Biography of Benjamin E. Lewis

Benjamin E. Lewis. It is invariably found in tracing the influences which make for good citizenship, integrity and morality that the fundamental of these qualities lies in education. Therein is found the basis of intelligence, of judgment according to the value, of comprehension, and, equipped with these, youth may enter upon the struggle of life well prepared to fight its battles. Southeastern Kansas had no reason to feel ashamed of its educational system, or of the men who direct it. The individuals chosen to manage and to discipline have been carefully selected, and in their ranks are found men of broad and comprehensive learning, who have had their training in some of the most distinguished educational institutions in the country. In this latter class is found Prof. Benjamin E. Lewis, superintendent of city schools of Iola, Kansas, and a man who had devoted his life to the educational profession.

Benjamin E. Lewis, was born at Lecompton, Douglas County, Kansas, April 10, 1869, and is a son of Dr. P. M. and Martha Jane (Baird) Lewis. The family to which he belongs originated in Wales, from which country, during Colonial times, it emigrated to America, the early members settling in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and their descendants becoming pioneers of North Carolina and Tennessee. It was in the latter state, in 1809, that the grandfather of Professor Lewis, Ephraim Lewis, was born. He later moved with his parents to Indiana. He was reared as an agriculturist and became the pioneer of the family into Kansas, settling in 1857 in Linn County. It was during those days that the border troubles came to a head and bloodshed became a common occurrence, and, being a Free State man, and outspoken in his sentiments, Mr. Lewis, fearing more for the safety of his family than for his own, moved into Marshall County, where he took up his residence in 1858. There he passed the remainder of his life in agricultural pursuits, being an influential citizen and serving several terms as county commissioner. He died at Frankfort, Marshall County, in 1893. He was related to the famous trapper and frontiersman, Daniel Boone. Mr. Lewis married a Miss Johnson, who also died in Marshall County.

Dr. P. M. Lewis was born February 20, 1841, in Delaware County, Indiana, where he received his early education and was sixteen years of age when he made the journey overland with his parents to the frontier of Kansas, settling in Linn County. There he secured such education as the pioneer schools of the day and locality afforded, and one year later went to Marshall County, where he completed his literary education. Adopting medicine as his life work, he fitted himself for that profession, and began his practice in Iowa, where he continued his professional labors for some years. During this time he was married at St. Charles, that state. He later attended Rush Medical College, Chicago, finally receiving the honors of graduation from the Kansas City Medical College, Kansas City, Missouri. Doctor Lewis removed to Lecompton, Douglas County, Kansas, in 1867, and became the pioneer physician at that place, where he remained in continuous practice for a period of forty years, at the end of that time retiring and spending the rest of his life in the comforts which he had gained through his well-directed and useful labors. He died at Lecompton, December 5, 1916. Doctor Lewis was one of the old-time physicians who won the love and reverence of the people and who gave the best of themselves to their profession and to the alleviation of the ills of humanity. He was a republican in his political views, and for a number of years served as mayor and councilman of Lecompton. During a period of a half a century he belonged to the United Brethren Church, the faith of which he lived every day, and his only fraternal connection was with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He was married at St. Charles, Iowa, to Miss Martha Jane Baird, who was born in Ohio, January 7, 1846, later moving to Iowa with her parents. She still survives and resided at Lecompton. They became the parents of three children, two of whom are now living: Benjamin E.; and Margaret, who is the wife of Dr. H. L. Chambers, a practicing physician and surgeon of Lawrence, Kansas.

Benjamin E. Lewis received excellent educational advantages in his youth. He received his early instruction in the graded and high schools of Lecompton, following which he entered the academic department of Lane University, Lecompton, and graduated with the class of 1894, receiving the degree of Bachelor of Science. In the fall of that year he began teaching school in Nemaha County, and remained at Centralia until 1899, when he entered Kansas University. He was graduated from that institution in 1901, with the degree of Bachelor of Arts, and in 1902 took post-graduate work and received the degree of Master of Arts. At that time Mr. Lewis became superintendent of schools of Eureka, Kansas, a position which he held until 1908, then resigning to begin post-graduate work at Yale University, which he attended during 1908 and 1909, in the latter year receiving the degree of Master of Arts from that famous institution of learning. Returning to Kansas, in 1909, he became superintendent of schools of Authony, Kansas, and in the fall of the year 1915 came to Iola as superintendent of schools. Under his supervision are eight schools, sixty-seven teachers and 2,700 scholars. Professor Lewis had worked untiringly to elevate the standard of education at Iola. He is a man of extensive learning and withall is possessed of the executive ability so necessary in the handling of organized work. His intelligent interest in modern affairs, combined with his exhaustive knowledge of those topics which have interested scholars throughout the ages, well fit him to lead others and to implant in the minds of his pupils during their formative period a love for pure ideals, high standards of living, and thoroughness of action along any line of endeavor, which cannot help but work out for the development of the best type of citizenship. Professor Lewis belongs to the Kansas State Teachers’ Association and the Southeast Kansas Teachers’ Association, and is a republican in politics. He makes his home at No. 119 South First Street.

In 1896, at Lecompton, Kansas, Professor Lewis was married to Miss Hattie S. Snyder, daughter of J. H. and Lou (Lee) Snyder, who reside at Stuart, Florida, Mr. Snyder being a retired minister of the United Brethren Church. Mr. and Mrs. Lewis are the parents of two children: Erma E., born September 28, 1901; and Philip Henry, born June 16, 1907.



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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