OLIVER L. LENNEN. Few residents of Western Kansas have had a more vivid experience and have performed more valuable service to business and public affairs than Oliver L. Lennen, of Ness City. At the present time Mr. Lennen is secretary and giving his chief attention to the Kansas Investment Company of Ness City. This is a corporation organized to make real estate and cattle loans, and Mr. Lennen has served as its secretary since the company was organized. The great basic industry of farming also has the attention of Mr. Lennen, and he owns a ranch in Eden Township of Ness County, devoting it to the raising of graded cattle.
Now to go back to the beginning of Mr. Lennen's life's experience. He was born in Hamilton County, Indiana, March 7, 1864. He had some education in his native state, and was fourteen years of age when he came to Lyons, Kansas, and was twenty-one years old when he took up a half section of land in Lane County. While proving up this claim he engaged in hauling stone for fence posts and building stone for homes. His yoke of oxen was also employed in breaking up the heavy prairie sod, and he was among the pioneers in the production of crops and the management of general farming enterprise in this section.
Feeling that his education was inadequate, he proved up his claim and entered the Southwestern Business College at Wichita, where he finished the general commercial course. After that he engaged in country school work in Ness and Hodgeman counties for three years, and was then elected county superintendent of schools of Ness County and served four years.
His early service as county superintendent marked an epoch in educational advancement in that county. His term closed in 1899. Mr. Lennen felt that every emphasis should be placed upon the work of the common schools. He used every bit of his influence to secure regular attendance in the grades or common schools up to the point of graduation. He introduced the now familiar custom of graduation exercises in the common school, and issued diplomas to such graduates. He also built up a great interest in the county normal, and held some of the most stimulating and successful normals up to that time. He was a member of the County Superintendents' Association of Kansas. His interest in educational work has never failed. While engaged as a school teacher he also conducted evening classes in bookkeeping, penmanship and vocal music. He is noted as a specialist in office detail and management. He has served as a deputy in practically all the offices of Ness County.
After leaving the county superintendent's office he spent a number of years in the real estate and abstract business in Ness City under the firm name of Lennen & Wagner. At the same time he supervised his interests as a farmer and stock raiser.
In matters of politics Mr. Lennen was reared a republican, but is now a democrat in national affairs, and has been a supporter of William J. Bryan and of the policies of Mr. Wilson's administration. He was elected county superintendent during the populist upheaval in Kansas. For four years Mr. Lennen was one of the most forceful and aggressive workers in behalf of progressive legislation in the General Assembly. He was elected in 1906 on an independent ticket, and re-elected in 1908. Much of his most important service was done as a member of the tax committee, and he was also secretary of the educational committee, a member of the temperance committee and of the committee on roads and highways. Mr. Lennen will be remembered as having headed the fight against the mortgage registration act, a law that finally passed the Legislature but was vetoed by Governor Stubbs. He was author of the bill which passed the Legislature providing for the payment, without option, of bounties on coyote scalps and wolf scalps; supported the amendments to the Barnes High School law and the movement for giving aid to the weak rural school districts; he fathered the bill amending the law pertaining to the state school lands, as supported by the state auditor. While he was in the House two United States senators were elected, and in the first he voted for Judge Benson and during his second term supported Joseph L. Bristow. Mr. Lennen was urged to take the nomination for the State Senate, but having given much of his time to his duties as a public officer, he declined and Senator Shouse was named and subsequently became a member of Congress.
Mr. Lennen is a Scottish-Rite Mason, being past master of Ness City Lodge and past grand of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. An honor that rarely comes to men is that of past noble grand of the Rebekah Lodge, and that distinction has fallen upon Mr. Lennen. He and his wife are active members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and he has been chairman of the trustees of the church at Ness City for many years.
His ancestry is largely Irish. His grandfather, Peter Lennen, was a native of Kentucky, and the son of a native Irishman of Protestant religion. Peter Lennen married Miss Rash, of Scotch ancestry, and they reared a large family.
William C. Lennen, father of Oliver L., was born in Indiana, and though having a very limited education made a success as a farmer and stockraiser. He married Eliza Brown, who was born in Virginia and died in 1869. William C. Lennen died in 1898. Their children were: Mrs. Lee Sanford, of Lyons, Kansas; Frank W., who is superintendent of schools at Soldier, Kansas; Oliver L.; Charles M., of the Lyons Implement Company of Lyons, Kansas; and Will O., a farmer in Rice County, Kansas.
On July 4, 1896, in Ness City, Mr. Lennen married Miss Lilla Venard. Her father is Dr. J. N. Venard, who was the first medical school graduate to practice in Ness County. He was a member of the Legislature under Governor Glick, and he is now retired. Mrs. Lennen was born in Scott County, Iowa, January 2, 1874, and was educated in the country schools and the Ness City High School, of which she is a graduate. For several years she taught in Ness County, and thus she and her husband have common interests in that field of work. Mrs. Lennen has been very much interested in the work of the Eastern Star since early womanhood. She has instituted many of the chapters in the western half of Kansas, and has been given the highest honors by the order. She served as grand marshal, the highest appointive office, under two grand matrons, was then elected associate grand conductress, then regularly advanced, and in May, 1917, became grand matron. Mr. and Mrs. Lennen have both been actively engaged in the war activities, since they have several near relatives in the service. Mrs. Lennen has two brothers, one, Thomas S. Venard, a captain in the medical service in France, the other, John N. Venard, being a petty officer on a submarine which has been patrolling European waters for many months. One of Mr. Lennen's nephews, Scott L. Lennen, was badly wounded at the Battle of Belleau Wood, near Paris, in June, 1918, and died in July. Another nephew, Earl L. Lennen, has been in France since early in 1918, and another one, Frank M. Lennen, has been in the mechanical department in one of the aviation fields since 1917. He also had a cousin, Raymond Roessler, lost when the Tuscania was torpedoed and sunk. All the above mentioned young men volunteered early in the war. Mr. Lennen was chairman of the Four Minute Men, one of the three members of the draft board and member of the committee on farewell receptions for the "boys" departing for the service. Mr. and Mrs. Lennen have two daughters, Esther May and Jean Emma, both of whom are now attending the public schools of Ness City.
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.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project