VAN B. PRATHER. - The honored and efficient incumbent of the office of probate judge of Wyandotte county is one of the sterling citizens given to Kansas by the fine old Blue Grass commonwealth, and he has been influential in public affairs during the period of his residence in Kansas, where he has maintained at all times a strong hold upon popular confidence and regard.
Judge Prather was born in Fleming county, Kentucky, on the 4th of August, 1849, and is a son of Walter and Cynthia (Callahan) Prather, the former of whom was born in Bourbon county, Kentucky, in 1815, and the latter of whom was born in Fleming county, that state, in 1817. The paternal grandparents of Judge Prather were of stanch Scotch lineage and were numbered among the pioneers of Bourbon county, Kentucky, in which state they continue to reside until their death. The maternal ancestry is traced back to stanch Irish origin and the Callahan family likewise was founded in Kentucky in an early day. Walter Prather devoted his entire active career to agricultural pursuits in his native state, where his death occurred in 1855. His wife long survived him and was summoned to eternal rest in 1882. Of the five children all are living except one. Martha V. is the wife of Robert Dulin and they reside in Tuscola, Illinois; Edward C. is a resident of Gove county, Kansas; Walter P. maintains his home in Buchanan county, Missouri; and Van B. is the immediate subject of this review. The father was a stanch advocate of the principles of the Democratic party and was a man of strong individuality and sterling character.
The benignant influences of the homestead farm compassed the childhood and youth of Judge Prather, and his early educational advantages were those afforded in the common schools of his native county. He was further afforded excellent educational advantages, as he attended in turn the Key Wesleyan University, at Millersburg, Kentucky, and the Southwestern College at Lebanon, Warren county, Ohio. He put his scholastic attainments to practical use by adopting the pedagogic profession, in connection with which he first taught in the public schools of Bloomington, Illinois, and thereafter he was similarly engaged at other points in that state. He then removed to Missouri, and after teaching about three years in the schools of that state he engaged in farming and stock-growing in Nodaway county, Missouri. He later sold his farm and stock and removed to Cherokee county, Kansas, where he took up his abode in about the year 1884. He secured a tract of land near the boundary line between Kansas and the Indian Territory and in addition to farming he engaged in the buying and shipping of cattle on a somewhat extensive scale. He became one of the prominent and influential citizens of the county and was closely identified with shaping public activities. There also he first appeared as a candidate for public office. He was made the Democratic nominee for the office of probate judge, and he recalls that at the time his old and value friend Robert J. Long, now one of the interested principals in the important Long & Bell Lumber Company of Kansas City, Missouri, was chairman of the Democratic central committee of Cherokee county. In the election Judge Prather was defeated by a small majority, his opponent having been Judge Jesse Faulkner. This election occurred in 1892, and in the following year Judge Prather was made the nominee on the Populist and Democratic tickets for the office of state auditor, and was elected but was defeated for the second term. In fact the whole ticket was defeated, but they were all renominated. In 1896 he disposed of his property in Cherokee county and came to Kansas City, where he has since maintained his home and where he has been called upon to serve in various local offices of public trust. In 1906 he was elected probate judge, and he has since remained incumbent of the same, giving to its manifold details a most careful, efficient and acceptable administration. He is well known throughout Wyandotte county and is one of its most valued and popular officials.
Ever showing a loyal interest in public affairs, Judge Prather has never wavered in his allegiance to the cause of the Democratic party, and he has been an effective exponent of its principles and policies. He is affiliated with Wyandotte Lodge, No. 440, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and is also identified with the Modern Woodmen of America and other representative civic organizations.
In September, 1878, Judge Prather was united in marriage to Miss Mollie May Bretz, who was born in the city of St. Louis, Missouri, and who is a daughter of Judge John Bretz. She is the youngest in a family of three children and her parents continued to maintain their home in Missouri until their death. Her father was one of the pioneer farmers of Buchanan county, that state, and he served for some time as state tobacco inspector. Later he was elected a magistrate and he continued to hold this judicial office until his death. Judge and Mrs. Prather became the parents of five children, of whom four are living namely: Leslie, Kirk, Charles and Walter.
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