Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p., [155] leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.

George Adam Benkelman

GEORGE ADAM BENKELMAN. One historical account states that the first cattle ranch in Cheyenne County was established in the year 1876, but there were no really permanent settlements made for several years after that. These facts give interesting prominence to the career of George A. Benkelman, a well known business man and citizen of St. Francis, who by every right and propriety may be regarded as the real pioneer and first permanent settler of the county, since he was herding cattle on the range in this northwestern corner of Kansas in the year 1876. At that time the frontier was exposed to danger from Indians, who were still numerous and many of them hostile, and there were many more buffaloes to be seen on the prairies than native cattle.

Few men still living have had more intimate contact with the life and times of the old West than George Adam Benkelman. He was born at Lancaster in Erie County, New York, September 7, 1851. His father, Adam Benkelman, was born in Wuertemberg, Germany, in 1830, grew up and married in that kingdom, learned the trade of cooper, and in 1851 brought his family to the United States and settled at Bowmansville, New York. He was a cooper there and in 1865 went to Michigan, where he was both a cooper and farmer. He died at Cass City, Michigan, in 1901. On getting his first papers as an American citizen he affiliated with the democratic party but became a republican later through his admiration of President Lincoln. He was a member of the German Lutheran Church. Adam Benkelman married Christina Schifely, who was born in Wuertemberg in 1826 and died at Cass City, Michigan, in 1910. George Adam was the oldest of their children; Louise is still living in Cass City, Michigan, widow of Andrew Schwegler, who was a farmer there; John also lives on a farm in Cass City; S. G. is a carpenter and farmer at Cass City; W. F. is bookkeeper for a lumber firm in Detroit; and B. F. is a general merchant at Cass City.

Thus of all the family George Adam Benkelman has shown the most enterprise in breaking away from home ties and discovering new fields of conquest in remote districts. He got his education in the public schools of Cass City but at the age of nineteen started out to make his own way in the world. His journeyings soon brought him into the far West and he had an extensive experience as a cowboy in Colorado and along the Western Kansas line. When he was in Cheyenne County in 1876 he had no neighbor nearer than Fort Wallace, seventy-five miles away. He ran his herd of cattle over a domain of country unvexed by wire fence or any other civilized obstruction and made no attempt to secure a more permanent location until the spring of 1888, when he took advantage of the homestead laws and filed upon a quarter section and also a timber claim. The homestead was his place of residence and center of operations until the spring of 1894. Some years later he sold that quarter section.

In the fall of 1893 Mr. Benkelman was elected county clerk of Cheyenne County, and his official duties brought him to St. Francis. He was county clerk for eleven consecutive years. In 1905 President Roosevelt appointed him postmaster of St. Francis, and that office kept him as its incumbent by successive appointments until July, 1915. In the meantime he was identified with all the progressive movements for the upbuilding of his home town. For several years he clerked in a general merchandise store in St. Francis and also owns a farm of 160 acres near St. Francis and thirty-three acres adjoining the town. He is president of the Herald Publishing Company. Mr. Benkelman's home is a modern residence remodeled in 1905, and it stands upon a considerable plat of ground. Politically he is a republican and is a steward in the Methodist Episcopal Church. He has also served as noble grand of Rising Star Lodge of Odd Fellows, and is a past master workman of the Ancient Order of United Workmen at St. Francis.

In January, 1880, at Denver, Colorado, Mr. Benkelman married Miss Mary B. Rommel, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Rommel, both now deceased. To their marriage were born four children: Lottie C., a graduate of the Cheyenne County High School and of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, and is at home with her parents; Frank B. is a graduate of the County High School and of the School of Pharmacy of Kansas City, Missouri, and is a registered pharmacist at Kansas City; Charles A. graduated in pharmacy in the Kansas University and is connected with a general store at McDonald, Kansas; George A., Jr., is a dentist, a graduate of the Western Dental College of Kansas City, Missouri, and while his home and professional office are at St. Francis, he was with the United States Army on professional duty at Camp Beauregard, Louisiana.