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Thomas Blakeslee, M. D. Perhaps no present resident of the thriving little City of Neodesha, Kansas, could better describe its early days than Dr. Thomas Blakeslee, its pioneer physician, now retired from professional life. Just graduated from one of the country’s greatest medical schools, Doctor Blakeslee came to this growing village forty-six years ago, facing hardships, as all pioneers must, but enthusiastic in his love of his beneficent profession, and hopeful as to the scope and success of his conscientious service. For over a quarter of a century he ministered to the sick with the medical skill that knowledge gave him, and the sympathetic kindness which Nature had bestowed upon him, and then laid aside professional cares, shifting the burden to later comers in the field in which he was the first and most hard-pressed worker. In other directions public-spirited and useful, Doctor Blakeslee had also led a busy life, and he still continues one of the vitalizing elements of the community which he had borne his part in developing.
Thomas Blakeslee was born in Broome County, New York, August 27, 1843. His parents were Nelson and Catherine (Partridge) (Boss) Blakeslee. The family is of Engish extraction and of New England colonization, the direct ancestors of Doctor Blakeslee removing, probably in the time of his grandfather, from Connecticut to New York. Nelson Blakeslee, his father, was born in 1813, in Broome County, New York, and from there, in 1847, removed to McHenry County, Illinois, where the rest of his life was passed following agricultural pursuits. He died at Woodstock, Illinois, in 1895, highly respected in his community as a man of sound principles and upright life. He was a democrat in his political views and fraternally was identified with the Odd Fellows. He married Mrs. Catherine (Partridge) Boss, who was born at Baltimore, Maryland, and died in McHenry County, Illinois.
Thomas Blakeslee remained on his father’s farm in McHenry County, until he was seventeen years of age, in the meanwhile attending school at Woodstock, Illinois. With the outbreak of the Civil war new emotions were aroused all over the country, and the Federal Government drew no finer, braver soldiers than those who responded from the farm. In 1862 Mr. Blakeslee, then nineteen years old, enlisted for military service, entering the Ninety-fifth Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He was honorably discharged in 1865, having taken part in many important battles, including Vicksburg, Nashville, the Red River expedition under General Banks, and Spanish Fort following.
Upon his return to Illinois, the young soldier entered upon the study of medicine, finally entering Rush Medical College, Chicago, from which he was most creditably graduated in the class of 1869-70. He came to Kansas in 1870 and located at Neodesha, the first physician in the village, and here Doctor Blakeslee had lived ever since, thoroughly identifying himself with the place and its people and, in turn being respected and honored by his fellow citizens. He continued in the active practice of his profession until 1896.
Doctor Blakeslee is one of the leading republicans of Wilson County and on two occasions he had been his party’s candidate for legislative honors. He served one term as register of deeds and was a wise and useful member of the State Board of Charities during the administration of Governor Morrow. Four times have the citizens of Neodesha testified to their confidence and esteem by electing him to the office of mayor of the city, and in this office as in all others, he had been able and effective, energetic and public spirited. He had served also on the school board and at all times is ready to respond when called on to co-operate with his fellow citizens to advance the public’s interest.
At Neodesha, Kansas, in January, 1872, Doctor Blakeslee was united in marriage with Miss Grace Barton, who is a daughter of Capt. W. H. and Mary J. (Johnston) Barton, both of whom are deceased, the father of Mrs. Blakeslee formerly commanding a vessel on the Mississippi River. Doctor and Mrs. Blakeslee have three children: Barton, who conducts an automobile business at Independence, Kansas; Helen Gilmore, who is the wife of Altis Hopkins, who is assistant superintendent for the Standard Oil Company, at Neodesha; and Florence, who is the wife of Fred Merkle, who is a merchant at Neodesha.
Doctor Blakeslee was one of the organizers and had been a member of the Wilson County Medical Association since it was founded. He is a Knight Templar Mason, belonging to Ab-Del-Kader Commandery No. 27, and a member of Harmony Lodge No. 94, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and Orient Chapter, No. 72, Royal Arch Masons. His attractive residence is situated on the corner of Fifth and Mill streets, Neodesha. He owned other valuable city real estate and had, from time to time, invested wisely in farming land in Wilson County.