NICHOLAS SMITH, vice president of the Walnut Creek Milling Company of Great Bend, is the oldest official in point of continuous experience in that industry, one of the largest of its kind in Central Western Kansas. For years he has had the general supervision of the practical end of the industry, and is a miller of almost lifelong experience.
He was born at Port Washington, Wisconsin, February 17, 1859. His family were among the early pioneers of Wisconsin. His grandfather, Mathias Smith, came from Alsace Lorraine in 1833, first settling near Massillon, Ohio, and later moving to Wisconsin. He engaged in the hotel business at Port Washington, and died there. Mathias Smith had one son and two daughters. The daughters were Mrs. Jacob Schmidler, who died in Decatur, Wisconsin, and Mrs. George Mockley, who died at Fort Washington.
Michael Smith, father of Nicholas Smith, was born in Alsace-Lorraine, then, as now, French territory, and was a child when brought to the United States. Circumstances were such that he secured very little schooling and for a number of years he worked as a farm laborer and at other lines. Upon the death of his father he took charge of the hotel at Port Washington, and during the rest of his active life he was a genial and successful landlord. He died in 1897, at the age of sixty-eight. Michael Smith married Lizzie Bentz, who was born on the French and German border and learned the languages of France, Luxemburg and Germany. She died in 1860, at the age of twenty-six. Her three children were: Michael, of Menominee, Michigan; Annie, wife of Michael Greoigore, a farmer at Goodhue, Minnesota; and Nicholas.
For his second wife Michael Smith married Katie Blong. Their children were: Miss Jennie, of Sheboygan, Wisconsin; Joseph, of Horton, Kansas; Harry, of Shehoygan; and Michael, an employe of the Chicago and Northwestern Railway at Tyler, Minnesota.
Nicholas Smith acquired his early education in Wisconsin and learned his trade in a mill at Port Washington. Then for two years he was a miller at Witt, Illinois. He was still unmarried when he came from Illinois to Great Bend in August, 1881, to accept the position of miller for the old firm of Sooy, Brinkman & Roberts. Soon after this the business was incorporated under the name of the Walnut Creek Milling Company, with a capital stock of $60,000, but today the capital stock is $100,000. Mr. Smith has been head miller throughout this period of greatest development. In 1888 he became financially interested in the industry and became vice president of the company about 1895, when the late John V. Brinkman died. He could give an interesting history of the development of flour milling processes. When he entered the mill at Great Bend it was a combination burr and roller mill. At that time the roller process was looked upon more or less as an experiment. Obviously, this up-to-date and modern mill has long since been an exclusive roller process.
Nicholas Smith has also played a helpful part in the civic progress and growth of Great Bend. Under the old regime he served as a member of the city council, and for the past five years has been active as president of the Barton County Fair Association. He has been a member since its organization and has served as vice president of the Commercial Club. For many years he has been interested in Masonry, being affiliated with the lodge, chapter and Knight Templar Commandery and the Isis Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Salina. He is also a member of several assessment insurance orders.
In Barton County, Kansas, April 11, 1889, Mr. Smith married Miss Katie Brinkman, daughter of the late John V. Brinkman, founder of the Walnut Creek Mills and pioneer of the milling industry of Great Bend. Mr. and Mrs. Smith have two children: Arthur R. and Ruth Catherine. The son after completing his work in the Great Bend High School entered the University of Michigan, from which he graduated A. B. and followed that with three years in the medical department of the university. When America entered the World war he was detailed as sanitary officer for Fort Riley and Camp Funston in Kansas. On becoming subject to draft he resigned that office and volunteered in the Aviation Corps. His technical training was received in Cornell University, where he graduated in aviation. He was first sent to Dallas, Texas, later to Fort Sill, where he was detailed as an observer, and he was stationed at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when the armistice was signed. He has since received his discharge.
Ruth Catherine Smith is a graduate of the Great Bend High School, spent two years as a student of music in Washburn College at Topeka, and one year at the Oberlin College Conservatory in Ohio. She is the wife of A. H. Oehler, a merchant at Wilsey, Kansas.
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