Biography of Ebenezer F. Porter, Hon.
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For nearly a quarter of a century the Hon. Ebenezer F. Porter, State Senator from the Ninth Senatorial District, had been one of the powers and potential forces in business and in politics, in material progress and in educational affairs in that seetion of the state. He had, from an early age, borne a large share of his father’s as well as his own responsibilities in business affairs and had been forced to deal with matters of far more than ordinary importance. Notwithstanding the extent and seape of his activities, it may be said without fear of contradiction that he had never failed in any of his enterprises. He had gained among his associates the reputation of going straight to the mark in any enterprise with which he is identified, and with a definite goal for his efforts had not failed to securing whatever he went after. While he had been connected with a number of large interests during his career, yet he had never allowed himself to be so concerned with them that they receive his attention to the neglect of any detail of his other interests. His friends have said of him that everything he does is thoughtfully planned out beforehand, and with his foundation thus well built, his business structures invariably rise to a suceessful completion. Aside from pure business matters, his intense energy and trained mind have carried him into other fields of usefulness, and the entire State of Kansas will always regard him as the real founder of the department of industrial education which is destined to exert a powerful influence on the life and industries of the twentieth century.
Ebenezer F. Porter was born at New Salem, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, July 14, 1859, and is a son of Hon. John T. and Phoebe (Fenley) Porter, natives of New Salem, also. His father was a farmer at that place, but about the year 1860 removed to Illinois and sixteen years later to Iowa, where he resided until 1881. In that year he went to Alabama and lived at Brewton and Montgomery, being one of the pioneer saw-mill men of the South. In 1888 he removed to Florida, where he founded the town of Grand Ridge, and there engaged in the manufacture of turpentine and rosin in connection with the lumber business, and had since resided there. During the first administration of President Cleveland, Mr. Porter was appointed United States Commissioner for the District of Western Florida, and held that position until 1909, when he resigned becanse of his age and ill health.
Senator Porter, whose name heads this review, was educated in the public schools of Illinois and Iowa, and after reaching his majority engaged in the lumber business at Hepburn, Iowa, where he established the first yellow pine lumber yard in that state. He was also engaged in the grain business there and laid the foundation for a long and successful business career. He remained in Iowa until the year 1885, at which time he disposed of his business interests there and came to Kansas, engaging in the lumber business at Wakeeney as managing proprietor (associated with S. B. Barnes) of the Wakeeney Lumber Company. In 1888 he sold his interest in that yard and business, but remained at Wakeeney until 1890, when he located at Pittsburg, the scene of his present home and his activities.
Since 1885 Senator Porter had been interested in Florida timber property and still devoted a great deal of his time looking after his vast interests there, his possessions covcring some of the most extensive groups of standing timber in the State. This is now being developed, and the cut-over land is utilized for great sugar-cane plantations, and for the most advanced agrieultural developments, which attract settlers from all over the country are leading to the section’s rapid colonization. In 1893 Senator Porter became anditor of the Carey-Lombard Lumber Company, and later secretary and treasurer of that company, from which he retired in 1910 to enter into the wholesale oxport lumber business in the South. The extent of his operations is shown in the fact that today he is recognized as one of the largest timber merchants and exporters in the entire South.
In 1900 Senator Porter was elected to the office of State Senator from Crawford County, Kansas, on the republican ticket, and had served in that capacity ever since, his present and fourth term of office expiring with the convening of the 1917 session. During this long period Senator Porter had been extremely active and influential in securing beneflcial legislation. He was instrumental in the initiative work of providing for manual training in the public schools of Pittsburg, which was established through a resolution and motion introduced by him, and upon his recommendstion as chairman of special committee to pass upon its merits, and was subsequently the founder, father, and introducer of the bill establishing the State Manual Training Normal School at Pittsburg, which carried with it an appropriation of $18,000.00. As a result of this legislation and indefatigable efforts, he is known as the founder of that school. Following the passage of this bill, the State in 1905, appropriated $35,000.00 for maintenance and $10,000.00 for the purchase of suitable grounds for the institution, and Senator Porter introduced the measure and followed to a successful finish the securing of the appropriation of $100,000.00 for the building, which was completed in 1908. The following resolution in this connection speaks for itself: “Whereas, Our honored fellow Senator, E. F. Porter, had been for sixteen years a member of this body, and during all these years had been a consistent and able friend of all the educational interests of this state; and, Wherees, Senator Porter is entitled to first honors for the inauguration of manual training in Kansas, and particularly as founder and friend of the State Manual Training School at Pittsburg, Kansas, has endeared himself to the people of the State, and especially to the members of this body; and, Whereas, Senator Porter’s long and efficient service in behalf of all the state schools, and especially in behalf of his pet child, the State Manual Training School of Pittsburg, Kansas, his home city, is deserving of special and permanent reeognition. Therefore, be it Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate of Kansas that this permanent recognition should be accorded Senator Porter in the naming of a building in his honor at the State Manual Training School, to be known as Porter Hall, this inseription to be in some enduring form and in some prominent place of the building to be decided by the Board of Administration.” The resolution was unanimously adopted.
Senator Porter had retained the chairmanship of the Committee of Mines and Mining during the entire sixteen years of his ineumbency, and had given to the mining industry the mining legislation that is universally commended as being eminently fair to both capital and labor. He had served also on the Ways and Means, Railroad, Labor, Educational, State Affairs and Cities of First and Second Class committees.
Fraternally, Senator Porter belongs to Pittsburg Lodge No. 187, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons; Pittsburg Chapter No. 58, Royal Arch Masons, and Pittsburg Commandery No. 29, Knights Templar; the Knights and Ladies of Security; the Fraternal Aid Society; the United Commercial Travelers; Pittsburg Lodge No. 412 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and the Anti-Horse Thief Association. He had served on the school board of Pittsburg four years, was the first secretary of the Pittsburg Library Association and remained on the said board for sixteen years, during which time he founded negotiations which resulted in the securing of the present fine Carnegle Library. He was also among the earnest founders of the present Young Men’s Christian Association, and with other local enthusiasts began and completed the whirlwind campaign which resulted in raising the funds to build the present beautiful home of the association at Pittsburg. He gave not only his time but a large donation for this edifice.
Senator Porter carries the distinction of knowing probably more men and a greater number of towns and villages in the great Stats of Kansas than any other one Kansan. He had the enviable fasulty of reaching men in either a business or political way more quiekly perhaps than any other man, and his wide range of acquaintances had made him invaluable in securing legislation for the interest of his constituents. This faculty he had nover employed except for good purposes. He always memorizes bills, not only his own but those of other legislators, so that he had always been in a position to pass quick judgment apon all measures, whether to favor or to object in the most vigorous manner. His indefatigable industry and great clarity of vision have made him successful both in business and in working in the interest of others, and he stands forth a man deservedly in the good graces of Kansas and her people. He had likewise been always an untiring supporter of the industrial and business interests of his own district and a first-degree booster for his home city of Pittsburg, Kansas.
At the loss occasioned by the burning of the Administration Building of the State Manual Training Normal School at Pittsburg, Senator Porter called together the leading people of the city, and in order to not be compelled to wait until such time as the legislature could convene, raised $104,000.00, of which he himself and sons donated $3,000.00, which funds were placed at the disposal of the State Board of Control. The total amount finally invested in the construetion of the building to replace the Administration. Building amounted to $189,000.00, and this amount was promptly returned to the citizens of Pittsburg when the legislature convened.
The Senator’s residence is situated in the westera portion of the city, on Kansas Avenue, and is one of the largest and most modern homes in the Stats, the internal decoration being of the finest, and the exterior being a model. of attractive modern architeeture. The grounds are beautiful in themselves and attractively kept. It is an ideal home and is open continuously to the young men and women of the city and especially to the students of the State Manual Training Normal School, who almost constantly form parties to spend the afternoon or evening in enjoying the hospitality of the Senator and his family. The Senator’s farms are located adjacent to the city of Pittsburg, are very highly improved, and upon them he is raising the highest typos of dairy and beef products, specializing in the Black Polled Angus, Jerseys, Holsteins, and also in Percheron horses.
Senator Porter was united in marriage February 23, 1882, with Miss Anna I. Berry of Clarinda, Iowa, a daughter of William B. and Elmina (Bennett) Berry. She was born April 26, 1860, at Columbus, Iowa, of Quaker descent, and is a graduate of the high school at Clarinda, To her assistance, advice and counsel, the Senator cheerfully accords a large measure of his success. She is eminently fitted to discharge the duties, both socially and in civic affairs, which the position of her husband necessitates, and belongs to the Monday Club, the Tuesday Extension Club, and the First Presbyterian Church, in which she is one of the foremost figures. A woman of exceptional executive ability, she is always in the front rank, working for a better and greater Pittsburg, and her charities are disbursed without regard to political or religious affiliations. Three childron have been born to Senator and Mrs. Porter: Lillian, who died aged eleven months; Harry Huston, born June 21, 1889; and Harold Berry, born November 3, 1891.
The Senator’s two sons are exceptional boys reared by exceptional parents. From early boyhood they have been counselled and advised in all business matters, and they have had to share the responsibilities incident thereto, the financial as well as the most perplexing details, in all of which their suggestions were diseussed and reasoned as if they were the principals. Their access to the bank account was without restriction, and their use thereof was only such as absolutely necessary. Harry Huston Porter graduated from Washburn College with the degree of Bachelor of Arts, following which he took one year in law at the same institution, and in 1913 graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Law from Yale University. He is practicing law at Pittsburg, and is vice president of the National Securities Company, in addition to which he had other extensive financial interests, and is associated with his father at the Pittsburg office. He married Miss Hazel Carlyle, daughter of William Carlyle, a prominent lumber merchant of Atchison, Kansas. Harold Berry Porter secured his education in the State Manual Training Normal School, Pittsburg, Kansas; the Prenaratory School at Lawrencsville, New Jersey, and Washburn College, Topeka, Kansas, from which last-named institution he was graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Laws in 1914. He is secretary of the National Securities Company, and general manager of his father’s interests in the timber business at Holt, Florida. He married Miss Elsie Banta, whose parents reside in Pittsburg, Kansas, in December, 1915, and they now make their home at Holt, Florida.
The members of the Porter family all belong to the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburg, Kansas.