FRED STEPHAN. A native Kansan who has had a variety of business experience in this state and elsewhere, Fred Stephan is today one of the leading merchants of the state, head of the Stephan Isern Mercantile Company of Ellinwood.
He was born at Atchison December 6, 1863. His father, Fred Stephan, Sr., was born at Wiesville on the Rhine in Baden, learned the trade of carpenter and cabinet maker, and when a young man came to America and found his first employment as a journeyman steamboat builder at St. Louis. He had a sweetheart in Baden, Mary Henninger, who followed him to America and they were married in St. Louis. Her mother also came to this country and is buried at Atchison. After a few years Fred Stephan, Sr., went to farming east of Atchison, but the land he cultivated has long since been ravaged and carried away by the Missouri River. Soon after taking up his residence at Atchison he enlisted as a Union soldier and served two or more years. He was also a member of the city police force, but in the main he followed carpentry throughout his active life. He died at Atchison April 1, 1909, at the age of eighty years. His children were: George, who died at Atchison when a young man; Mrs. Carrie Fiss, of Atchison; Mary, wife of Albert Fiss, of Atchison; Fred; Katie, wife of F. C. Lechler, of St. Joseph, Missouri; Paul, who died unmarried at Atchison; Michael, who also died at Atchison.
Fred Stephan, of Ellinwood, was reared in his native city, where he acquired a good practical education and also the foundation of his business career. He attended German schools and later Bryant & Stratton Business College in St. Louis. Several seasons he worked as a farm hand at $6 a month. He was also employed in a bottling works at Atchison, was delivery boy for a local grocer, and learned the barber trade and became a partner in a shop, but never considered that business more than temporary, only following it until he could find something better.
His longest and most fruitful employment for others was with the Mangelsdorf Brothers Company, and when that firm entered the wholesale seed business he remained as their shipping clerk. This was one of the largest concerns of the kind in the Middle West. On leaving Mr. Stephan went to the Pacific Coast, and at San Diego, California, started an oil wagon route, delivering gasoline and kerosene. Then for several months the firm of Stephan & Kimes had its share of the real estate business while the boom of the late eighties was on in Southern California. The period of inflation came to a sudden close, the partners went out of business, and Mr. Stephan once more resumed employment with the Mangelsdorf Company of Atchison.
In 1890 he accepted a proposition from his employers to clerk in their place of business at Ellinwood in Barton County, and in 1892 he left them to take up the role of an independent merchant, which he has played so successfully ever since as a member of the Stephan-Isern Mercantile Company. All the capital he had to put in the enterprise was $737, but with the help of his partner and such credit as could be obtained they opened a fair-sized stock of general merchandise. It will be sufficient to measure their success in intervening years by stating they have a complete and well organized department store, with a branch house at Alden, and the combined stock is valued at about $100,000.
At different occasions in the last quarter of a century Mr. Stephan has participated helpfuly in community affairs, serving as councilman, and while he was a member of the board the water works and electric light plant were constructed. He is a member of the Masonic order and of the Elks Lodge at Hutchinson.
November 18, 1891, soon after coming to Ellinwood, he married Miss Matilda Schroeder, daughter of August and Beata (Gruettner) Schroeder. She and her parents were born at Pombsen, Silesia, Prussia, and on emigrating crossed the ocean from Hamburg to New York and in the early eighties came to Kansas, her parents spending their last years on a farm near Ellinwood. Her father died in 1901, aged sixty-seven, and her mother in 1907, at the age of sixty-six. Mrs. Stephan was born October 18, 1873, and finished her education after coming to Kansas. Nine of the eleven children of her parents reached mature years, namely: Ernestine, wife of Max Winkelmann, of Kinsley; Pauline, wife of William Moeser, of Newport, Washington; Adolph and Ernest, twins, living at Kinsley; Alvine, who died near Ellinwood, was the wife of Fred Krauss; Mrs. Stephan follows next in age; Selma, wife of Fred Mellies, of Stafford, Kansas; Oscar, who died at Kinsley, and William, a farmer near Ellinwood.
Mr. and Mrs. Stephan are the parents of four children: Curtis E., Viola, Doris H. and Frederick W. Miss Viola has an active part in the store, while Curtis is manager of the Stephan-Isern store at Alden. Curtis married Catherine Coman, of Iola, Kansas, and has a son, Paul Curtis.
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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