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MEMORIES IN FOCUS: Marion's oldest settlers in their younger years years ago

Possibly celebrating his naturalization as an American in 1887, members of Fred Lewis’ family were photographed in front of the family’s home northwest of downtown Marion.

Born in Germany in 1849, Lewis fought in the Civil War as a 14-year-old and then served as a captain (and eventually major), commanding the local militia even before he was became a U.S. citizen.

Soon after his citizenship, he became active in Republican politics, serving as Centre township trustee, city marshal and street commissioner, city assessor, and postmaster.

Before that, he had been primary contractor on construction of the famous stone-arch bridge over Luta Creek on Main St. From 1885 to 1921, the bridge was regarded as the city’s most famous landmark.

Lewis came to Marion in the late 1860s and married one of the town’s original settlers, Emma Shreve (1857-1955), thought to be shown here along with her older sister, schoolteacher Rebecca (Shreve) Baxter (1843-1921).

The Lewises had three children, Charity “Chat” Riddle (1880-1963) and D. Lewis (1882-1968), who appear to be playing in front of the house in this photo, and a yet-to-be-born child, Fredericka, who died in 1892 at age 3. All except the son, who moved to Topeka, are buried in Marion Cemetery.

Fred Lewis was a cabinet maker and contractor who later in life oversaw construction of the state historical society building in Topeka and classroom buildings at state colleges in Emporia and Pittsburg.

When Marion’s militia was called to Topeka in 1893 to quell strife in what was known as the ‘’’war legislature,” Lewis refused to obey the radical Populist governor’s orders and, as the Record later reported, “through control of the explosive situation probably averted what could have been the bloodiest chapter in the state’s history.”

Rebecca and Emma Shreve both were members of the William and Charity Shreve family — one of three families that arrived in covered wagons and originally settled Marion, then known as Marion Centre, in 1860.

The Shreve, Griffith and Billings families camped at the spring in what is now Central Park until establishing homestead claims, the Shreves’ claim being the quarter-section stretching north and west from what is now 1st and Main Sts., including the area where the Lewises established their home.

Emma Shreve, who was age 2 when the family settled here, was the last survivor among Marion’s original settlers when she died in 1955.

Last modified Sept. 13, 2018

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