HARRY W. GRASS. Throughout every man's life work, if it is broad and useful, always crop out certain strong traits of character which do not directly concern his main career. In the case of Harry W. Grass, of LaCrosse, his chief occupation has been within the field of finances, but outside of that is evident the strong intellectual tendency of his character, manifest in the fine work he has accomplished in the development of the schools both of his city and his state.
Mr. Grass, for the past decade president of the Partners and Merchants State Bank of LaCrosse, is a native of Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, where he was born November 2, 1856. His father, Frederick Grass, was a native of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, followed his trade as a miller in Blair and Huntingdon counties, and died in the latter part of 1879, at the age of sixty-three. He had married Ellen White, a native of Huntingdon County, also of German descent, who died in 1865, when Harry W. was about nine years of age. Next to Harry, the oldest, was George, now of Hays City, Kansas; Hester, widow of Charles Snare, of Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania; Maggie, wife of A. R. Chrisman, of Ellis County, Kansas; and Charles, also of Hays City.
Harry W. Grass was educated in Blair and Huntingdon counties, Pennsylvania, and after the death of his mother was reared by a good Scotch Presbyterian family. He was allowed five months of schooling each winter, and the remainder of the year was largely spent in farm work. After he had passed through the neighborhood country school and an academy he taught district school for about three years. During that period he was earning from $28 to $36 a month as a teacher during the winter months, and his farm work brought him an additional $12. When he was twenty-one years of age he therefore had means of livelihood at his command which could be utilized in the new western country.
The two brothers, Harry W. and Cephas H. Grass, reached Hays City on the 1st of April, 1877, the former with a working capital of $5. But he at once "got busy" with what he had to offer in the way of his practical acquirements. During his first summer he worked near Hays at $14 a month, principally herding sheep and cattle. At times in the following three or four winters he added to his income by teaching at $20 a month. He was thus employed at Hays City in 1881 when he was offered a position in the bank owned by Hill P. Wilson. The result was that he was identified with the bank for almost ten years, in either a clerical or an official capacity. Then for four years he held the position of superintendent of public instruction of Ellis County, and next succeeded to the cashiership of the First National Bank of LaCrosse. That institution was afterward merged into the Farmers and Merchants Bank, and, as stated, he has been its president for ten years past.
Mr. Grass was elected to the Lower House of the Kansas Legislature in 1904, and served two terms in that body. He was continuously a member of the committee on railways, and became prominent as the author of the bill compelling railroads to grant sites to individuals or companies for the purpose of erecting grain elevators or mills thereon. He was also chairman of the committee on state affairs, and his work on the railroad committee was in a measure responsible for the saving to time state of its present 2 cent passenger fare. He supported Senator Bristow for United States senator at his first candidacy. From 1907 to 1913 Mr. Grass was a member of the board of regents of the Kansas State Normal School, serving during the development of both the Pittsburg and Hays schools, in association with Judge Kellogg, A. H. Bushey, A. F. Amrine, Charles Messerly and Mr. Altswager, In addition to his state-wide prominence in political and educational matters he has accomplished much for the local schools during his thirteen years of service as a member of the LaCrosse School Board.
The Farmers and Merchants Bank, of which Mr. Grass has so long been president, is capitalized at $50,000. It was organized in 1888, and for the past twenty years it has paid an annual dividend. Its present loans and discounts amount to $300,000 and deposits, $400,000. Its officers are: Harry W. Grass, president; Fred Humburg, vice president; W. A. Hayes, cashier; H. W. Grass, Jr., assistant cashier; official board, J. M. Stauffer, Scottdale, Pennsylvania, James S. Braddock, Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania, Harry W. Grass, W. A. Hayes, Fred Humburg and H. Dreany. Besides his bank interests Mr. Grass owns a 600-acre stock farm on "Walnut," devoted to the raising of Holstein cattle.
Previous to coming to LaCrosse Mr. Grass was active in Masonic work, being a member of the Hays City Chapter and Commandery and a past master of the Hays City Lodge. He is past high priest and past eminent commander.
Mr. Grass, of this notice, married in Hays City December 8, 1882, Jeanie M. Sholty, a daughter of H. F. Sholty, of Canton, Ohio, where Mrs. Grass was born May 26, 1860. The issue of the union is as follows: Dora, educated in the University of Ottawa, as was her younger sister, Alma, after her graduation as a student in the University of Wisconsin, and now holding the chair of English at the Hays City Normal; Harry W., Jr., assistant cashier of the Farmers and Merchants Bank, LaCrosse, who was educated in the LaCrosse High School, married Mabel Bitney, of Woodburn, Oregon, and is the father of Geraldine and Harry W., 3d; Alma, German teacher in the high school at Larned, Kansas; Gail, the farmer of the family, who is a graduate of the LaCrosse High School.
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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