CHARLES VERNON BRINKMAN, president of the Walnut Creek Milling Company of Great Bend, one of the largest grain mills in Western Kansas, has been identified with that enterprise for a quarter of a century and is a son of its founder. Hardly any other name has been more prominent in the history of Great Bend and Barton County than that of Brinmkman.
The head of the family when it located in Barton County in 1874 was the late John V. Brinkman. He was a native of Ohio, of German parents, and had acquired his early milling experience in his native state and also the initial capital which he employed so wisely and usefully in Barton County.
He brought with him to Kansas his wife and six children. He had married at Bolivar, Tuscarawas County, Ohio, Miss Susan Lebold. Her father, John Lebold, came from Gruenstadt, Wuertemberg, to the United States, and married Catherine Maurer, both he and his wife dying in Ohio.
Immediately on arriving in Great Bend John V. Brinkman engaged in the banking business, his institution being opened as the J. V. Brinkman & Company Bank, with Samuel Maher as cashier. His first location was in the corner of a grocery store on the present site of the Great Bend postoffice. In 1894 the business was incorporated as the J. V. Brinkman Company Bank, and later was merged with the First National Bank. John V. Brinkman continued his active connection with this bank until his death in June, 1895. Though widely known as a banker, he doubtless contributed his greatest service to the community in founding the milling industry. In 1877 he established the Walnut Creek Milling Company and built a water-mill with three run of French burrs. It was soon discovered that Walnut Creek could not furnish a sufficient volume of water for the necessary power and in 1878 the mill was moved to the present site of the station of the Santa Fe Railway. The original mill building was remodeled several times, but sufficed for the transaction of the growing business of the company until it was destroyed by the cyclone in 1915. Since then the new concrete, modern mill, roller process, with 1,000 barrels daily capacity, has been constructed.
The late Mr. Brinkman was a man of progressive thought and action, and in many ways was ahead of his time. One of his early undertakings will illustrate this. He was the father of and financed the movement to build a sugar plant at Dundee in 1882. The plan was to make sugar of sorghum cane. The mill was operated for some time, but much difficulty was experienced in refining the product so as to meet the demands of an exacting market. Accordingly, after investing some $40,000 of his capital in the venture Mr. Brinkman abandoned it
John V. Brinkman never had a college education, but he taught school several years in Ohio, and careful and tedious reading made him a man of really accomplished mind. He spoke the German language fluently, but showed no trace of its accent in his ordinary discourse. He stood six feet high, weighed 200 pounds, was slow and deliberate in movement, ready of speech, and his friends found much delight in his dry humor. He was always interested in matters of public policy, had opinions and practical views, but was never a seeker for office as a means of their expression. He was a democrat, a party nearly always in the minority in Barton County, but, nevertheless, he clung tenaciously to his convictions and party standards. He was once mayor of Great Bend, also served on the school board, and as a citizen his friends always knew where to find him and could rely upon his word and his promise. He was a member of the Masonic Order and of the Congregational Church. His wife died in April, 1907. Their children were Nora, wife of Fred Zutavern, and Katie M., wife of Nicholas Smith, all of Great Bend; J. George, of Kansas City, Missouri; Charles V.; Miss Lillian and Ola, widow of G. L. Chapman, both of Great Bend; Mabel B., wife of Arthur E. Taylor, of that city; Minnie E., wife of Milo A. White, of Fremont, Michigan; and Louis L., of San Diego, California.
Charles Vernon Brinkman, who in many respects is the business successor of his honored father, was born at Sandyville, Tuscarawas County, Ohio, July 6, 1869, and was about five years old when his parents came to Kansas. He atteneded[sic] the public schools, is a graduate of the Great Bend High School, and spent one year in Washburn College at Topeka. He then entered his father's bank, was there two years, and in August, 1894, became secretary of the Walnut Creek Milling Company, having charge of the office end of the business. He has been connected with the mill in some official capacity ever since. Upon the death of his father he was made president and treasurer of the company, responsibilities he still holds. In his own estimation his modesty forbids his assumption of credit for the great development and extension of this industry. In his time the capacity of the mill has been increased from 300 barrels to 1,000 barrels a day. In earlier days the output was distributed chiefly over Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, while now the floor and feed manufactured the Walnut Creek Mills are sent to all parts of the United States. As items of his early experience Mr. Brinkman recalls when wheat was bought at the mill for 35 cents a bushel. During one period of the World war he paid as high as $3.30 cents a bushel. Many years ago the business represented an investment of about $100,000, whereas now the capital invested is more than half a million dollars.
Mr. Brinkman is vice president of the First National Bank of Great Bend, is vice president of the Brinkman-Brack Bank at Olmitz, Kansas, and all his interests and activities are those of a most substantial business man and citizen. He is so far as politics is concerned merely a voter, and he cast his first presidential ballot for Grover Cleveland in 1892, He also follows his father in religious matters, being a trustee of the Congregational Church at Great Bend. Mr. Brinkman is unmarried. In Masonry he is affiliated with the Blue Lodge, Chapter and Knight Templar Commandery, and with Wichita Consistory of the Scottish Rite.
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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