Biography of Robert H. Childs

Robert H. Childs, now superintendent of the Petroleum Products Company plant in Independence, is one of the veteran oil men of America. His father was a pioneer in the oil fields of Western Pennsylvania, and Mr. Childs himself grew up in that environment, and took to the work as naturally as a New England youth goes to sea. There is probably not an important oil field in the country with which he has not been identified in some capacity or another.

The Petroleum Products Company established a plant in Independence in 1908. The general officers of the company at Chicago are: H. J. Halle, president; R. J. Dunham, vice president; and Ed C. Ennis, secretary and treasurer. The general manager and superintendent at Independence is Mr. Childs. This plant refines oil products and its output is an important list of standard petroleum products, which are sold throughout the Middle West. The plant at Independence has a crude oil capacity of 5,000 barrels daily, this oil coming from the Oklahoma and Kansas fields. About 200 men are regularly on the pay roll.

Robert H. Childs was born at Enterprise, Warren County, Pennsylvania, January 8, 1851. He comes of old and substantial American stock. His ancestors came from England to Rhode Island in colonial times. His great-grandfather John Cole Childs served with credit in the War of the American Revolution. He owned extensive bodies of land in Rhode Island and died at Warren in that state. Thomas Cole Childs, grandfather of the Independence business man, was born in Warren, Rhode Island, in 1784, and for many years served as sheriff of that county. Later he moved to Warren County, Pennsylvania, where he took up farming and the operation of a mill, and finally retired to Camp Point, Illinois, where he died in 1867.

Caleb O. Childs, father of Robert H., was born at Warren, Warren County, Rhode Island, in 1806, grew up there, was married at Jamestown, New York, and then moved to Warren County, Pennsylvania, where he was engaged for a time in the lumber business. In 1861 going to Titusville, Pennsylvania, he identified himself with oil production when that industry was in its infancy. He became associated with such notable men in the oil industry as Jonathan Watson and Dan Fletcher, and he was in business both at Titusville and Philadelphis, removing to the latter city in 1867. A few years before his death he retired and resided at Bradford, Pennsylvania, where he died in 1882. He was an active member of the Christian Church, was a thirty-second degree Mason, and an Odd Fellow and a republican. In 1830 at Jamestown, New York, he married Sarah A. Langdon, who was born at Addington, New Jersey, in 1811, and died at Bradford, Pennsylvania, in 1877. Their children were: Calphurnia, who died in Warren, Pennsylvania, as the wife of H. W. Childs, who is now a retired oil producer, living in New Jersey; Milo H., who died at the age of three years; and Robert H.

Robert H. Childs gained his early education in the public schools of Titusville, Pennsylvania, graduating from the high school in 1866, and later attending Kentwood College, where he completed the course in 1870. Then began his active career which has led him into various fields and into many responsibilities. For four years he was a manufacturer of lamp burners, sockets, fruit jars, and similar ware at Kensington, near Philadelphia. After that a few years were spent in the cattle business near Denver, Colorado. Returning to Titusville, he had charge of the business of Raydurc Watson Company at Tidioute, and then for five years was an oil producer in McKean County, Pennsylvania, residing at Bradford in the meanwhile. Going to Quarry, Pennsylvania, he helped build the Clark and Warren Works, remaining several years during their construction. His next location was in Warren, where he bought and remodeled the Warren Refining Company’s refining plant in North Warren, and conducted it for six years. The next three years were spent with the Bear Creek Refining Company at Pittsburg. Then another three years were passed with the Leader Refining Company at Taylorsville, Pennsylvania.

He was an oil producer in the fields about Marietta, Ohio, for several years, spent two years in the oil fields of California, and then went to Beaumont, Texas, where he built the United Refining Company’s plant and conducted it about four years, and for nine months had supervision of the building of the Gulf Refining Company’s pipe lines for a distance of sixty-six miles. In 1908 Mr. Childs came to Kansas. At Chanute he remodeled the Chanute Refining Company’s plant. Next he built the Kansas Oil Refining Company’s plant at Coffeyville, using the material torn down at Chanute. From 1911 he spent a year and a half at Kansas City in charge of the Kansas City Refining Company’s plant, and then spent a year building the Purified Petroleum Company’s plant at Shreveport, Louisians. Following that he was with the Phoenix Refining Company’s plant at Sand Springs, Oklahoma, and in 1913 came to Independence, where he has since been superintendent of the Petroleum Products Company.

Mr. Childs is a republican, a member of the Presbyterian Church, and is affiliated with Fortitude Lodge No. 107, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, Keystone Chapter No. 22, Royal Arch Masons at Independence, St. Bernard Commandery No. 10 Knights Templar, Lodge No. 69, Independent Order of Odd Fellows at Independence, and is a member of the Independence Country Club.

In 1873 at Tidioute, Pennsylvania, he married Miss Sarah M. Meade. Her parents Goodwin and Harriet Meade are both deceased, her father having been an oil producer and hotel proprietor at Tidioute. Mr. and Mrs. Childs have three children: Harriet, who died at the age of twenty-two; Sarah G., wife of G. N. Moore, reference to whom is made on other pages; and Roberts H., now a freshman in the Independence High School.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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