Biography of Arthur H. Bennett
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Arthur H. Bennett. Few men have contributed more practical encouragement to grain and stock raisers in Kansas than has Arthur H. Bennett, of Topeka, president of the Bennett Commission Company, whose business has been one of the chief commercial factors in its line in the city during the past decade. He was born May 9, 1869, on what was known as the “Old Thompson Farm,” located near Marengo, McHenry County, Illinois, the only son of Fayette Henry and Mary Eliza (Merriman) Bennett.
The Bennett family is of Puritan stock, the progenitors of the family having come to America on the Mayflower. Fayette Henry Bennett was born July 4, 1838, in Chautauqua County, New York, the eldest son of Ashley C. and Charlotte S. (Wheeler) Bennett, grandson of Zebulon and Sarah (Cooper) Bennett and great-grandson of Zebulon Bennett. Fayette H. Bennett served for a time as a soldier in the Civil war, being a member of Company A, Ninety-fifth Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and at the close of the war returned to Illinois and resumed his agricultural operations. He remained in that state until 1878, when he removed with his family to Kansas, settling at Clifton, Clay County, but in his declining years took up his residence at Topeka, where his death occurred July 12, 1910. Mr. Bennett was a devout Methodist in religion, and a strong temperance man, being active in the movements which eventuated in making Kansas a prohibition state. His religion was a part of his nature, inherited, no doubt, from his Puritan forbears. Prior to his death he had, at his own expense, supported a native missionary in China. In business circles he was known as a man of the highest integrity, in private life his every action was characterized by the strictest probity, and as a citizen he was foremost in promoting good movements for the betterment of education, religion and civic affairs.
Arthur H. Bennett was nine years of age when he accompanied his parents to Clifton, Kansas, and there he attended the public schools until 1886. In the latter year, and the year 1887, he was a student at Lawrence College, and in 1888 he began his business career in the employ of Isaac H. French, a grain merchant of Clay Center, Kansas. Here he received his introduction to the business in which he has since spent his activities. After several years at Clay Center, Mr. Bennett went with Mr. French to Kansas City, Missouri, to work in the grain exchange located in that city. While living there Mr. Bennett was married, July 15, 1891, to Miss Allicia Sophia McIlravy, of Lawrence, Kansas, a daughter of John William and Sophia (Van Buskirk) McIlravy and their first home was at No. 27 East Thirty-second Street, Kansas City. In 1892 they moved to Clay Center, Kansas, and in the scene of his earliest activities Mr. Bennett embarked in business with a partner. This venture, although started modestly, was progressing well and promised to grow into a prosperous enterprise, but just at a time when its prospects seemed brightest the panic came on, and this was followed by the dishonesty of a trusted friend. The double blow swept away all of Mr. Bennett’s savings, for he had invested his entire capital in the business, and he awoke not only to find himself bankrupt, but several thousand dollars in debt. Such a discouragement would have disheartened a less persevering man, but he possessed the qualities that do not admit of defeat, and he at once set about to recuperate his lost fortunes. For several years following he was again employed in the Grain Exchange of Kansas City, working energetically to clear off his indebtedness. His fidelity, energy and evident ability soon gained their reward, for he was placed in charge of the domestic business of the Greenleaf-Baker Grain Company, a large concern of Atchison, Kansas, in which city his first son was born: Arthur Harry, May 23, 1897. In 1898 Mr. Bennett came to Topeka, where his experience and abilities had gained him an important position with the Capital Elevator, of which, in 1900, he became the owner of a one-third interest. He subsequently disposed of his holding advantageously, and immediately thereafter founded the business of which he is now the head, the Bennett Commission Company, which deals almost exclusively in the now famous “Kansas Turkey” wheat, which has gained a reputation all over the country.
Mr. Bennett is a firm believer in organization, and for many years has been an active and official member of the Kansas Grain Dealers’ Association and the National Grain Dealers’ Associations. He stands high in the trade, and has been repeatedly honored by his associates, having served as a director in the national organization and as president and vice president of the state body. He is also keenly alive to the value of improvement along the line of live stock conditions in Kansas, and is himself a breeder of pure-bred horses, cattle, sheep and hogs. In this connection he is a leading and active member of the Duroc-Jersey Association, the American Shropshire Association, the Kansas Pure-Bred Horse Breeders’ Association and the Kansas Improved Live Stock Breeders’ Association.
For many years Mr. Bennett has been greatly interested in historical and genealogical research, and is a life member of the Kansas State Historical Society and a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, nine of his ancestors having served the American colonies in their struggle for independence from the rule of Great Britain. His ancestors came to America in the Mayflower and by virtue of this fact Mr. Bennett organized the Kansas Society Mayflower Descendants, of which society for several years he held the office of governor. In his religious belief he is a Methodist and has taken an active part in church movements. Their younger son, Fayette Ashley, was born at Topeka, March 14, 1900.