Biography of Lewis A. Markham

Lewis A. Markham was a physician by profession, but the services by which he will be longest remembered in Kansas as elsewhere were those he rendered as a devoted minister of the gospel. He spent his last years at Baldwin City, where the family have been prominent for over a quarter of a century.

Doctor Markham practiced medicine for six years in Ohio, part of the time in Akron and part of the time at Massillon. He was married at Akron, September 19, 1858, to Sarah Wirt. Sarah Wirt was of a family of pioneers. Her father was born at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and his ancestry went back to 1590. Her mother was a native of Canton, Ohio, and her maternal grandfather owned much of the land included in the present City of Canton. Sarah Wirt was born on a farm near Massillon, Ohio, September 19, 1835. She was educated in Toledo and Oberlin College, and while teaching she met Doctor Markham.

At the beginning of the Civil war Doctor Markham assisted in organizing a regiment of which he was to have been surgeon. The governor of the state instead asked him to remain in the barracks at Columbus and assist in recruiting. He then resumed his career as a physician, and was enjoying a large practice worth several thousand dollars a year. He finally became convinced that his duty lay in another direction and he determined to enter the ministry of the Methodist Church.

He joined the North Ohio Conference, and his first appointment was at a salary of only $400 a year, whereas his medical practice had been worth ten times that amount. For thirty years he and his devoted wife labored together in ministering to the spiritual needs of the people as he had also ministered to their physical distress. Mrs. Markham co-operated with her husband in many ways, and her pleasing soprano voice she used with splendid effect. Over 3,000 people were added to church membership by these devoted people without the aid of special evangelists. Several churches and parsonages were built by them. On one circuit of three appointments within a period of three years they built three churches, two parsonages, and one was a fine large brick structure. Doctor Markham’s ministerial labors were in North Ohio, and afterwards in the St. Louis, Missouri, Conference, and for three years he was stationed at Warrensburg and two years at Butler, Missouri. His chief idea in coming west had been to give his children opportunities to get ahead in the world. Though his salary as a minister was always meager, both he and his wife taught their children from early childhood that they must go to college, and those who grew up did receive college educations, three being graduates of Baker University at Baldwin.

In the spring of 1891 Doctor Markham and his wife moved to Baldwin City and the wife and children remained there in close touch with the advantages of Baker University, though Doctor Markham served as pastor of the church at Spring Hill. Doctor Markham died at Baldwin, August 23, 1893.

He was one of the most devoted and zealous workers the Methodist Church ever had in the Middle West. He was popular, was a keen reader of human nature, and the good he did can never be reckoned in terms of mortal achievement.

From the death of her husband Mrs. Sarah Markham maintained her home at Baldwin, growing in grace as in age until she too was taken away from her sorrowing family when in her eightieth year. She died April 19, 1915. She had not only lived to see her own children graduate from Baker, but also grandchildren receive the same honor. Almost at the beginning of its organization she became a life member of the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society. She took the keenest interest in the unfolding of the young lives in her own home and in her community. She was a woman of varied talents and interests. In her old age she kept well informed concerning the great European war, and at death, in spite of all the struggles and hardships she had been through, she hardly looked to be over sixty-five. Concerning this much beloved woman of Baldwin is a beautiful tribute that may properly be inserted here and written by her son. “Some have gifts of speech, some have beauty, some have wealth and worldly honors, while others have poverty and humble station, but we all have that heaven born gift–a mother. As you have read what I have with varied emotions tried to relate, think of your own mother rather than of mine for mother would have it so.”

Doctor Markham and wife were the parents of seven children. Two of them, Nellie Alta and Charles Fremont, died in early childhood. The five still living are: L. Wirt Markham of Lamar, Colorado; O. G. Markham and W. C. Markham, both of Baldwin City; L. Merrill Markham of Lamar, Colorado, and Mrs. Herbert A. Clark of Syracuse, New York.

Osmon Grant Markham, who for many years had been identified with the faculty of instruction at Baker University and is now its dean, was born while his parents were living in Ohio, August 21, 1865. He attended the Ohio public schools and was also a student in the Baldwin University at Berea near Cleveland in that state. He was graduated A. B. in 1886 and in the same year went to Missouri and taught school at Smithton.

In the fall of 1887 he removed to Baldwin, Kansas, and became principal of the Academy of Baker University. His connection with that institution had been continuous now for thirty years. In 1893 he was made professor of Latin, and had filled that chair to the present time. In 1905 he was elected dean of the college. He had been frequently honored both at home and in the state at large. He was appointed a member of the state board of education by Governor Hoch and reappointed by the governor in his second term. In 1909 his alma mater in Ohio conferred upon him the honorary degree Lit. D. Mr. Markham served as acting mayor of Baldwin one year, when the elected mayor removed from the state and for two years he himself filled that position by election.

When the Anti-Saloon League of Kansas was organized in December, 1916, O. G. Markham was elected its president. He had been a prominent Methodist layman and was three times elected delegate to the General Conference of the church, in 1904, 1912 and 1916. Dean Markham is a republican and a member of the Masonic fraternity. On August 23, 1894, he married Socia Buckingham of Leavenworth, Kansas. They have one daughter, Virginia Gatch.



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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