John P. Harris. The career of an honorable, dutiful and upright man, a gallant soldier, an able financier and an incumbent of offices high in the state and municipal service is illustrated in the enviable record of the late John P. Harris, of Ottawa, whose death occurred on the 23d of February, 1917. He was a veteran of the Civil war, and served as president of the People’s National Bank, as county treasurer of Franklin County, as state senator of Kansas and as mayor of Ottawa. During the many years of his residence in Franklin County he was constantly identified with the things that combined to make for good government and elevation of business standards, for civic improvement and the advancement of educational and social conditions, and no citizen of Ottawa occupied a higher place in public esteem.
Mr. Harris was born in Washington County, Ohio, July 24, 1839, a son of Asa and Elizabeth (Fulcher) Harris. He was educated in his native state and in Franklin County, Kansas, whence he came in young manhood, and was living here when he enlisted, December 1, 1861, to serve three years or during the war, being mustered into the United States service at Osawatomie, on the same day, as a private of Capt. Thomas Bickerton’s company, First Kansas Battery, Volunteer Light Artillery. The first officers of the battery were mustered into service July 24, 1861, and were: Capt. Thomas Bickerton; First Lieut. Harrison R. Brown. Many recruits were added to the battery in the early part of 1862, and in December of that year the command participated in the battles of Fayetteville, Prairie Grove and Illinois Creek, Arkansas, serving in Blunt’s Division, Army of the Frontier. The battery left Rolla, Missouri, for St. Louis, Missouri, July 9, 1863, and shortly afterward was ordered to Indiana, serving in the Army of the Tennessee, and taking an active part in capturing Morgan’s guerilla band which was then on its celebrated raid through the Hoosier State. Following this, the battery was again ordered to St. Louis and subsequently to Columbus, Kentucky, and served with distinction in many of the actions in which the armies of the Tennessee and Mississippi were engaged, including those at Johnsville and Nashville, Tennessee, and a number of minor engagements and raids, at all times rendering faithful and meritorious service. The battery lost twenty-six officers and men by death while in the service. The officers and men of the battery evinced the highest soldierly qualities and fully sustained the proud record our veterans have ever established on the field of battle, and the state and nation owe them lasting gratitude for the service thus rendered.
John P. Harris was promoted to the rank of sergeant of his company for faithful and meritorious service. He was always to be found at his post of duty, participated in all the arduous service of his command as outlined above, and achieved an honorable record for bravery in action and for soldierly bearing at all times. Mr. Harris received his honorable discharge at Nashville, Tennessee, December 7, 1864, by reason of the expiration of his term of service. One of Mr. Harris’ brothers, Milo R. Harris, was also a brave and gallant soldier in the war between the North and South, enlisting first in the First Kansas Battery and being later transferred as adjutant to the Second Tennessee Mounted Infantry. Mr. Harris’ military spirit came to him naturally, as his maternal grandfather participated in the war of the American Revolution. His wife’s brother, John Zook, was also a soldier, being a member of an Illinois regiment of volunteer infantry during the Civil war.
At the close of the war, John P. Harris returned to the duties of peace, in which he was destined to establish just as honorable a record. Not long after his return he became connected with the People’s National Bank, one of the oldest and most stable financial institutions of Ottawa, and rose rapidly in the service of this institution until he was finally elected president, the position which he occupied at the time of his death. Under his wise judgment, keen foresight and excellent abilities, the bank prospered and grew in public favor, its policy of conservatism tempered with progressiveness gaining and holding the confidence of an army of depositors. He was also interested in various other enterprises, of a financial and business nature, either as an official or in an advisory capacity, and few men’s advice and counsel were more eagerly sought in ventures of importance.
Mr. Harris was frequently called to positions of public honor, trust and responsibility. For four years he was treasurer of Franklin County, and the county had no incumbent of that office who more carefully conserved its finances; during one term he was a member of the Kansas State Senate, a body in which he fought valiantly in behalf of the interests of his district and his constituents in Franklin County; he was one of the members of the first city council of Ottawa, in which he served so capably as to win him the election of mayor of that city, and his administration as chief executive was replete with movements contributing to the civic betterment. For two terms he acted in the capacity of postmaster of Ottawa, and gave the people good, clean and expeditious service. In 1896 he was the nominee of his party for a seat in Congress, but at that time the populists were in full strength in Kansas, and he met with defeat. Mr. Harris never forgot nor lost interest in his old comrades who wore the blue, and was a valued comrade of George H. Thomas Post No. 18, Department of Kansas, Grand Army of the Republic, and in 1895 was department commander of the state. He was also an active member of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and attained the Knights Templar degree in Masonry. In every avenue of life’s endeavor he proved true to every trust imposed in him, and he could always be pointed to with pride as a representative of the best type of Kansan.
At Canton, Fulton County, Illinois, June 24, 1869, Mr. Harris was united in marriage with Miss Sarah F. Zook, and to this union there have been born two children: Ralph A. and Fred M.