Biography of Paul Rohr

Paul Rohr. The Rohr family is one of the oldest names of Leavenworth. The family came to Kansas in the early territorial period, soon after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill and at the beginning of the struggle between the free state and pro-slavery elements. The name had many active associations with business, public and civic affairs in Leavenworth and the surrounding district.

The late Paul Rohr, founder of the family in Kansas, was born in the Province of Lorain, then part of France, now Germany, in the district of Rohrbach on October 1, 1818. His father was Paul Rohr and his mother’s name was Wagner. Paul Rohr, Sr., was the youngest of nine sons. Eight of these stalwart young men served as soldiers in the Napoleonic wars and few families made such a tremendous sacrifice, since not one of the eight ever returned alive.

In 1830, on a sailing vessel, the Rohr family emigrated to America. They located in Buffalo, New York, where the senior Rohr, who was a tailor by trade, worked at various occupations, including stone mason on the breakwater piers in the harbor of that city. He and his wife both died in Buffalo.

The late Paul Rohr was twelve years of age when brought to America. He had little education, and soon after coming to America learned the trade of harness making. He made harness, leather stuffs for trunks, and he continued in that business in Buffalo until he came west.

He was married at Buffalo to Apollonia Kolb. In 1855, accompanied by his wife and six children, he started west. He traveled around Lake Erie to Detroit, crossed southern Michigan by railroad to Chicago, and thence by railroad and stage he journeyed to Davenport, Iowa. At the outset of his journey Davenport was his objective point. While associated with travelers he heard again and again of Leavenworth. Leavenworth was at the time on the very outskirts of western American civilization. It was the most important of the river ports and closest to the overland trails which led westward over the plains and mountains to the Pacific slope. It was a bustling, thriving city. On its wharves were loaded the merchandise of all the nations from the steamboats that came up the Missouri River, and in the city were the outfitting headquarters where numberless caravans and trains started westward to Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and California. Having heard so much of the city and seeking a suitable location for business, Paul Rohr determined to continue his journey to this river town. He went down the Mississippi River by boat to St. Louis, and thence came up the Missouri on a boat to Leavenworth, which was then in Kansas Territory. He landed on August 3, 1855.

At Leavenworth Mr. Rohr secured a Government contract to make harness for the pack trains. He soon had a prosperous business. In the early days he had an extensive plant and employed a large number of hands. In July, 1858, and again during the Civil war, his property was entirely destroyed by fire. There were other handicaps to his business. It was necessary to ship in all his raw products during the summer, since the ice on the river prevented boats running in the winter seasons. Fire caused him heavy losses, but his chief misfortune was due to the decline of pack freighting as a result of the building of the overland railroads. He finally gave up business for himself and was employed by other concerns.

Paul Rohr retired from active work in 1890 and his death occurred on Good Friday, March 23, 1894, when in his seventy-sixth year. He was a large man both mentally and physically. He stood six feet high and weighed over two hundred pounds. Though starting life with limited educational advantages, he possessed a keen native intellect, and being a great reader he was always considered a man of unusual information, and had a genius for good fellowship. Though a democrat in politics, he was a strong opponent of slavery, and because of his outspoken views on the subject he was threatened with death in the early days in Leavenworth. He was always interested in public affairs, and at one time served as city treasurer. He and his family were all Catholics.

Mrs. Paul Rohr died August 1, 1882. Their family consisted of four sons and nine daughters. Two sons and three daughters are still living. The sons are John and Albert.

Mr. John Rohr who was born in Buffalo, New York, August 8, 1846, was nine years of age when brought to Leavenworth by his parents, and that city had been his home ever since. Though he learned the harness making trade he never followed it as an occupation, but instead clerked in stores, and he had the distinction of operating the first steam threshing outfit in Leavenworth County. He early became interested in politics and in 1873 was elected county register of deeds, filling that place four years. Another four years he spent as under sheriff under P. G. Lowe. In 1882 he was elected clerk of the District Court, and that office he also held four years. Mayor S. F. Neely then appointed him city assessor. He was one term in that office, and afterwards was deputy in the assessor’s office. Since retiring from public life Mr. John Rohr had been engaged in variout lines of business. On October 30, 1890, he married Miss Ellen Connor, and they have one daughter, Mary E.

Albert Rohr, the youngest of the family, was born in Leavenworth February 14, 1865. He was graduated from high school in 1885, and he also acquired the trade of harness making. His life work, however, had been engineering and bridge building. At the present time he is a member of the firm dominating the Leavenworth Bridge Company. On November 22, 1895, Albert Rohr married Clare H. Doty. Her father, John W. Doty, was one of the old settlers of Leavenworth.



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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