Biography of James M. Chisham

James M. Chisham. Perhaps no one had been more closely identified with the public affairs and public ntilitias of Atchison than Mr. James M. Chisham, who is now superintendent of the Atchison Water Company. For a number of years he filled official positions in the city’s government, and helped make Atchison a city of medern improvements, including paved streets, and possessed of those public utilities which are insoparable from health and convenience.

He is an old resident of Atchison, having come to the city when a child. He had fought his own way to success. He was born in Randolph County, Missouri, December 23, 1859. His ancestors, the Chishams, came from Scotland, were early settlers in Virginia, in colonial times, and from there the family moved to Kentucky and later to Missouri. Mr. Chisham’s grandfather Chisham was a Randolph County, Missouri, pioneer, and spent his life there as a farmer. Mr. Chishem’s maternal grandfather Palmer went out to California during the gold excitement of the early ’50s, and while returning by way of the Isthmus of Panama was lost on the Gulf of Mexico.

George Chisham, father of James M. Chisbam, was born in Missouri, in 1836, spent his active career as a farmer and died in Randolph County in 1862. He was a democrat in politics. His wife, Elizabeth Palmer, was born in Missouri in 1838 and died at Atchison, Kansas, in 1871. There were just three children, James M. being the second and the only one still living. This family suffered a tragedy in 1862, when they were stricken by dysentery and not only the father but the oldest son, William, and the youngest son, John, died of the disease. William was five years old at the time and John was an infant.

In 1865 the widowed mother brought her only son, James, to Atchison, and the latter had known no other home since he was six years of age. He attended as regularly as possible the public schools and for two years was a student in Moutgomery College in Montgomery County, Missouri. He left that school in 1879 and returning to Atchison entered the office of the recorder of deeds as assistant deputy. Subsequently he was deputy county clerk and was in the court house three years altogether. In the spring of 1883 he began work for the Eastern Kansas Land and Loan Company as bookkeeper, but after three months took a position as cashier with the Atchison Gas and Water Company. That was his first connection with the public utilities. He was cashier of the Gas and Water Company three years and then became superintendent of the gas works. He managed that company until January 1, 1898, and at the same time was secretary of the company. While retaining that office he was appointed postmaster under McKinley and served until January 1, 1911. In 1905 Mr. Chisham became active superintendent of the Atchison Water Company, and had retained that office to the present time. The water company is owned by a private corporation, the general offices of which are in St. Louis, Missouri. The local offices are at 406 Commercial Street in Atchison.

Atchison had a fine water system. The pumping station is near the Union Station at the foot of Utah Avenue on the Missouri River. The eapacity of the pump is 4,000,000 gallons a day, and the water is delivered partly by direct pressure and partly by gravity flow. At Spring Garden Street and Sixth Street are situated four reservoirs, one with a capacity of 4,000,000 gallons and each of the others with a capacity of 1,750,000 gallons, so that when full these reservoirs contain over 9,000,000 gallons of water.

From 1885 to 1891 Mr. Chisham was a member of the City Council of Atchison and was president of the council three years of that time. This was an era of great public improvements. During that time two-thirds of the paving was done, and Atchison is noted for its many miles of paved streets. From 1891 to 1893 he also served as city treasurer. Mr. Chisham is a director in the Atchison Water Company and is a stockholder in the First National Bank.

In politics he is a republican, is a member of Trinity Episcopal Church, is affiliated with Washington Lodge No. 5, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, is past high priest of Washington Chapter No. 2, Royal Arch Masons, is a member of Washington Commandery No. 1, Knights Templar, and belongs to Atchison Lodge No. 4, Aneient Order of United Workmen, and to the Royal Arcanum.

In 1905 Mr. Chisham built one of the finest homes in the city, at 705 North Fourth Street, where he and his family reside. He married June 20, 1883, near Hawthorne in Atchison County, Miss Florence Iddings. Her parents, James M. and Margaret (Peedler) Iddings, are both now deceased. Her father was a farmer and stock man and an early settler in Atchison County. Mr. and Mrs. Chisham have two children. Ruby, still at home, attended the Midland College at Atchison through the junior year and completed her education in the art department of the University of Kansas. Fay is the wife of Arthur C. Moses, a resident of Kansas City, Missouri, and in the mills of the Kansas Flour Mills Company. Mr. and Mrs. Moses have one child, William, born November 27, 1915.



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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