Biography of William I. Plumb

William I. Plumb, who had given the best years of his life to merchandising, had been a resident of Newton for many years and is well known in the business and civic affairs of that city.

Mr. Plumb is a cousin of the late Senator Preston B. Plumb, one of the most famous figures in Kansas history. However, he belongs to a branch of the family which lived outside this state until he himself came to Newton about twenty-five years ago. His grandfather was Maj. Ichabod Plumb, also grandfather of Senator Plumb. Major Ichabod was a wagon maker and blacksmith and died at Berkshire, Ohio, in 1850.

Zenas Plumb, father of William I., was born at Berkshire, Ohio, in 1820, grew up there, and for several years followed his trade as a wagon and carriage maker at Columbus, Ohio, where he was employed by the United States Stage Company and the Booth Carriage Company. In 1859 he moved to DeWitt, Iowa, where he resumed work at his trade but in 1861 enlisted in Company D of the Twenty-sixth Iowa Infantry. He was with that regiment in all its battles and campaigns until the close of the war. Among other experiences he was at the siege of Vicksburg, and participated in one of the famous incidents of that siege. It will be recalled that a spring of water within range of the Confederate guns was the only source of water supply for the thirsty Federals, and many of them risked their lives to satisfy their thirst. Zenas Plumb was one that secured a drink at the spring, and escaped with only a bullet through his hat, though many of his comrades lost their lives. Afterwards he was with Sherman in the Atlanta campaign in the famous march to the sea. Following the war Zenas Plumb continued work at his trade in DeWitt, Iowa, until 1880. On the death of his wife he spent a year at Farmington, Illinois, with his son, William, and then once more resumed his trade and lived at Stuart, Iowa, until his death. He was an old line republican, and filled the office of justice of the peace at Stuart, Iowa. He was an exemplary Christian and an active member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. At Eden, Ohio, Zenas Plumb married Marietta Ward, who was born in Ohio in 1826 and died at DeWitt, Iowa, in 1880. They had only two children, Allen Sanford, who died at the age of three years, and William I.

William I. Plumb was born at Columbus, Ohio, August 25, 1848, and at the age of ten years accompanied his parents to Iowa. He attended public school at Columbus and also at DeWitt, Iowa, and was thirteen years of age when his father went into the army. He then gave up school and worked steadily at whatever occupation offered in order to support the family. In 1865, after the war was over, he went to Chicago, took a course in the Eastman Business College, and then found employment with the Chicago Brush Company until failing eyesight compelled him to give up his position. In 1869 he removed to Farmington, Illinois, and spent ten years in a wholesale grocery store. From there he removed to Elmwood, Illinois, in 1879 and was a merchant there until 1887, in which year he came to Newton. On coming to Newton Mr. Plumb established his present China Emporium, now located at 504 Main Street. It is the only store of its kind in Newton and had long been a landmark in the business district and is a very prosperous enterprise. Besides his store Mr. Plumb is collector and local treasurer of the Aetna Building and Loan Association of Topeka.

He had contributed something toward the permanent improvement of Newton. At 207 Pine Street he built in 1911 a modern and handsome home, one of the best in that section of the city. Just across the street at 206 Pine Street he built another fine house, and owned another dwelling adjoining his own home. In a public way his service had been chiefly as a member of the Newton School Board. For the past twenty-five years he had been a deacon in the Congregational Church and he was choir leader most of that time and is still a member of the church musical organization. Mr. Plumb is a republican in politics.

In 1871, at DeWitt, Iowa, he married Miss Euphemia Carr, daughter of John G. and Mary Jane (McKim) Carr. Her parents are both deceased, her father having been a hotel proprietor. Mrs. Plumb died January 1, 1914, and since her death Mr. Plumb’s oldest child, Laura, who was born at Farmington, Illinois, March 9, 1872, had been his housekeeper. The second child, George Carter, born June 22, 1873, at Farmington, Illinois, died in childhood. Lawrence Allen, born at Farmington February 22, 1875, also died young. Cecil Carr, born at Farmington May 21, 1877, died at Newton at the age of thirty, while an employe of the Midland National Bank. Frank Bruce, born November 3, 1879, at Farmington, died in childhood. Preston R., born at Elmwood, Illinois, August 30, 1882, lives at Houston, Texas, where he had a prosperous business, a railroad car repairing establishment. Mary Eva, born at Elmwood January 9, 1885, died at Newton at the age of four years. Leroy E., born at Elmwood August 26, 1887, lives at Newton and is the O. S. and D. clerk of the Santa Fe Railway Company. William Albert, born at Newton January 15, 1889, lives with his father and is private secretary and stenographer to the general superintendent of the Santa Fe Company. Caryl Lucile, the youngest and tenth child, was born at Newton November 13, 1894, and died at the age of eight years.


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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