Biography of C. F. Lutes

C. F. Lutes. The largest hand glass plant west of the Mississippi River is that of the Fredonia Window Glass Company, located at Fredonia, Kansas. The president and general manager of this enterprise, C. F. Lutes, had been connected with the glass industry ever since entering upon his career, and is a man of experience, resource and energy, who, since coming to Kansas in 1904, had occupied a position of importance among the business men of Fredonia. The success of the company with which he is identified, and its allied interests at Caney, Kansas and Okmulgee, Oklahoma, must be accredited to his efforts and good management.

Like numerous other men who have reached successful places in business affairs of Kansas, Mr. Lutes is a native of Indiana. He was born at New Albany, the county seat of Floyd County, on the Ohio River, January 1, 1871, and is a son of F. W. Lutes and a member of a family that was founded in America by a German emigrant to New York during ante-Revolutionary days. Daniel Lutes was born in 1803, in Connecticut, and as a young man learned the trade of glass-blowing, which he followed throughout his career. During the latter part of his life he resided at Mount Clemens, Michigan, and there his death occurred in 1873, when he was seventy years of age. He had been an industrious and steady workman, accumulated a modest property, and during the last few years of his life lived in comfortable retirement in his own home. Daniel Lutes married Miss Mary Warner, who was born in Vermont, and died at Richmond, Michigan, a member of a family which came to America with the Pilgrims. Seth Warner, the Revolntionary hero, was an uncle of Mrs. Lutes.

F. W. Lutes, father of C. F. Lutes, was born February 22, 1840, in the State of New York, and when a young man took up his residence at Clyde. He had received a public school education, and as a youth had learned the business of glass blowing from his father, a vocation that occupied his attention during the remainder of his life. He was married at Clyde and while living at that place, in 1862, enlisted in the One Hundred and Eleventh Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, for service in the Civil war. Mr. Lutes had a war record that was notable for the courage which was displayed in his actions, and he was one of the few men who had the distinction during the war of being presented by Congress with a medal for conspicuous bravery. This action is described as follows: Mr. Lutes, who was that day acting as sergeant, was stationed with his company along the line of the Weldon Railroad, the enemy being strongly entrenched in front of him. Spying the colors of the enemy floating over their works, he decided upon their capture, and gave orders to those under his command to concentrate their fire on the particular location where the colors stood. This made it impossible for the color-bearer and color-guard to get away with the flags when the balance of the line broke and retreated from the trenches. In advance of Sergeant Lutes’ line, about half the distance to the enemy’s works, were located three trees which had grown close together and between these trees had been piled rails and other materials, thus forming what is known as a vedette post. At the moment when he thought it was ripe for so doing, Mr. Lutes sprang in advance of his line and fell in behind these trees. This individual advance had been noted by the enemy, who sent a withering fire in his direction as well as upon the vedette post, and he afterward stated: “The air seemed as if it was filled with bees the bullets fell so thickly.” However, he reached the post in safety and from there was able to get to the trenches of the enemy almost as soon as the latter began to leave. The color-bearer was a big Georgian, about six feet, six inches tall, and undertook to carry away the colors, but Sergeant Lutes forced him to surrender at the point of the bayonet, and the color-guard was also unable to get his pistol in position before the plucky Unionist had him covered with his gun. Thus he captured the colors, color-bearer and color-guard of the Forty-First Alabama, Volunteer Infantry. He was then detailed to take them to the rear and on the field was granted a furlough in order to take the colors to Washington. There the following day, Secretary Stanton received him and held his hand while he ordered a number of guns to be fired in salute for the fall of Vicksburg. Some time later the medal was sent to his address at Clyde, New York. Mr. Lutes continued to be a courageous and faithful member of his regiment and took part in many bloody engagements, in one of which he was captured by the enemy and sent to Libby Prison, but was subsequently exchanged. When he returned from the war he resumed his trade at Clyde, and later went to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; then to New Albany, Indiana; Syracuse, New York; and Bernhards Bay, New York, and finally located near Wolcott, Wayne County, New York, where he devoted himself to some extent to farming until his death, April 6, 1915. He was a republican all his life and one of the good and public-spirited men of his community, a faithful member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and popular among his fellow-members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Mr. Lutes was married at Clyde, New York, to Miss Mary Schindler, who was born in 1850 at that place and died there in 1880, and they became the parents of five children: J. H., who is a traveling salesman with headquarters at Cedar Rapids, Iowa; C. F., of this notice; Helen, who is the wife of O. V. Strickler, of New York City, a well known Christian Science teacher and lecturer; Franklin, who died at the age of two years, and Arthur M., of Fredonia. Arthur M. Lutes was born August 12, 1878, at Bernhards Bay, New York, and received his education in the public schools of Clyde and Wolcott, in that state. He attended the Wolcott High School in 1896, and at that time learned the trade of glass cutting, a vocation which he followed at Covington, Pennsylvania; and at Mount Jewett, Kane, Hazelhurst and Bradford, in that state. He became a resident of Kansas in 1902, in which year he settled at Fredonia, where he was made superintendent of the cutting department of the Fredonia Window Glass Company. In 1907 he engaged in the general builders’ supply business, at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and continued there until 1914, at that time going to Rochester, New York, where he carried on the weather-stripping business. In 1915 he returned to Fredonia, and here again accepted the superintendency of the cutting department of the Fredonia Window Glass Company, a position which he now holds. He is a stanch republican, a member of the Presbyterian Church, and a Mason and Modern Woodman as to fraternal connection. In 1900, at Red Creek, New York, he was married to Graee Warner, daughter of Truman and Francena (Howell) Warner, residents of Red Creek, where Mr. Warner is engaged in farming. Mr. and Mrs. Lutes have one daughter-Geraldine, born August 5, 1911. After the death of his first wife, F. W. Lutes was married to Miss Maria Griffin, who survives him and resided at Wolcott, New York. To this union there were born three children, as follows: Harry, who is a glasscutter and resided at Fredonia; Florence, who is the wife of Lemon Olmstead, a merchant of Fredonia; and Fred, who is a glasscutter by occupation and now a resident of Fredonia.

C. F. Lutes was educated in the public schools of Clyde, New York, and was only fifteen years of age when he began to learn the trade of glass making. He learned the trade from his father and brother who were also in the glass business, and was obliged to serve a three years’ apprenticeship without pay. That apprenticeship was in learning the first step in the business. This is described technically as “gathering,” it being very necessary that the workman shall learn to gather before he learns to blow. Two years later Mr. Lutes learned to blow, and worked at Clyde, New York, and Wellsboro and Smithport, Pennsylvania, and in the year 1892 went into business as a manufacturer at Covington, Pennsylvania.

Window glass workmen are very strongly organized, and have been for many years. The organization is so strictly maintained that outsiders are practically unable to learn the trade. The only ones allowed to learn are very strictly limited. Thus a father can teach a son or a brother teach a brother, and this tends to keep the followers of the trade largely in family line, as was true of some of the ancient workmen’s guilds. Mr. Lutes’ ancestors were in the glass business as far back as he had any record. It is also a matter that many people will learn with surprise that window glass blowers are the highest paid skilled labor in the United States. Their wages will average about $12 per day and some have been known to make as high as $600 or $700 per month.

Mr. Lutes came to Kansas in 1904 as president and general manager of the Fredonia Window Glass Company. As this is the largest concern of its kind in Kansas, some of the more important facts concerning the industry may appropriately be considered in this sketch.

Ground was broken for the glass plant at Fredonia on July 9, 1904. The first window glass was made December 24, 1904. The Caney plant started a couple of years later. The Fredonia plant is described as a 48-blower capacity, employing 48 blowers, 48 gatherers, 48 snappers, 12 flatteners and 16 cutters, these with other employes making about 300 men. The production of this plant is over 5,000 boxes of window glass per week, each mercantile box containing fifty square feet. The Caney plant is what is termed as a 30-blower capacity, requiring 30 blowers, 30 gatherers, 30 snappers, 10 cutters and 9 flatteners.

In the making of window glass a large furnace or tank is required. The materials used in the building of such a furnace include the very best fire clay to be had, most of which is imported from Germany. During the last few years the Fredonia Company had been mixing this German clay with a clay obtained in Missouri. The walls of the furnace are sixteen inches thick. That is, the size of the blocks used in building up the walls is each 12 by 16 by 24 inches. The tops of the furnace are made of silica brick, each brick 2 by 16 by 12. After the furnace is constructed it is filled with large quantities of broken glass, called by the trade name “cullet.” It requires 700 tons to fill such a furnace as that at Fredonia. This broken glass is fused by intense heat. This step is necessary in order to preserve the fire clay blocks, the molten glass forms a glazing over the blocks and preserves them, whereas had raw material been introduced at first the molten mass would have eaten into the fire clay and honeycombed them so they would last only two or three weeks.

The raw materials used in making window glass consists of sand, crushed limestone, sulphate of soda, commonly known as salt cake, soda ash and carbon. The proportions vary some under different atmospheres. For the blowing of the large glass natural gas is used for fuel. In a plant of the size of that at Fredonia about 1,500,000 cubic feet per day are required. All window glass is first made into a cylinder, then being cracked open from end to end. Each cylinder then reheated in what is termed as a flattening oven and flattened out on large flat fire clay stones. While the heat required for the melting of the raw material is between 2,800º and 3,200º Fahrenheit, the heat required in the flattening process is from 1,400º to 1,600º Fahrenheit. After the glass is flattened it goes through annealing lehrs then comes out into the cutting room, where it is assorted and cut with a diamond.

Mr. Lutes is authority for the statement that the first glass made west of the Mississippi River was at Fort Scott, Kansas, in the year 1888-89. That plant, which was financed by local capital, existed a very short time, only part of one year. Mr. Lutes had been very successful in the glass business in Kansas, and it is no small tribute to his energy and experience that the Fredonia plant had been making money while many other similar plants have failed. In 1911 there were eleven window glass plants in Kansas. At the present time there are only three. Some of them failed completely, and others were obliged to move away on account of the fuel situation. Besides the plants at Fredonia and Caney there was a third plant, of which Mr. Lutes was president and general manager until 1914, located at Okmulgee, Oklahoma. This was a machine plant with 150-blower capacity.

Mr. Lutes is a republican in his political views, and while he had not cared for public office had always capably and faithfully performed the duties pertaining to good citizenship. He is fraternally affiliated with Constellation Lodge No. 95, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and the Commercial Club. He holds stock in the Wilson County Bank of Fredonia, and is generally recognized as one of the substantial men of the city. As a realty holder he owned a number of valuable properties at and about Fredonia, which include a residence one mile south of the town, an eighty-acre farm 1¼ miles south of the city limits and four dwellings at Fredonia, one of which is situated at the corner of Washington and Eighth streets, one at the corner of Eighth and Madison streets, one on Fifteenth Street and one on Eighth Street. In business and social circles Mr. Lutes possesses an excellent reputation. His career is one worthy of emulation, since he won his way to the front through the medium of his own effort and through honorable and straightforward dealing with his fellow men.

In passing something should be said of his fine rural or suburban residence at Fredonia. It is one mile south of the town on what is called the Cament Road. It comprises a twenty-five acre farm with all modern improvements. Mr. Lutes had found no greater pleasure in business success than in using his profits for the development of this home. He had installed an individual electric plant, cousisting of storage batteries, and capable of furnishing sixty lights per night. In digging a well he was fortunate in striking an abundance of water, which is pumped into a large tank and is sufficient to irrigate the entire place. There is a complete water system in the house, a vacunm and sweeping system had been installed, and the home also had its own sewerage system with septic tank. About five acres of the land is developed to orchard and grapes. As a small farm it is operated with the last word of efficiency. Mr. Lutes keeps fine grade horses, cows, hogs and chickens, and he uses a tractor for his plowing. Mention had already been made of the well which supplies an abundance of water for all purposes. In digging this well the bore penetrated a stratum of pure glass sand or silica, and seventeen carloads were taken from that stratum for the manufacture of glass.

Mr. Lutes’ family consists of one daughter, Clara, who was born March 7, 1899, to his first marriage; and his wife and step-son, Donald Ritchie. Mr. Lutes was married in April, 1915, to Mrs. Catherine (Llewellyn) Ritchie of Fredonia. They were married at Wichita. Mrs. Lutes takes as much pride as her husband in their beautifully appointed home and assumes many of the practical details connected with the management of the farm.



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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1 thought on “Biography of C. F. Lutes”

  1. C.F. Lutes is my Great, Great Grandfather, His daughter Clara (Clem) is my Great Grandmother. Thank You for the posting. I have heard stories from family members over the years but nice to find some historical data about my ancestry.

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