Washington Marlatt was one of the real builders of Kansas. Both in the early territorial days and later he touched the life and affairs of the state at several points. While he might be classed fundamentally as a farmer, he was equally great as an educator and minister of the Gospel. He had the talents, character and attainments which well fitted him for a place of leadership. One of the most interesting distinctions attaching to this career is that he was one of the three founders and the first principal of Bluemont Central College at Manhattan, which was subsequently developed into the institution that is now the pride of every Kansan, the Kansas State Agricultural College.
It was a far cry indeed from the respect and esteem paid him in his later years to that early spring day in 1856 when he arrived alone and on foot at Manhattan and became a pioneer of Riley County. He was born in Wayne County, Indiana, June 28, 1829, and he inherited from a rugged ancestry many of those qualities which were characteristic in his varied activities. His parents were Thomas (more correctly Abram) and Elizabeth (Bellar) Marlatt. The Marlatt ancestries were of French Huguenot origin and were colonial settlers on the coast of New Jersey and on Staten Island. His paternal great-grandfather, Abram Marlatt, removed from New Jersey to what is now Martinsburg, Berkeley County, West Virginia. That country was then simply Western Virginia. He settled there about 1758, during the progress of the French and Indian war. The grandfather, a native of that frontier district, also named Abram, bore arms as a colonial soldier in the war of American Independence. In 1823 he moved West to Wayne County, Indiana. Some of the antagonisms aroused in the early days when he was a stanch colonial adherent followed him, it is said, even to Indiana, and when he was killed in Wayne County in 1832 it is said that the inspiration of the killing was due to the hostility of some Tories of revolutionary times.
Thomas Marlatt was born in Berkeley County, West Virginia, in 1790. He was a soldier in the War of 1812. In 1814 he married Elizabeth Bellar, and in 1823 came with his family to Wayne County, Indiana, where he lived a long and useful life from pioneer times until his death in 1877, when he had reached the advanced age of eighty-six. He was a member of the United Brethren Church and in politics he was first a whig and afterwards a republican. He was a sturdy and industrious farmer.
The late Washington Marlatt was the fourth in a family of eleven children. His early youth was spent on an Indiana farm and before a public school system was introduced, so that his education came from subscription schools. At the age of eighteen, having determined to secure a higher education, one fitting him for the broader duties of life, he entered the preparatory department of old Asbury (now De Pauw University at Greencastle, Indiana. He took the full literary course and was graduated A. B. in 1853 and in 1856 his alma mater conferred upon him the degree Master of Arts. In the meantime he had united with the Methodist Episcopal Church, was licensed to preach, and subsequently pursued a course in theology at Asbury.
Following his graduation in 1853 he taught one year at Greensburg, Indiana. In 1854, returning home, he spent the next two years farming a place given him by his father.
In those days there was hardly a northern family which did not engage in discussion of the critical Kansas question, many young men volunteering their services in a movement designed to bring Kansas in as a free state. Pronounced in his opposition to slavery, a friend of freedom then as ever afterwards, Washington Marlatt readily enrolled his sympathies and his action as an individual unit in this movement.
On the second day of May, 1856, he arrived at Leavenworth. From there he proceeded on foot to Manhattan, and soon afterwards secured a claim of 160 acres. About a year and a half later he abandoned that and filed on another place of 160 acres 2½ miles northwest of Manhattan. That claim, improved and developed by him into a fine farm, remained his home until his death in 1909. He was very successful as a farmer and stock raiser, and at his death owned 500 acres of the rich lands of Riley County. But the range and influence of his activities were not limited by the boundaries of his private estate. In the darkest days of Kansas agriculture he was a source of light and leading, and out of his experience as a farmer and his broad knowledge of men and affairs he wrote hundreds of articles which were published under the caption of “Farm Talks,” and also a series of sketches entitled “Ten Years on the Frontier.”
Even this was not the only avenue of his work as an educator. Soon after he came to Riley County he became interested in the efforts being made to raise funds for the establishment of the Bluemont Central College under the auspices of the Kansas and Nebraska Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. When that college was opened with its thirty students in December, 1859, with Mr. Marlatt as its first principal, his assistant teacher was Miss Julia A. Bailey. She was from Gales Ferry, Connecticut, had been liberally educated according to New England standards, and the strength of her character was on a plane with her varied accomplishments. Their months of mutual association in college work brought about a still closer union, which culminated in their marriage at the old college building on April 3, 1861. Mrs. Marlatt survived her husband two years, passing away in 1911.
After two years of work in Bluemont Central College Mr. Marlatt withdrew to resume his work as a minister, which he had begun immediately on coming to Kansas. He preached the Gospel over a wide extended circuit and among many pioneer homes and settlements, until 1866. After that he retired from active service in the ministry and devoted his time to agriculture. Washington Marlatt was a charter member of Manhattan Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and also prominent in the Grange organization. He aided in organizing the first Methodist Sunday school at Manhattan, and for many years was one of its teachers. During the Civil war he joined with the Kansas State Militia in repelling the raid made by General Price into the state and was in service until the threatened danger was passed. For many years he was a strong advocate and counselor in the ranks of the republican party.
While the life work of the late Washington Marlatt was such that its influence will never cease as a factor in Kansas affairs, it is doubly fortunate that he left children to bear a worthy and useful part in the present generation.
His oldest child, Willie B., died at the age of fourteen.
Charles Lester Marlatt, who was born in Kansas September 26, 1863, was graduated from the Kansas State Agricultural College in 1884 and served as a professor in that college for 4½ years. He was assistant entomologist from 1889 to 1894 in the Bureau of Entomology in the Agricultural Department at Washington. From 1894 to 1902 he was assistant entomologist and assistant chief of bureau and from 1902 to 1907 entomologist in charge of experimental field work. Since 1907 he had been entomologist and acting chief of bureau in absence of chief. He had won many distinctions in his profession, and from 1909 to 1912 was in charge of the movement to secure a national law to prevent the importation of infected and diseased plants into the United States, resulting in the plant quarantine act of 1912. Since 1912 he had also been chairman of the Federal Horticultural Board which supervises the enforcement of this act. He was president of the Entomological Society of Washington in 1897-98 and was president of the Association of Entomologists in 1899. He belongs to many learned societies and is an author of many papers and bulletins on his specialty.
Mary A., the oldest daughter, is Mrs. F. G. Kimball of Riley County.
Frederick A. Marlatt, who was next to the youngest in the five children, is one of Riley County’s prominent farmers and manufacturers. He was born in Riley County July 29, 1867, grew up on the farm, and in 1887 graduated with the degree Bachelor of Science from the Kansas State Agricultural College. For one year after graduation he worked on the farm and for nine years he was connected with the Kansas State Agricultural College as assistant professor of entomology and also as assistant entomologist in the experiment station there. In 1897 Mr. Marlatt withdrew from college work and located on the farm in Manhattan Township where he was born and reared that he might devote his entire time to manufacturing and farming, having purchased the Blue Valley Manufacturing Company of Manhattan, Kansas, making farm implements and doing general foundry and machine shop work. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, had always been an active worker in the Epworth League and had led a class in Sunday school since 1893. He is a republican and active in the welfare of the community. He married Annie E. Lindsey, instructor in domestic science in the Kansas State Agricultural College, August 20, 1913.
Abby L. Marlatt, the youngest child, received the degree of B. S. from the Kansas State College in 1888, and the Master of Science degree in 1890. She organized the department of home economics in the State College of Utah, building it into a strong force in the state. In 1894 she was called to the Technical High School in Providence, Rhode Island, where she developed the teaching of domestic science so that the school had an international reputation. In 1909 she was called to Wisconsin to reorganize the course in home economics in the University. She now holds the position of director of the course and professor of home economics in that institution. She belongs to many scientific societies and is an authority in her field of education.