Hon. Ebenezer F. Porter, state senator from the ninth senatorial district, comprising Crawford county, and secretary and treasurer of the Carey-Lombard Lumber Company, at Pittsburg, Kansas, has for nearly fifteen years been one of the powers and potential forces in business and in matters relating to educational and material progress in this section of the state. He has from an early age borne a large share of responsibility in the management of his father's and his own affairs, and he has had to deal with large and important matters. Notwithstanding his large sphere of activity, it can be said to his credit that he has never failed in any of his enterprises.
Mr. Porter has gained the reputation among his associates of going straight to the mark in any business affairs, and, with a definite goal for his efforts and a sure aim, he has never faltered until he got what he was after. Furthermore, he believes in using a choke-bore and concentrating the fire of his energies on one spot until it yields. Although he has been concerned with several large interests during his life, yet they have never been so wide of extent that his energies had to be dissipated to little effectiveness in conducting them. His friends say of him that everything he does is thoughtfully planned beforehand, and, with a foundation well built, his projects always rise to successful completion. Method and system are found everywhere in his work, and he keeps a strict account of the infinite details of his business. But his intense energy and broad mind have ranged into other fields than pure business, and Crawford county and the entire state of Kansas will always regard him as the founder and vitalizer of a department of education which is destined to exert a powerful influence on the life and the industries of the twentieth century. He went about to effect this great advance in educational training in the same matter of fact and definite and determined manner in which he accomplishes business enterprises, and results followed, to the lasting glory and benefit of the state of Kansas. Energy, practicality, definiteness of aim, broad-mindedness and strict business integrity make up the sum of Senator Porter's character, and on these principles he has made his well deserved success.
Mr. Porter was born at New Salem, Fayette county, Pennsylvania, in 1859, a son of Judge John T. and Phebe J. (Finley) Porter. His father was born and reared in Fayette county. He was at first a farmer, and afterward a lumberman and grain dealer. He removed with his family to Illinois in 1860, and located near Grand Ridge, LaSalle county, where he lived on a farm until 1872. In that year he moved into the town of Grand Ridge, and built and operated two grain elevators. In 1876 he took his family to Clarinda, Iowa, and was extensively engaged in the grain and lumber business until 1882, when, on account of failing health, he removed to Florida and engaged in the lumber business. He founded the town of Grand Ridge, Florida, naming it in honor of his old Illinois home. About fifteen years ago, during President Cleveland's administration, he was appointed United States commissioner for the western district of Florida, which position he still holds, and he is likewise one of the prominent citizens and business men of the state. His wife, whose ancestors were of the Scotch Presbyterian type and among the first to cross the Alleghanies into western Pennsylvania, is also still living, and they have a pleasant and happy home in Grand Ridge.
Mr. Porter lived on a farm to the age of twelve years, and then got his first taste of business life under his father at Grand Ridge, Illinois, working during the months he was not in school. He evinced an aptitude for mechanical invention, and made several useful devices. He was of great assistance to his father, and is still remembered at Grand Ridge as being a boy of exceptional talents and usefulness to his parents. He went with his father to Clarinda, and was with him in the grain and lumber business there. After the removal of his father to Florida in 1882 he remained at Clarinda in charge of the business. In 1885 he decided to go into business on his own account, and accordingly came to Kansas, locating at Wakeeney, in the western part of the state, and was in the lumber business there until 1890. In that year he came to Pittsburg, and has been here ever since. He is now secretary and treasurer of the Carey-Lombard Lumber Company and is also manager of the local plant. The headquarters of this company are in Chicago, and the Pittsburg office, of which Mr. Porter has charge, is headquarters for Kansas. Mr. Porter also has large individual timber interests in the south, and is each year adding to his holdings of valuable timber lands.
For several years Senator Porter has taken a prominent part in Crawford county Republican politics, being a member of the county executive committee of three and in other positions. He has great power as an organizer, and keeps thoroughly in touch with every phase of the local political situation. In 1900 he was nominated and was elected state senator from Crawford county and the ninth senatorial district. In the senate he has been chairman of the mines and mining committee, mining being Crawford county's largest industry. He was also on the ways and means committee and on the federal and state charitable institutions committee. But Mr. Porter had a special purpose in going to the senate, and that was to push his favorite measure, the manual training school law, which has brought him most of his fame as a legislator. For some years he has recognized the value of manual training as a phase of modern education, and he has lent all his influence to the establishment of free manual training schools in connection with the regular public schools. As a member of the school board of Pittsburg he had been instrumental in having established in this city the first public manual training school in the west. He saw the need, however, of an institution for the training of teachers who could properly direct the labors of the youth in such schools, which in a few years will have an established place in the educational systems of the state and country. So that on his entrance into the senate he at once put forward a bill for a slate normal manual training school at Pittsburg. The measure was enacted into law, and the school was organized at Pittsburg, being one of the few such institutions in the United States. Both the public and the normal manual training schools at Pittsburg are monuments to the energy and educational zeal of Senator Porter, and also bring considerable celebrity to the city in an educational way.
The first educational bill introduced in the senate by Mr. Porter was one establishing manual training as a part of the curricula of the public schools of Kansas, and this was passed without objection. The Porterian Society in the Pittsburg State Manual Training School is an association of students named in honor of Mr. Porter.
Mr. Porter was married at Clarinda, Iowa, in 1882, to Miss Anna I. Berry, and they have two children, Houston H. and Harold B.
Pages 580-587 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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