Biography of Walter J. Arnold

Walter J. Arnold. The county engineer of Shawnee County, Walter J. Arnold has led an active and diversified career, and although not yet forty-one years of age has crowded into his life more experiences than the ordinary man sees in an entire lifetime. From gold mining in Colorado to chasing the insurgents in the Philippines is a long call, but unlike many men whose activities have led them to out-of-the-way-places, Mr. Arnold has been constantly advancing, and each new experience, each new employment, has brought him a little bit further ahead toward the goal of success. In his present capacity, which he has filled for some five years, he is one of the most efficient and popular officials in the state.

Mr. Arnold is a native of Saxony, born in the City of Dresden, in 1877, a son of Gustave and Ernestine (Zeuner) Arnold. In the old country the family belonged to the social democrats, and Friedrich Arnold, the grandfather of Mr. Arnold, was one of its pioneer leaders during the party’s early struggle for recognition of its principles of more liberal government. Gustave Arnold was also born in Saxony, where he was married, and there became agent for an immigration company, in which capacity he came to the United States with his family in 1882, bringing with him a colony of his fellow-countrymen for settlement. Locating first near Pine Bluff, Arkansas, he remained at that place for about three years, then moved to Kansas City, where he remained for another year, and finally, in 1886, came to Topeka, where he spent the remaining years of his active life. Shortly after his arrival at the Kansas capital, he secured employment with the Cranc Publishing Company, and for a quarter of a century remained in the service of this concern, his fidelity and industry winning him repeated promotions. Gustave Arnold was united in marriage with Ernestine Zeuner, also a native of Saxony, and they had eleven children born to them, of whom seven are living, as follows: Harry, who is connected with the United States Government Printing Office at Washington, District of Columbia; Walter J., of this review; Fred, who is employed at the Kansas State Printing Plant at Topeka; Herman, who is connected with the Gem Grocery Company, at Topeka; Gustave, who is with the Hall Lithographing Company, also of this city; Leonora, who is the wife of H. P. Irons, who is employed at the state printing plant; and Anna, who is the wife of William Tyson, who is a foreman in the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe storehouse at Topeka, Kansas.

Walter J. Arnold was about four years old when he was brought to America and four years older when he came with his parents to Kansas. He received his education in the public schools of Little Rock, Arkansas; Kansas City, Missouri; and Topeka, Kansas, and his first employment was as office boy in the office of the Western Union Telegraph Company, in the last-named city. A little later he entered the service of the Harvey Eating House Company, then spent three years learning the blacksmith trade at Topeka, and then went to Denver and Cripple Creek, Colorado, as a blacksmith and remained at the latter place as a prospector during the gold excitement. Returning to his home at Topeka, in 1898 Mr. Arnold joined the Twentieth Kansas Volunteers for service in the Philippines. With his regiment he went to the Islands, where he subsequently saw much active service with this famous organization, returning with an excellent record after two years. His company had particularly thrilling experiences during the Filipino uprising, on the 4th, 5th and 6th of February, 1899, and was in the very important engagement of Caloocan, February 10th. The regiment of which Mr. Arnold was a member was active in repelling assaults during this time, and subsequently was sent on a four months’ campaign in pursuit of the insurrectionists northward through the province of Luzon and going as far as San Fernandos, where Mr. Arnold was stricken with malarial fever. His general officer in this campaign was Col. Fred Funston, but on several occasions he was detailed to General Bell, who was chief of scouts.

When he returned to Kansas with his regiment from the Philippines, Mr. Arnold secured employment in the whcel shop of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, his knowledge of blacksmithing fitting him for this work. He was not, however, satisfied to remain a mere workman, and with an idea of bettering his condition took a course of study in the International Correspondence School, of Scranton, Pennsylvania. His course in architecture prepared him for a position offered to him as draftsman in the office of the city engineer, in 1902, and he continued in that capacity for four years, gaining much experience. He was then made assistant city engineer under John Rogers for two years, but resigned and went to St. Joseph, Missouri, as assistant engineer on construction work for the Independent Telephone Company, supervising the field work and preparing records from his field data of the underground cable conduits and supervised the construction of two new telephone exchange buildings. After completing these plans and records he returned to Topeka in 1910, and became a candidate, with twenty-one others, for the office of city commissioner, but failed of election. In 1911 he was again a candidate for the same office and although receiving a majority of the male votes was defeated by the women voters who through ignorance of his qualifications for the office preferred to vote for his opponent with whom they were personally acquainted through fraternal organizations. Previous to the election he had accepted the position of assistant engineer to V. R. Parkhurst, who had charge of the South Side Levee Drainage District work. In the following year, upon the resignation of J. A. C. Campbell, he was appointed county engineer by the county commissioners of Shawnee County, and since has continued to fill that position with ability. Since his appointment as county engineer he has prepared plans and specifications for over $100,000 worth of modern and up-to-date bridges and has supervised their construction. He is an energetic, intelligent and hardworking official, who deserves the success that has come to him, and who may be expected to go far in the future.

Mr. Arnold was married in 1907 to Miss Mae E. Thomas, daughter of Joseph W. and Sarah E. Thomas, of Topeka, and they are the parents of two children: Wanda Valeria, aged six years; and Ferdinand Waldemar, who is four years old.



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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