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Aldamar P. Elder. One of the names that will always have significance in Kansas history is that of Elder. Over the state at large it is most closely associated with the career of the late Peter Percival Elder, who came to Kansas when it was a territory, was prominent in many ways during the early and formative period of the state, and at one time filled with distinction the office of lieutenant governor. Governor Elder had a long and active career, and died in 1914.
His only son is Aldamar P. Elder, who for over forty years had been one of the leading merchants and public spirited citizens of Ottawa, and is now serving as postmaster of that city.
Aldamar P. Elder was born in Kenduskeag, Maine, August 17, 1854. His parents brought him to Kansas, when he was four years of age, and his earliest recollections are of the primitive conditions and incidents of the new state. As a boy he attended the public schools of Baldwin and Ottawa, and spent the years from 1871 to 1873 in the University of Kansas.
His powers and talents were early developed, and by a special act of the Kansas Legislature he was given the rights of majority at the age of nineteen. In January, 1874, before he was twenty years of age he and A. V. Cobb embarked as partners in the grocery business at Ottawa. Thus for forty-three years his career had been continuously identified with that city’s business affairs. After two years Mr. Elder bought the old established stove and hardware business of S. D. Smith at Ottawa, and there is perhaps not a citizen in Franklin County in the past or present generation who had not known the Elder place of business at Ottawa. Its record is that of a steadily growing and prospering concern. In 1907 the business was incorporated as the Elder Mercantile Company, with Mr. Elder president. Many other business enterprises have been helped to success through his influence and active participation. He had been president of the Ottawa Foundry Company, a director in the First National Bank, and president of the Rohrbaugh Theater Company.
In any special undertaking for the betterment of the city or county Mr. Elder’s leadership and contribution of means have been important factors. In 1908 he was the largest contributor to the King Road drag fund. He had been an active member of the Ottawa Commercial Club since it was organized and had served as vice president. He is also a member of the United Commercial Travelers organization, is a Royal Arch Mason, and is affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
He had not been content merely to furnish money and not take an active part in local affairs. For more than a quarter of a century he had been a member of the Ottawa Fire Department. He was its chief for over ten years, and for two years was president of the Kansas State Firemen’s Association. He was a member of the association’s committee on legislation, and it was his thorough understanding of the work of fire departments, his sympathy with the individual fireman, and a broad sense of justice that prompted him to advocate a bill which subsequently became a law and which levies a tax of 2 per cent on gross premiums for fire insurance charged by the various companies on business done in cities where organized fire departments are maintained. The proceeds of this tax are applied to a fund for the relief of injured firemen injured while on duty as firemen or to their families in case of death from such injury. Kansas was one of the first states in the Union to adopt such a position, and the credit for this economic measure is largely due to Mr. Elder’s broad experience and deep sense of justice. He had always been a man of convictions, one who speaks his mind forcefully on public affairs, and his thorough honesty and integrity have kept him more or less constantly in the public view. In 1911 he was elected to the Legislature from Franklin County. He was elected as a democrat, though the county is normally republican. During the following session he was chairman of the committee on telegraph and telephones, and a member of the ways and means committee, the committee on fees and salaries and cities of second class. He was one of the ablest members of that Legislature. A loyal and active democrat, as well as a leader in his home city, it was with special consistency that President Wilson named him on March 1, 1915, as postmaster of Ottawa. He had since served in that office and had given it the same intelligence, efficient and wise administration which he had paid to every undertaking throughout life, whether in business or in public affairs.
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Mr. Elder was married in 1876 at Ottawa to Miss Clara M. Maxwell. Mrs. Elder was born in Jonesboro, Tennessee, and is now deceased. Her father, William H. Maxwell, was a lawyer by profession, and came from Tennessee to Ottawa, where he practiced law for a number of years, but finally moved to Paola, Kansas, where he died. Mr. Elder is the father of three children, Raymond E., Pierre Penney, Jr., and Clara D. The son Raymond enlisted in May, 1898, in Company K of the famous Twentieth Kansas Infantry and was in active service as a corporal until honorably discharged at San Francisco in October of the same year. The son, Pierre P., Jr., had had his active business experience as a member of the Elder Mercantile Company. The daughter, Clara, like the other children, was well educated and had taught in the Ottawa City schools.