James Cuthbert. One of the oldest and best known general contractors in the state is James Cuthbert of Topeka, which city has been his home and the center of his widely extended activities more than thirty-five years. As his name indicates, Mr. Cuthbert is a sturdy Scotchman, and his many associates and friends in Kansas say that he exemplifies all the best traits of the race.
He was born in Nairnshire, Scotland, July 14, 1849, a son of James and Jane (Bowie) Cuthbert, who spent their lives in Scotland. He grew up among his native hills and heather, had a public school education, and after reaching his majority attended evening schools in Glasgow. At Elgin, Scotland, he served a four years’ apprenticeship at stone cutting, and subsequently worked as a journeyman in Glasgow.
In order that he might find those abundant opportunities which he had long heard existed in America, he carefully saved his money to enable him to cross the Atlantic and make a home in the New World. Through the influence of Mr. Coats, whose name is familiar throughout the world as the inventor of the Coats thread, he went to Canada in March, 1872, and for a time worked at Peterboro, Ontario. After six months in Canda he came to the United States, and for about a year followed his trade in Cincinnati. It was in Cincinnati that he made the acquaintance of the late John Sargent, who for many years was his associate in the contracting business at Topeka. From Cincinnati Mr. Cuthbert went to Indianapolis, and after working at his trade took up contracting. During the panic of 1873 he experienced some difficulty in obtaining all his savings from the bank which had temporarily closed. His next location was in St. Louis, where he began working on the government postoffice, and was afterwards at Little Rock.
From Little Rock in July, 1879, Mr. Cuthbert arrived in Topeka. His first work here was in setting stone on the west wing of the State Capitol. Afterwards he was a sub-contractor on the Topeka Federal Building and the Kansas City Federal Building. In 1883 he became a member of the contracting firm of Smith, Sargent & Company. Three years later when Mr. Smith moved to California, the firm became Cuthbert & Sargent, and that was the title of the firm of general contractors known all over the State of Kansas until March 1, 1910. Since that date Mr. Cuthbert has been head of the contracting firm of Cuthbert & Sons. Cuthbert & Sons built the Rice County Court House at Lyons, Kansas, the court house at Phillipsburg, Kansas, a school building at Hays for the State of Kansas, a church at Lyons, and numerous other public and private structures including the Loman Hill M. E. Church at Topeka. The firm also has the contract for building the new Lincoln Junior High School at Topeka.
During his long residence in Kansas Mr. Cuthbert has been distiguished by his constant industry and readiness to aid in all laudable undertakings for the benefit of Kansas. In politics he is a republican. While away from his home city on a visit to Scotland he was elected a member of the Topeka School Board. He is a Presbyterian, a Knight Templar Mason and Shriner and a member of the Modern Woodmen of America. For thirty years he has served as a trustee in the Presbyterian Church of Topeka.
On May 29, 1877, he married Samantha C. Fitzpatrick. To their union have been born eleven children: Mary Jane, Mrs. A. C. McKitrick; Jessie May, Mrs. N. G. Edelblut; Katie Bell; William F.; Mabel, Mrs. A. G. Dunham; James R.; John A.; George M.; Charles D.; Elsie W.; and Robert, who died in infancy. Several of the sons are members of Cuthbert & Sons and for years have been actively associated with their father.