Biography of William F. Kettenbach

William F. Kettenbach
William F. Kettenbach

William F. Kettenbach now deceased, was one of Lewiston’s most enterprising and successful businessmen, and for many years was president of the Lewiston National Bank. He left the impress of his individuality upon the commercial life and prosperity of the city, and his history forms an important chapter in the annals of the growth and development of this section of the state. He was born in New York City, May 15, 1849, just two days after the arrival of his parents, Henry and Elizabeth Kettenbach, from Germany. They were natives of that land. The father was descended from one of the noble families of Germany, and held the office of colonel of cavalry at Wurtzburg. On coming to America he took his family to Indianapolis, Indiana, and there the subject of this review was educated. When sixteen years of age he left school and proceeded to the frontier, where he was in the government service, acting as a scout with Kit Carson and Buffalo Bill. After the civil war he for some years acted as guide to emigrant trains across the plains, and then returned to Indianapolis, where he was engaged in the wholesale and retail grocery business for three years. He then devoted his energies to conducting a hardware store, and in the meantime invested largely in real estate, but in the financial panic of 1877 all his accumulations were swept away, owing to the great depreciation in values.

In 1878 he came to Lewiston, a poor man, and accepted a position as bookkeeper. He afterward served for a time as agent for the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company, and established the first general insurance business in Lewiston. In 1883, success having come to him through his well directed efforts; he founded the Lewiston National Bank, of which John Brearley was elected president. Mr. Brearley died soon afterward, however, and Mr. Kettenbach was chosen his successor and continued to fill the position most creditably and satisfactorily until September 9, 1891, when his death occurred. He had been an assiduous worker and was a man of great energy and splendid business talent. He not only organized one of the best banking institutions of the state, but also established many other enterprises and placed them on a paying basis. He accumulated wealth rapidly, and as time passed he became the principal owner of the bank. His life was one of great activity and usefulness, and he did much to promote the interests of the town and state. He was a man of the highest business integrity, and his unassailable reputation enabled him to succeed in enlisting the investment of large capital in Lewiston and securing to the town an impetus such as it had never enjoyed. Notable among the enterprises which he promoted was the first water and lighting system of the city, which proved of in-calculable benefit. He gave his support and cooperation to many other business concerns which have been important factors in upbuilding the town and advancing its prosperity, and it was through his instrumentality that Charles Francis Adams became largely interested in real estate here. Mr. Kettenbach built the Lewiston National Bank Block, which is the best bank building in the state, the rental from its offices bringing the bank four hundred dollars per month.

Of the Knights of Pythias fraternity Mr. Kettenbach was a valued member, taking an active part in the work of the order. He was a charter member of Star Lodge, No. 27. of Indianapolis, and was one of the organizers of Excelsior Lodge, No. 2, at Lewiston. His home life, in the midst of his family, offered him most pleasant hours of recreation. In 1872 he was happily married to Miss Sallie Benton, a native of Monrovia, and a daughter of Rev. Morris W. Benton, a talented and devoted Methodist minister, who was a cousin of the United States senator, Thomas Benton. Mrs. Kettenbach was a lady of refinement and worth, held in high regard by her many friends. She survived her husband several years, and departed this life March 4, 1896.

Their union was blessed with four children, but only two are now living, William F. and Grace B. The latter is now the wife of Dr. Charles Piafflin, of Cincinnati. She is possessed of much musical talent and is a graduate of the Cincinnati School of Music.

W. F. Kettenbach - son
W. F. Kettenbach - son

The son, William F. Kettenbach, is now the president of the bank founded and built up by his father, and has the honor of being the youngest national bank president in the United States. He was born November 1, 1874, and is therefore twenty-five years of age. He was educated in Butler University, in Indiana, and was in college when his father’s death occurred. He learned the banking business under his father’s instructions, having filled all the positions from that of assistant bookkeeper up, until he is now the head of the institution, and is displaying an ability in the administration of its affairs that would do credit to a man of twice his years.

In October 1895, Mr. Kettenbach was united in marriage to Miss Mary White, a daughter of D. M. White, a noted Idaho pioneer, who was a man of wealth and influence, and succeeded Mr. Kettenbach’s father as president of the bank, in which capacity he served until his death, December 11, 1898, when our subject became president. To Mr. and Mrs. Kettenbach has been born a little daughter, Elizabeth. They reside in the beautiful home which was built by his father, and enjoy the highest esteem of the leading citizens of Lewiston, among whom they have been reared. Mr. Kettenbach affiliates with the Knights of Pythias fraternity and the Order of Red Men, and his wife is a valued member of the Episcopal Church.



Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899.

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