A Standard History
Kansas and Kansans
William E. Connelley
Lewis Publishing Company
GEORGE W. PENNELL.
It is given to few men to win the prizes of life, and George W.
Pennell, of the Atchison, belongs to that much favored class. In
the building of the great West Mr. Pennell has played a major
part. As a young man he had the instinct and the vision uncommon
in the average man, which led him away from a comfortable home in a
settled community out in to the Mississippi Valley, the wonder land of
the world. From an inconspicuous youth of vigorous Revolutionary
stock, raised on a New York farm, he has become one of the great lumber
merchants of the West.
great-grandfather fought as
a soldier in the Revolutionary war and his progenitors were substantial
New Englanders. His grandfather, John Pennell, was born in
Massachusetts in 1774. John Pennell as a young man settled with
his family in Ontario County, New York, and as one of the pioneers
cleared the wilderness in that section, where he lived until his death
in Honeoye, that county, in 1859. The father of George W. Pennell
was John Pennell, Jr., who was born in Massachusetts in 1798. He
married Sally Green, who was born in Vermont in 1817 and died at
Honeoye, New York, in 1902, at the ripe old age of eight-five.
Like his father, John Pennell followed the plow. He was a staunch
Presbyterian, a whig and later a republican and as such held the office
of justice of the peace in his county for many years. He died at
his home in Honeoye in 1884. John Pennell and his wife, Sally
Green, were the parents of seven children, of whom George W. Pennell
was the seventh child. The eldest brother was Frank G. Pennell, a
farmer, who died at the age of eight-four. Wesley Pennell, the
second child, was also a farmer and death did not claim him until he
was eight-two, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Harriet, a daughter,
married Myron Blackmar, a farmer, and both are now deceased.
Almira married Thomas Reed, a farmer, and their home was always at
Honeoye, by Mrs. Reed died in the State of Nevada. Three other
children died in infancy.
George W. Pennell attended
schools of Ontario County, and was also a student in Alfred University
in Allegany (sic) County, New York. He completed his education at
nineteen years of age and returning to his father’s farm, he remained
there until 1866, when he turned his steps towards the West to seek his
fame and fortune. His first stop was at Hannibal, Missouri, where
he remained six years in the lumber business. Having acquired a
practical working knowledge of that business in all its many details he
was offered a position of large responsibilities by G. C. Hixon and he
came to Atchison in 1872 as manager of the Hixon Lumber Company, with
which he was actively identified for many years. Having
subsequently acquired the entire business, he made of it the largest
institution of its kind in Northeastern Kansas. It is not only
the largest but it is also the oldest lumber business in Atchison.
But Mr. Pennell was not
confine his efforts and large abilities to the retail lumber business
exclusively. In connection with William G. Carlisle,1
part owner of one of the largest wholesale lumber manufacturing
concerns in the entire West. The Carlisle-Pennell Lumber Company
has operated on an extensive scale in the states of Arkansas, Texas and
Washington, but in recent years this company has confined its
operations to the State of Washington, where it has thousands of acres
of valuable timber land and two of the largest mills in the Northwest,
located at Carlisle and Onalaska, Washington.
While Mr. Pennell is a man
of wealth and
of striking appearance, he is devoid of pretensions and hates all forms
of ostentation and display. He has retired from active work and
is identified with no other business institution except the Commerce
Trust Company of Atchison, in which he is a director. He makes
his home in Atchison and with his wife, who was Miss Helen Sheldon, of
Holly, New York, to whom he was married in 18 5, he occupies a
commodious and handsome residence. Mrs. Pennell is his devoted
companion and helpmate and is a woman of culture and refinement and a
very prominent member of the Christian Science Church, to which Mr.
Pennell also belongs.
In politics Mr. Pennell is a
a decidedly liberal turn of mind, and he is also affiliated with
Washington Lodge No. 5, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, Washington
Chapter No. 1, Royal Arch Masons, Washington Commandery No. 2, Knights
Templar, Abdullah Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Leavenworth, Kansas,
and Atchison Lodge No. 647, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
Mr. Pennell’s first wife was
McGinnis, to whom he was married in 1872 at Gardner, Illinois. To
them were born five children, two having died in infancy. Bessie,
the eldest, who was great beloved by all who knew her, was a graduate
of Lasell Seminary, near Boston. She died in Atchison at the age
of twenty-five. Katherine, or Kate, as she is more familiarly
known, also a graduate of Lasell, is the attractive and popular wife of
Dr. R. L. Hull, a physician and surgeon of Oklahoma City, where they
live in a beautiful home, the gift of Mr. Pennell. Mrs. Hull has
one child, a boy, who bears the name of his grandfather Pennell.
Sarah, a graduate of St. Mary’s at Knoxville, Illinois, is the wife of
Truman E. Snowden, who is now the manager of the Hixon Lumber
Company. Mrs. Snowden has many charms and is a general
favorite. They have three lovely children, Robert, Helen and
At the age of seventy-three Mr. Pennell is
in good health and occupies his time in conserving what he has made,
travels when he feels so inclined and enjoys the companionship and
esteem of this friends and neighbors.
Source: Kansas State Historical Society, 6425 S. W. 6th Avenue,
Topeka, Kansas, 66615.
1 This is the only instance known of the use of a
middle name or initial for William Carlisle.
G. W. PENNELL
Atchison Millionaire Passed
Away This Morning.
DID MUCH FOR THE CITY
Materially Helped Many Valuable
Institutions—Was a Self
February 25, 1920 (The Atchison Daily Globe)—George
W. Pennell, 79 years old, one of Atchison’s wealthiest citizens,
died at his home, 519 North Fifth street, at 4 o’clock this
morning. He had been in poor health several months, but had been
up and around much of the time. Yesterday morning he went to
sleep, and the end came quietly 18 hours later.
If Mr. Pennell had lived until April 19, he would
have been 80 years old. He had lived in Atchison since 1872,
coming here as a manager of the Hixon Lumber company from Hannibal,
Mo., and during his residence in Atchison he helped many Atchison
institutions and contributed more to the growth of the town than any
other individual. In addition, Mr. Pennell assisted many in
purchasing their own homes, permitting them to pay for them like rent.
Mr. Pennell was the second largest stockholder in
the Carlisle-Pennell Lumber company, and also was a stockholder in the
Mount-Mize Drug company, the Bailor Plow Manufacturing company, the
Railway Specialty company, the City National bank, the Commerce Trust
company, the Atchison Mills Corporation, and many other Atchison
concerns, and had financed several of the largest and most important
George W. Pennell was the seventh child of Mr. and
Mrs. John Pennell, jr., and was born on a farm near Honeoye, N. Y.,
April 19, 1840. He came from old New England stock; his great
grandfather fought in the Revolutionary war. He attend the rural
schools of Ontaria county, N. Y., and was a student in Alfred
university, Allegheny county, N. Y., leave school at the age of 19 to
go back to his father’s farm, where he remained until 1866.
That year he decided to try his fortune in the west,
and his first stop was Hannibal, Mo., where he obtained his first
experience in the lumber business in the employ of G. C. Hixon, now
deceased. He often made trips to Onalaska, Wis., where the Hixon
company had lumber interests, and some of his work consisted of
floating down a river on logs, measuring them as they floated, and
Mr. Pennell was married in 1882 to Miss Sally
Sheldon, at Holly, N.Y., who survives. His first marriage
occurred in Gardner, Ill., in 1872, to Miss Amelia McGinnis and to this
union five children were born, two of whom died in infancy. In
addition his widow, Mr. Pennell is survived by two daughters, Mrs.
Truman E. Snowden, and Mrs. Katherine Hull, both of whom are in
Atchison. Mrs. Hull, who is the widow of the late Dr. R. L. Hull,
who died in San Francisco last year, was to Atchison some time ago by
the illness of Mr. Pennell. Another daughter, Miss Bessie, died in
Atchison at the age of 25 years. Four grandchildren, Pennell
Price, son of Mrs. Hull, and Robert, Helen and Sally, children of Mr.
and Mrs. Snowden also survive.
Mr. Pennell was a 32nd degree Mason, and a member of
the Atchison Elks lodge. He also was a prominent member of the
First Church of Christ Scientist, in Atchison, and it was through his
generosity that the splendid Scientist church at Fourth and Santa Fe
streets was possible.
Funeral services will be held from the residence
tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 o’clock, and will be a Christian Science
service. The Masons will be in charge at the grave.
In 1872, Henry Denton, who had been manager of the
Atchison business for the Hixon Lumber Co., having decided to resign
his position to enter into other business, Mr. Pennell was sent here as
a manager of the Atchison yard. For a year after taking charge of
the local business, Mr. Pennell maintained his home at Hannibal, and
spent every Sunday there with his family, leaving Saturday night and
returning Monday morning. Three years after coming to
Atchison, Mr. Pennell purchased the Hixon Lumber yard here, and this
yard provided the nucleus of his great fortune, which is estimated at
from $3,000,000 to $4,000,000. In 1886, after he had accumulated
a surplus of about $40,000 William Carlisle, then a department manager
for the Howell-Jewett Lumber company made a proposition to Mr. Pennell
to go into the wholesale lumber business, which was accepted. Mr.
Carlisle spent his time in the north, purchasing lumber, Mr. Pennell
handling the office details of the partnership.
The firm was instantly successful, Mr. Carlisle
being a very shrewd lumberman, and a man of great energy and
ability. These qualifications, coupled with Mr. Pennell’s
extraordinary financial capacity, contributed much to the wonderful
success of the firm. B. P. Blanchard, who lives now in the East
also was interested financially in the venture, and the firm was known
as William Carlisle & Company.
The first really great money made by this firm was
in furnishing vast quantities of lumber for the building at the Chicago
World’s Fair in 1893. This money was invested in Arkansas timber
lands near Cotton Belt, about 1895, and a sawmill was erected in the
heart of the company’s holdings. A town developed around the
sawmill, and was named Onalaska, in honor of a sawmill town in
Wisconsin, where Mr. Pennell had spent some time in the lumber
activities of his early manhood.
In 1903, the firm was taken over by the
Carlisle-Pennell Lumber company, and Mr. Pennell became vice president
and treasurer, his duties being to handle the finances and look after
the details of the business. He has been ably assisted in this
work by S. G. Guerrier for many years.
Three years after the Carlisle-Pennell company was
formed, the corporation secured holdings in Texas, after much of the
Arkansas property had been “cut over.” The Arkansas holdings
consisted of 40,000 acres. The property in Texas was composed of
about 50,000 acres. To permit development, the company
constructed a railroad 40 miles long, at a cost of more than a million
dollars, to connect the new town of Onalaska, Texas, with which
developed around the company’s saw mill, with the I & G. N. at
Trinity, Texas, and the Houston East & West Texas road at
In 1912, the Texas holdings, together with the
railroad were sold to the West Lumber company of Houston, Tex., for
more than five million dollars. But the Interstate Commerce
Commission ruled the company could not operate both the railroad and
the lumber camps, Mr. Carlisle bought back the railroad from the West
company and sold it to the M. K. & T. The railroad deal
is included in the five millions received for the property.
The company is now developing holdings of 55,000
acres of timberland in Washington, operating two large sawmills, much
larger than any established on the Arkansas or Texas holdings.
One of these big mills is at Onalaska, Wash., which cost around two
million dollars, and the other at Carlisle, Wash. Both towns grew
up around mills established by the company. The company first
acquired its Washington property in 1896, and cut out and sawed several
thousand acres in the vicinity of Centralia, Washington. In 1913,
the Carlisle mill was established, followed in 1916 by the Onalaska
mill. Onalaska seems to have been a kind of mascot name for the
company, as there has been a town of that name in each big development
project of the organization.
Source: Kansas State Historical Society, 6425 S. W. 6th Avenue,
Topeka, Kansas, 66615.
Many thanks for this generous donation made by Vic Kucera.
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