HON. ALBERT A. DOERR. The present state senator from the Thirty-eighth Kansas District, Mr. Doerr, lives at Larned, where he is head of the largest mercantile establishment of the city and is the most extensive employer of labor in Pawnee County. Senator Doerr did not enter politics to any great extent until his business reputation had been well secured. Office had no attraction to him as a financial opportunity, and he has used his legislative experience only for the promotion of means and measures which serve to express and obtain progressive benefits for the community and state.
Perhaps no member of the present Legislature knows better the life and hardships through which the early Western Kansas pioneers passed than Senator Doerr. His own life has been one of strenuous experience and a struggle to overcome obstacles. He has lived in Kansas since he was eleven years of age. He was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, October 24, 1866. His experiences were those of the family for a number of years, and they will be better understood by reference to the record of his parents. His father, Jacob Doerr, was born at Saarbrucke in the Rhine Province of Germany, where he grew to manhood. He had the usual three years' experience as a German soldier, in times of peace, and at the end of this service he and his young bride came to the United States settling in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, in October, 1864, where he followed his trade as an iron and steel worker.
On February 1, 1878, Jacob Doerr arrived with his family in Pawnee County, Kansas. Senator Doerr was at that time eleven years old and his previous experience had been in the smoky city of Pennsylvania, with some terms of instruction in the schools of that city. Jacob Doerr located on Government land, entering the southeast quarter of section 18, township 23, range 15 in Valley Center Township. Adjoining it he took up a timber claim. Both were subsequently patented and improved, and for the timber claim the family still holds the Government patent signed by Grover Cleveland.
Perhaps the chief reason why Jacob Doerr gave up his trade and came west was the rheumatism with which he had been afflicted and which he had acquired in the iron and steel mills. He brought with him to Kansas enough surplus cash to establish a home. His homestead was first improved with a sod house of two rooms. It had a shingle roof and a board floor, and thus was somewhat more luxurious than many other pioneer homes of the time. As a team he had a yoke of cattle. Though without any previous experience as a farmer his success was on a par with that of his pioneer neighbors. His land produced some crops in the years 1878 and 1879, but there was not enough to make a living for the family. Jacob Doerr had some of the persistence of the true German and refused to quit because of discouraging climatic conditions. In 1880 he went to St. Louis and resumed his trade in a rolling mill, spending four years there. In the meantime the family remained on the homestead, and largely through the hard work performed by the boy who is the subject of this sketch and who was the only boy of the household at the time, some crops were raised in the years 1882, 1883 and 1884. Having tided himself over the crisis Jacob Doerr resumed his place at the head of the household and after that his farming was more profitable. He engaged in the stock business and prospered in that, as did his neighbors. When he retired from the farm he had three quarter sections of land, the sod house had been replaced by a modern dwelling, a large barn protected the crops and stock, and the oxen had disappeared and modern horse power had replaced them. Jacob Doerr on leaving the farm moved to Larned and died there six years later, in March, 1909, at the age of seventy.
While living in Pittsburg he had taken out papers as an American citizen and did his first voting as a republican. That was his party affiliation until the people's party was organized in Kansas, and still later he became a democrat. Practically all the time he lived on the farm he was a member of the school board and for many years was treasurer of Valley Center Township. He was a Lutheran Church member and belonged to the Odd Fellows. His education was only ordinary, but he proved himself a sturdy and useful American citizen. He and his wife went back to the old home in Germany in 1890 and had a delightful year among the scones of their youth. Jacob Doerr married Dorothea Büch, daughter of Karl Büch. She passed away at the age of seventy-four. Her children are: Albert A.; Amelia, wife of C. R. Sutton, of Tucson, Arizona; Anna, who married F. M. Milloway, of Dodge City; Bertha M., wife of Rev. U. S. Miller, of Hoxie, Kansas; Emma, wife of Fred Hohner, of St. John, Kansas; Dora, who married Jaynes B. Lund, of Chicago; Sophia, who died in 1907 as the wife of George Hunsley; and Edward C. Doerr, associated in business with his brother Senator Doerr.
From the above paragraphs it will be readily understood that Senator Doerr's early experiences in Kansas were not those of a boy surrounded by luxury and with opportunities to attend school and follow his own inclinations. He was practically the head of the household while his father was away. His education was much neglected, and he was past twenty-one when the opportunity presented itself to repair early deficiencies in that respect. He spent a winter in a country school where most of the scholars were children compared with him, and he also attended one term in the Great Bend Central Normal College. So wisely had he made use of these opportunities that he was able to teach in the following fall in Pawnee County, and in 1890 he took two more terms of instruction in the Central Normal College. He continued teaching in the country until he had finished five terms. One benefit of his outdoor life and hard work on the farm in the early days was a rugged constitution.
While teaching he continued farming in the summers, and he proved up a homestead of his own in Valley Center Township. The farm was the principal scene of his experiences and efforts until he was thirty years of age. Senator Doerr had a brief trial as a newspaper publisher. In February, 1896, he bought the Tiller and Toiler at Larned and was its proprietor and editor until July 1, 1897, when he sold out and returned to the farm. In the spring of 1898 he bought the A. Majonier hardware stock at Larned, paying about $3,000 for it. Thus his mercantile experience began in May, 1898, and it has now continued for twenty years. In 1901 he removed his business to the present block and he has since added to his enterprise until his is now the largest store in this section of Kansas and one of the largest retail houses in the state. His place of business is four stores wide, three stories high, and the floor space in the main building is 58,000 square feet. Mr. Doerr claims for his business the unique distinction that he has the largest retail establishment also doing the largest volume of business of any firm in the United States operating in a strictly agricultural community and in a county whose population is under 10,000 inhabitants. The stock is divided into departments, consisting of hardware, tinning and plumbing, furniture and undertaking, implements and vehicles and harness, queensware and glassware, and as an automobile dealer he has the agency for the Buick and Chevrolet cars. While this business alone constitutes an admirable result for his Kansas experience, Senator Doerr has been intimately associated with the financial institutions of his city, and like all active successful men he has given freely of his time for the public's good. He owns considerable acreage of farm land and has done much developing and improving since he went to town and became a merchant.
In politics Senator Doerr began voting as a populist. In 1893 he was a candidate on that ticket for county clerk. He was defeated by a very narrow margin and he has always regarded that defeat as a wholesome experience. In his opinion no ambitious young man should seek an office until his career is thoroughly established on more permanent lines. After the populist party disappeared Senator Doerr became a democrat. He always attends democratic conventions and gatherings, and has shown more than a passive interest in local politics. In 1912 he was elected to the Legislature from Pawnee County and re-elected in 1914. In the first session he was chairman of the committee on military affairs. His work as chairman of this committee was so eminently satisfactory to the state militia that the adjutant general, Hon. C. I. Martin, recommended him to the governor as member of his military staff. Governor Hodges promptly appointed him with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Much of his time was given to the interests of the state hospital at Larned, for which he always secured liberal appropriations for its upbuilding and maintenance. In the sessions of 1913 he cast his vote for United States Senator William H. Thompson, the last man to be elected to the United States Senate by Kansas Legislature. In the 1915 session of the House he was elected its minority leader. This session was noted for the legislative deadlock which lasted for many weeks between the House and Senate over the appropriation for the charitable, penal and educational institutions of the state, the Senate favoring liberal appropriations in harmony with the needs of the institution, especially the schools. The House, under the leadership of Governor Capper and his party, wished to save the last little penny to the tax payer. Through all the bitterness of this long strife Senator Doerr as minority leader always maintained the profound respect of all the contending forces. Senator Doerr was elected as a delegate at large to the National Democratic Convention held in St. Louis which renominated President Woodrow Wilson.
There was no party opposition when Senator Doerr entered the race for state senator for the Thirty-eighth District. In the election of November, 1915, he was chosen by more than 2,000 majority in a district formerly republican by 3,000. The Thirty-eighth District covers a sixth of the State of Kansas, eighteen counties. Those eighteen counties gave Senator Doerr about 1,200 more votes than they did the Congressman of his party and about 1,000 more votes than the republican candidate for secretary of state received. In the session of 1917 he was on the election and banking committees. He stood strongly for those state matters advocated in his party platform, voted for the "bone dry" law and the budget system for state appropriations. He was an advocate of the Constitutional Convention and was largely responsible for the passage of the Anti-Trading Stamp Bill.
In the city where he has lived so long there is no one better known and more cordially esteemed than Senator Doerr. He has one of the comfortable homes of that city and has a family growing up around him. He was married at Larned May 3, 1899, to Miss Laura Pate Vernon. Her father, Judge William H. Vernon, is a pioneer lawyer of Larned. Senator and Mrs. Doerr have two children, Pauline and Isabel. Mrs. Doerr takes great interest in politics and public affairs and always accompanied her husband to the state capitol during the legislative session, where she is well and favorably known. She is much interested in the promotion and passage of such welfare measures as the mothers and women of the state so earnestly champion.
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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