Matthew B. Van Petten. The success which has attended the enterprise operating at Topeka under the name of the Pioneer Mortgage Company attests the foresight, sagacity and financial skill of its members, whose watchful care and fidelity have combined to build up and perpetuate their fortunes. The life of the financier is less conspicuous before the world than that of a member of a learned calling, or of one who mingles in public affairs, but is none the less one of arduous labor and thorough engrossment, requiring a high order of organizing talent, watchfulness of the trend of affairs and financial skill. The strictest fidelity, the utmost watchfulness, good judgment and experience are needed to counteract the effects of contraction in monetary credits, the casualties of poor crops and unprofitable business, as well as a multitude of other influences which have their effect upon monetary affairs. In few other callings of life is success so sure a gauge of uncommon ability.
Mr. Van Petten was born on a farm in Peoria County, Illinois, May 4, 1854, and has been a resident of Kansas since February, 1880. He is one of eight children born to M. B. and Ruby (Emery) Van Petten, the former a native of New York and the latter of New Hampshire, is a grandson on the paternal side of natives of Holland, and is related to many of the name who have taken a part in the wars of the United States. M. B. Van Petten the elder was a physician in Illinois, but later turned his attention to farming, became a prominent and influential citizen of his day and community, and served for a number of years as a member of the board of supervisors of Peoria County, Illinois, being chairman of the board at the time of his death in January, 1870.
Matthew B. Van Petten received his early education in the district schools of Peoria County, Illinois, after which he entered the Northwestern University, Chicago, but while at that institution contracted typhoid fever and was unable to complete his course. Instead, at the age of eighteen years, he returned to the home farm and worked for his mother, his father having died when he was sixteen years of age. While still living in Illinois, Mr. Van Petten was married, August 18, 1875, to Miss Mary Jane Buchanan, a native of Pennsylvania, who was living near Trivoli, Peoria County. To this union there were born two children: Alfred Emery, who is president of the Pioneer Mortgage Company and Mary Eva, who is the wife of Harold Snoddy, who is carrying on agricultural operations near Auburn, Kansas.
In February, 1880, having heard reports of the great opportunities for advancement in Kansas, Mr. Van Petten came with his family to this state and first settled in the vicinity of Burlingame, Osage County, because of the plenteousness of coal and wood to be found in the locality. There he continued to be engaged in farming with marked success until 1893, when he moved to Burlingame and carried on farming. In 1909 he moved to Topeka, and was one of the original organizers of the Pioneer State Bank, in company with John P. Slaughter, of Topeka, and Charles G. Taylor, of Los Angeles, California. Mr. Van Petten was a member of the board and directors and the bank started with a capital of $5,000, but such an excellent business was done that it was soon forced to increase its capitalization, and by subsequent advancements it reached $25,000. Later the controlling interest was sold and the Pioneer Mortgage Company was organized, August 29, 1907, with $100,000 capital. At that time J. P. Slaughter was president; A. E. Van Petten, vice president; and L. P. Robinson, secretary and treasurer, while M. B. Van Petten continued as a member of the board of directors and was active in its work. In 1913, there came a change in the personnel of the officials, A. E. Van Petten becoming president; M. B. Van Petten, first vice president; L. P. Robinson, second vice president; and Archie M. Catlin, secretary and treasurer. Each year this business has increased its business and widened its scope, and its surplus has grown proportionately. The concern operates in both Kansas and Oklahoma, having a branch office at Lawton in the latter state. Mr. Van Petten is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and of the Modern Woodmen of America, at Burlingame. In politics he is a republican, but not an office seeker, and while he has taken some interest in local affairs of a public character, it has been merely as a booster for his friends and his party. He is a member of the First Methodist Church and is a class leader therein, but as his business keeps him away from the city a great deal of the time he is not able to be as active in religious work as he would prefer.
Mrs. Van Petten, whose death occurred July 12, 1914, was an untiring worker in all the ladies’ branches of the First Methodist Church. A woman of broad sympathies and great heart, she was especially interested in the welfare of the children, was a member of both the Home and Foreign Missionary Societies, to the work of which she gave a great deal of her time and much of her energy and strength, and in her death the deserving poor lost one who had ever been their generous friend and kind adviser.