Carl Van Riper (b. 1879)

Carl Van Riper

CARL VAN RIPER has put himself in the front ranks of lawyers in Western Kansas and has developed a large and influential practice at Dodge City. His career has been identified with Western Kansas since early childhood, and he has the spirit of enterprise which is the characteristic of the people of this region.

A native Kansan, Mr. Van Riper was born at Iola December 27, 1879. His father, Joseph Van Riper, now a farmer in Ford County, was born September 2, 1854, in Illinois. Joseph’s father, John, was left an orphan and was reared by a family in Massachusetts. In 1859 he brought his family to Fort Scott, Kansas, but on account of the border troubles in that region, as described on other pages of this history, he moved the following spring to Iola. There he enlisted in the Ninth Kansas Cavalry and was in active service three years in Arkansas, Texas and Mississippi. His record is largely the record of the regiment, which is given elsewhere in this work. He was mustered out without ever having been wounded or captured.

Joseph Van Riper was about five years old when the family came to Kansas, and he grew up and married at Iola. In 1885, when his son Carl was six years of age, he moved to the vicinity of Yates Center in Woodson County, and in the spring of 1887 went to the extreme western portion of the state, to Hamilton County. There he took up a claim and managed to exist, though with extreme difficulty, until 1891. He finally gave up the attempt to prove up his homestead. He encountered the scarcity of water and he found the country poorly adapted to farming. All that region was open land and was chiefly used for grazing cattle. While there he acquired a little stock, and not being able to succeed in farming his only improvements were a sod house and dugout stables, such as the majority of homesteaders had. From Hamilton County he moved to Clark County for two years, and there his efforts as a farmer were more successful. He then bought a half section of land in the southwest corner of Ford County, and has since lived there, having made a well improved farm.

Joseph Van Riper married Delila George, who was born in West Virginia, in 1857, a daughter of J. W. and Jane George. The George family lived for several generations in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and became extensive slave holders. All of J. W. George’s brothers were in the Confederate army, while he was a Union soldier, with a West Virginia regiment of infantry. He saw some strenuous service with the Army of the Potomac at Antietam, second Bull Run, Gettysburg, and was at Appomattox Court House when Lee surrendered and was one of the soldiers who secured a couple of small sections of the famous apple tree under which the terms of surrender were concluded between Grant and Lee. This apple tree has always been famous. It was a massive tree before the surrender, but in half an hour’s time not a particle of it was left, even the roots and ground surrounding them being torn up and carried away for relics. The children of Joseph and Delila Van Riper are: Carl; Frank, a farmer and stock buyer and shipper in Ford County, who is married and has four children; John, a lawyer practicing at Denver, Colorado, married and has one child; and Herbert, who is still single and living at home.

In the several communities of Western Kansas above mentioned Carl Van Riper had his early experiences and acquired an education in the common schools. He graduated from the high school of Dodge City in the spring of 1900, following which he taught school a year at Minneola. In the fall and winter of 1901-2 he was in the business college at Salina, taking the shorthand and typewriting course. Returning to Dodge City, he entered the law office of Button & Scates, old practitioners of the county, and while doing their stenography applied himself diligently to the study of law. In 1905 he passed the successful bar examination and was admitted to practice, and then continued with the firm as an employe. In 1907 he entered upon his duties as county attorney, to which he had been elected in the preceding fall as the successor of Judge Finley. Mr. Van Riper proved a vigorous prosecutor and maintained to the full the record established by his predecessor against law violators, especially in the enforcement of the prohibitory law. Mr. Van Riper served two terms as attorney for Ford County. On retiring from office he formed a partnership with L. H. Madison, and the firm of Madison & Van Riper still exists and handles much of the legal business in the local courts, and Mr. Van Riper has also tried cases before the Supreme Court of Kansas and the Federal Court. While in the office of county attorney his first case was the prosecution of a party for stealing a white mule. After several continuances, and after the prosecuting witness and others had left the country, the case was finally dismissed.

Mr. Van Riper has been a figure in local politics for a number of years, is a republican and cast his first presidential vote for Roosevelt. He is a member of the Masonic Lodge and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and was superintendent of the Methodist Sunday School at Dodge City for six years, until he resigned in 1917. He is now a member of the board of trustees of the church. While a great deal may be expected from Mr. Van Riper in the future, since he is still a young man, his success has already been such as to constitute him a prominent lawyer and man of affairs. He owns some wheat land in Morton County and at 801 Fourth Avenue in Dodge City he has a modern home. This home was first built by him in 1905, and in 1916 he remodeled it, making a two-story, eight-room home, with concrete terrace and surrounded by a fine lawn and trees.

On June 21, 1905, Mr. Van Riper married Miss Stella Imel, who was born in Jefferson County, Indiana, July 25, 1877. Her father, P. M. Imel, who was born in the same Indiana County October 24, 1847, is a pioneer merchant at Dodge City but now retired. His father, Thomas Imel, was a Virginian, while the grandfather, Peter Imel, was born in Germany and at an early day came with a brother and settled in Virginia. P. M. Imel married Margerite Lyon, daughter of William and Margerite Lyon, who were early settlers in Indiana, P. M. Imel’s mother was Elizabeth Leatherberry, who died in Ford County, Kansas, in 1897, at the age of eighty-one. Her father, Thomas Leatherberry, came from England. Mrs. Van Riper was a teacher of the primary grade in the Second Ward School in Dodge City for eight years. Mr. and Mrs. Van Riper have one child, Ruth.

Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p., <155> leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.