Biography of James C. Shimer

Thirty years or association with the coal and feed business at Topeka had established for James C. Shimer a reputation for ability, resource and unflagging industry. He is one of the captains of suscess who have piloted their own craft to harbor. In his numerous varieties of experience, he had gained the good will of his fellow men, had made a place for himself in the business world and had served his county faithfully and well in public office, and out of all his struggles had evolved the belief that hard work rarely injures any one and that straightforward dealing always pays.

His father, Caleb D. Shimer was born in Ohio, and as a young man went to Indiana, where he was engaged in the feed business until the Civil war came on. At that time he became keeper of a tollgate on the National Pike, outside of Indianapolis, the last one to be built in the county, and of this he continued keeper until the close of the war. He then returned to the feed business, but four years later purchased a small farm near Bethel, Indiana, which he continued to operate, with the making of candles as a side line, for many years. He died March 20, 1916, at the age of ninety-three years. Mr. Shimer married Ellen Bingham, who was born in Indiana, and they became the parents of four children: Katherine, who is now Mrs. H. D. McNeely, of Topeka; Mattie, who is now Mrs. Giroud, of Greenville, Indiana; Emma, who is deceased; and James C.; of this review. After her divorce from her first husband the mother of James C. Shimer married George W. Bradshaw of Topeka and had one son, George W. Jr., who is now a resident of Parsons, Kansas.

James C. Shimer was reared on a farm by his paternal grandmother and uncle and attended the district schools and farmed until he was sixteen years of age. During the summer months he farmed on the homestead of a neighbor, thus earning enough to pay for his tuition in a business college, where he took a course in bookkeeping. Later he returned to the home of his uncle, but in September, 1883, came to Topeka, Kansas, where his mother and younger sister had preceded him and secured employment in the fence gang of the Santa Fe Railway and in the winter in the car gang of the shops at Topeka. He assisted in building fences between Kansas City, Missouri, and Topeka, and was one of the best workers in his section, having become accustomed to hard work as a child, as he had been called to do a man’s share ever since he was twelve years of age. After two years of this work. Mr. Shimer’s brother-in-law, H. D. McNeely, started in the coal business and admitted Mr. Shimer to partnership. They started in 1887, in a small frame shack, at 1875 South Kansas Avenue, and in the following year Mr. Shimer purchased his partner’s interest. At the end of the next year the business had grown to such proportions that he was compelled to provide better quarters, and accordingly built the brick building that now stands, and bought the ground. Later he added the feed department, and the business continued to grow rapidly, until today it is one of the firmly-established houses of its kind of Topeka. Mr. Shimer continued alone until 1914, in which year he admitted his son to partnership.

While Mr. Shimer had won success in business circles, his service to the city had been no less notable in character. From 1902 until 1906 he was a member of the Topeka City Council, to which he was elected on the republican ticket, and during his two terms was identified with various movements which made for civic betterment. In this time the council bought the water works for the city, and Mr. Shimer was the father of the bonds which made possible the building of the five bridges in 1903 which bettered materially the bridge situation of Topeka. In 1908 he was elected by the people of his community to the office of county commissioner, and so ably discharged his duties that he easily won re-election in 1912. He had served the people conscientiously, doing whatever he thought had been for their bdst and working energetically in behalf of good roads and permanent bridges, while at the same time striving to gain these things economically. More than the citizens know, he had been a factor in securing improvements and institutions that will be of lasting benefit to Topeka and Shawnee County. Mr. Shimer is an eighteenth degree Mason and belongs to Sylvan Lodge No. 225, Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons, and also holds membership in Topeka Lodge No. 38, Knights of Pythias. He and Mrs. Shimer are members of the Walnut Grove Presbyterian Church and have been active in its work.

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On December 7, 1890, Mr. Shimer was married to Miss Dora MeElvain, of Topeka, and they have had eight children: Grace, who is now the wife of Paul Emery, of Topeka; James Robert, who is associated in business with his father; Merle, who is employed by his father; and Ralph, Ruth, Emory, Lenore and Katherine (“Bess”), who are attending the Topeka schools.



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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