Hon. George Storch was one of the notable and influential figures during the first and second decades of the history of Atchison County. The life of such a man deserves the memory of succeeding generations because it exemplified the dignity of honest labor and was fruitful in all those resources which contribute to the substantial character of a community. He came to Kansas when the state was in its infancy of development and was a pioneer merchant of old Kennekuk, becoming in time a merchant, banker, etatesman and altogether one of the most useful citizens Atchison County ever had. He was not only a pioneer but a pioneer with a vision which enabled him to see far ahead into the future. This vision, coupled with a faith in the eventual prosperity of Kansas, led him to invest heavily in farm lands and those investments gave him position among the wealthy citizens of Kansas long before his death. For nearly half a century Mr. Storch was closely identified with the financial and civic life of Atchison County and twies represented the county in the halls of the State Legislature, each time acquitting himself with credit and honor.
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His birth occurred near Poppenhausen, Bavaria, Germany, February 22, 1835. His parents were Thomas and Margaret (Breitung) Storch. His father, a farmer and linen dealer, was according to the standards of the time quite well to do. The son grew up in his native land, and acquired a good common school education. At the age of seventeen he determined to seek his fortune in America. Embarking on a sailing vessel, he landed at New Orleans and from that southern city made his way by river steamer up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to Herman, Missouri. He arrived in Missouri in the early ’50s. Kansas Territory was then just coming into prominence, through the promoted emigration which eventually made it a scene of struggle between the free state and pro-slavery factions and inaugurated the struggle which culminated in the great Civil war. A brother had already engaged in farming in that neighborhood and assisted George in securing employment as a farm hand nearby. For some years he labored on farms in that section of Missouri and in April, 1859, he removed to Atchison, the old headquarters of the pro-slavery party in Kansas.
At that time Atchison did not have many opportunities to attract the residence of an ambitious young man. Mr. Storch, therefore, went to Kennekuk in the north central part of the county. Kennekuk was then in the hey-day of its prosperity and seemed to promise more than Atchison., Here George Storch opened a general merchandise store with such capital as he had accumulated from work as a farm hand in Missouri. Success attended his efforts from the start. His judgment in selecting Kennekuk as a business location proved correct. Kennekuk was at that time prosperous and thriving as a village, being located on the overland mail and emigrant route. The Storch store made money for its owner and enabled him in a few years to branch out and invest in land and become a banker. His faith in his adopted state was justified by buying up large tracts of land which for half a century have continued to increase in value. About that time the Government was granting railway companies large tracts of land along the rights of way as a bonus for the construction of lines of steel across the West. The railway companies put these tracts on sale at low prices and easy terms for the purpose of inducing settlers to come in and develop the land tributary to the rail-roads. Mr. Storch accepted the opportunities thus presented and in time became owner of many thousands of acres.
Kennekuk had its day and the time came when the decline of the village was inevitable, owing to the building of the Central Branch Railway out of Atchison and to some distance southward of Kennekuk. With his usual foresight Mr. Storch recognized and accepted the inevitable, when the former flourishing inland village would practically cease to exist. Therefore in 1867 he removed to Atchison and managed his large farming interests from that city.
On going to Atchison Mr. Storch took an active part in the financial affairs of the city. In 1873 he organized the German Savings Bank. For many years this was one of the strong financial institutions of the city. He was also identified with the first bank established at Muscotah, Kansas. Besides banking he became prominent as a real estate and farm loan factor, organizing the Eastern Kansas Land and Loan Company, a business which is still prospering and of which his daughter Mrs. Louise J. Lips is president. Mr. Storch was president of the bank until its stock was purchased by the United States National Bank, and he continued as president of that new institution until it passed out of existence. His active work as a banker covered a period of eighteen years.
In 1859 Mr. Storch married Miss Elizabeth Fox, daughter of John and Elizabeth Fox, who removed from Evansville, Indiana, where Mrs. Storch was born, to Carroll County, Missouri, locating on a farm. Mr. Storch and wife had two children. The son George H. is remembered as one of the bright, intelligent and capable citizens of Atchison, long associated with his father in business. He died in July, 1911. The daughter, Louise Justine, is the widow of Oscar Lips.
Mrs. George Storch died in February, 1905. Almost three years later she was followed by her husband, who departed this life in January, 1908.
Oscar Lips and Louise Justine Storch were married in 1891. Their union was blessed with a son, Charles, born in October, 1896. Charles Lips acquired his primary education in the public schools of Atchison, afterwards attended the Military. Academy at Culver, Indiana, and is now taking his collegiate course in the University of Kansas at Lawrence. The late Osear Lips was born at St. Louis, Missouri, a son of Dr. Charles A. Lips, who was of German descent and for years a practicing physician in St. Louis. Oscar was reared and educated in his native city and when a young man was engaged in the wholesale drug business for a number of years. Later he moved to Atchison, where he died in August, 1905.
The many business activities that engaged Mr. George Storch were only one side of his career. He went into politics for the opportunity it afforded him to render service to his community. In partisanship he was a republican and for many years a recognized leader in that party in Kansas. Not long after establishing himself in businoss at Kennekuk he became postmaster of the town. He assisted in establishing the first union school in the village, serving as member of the board of edueation in charge of this school. The Horton Headlight had the following historical account of this school in an issue of August, 1905. In part this article reads as follows: “The old stone schoolhouse was not the first schoolhouse in the Kennekuk neighborhood, but it was the first substantial one in this part of the country and it marks an important epoch in its educational development. It was built in 1867. It was a joint district, eight miles north and south. The west line was the road between Atchison and Jackson counties. A strip of country two miles wide and eight miles long in Atchison county and a corresponding strip of country just over the line in Brown county. The schoolhouse was quite a structure to be builded in that early day, but the settlers did not complain of the high taxes, since their children thus had a good place to attend school. It coat about three thousand dollars, a good sized sum of money for early settlers to expend, but it shows their determination to provide an education for their children. The first school board was composed of George Storch, Squire Willis and Henry Claunch.”
The cause of education was always close to the heart of Mr. Storch. After his removal to the City of Atchison he served as a member of the board of education, being president for some time. While a resident of Kennekuk he was elected to represent Atchison County in the Kansas Legislature in 1864. Kansas had been admitted to the Union only three years before, and the opportunity thus came to him to impress his ability upon the state government in its formative period. During the next session he voted for Gen. James H. Lane for United States senator and also gave his vote to ratify the fourteenth amendment to the national constitution, an amendment which is today one of the most vital factors in our social and economic legislation. In 1876 Mr. Storch was elected a member of the Legislature from the City of Atchison. During the following session he was a member of the Ways and Means Committee, and voted for Preston B. Plumb for United States senator. Mr. Storch made an excellent record as an able and honest legislator, one who had the best interests of the state at heart.
He was also active in civic affairs at Atchison, serving as a member of the City Council and for one year as its president, but declining re-election when his term of office expired. The following tribute to his ability as a city father appeared in the Atchison Champion of April 6, 1873: “One of the best councilmen our city had ever had leaves that body after two years’ service in it. We refer to Hon. George Storch, chairman of the committee on improvements. He had been industrions, independent and energetic. Having the chairmanship of the most important and laborions committes, he had given his time and attention to the discharge of the duties devolving upon him, and in the decision and all questions in the council he had exhibited a clearness of judgment and a carefulness in guarding the interests of the city that entitles him to general commendation. He declined re-election.”
For three years he was city treasurer and exhibited the same judgment and careful management in the fiscal affairs which had marked the performance of his official duties as a councilman and trustee. It is worthy of record that in 1865, while in Kennekuk, he was elected a member of the board of county commissioners and served as chairman of that body.
Few pioneer citizens of Atchison lived a more useful or busier life than George Storch. His name figures prominently in the historical annals of Atchison County as a builder and a creator and an honorable and upright citizen who left behind him a record that can be read for good and a name of which his descendants may well be proud. While opportunities for achieving fortune and fame may not be as great at this day as they were in George Storch’s time and era, the story of this poor German immigrant boy who made his own way from poverty to affluence and to an honored place in the history of his adopted country and state is well worth telling and retelling as an inspiration and guide to others of the present and rising generations.