John N. Hodges, manager of the Pittsburg and Midway Coal Company, Pittsburg, Kansas, is one of the most able executive business men in this city. Pittsburg, financially and industrially, is built on its great coal mines, and the fact that Mr. Hodges was a pioneer in the development of these resources is sufficient for considering him among the founders of Pittsburg, as, indeed, he was located here when there was nothing that could have been dignified with the name of town, and in addition to his part taken in uncovering the coal deposits was also one of the first merchants of the place. His life throughout has been a most busy and useful one. For a number of years he was connected with contract work on railroad construction in various parts of the country, and his first introduction to the site of Pittsburg was obtained in this connection. He has been engaged in numerous industrial and commercial enterprises, and his known executive ability and his reliability and financial integrity have caused him to be the depositary of important trusts and business matters. He is likewise actively interested and public-spirited in all matters pertaining to the public welfare and the advancement of civic progress.
Mr. Hodges was born in Schuyler county, Illinois, in 1849, being a son of A. B. and Martha (Mitchell) Hodges. His father was a native of Buffalo, New York, and in young manhood moved west to Illinois, and later lived in different parts of the middle west. He settled in Kansas in 1856, being one who braved the terrors of the political situation of these days of warring slave and anti-slave elements. He spent most of his life in Topeka, where he died in 1897. His wife died in that city in 1900.
Mr. John N. Hodges was reared to manhood in Topeka and vicinity, and gained his education in the public schools of that place. As a young man he began working for a real estate firm in Topeka, and later took a contract for construction work on the Santa Fe Railroad in Kansas. He became associated with J. D. Criley in a contract for construction work on the Scioto Valley Railroad between Columbus and Chillicothe, Ohio. He left there in 1876 and came to Kansas again. He joined Jack Armell in a contract which that gentleman had for construction work on the Joplin and Girard Railroad, running from Joplin, Missouri, to Girard, Kansas. In this work they made their headquarters on the present site of Pittsburg. The only evidences of a town at that time was a graded country road, with a small building here and there on the prairie, and the name of the settlement was New Pittsburg. So that Mr. Hodges was here from the very beginning of the town and in connection with an enterprise which had a wonderful influence on the future development of the town.
While engaged in his railroad operations here Mr. Hodges found that some prospecting in the coal fields of the vicinity had been going on, and a little surface mining, with the crude means of pick and shovel and teams was being attempted. As a railroad builder he knew the efficacy of the steam shovel for excavation and grading, and he conceived the idea of bringing from Ohio one of these machines for doing surface mining. This project was carried out, and during the fall and winter of 1876-7, with Mr. Armell, he stripped off coal from the surface at Carbon (now Litchfield) near Pittsburg. The steam shovel, though not made for that business, did the work of thirty or forty teams, and effected a great advance in the style of mining as previously carried on, and in fact it was the first machinery used in the Pittsburg district.
In the following summer Mr. Hodges went into partnership with M. M. Snow in the mercantile business, and they erected a small building for a store, on Broadway, between Fourth and Fifth, where the Wright building now stands. They conducted this store until the spring of 1879, when Mr. Hodges sold his interest to Mr. Snow, and returned to Topeka. For the following ten years he was engaged in contract construction work for the Santa Fe Railroad, on their main and branch lines through western Kansas, Indian Territory and the Panhandle of Texas. In 1889 he returned to Pittsburg, and has made this his permanent home ever since.
For the first six months he operated a flour mill, now known as the Pittsburg Modern Milling Company. For several years he was engaged in prospecting and locating coal lands and mines for various companies in this district. For three years he was receiver of the Pittsburg Gas and Electric Light Company, and after the receivership he continued his successful operation of the plant for two years, and left it in the best condition it had ever been. During all these years Mr. Hodges has been closely identified with the Lanyons in their various enterprises here, and in 1902, on the re-election of officers of the Pittsburg and Midway Coal Mining Company, of which A. K. Lanyon is president and A. H. Lanyon secretary and treasurer, he was made manager, and has since acted in that capacity. Their coal industry is located at Midway, where they have three mines and some strip work.
Mr. Hodges has been otherwise prominent in city and county affairs. He was treasurer of the first school board of Pittsburg. In 1896 he was the candidate of the Republican party for county treasurer, and although the Populists swept the state and he made no serious effort to secure election, his defeat was by the narrow margin of only one hundred and thirty-five votes. He has considerable influence in local politics, and has always exerted it toward getting good, clean men in public positions. Fraternally he affiliates with the Elks and the Masons.
Mr. Hodges was married at Topeka, Kansas, in July, 1879, to Miss Effie Baxter, a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He had the misfortune to lose his wife by death within a month after their marriage.Pages 634-639 from A Twentieth century history and biographical record of Crawford County, Kansas, by Home Authors; Illustrated. Published by Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, IL : 1905. 656 p. ill. Transcribed by Carolyn Ward, in November, 2003.
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