Biography of John Wilbur Lapham

John Wilbur Lapham. The life record of John W. Lapham, postmaster, attorney and ex-mayor of Chanute, Kansas, stands in contradistinction to the old adage that a prophet is never without honor save in his own country, for Mr. Lapham is a native son of the county and city in which he has directed the efforts of his successful career. The son of a leading member of the Neosho County bar, he has followed in his father’s footsteps in the legal profession, as well as making a success in business life and as a public official.

John W. Lapham was born at Chanute, Kansas, May 29, 1887, and is a son of Hon. Amos S. and Josephine (Bonham) Lapham. The family traces its ancestry back to the sixteenth century in England, and the first American ancestor was John Lapham, who emigrated to this country from Worcestershire, in 1607, and settled in Rhode Island. For many years the family was well and prominently known in the New England States, but with the western tide of civilization went to Ohio, where it took root and flourished. At Woodstock in that state, on April 7, 1845, was born Amos S. Lapham, the father of John W. Lapham.

On February 14, 1874, Judge Lapham was married at Chanute, Kansas, to Miss Josephine Bonham, who was born at Springfield, Illinois, February 14, 1854, and to this union there have been born four children: W. A. who is an automobile salesman of Chanute; Miss Agnes; John Wilbur; and Mary, who resides with her parents. Miss Agnes Lapham, who is now giving concerts and instruction at Chicago, Illinois, is a national figure in musical circles. A graduate of the University of Kansas in piano instruction, she spent three years in study in Germany, where her talents were developed under the teachings of the famous Madame Ziesler. She is a young woman of remarkable accomplishments and a wonderful performer, and has been heard in many of the leading cities of the country.

John W. Lapham attended the public schools of Chanute as a boy, and after his graduation from the Chanute High School, in 1903, entered the University of Kansas, from which he received the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1907. He had inherited his father’s predilection for the law, and his legal studies were prosecuted in the law schools of the University of Chicago, and of the University of Michigan, at Ann Arbor, from which he was graduated in 1910 with the degree of Bachelor of Laws, and in July of the same year was admitted to the Kansas bar. In January, 1911, he was appointed city attorney of Chanute, an office in which he served for four months, during which time he revised and compiled the city ordinances of Chanute. He then became a candidate for mayor of Chanute, to which position he was elected April 1, 1912. As he inaugurated the commission form of government, he had but one year to serve, and then returned to private life and the practice of his profession. However, he was not allowed to remain long out of the public eye, for on January 8, 1915, he received the appointment from President Wilson to the office of postmaster of Chanute, his term to run to January 12, 1919. In the postmastership, as in his other public offices, Mr. Lapham has displayed energy and conscientious desire to render real service to the community.

Mr. Lapham resides in his own home at No. 714 South Highland Avenue. He is well known in fraternal life, belonging to Cedar Lodge No. 103, Ancient Free & Accepted Masons; Wichita Consistory No. 2, thirty-second degree; Mirza Temple, Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, of Pittsburg, Kansas, Lodge No. 806, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Chanute; the Fraternal Union; Chanute Camp No. 852, Modern Woodmen of America; and is a past president of the local lodge of the Anti-Horse Thief Association, the largest in the state, and is a member of the Kansas executive committee of the Anti-Horse Thief Association. Mr. Lapham is manager of the Lapham interests in the oil and gas fields east of Chanute.

On December 23, 1911, at Chanute, Mr. Lapham was married to Miss Jennie Purdy, daughter of J. N. and Alice (Wiley) Purdy, residents of Chanute, where Mr. Purdy is engaged in the livery and automobile storage business. Mr. and Mrs. Lapham have one child: Alice Virginia, who was born September 13, 1914.


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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