Leonard V. McKee. The life, the personal character and the influence of Leonard V. McKee impressed themselves strongly upon the formative period of Marshall County’s history. He was founder and president of the Frankfort State Bank, was a large land owner and one of the leading business men and citizens of the community.
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He was born in Allen County, Ohio, August 18, 1845, and died at his home in Frankfort, Kansas, December 22, 1916, aged seventy-one years, four months and four days. His parents, Robert and Sarah (Dunlap) McKee, were both natives of Ohio. His father was a cabinet maker by trade, and after his marriage engaged in farming in Ohio. In 1872 he came to Kansas and then lived retired until his death in 1880. His wife passed away at Seneca, Kansas, in 1875.
Leonard V. McKee grew up in Ohio, attended the district schools of that state and gained his education in a time when schools were very inferior in point of equipment and efficiency of instruction to those of modern days. While attending school he also worked on the farm with his father. He was eighteen years of age when in May, 1864, he felt inspired by patriotism to enlist in the Union army. He went into Company E of the One Hundred and Fifty-first Ohio Infantry and was with that regiment about four months, engaged chiefly in the defenses around the City of Washington. After being mustered out he returned home and continued to live with his parents until at the age of twenty-five he married.
Starting his independent career as a farmer, he left Ohio after about a year on account of his wife’s health. On March 20, 1870, he started for Kansas with a team and covered the entire distance in that way. He and his wife were thirty-seven days in making the journey. Mr. McKee located on a farm in Marshall County, and was successfully engaged in its management until 1875. He then removed to Frankfort and for about a year conducted a lumber yard. He then opened a general mercantile store and built up a large trade, and his business was one of the corner-stones of Frankfort’s early prosperity as a village.
From general merchandising Mr. McKee turned to banking. In partnership with Charles Dougherty he organized a private bank at Frankfort with a capital of $10,000. For three years the private bank continued and Mr. McKee then organized the State Bank of Frankfort and became its first cashier. As an institution the Frankfort State Bank is a monument to Mr. McKee’s financial judgment and business integrity. He discharged the duties of cashier continuously for ten years and was then elected to the double office of president and cashier. After about three years Mr. J. W. Lobley became cashier, while Mr. McKee continued as president until he sold his intereat in the bank and reslgned in 1913. He had seen the institution grow from a small capitalization until it was a bank of $35,000 capital, and surplus and undivided profits of $46,000. This made it one of the strongcet banks in Marshall County.
Mr. McKee assisted in organizing several other banks, including the Interstate National Bank of Kansas City, of whieh he was a director until it removed to Kansas City, Missouri. He was a stockholder in the National Reserve Bank of Kansas City and of the Kansas City Trust Company of Kansas City, Kansas, and in the Fire Insurance Association of Kansas City, Missouri. Mr. McKee never lost his love of the country and the open spaces and acquired some large real estate holdings, including nearly nineteen hundred acres of land, all in Marshall County except the quarter section in Cheyenne County.
In politics he was a republican. He was twice a member of the Kansas State Legislature. His first term was when Governor Stanley was in office and he served again under Governor Bailey. He was also several times mayor of Frankfort, was for twenty-five years a trustee of Baker University and for sixteen years a trustee of Bethany Hospital of Kansas City, Kansas. He was a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason and a member of the Mystic Shrine.
What his life meant to the cornmunity and to many institutions was well told in the columns of the Frankfort Daily News at the time of his death: “For many years he was a trustee both of Bethany Hospital and of Baker University, and to these institutions gave very generously. His gifts totaled more than twenty-five thonsand dollars. He was a true husband and father and his family life was always happy. He was a lover of children and this little family group may always be proud to call him ‘father.’ In the desth of L. V. McKee the community had lost a friend and one of its very best citizens. He was a friend of the poor and helped them in many ways. He was a friend of the church, interested in its progrees, and gave generoualy to its support. He was a man of courage and business insight. He believed that a thing worth doing at all was worth doing well. Thoroughness was his word. Though not demonstrative he was essentially a religious man. He clearly recognized his responsibility to God and acknowledged his faith in Him in very practical and substantial ways. He knew even months before his passing that he must go and to his intimate friends he gave assurance that he had made every possible preparation for that event.”
Mr. McKee was twice married. In March, 1869, before leaving Ohio, he married Miss Jane Blair, who was born in Allen County, Ohio, daughter of Robert and Sarah Blair. She was educated in the public schools and had taught several terms before her marriage. She came to Kansas with Mr. McKee and died at Frankfort in 1897. There were no children of this marriage.
In 1899 Mr. McKee married Miss E. Etta. Lemons. Mrs. McKee, who still lives at Frankfort, was born at Glenville, Minnesota, daughter of J. E. Lemons, who is now living at Snohomis, Washington. Her. father was born October 3, 1842, at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, a son of Jacob Lemons, who was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, and became a pioneer settler at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. He went there as a soldier under General Taylor, and he helped build Fort Crawford. Jacob Lemons had served in the War of 1812. He was of French-English descent, and the family located in the Carolinas in Colonial times. His wife was Gertrude Price, who was born in Brooklyn, New York, and was of Holland descent. J. E. Lemons was a pioneer at Glenville, Minnesota, where he married. In 1876 he went to Bethany, Harrison County, Missouri, and in 1879 to Hiawatha, Kansas, where he was one of the early grocers. In 1882 he came to Marshall County, Kansas, locating on a farm near Frankfort. He became a well known citizen of this loeality and lived as a farmer in Marshall County until 1906, when he removed to Snohomis, Washington, where he is practically retired, though still occupying his ranch. He is a republican with progressive fdeas. Mr. Lemons took a prominent part in local affairs of Marshall County, though never as an aspirant for office. He joined Hiawatha Lodge of Masons and still had membership in Frankfort Lodge of that order. He also belongs to the Ancient Order of United Workmen and the Knights and Ladies of Security and is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic. Mr. Lemons enlisted in 1861 in the Eighth Wisconsin Infantry, and was in service until the close of the war, being present in numerous engagements and was once slightly wounded.
Mrs. McKee’s mother was Helen Rugland, who was born near Christiana, Norway, July 29, 1849. In April, 1852, her parents immigrated to the United States and located in Northern Iowa, where she was reared. She is an active member of the Methodist Episcopal Church and a member of the Woman’s Relief Corps. Mr. and Mrs. Lemons had seven children: Lottie, who died in Kansas City, Missouri, in January, 1912, wife of C. L. Andresen, a physician and surgeon of Kansas City; Mrs. McKee, the second in age; Mabel, wife of F. R. Short, a mining engineer now located in Seward, Alaska; Burton E., in the undertaking business at Monrovia, California; Joseph Walter, who died March 26, 1896; Irene, wife of R. M. Booher, a contractor and builder at Seattle, Washington; and Fred, still living with his parents.
Mrs. McKee was educated in the public schools of Hiawatha and in the rural schools of Marshall County, belonging to the Frankfort High School class of 1894, She attended Baker University for two years, and is a woman of culture and many tastes and interests. She is actively identified with the Methodist Episcopal Church, with its Sunday School and Ladies’ Aid Society, and is a member of Palace Chapter of the Order of Eastern Star and of the Woman’s Relief Corps and the Tuesday Club at Frankfort. Mr. and Mrs. McKee had six children, the first born, a boy, dying in infaney, Helen is now a sophomore in the Frankfort High School, Harold, Leonard and Edgar are all in the grammar school, while the youngest is Miriam.