Biography of Samuel Theodore Howe

Samuel Theodore Howe. Beginning in 1871, when he was appointed to a township office in Marion County, Samuel T. Howe had been engaged in the discharge of duties connected with some public and official positions practically without interruption to the present time. He first attained state wide prominence in the early ’80s when he was elected state treasurer. He had also been state railroad commissioner, and for the past ten years had been the senior commissioner of the tax commission of Kansas.

He was born July 23, 1848, at Savannah, Wayne County, New York, but was reared and educated at Toledo, Ohio. Mr. Howe is notably modest in respect to his own achievements and those of his family, but he evidently possesses a fine strain of rugged character that had been inherent in the American branch of the family for generations back. The Howe family is one of decided antiquity in American annals, and many of the name in different generations have gained prominence in business, the professions and in public life. In more recent times one of these was James R. Howe of Brooklyn, New York, a first cousin to the Kansas tax commissioner. James R. Howe, recently deceased, was a unique character in New York politics. He was the first republican member of Congress elected in the Sixth Brooklyn District, and was re-elected and thereafter was placed upon a compromise ticket agreed to by Seth Low and those who were of different beliefs, as register of Kings County, and made his campaign upon the proposition that if elected he would devote the fees of his office over and above a reasonable compensation to some public use. He was elected by a few hundred majority while the other republicans on the ticket were defeated by 14,000. Mr. Howe set aside $50,000 for the erection of an equestrian statue of Washington in the Borough of Brooklyn, and this statue was erected with the funds thus provided, by a committee at the head of which was ex-Lieutenant Governor Timothy Woodruff.

Another first cousin of Samuel T. and of James R. was Epenetus who lived up-state and was prominent in New York State politics, having served two or more terms in the state legislature. The three first cousins were the sons of brothers, Epenetus, John and David, Epenetus being the son of Epenetus; James R. the son of John, and Samuel T. the son of David.

Samuel T. Howe stands in the ninth generation of the American lineage. His first American ancestor was Edward Howe, who came from Broad Oaks, Essex County, England, in 1635 and became a resident of Lynn, Massachusetts. A granddaughter of this Edward married John Dixwell, one of the regicides. The descent from Edward Howe is traced through the following heads of families: Isaac Howe, of New Haven, Connecticut; Nathanial Howe of Greenwich, Connecticut; Isaac Howe of Stamford, Connecticut; Epenetus Howe, of South Salem, New York; Epenetus Jr., of Ridgefield, Connecticut; John Howe, of Brutus, New York, grandfather of Samuel T.; and David Howe.

David Howe married Hannah Maria Thorp. From Wayne County, New York, he brought his family to Toledo, Ohio. He excelled in the mechanical trades and for a number of years followed building contracting. He never attained wealth, was a man of fine standing in his community, and for twenty years prior to his death was a deacon in the Baptist Church at East Toledo. He began voting as a whig and was a republican from the organization of the party until his death. At different times he held some minor municipal positions.

While a boy Samuel Theodore Howe attended the common schools of Toledo. Following the example of his father he also acquired a mechanical trade and was a building contractor until his absorption in public affairs took his entire attention.

In spite of his youth Mr Howe served his country during the Civil war, and is one of the very few surviving veterans of that struggle who have not yet passed the age of three score and ten. He became a private in Company B of the One Hundred and Eighty-ninth Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He also had a discharge from the Ohio Volunteer Militia after a service of five years.

A few years after the war Mr. Howe came to Kansas. He located in Marion County, and his noteworthy public service began there. In the spring of 1871 he was appointed clerk of Doyle Township that county, and served through the summer. In November, 1871, he was elected sheriff of the county, re-elected in November, 1873, and filled the office from November, 1871, until November, 1874. In November, 1874, he was elected clerk of District Court of Marion County, and by re-election in November, 1876, and November, 1878, filled the office from his first election until October, 1880. His next position was that of treasurer of Marion County, to which he was elected in November, 1879, and re-elected in 1881, his term of service running from October, 1880, until December, 1882.

By reason of his prominence in Marion County his name had taken on a significance and value in state affairs at large. In November, 1882, he was elected state treasurer of Kansas. He was re-elected in November, 1884. He was in charge of the state treasury from January, 1883, until January, 1887. In January, 1895, Mr. Howe was elected by the executive council as railroad commissioner for one year. He was re-elected in January, 1896, for a term of three years, but served only until January, 1897. He had long been a prominent citizen of Topeka and was chosen a member of the city council in April, 1902, and again in April, 1904, and April, 1906, serving from the date of his first election until June, 1907. For two years he was president of the council.

His present official tenure began by his appointment March 7, 1907, by Governor E. W. Hoch as a member of the tax commission. This appointment is for four years. On February 27, 1911, Governor W. R. Stubbs reappointed him, and in February, 1915, he was given his third appointment for another term of four years by Governor Arthur Capper. At the present writing he still had over two years to serve. Mr. Howe was for two years vice president of the National Tax Association, and was elected president of that association in 1915 at its meeting in San Francisco and re-elected in 1916 at the Indianapolis meeting. He is a recognized national authority on the subject of taxation.

While his public career bulks so large, Mr. Howe had at different times been active in business corporations and other organizations, serving as president, secretary, treasurer and director. He cast his first vote as a republican and had never been convinced by events or argument that the tenets of that party do not represent the best and most wholesome American policy.

It will be recalled that Mr. Howe began life with only a common school education. As a great writer had said the best of education furnished by schools is only a basis for further education, and Mr. Howe had practiced that principle in his own life. He had been a student and observer of men and affairs, and his friends know him as a man of decided literary taste. He had written many essays and delivered many public addresses, some of them of decided literary quality, and they have been correspondingly commended. In 1879 Mr. Howe was admitted to the bar at Marion, Kansas, and recently he was admitted to practice in the supreme court of the state. He had deferred the application to be admitted because he was not engaged in actual practice.

He is a member of the Topeka Chamber of Commerce, and assisted in organizing the old Commercial Club, the predecessor of the present Chamber, and for some years was a director in the original organization. His public duties have prevented any regular participation in the Chamber of Commerce during recent years. He also enjoys the honor of membership in the Fortnightly Club of Topeka, a literary club with its membership limited to twenty-five, and those members are among the leading citizens of the community. Mr. Howe belongs to all the bodies of the Ancient York Rite of Masonry up to and including the Knights Templar, had held various chairs and for some years was master of the Blue Lodge and for seven years was an assistant lecturer of the Grand Lodge of Kansas. He is also a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and for its insurance advantages belongs to the Sons and Daughters of Justice. In 1866 Mr. Howe became a member of the Baptist Church of East Toledo, but since coming to Kansas had not been associated with any one church. His present preferences are for the Unitarian sect.

Mr. Howe was married at Marion, Kansas, December 24, 1876, to Clara Bell Frazer. Her father, William Frazer was formerly a resident of Portsmouth, Ohio, was a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and while not highly educated possessed unusual intellectual powers and with better advantages in his youth might have become very prominent as a preacher. Mr. and Mrs. Howe became the parents of eight children: Clara Alice, who died in infancy; Bertrice Aileen, wife of James G. Boyd; Fred L., who married Jessie Adams; Samuel T. Jr., unmarried, and now following his profession as a civil engineer in Ohio; Walter D., who died at the age of fifteen; William Epenetus, a civil engineer, who married Frances Hicks of Tennessee; Clare Elizabeth, who is unmarried; and Clifford F., who died in infancy.


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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