JOHN E. WAGNER, for many years identified with Kansas banking, former president of the State Bankers Association and also well known in politics, being democratic candidate for lieutenant governor a few years ago, has lived at Larned since 1912 and is president of the First State Bank of that city.
His home has been in Kansas since 1883, when he was fifteen years of age. Mr. Wagner was born in Jones County, Iowa, July 13, 1868, and until he was thirty-two years of age he lived on a farm and most of his experiences were those of the agricultural life.
He is a son of Bernard Wagner, who had a long and interesting career and for a number of years was a resident of Kansas. Bernard Wagner came to Douglas County, Kansas, in 1883 from Jones County, Iowa, and located on a farm near Eudora. He lived there about twelve years and then returned to his old Iowa home, where he died. Bernard Wagner was born in August, 1801, in Alsace, France. His birthplace was only six miles from the city of Strassburg, now one of the most thoroughly fortified towns of the German frontier. As a boy he knew the cathedral city of Strassburg and its famous clock, which is still striking the hours and is considered the most remarkable timepiece in the world. When only twelve years of age Bernard Wagner became a boy soldier in the French army under General Bonaparte. He took part in the 100 days campaign of the last Napoleonic war and was with Marshall Wright in the battle of Waterloo. Doubtless Mr. John E. Wagner is the only son of a veteran of Waterloo in Kansas if not in the United States. Bernard Wagner's parents were country people, among the peasantry of France. He lived at home with them until Louis Philippe ascended the French throne, when he abandoned the country and came to the United States. He had been reared as a Catholic, but he turned against that religion because the church espoused the cause of the monarchical party in France.
In 1827 Bernard Wagner immigrated to the United States. He lived in New York City until 1833 and the first work he did after reaching this country was sawing cordwood at twenty-five cents a cord. In 1833 he removed to Iowa and was a farmer there for a number of years. From Ohio he entered the service of the United States Army in the Mexican war, and went with the overland expedition under General Taylor, marching across the wilds of the Southwest and over the Rio Grande into Mexico. He fought in the battles of Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma and Buena Vista and in many other skirmishes and engagements with the Mexicans. He was a private, escaped wounds, and after the war returned with the victorious American troops.
He soon afterward moved out to Iowa and in Jones County bought Indian lands, paying a dollar an acre. He lived there for many years, was a quiet and unpretentious farmer, and enjoyed the highest esteem of his friends and neighbors. This esteem was demonstrated when during the late '60s he was elected a member of the Legislature from Jones County. He was the first democrat to hold such an office in sixty years. There were no opportunities for a democrat to accomplish anything in Iowa politics in the years following the Civil war.
Bernard Wagner was married in Ohio to Barbara Emmet. She became the mother of eight children, seven of whom reached mature years, namely: Joseph, who went as a youth from Iowa to the Union army, afterwards became a farmer and banker and is now living at Santa Clara, California; George, a rancher at Santa Clara, California; Taylor, a farmer in Cass County, Iowa; Zach, a rancher in Umatilla County, Oregon; and daughters named Mary, Kate, Phoebe and Eliza, all of Jones County, Iowa. Bernard Wagner married for his second wife in Jones County, Iowa, Grace Harrison Tallman, daughter of Nathaniel Tallman, a cousin of President Benjamin Harrison. She was born in Winchester, Ohio, in 1829, and died in Douglas County, Kansas, in 1894.
Mr. John E. Wagner was the only son of his father's second marriage. He grew up on a farm, attended the public schools, and afterwards took a course in civil engineering, graduating from Cornell College at Mount Vernon, Iowa, in 1887. He then returned to Kansas and resumed business as a farmer.
During the year 1888 he was correspondent of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat in the Sandwich Islands. He spent a year there. The Sandwich Islands were then in a state of turbulence and revolution while the monarchy was giving way to a republic form of government. Mr. Wagner was expected to report especially on the political situation there. Following this experience he returned to Kansas and took up farming at Eudora.
In 1902 Mr. Wagner became cashier of the Citizens State Bank at Paola. Subsequently he organized the Bank of Lecompton and was its president three-years. Later he was president of the Citizens State Bank at Altoona, Kansas, and was there until he came to Larned.
Mr. Wagner became a resident of Larned January 12, 1912, and bought a controlling interest in the First State Bank and has since been its president. The First State Bank of Larned was organized in 1889. This bank holds a record in the United States for banking profit in proportion to its capital and resources. It now has a capital stock of $60,000, surplus and undivided profits of $60,000, and deposits of $800,000,
Mr. Wagner is also president of the Citizens State Bank at Cimarron, Kansas, the Ash Valley State Bank of Ely, Kansas, and the Farmers State Bank of Wichita. He was honored with the office of president of the Kansas State Bankers Association in 1915.
He cast his first vote in Douglas County, Kansas, in 1892. In that year he supported General Harrison for the presidency. In 1896 on the free silver issue he turned to the democratic party and supported Mr. Bryan that year and twice subsequently. In 1904 he refused to support Judge Parker, and voted for Mr. Roosevelt. In 1902 Mr. Wagner was living in Leavenworth County and was nominated by the democrats of the First District for Congress, his opponent being Charles Curtis. Mr. Wagner was democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Kansas in 1914 and ran 28,000 votes ahead of his ticket. He has not missed a democratic convention since 1896, and has done much campaigning over the state, having covered nearly every county. He is a forceful speaker, has thorough command of language and facts concerning political questions, and has done much to strengthen the party organization in recent years. Mr. Wagner is a Master Mason, an Odd Fellow, Knight of Pythias and a member of the Elks Lodge at Great Bend and also belongs to the Loyal Order of Moose and several fraternal insurance orders.
He enlisted in Red Cross work in the spring of 1918 and soon went overseas and took up his duties in France. He was first commissioned captain and later promoted to major in Red Cross and for a time he was detailed in Northern England as divisional commander.
At Olathe Kansas, on March 12, 1893, he married Miss Mayme Dunn. Mrs. Wagner was born at Olathe, daughter of James Dunn, who came from Lexington, Kentucky, to Johnson County, Kansas, following the war and for many years was a merchant at Olathe. Mrs. Wagner finished her education at Cincinnati, Ohio, and has made her home one of culture and high ideals. Mr. and Mrs. Wagner have three children: Ralph Lee, Juanita and Grant. Ralph Lee is a graduate of the St. Charles Military College of St. Charles, Missouri, is now vice president of the Citizens State Bank at Cimarron being the youngest bank officer of the state, and he married Ruth Umberger of Larned. The daughter, Juanita, is now a senior in the noted girls' school, Ward-Belmont College at Nashville, Tennessee. The son Grant is a student in the Staunton Military Academy, Staunton, Virginia.
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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