Biography of Harry A. Mendenhall

Harry A. Mendenhall. Though his home is in the largest city of Kansas, Harry A. Mendenhall’s business and civic activities have been such as to constitute him one of the best known men of Kansas City, Kansas. For nearly thirty years he had given his best time and energy to the building up of an organization and equipment for the efficient handling of local traffic and freight in the transfer line, he is a former sheriff of Wyandotte County, and is also prominent as a banker.

He was born January 11, 1865, on a farm at the edge of the City of Richmond, Indiana. That section of Indiana was the principal center for the pioneer settlement of a large number of Quaker families in the early days, and the Mendenhalls were also of that religious sect. Mr. Mendenhall is one of four children born to Caleb S. and Rebecca (People’s) Mendenhall. Both were natives of Indiana. Caleb S. Mendenhall followed the nursery business for a number of years at Richmond. He served in the Civil war, first as sergeant in Company I of the Eighty-fourth Indiana Volunteer Infantry, and with that command participated in a number of battles until he was wounded when a train was wrecked. After that he was assigned as hospital steward. Following the war he returned home, continued business in eastern Indiana, but finally invested in some lands in Kansas and in order to look after this investment and also acquire better opportunities for himself and his family he came to Topeka in 1869. He was at that time thirty-eight years of age, having been born in 1831. At Topeka he was connected with the engineering corps of the Santa Fe Railway and assisted in laying out various towns along the Arkansas River, including Great Bend. He worked with that company about two years. In 1871 he bought an old time Burr grist mill at Osage City. Osage City then had only twenty houses on its site. As a miller Caleb Mendenhall frequently traded a fifty pound sack of flour for a buffalo ham. He operated a mill for three years, then sold out and bought 320 acres near Osage City, where he engaged as a stock raiser and feeder. For a few years he handled native cattle, and finally brought western cattle to his feeding grounds. He lived there during the grasshopper scourge and the droughts of several years, and in spite of several setbacks he prospered in the main. In 1886 he followed his sons to Kansas City, Kansas, sold his farm, and engaged in the real estate business in association with Mr. Chapman. He continued handling real estate until his death in 1908. His wife died in 1905. Their children were: Orra, now Mrs. Frank Jones of New York; Florence, Mrs. McCloon of Kansas City, Kansas; Lincoln J., who was for many years actively associated as a business partner with his brother Harry A., and who died in 1907; and Harry A.

Caleb Mendenhall was a prominent man in local affairs in Osage County. He was an active republican, served as a member of the Osage City Council, on the board of education, took a prominent part in the county seat fight there, and he exerted every influence in behalf of better schools and more churches. He was long identified with the Grand Army of the Republic and for one term served as commander of the Post at Kansas City, Kansas. While he adhered throughout his life to the religion in which he was trained as a boy, his wife was active in the Methodist Church.

The public schools of Osage City gave Harry A. Mendenhall his first training and later for one year he attended the Emporia Normal School. He then returned home to assist his father on the farm, and remained there until 1885. In that year he removed to Kansas City, Kansas, and with his brother Lincoln started a lunch counter. He had brought with him from Osage City only $25, and the brothers continued in the business about two years and then in 1888 entered the transfer business, to which Mr. Harry Mendenhall had devoted his best energies ever since. However, from 1901 to 1905, when he filled the office of sheriff of Wyandotte County, he turned over the active management of the transfer business to his brother.

On September 16, 1892, Mr. Mendenhall married Miss Auna Fields of Kansas City, Kansas. Mrs. Mendenhall was born in Missouri. Six children have been horn to their marriage: Hal, who is associated in business with his father; Margaret, now Mrs. Eugene Zellars, of Kansas City, Kansas; and Claude, Florence, Samuel and Harriet, all at home. Mrs. Mendenhall takes a very active part in the Episcopal Church.

Always a loyal republican, Mr. Mendenhall had not been active in politics since he retired from the office of sheriff. Prior to that he had served as a member of the city council from 1896 to 1900. In 1905 he became one of the reorganizers of the Home State Bank, and served as its president for nine years. In 1913 he sold his interest in that institution and then bought the Minnesota Avenue State Bank, of which he is now president. Anything that means a bigger and better city had the loyal co-operation of Mr. Mendenhall. He worked consistently in behalf of schools and churches, is a member and trustee of the Mercantile Club and Rotary Club, and is prominent in various fraternities. He belongs to the Scottish Rite bodies of Masonry, also to the Mystic Shrine, was a member of the board for six years and president of the building board of the Masonic Temple. He also belongs to the Ancient Order of United Workmen, the Modern Woodmen of America and the Sons of Veterans.



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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