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James M. Kennedy, who had lived in Kansas since 1869, was formerly a teacher, but since 1890 had been an active member of the Fredonia bar.
He was born near the City of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, November 11, 1857. His father, Patrick Kennedy, was born in 1832 in County Tipperary, Ireland, came when a young unmarried man to the United States, first locating on a farm near Indianapolis, Indiana, and subsequently removing to Wisconsin, where he was a farmer near Foud du Lac. Just prior to the Civil war he returned to Indianapolis. In 1861 he enlisted in the Eighth Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Colonel Oglesby’s regiment. His service as a Union soldier continued for three years and eight months. He fought at Shiloh, Lookout Mountain, and all the battles fought by the army of General Grant in the West. After his honorable discharge from the ranks he returned to Hancock County, Indiana, bought a farm, but in 1869 came to the newer west and took up a claim of 160 acres, twelve miles east of Fredonia, in Wilson County. This land, which he acquired in its virgin state, he developed by many years of labor into a valuable property, and it is now owned by his daughter, Mary. In 1902 he left the farm and lived in Fredonia until his death in 1912. Though a republican, a warm admiration for William Jennings Bryan caused him to support that Nebraskan for the presidency. He was also affiliated with the Grand Army of the Republic. His wife, Alice Moore, was born in County Tipperary, Ireland, in 1833, and died on the Wilson County farm in 1896. There were four children: John L., who was appointed by President McKinley to membership on the Industrial Commission and is now a printer in Washington, D. C.; Mary, who owned the old homestead in Wilson County and other real estate at Fredonis where she makes her home; James M.; and William T., a rancher at Colorado Springs, Colorado, and for several years a member of the Board of County Commissioners of El Paso County.
James M. Kennedy received most of his early training in the public schools of Indiana, and for two years was a student in the rural schools of Wilson County. At the age of fourteen he began working out among the farmers of his locality and earned his living in that way until he was twenty. He had improved his leisure time by the study of books, and thus qualified himself as a teacher. He taught in the country schools of Wilson County twelve years, became superintendent of schools at Fredonia, for four years, and established almost a record by eight years of teaching in the Teachers Summer Normal School of the county.
He gave up teaching to enter the farm loan business at Fredonia. His earliest ambition had been for a career as a lawyer. As he had qualified himself for teaching by study while a farm hand, so also he pursued his studies of the law in the intervals of other occupations, completing these studies with S. S. Kirkpatrick at Fredonia. In 1890 he was admitted to the bar and for over a quarter of a century had handled a civil and criminal practice at Fredonia. Long experience, sound knowledge and hard work have given him an undoubted place of leadership in the Wilson County bar. His offices are in the Kennedy Building, on the west side of the square. He is independent in politics, had never been a seeker for office, although for two terms he served as county attorney. Mr. Kennedy owned the office building above mentioned, also his home at 321 Eighth Street, another business building on the west side of the square, and 200 acres of farming land south of the city. Mr. Kennedy is president of the Excelsior Brick Company, the largest brick manufacturing plant west of the Mississippi River. Other associates in that business are Dr. A. C. Flack, S. J. Hess, J. D. Lingenfelter, Mrs. W. B. Hess, and W. B. Kennedy. W. B. Kennedy is a son of Mr. Kennedy and is also a lawyer, being a partner in the law firm of Kennedy & Kennedy. Aside from the organizations of his profession Mr. Kennedy belongs only to Constellation Lodge No. 95, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons.
In 1882, at Fredonia, he married Mrs. Elizabeth (Stivers) Jordan, daughter of Hon. William and Matilda (Young) Stivers, both deceased. Judge Stivers was auditor of Tipton County, Indiana, for eight years and for twelve years was judge of the Probate Court of Wilson County, Kansas. Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy have three children. William B., a graduate of the Fredonia High School and of the University of Kansas with the degree of Bachelor of Laws, is now in active practice at Fredonia; he married Edith Van Duser of Fredonia and their three children are: Hugh, born July 18, 1913, and James Randall and Gilbert, twins, born February 25, 1916. Max, a graduate of the Fredonia High School, is now sole proprietor of the Kennedy Printing Company of Fredonia; he married Bessie F. Wolever of Fredonia and had two children; Kenneth, born November 25, 1905; and Conrad Max, born August 13, 1907. Madge, the youngest child, is a graduate of the high school and of the University of Kansas and is the wife of Frederick Cambern, cashier of the State Bank of Fredonia. They have one daughter, Elizabeth, born February 18, 1911.