HENRY BLOCK, editor and publisher of the Syracuse Journal since 1893, and also postmaster at Syracuse, his home town, has filled several public positions, and in each office to which he has been called has performed the duties devolving upon him acceptably. He was born August 1, 1960, in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany, a son of Conrad and Mary (Stepler) "Bloch," who immigrated to the United States in 1865, locating near Sharon, Pennsylvania, where both died in 1869. The parents left three children, as follows: Henry, the subject of this sketch; Mary, wife of John Zimmerman, of Greenville, Pennsylvania; and a daughter who died in early womanhood.
At the death of his parents Henry Block was placed in the Saint Paul Orphan's Home in Butler, Pennsylvania, where he remained four years, obtaining while there a practical common school education. Leaving the Home, he was at the age of fourteen years apprenticed to a farmer near Kittanning, Pennsylvania, and during the three years he remained there worked early and late, attending school but three months a year. At the age of seventeen years he began learning the printer's trade in the office of the Butler Eagle, and acquired a fair knowledge of the art. Going to Pittsburgh in 1879, Mr. Block took passage on a steamboat bound for Saint Louis, and there bought a ticket for some place as far west as his money would take him, the place proving to be Emporia, Kansas.
He first found work in a printing office, but later, during the construction of the Madison branch of the Santa Fe Railroad, he assisted in pumping water by hand from the Verdigris River for the locomotives, being stationed at Madison, Kansas. Going from there to Kansas City, Missouri, he followed the printing trade, working chiefly on the Kansas City Times and for the Kellogg Newspaper Union.
At the age of twenty-one he became an American citizen by renouncing all allegiance to the Emperor of Germany, which was one of the proudest acts of his life. Having decided to start in business on his own account, Mr. Block chose Johnson City, Kansas, as the place in which to make his first venture as a newspaper man. Finding, however, that a paper had already been established there, he located in Kendall, Hamilton County, that being then the county seat, so designated by the governor, and established the Kendall Boomer in March, 1886. At the end of three years the opening of Oklahoma, the poor crops of this region and the exodus of the temporary population proved disastrous to the whole of Western Kansas. Just at that critical time, in the fall of 1889, he was elected register of deeds, and moved to Syracuse to take the office, the county seat having been settled at this point. He served in that capacity four years.
At the expiration of his term, in 1893, Mr. Block again entered the field of journalism as publisher of The Syracuse Journal, the good will of which he purchased from its founder, Judge Lester, equipping his office with the material of the Kendall Boomer. In August, 1894, he was appointed postmaster at Syracuse, and served for four years, running his paper at the same time. As a newspaper man Mr. Block has been quite successful, his paper, The Journal, being widely circulated for a paper of Western Kansas.
In 1910 Mr. Block was elected to the Lower House of the State Legislature, in a county strongly republican. Serving under Speaker G. H. Buckman, of Winfield, Mr. Block was made chairman of the House Journal committee, and a member of the judicial apportionment committee and of the committees on printing, irrigation, municipal corporations, and supervision of the Journal. Mr. Block was the first member to introduce a bill to license moving picture shows, a bill that passed the House, but was rejected in the Senate. He introduced a bill relating to bonded indebtedness of cities of the third class, which bill enabled such cities to vote bonds up to 15 per cent of their valuation for municipal water and light plants. That bill became a law and is in operation now. He also introduced House Concurrent Resolution No. 3, relating to the granting of political rights to women, it being an amendment to the Constitution granting women equal rights with men in the matter of suffrage, which resolution was adopted by the House, concurred in by the Senate, submitted, in November, 1912, to the voters of the state, and carried by a large majority.
Ever interested in any movement that would develop the natural resources of Western Kansas, Mr. Block through his paper vigorously supported the establishment of the sugar beet industry in the Upper Arkansas Valley, and had the satisfaction of seeing in a very few years that same industry become one of the most prominent ones of that part of the state. Mrs. Block was appointed by Secretary F. D. Coburn, of the State Board of Agriculture, to collect sugar beet statistics during the four years Kansas paid a bounty on the beets grown in the state and made into sugar, which bounty and encouragement led to the building of a sugar beet factory in Western Kansas.
Mr. Block has been twice married. He married first, June 22, 1887, in Chanute, Kansas, Miss May Nichols, a daughter of Maj. William A. Nichols, a veteran of the Civil war, who came from Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, to Chanute in pioneer days, settling there as a lawyer. Major Nichols married Nancy Mitchell, and they reared three sons and one daughter, Mrs. Block having been the oldest child. Mrs. May Block died in 1908, in Syracuse, leaving no children. Mr. Block married, second, Mrs. Frances E. (Harris) Lear, of Circleville, Ohio. She was brought up and educated in Pickaway County, Ohio, where her artistic talent was developed as a painter of china and as a milliner. Mr. Block is a member of the order of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, belonging to the Blue Lodge, the Chapter and the Commandery. He has been the patron of Syracuse Chapter No. 326, Order of the Eastern Star, for nine years consecutively, to which Mrs. Block also belongs. Both Mr. and Mrs. Block are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, of which he is a trustee. Politically Mr. Block has all his life been affiliated with the democratic party. He was for six years a member of the Democratic State Committee during the days of United States Senator W. A. Harris, David Overmeyer, J. G. Johnson and others. Judge William H. Thompson, who afterward became United States Senator from Kansas, made his debut on the political stage when he was nominated for his first term as judge by a small caucus of democrats from several counties of the Thirty-second Judicial District held in Mr. Block's printing office.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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