James Blair Lower, president of the First National Bank of Washington, is a banker of long and active experience, and represents a family in which the financial ability had been highly developed, two of his brothers being also well known western bankers.
Mr. Lower had spent most of his life in Kansas, but was born at Lenark in Carroll County, Illinois, July 30, 1860. A number of generations back his first American ancestors came out of Europe and settled in Pennsylvania. His father was of German descent and his mother of Irish-Scotch descent, her father being Irish and her mother Scotch. Mr. Lower’s great-grandfather, Adam Lower, fought as a soldier in the Revolutionary war. The grandfather, David Lower, a native of Pennsylvania, married in that state and subsequently became a pioneer farmer in Illinois and died at Lenark. He married Susan Rhodes, a native of Pennsylvania, who also died at Lenark. Of their children two are still living: Eli, a retired farmer at Lenark, Illinois, and Hannah Leah, wife of George Weed, a farmer at Lenark.
Levi Lower, father of James B., was born in Pennsylvania, April 16, 1830, and in his early youth accompanied his parents to Illinois. He followed farming there, also the business of contractor and builder, and in the spring of 1870 he arrived in Washington County, Kansas, homesteading 160 acres in Strawberry Township, Here his family joined him in August of that year. He was a successful business man, and in 1898 he retired and made his home successively at Heddam, Concordia and Clifton until his death on September 12, 1914. He was a member of the Board of County Commissiouers of Washington County for one three year term, during which time the present courthouse was erected. In politics he was a republican and was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. In 1861 he enlisted from Illinois in the Thirty-fourth Illinois Volunteer Infantry and fought at Shiloh, Stone River, Chiekamanga and in many other engagements; was several times wounded, but continned with the army until practically the close of the war, marching with Sherman to the sea.
On November 13, 1854, Levi Lower married Mary Dougal, who was born in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, July 12, 1832, and died at Clifton, Kansas, October 13, 1909. Of their six children James B. was the second in age. The oldest, David E., is president of the American State Bank of Lincoln, Nebraska. H. M. Lower, the third, is a farmer near Wichita, Kansas. Emma C. married Carter H. Foss, who was serionsly injured while engaged in railway construction work and is now living retired at Clifton, Kansas. Frank G., the fourth son, is living retired at Grandfield in Tillman County, Oklahoma, and is the owner of a number of farms and valuable oil property. W. S. Lower, the youngest of the family, is president and the largest stockholder of the Concordia State Bank at Concordia, Kansas, where he resided. He also owned a large ranch of about fifteen hundred acres near Republic, Kansas, and is president and largest stockholder of the Republic State Bank.
James Blair Lower was ten years of age when brought to Kansas. He began his education at Port Byron, Illinois, and subsequently attended the rural schools of Washington County, Kansas, and graduated in the commercial course from Monroe Institute at Atchison. Before he was twenty-one he was teaching school in Washington County, spending six years in school work, the last two years at Palmer.
Mr. Lower had been a banker for thirty years. In 1887 he became cashier of the Bank of Palmer, and served that institution for nearly eleven years. On February 1, 1898, he became cashier of the Citizens State Bank of Haddam and left that place in December, 1916, to enter upon his duties as president of the First National Bank of Washington, to which he was elected in November, 1916.
The First National Bank of Washington was established under a national charter in 1883, and is today one of the strongest banks in Northern Kansas. It had a capital of $25,000, with surplus of an equal amount, and undivided profits of about $5,000; its circulation in bank notes is $25,000 and it now holds deposits of over $375,000.
Besides his interest in his Washington bank Mr. Lower owned a majority of the capital stock of the State Exchange Bank at Clyde, the Citizens State Bank at Haddam, and the State Bank of Narka, and is president of these three institutions and a director and vice president of the Concordia State Bank. He is an active member of the Kansas Bankers Association and the American Bankers Association. Mr. Lower owned a fine home in Washington, and also rental residence property.
As a republican he was elected to the State Senate from the Twentieth Senatorial District for two terms, serving in the regular sessions of 1905, 1907, 1909, and 1911, and the special session of 1908. He was a member of the standing committee on ways and means, assessment and taxation, banks and banking, legislative apportionment, education and educational institutions, penal institutions and other important committees, and in the session of 1911 was chairman of the committee on banks and banking, one of the most important committees in the Senate. Fraternally Mr. Lower is affiliated with Dirigo Lodge No. 226, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, at Haddam, also with camps of the Modern Woodmen of America, and the Royal Neighbors at the same place.
In 1888, at Palmer, Kansas, Mr. Lower married Miss Minnie Potter, daughter of Charles D. and Lavinia A. Potter. Her mother still lives at Palmer. Her father, deceased, was a general merchant, slevator man and farmer at that place. Mr. and Mrs. Lower have three children. Ora May born February 11, 1889, is the wife of O. T. Muth, assistant cashier of the Citizens State Bank at Haddam. Mrs. Muth is a graduate of the College of Sisters of Bethany, at Topeka, Kansas. Edna L., born February 22, 1891, and also a graduate of Bethany College, is at home with her parents. Ruth E., born January 23, 1901, had also taken instruction in Bethany, but is now at home during summer vacation.