THORNTON N. THORPE, a resident of Western Kansas more than thirty years, has played a more than ordinary role in local affairs. When he first came here he worked as a farm hand. He gradually got a homestead of his own, developed a farm and livestock interests, and a number of years ago entered the merchandise business at Lakin. He is also widely known for his valuable public service in not only local offices but especially in the State Legislature, where he put in two terms signalized by sound and constructive work that has been of much material advantage in the development of his part of the state.
Mr. Thorpe was born in Ross County, Ohio, March 27, 1866. His father was Daniel Thorpe, who came to Kansas in 1883, locating in Brown County and two years later coming to Kearny County. The Thorpe family is a prominent one in this section of Western Kansas, and further reference to it will be found on other pages of this publication.
Thornton N. Thorpe grew up in Ross County, Ohio, and while living there attended the common schools and an academy. His early environment was that of a farm in Ohio, and in Brown County, Kansas, he worked out at monthly wages for a farmer.
Mr. Thorpe joined a party of young men who came out into Western Kansas in 1885. He drove an ox team from Hiawatha into Kearny County and here entered a homestead twenty miles north of Lakin. His pre-emption was the northeast quarter of section 18, township 22, range 37. He lived there the necessary time in order to prove up. His first Kansas home was a sod house of a single room, without floor and with a sod roof. He had the experiences common to other pioneers in this section of the country and being unable to make a living from the land he worked out for wages. He made two trips to Colorado, and worked on ranches in that state. A part of the time was spent employed on the Felch ranch near Canyon City. That district is peculiarly rich in evidences of a past life in this planet and abounds in specimens of saurian and other prehistoric animals. While Mr. Thorpe was at Canyon City Yale University sent a corps of experts to quarry out many of these specimens for the University museum. Large blocks of the solid rock were chiseled out for that purpose and during much of the time he was in Colorado Mr. Thorpe helped take the blocks from the hillsides.
After getting his pre-emption claim proved up Mr. Thorpe mortgaged it and secured the money with which he bought the relinquishment of a homestead on the south side of the Arkansas River. He succeeded in proving this up and engaged in farming on a substantial scale. He finally sold it and moved to Lakin and engaged in business there. While living in the country he was both a rancher and farmer and built up a large enterprise handling horses and cattle. He handled the cattle as stockers and his horses were of the improved grades of Percherons. He is still a farmer and stockman, and has some extensive interests in those lines.
On leaving the farm Mr. Thorpe engaged in the lumber, coal, implement and hardware business at Lakin with Mr. Hart as a partner, and they now have the chief business of the kind in the town, conducted under the name Hart, Thorpe & Company.
While living in the country Mr. Thorpe took an active part in its political and official life, serving as township officer. His long residence in the county and his judgment as a business man were appreciated by the people, who sent him to the Legislatures of 1911 and 1913. He was elected on the democratic ticket and succeeded R. E. Beckett. During the first session Mr. Buckman was speaker of the House and the speaker during the second term was "Ironjaw" Brown. During his first term Mr. Thorpe was chairman of the committee on irrigation and a member of the committee on assessment and taxation. He selected both these committees in both sessions. He was so situated as to be able to throw needed political strength to the House minority leader, and this gave him an advantage few members possess. Coming from a district in which irrigation is a paramount question, Mr. Thorpe naturally gave much of his study and time to irrigation bills. He secured the passage of three such measures, which were vital to the better working of irrigation in this region. He also had passed a bill for an experimental agricultural station at Lakin. The appropriation is still lying in the treasury waiting for action by the commissioners. In both sessions Mr. Thorpe secured the passage of a "refund tax bill" but at the last session Governor Hodges vetoed it. This bill affected the counties which had paid taxes to the state on lands for which these counties had made no collections, and it was this money the bill was designed to return to the places of its source. Mr. Thorpe also had a part in the last legislative choice of a United States senator. He followed the instruction of the people at the primaries and voted for William H. Thompson.
Mr. Thorpe is a Master Mason, being a past master of Lakin Lodge and has sat in the Grand Lodge as a delegate. He is affiliated with the Royal Arch Chapter and the Knights Templar Commandery at Garden City and with the Isis Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Salina.
In Kearny County in 1892 Mr. Thorpe married Mrs. Ettie Smith, whose son, James M. Smith, volunteered in the United States Navy and is on the "Cleveland" in the war zone. Her father, Royal Richmond, came to Kearny County in 1885 from Missouri and was a former treasurer of the county. He was a Union soldier and had lost an arm in the service. Royal Richmond married Sarah Fosgett, and both are now deceased. Mrs. Thorpe has one sister, Mrs. Ida Holbert, of Lamar, Colorado. Mr. and Mrs. Thorpe have two children: Ralph Eugene, owner of the Thorpe Garage at Lakin, volunteered for the World war and is in France with the United States troops in Company 329. Harold Judson is a graduate of the Lakin High School, attended Kansas University, and from that entered the West Point Military Academy but subsequently volunteered in the army and is also in Company 329.
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
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