Pages 137-140, transcribed by Carolyn Ward from History of Allen and Woodson Counties, Kansas: embellished with portraits of well known people of these counties, with biographies of our representative citizens, cuts of public buildings and a map of each county / Edited and Compiled by L. Wallace Duncan and Chas. F. Scott. Iola Registers, Printers and Binders, Iola, Kan.: 1901; 894 p., [36] leaves of plates: ill., ports.; includes index.


Levi Lee Northrup



LEVI LEE NORTHRUP.—The history of a community is largely made up of the biography of a few individuals, and the history of Iola and Allen county can never be written without including also the record of L. L. Northrup, one of the pioneers of the county, and from the date of his arrival until the day of his death one of the largest factors in its business.

L. L. Northrup was a son of Lewis Northrup, a brick mason, and of Elizabeth Lathrop, and was born in Geneseo county, New York, April 12, 1818. There were three other sons, Rev. G. S., who died at Geneva, Kansas; Ezra L., who died at Rippon, Wisconsin, and Charles Northrup whose whereabouts have been unknown since the period of the Civil War.

When but two years of age, by the death of his mother, the family home was broken up and Levi L. Northrup was taken into the household of an uncle at Elmira, New York, by whom he was brought up. His schooling was only such as the very indifferent common schools of that day afforded and his education was, therefore, limited.

As he approached manhood he was put to learn the woolen manufacturing trade, and in 1840 he had saved enough out of his wages to be able to engage in the business on his own account, which he did at Albion, New York. His business prospered and the young factor seemed fairly started on the road to wealth when, in 1846, his factory was burned and there was little left of the accumulation of six years of work and care.

Nothing daunted, however, the young man set to work again and it was not long till he was again engaged in the manufacture of woolen goods this time at LaFayette, Indiana. But the same misfortune overtook him here as at Albion for he had not long been in operation when fire swept away his plant, and his resources, for the second time, were seriously crippled. A third time he set up in the same business, the last time at Thorntown, Indiana, where an uncle became his partner and where, for some years a thriving business was done and the foundation of a modest fortune started.

In 1858, at the earnest solicitation of the Union Settlement Company, which had bought a large body of land in Allen county, Kansas, and had laid out the town of Geneva, he disposed of his interest in the


woolen mill and removed to this state, bringing, as his entire capital, a small stock of general merchandise and a saw-mill; the whole representing an investment of, perhaps, three thousand dollars. He located first at Geneva, but when the town of Iola was laid out, a year later, he established a branch store there. Three years later, the expectation of its founders, that Geneva would grow into a city, not having been realized. Mr. Northrup removed with his family to Iola, and in 1869 he concentrated all his business interests in the latter town which ever afterward remained his home.

Up to this time he had been engaged only in general merchandising, but he now established a bank, the first in Iola, which soon became one of the most important factors in the business life of the town. One of the few Kansas banks that lived through the panic of '73, it became steadily more strongly entrenched in popular favor, until its large business warranted its reorganization in 1900 as a National Bank. As the "Northrup National Bank" it has become known and is generally recognized as one of the leanding financial institutions of southeastern Kansas. It may be of interest to note in this connection, that the small two-story building originally erected for the use of the bank, and which was famed at the time as the finest building south of Ottawa, has now given way to the Masonic Temple, the new bank having transferred its business to the splendid structure that bears its name.

In 1877 Mr. Northrup practically turned the business of his store over to his oldest son, O. P. Northrop, who managed it with marked ability and success until failing health, which resulted in his death, in 1892, compelled him to give up his place to his younger brothers, in whose name the store has ever since been conducted.

After relinquishing the management of the store, Mr. Northrup gave his entire attention to the bank, to the lumber business which he had established about the same time, and to large landed, and other outside interests, continuing, until overtaken by his last illness, with marvelous industry and activity, to look after the least details of a great and always growing business.

Mr. Northrup was married at Thorntown, Indiana, February 27, 1849, to Mary E. Pearce, a daughter of John S. and Jane (Code) Pearce who came to the United States from England and of whose seven children four survive: Thos. E. and John A. Pearce, farmers near Edgerton, Kansas, and Mrs. C. H. DeVore, of Bushnell, Illinois, and Mrs. Northrup. Of the eight children born to Mr. and Mrs. Northrup but three survive: Frank Altes, Lewis Lee and Delmer Pearce Northrup, for many years actively and successfully engaged in business in Iola.

Although all his life an unremitting and indefatigable worker. Mr. Northrup enjoyed robust health until about three years before his death when he suffered an attack of lagrippe. He was present at his desk, notwithstanding his enfeebled condition, until a few months before his taking-away, March 3, 1896. Two days later, when the funeral services were


held, business in Iola was suspended while the friends of a lifetime joined in paying tribute to his memory.

The foregoing is a brief sketch of a busy, eventful and successful life. It is the story of a boy born in poverty and obscurity, orphaned in infancy, thrown upon the world with meager education and with no capital but his own brains and skill and industry and character, fighting his way step by step until he had amassed a large if not a great fortune. And this fortune was not made by any sudden or unworked for stroke of "luck," or by some fortunate speculation It was accumulated slowly and as the result of economy, good judgment and tireless industry.

Mr. Northrup was intensely loyal to his town and was always counted upon as one of the large contributors to any enterprise that was to be undertaken for the advancement of public interests. In the early days when it was a question whether the Missouri Pacific railroad should come to Iola or go to a rival town, it was Mr. Northrup's open purse and active effort that did more than anything else to secure the prize for Iola. He was especially earnest and effective in his efforts to have Iola's natural gas field developed and utilized. In short he gave freely in time, labor and money, to any and every undertaking that promised to advance the interest of Iola.

Next to the town in general; the Presbyterian Church, of which he was a life long member, was the most especial object of Mr. Northrup's interest and care. In the beginning, when the struggling church was occupying a little building on the corner of State and West streets, Mr. Northrup personally did the janitor work and attended to all the little "chores" that had to be done to keep the house in order and have it ready for the various meetings. And for a great many years, indeed from the time of its organization until his death, he bore one-fourth of the entire expense of maintaining the church. He was a teacher in the Sunday School for nearly a full quarter of a century, and as long as his health permitted he was a regular attendant upon all of the services of the church. The faith in the Christian religion, which prompted all these good works, was the faith of a little child, unquestioning and undoubting, and it abided with him to the very end, so that he leaned upon it as upon a staff when he walked down, without fear and without repining, into the valley of the shadow.

Like most men who devote themselves successfully to business pursuits, Mr. Northrup cared little for society. In his own home, however, he was most hospitable to his guests and loving and indulgent to his wife and children. Always and in all things a modest man, there was never any display, any vain show of wealth; but the family home was always the home of comfort and contentment and true happiness.

The large businesses which Mr Northrup so firmly established,—merchandizing, banking and lumber,—have been most successfully continued by his sons, who have shown in the management of their large estate many of the qualities of sagacity, industry, public spirit and unswerving honesty that were shown by their father in its accumulation. So


that in the considerable city which Iola has now become, "the Northrups" occupy the same relative position as their father occupied before them in the then modest village, and the family name stands now, as it has stood in Iola and in Allen county for more than forty years, as the synonym for business enterprise, success and integrity.

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