From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.
Manufacture Wide Variety of Products
One hundred years ago, in 1869, an established industrial enterprise in Leavenworth adopted a new name, Great Western Manufacturing Company, and, though the years, it became one of the largest industries in the city.
Numerous buildings were constructed by the firm in the eastern section of town during the course of the years, and a wide variety of products was manufactured here for sale throughout the country.
Records indicate that in the year 1858, three men joined together to form a company known as Wilson, Estes and Fairchild Western Foundry and Machine Shop. this was the beginning of an industry which is still in operation.
In the ensuing years the company came under the control of the Wilson family with Fairchild retaining an interest and office in the concern.
Hand written records dating back to Feb, 13, 1856 show that a corporation operating under the name Great Western Manufacturing Company was granted a charter signed by the Secretary of State of Kansas on Feb. 1, 1886, and a meeting was called by the board of directors Feb. 13 to elect officers and adopt a set of by-laws.
The names of the directors at that time are listed as John Wilson, D. F. Fairchild, J. H. Wilson and S. H. Wilson. John Wilson was elected chairman of the board with Fairchild chosen as secretary.
On May 23, 1887, George W. Early was named to serve on the board of directors.
Another election was held April 21, 1888, with the following officers elected: John Wilson, president; Fairchild, vice president; S. H. Wilson, secretary; Nevil Whitesides, assistant secretary; Early, treasurer; and George H. Davis, mechanical superintendent. The same men were re-elected on March 11, 1889, and at subsequent elections for several years.
through the years new directors were added and new officers elected, but control of the firm remained in the hands of the Wilson family until 1942, when a decision was reached to sell their holdings.
Designs for most of the products were drawn by George W. Combs and many of these designs are still being used.
Illustrated catalogues were published and distributed in the early years of operation. Two issues, numbers 45 and 100, are still in existence, and are being kept as historical records by the company.
Catalogue No. 100, copyrighted in 1911, contains more than 500 pages advertising everything from complete grain mills to small hand tools.
Such products as double roller mills (with complete diagramatical[sic] drawings), and automatically balanced controlled sifter, gravel separators, dust collectors, wheat steamers, degerminators, corn and feed mills, and so on through an infinite variety of mechanisms and tools were illustrated and advertised in the pages of these catalogues.
A water pump pictured on one of the pages is listed as the "Oskosh short fulcrum force pump standard with bolt on spout." There is also an illustration depicting true horse power; a grinding device operated by hitching a shaft to a horse moving in the old monotonous "treadmill" manner.
Early in 1942 a move was begun by board of directors to dissolve the holdings of the firm and through negotiations John E. Baker, secretary and purchasing agent of the company, and Ernest E. Schroeder, milling engineer, were successful in purchasing the woodshop building located at 208 Choctaw.
An agreement was reached giving Baker and Schroeder the right to operate a business under the existing company name.
All other buildings and equipment were sold to the Kramer Machine and Engineering Products Company of Waldron, Mich.
Baker and Schroeder continued the operation in the one building with the agreement they were to produce parts for machines already in use. Parts are still being furnished for some machines 75 years old.
Baker died of a heart attack the afternoon of Feb. 25, 1967, while golfing at the Leavenworth Country Club course.
In accordance with a partnership agreement, Schroeder became sole owner of the company. He is now grooming his 28-James C. Schroeder, to follow in his footsteps.
Young Schroeder, a graduate of Kansas State University with a degree in electrical engineering, has been with the firm a year. He had previously worked for the Westinghouse Corporation for five years.
"But the man who really runs the place," said the elder Schroeder, "is Benny Reindl." Reindl, age 64, has been with the company 50 years, since the age of 14. "He knows so much about every part of the operations, we have given him his own office; and we feel this knowledge of his must have been acquired from the cradle on, so we say he was born under a lumber pile, just outside the door," said Schroeder.