reared to farm work and educated in the public schools. An uncle in St. Louis, and a brother in Leavenworth, were the principal inducements that led him to leave home and come to America, and in 1855 he crossed the Atlantic on the sailing vessel Herman and after a long voyage arrived at the port of New Orleans. From that city he came up the Mississippi River by steamboat, landing at St. Louis, where he served an apprenticeship to the jeweler's trade. Mr. Wulfekuhler remained in that city until 1861, when he came to Leavenworth, and here became associated with his brother in the grocery business, which was conducted under the name of Rohlfing & Company. Although Mr. Rohlfing has long since been dead, the firm, which had started in 1858, has never changed its name, and while it originally began as an outfitting establishment, it has since expanded until it is now engaged exclusively in the wholesale line. Mr. Wulfekuhler has been connected with this establishment since 1861 - a period of over fifty-six years. He began as a clerk and for over half a century has been its manager. The success of the business has rested upon the foundation principles of handling only the best of standard goods, of close attention to details, of dealing along only just and square lines, and of giving in every instance full value.

The life of Mr. Wulfekuhler has had no thrilling chapters, but it has not been without its interest. It has been so interwoven with the history of the firm of Rohlfing & Company, that the outline of the one is the outline of the other. As a citizen he has taken an equal part with his fellows in all that has pertained to the building and improvement of his city, county, state and the country of his adoption. He is a strong believer in the principles of this republic. On coming to this country he began to keep himself well informed as to conditions, and when war threatened the disruption of the Union, he became a pronounced supporter of the Government, and at the time of President Lincoln's first call for 75,000 troops to put down the rebellion, he volunteered for 100 days and became a member of Company A, Third Regiment, Missouri Volunteer Infantry, United States Regular Cavalry. Upon the expiration of his term of service he received his honorable discharge.

When Mr. Wulfekuhler came to Leavenworth, the city had no paved streets nor water works, and the lighting was of the coal oil variety, and served voluntarily. Delaware and Main were then the principal business streets, the former given over largely to retail establishments and the latter to jobbing houses. Clark & Company and the Scott-Kerr house did the principal banking business, and among the principal business houses were Carney & Stevens, the latter member of which firm later became governor of Kansas, Moorhead & Company, Nelson McCracken and others. Not one of these is now in existence, the members either having died or moved away. The business localities have changed as well and now various other streets than Delaware and Main have become leading thoroughfares. In a like manner the church and educational history has obliterated the past and the old order of things is now but a reminiscence. In various ways Mr. Wulfekuhler's activities have formed an integral part of these changes. He has been a participant in the development that has made modern Leavenworth. Unlike many he has taken no active part in the political history of the city, and while he is a republican he has never aspired to office. In his religious belief he is a Lutheran.

Mr. Wulfekuhler was united in marriage at Denver, Colorado, to Miss Sophia Rohlfing, and to their union four children were born, namely: Alma, Hattie, Adolph and Frederick O., Jr.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed by students from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, 12-16-98.

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