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Cornelius Enns founded an important industry in McPherson County and at his death left behind him a highly successful enterprise and the memory of an industrious, upright and thoroughly capable citizen.
To no one class of people does Kansas owe more than to the Mennonites who came out of Southern Russia and applied their experience and methodical industry to the magnificent wheat fields of the Sunflower state. Cornelius Enns was a representative of that class of people. He was born in the Village of Landskrone, Taurida, in Southern Russia in 1839. His death occurred at Inman, Kansas, June 1, 1904, aged sixty-five years, seven months, eleven days. Both his father and grandfather were of German nationality and were pioneers in that section of Southern Russia and were among the most important men of the Village of Landskrone. The father for many years operated an old fashioned tread mill at Landskrone.
The late Cornelius Enns learned the business of milling in his father’s establishment and soon became a competent miller. At the age of twenty-two he married and bought a windmill in the neighboring town of Gnadenfeld. A storm overturned the first mill, but he built it up better and stronger than before and in a more favorable situation. He soon acquired the full lot and interest of a villager and on being given the right of a voter became an important influence in the village meetings and was elected assistant mayor a number of terms. His activity in political matters made him the favorite delegate of his village ward to the volost or circuit meetings, in which about twenty-five villages were represented. At one time his friends almost succeeded in electing him volost mayor over the conservative candidate.
In many ways he was pleasantly situated in Russia, had made friends, was making a living from his business, but like many other people of his class he was opposed to the system of compulsory military service and service in the government forests which were required by the Russian government. In order to save his six sons from such duty he determined to seek a home in the free, democratic land of America. His brother Dietrich had preceded him and had located in Kansas in 1874.
In 1879 Mr. Enns and his wife and children came to this country by way of Antwerp and Philadelphia, and arrived in Burton, Kansas, in July, 1879. When he arrived in Kansas he had scarcely any capital. He bought land a mile north of Inman in McPherson County, paying $10 an acre for the quarter section of raw and undeveloped soil. He bought the place on credit, but his patient industry soon enabled him to succeed better in this section, one of the largest and most prosperous wheat growing districts of Kansas, than many who had lived here longer and had become thoroughly acquainted with Kansas soil and climate. His quarter section was expanded into a large farm, and on it he followed diversified farming and also became a feeder and shipper of cattle on a large scale.
Mr. Enns was a wheat grower in Kansas, and for a number of years he had no active conection with the milling business which he had learned and followed as a younger man. When the Village of Inman was founded a small mill was established there, but it had a capacity of only fifty barrels per day and was largely a custom milling and feed establishment. Finally Mr. Enns and his son Abraham bought this mill and under his competent management it rapidly increased in output and efficiency and since his death, under the management of his two sons, D. C. and John F. Enns, it had become an institution with a capacity for 400 barrels per day and a plant with the most modern machinery and facilities capable of producing the highest grades of flour. The Enns mill at Inman was a substantial structure of brick and steel, four stories in height, is the principal industry at Inman, and converts many thousands of bushels of grain grown in that district into the staple products of flour and other foodstuffs. For years the mill had been operated by men of thorough experience in the milling industry and when the late Mr. Enns died his prominence was such as to bring forth extensive notices in the various milling journals, including an article in the Weekly Northwestern Miller, from which part of the data contained in this sketch had been obtained.
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About two years before his death Mr. Enns suffered a stroke of apoplexy, and the active management of the business was then turned over to his sons, Dietrich C. and John F. His former business associate and his son Abraham had died in 1901. Cornelius Enns became a member of the Mennonite Church in Russia and continued in that faith throughout his life.
He was married in Southern Russia December 7, 1861, to Miss Elizabeth Martens, who was born in Russia February 22, 1843, daughter of Abraham and Aganetha (Thiesen) Martens, also natives of Russia. A brief record of the children of Mr. and Mrs. Enns is as follows: Cornelius Martens, born December 2, 1862; Abraham, born July 29, 1864, and died October 20, 1864; Abraham C., born December 12, 1865, and died March 6, 1901; Herman, born October 5, 1867; Henry Thiesen, born October 20, 1869; Elizabeth, born December 21, 1871, died March 6, 1875; Aganetha, born March 14, 1874, died December 2, 1878; Dietrich C., born March 31, 1876; John F., born September 8, 1878; Helen, born March 23, 1881, died March 29, 1881; Jacob H., born April 6, 1882; Paul Gerhard, born January 24, 1885; Edward, born January 19, 1887, died January 28, 1887; and Nicolai, born February 6, 1890.