L. A. Wismeyer

Though L. A. Wismeyer is not a direct line relation, I find it often useful with family history to get a better picture when we know not only what was going on with family but with their relations. Wismeyer was married to Aggie Huffaker, daughter of Thomas Sears Huffaker and Eliza Ann Baker. Eliza, a sister of a W. W. Baker (their father was a blacksmith for the Sac and Fox), was a sister-in-law of Isabel Frances Hackney, daughter of our William Hackney and Sarah Shannon. These families, who had known each other in Iowa, relocated to Chautauqua County, Kansas and the neighboring Osage Indian Territory, Oklahoma.


L. A. Wismeyer. One of the oldest and best known Indian traders of the Osage County, it is likely that the name of L. A. Wismeyer will be chiefly remembered through future generations for his enterprise in founding the Town of Fairfax in Osage County. He took the lead in starting the town there when the railroad was constructed in 1903. Not long ago the editor of a local paper who was closely familiar with all Wismeyer’s public spirited activities at the time described his part in the founding and upbuilding of the town in the following language: ” He horned the town, nursed it in its infancy and paid the doctor’s bill. He built the first schoolhouse and helped to build all the churches, and whether he belonged to any of them or all of them his name appears on the records of at least two as trustee or incorporator. In his townsite bill he secured for Fairfax ten acres of land for a cemetery, a gift from the department that no other town on the reservation received. He was the first merchant in Fairfax and established the first lumber yard. He was at the head of the Fairfax Grain Company that built the first elevator. He was one of the organizers of the First National Bank and served as president of that institution for a number of years and was one of three men that erected the bank’s splendid quarters. In short, Mr. Wismeyer has been a public benefactor and in the long run Fairfax has been the greater beneficiary of his labors.”

While Mr. Wismeyer has lived in the western states of Kansas and Oklahoma more than forty years, his boyhood recollections center about a home in the State of Ohio. He was born at Hamilton, Ohio, October 20, 1852, a son of Henry and Mary (Riehter) Wismeyer, both of whom were of German parentage. His parents spent practically all their lives in Ohio, part of the time in Cleveland and at other locations in Northern Ohio, and were for many years at Hamilton. His father died at Hamilton about 1882 at the age of sixty-eight. He had conducted a malt house at Sandusky and later at Hamilton. The mother is still living with a daughter at Hamilton at the age of eighty-five. The five children were: L. A.; Henry of Emporia, Kansas; Emma, wife of Frank Cobaught of Connersville, Indiana; Carrie, wife of John A. Keller of Hamilton, Ohio; and John, who died in 1910 in Guadalajara, Mexico.

It was in the home of his parents that L. A. Wismeyer lived until 1873. In the meantime he had made the best of his advantages in the public schools, and for two years had gained a practical business training as clerk in a dry goods store, his salary beginning at

$1.50 a week. In 1873 he went out to Kansas to join his uncle, Harry A. Riehter, at Council Grove. His uncle was long prominent in Kansas polities, and served three terms as lieutenant governor of that state. Mr. Wismeyer remained with his uncle five years, employed in his drug store, and while there performed that various service required of pioneer druggists, not only in mixing and compounding medicines and pills, but ,also in prescribing in the role of a doctor, and he gained such confidence that he could prescribe anything from calomel and quinine to snake , medicine for the customers of the store.

Leaving Kansas, Mr. Wismeyer arrived at the Osage Agency on the site of the present City of Pawhuska, June 18, 1878, becoming chief clerk in the agency. He continued the duties of that office until December, 1884. The Indian agent had many responsibilities, including the issue of rations to the Indians. The supplies furnished through the agency store included a large stock of general provisions as well as clothing of all kinds. The head of each Indian family had a ration check, and this was presented to the commissary clerk whenever rations were drawn. Every few days from forty to fifty head of beef cattle were killed for the benefit of the tribe living around the agency, and sometimes a hundred head of stock would be driven into the corral each week, and after the animals were shot down the Indians would go in and proceed to skin and cut up the carcasses. These cattle were the substitute for the buffaloes which had furnished most of the meat to the tribes before that noble animal of the plains was exterminated. The cash payments were made semi-annually, in May and December, and averaged $3.25 to each individual. A year or so after Mr. Wismeyer became connected with the agency, on account of the dissatisfaction which had arisen among the Indians over the ration distribution, that system was abolished, and thereafter the Indians were paid their entire share in cash. One of Mr. Wismeyer’s experiences while chief clerk at the agency illustrates the attitude of the older full bloods toward the system of education which the Government was striving to introduce. The department had made a ruling that all Indians must have their children in school before they could draw their quarterly allowance. One day an old Indian demanded his money, and Mr. Wismeyer questioned him as to whether he had children in school. The Indian made a personal application of the school question to Mr. Wismeyer, who replied that he had attended school in order to learn reading and writing and to make a living, and that he held his job because of his education. The Indian retorted as follows: “You’re a fool. I eat and wear clothes and don’t have to hold down a job. If you hadn’t went to school and got an education you wouldn’t have to write, write, write all day and part of the night as you do here. White man heap fool. I want my money.”

On December 1, 1884, Mr. Wismeyer secured a trader’s license, and became associated with Dr. R. E. Bird, one of the old established Indian traders. They engaged in general merchandising at Pawhuska, as licensed traders, and in 1885 established a branch store at Gray Horse in Osage County. In 1889 Mr. Wismeyer moved to Gray Horse to manage that end of the business, and after 1890 became sole proprietor of the store there. He continued in business at Gray Horse until 1903. With the coming of the railroad he and the other traders at Gray Horse, in order to avoid freighting overland, determined to move their post to the railroad. Mr. Wismeyer finally succeeded in gaining the consent of the Government officials to locate a depot where the Village of Fairfax now stands. In arranging for the townsite he had to go to Washington and came home with full instructions how to proceed in securing the use of lands for town purposes. He procured forty acres belonging to one of the Indians, and had it surveyed into lots, streets and alleys, and he took for his own purposes one of the chief corners in the new town for his store and lumber yard. The railroad company first named the depot Coda, but Mr. Wismeyer finally gained their consent to the name Fairfax, which was suggested to him by the old town of that name in Virginia. Owing to the fact that all the lots in the town could be used only by the right of occupancy the title to the land remaining with its Indian owners, Mr. Wismeyer spent almost the entire winter of 1904 at Washington, and finally secured a townsite bill which, while far from satisfactory, paved the way for a permanent town and the upbuilding of such institutions as churches, schools and business enterprises. For more than ten years Mr. Wismeyer, though a man of unobtrusive personality, has been one of the real leaders in the growth of the community, has invested freely and with faith in the ultimate outcome in the number of local business institutions, and has always given liberally to movements associated with the general welfare of the community. He has been identified with the mercantile interests of the town since it was founded, was president of the First National Bank until 1912, was in the lumber business for ten years, being the first lumber merchant there, and for about nine years was one of the interested principals in the operation of the first elevator.

Mr. Wismeyer speaks the Osage Indian language as fluently as the red men themselves, and also has a speaking knowledge of the language of the Kaws and Poncas. He has had continuous relations as an Indian trader for thirty-seven years. Politically he is a stanch republican, has been active in party affairs, but ‘has never sought nor held an office. He is affiliated with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks at Pawhuska. While living at Council Grove, Kansas, Mr. Wismeyer became acquainted with one of the belles of local society, and in 1884 married Miss Aggie C. Huffaker. Mrs. Wismeyer was born in Council Grove, Kansas, November 1, 1857, a daughter of T. S. Huffaker, one of the pioneers in that section of Kansas. They have one daughter, Frances, still at home.

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