Biography of John S. Gilmore

John S. Gilmore. In journalistic circles of Kansas few men are better known than is John S. Gilmore, one of the energetic and progressive of the younger generation of newspaper men, who, as publisher and editor of the Wilson County Citizen, is directing the policies of one of the county’s leading organs and one of the oldest in the state of Kansas. Mr. Gilmore had been a resident of Fredonia all his life, for it was here that he was born April 26, 1891, a son of John S. and Florence (Barton) Gilmore.

Robert G. Gilmore, the grandfather of John S. Gilmore, was born on the Irish Sea coast, at Donaghadee, County Down, Ireland, September 19, 1811. He was of Scotch Covenanter stock, his ancestors having migrated to Ireland from Scotland on account of what was considered religious persecution during the reign of Charles h. His trade was that of carpenter and joiner, and he was possessed of a good education, broad intelligence, accurate memory and definite opinions. In politics he was a democrat until 1852 and from 1854 a republican. His wife was born in Dundee, Scotland, April 28, 1812, and in 1838 the couple came to the United States and located at Rochester, New York, where they made their home until they came to Kansas. Robert G. Gilmore died at Emporia, Kansas, of pneumonia, February 11, 1874, and his wife, who had reared six sons and experienced the severe privations of pioneer life in Kansas–many years of which residence she was an invalid from chronic rheumatism–died December 22, 1891. Her death occurred at Fredonia, at the home of her son. She was a faithful member of the Presbyterian Church all her life and a devout Christian woman.

John S. Gilmore, the father of John S. of this notice, was born at Rochester, New York, December 6, 1848, his parents being Robert G. and Helen (Storrier) Gilmore. In 1857 he accompanied them and his brothers to Kansas territory, and October 31 of that year the family landed at Wyandotte from a Missouri river steamboat, “The William Campbell,” and set out on their journey of 110 miles in an oxwagon to the claim in Lyon County which the father had taken in March of the same year. Their cabin on the frontier was in the Neosho River woods, two miles northeast of the new town of Emporia, and John S. Gilmore lived in the county until the summer of 1865, when, on the 20th of July, he entered the office of Jacob Stotler’s Emporia News, as a printer’s apprentice. He afterwards worked on the Burlington Patriot (S. S. Prouty), the Oswego Register, the Leavenworth Daily Commercial, the Osage Chronicle (M. M. Murdock) and the Emporia Tribune.

Having, before his twenty-first year, through work as a typesetter and the investment of his wages in cattle, saved up over $600, Mr. Gilmore felt an ambition to start a paper. Riding from Emporia to Wilson County on a Kaw Indian pony, in December, 1869, he completed negotiations for such an undertaking. He located at Guilford, where, a few months later, the press and other paraphernalia of the offic–which he had selected with his own hands–were shipped the last week of March. The press was a Washington hand press, on which he had “rolled” as an apprentice in the office of the Emporia News. and was taken to that town by P. B. Plumb in 1857 when he started that paper. The first number of the Citizen was issued at Guilford, April 21, 1870, with John S. Gilmore as editor and proprietor. The young editor, in the salutatory, announced, expressive of his political convictions, that the Citizen was a republican paper. After publishing it for six months and becoming convinced that Guilford had but slight prospects as a town, the paper was moved to Neodesha and publication resumed as the Neodesha Citizen, the first number being issued November 18, 1870. Two years later the paper was suspended, and in May, 1873, Mr. Gilmore, wishing to locate at the county seat, purchased of William A. Peffer, the Fredonia Journal and revived his former paper as the Wilson County Citizen, the initial issue appearing on June 6. From the beginning, the Citizen never changed hands nor politics until the death of John S. Gilmore, when his son took up the task, but had never changed its politics or policy.

Through all political storms and mutations, the policy of the paper had been uniform, definite and consistent, nor had either the father or son as editor purposely or unwittingly temporized in any degree at any time or period with any of the numerous new parties and movements which have formed and flitted since the paper was established.

While a resident of Neodesha, and when the town was incorporated as a city of the third class, in March, 1871, John S. Gilmore the elder was elected a member of the first city council. At the November election of the same year, and when lacking a month of being twenty-three years of age, he was elected register of deeds of Wilson County as the nominee of the republican party, which office he held two years, retiring without seeking a re-election. In 1876 and in 1878 he was elected representative to the Kansas Legislature from the Fifty-fourth District as a republican, having been unanimously nominated both times. On January 26, 1880, he was appointed postmaster at Fredonia, holding the office until December 20, 1884. In February, 1891, Governor L. W. Humphrey, at his own instance appointed Mr. Gilmore a member of the board of directors of the Kansas State Penitentiary, to fill a two years’ vacancy, and in February, 1899, Governor W. E. Stanley appointed him to a vacancy of like duration on the same board, of which board he was chosen president. He was elected a member of the Republican State Central Committee in 1876, in 1888 and in 1898, from the Seventh Judicial District; served as chairman of the Wilson County Republican Central Committee several times; was a delegate to almost every republican state convention from 1870, and his active identification with the republican party since he became a voter never abated until the time of his death, which occurred at Fredonia, April 2, 1913.

On May 31, 1882, Mr. Gilmore was united in marriage with Miss Viola Butin, of Fredonia, at Lancaster, Ohio. She was born in Wapello County, Iowa, October 13, 1860, and died nine days after the marriage, at Washington, D. C. On February 27, 1890, Mr. Gilmore was married in Newark Township, Wilson County, Kansas, to Miss Florence Barton, who was born at Ironton, Ohio, May 14, 1862, a daughter of Captain William H. and Mary J. Barton, whose ancestors were among those companies of Pilgrims and Huguenots who settled the colonies. Mrs. Gilmore is a direct descendant of John Alden, as well as of Revolutionary heroes. Two children were born to this union: John S.; and Mary, born July 1, 1894, who is attending the University of Michigan, at Ann Arbor. Mrs. Gilmore was once a teacher in the Neodesha schools and is an earnest worker in and member of the Presbyterian Church, in which faith her ancestors were believers. She is honorary regent of Fredonia Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, by virtue of the services of her great-grandfather, Colonel William Barton, of Rhode Island, in the Revolutionary war, in whose honor the local chapter is named.

John S. Gilmore attended the public schools of Fredonia and graduated from the high school there in 1911, following which he entered the College of Emporia. He was not destined to complete his course there, however, as after he had attended for two years the serious illness of his father called him home to take charge of the newspaper and other business affairs and since the elder man’s death he had conducted it capably and along the same lines which built up its success. The Wilson County Citizen circulates in Wilson and the surrounding counties, had a large subscription list, and is considered an excellent advertising medium. It is published weekly and is the dominating paper of the locality, as it had been since its inception. The offices and plant, situated at No. 706 Madison Street, are model in every respect, and the latter is equipped by the most highly improved machinery known to the printer’s art.

Mr. Gilmore is a stanch republican and a member of the Presbyterian Church, while fraternally he is affiliated with Constellation Lodge No. 95, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. The Jno. S. Gilmore estate, which he manages, owned the residence at No. 1105 Madison Street, a large office building at No. 608 Madison Street, Fredonia, and 1,520 acres of land in Wilson County, situated northeast of the city, as well as the offices and plant of the newspaper. Mr. Gilmore had other business interests and is a director of the State Bank of Fredonia. He is devoting much time and money to the raising of purebred livestock, having some of the finest sheep in this country as well as imported stock from England. The kennels of the Gilmore ranch contain some of the finest-bred dogs, the Corzoi or Russian wolfhounds and white collies being notable in quality and value. He had always been interested in matters that have made for civic advancement and betterment, is a director in the Fredonia Commercial Club, was recently on the executive board of the State Editorial Association and had charge of the athletics at the Fredonia High School until the present year when business demanded his full attention. Mr. Gilmore is unmarried.



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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