T. P. Mannion, postmaster of El Dorado, had long been identified with that city as a business man and citizen. He therefore knows what the community expects of the postoffice, and had the executive and business ability to give adequacy to its service and make the local office what the general postal system had been called “an instrument of trade and industry,” and “enlarger of the common life.”
Mr. Mannion was born in Macon City, Missouri, March 2, 1866, and when only one year old was brought to Butler County, Kansas, by his parents, John and Margaret Mannion. Both parents were natives of County Galway, Ireland. John Mannion came to America in 1848 and his wife in 1849, and they were married at St. Louis, Missouri, in 1856. For several years they made their home in St. Louis, and John Mannion was in the steamboat service on the Mississippi River, running from New Orleans as far north as navigation extended. After 1861 he engaged in farming near Macon, but in 1867 sought the better freedom and opportunity of the Kansas prairies and located in Butler County. He homesteaded 160 acres nine miles southwest of El Dorado in what is now Spring Township. For years afterward Butler County was slowly emerging from its frontier conditions. Financial panics, drouth and grasshopper plagues, and other vicissitudes followed in successive waves over all of Kansas, but John Mannion stood staunch and true in the grim fight against adversity, and no better evidence of his thrift and industry could be found than the fact that the Mannion homestead was never mortgaged and was never published on the delinquent tax list. Fifty years ago Butler County was a wild and unbroken region, and its prairies presented practically the same aspect to the Mannion family as they had to roving tribes of Indians centuries before. The Mannion homestead was only a short distance from the Indian Territory border, Indians were still in Kansas in large numbers, and several years passed before the peace and security of the settlers were entirely beyond the dread and danger of Indian uprisings. It was not an infrequent occurrence during the early boyhood of T. P. Mannion for Indians to pass and repass the old farm, though almost invariably they were bent on peaceful missions. The buffalo had not yet disappeared from the plains, and as long as the buffalo remained the Indians were tireless in their pursuit of this favorite game. The white men of the Kansas settlements also organized and occasionally went out a short distance beyond the western limits of Butler County to hunt buffalo and other wild game.
The first home of the family was a log house, without a floor and with a straw roof. This rude dwelling stood on the land when John Mannion bought it. Not long afterward it was replaced by a more substantial structure of hewed logs, and this house had better than the average comforts, in fact was regarded as the best residence in that part of the county. After some twelve years a large frame residence was constructed, and that is still standing. This home is endeared to the members of the Mannion family still living by many associations, and it was also the scene of many happy social gatherings, such as dances, parties, and even church services were held there. One of the pioneer priests in this section of Kansas was Rev. Father Schurtz, who said mass at the Mannion home in the early days. At that time the nearest market or trading point was Emporia, forty or fifty miles to the northeast. John Mannion had to go to Emporia for supplies, and such a trip would not infrequently consume several weeks of his time. In the course of such a journey his wagon axle was broken once, and it took three days to get a new one, which cost him $15. The El Dorado postmaster recalls his first trip to Wichita made in 1876, when he was ten years of age. He made that trip in company with his father and his sister Kate. They drove to Wichita with two loads of corn, which was exchanged for seed wheat. The postmaster had his first school instruction in a log building, which had no floor, and the teacher was Rev. Timothy Grow.
In many ways John Mannion and his family represented the best virtues of the Kansas pioneer. He became a successful farmer and stockraiser, and his reputation for ability in material affairs was equaled by his reputation for honesty and integrity. For over forty years he continued to enjoy the respect and confidence of a host of friends and acquaintances in the county, and finally passed away in the fulness of years and good works on July 30, 1908. His widow is still living, making her home near Augusta. This article should not fail to pay an appropriate tribute to her as a pioneer woman. She had the pioneer spirit equally with her husband, was willing to adapt herself to rough and primitive conditions in order that civilization might be advanced over these prairies and that home and comfort might be provided for her growing children. She furnished much of the labor in that pioneer household and was constantly an inspiration for those who bore the hardships and vicissitudes of early times.
John and Margaret Mannion had the following children: Mrs. Kate Shea, of Wichita; Mrs. Mary Lipscomb, of Spring Township, Butler County; Mrs. Maggie Cody, of Spring Township; Mrs. Lizzie Armstrong, of Spring Township; T. P. Mannion; J. J., of Augusta, Kansas; W. H., of Lawrence, Kansas; and J. C., of Spring Township.
Besides the advantages which he received in the country district schools in Spring Township T. P. Mannion had a course in the Southwestern Business College at Wichita. His early environment and training were calculated to make him strong and resourceful, and capable of taking an effective and honorable part in life. After leaving school he was employed as a grain buyer for the Peavey Grain Company, with headquarters at Greensburg, Kansas, for three years. In 1894, returning to the homestead in Spring Township, he followed farming there for ten years. February 1, 1904, Mr. Mannion identified himself with the county seat at El Dorado and became a grocery merchant. He soon sold his store and found a place as an employee with an insurance agency at El Dorado. Having qualified himself by experience he then entered the insurance, real estate and loan business for himself and had built up one of the most successful agencies of the kind in Butler County. It is now conducted under the management of his son, William R. Mannion.
On April 6, 1915, Mr. Mannion accepted his position as postmaster under appointment by President Wilson. Due to the great industrial development following the discovery and exploitation of oil and gas in Butler County, the business of the El Dorado postoffice had been increasing by leaps and bounds during Mr. Mannion’s administration, and he had been constantly exercising all his care and ability in improving the service. In accepting the office he did so with a resolve to make it an instrument of service to the entire community regardless of personal sacrifices, and had exemplified that principle of the great apostle of democracy that the public office is a public trust.
For years Mr. Mannion had been one of the leading democrats of Butler County, and had done as much if not more than any other local citizen to uphold the fortunes and integrity of that party when many years of successive defeat at the polls tended to make his partisans luke warm and indifferent to the cause. Mr. Mannion was reared in the faith of the Catholic Church, is a member of the board of trustees of the El Dorado parish, had been liberal in his contributions of means and personal effort, and from pioneer times the Mannions have been among the chief upholders of this church in Butler County.
Mr. Mannion was married February 5, 1896, to Miss Mary Hannon, a native of Illinois. Her parents, Richard and Mary Hannon, were also early settlers in Butler County. They are the parents of four children: May M., William R., Agnes Pauline and T. P., Jr. The three younger children are still attending school, while May is a graduate of the El Dorado High School and is a stenographer in the law office of Kramer & Benson at El Dorado.