As a representative of the class of substantial builders of a great commonwealth who served faithfully and long in the enterprising West, we present the subject of this sketch, who was a pioneer of the Sunflower state and nobly did his duty in establishing and promoting the material interests, legal status and moral welfare of his community, and exerted a great influence throughout his community in financial circles. His prominence was the result of his upright life and fitness for leadership, and through his well directed and honorable efforts he gained most gratifying success.
Mr. Hetherington was a native of Pennsylvania, his birth having occurred in the town of Milton, on the 10th of May, 1821. There he spent the days of his boyhood and youth, acquiring his education in the public schools. Having arrived at the years of maturity, he was united in marriage, in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, to Miss Annie M. Strimphfler, who was born in Womelsdorf, Berks county, Pennsylvania, September 24, 1827. Their marriage occurred on the 9th of May, 1848, and they became residents of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, where Mr. Hetherington engaged in the operation of a flouring-mill. They had three children, namely: Mrs. B. P. Waggener, Webster Wirt and C. S. Hetherington. In 1859 they removed to Atchison, where occurred the birth of the youngest child, Mrs. William A. Otis.
On coming to the west, Mr. Hetherington first located in St. Louis, subsequently went to Kansas City and later to Leavenworth, where he purchased a bankrupt stock of goods and hauled them by wagon to Atchison, arriving in that city in 1859. The same year he established the Exchange Bank, absorbing the Kansas Valley Bank, which had been organized several years and was owned by Robert L. Pease. When Mr. Hetherington came into possession of the latter it was located in a basement at the corner of Third and Commercial streets. In a few months he removed to the building now occupied by the office of the water works, and while there engaged in business an attempt was made to rob the bank by Cleveland, the notorious outlaw, who, however, was frightened away by some freighters who were working around the stable near by. At a later date Mr. Hetherington erected a fine bank building at the northwest corner of Fourth and Commercial streets. That was then considered "away out on the prairie," but the present home of the Exchange National Bank, erected in 1885, is situated still two blocks further West and is yet in the heart of the business center of the town. From the organization of the bank until his death, Mr. Hetherington was its president and made it one of the most substantial financial institutions of the state. In its management he was conservative, and in the control of its business was at all times so reliable and honorable that he won the unqualified confidence of the public and secured a large share of the public's business. The institution was merged into a national bank in 1882, and with the passing years its success was augmented, the last annual statement being the best ever made.
Mr. Hetherington was a man of resourceful business ability and did not confine his efforts alone to banking. Through the investments he made in buildings he became a leading factor in the material advancement of the city, and at all times was a liberal supporter of the movements and measures which he believed would prove a public benefit. He bore a marked influence on public thought and movement, for his judgment was largely unbiased and his opinions were given only after due consideration of the subject under discussion. He was a Democrat at a time when sectional bitterness was at its height, yet he did much to maintain peace among the contending factions, for he always advocated a moderate course and labored for peace. He was never a bitter partisan, and his conservative course won him the respect of the public in an unusual degree. His oratorical ability made him a popular public speaker and his addresses are still quoted as fine examples of eloquence and good sense. In an early day he served as mayor of the city, and labored for reform and progress along many lines. None questioned his deep interest in the city's good nor his unselfish efforts in behalf of his fellow men. An innate sense of high culture was one of his marked attributes and he possessed a refined nature that tolerated nothing coarse or low. He was a gentleman of the old school, always courteous and kindly, and the circle of his friends was almost co-extensive with his acquaintances. His home life was especially pleasant and harmonious.
His death occurred in 1890, three years after the death of his wife, to whom he was most fondly attached. Mrs. Hetherington was a lady of a beautiful character and endeared herself to many friends. One who knew her well said of her that she was "a woman of superior intelligence, of intense affection, of great kindness and of unwearying devotion to her family." Her charming simplicity of manner; her amiable, charitable disposition, which was never at any time during her long life betrayed into an unkind word toward any human being; her patience and tenderness, manifested in a thousand ways towards those she so dearly loved, and to whom she was so ardently attached, and for whose comfort and welfare she counted no sacrifice too great, no labor too irksome; her sweetness and buoyancy of spirit; her radiant face; her wifely, motherly, womanly worth, expressed in one continuous series of self-denials, her wholesome devoutness, existing now only in memory, and embalmed in the tenderest recollections, -- are the priceless legacy left to her husband and children.