Biography of Herbert O. Caster

Herbert O. Caster, who, on February 2, 1914, qualified as attorney for the State Public Utilities Commission, and is now a resident of Topeka, had lived in Kansas for thirty-eight years, and is well known over the state, but particularly in his home County of Decatur, where before his admission to the bar he made a fine record for himself as an educator and an energetic factor in other affairs of public importance.

When the Caster family came to Kansas in 1878 they took up a homestead in Decatur County. At that time the county was a sparsely settled regiMeigon, and there was not a single frame house within its borders. Like everyone else there the Caster family lived in a home constructed partly of sod and partly a dug-out. The old-timers of Kansas recall the hardships of the first settlers, of their incessant warfare with drought and blizzards, crop failures, and atarvation prices for such prodnce as could be aetually spared in excess of home consumption. All these discouragements the family of Herbert O. Caster erperienced.

His parents were Dan and Jane (Turner) Caster. Dan Caster was a man of more than ordinary intelligence, and took an active part in local affairs in Decatur County, serving as chairman of the board of county commissioners, and in 1891 and in 1893 being elected to represent his county in the State Legislature.

Herbert O. Caster is an Ohio man by birth, having been born in Meigs County, August 28, 1871, and was therefore seven years old when he came to Kansas. Within his personal experience he knows what Kansans went through in the early days of the state. He grew up on a farm, attended a district school kept in a sod house with dirt floor, and later he became a student in the Oberlin High School, where he was graduated in 1891. Then followed a year as a teacher, and he next enrolled as a student in Ottawa University, at Ottawa, Kansas, where in 1898 he was granted the degree of Bachelor of Philosophy. He showed the resourcefulness and energy of his mind while in college, serving as business manager of the college paper, and successfully reprecenting his college in competitive states, and for a time was president of the State Oratorical Association.

Leaving college, Mr. Caster was for three years superintendent of the Oberlin city schools. As an educator he made a record of which he may properly be proud. While in Oberlin he ereated the first accredited high school course. In 1900 he was elected superintendent of public instrnction for Deeatur County, and re-elected in 1902. It was while in this office that he began the study of law. In the fall of 1903 Mr. Caster drafted a petition to the State Legislature for a county high school, sacured three-fourths of the signers and lergely through his personal efforts at Topeka secured the passage of the measure. All this he accomplished in addition to the regular duties of his position. In establishing the Decatur County High School he gained an enviable distinction throughout Kansas along educational lines. For eight years he was a member of the board of that high school, and for six years served as treasurer of the board. It is noteworthy that all his brothers and sisters taught school in Decatur County.

At Oberlin he organized the first Chautauqua, of which he was manager five years. In 1904 he was the unsuccessful nominee of the democratic party for Congress from the Sixth District. The succeeding year he was a member of the Legislative Committee of the State Teachers’ Association. In the meantime he had been making rapid progress in the law, and in June, 1906, was admitted to the bar and at once took up practice at Oberlin as an associate of Judge Langmade. He was elected county attorney in 1908. It was from this practice that he was called early in 1914 to become attorney for the State Public Utilities Commission at Topeks.

Mr. Caster is an active member of the Baptist Church and had held a number of offlcial positlons. On August 23, 1900, he married Miss Maud Van Grundy, who was born and reared in Missouri, daughter of Samuel and Sarah Van Grundy, who moved their home to Eansas in 1890. Mrs. Caster completed her education a Tarkio College at Tarkio, Missouri, and was a teacher both in Missouri and at Oberlin, Kansas. The three children of Mr. and Mrs. Caster are; Ethel, born October 10, 1901; Mary, born April 19, 1905; and Robert, born September 7, 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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