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Henry Ford Harbaugh. Even today the great State of Kansas is looked upon as a land of opportunities and a good place for the young man to settle and provide for the future. This is even more true thirty or forty years ago, though it required perhaps a stronger element of individual initiative, courage and ability to endure hardships with patience and fortitude.
It was as a young man looking for a permanent home and a country where his energies and talents would be given the freest exercise that Henry Ford Harbaugh arrived in Kansas in 1878. An uncle was living on a farm near Wellington, and that town was his first choice of destination. He came by railroad as far as Newton, and then by horse and wagon drove over a large part of the western and central portion of the state, and from Wichita arrived in Wellington by stage. He was evidently satisfied, because soon after he reached Wellington he bought 160 acres of land, and started with characteristic vigor to farm it and raise stock. He broke much of that land with horse and ox teams, and his first wheat crop was cut with a cradle. He lived simply and frugally, and adapted himself to the hard conditions which surrounded the early Kansas farmers of thirty or forty years ago. For two years after he came to this state he taught school a part of each year. With that quarter section as a nucleus Mr. Harbaugh has continued to show his faith in Kansas farm land by investing his surplus until he now owns 1,000 acres in Sumner County and also 300 acres in the State of Missouri.
This record of achievement by no means sums up what he has done during the thirty-eight years of his residence in Kansas. In 1888 the Southern Kansas Mutual Insurance Company was organized, and although he was not present at the meeting Mr. Harbaugh was elected one of its first directors. The following year he was chosen treasurer, and filled that office until 1911, when he was elected president, an office he still holds. The general offices of this company are at Wellington, where Mr. Harbaugh has lived since retiring from the farm in 1914. Mr. Harbaugh stood by the Southern Kansas Mutual through all its ups and downs in the early years, and his associates credit him with much of the success of this company. In 1903 he took the leading part in organizing the Farmers Mutual Telephone Company, and that company now has about three thousand telephones in operation. He has been its president from the time of its organization. He is vice president of the National Bank of Commerce of Wellington, of which he was one of the organizers.
It was only natural that a business man of such standing should be chosen to represent his home people in the State Legislature. He was elected in 1897 on the populist ticket, though his politics is now republican. In 1899 he was father of a bill in the Legislature granting the legal right for hail insurance companies to do business in Kansas. It was as a result of that measure that the Kansas State Mutual Hail Association was organized in 1899. This subsequently has been known as the McPherson Hail Insurance Company. For several years Mr. Harbaugh served as adjuster for the company, then was elected treasurer, and in 1912 was chosen president. He is thus the chief executive in several of Kansas’ most substantial insurance organizations.
In 1907 he was again returned to the Legislature, this time on the republican ticket. In that session he was author of several good bills, including one to allow townships to own and operate cemeteries, and also the bill to allow mutual insurance companies to insure schools and churches without paying foreign companies revenue. It should be stated that the McPherson Hail Company is the largest company of its kind in the state and the second largest mutual company. Mr. Harbaugh is vice president of the State Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, and is one of the best informed men in the state on the subject of insurance generally. He was one of the charter members of the Bank of Commerce of Wellington, in which his son is now assistant cashier.
Having considered some of the achievements by which Mr. Harbaugh has become prominent in business and civic affairs in Kansas, something should be said of his personal and family history. He was born at Trenton in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, August 1, 1849, the oldest of the eleven children of Eli and Catherine (Engle) Harbaugh. His mother was a native of Germany, and his father of Ohio. There were four Harbaugh brothers who came out of Germany in the early days and settled in the northern part of the State of Maryland, and subsequently all were soldiers in the War of 1812. From Maryland they went into the State of Ohio and became pioneers there. Eli Harbaugh was a cabinet maker by trade, having learned that occupation from his father. In 1852 Eli Harbaugh went as a pioneer to the State of Iowa, locating in Washington County, where he took up a claim, and his family joined him there in the next year. They made the journey by river as far as Keokuk, and thence overland to Washington County. The family lived in a log house there for a number of years, and that old home and its surroundings are among the first conscious recollections of Mr. Henry F. Harbaugh. The father broke his land with ox teams, and he was able to serve the early community of farmers by his pronounced ability as a mechanic and inventor. He converted an old boiler into shovels, and manufactured a number of single and double shovel plows that were in great demand by the farmers in his section. Thus the early life of Henry Ford Harbaugh was spent in a pioneer home in Iowa. He attended a school supported by subscriptions paid by the parents of the scholars, and while it is now many years since he left school he has always been a constant student and a man who reads books with a discriminating judgment. When he left Iowa to make a career of his own he went out to California in 1875, but was not satisfied with that state as a permanent residence, and in 1877 returned to Iowa and the following year began his adventures in Kansas.
On March 10, 1880, soon after getting settled on his homestead near Wellington, he married Elizabeth Blattner, of Iowa. They are the parents of four children. Nellie M. is the wife of G. F. Elsass, of Wellington. George E. is now assistant cashier in the Wellington Bank of Commerce. John P. operates the old homestead southeast of Wellington. Edward H. lives at Wichita.
Besides his other public service Mr. Harbaugh served four years as township trustee of Greene Township, Sumner County. He is an active Mason, a member of the Lodge and of Wichita Consistory of the Scottish Rite, is chairman of the board of trustees of the Grand Lodge of the Ancient Order of United Workmen, a position he has held ten years, and was formerly vice president and is still a member of the Kansas division of the Anti-Horse Thief Association. For fully thirty years he held a place on the school board of his home district. Mr. and Mrs. Harbaugh are members of the Presbyterian Church, and have brought up their children in that faith.