Search billions of records on


The profession of the law, when clothed with its true dignity and purity and strength, must rank first among the callings of men, for law rules the universe. the work of the legal profession is to formulate, to harmonize, to regulate, to adjust, to administer those rules and principles that underlie and permeate all government and society and control the varied relations of men. As thus viewed, there attaches to the legal profession a nobleness that cannot be reflected in the life of the true lawyer, who, conscious of the greatness of his profession, and honest in the pursuit of his purpose, embraces the richness of learning, the profoundness of wisdom, the firmness of integrity and the purity of morals, together with the graces of modesty, courtesy and the general amenities of life. One of the most distinguished members of the Kansas bar was John M. Price, who for forty years practiced at Atchison.

Mr. Price was born in Richmond, Madison county, Kentucky, in October, 1829. a son of Thomas S. and Sarah (Jarman) Price. the paternal grandfather was Moses M. Price. and his maternal grandfather was John Jarman, and to our subject was given the Christian name of both of those gentlemen. The former married Catherine Broadus, and the latter wedded Elizabeth Broadus, the two being distant relatives. Moses M. Price and his wife were both natives of Virginia, but with their respective parents they removed to Madison county, Kentucky, in the early part of the nineteenth century, and later the grandfather of our subject, having in the meantime married, removed with his family to the adjoining county of Estill. He was the father of ten children, five sons and five daughters, the fourth in order of birth being Thomas S. Price.

The father of our subject was reared in Madison county, Kentucky, and in 1828 was married there to Sarah Jarman, who was the youngest in a family of three sons and two daughters, children of John and Elizabeth (Broadus) Jarman. After his marriage Thomas S. Price returned with his bride to his farm in Estill county, Kentucky, and there three children were born to them: Thomas E., John M., and Mary W. After the birth of the daughter in 1835, the mother never fully recovered her health and gradually failed until the following year, when she died at the home of her parents in Madison county. In 1838 Mr. Price was again married, his second union being with Miss Elizabeth Combs, of Clark county, Kentucky. In the fall of that year he removed with his family to Missouri, locating first in Johnson county, whence he removed to Pettis county, near the present site of Sedalia. There he engaged in farming until 1845, When he returned to Estill county, Kentucky. His daughter Mary was married, in 1852, to Thomas B. Jarman. She was at that time living with her uncle, C. B. Jarman, in Richmond, Kentucky, and her husband, who was of the same name, is a distant relative. In 1853 Thomas E. Price, the brother of our subject, married a daughter of Moses Henry, in Estill county, and in the fall of that year Thomas S. Price, the father, with his wife and children accompanied by Thomas E. and his wife, started for Texas. While en route Thomas E. and his wife were taken in with the cholera at Shreveport, Louisiana and both died there in December, 1853. the father, Thomas S. Price, made his home in various places in northern Texas until the spring of 1857, when his death occurred, in Mount Pleasant, Titus county, that state. His wife and their children are still living in Texas.

John M. Price, of this review, accompanied his father to Missouri, and in the summer of 1844 returned with him to Kentucky, to visit relatives, but concluding to remain there he lived with an uncle, Morgan M. Price, assisting him in the work of the farm until the following winter, when he attended school in Irvine, the county seat of Estill county. In 1845 and 1846 he was employed in the dry-goods store of Thomas D. Chiles, then doing business in Irvine, but now deceased. In the fall of 1847 Mr. Price gave up his clerkship in order to accept a proffered home with Colonel Walter Chiles, a prominent lawyer and politician of Mount Sterling, Kentucky, whose first wife was Jane Price, an aunt of our subject. Here the latter attended school during the fall and winter of 1847, and in the spring of 1848 he accepted a clerical position in the office of the county clerk of Montgomery county.

During that year he attended to his services in the county clerk's office through the day, and in the evening he read law in the office of Colonel Chiles, in whose family he continued to live and who gave him a home and instructions in the law free of charge. For his labors during the day he received sufficient compensation with which to purchase his clothes and to provide himself with necessary spending money. Under the able instruction of his preceptor and as the result of his close attention to his legal studies, Mr. Price was able to pass a satisfactory examination in March, 1848, at which time he obtained his license to practice law. He was then only nineteen years of age. He immediately returned to his former home in Irvine, where he opened a law office and soon secured a fair practice for one so young and without previous experience. At the first general election under the new constitution of Kentucky, in 1851, he was elected the county attorney for Estill county, and during his four-years term performed the duties of the office so acceptably and faithfully that he was re-elected in 1855, without opposition, continuing to serve in that capacity until he resigned, in July, 1858, in order to remove to Kansas. After seeking a location in this state he determined on Atchison as his future home, and took up his abode here on the first of September.

Kansas was then a territory, and throughout the period of its marked development and progress through the past forty-one years, Mr. Price has been an active factor in promoting its interests and welfare. On his arrival in Atchison he opened an office and entered almost at once upon an extensive and lucrative practice. His fitness for leadership also gained him prominence in political circles. When the Republican party was organized in Atchison county, in the fall of 1858, he at once identified himself therewith, and has never ceased to be a zealous and consistent advocate of the principles which it indorses. He has been elected a delegate to every Republican county convention for the past twenty years, and to many state conventions and has always abided by the actions of such bodies and heartily supported their nominees. Many positions of honor and public trust have been conferred upon him, and in all he has discharged his duties with conspicuous ability and fidelity. In 1859, when A. G. Otis, now judge of the district court, resigned the office of county attorney, he was appointed to fill the vacancy by the board of county commissioners, and thus served until Kansas was admitted into the Union, when he was nominated and elected by the people at the first general election under the constitution of the state. In 1861 he was elected the police judge of the city and re-elected in 1862 and 1863. In 1864 he was elected a member of the city council, and by re-election served in that office for three consecutive years. In 1867, by popular ballot and without opposition, he was chosen the mayor of Atchison, the unanimous support given him being an indication of his popularity and an evidence of the confidence reposed in him by his fellow townsmen.

In the fall of 1866 he was elected state senator from Atchison county, for a two-years term, and while thus serving, in 1867, was appointed by Governor S. J. Crawford one of the commissioners to revise the general laws of the state, his colleagues being Hon. Samuel A. Riggs, of Lawrence, and Hon. James McCahon, of Leavenworth, the latter now deceased. Mr. Price was the chairman of the commission, which performed its labors during the summer and fall of 1867, and submitted a printed report of the entire revision to the legislature of 1868, on the first day of the session. This revision was adopted by the legislature with but little amendment and the general statutes of 1868 were printed and published during that year under the supervision of the commissioners. This work was deservedly popular with the bench and the bar of the state. On account of his legal attainments and his familiarity with legislation and the general laws of the state, Mr. Price was made the chairman of the committee on judiciary in the session of the senate in 1868.

In 1870 he was again elected to the state senate for two years, serving in that body during the sessions of 1871 and 1872, and on its organization was elected president, in which capacity he presided over its deliberations in the absence of the lieutenant-governor. In the fall of 1872 he was a candidate before the Republican state convention for governor. So confident were his friends that he would be nominated on the first ballot that he made no canvass of any part of the state, but remained at home attending to his legal business. This over-confidence, however, proved his defeat. When the convention met Mr. Price found that he had five competitors, some of whom made an active canvass of the state, and when the preferences of the delegates were ascertained it appeared that he lacked eight votes of having a sufficient number to give him the nomination over the combined strength of his five competitors. He was a leading candidate in the conventions on every ballot until the tenth and last one, when all the opposing candidates united on Thomas A. Osborne, and this gave him the nomination. In the memorable contest for United States senator in 1873, culminating in the betrayal and exposure of Senator S. C. Pomeroy, by A. M. York, then a member of the state senate, Mr. Price's friends presented him as a candidate before the anti-Pomeroy caucus. the principal candidates for the caucus nomination were John M. Price, John J. Ingalls, Dr. C. A. Logan, William A. Phillips, D. P. Lowe and James M. Harvey. The caucus balloted nearly all night previous to the day of election. For the first nineteen ballots Mr. Price was the leading candidate, lacking at times only three votes of the nomination. After nineteen ballots Logan's vote was transferred to Ingalls and thus the contest was ended. In view of the York-Pomeroy exposé before the joint convention on the following day, Mr. Ingalls was elected by a unanimous vote. In 1892 he was again elected to the state senate, and served his county in that capacity in the memorable session of 1893 and again in 1895.

On the 10th of January, 1854, in Irvine, Kentucky, John M. Price was united in marriage to Eliza Jarman Park, the only daughter of Elihu and Mary Park, the wedding being celebrated at the home of the bride by Stephen Noland, of the Methodist Episcopal church, South. Mrs. Price was born in Irvine, August 22, 1832, and of this union five children have been born: Mollie F., born in Irvine, October 12, 1854, was married January 10, 1876, to Charles B. Singleton, a farmer of Platte county, Missouri, but now of Atchison, Kansas, and they now have a daughter, born in September, 1878; and Nannie B., born in Irvine August 28, 1856, was married January 10, 1878, to F. L. Vandergrift, formerly of Keokuk, Iowa, hut now of Kansas City, Missouri. The other children of our subject are John M., deceased, John M., Jr., and Eliza P. Mr. Price was one of the distinguished Masons of Kansas, and has served as the grand high priest of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Kansas, and was the secretary of that body. He was the president of the council of the Holy Order of High Priesthood, and was the grand treasurer of the Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of the state; also the president of the Kansas Masons' Protective Association. In October, 1878, he attained the thirty-second degree of the Scottish Rite and was a member of Medina Temple, No. 31, of the Ancient Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine; also of Shiloh Conclave, No. 1, Knights of the Red Cross of Constantine, Knights of the Holy Sepulchre and Knights of St, John the Evangelist. He served for one term as the grand master of the most worthy grand lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and was twice elected a grand representative to the grand lodge of the United States. He served one term as the grand chancellor of the grand lodge, and of the Knights of Pythias of Kansas was the supreme representative to the supreme lodge of the world for four years. He was the grand master workman of the grand lodge of the Ancient Order of United Workmen of Kansas was a member of the grand lodge of the Knights of Honor, served as grand assistant director, and has been the president of the Atchison lodge of the Independent Order of Mutual Aid. Almost from the beginning of his residence in Kansas he was accorded a place among the most prominent men in political, professional and fraternal circles. For years a distinguished member of the bar, honored and respected in every class of society, he has long been a leader in thought and movement in the public life of the state, and all who knew him had for him the highest admiration for his good qualities of heart and mind.

Since the foregoing sketch was compiled we have to record the sad event that on the 19th day of October, 1898, John M. Price died at his home in the city of Atchison surrounded by wife and children, he passed away without pain or struggle. With his death passed away one of the noblest, grandest men that his state will ever see.