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.

William Eldridge Fletcher

WILLIAM ELDRIDGE FLETCHER. The work he did, the influence he exercised, and what he was in character and in the attainments of noble manhood, will long remain as a monument to the late William Eldridge Pletcher of Ness City. He was a pioneer there and came into Ness County in 1886. He was a still earlier settler in Western Kansas, having in 1872 established a blacksmith shop in Kinsley and also took up a farm.

Mr. Fletcher was born in Lincolnshire, England, December 8, 1852, and was brought to the United States when between four and five years of age. His parents were William and Mrs. (Eldridge) Fletcher. Their children were: John, of Chicago; Joshua, of Elyria, Ohio; William E.; Isaac, of Lima, Ohio; and Mrs. Polly Hobb, of North Washington, Ohio. William Fletcher married a second time, and the children of that union were: Charles, of Ada, Ohio; Barney; Edward; Frank; Mrs. Nellie Johnson, of Kingfisher, Oklahoma; and Miss Clara, who lives in California. William Fletcher owned a splendid farm near North Washington, Ohio. He was a successful business man, and in the early days filled the office of county treasurer. At that time his home was a log house and once or twice he was visited by thieves who thought to find him in possession of some of the public funds. William Fletcher and wife were members of the Episcopal Church, and in politics he was a democrat.

The late William E. Fletcher of Ness City found his education in the common schools of Ohio. To a large extent he was a self made man, and the result of his career and ambition should be stimulating to any who must set out in life without the superior advantages of wealth and education. While living at home he walked back and forth to Dunkirk, Ohio, and learned his trade. He established his first shop in Dunkirk, after having been employed for a time by the Baharr Brothers. He learned his trade completely and was one of the most skillful artificers in iron and other metals ever known in Kansas. He could make everything from a horse shoe nail up to the irons that entered into the manufacture of wagons and carriages. He also made the first hearse in Dunkirk, Ohio. He did all kinds of woodwork and only recently, after his death, Mrs. Fletcher had a letter of inquiry from a party wanting some ox yokes made, the party having heard that Mr. Fletcher knew how to make this now obsolete part of harness.

With such skill he naturally succeeded from the first, though he had accumulated very little money when he came to Kansas. Mr. Fletcher came west by rail to Kinsley, and after establishing his shop there saw that Ness City was a more promising place and accordingly sold out the Kinsley business and entered the blacksmith trade at Ness City, associated with George T. Packer, his brother-in-law. He followed his trade in the shop actively as long as his health and physique permitted. He built wagons, remodeled machines and vehicles, and in time had the chief business of its kind in Ness County.

In the meantime he had taken up farming and stock raising on a somewhat extensive scale. He accumulated a large amount of land in Ness County, proved up a claim of school land near the county seat, and during that time had his home in the country, but otherwise was a resident of Ness City. The confidence felt in him by his fellow citizens resulted in his being called to public office. For several years he was town councilman, and was always deeply interested in the welfare of Ness City and Ness County. A democrat in fundamental belief, he usually voted for a republican president, since he felt that the republican party could best administer the affairs of the nation. He was very active in the Methodist Church, helped to build a church of that denomination in Ness City, and was one of its trustees until shortly before his death. The Sunday School found him a regular attendant, and he was liberal of his time and means toward every phase of religious life. He filled all the chairs in his lodge of Odd Fellows and was also a member of the Rebekahs.

The late Mr. Fletcher married for his first wife Mary Elizabeth Packer. They were married in Dunkirk, Ohio, and she died in Ness City, leaving no children. On April 29, 1896, Mr. Fletcher married Miss Katherine M. Pabst. Mrs. Fletcher, who survives her husband and lives in Ness City, was born at South Bend, Indiana, May 31, 1868. Her father, Emil Pabst, was a native of Saxony, Germany, and came to the United States at the age of fourteen. He married Johanna Harlin, who was a native of Wurtemberg, and came to America when about twelve years of age, locating with her family at Troy, New York. Mr. and Mrs. Pabst were married in South Bend, Indiana, where he was a machinist and was employed by the Knoblock Brothers, and the Bissell industrial concerns of that city. He was a very skillful worker in both iron and wood. His death occurred in March, 1899, at the age of fifty-five, and his widow, Mrs. Pabst, still lives in South Bend. They are a German Methodist family and Mr. Pabst was a republican. Mrs. Fletcher is the oldest of their children, and the others are: Otilla J., wife of Ralph H. Kuss, of South Bend; Albert O., a business man of South Bend; Anna H., Mrs. Shafer, of Berrien Springs, Michigan; Hermann Edward, who is a representative of Swift & Company at South Bend.

Mrs. Fletcher came to Kansas, April 26, 1892, locating in Ness City. While a young woman in South Bend she had been employed in office work, but was well trained along domestic science lines, and in Ness City found employment as a seamstress and dressmaker. In the meantime she met Mr. Fletcher, and they were married soon afterwards. Mrs. Fletcher has been an active worker in the local Methodist Church. The only child born to their marriage was Esther Naomi, who died when almost four years old, on December 31, 1908. Mrs. Fletcher now has in her home an adopted daughter, Geneva B., who is eleven years of age.