Alfred William Rice.To have accomplished so notable a work as has Mr. Rice in connection with municipal government would prove sufficient to give precedence and reputation to the most active citizen, were this to represent the sum total of his efforts; but Mr. Rice is a man of broad, mental ken, strong initiative, and distinct individuality, who, during a residence of more than forty years in the city of Abilene, has wielded a potential influence in her commercial development, and his activities have been of importance in other sections of the state.
Alfred William Rice was born at Collins, Erie county, New York, Dec. 12, 1836, son of Eli and Phoebe (Southwick) Rice, both of whom were natives of Rutland county, Vermont, and descended from early settlers of America. Eli Rice was a harnessmaker by trade and followed that calling in early life. He became a pioneer settler of Boone county, Illinois, in 1847, and engaged in farming. There, on his father's farm, the early life of Alfred W. Rice was passed, his educational advantages being limited to the district schools of that time, and the necessity of self-support permitting of but a short term each year. He began the career which has been such a substantial success when nineteen years of age, first buying a yoke of oxen on credit and taking a contract of breaking prairie land. On reaching his majority he purchased a farm of 160 acres in Ogle county, Illinois, mostly on credit, and the ensuing ten years were spent in breaking, fencing, tilling and, lastly, paying for it. In 1868 he removed to Chicago, where he became an interested principal in the firm of Southwick & Rice, wholesale lumber dealers, an uncle, Alfred Southwick, being the senior member. His aptitude for commercial affairs was quickly proven and he was sent to Kansas to open, at Abilene, then the most important point in the western part of the state, a retail yard, the firm style being Kuney, Southwick & Company, of which he was the junior member. In 1873 he disposed of his interest in this firm and purchased the lumber business of Little & Jenkins, which he conducted under his own name. The business developed rapidly, other yards were established, and he became the senior member and virtually the owner of the business operated in Ellsworth as Rice & Presney, in Great Bend as Rice & Brinkman, and in Abilene as Rice & Giles. He was also the owner of a yard in Russell, operated under his own name. During the latter '80s he disposed of his lumber interests, with the exception of the yard at Abilene, now operated by the Rice, Johntz & Nicolay Lumber Company, of which he is president. He is also president of the Rice-Johntz Lumber Company, of Downs, Kan., who own branch yards in Linn, Kan., and Bradley, Okla. In May, 1907, he organized the Abilene Wholesale Grocery Company and has served as president of it since its incorporation. He was one of the most active factors, in 1885, in the organization of The Citizens' Bank of Abilene and has served as vice-president since its establishment. This institution is regarded by the banking fraternity as one of the strong and most ably conducted banks of the state. It has a capital of $50,000, surplus of $15,000, undivided profits of $5,300, and deposits of $400,000. Mr. Rice is also a director in the Abilene Manufacturing Company and a large owner of improved business property within his home city. While Abilene owes much to Mr. Rice as one of the most active influences in her commercial development, the writer is persuaded that it is in connection with his services as mayor that her largest debt is due him. He has been honored by her citizens through election to this office on eight occasions, serving four terms of one year each, and four terms of two years. His administrations have been characterized by the enforcement of the prohibitory law, completion of the sewerage system, the building of a storm sewer at a cost of $20,000, and the paving of the business section of the city, in which some $75,000 was expended. The last named improvement was made possible only after bitter opposition by a large number of property owners had been overcome, and in which the well-trained business mind, diplomacy, and untiring energy of Mr. Rice had been severely taxed. It is justly due him to state that since the completion of this work his former opponents have admitted their viewpoint was in error and have commended his uncompromising stand for civic betterment. It is also conceded that his labors have resulted in the elevation of the moral tone of the city and conditions of far-reaching weight and strength have been established. His democracy while in office was unvarying, and no interested person was ever refused a hearing. His record as the chief executive teems with instances wherein he has conferred every concession consistent with strict integrity upon the wage-earner, capitalist, and corporations, alike. He has been a lifelong Republican.
Mr. Rice has been twice married, On July 10, 1862, he married Miss Annie, daughter of David Brown, a pioneer farmer of Ogle county, Illinois. She died in Abilene, Nov. 14, 1900, the mother of a daughter, Hattie, the wife of Edwin B. Malott, a well known druggist of Abilene. On Jan. 15, 1902, Mr. Rice married Mrs. Jane R. Crozier, daughter of Jonathan B. Jannis, a farmer of Quincy, Ill. She is a member of the Kansas Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, and is a lineal descendant of James Bunker, whose brother, Joseph, owned the field on which was fought the battle of Bunker Hill, in the war of the Revolution. Mrs. Rice is a woman of broad culture and has contributed a number of valuable writings to the Kansas State Historical Society on Dickinson county. Since becoming a resident of Abilene, in 1871, she has been continuously a member of some charitable organization and has been one of the most active forces in the benevolent work in Dickinson county. Mr. Rice is in all respects a high type of the conservative, unassuming American, diligent in his various duties and commercial affairs and conscientious in all things. He is rich in the possession of a well earned popularity, in the esteem which comes from honorable living, and the affection that slowly develops only from unselfish works. He has been a member of the Presbyterian church since its establishment and an elder for many years, and has given liberally of time and money in its support.Pages 368-370 from volume III, part 1 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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