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Roswell L. Cofran, a prominent Topeka business man and former mayor of the city, has the faculty of growing old gracefully, and is still vigorous and useful though past the age of three score and ten. His has been a long and varied career. He served as a soldier in the Civil war. For forty years he has been proprietor of one of the largest foundries and machine shops in the State of Kansas, and is still active in attending to his business affairs.
Born in the Green Mountain State of Vermont at Wheelock, Caledonia County, February 3, 1842, he is a son of John and Nancy (Hoyt) Cofran, both of whom spent all their lives in the same state. His mother died in 1879 and his father in 1889.
With his early education supplied by the grade schools of Wheelock, Roswell L. Cofran also attended the Orleans Academy in Orleans County, and then followed farming until September, 1861. He was then a youth of nineteen, and enlisted at Wheelock in Company E of the Sixth Vermont Infantry as a private soldier. He was later promoted to corporal, and was in service continually until February, 1863, when he was mustered out at Fort Hamilton, New York. He took part in the Peninsula campaign under General McClellan and manfully did his part in helping to preserve the Union.
After the war Mr. Cofran learned the trade of founder and machinist and followed it as a journeyman for a number of years. His home has been in Topeka since July, 1870. He was employed in the Topeka Foundry and Machine Works until 1876, at which time the business was reorganized as the Western Foundry and Machine Works, and he soon became its owner and proprietor. He has operated that plant now for fully forty years. The company does all kinds of machine and foundry work and turns out all classes of brass, bronze and aluminum castings. The plant is located at 201 Jefferson Street. It is one of the important industrial establishments of the Capital City.
To a great many people the name of Roswell L. Cofran suggests a vigorous and effective municipal policy in Topeka. He has had much to do in making Topeka municipally a first class city. He was a member of the city council and while still a member was elected mayor on the democratic ticket in 1885. He served one term from 1885 to 1887, and in 1889 was again elected for another two-year term. He was re-elected in 1891 and nearly twenty years later, in 1913, was elected for his fourth term as mayor, this time as an independent or people’s candidate, serving from 1913 to 1915. Thus his administrations as mayor covered portions of three decades of growth and development. When he was first elected mayor Topeka had a great many wooden sidewalks. These he had replaced by brick and that improvement indicates what he stood for in the way of general municipal improvement. He has always sought, whether as an official or a private citizen, to make Topeka a metropolitan city worthy to be the capital of the great State of Kansas.
On March 5, 1882, at Topeka, he married Caroline Fritsche, who was born in Chicago, Illinois, a daughter of Frederick Fritsche, a native of Germany. To their marriage have been born three children: Grace, born at Topeka, is the wife of Eli Bishoff, a grocer at Kansas City, Missouri; Maud, born at Topeka, is the wife of Clyde Lutz, a traveling salesman with his home at Des Moines, Iowa; Roswell L., Jr., was born at Topeka and is still at home.
Mr. Cofran is a Scottish and York Rite Mason, affiliating with Orient Lodge No. 51, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, at Topeka; the Royal Arch Chapter; the Commandery No. 5 of the Knights Templar; with Abdallah Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Leavenworth; and is also a member of Shawnee Lodge No. 1 and Shawnee Encampment of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and of Lodge No. 38 of the Knights of Pythias. He and his family attend the Congregational Church. They all reside in a fine old home at 1263 Topeka Avenue.