Biography of David Franklin Shirk

David Franklin Shirk, a prominent Kansas educator and a worker in behalf of child welfare, had been a resident of this state thirty years.

Born at Shannon, Carroll County, Illinois, July 10, 1859, he was reared and educated in his native state, and as a young man began teaching school in Illinois. In 1886 he came to Abilene, Dickinson County, Kansas, and followed educational work in this state actively for twenty-four years. In 1906 Mr. Shirk was graduated from Friends University at Wichita. Much distinction attaches to his work as a school man. He assisted in organizing the first county high school in Kansas at Chapman, Dickinson County. He also organized the first high school Y. M. C. A. in the world. He was elected and served for four years as superintendent of public instruction of Dickinson County. For five years he was superintendent of the schools at Cottonwood Falls in Chase County, was superintendent at Newton, Kansas, six years, and for two years at Great Bend in Barton County. In 1906 and again in 1910 he made student tours of Europe, and on the second trip took his wife and his two children as a part of their education.

Since 1910 Topeka had been his home, and, at the death of the distinguished Dr. O. S. Morrow, he was appointed his successor as superintendent of the Kansas State Ohildren’s Home Society. In 1916 he was elected president of the National Children’s Home Society.

Mr. Shirk comes of a very prominent family, one in which ministers, teachers, and men and women of the highest moral character have predominated. His great-grandfather Abraham Shirk and grandfather David Shirk were natives of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Rev. David Shirk and his son Henry L. Shirk, father of David F., who was born in Pennsylvania in 1834, were both ministers in the Church of the Brethren in Christ. Both David and Henry gave their services to the church without pay. Henry L. Shirk had eight brothers and one sister, and three of them followed the ministry but never on a salary basis, making their living by farming and other pursuits and offering their influence and work to the church without renumeration.

Henry L. Shirk emigrated to Carroll County, Illinois, in 1856, bought land, and became a very successful farmer and for many years was also in the lumber business. In his neighborhood he was recognized as a man of eminent trustworthiness as well as great business and executive energy. In 1855, the year before he came to Illinois, he married Nancy Ann Shelly, who was one of twelve children, nearly all of whom grew to manhood and womanhood. Her parents were Mr. and Mrs. Abraham Shelly, substantial farming people of Blair County, Pennsylvania, who afterwards moved to Carroll County, Illinois, where they died and were buried. Henry and Nancy Ann Shirk had five children, two sons and three daughters. Delila Ann, David Franklin, Mary Jane, John Henry and Cora. Delila Ann married Rev. William H. Krieder of Shannon, Illinois, a prominent farmer there and also a minister of the Gospel, and like other members of the family serving his people without pay. Mary Jane married Rev. J. W. Byers, and both of them are successful evangelists. John Henry, who is in the undertaking business at Milledgeville, Illinois, married Carrie Sheller of Lanark, Illinois. Cora Shirk married John Albright, a retired farmer at Shannon, Illinois.

In 1888 David Franklin Shirk married Miss Frances Estelle Rugh. She was one of twelve children. Her parents Mr. and Mrs. Christian Rugh died a number of years ago. One of her brothers is O. E. Rugh, a well known attorney at Abilene, Kansas, another brother is Nathan A., a retired farmer at Detroit in Dickinson County.

The two children of Mr. and Mrs. Shirk are young people who have shown great promise for usefulness in the world and wil undoubtedly contribute their share to the prestige of the family name. The daughter Helen May, born May 4, 1890, is now teacher of Latin in the high school at Great Bend, Kansas. The son Harold L., born March 11, 1892, is a student in Rush Medical College at Chicago. Both are graduates of Washburn College at Topeka.



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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