Biography of Bernard Flesher
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Bernard Flesher died at Leavenworth, April 12, 1909. He had been a resident of that city over half a century. In that time he became one of the best known men of Eastern Kansas. His reputation was based not only upon a remarkable business success as a merchant, but also upon his many acts of public spirited citizenship. Although of foreign birth he was in every sense a loyal American, a lover of American institutions, and of the greatness and power of the new world. He was a credit to his city and state. The amassing of wealth was only an incident in his career. He loved work for work’s sake, and was impelled by a genius for business and constructive enterprise which made him consider mere money making as one of the lesser aims of life. He was surpassed by none in liberality. He gave generously to charity and no worthy object ever solicited his support in vain.
When he came to Kansas in 1856 he was a most unusual character among the early settlers. He was finely educated, had a cultured mind, was in close touch with the great things in literature and art, and could converse as an equal with some of the most polished minds of the age and yet he voluntarily chose to live in the rude frontier conditions that prevailed in Kansas sixty years ago.
Bernard Flesher was born in Klautau, Bohemia, Austria, January 1, 1831, being one of nine children. His parents were M. and Julia (Klein) Flesher. His father was a purveyor of supplies to the Austrian army, was a very successful business man and became wealthy. Bernard Flesher lived in Austria until he was sixteen years of age. He grew up in an atmosphere of culture and refinement, and had a precocious intellect, so that at the age of sixteen he had completed a four years’ collegiate course in Prague. Though for many years he lived in a community practically isolated from the world of art and culture, he always retained his scholarly interests. He could read and write several languages, and in social circles at Leavenworth he was in great demand as an essayist and as an after dinner speaker. He was a true gentleman, courteous and considerate, and anyone was proud to call him a friend.
In 1848 Mr. Flesher came to America, partly to visit the New York and also with a possibility in mind of locating here if conditions proved agreeable. Going to St. Louis, he spent some time in that city, and at first his mind was made up to become a sculptor. He was provided with abundant means, and had both the money and the leisure as well as the talents for following the fine arts. However, he was persuaded to embark in the wholesale grocery business. Later he was a clerk in a dry goods house at St. Louis.
In 1856 Mr. Flesher came to Kansas. It was Kansas Territory at that time, and only a fringe of settlement had intruded into the eastern counties. He made the journey by Missouri River steamboat to Kansas City and from there came in a wagon drawn by mule teams to Leavenworth. Leavenworth was not only a frontier village, but a place of remarkable business energy. Vast quantities of merchandise brought up the river on steamboats were landed and transhipped to Leavenworth merchants, and much of it was carried in strongly guarded wagon trains across the plains to Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and other western points. Mr. Flesher had not been long in Leavenworth before he returned to St. Louis and arranged a line of credit which enabled him to take an individual share in the business destiny of the frontier city. He established a general dry goods store, starting with a small stock, but it was the beginning of one of the largest establishments developed at Leavenworth. Mr. Flesher was prospered as a merchant. He possessed a keen mind for business and at the same time he was an indefatigable worker. He was so constituted that he could never rest content with moderate achievements. His success as a merchant is well known to all and his many friends often asserted that he would have been equally successful had he become a doctor, a lawyer or a manufacturer.
In 1857 Mr. Flesher returned to St. Louis and on the 9th of October was married to Miss Rose Wise. Their honeymoon was passed on a Missouri River steamboat journeying to their future home in Leavenworth. Mr. Flesher early became a member of the Masonic Order and he exemplified the doctrines of Masonry and was a Mason both in spirit as well as in name. His long life in this community was without blemish and he is one of the men whose names are recalled and cherished in the city which he so long adorned.