Peter J. Broll. Of the successful business men of Kansas City, Kansas, perhaps none began life with fewer opportunities and under more unpromising circumstances than Peter J. Broll. The education which most boys secure while living in comfortable homes and attending schools with nothing else to divert their minds was denied him and he obtained his education largely by direct contact with the world and those processes of intelligent thought which are quickened by a live mind and a fundamental interest in the life about him. A humble clerkship was his first opportunity of experience, and gradually, being of a saving and thrifty disposition and showing increasing ability for responsibilities, he became a partner and now for a number of years had been sole owner of the Broll Wholesale and Retail Grocery Company. Being one of the substantial citizens and tax payers of the community and implicitly trusted for his judgment and conservatism, he had been called upon to serve for several years as a director of the Kaw Valley Drainage Board, to which he was recently re-elected and is now president of the board. This drainage district covers the territory of the Kaw River from its mouth to Turner, Kansas.
Mr. Broll is an American in all except birth and parentage. He was born in Germany October 17, 1864, but was brought to this country in 1868. He was one of the nine children of Casper and Agnes (Howdornick) Broll. His parents came to the United States in order to better their conditions and provide better opportunities for their children. They landed at New Orleans, lived there a short time, then at Evansville, Indiana, a short while, where Casper Broll followed his trade as a mechanic in the steel mills. He afterwards spent three months at Chicago and then removed to Denison, Texas, where he joined a brother and where he became a railroad man. He was in the railroad service with headquarters and home at Denison until his death in 1913. His widow is still living in that city.
It was in the City of Denison, Texas, that Peter J. Broll had his childhood and youthful experiences. He lived there and had some of the advantages of the common schools until he was sixteen. A local grocery merchant than took him in as clerk and soon found the value of his young helper. At the age of eighteen Mr. Broll was sent by John J. Collins to take the practical management of a store at Armourdale, Kansas, now part of Kansas City, Kansas. He worked hard, made good in his position, and not only had the respect of his employers but extended the business and gained a large acquaintance among the people of the city. In 1887 the Armourdale store was burned and the business after that was conducted for a couple of years at the corner of Third and Minnesota avenues.
In the meantime Mr. Broll had determined that his energies would be best expressed through an independent career as a merchant. To that end he had saved every penny above living expenses and in 1899 he was ready with his modest capital to join Mr. Buchhalter in opening a small grocery store at 201 Kansas Avenue. Mr. Buchhalter served as postmaster of Kansas City, Kansas, during Cleveland’s first administration. That partnership lasted two years, and then Mr. Broll took over the establishment, which in the meantime had grown and flourished. He had since continued the business alone, and after developing the retail trade established a wholesale department. In 1897 he removed his headquarters to his present location at 403 Kansas Avenue. He had been in business at Kansas City, Kansas, for a great many years. In that time he had survived strikes and floods and other vicissitudes, and while occasionally he had felt the pinch of financial trouble, his success on the whole had been ample and most gratifying. He had a business known all over this section of Kansas, and had also acquired some modest holdings in bank stocks.
His prosperity had not been entirely for his personal gratification and use, but had been used to promote the general welfare of his city. He had worked for good schools, for good roads and anything that could with reason and consistency be advocated as a public benefit. He is a democrat, but his only public office is the one he now enjoys. Mr. Broll is affiliated with the Modern Woodmen of America, the Fraternal Aid Union and the Knights of Columbus, and both he and his wife are active in the Catholic Church.
Mr. Broll was first appointed to the Kaw Valley Drainage Board to fill the unexpired term of W. H. Daniels, deceased, in 1913. In 1914 he was elected for the regular three-year term, and was re-elected on March 6, 1917, receiving the highest number of the vote cast at that election among the seventeen candidates for the board. This election is peculiar in one sense, that the voters are restricted to tax payers in the district. Mr. Broll was vice president and secretary of the board for three years, and had been elected president of the board for his present term. This board originally had five members but now only three. The Kaw Valley Drainage District had accomplished a great deal of thoroughly practical and beneficial improvements. It had dredged, deepened and widened the channel of the Kaw River partly for general drainage purposes and also to provide protection against possible floods. The district had been bonded for $1,500,000 to carry out needed improvements, and it is obvious even to those unacquainted with the locality that the responsibilities of Mr. Broll’s office are exceedingly important.
On April 19, 1892, Mr. Broll was happily married to Bridget A. Handrahan. Mrs. Broll was born in Kansas City, Kansas, along the bottoms of the river in the original city. She is a daughter of Michael and Johanna Handrahan, her father a railroad man. To their marriage have been born six children: Agnes J., Eugene, Peter J., Jr., Theodosia Irene, Michael Leonard and Anna Margaret. Mr. Broll had spent his happiest hours at his home and among his children, and much of his work had been inspired by an ambition to give them the best of advantages both at home and in school.