Robert M. Cheshire

HON. ROBERT M. CHESHIRE, former mayor of Columbus, ex-Probate judge of Cherokee County, and one of the leading attorneys in this section of the State, whose portrait accompanies this sketch, was born in 1844 in Ogle County, Illinois, and is a son of Michael and Margaret J. Cheshire.

The family is of English extraction, and, as the name indicates, at one time probably owned large estates in the shire of Chester. Early in the settlement of Virginia, this family was represented. The father of Judge Cheshire was born in Virginia, and in 1839 removed to Ogle County, Illinois, where he resided for more than 60 years, becoming prominent and wealthy as a farmer and stockman. In early life a Whig, he later adopted the principles of the Republican party. His death occurred in January, 1903, at the age of 87 years. On the maternal side, Judge Cheshire is of Scotch extraction, his mother being a McAllister. She was born in Ireland in 1823. Her father migrated to Canada at an early day, but died before his family joined him. The mother and her children came to America in 1836, but she died shortly afterward, and the children were reared by strangers. Of the five children born to his parents, Judge Cheshire is the eldest of the three survivors; the other two are living in Illinois.

The subject of this sketch was reared in Ogle County, his boyhood being passed on his father's farm. He was favored with school privileges and attended a seminary of local note, at Mount Morris. Later he read law, and took a special course of two years at Har- vard University. In 1881 he was admitted to practice in the courts of Illinois by the Supreme Court, being examined before the Appellate Court at Ottawa. After a practice of two years at Oregon, Ogle County, he went to Colorado, but not finding conditions there favorable for success in his profession, he came to Kansas and finally located in Cherokee County, where he soon entered actively into politics. In 1886 he was nominated by the Democratic party for the office of county attorney, and in 1887 he was elected mayor of Columbus, to which office he was subsequently re-elected. It was during the second year of his administration that occurred his noble appeal for law and order, which resulted in the suppression of mob violence in connection with the arrest of two desperadoes, William and John Blalack, of Columbus. When popular indignation had reached such a height that it seemed almost impossible to save the lives of the wretched men, Mayor Cheshire mounted a convenient wagon in the street, and delivered an impassioned address calling upon the law-abiding citizens to avoid violence, and to entrust the prisoners to the care of the sheriff. It is still remembered that Mayor Cheshire thus placed his own life in jeopardy in the interests of law and justice.

In 1892 he was elected a member of the Columbus Board of Education and served four years,—two years as its president. In 1894 he was again his party's candidate for county attorney. In 1900 he was elected Probate judge of Cherokee County, and served from January 13, 1901, to January 13, 1903. He was defeated for re-election by only 300 votes, his former majority having been 600. He has served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Committee for two years, and on several occasions and for various periods has served on the Democratic County Central Committee.

Judge Cheshire has been twice married,—first, in 1869, in Western New York, to Emma J. Bartholomew, a native of New York, who died in 1876, aged 28 years. She left one daughter, Mrs. Viola F. Brown, born in 1870, who died in 1897. Mrs. Brown left twin daughters who live with their father in Western Iowa. In 1884 Judge Cheshire married Sarah E. White, who was born in Rhode Island. They have three daughters, viz: Mary M., Hilah G. and Minerva White, all of whom are attending school. The family home is a handsome residence which Judge Cheshire erected in the outskirts of Columbus, near the Cherokee County High School building. In addition to this valuable property, he owns other property in the city and vicinity.

Judge Cheshire has always been public spirited, and has done much to promote the progress of the county, and for the advancement of the city's welfare. He was chairman of the committee of five appointed by the Commercial Club of Columbus to secure for the city the Cherokee County High School. On this board he rendered most efficient service, and much credit is due to him for advancing and fostering the idea which culminated in securing to the city and county the magnificent institution above named. He wrote and delivered, before the Commercial Club, of which he was a charter member and which he has served as chairman, a general address in favor of the location and erection of a county high school at Columbus. An issue of 5,000 copies was distributed in pahphlet[sic] form, the perusal of which by the voters led ultimately to the calling of a general election. The result is shown by the beautiful, completed structure, which was built in 1900. It stands as a testimonial to his public spirit, enterprise and ability, and is most creditable to this intelligent and cultured community.

It was while Judge Cheshire was president of the Commercial Club that he, with T. P. LaRue, C. R. Atchison, L. F. Williams, J. C. Murdock, of Galena, and others cooperated with Richard Nevins, Jr., a railroad promoter, by promising him financial support and moral encouragement at any time when needed, to such an extent that he (Nevins) succeeded in inducing the officials of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway Company to extend the mineral branch of the railroad to Joplin, which has proved of so much value to all points reached by the road. Public acts of this character done at the right time by the right man are what bring about all needed improvements.


History of Cherokee County Kansas and its representative citizens, ed. & comp. by Nathaniel Thompson Allison, 1904, transcribed by Shanel Shafer, student from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, 11-21-96.


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