Adolph Carl Stich, who died at his home in Independence October 8, 1915, was identified with Independence more than forty years, and for many years was one of the foremost citizens of Kansas. Only one estimate could be placed on his career–it was constructive, efficient, positive, and redounded not so much to his own advantage as to the community in which he lived. He was a true type of the business and city builder. No other individual contributed so much to the material and civic advancement of Independence. The record of his life is one that can he read to advantage not only for its relations with one of the best cities of Kansas, but also because it represents the unfolding and development of a great and strong man.
He was intensely an American, though of foreign birth and parentage and representing the sturdy virtues of the German fatherland. He was born in the little Town of Stade, Hanover, Germany, October 13, 1846, a son of Carl and Eleanor (Hilbers) Stieh. There were three other children: John, William and Doretta, all of whom are still living. In 1857, when A. C. Stich was eleven years old, the family came to the United States and located in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where his parents spent the rest of their lives.
He attended school in Germany and also in Kalamazoo, and while he had no college training he became a man of wide information and cultured taste, largely through his experience with business affairs and the opportunities brought to him by much travel and wide reading. Like many successful men he had the wholesome environment of a farm during his youth, and for a time he worked as a farm hand at wages of eight dollars a month. From such work he saved the small capital which enabled him to embark in the agricultural implement business in Kalamazoo. He also learned the trade of cabinet maker. Before reaching his majority he invented a bed spring, patented it, and handled the invention with such prudence as to bring him his first real capital for business.
Mr. Stich and his brother John came to Independence, Kansas, in September, 1872, about three years after that town was started. They opened a stock of merchandise under the name Stich Brothers. For eleven years this firm prospered, and in the meantime the young merchants had become recognized as a force in the community and with all the subsequent development of the city and surrounding country Mr. Stich readily maintained his position as a dominant factor in business and civic affairs.
For thirty years or more Mr. Stich was perhaps most widely known in business as a banker. In 1883 he and Henry Foster bought the old established Hull’s Banking Hoose, which was one of the few financial institutions in that part of Kansas that had passed unscathed through the financial panic of the early ’70s. They reorganized the bank as the Citizens Bank, and in 1891 took out a national charter and it had since been the Citizens National Bank, with Mr. Stieh as president from 1891 until his death.
A complete review of his varied enterprises during the last thirty years of his life would reflect much of the progress of Montgomery County. One of his early undertakings which had much to do with fortifying the position of Independence as a city of great commercial prospects was his association with Henry Foster in promoting and building the Verdigris Valley, Independence & Western Railway. They took charge of this in 1885 and completed it from Lerey to the south line of Independence Township, and in 1886 sold it to the Gould interests and it was made a part of the Missouri Pacific system, being united with the D. M. and A. line from Coffeyville to the West. Mr. Stich also organized and headed the first brick company built at Independence; was instrumental in having the first paving done; was one of the backers and part owners of the old Independence Gas Company; was one of the organizers and officers of the Western States Cement Company; helped to bring the Petroleum Products and allied organizations to Independence; built the Carl-Leon Hotel, which at the time was one of the best equipped and finest hotel structures in the state; brought the Prairie Oil and Gas Company to Independence; headed the company that built the Beldorf Theater; donated a part of the ground for the Carnegie Public Library; was one of the chief contributors to the building fund of the Presbyterian Church; assisted Washburn College, Topeka, for many years and at his death gave $100,000, and was one of the trustees of that institution; was one of the organizers of the Electrie Power Company, the predecessor of the present Kansas Gas and Electric Company at Independence, and among his last acts he subscribed to the fund for paving the South Tenth Street road, and building the handsome mausoleum in Mount Hope Cemetery, where his body now rests.
It was in 1902 that Mr. Stich and his partner, G. M. Carpenter, of Elgin, Kansas, undertook the erection of the Carl-Leon Hotel, the name of which is a memorial to Mr. Stich’s deceased son and also a deceased son of Mr. Carpenter. It was entirely a public spirited enterprise, and many believed that the erection of such a building was premature and inconsistent with the prospects of Independence. It had no sooner been completed than as a result of the oil boom the hotel was crowded by patronage in all its four stories, and an annex was soon completed, the lower stories of which, as a result of Mr. Stich’s persistent efforts, were occupied by the Prairie Oil and Gas Company.
During the early ’90s, after it was demonstrated that gas and oil were to be found in Montgomery County, Mr. Stich furnished the means necessary to develop the field, and here again his confldence was more than justified, since he realized a fortune out of his investment in oil and gas properties. At the time of his death he was treasurer and one of the directors of the Western States Cement Plant, one of the most substantial industries of the city.
Mr. Stich was in politics largely for the sake of good local government. He was a strong republican, served as delegate to state and national conventions, and at one time was proposed as a candidate for governor. At his death the mayor of Independence requested the closing of business houses and referred especially to his service as a former mayor and as being entitled to credit as father of the clean town idea in Independence.
It is especially appropriate that a quotation should be made from an article which appeared in one of the local papers regarding his service as mayor: “At an important time in the affairs of the city he was elected mayor in 1907 by an overwhelming majority. In five years there had been an increase in population of one hundred and forty-seven per cent and an increase in the assessed valuation of property of two hundred and thirty per cent. Extensive municipal improvements became essential and nothing gave the people more confidence in the city’s future than the fact that its foremost citizen, a man of large affairs, was willing to assume the responsibilities, cares and trials of the highest municipal office. It was a time that called for a clear headed, determined man, and even those who found some delight in criticising the administration of the time were afterwards willing to admit that as mayor Mr. Stich performed a great service to the community. He introduced thorough business methods into the city affairs and inaugurated an effective means of law enforcement. For several years there had prevailed in the city the seditious habit of alley drinking. While intoxicants could be sold under forms of law the liquor could not be consumed on the premises where the sale was made. Men of convivial habits would gather in the alleys and after drinking the liquor would leave the bottles to be gathered up by industrious boys who found a ready market for them. It was the practice of small boys to drain the bottles. This alley drink business was at its height when Mr. Stich became mayor. He at once took steps to eradicate the evil. He did not stop to ask whether men had the legal or constitutional right to gratify what he considered a debased appetite in this way; he believed they had no moral right to place within the reach of the young boys of the city the means of laying the foundation of an appetita for strong drink. The police were instructed to arrest any man found drinking in the alleys. This order was obeyed and it required but a very few prosecutions in the police courts to convince the most akeptical that a continuance of the practice was utterly impossible. The suppression of this obnoxions alley drinking was one of the most important steps ever taken in the enforcement of the prohibitory law in this city. Many men who were theoretically opposed to the principle of sumptuary laws and had come to regard the prohibitory law as one of the farces of the age, became satisfied that the great weakness of the temperance laws was the lax manner in which they were enforced, and Mayor Stich’s positive and rigid enforcement gave strength to the temperance cause in making the laws accomplish their purposes and intent.
“During Mr. Stich’s administration a great financial panic swept over the country. Everywhere the wheels of industry stopped, banks closed their doors in the large cities and all over the country the banks as a means of self protection were forced to issue cashiers cheeks. This city had been pushing rapidly forward. When men began to clamor for work Mr. Stich took the position that it would be far better for the city and for the men who needed help to keep the work of the municipal improvement in progress, thus affording the opportunity for employment and at the same time provide the city with those things so necessary to insure its continued advancement. The majority of his associates on the council accepted his views and the results was that one of the worst panics this country had seen was hardly felt in this community and had it not been for the cashiers checks issned for a short time the people of the city would have known of the panie only through the newspapers.”
One of the most successful men of Kansas, Mr. Stich was as democratic in manner after attaining wealth as he had been when a poor struggling youth. His positive nature of course made him enemies, but even his opponents in business or in politics gave him credit for his high mindedness and his conscientious devotion to the best ideals of life. He expressed his thoughts clearly and never attempted to conceal his real sentimonts. In speech and act he was direct. It was not difficult to find where he stood on any public question. He was also loyal to the principles of the republican party, and had little sympathy with the progressive faction which arose in 1912. While his time and energies were taken up with large affairs, he never neglected that host of small things which constitute the sum of real life. He was active in the Presbyterian church, contributed generously to its causes, and was for three years president of the most widely known men’s Bible classes in the state. He built a magnificent home for the comfort of his family and always kept it open to his host of friends.
The estimate of his career which appeared in an editorial in the Independence Daily Reporter at the time of his death should be quoted:
“In the death of A. C. Stich there passes from the stage of Kansas affairs one of the most interesting figures that have taken part in making the state what it is today. For while Mr. Stich’s part was played mostly in this section of the state, by his connection with various benevolences in other parts of Kansas he reached out and indirectly exerted his good influence elsewhere. In his home, where he was best known, he was well beloved for his kindliness, his generosity, his fairness and his upright, clean, moral and religious life. In cvery sense it can truly be said of him ‘he was a good man.’ To know him well was to enjoy the radiance of a nature that always saw the bright and beneficent side of life. He was warm hearted, open-minded and always kindly. He always thought first of what was right; after that, of what was expedient. He clung tightly to high ideals and always followed them and the influence of his unswerving loyalty to the right had a lasting effect upon those who knew him best. As a citizen he always believed in the upbuilding of his city and county and he gave generously of his large fortune for this purpose.
“A man of deep religious experience, he approached the end with a full and comforting confldence of the life hereafter in which one meets again the loved ones who have gone before to the other side. It was this confidence that made his last days calm and peaceful and which enabled him to approach the grave in the spirit of one who ‘wraps the drapory of his couch about him and lies down to pleasant dreams.’ Surely there is much in such a life as he lived to inspire and encourage and to treasure in memory.”
Mr. Stich was first married at Hillsdale, Michigan, to Miss Anna Winsor, who died at Independence in 1882. She was the mother of his three children: Eleanor, Adelaide and Carl, all of whom are now deceased. In 1888 Mr. Stich married Mrs. Kathleen E. (Stoy) Raisor, and she had since presided over their stately home in Independence and is one of the notable Kansas women. Mr. Stich lost his two children Carl and Adelaide within a few days of each other in August, 1898. His son Carl was then about twenty-five years of age, and the daughter Adelaide was three years younger and had spent a number of years in completing a thorough musical education in Europe.
During the last few years of his life Mr. Stich gave much of his time to travel. In 1914 he and his wife and a party of friends visited the Holy Land and that long journey proved a severe test to his failing physical strength.