WILLIAM H. EHLERS is one of the progressive and substantial business men of Kinsley, head of the well known mercantile house of Ehlers Brothers. He has been a citizen of that locality since 1892.
He was born at Lexington, Missouri, March 25, 1864, a son of William Ehlers. William Ehlers came from Germany and it is believed that he was born in Schleswig-Holstein. He was only twelve years old when his parents came to this country, and as a family they located first at Peoria, Illinois, and just before the Civil war moved to Missouri and lived at Lexington until after the war. The parents of William Ehlers were buried in the country cemetery in Saline County, Missouri, near Sweet Springs. They had two sons and one daughter. William was the only son to rear a family. His brother was killed by the guerillas during the war. His sister, Dorris, married William Oetting, and spent her life in Saline County, Missouri.
William Ehlers spent his youth in America at Peoria and Lexington and acquired the foundation of a substantial education. About 1866 he located at Sweet Springs in Saline County and became a farmer, mill owner and merchant. He left the farm to buy an interest in a large grist mill at Sweet Springs, and a few years later he furnished the capital for a young friend to open a general store there, under the firm name Ehlers & Elsner. His last years William Ehlers spent in the insurance and loan business at Sweet Springs. He was always interested in political matters, and was a republican from the time he began to vote, he had considerable ability as a speaker, and wos very influential among the German element. He was a Lutheran Church man, was reared in that faith, and trained his children therein. He never joined a fraternity.
William Ehlers married Dorothy Buck, a daughter of German parents who came from the Fatherland and became farmers in Saline County, Missouri. Mrs. William Ehlers died in 1879. Her children were: Mary, wife of Chris F. Elsner, of Sweet Springs, Missouri; William H.; Martin F., of Manhattan, Kansas; Gustav H., of Kansas City; and Charles C., of Bonner Springs, Kansas.
William H. Ehlers acquired a common school education at Sweet Springs, and had his first training in a store there, at a salary of $10 a month. His principal duty in that store was to "count eggs." Later he went to J. A. Lamy & Company, of Sedalia, Missouri, and in that larger city improved his knowledge of business until he felt the limits imposed upon his prospects in that locality and sought a new field of effort in Western Kansas.
It was in 1892 that Mr. Ehlers came to Kansas and identified himself with the community of Kinsley. Here he found work as a clerk with the old firm of Marsh & Bidwell. On the death of Mr. Marsh he was requested to take the management of the deceased partner's interest, and soon bought an interest in the business himself. In a short time the firm became Marsh-Bidwell-Ehlers Mercantile Company. In 1909 Mr. Ehlers and his two brothers bought the other interests, and the firm name was changed to the Ehlers Mercantile Company. They continued at the same old stand until their large new brick building was completed in 1910. This building has since been the home of the Ehlers Brothers enterprise. Mr. Ehlers's brothers who thus joined him were Martin F. and Charles C. Martin organized and conducted the Farmers State Bank of OfferIe, Kansas, while Charles contented himself with his associations in the store with his brother William. Both the brothers subsequently sold their interests and engaged in other enterprises in Eastern Kansas. Then another brother, Gustav H., organized the Farmers and Merchants State Bank of Kinsley in 1910, and William Ehlers was also interested in this bank. Gustav five years later sold out his holdings as a banker to Mr. Tubbs and removed to Kansas City, where he now resides. He is a banker at Rosedale and at Merriam, Kansas.
Mr. William H. Ehlers' mercantile enterprise at Kinsley is a large retail store. His place of business is 75x95 feet, two stories, and is devoted to a large and well selected stock of dry goods, furniture, carpets and rugs. It is a mammoth affair contrasted with the house in which he first had his business experience in Kinsley. That was a small store occupying the single floor of a building 25x50 feet. Mr. Ehlers was one of the original stockholders of the Farmers and Merchants State Bank of Kinsley, was one of its first board of directors, and has been a director ever since. He is now vice president.
The only participation he has allowed himself in local politics was as city councilman of Kinsley three years, and following that as mayor of the town. He was mayor during a portion of the "hard time" period of Kinsley. One of the most important acts of his administration was the securing of a compromise with the city bond holders by which a refunding was effected and the interest reduced from 6 to 4 per cent. Since leaving the mayor's office Mr. Ehlers has not considered any other official place, though he has steadily worked for the benefit of the community and is now and has been since its organization a member of the Commercial Club. Though he was reared as a German Lutheran, he is now a member of the Congregational Church. Mr. Ehlers has filled all the chairs except that of master in the local lodge of Masons, and is affiliated with the Modern Woodmen of America and the Fraternal Aid Union.
In June, 1892, he was married at Ellinwood, Kansas, to Miss Grace O. Buckels. She is a daughter of Henry C. and M. F. Buckels. Her father, who was born at Buchanan, Michigan, was a Union soldier, spent his active career as a farmer, and was a pioneer settler in Pawnee County, Kansas. He died at Larned in September, 1915, and his widow is still living there. Mrs. Ehlers was born in January, 1867, and the other children of her parents were: Mrs. Nora Delaney, who died in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Anna, wife of Niels Jorgenson, of Peabody, Kansas; Eddie, who is a telegraph operator; Maude, wife of L. C. Clark, of Ada, Oklahoma; Belle, wife of William Woelk, of Meade, Kansas; and Irene, wife of Iru E. Bruce, a farmer in Pawnee County.
Mr. and Mrs. Ehlers have three children, Earl, Margaret and Gwendolin. Earl is a graduate of the Kinsley High School, and his sister Margaret is still pursuing her high school studies.
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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