Biography of Henry W. McAfee

Henry W. McAfee. Of the men who have been contributing factors in the development and progress of Shawnee County, none have given in greater degree of their time, talents and energies to the general advancement than had Henry W. McAfee, proprietor of Prospect Farm, lying two miles west of the City of Topeka, on the Sixth Street road just west of Gage Park. A resident of this property for more than thirty-eight years, Mr. McAfee had been identified with numerous enterprises for general betterment, but it is, perhaps, as a promoter of good roads movements that he is best known to the people of this part of the state and that he is entitled to their esteem and support.

Mr. McAfee is a native son of Kansas and had resided within its limits all his life. He was born at Valley Falls, Jefferson County, Kansas, June 20, 1857, one of the three children born to the late Rev. J. B. McAfee, one of the first settlers of Kansas, who located at Topeka in 1864, and Anna (Yowler) McAfee. A full review of the family history will be found on another page of this work. Henry W. McAfee was seven years of age when the family moved to Topeka, and in the public schools of that city he gained his early education, this being subsequently supplemented by two years at Washburn College and a course at the Carthage (Illinois) College. On graduating from the latter institution, with the class of 1878, Mr. McAfee settled on the Prospect Farm, and there had continued to make his home to the present time. From the start of his career he had shown a predilection for doing big things in a big way, and his ready initiative and boundless resource have enabled him to promote and carry through enterprises that men of lesser talents would hesitate to undertake. The Prospect Farm originally comprised 240 acres, and in 1868 was broken for the first time, with three yoke of oxen and a “twenty-four” inch plow. When Mr. McAfee arrived, fresh from college, he started the first herd of Short Horn cattle and the first stud of Clydesdale horses in the State of Kansas, and continued the breeding of these lines of stock until 1915. During fourteen years he had been the operator of a large and successful dairy, in which he had thirty-two cows, and, among other institutions, furnishes milk for the State Hospital for the Insane. Also, for thirty-two years, he operated a cider mill, the first in Topeka and the largest west of the Mississippi River, from whence came all the cider consumed at conventions all over the country for many years.

Mr. McAfee was one of the organizers of the Old Settlers’ Association, was its vice president in 1915, and in 1916 was made its president, which office he now holds. He is an active member of the state Grange, is vice president of the local chapter of the Sons of the American Bevolution, and belongs also to the Sons of Veterans. In 1916 he was a delegate to the convention of the Grand Army of the Republic, with Governor Capper, at Dodge City, but owing to illness was unable to attend and his place was taken by Mr. Dennison. He is a director of the Gage Park School, Fifty-third District; and for three years had been president of the West Side Improvement Club of Gage, of which he was a charter member, and the object of which is the making of better roads and the improvement of Gage Park, one of its present enterprises being the paving of West Tenth Street. Mr. McAfee belongs also to the Commercial and Rotary clubs and is a life member of the social department of the Women’s Relief Corps, a member of the Young Men’s Christian Association and a member of the board of directors of the Kansas State Historical Society. He had been identified with the State Fair Association for thirty-four years, being at present a member of the board of directors of that institution, had shown stock for thirty-seven years and was one of the prime workers for the establishment of a free fair. For two years he was president and for a like period vice president of the Kansas Improved Stock Breeders’ Association. Mr. McAfee’s farm is model in every respect, including private water works, a dairy barn and furnished with electric lights and other modern improvements. From his eighty acres of orchard he takes 15,000 bushels of apples every year. Fraternally, he is affiliated with Topeka Blue Lodge No. 17, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and the Knights Templar, and had passed all the chairs in the Ancient Order of United Workmen, Lodge No. 3, of Topeka.

When Mr. McAfee located on his present farm he began to give attention to road problems, for at that time, before there was much road improvement, the Sixth Street road was not the highway that it is today. The hills were steeper, the roads were not well drained, the small creeks were not properly bridged and in rainy seasons the teuming between the farm and the city was a task even with the big Olydesdales that pulled the Prospect Farm wagous. In the early days Mr. McAfee not only paid his poll tax, but ever ready with his teams to help in road work. In speaking of Mr. McAfee’s activities in the line of good road building, an article in the Topeka State Journal recently said: “Time and again Mr. McAfee had been appointed a delegate to good roads meetings. The appointments did not carry with them a sum for expenses, but gave Mr. McAfee the right to attend, pay his own expenses and represent the city, county or state. But being a delegate to these good roads conventions gave him opportunity to study the best methods of road building and that chance was what attracted this Shawnee county farmer. Here are some of the good roads conventions to which Mr. McAfee had been a delegate and some of the good roads work he had done: 1908, at the St. Louis World’s Fair, was one of the eight Kansans who organized the Kansas Good Roads Association; 1909, 1910, 1911, president of the Kansas Good Roads Association; 1912, 1913, vice president Kansas Good Roads Association; 1910, 1911, secretary National Good Roads Association; 1910, brought the National Good Roads Congress with 1,300 delegates to Topeka; 1909, delegate to the first congress of American Good Roads Builders, Seattle, Washington; 1909, delegate to National Good Roads Convention, Baltimore and Washington; 1910, delegate to National Good Roads Assosiation, Niagara Falls; 1910, delegate to good roads conventions at Oklaboma City and St. Louis; 1911, delegate to good roads eonvention, Chicago; 1912, delegate to good roads convention, Boise, Idaho. Mr. McAfee was president of the first Shawnee County Good Roads Association, and was one of the leaders in securing the passage of the ‘wide tire’ ordinance through the city conneil. And, to bring his good roads record up to date, he is president of the Gage Park Improvement Association which had succeeded in arranging for the paving of West Tenth street for a distance of two miles west of the city limits.”

In 1916 Mr. McAfee announced his candidacy for the office of county commissioner of the Third Distriet, subject to the republican primaries, August 1st of that year. He feels that the most important office in the county government is that of county commissioner, for the incumbent levies taxes on property and spends the taxpayers’ money, and should therefore be a man who had been successful in business matters, who is progressive, yet economical, and who will apply in office the same principles of economy that he applies to his private affairs. Mr. McAfee felt that the country was entitled to a commissioner, because notwithstanding the fact that most of the property of the Third District is in the country and most of the taxes are collected in the country, the district had been represented by a resident of Topeka for the past sixteen years. The Third District comprises the Fifth and Sixth wards of Topeka and the remainder of the county south of the Kaw River. He favors a progressive but economical administration of the county’s affairs in every department and a support of all reasonable and necessary improvements, but limited to meet only actual and self-evident needs, so that, if possible, the public taxes can be reduced.

Mr. McAfee had always taken an active part in everything that would build up Topeka and Shawnee County. As a member of the Commercial and Rotary clubs, he had supported every movement that had tended to promote the interests of the people, and as a farmer, member of Oak Grange and president of the Kansas Improved Stock Breeders’ Association had stood for the interests of the farmers at all times. For ten consecutive years he attended the National Live Stock Association’s annual meetings, held in various eities of the country; in 1909 was a delegate to the first National Conservation Congress, held at Seattle, Washington, and the Trans-Mississippi Commercial Congress, at Denver. Mr. McAfee is in favor of an equal distribution of the annual automobile tax, amounting to several thousand dollars, to be used in the improvement of roads. He may justly lay claim to being one of the pioneer agitators for good roads which had resulted in such great improvements in the public roads of Shawnee County during the past ten years.

Mr. McAfee was married June 9, 1880, to Miss Sarah Louise Nellis, and they are the parents of four children: Lucille, a graduate of the Kansas State Agricultural College, at Manhattan, and now the wife of Rev. Paul Mennenoeh, of Eureka, Kansas; Marian, also a graduate of that institution, a choir singer at the First English Lutheran Church, living at home; Leland, also a graduate of the same college, as well as a choir singer, and living with his parents; and Ruth, also at home. Mr. and Mrs. McAfee are members of the First English Lutheran Church. of which Mr. McAfee had been a trustes for twelve years and financial secretary for twenty years. Mrs. McAfee also takes a leading and active part in church and charitable work.



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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