Archive for Thursday, September 6, 2007

Kansas’ second governor

September 6, 2007

Governor Thomas Carney, the second governor in the state of Kansas, was very important to Lansing's history. Thomas Carney was born Aug. 20, 1824, in Delaware County, Ohio. His father died when he was 4 years old, leaving his mother and three small brothers. Thomas remained with his mother until he was 19 years old, hauling products from their little farm with an oxen team to Newark, 36 miles away.

He went to Berkshire, Ohio, staying with his uncle and working for board and room while going to school. In the fall of 1844 he found employment in Columbus, Ohio. This is where he learned the dry goods business and later became a partner with the firm Carney, Swift and Co. It became one of the best-known dry goods houses in the country. After 12 years in Cincinnati, his health forced him to make a change. He visited Kansas, partly for health reasons and partly in search of a new location for his business.

In Leavenworth he was in partnership with Thomas C. Stevens. They opened the first wholesale house in this area, later becoming sole owner of Thomas Carney and Co. He took an active interest in public affairs and was elected to the second state Legislature and served on many important committees. The Legislature recommended him to the Republican Party for governor. He was elected governor in 1863.

Carney was a rich man and personally endorsed the bonds that established the credit of the state of Kansas.

When he was governor, Carney enacted into law the establishment of the penitentiary at Lansing. The prison commission was given power to select a tract of land on which good building stone could be found, and to erect temporary buildings to house prisoners and officers until permanent buildings could be completed. $20,000 was appropriated for this purpose.

The first ground was broken in 1864, and foundation walls of the north wing were built. Work was resumed in 1866 when penitentiary bonds in the amount of $60,000 were sold in New York. The stone from the prison was quarried on the west side of the highway between what is now West Olive Street and West Mary Street. I remember walking in that area as a kid and seeing where the rock had been taken from.

Gov. Carney was mayor of Leavenworth in 1865-66. He also was one of the founders of the First National Bank in Leavenworth and for several years was a member of the board of directors. Now we have a beautiful new First National Bank in Lansing whose founder is connected with both Lansing and Leavenworth. Welcome to Lansing!

(Part of this is credited to Blackmar's History of Kansas.)

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