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Keith Earl Sprague. Among the men whose ability and high personal character have lent strength and solidity to the financial institutions of Wilson County, Keith Earl Sprague occupies a recognized place. A man of broad experience in various fields of business life, since 1913 he had been identified with the Benedict State Bank in the capacity of president, and through his shrewd and careful direction of its affairs had made this institution one of the substantial banking houses of the county. Mr. Sprague was born in Wilson County, Kansas, November 26, 1881, and is a son of C. A. and Jennie (Barringer) Sprague.
Mr. Sprague belongs to a family of English-Dutch origin, which was founded in New York during colonial times by an emigrant from Holland. His grandfather was Harvey A. Sprague, who was born in 1812, in New York, where he resided all his life, the active part of which was passed in farming in the vicinity of Churchville, Monroe County. About the year 1872 he removed to Buffalo, where he lived in retirement until his death, which occurred in 1902, when he had reached the advanced age of ninety years. Mr. Sprague took part in a great deal of the Indian fighting of the early days in New York, and was a member of the New York State Militia. He married Ellen Smith, who was born in either New York or Vermont, and died at Buffalo, New York, in 1894, when well advanced in years.
C. A. Sprague was born October 17, 1843, at Churchville, Monroe County, New York, and was there reared and educated. His first visit to Kansas occurred in 1861, when, as a youth of eighteen years, he joined a party of adventurous buffalo hunters and for several years lived on the prairies of the western part of the state. He then returned to New York, but the West had made a strong impression upon him, and in 1863 he returned to Kansas and took up a claim of 160 acres in Prairie Township, Wilson County, on which he lived for five years. He next moved to Guilford, in this county, and worked as a millwright for about ten years, and with the capital saved from his earnings embarked in the mercantile business. The Town of Benedict was started in 1886, and in the spring of 1887, Mr. Sprague, realizing that this was to become an important point, came to this locality and established himself as a merchant. He was one of the pioneer business men of this community and through a period of twenty-seven years carried on extensive operations, but in 1913 traded his business for a valuble farm of 120 acres, situated one-half mile northwest of Fredonia, known as the O. V. Small farm, on which there is a magnificent $16,000 residence. There Mr. Sprague is living in retirement at this time. He is a democrat in politics, having been a stanch supporter of this party all his life. As a pioneer of Wilson County, he possessed the qualities which enabled him to withstand the discouragements and disappointments of the early days, which frequently turned the weak and timid back to their homes in the East. In his later years he kept fully abreast of the development and advancement of the section, and his progressive and energetic nature assisted him to succeed in the days of keen competition that characterized the full settlement of this rich and prosperous region. Mr. Sprague married Miss Jennie Barringer, who was born in 1853, in Illinois, but was a resident of Fredonia, Kansas, at the time of their marriage, and to this union there were born two children: L. A., who is a merchant residing at Benedict, Kansas; and Keith Earl.
Keith Earl Sprague received his early education in the rural schools of Wilson County, and following some preparation entered Kansas University, from which he was graduated with the class of 1901, as a registered chemist and pharmacist. He then took an European trip, visiting the French Exposition, and while across the Atlantic visited various points of interest in France, Germany and England. On his return to this country he located at Fredonia, where for two years he was employed by Peter Reeger, a druggist, and then bought the interests of his employer and for 3½ years conducted the business himself. After selling out to R. A. Hollis, Mr. Sprague went on the road as representative for a St. Louis concern, but after two years gave up his work as a traveling salesman and settled at Berkeley, California, as manager of a branch store for the Bowman Drug Company. One year later he was called to the main store, at Oakland, California, and remained there until 1907, during which time he experienced the thrills and excitement due to the great San Francisco earthquake.
In 1907 Mr. Sprague returned to Benedict and formed a partnership with his father in the general mercantile business, continuing to remain with that enterprise as long as the elder man was at its head. In the meantime, however, he had become identified with the Benedict State Bank, and in 1913 was made its president, a position which he holds at the present time. The Benedict State Bank was founded in January, 1903, with a stock of $10,000, its officers being at that time: S. S. Benedict, president; C. A. Sprague, vice president, and William Pauley, cashier. The present officers are: Keith Earl Sprague, president, and F. H. Burnett, vice president and cashier. The capital is $10,000, and the surplus and profits $6,500, and the institution occupies a modern banking house on Main Street. Mr. Sprague is one of the largest stockholders in the bank and his status as a business man and citizen is typical of the material upon which the bank rests and which had made the institution of which he is the head illustrative of the best type of bank in the midst of a farming community–something founded upon a rock, which the peculations and panics of the metropolis cannot effect. Mr. Sprague is treasurer of the Wilson County Telephone Company. He is the owner of a residence on Allen Street, a business building on Main Street and 600 acres of fine farming land in Wilson County. A republican in politics, he takes an interest in the success of his party, but his only public service had been as a member of the council of Benedict. Fraternally he affiliates with Benedict Lodge No. 403, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons; Kilwinning Chapter No. 44, Royal Arch Masons, of Fredonia; Ab-Del-Kader Commandery, Knights Templar, of Fredonia, and Mirza Temple, Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, of Pittsburg, Kansas.
In 1906, while a resident of Oakland, California, Mr. Sprague was united in marriage with Miss Edna Kowalsky, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Kowalsky, both of whom are deceased, Mr. Kowalsky having been a retired real estate dealer. Mr. and Mrs. Sprague have one daughter: Geraldine, born July 27, 1910.