John B. Taylor was born at Junius, New York, September 1, 1853, and passed away at Concordia, Kansas, April 13, 1926. John grew to manhood and then taught school and farmed. He came out West to Exeter, Nebraska, in 1876. On April 21, 1878, he was married to Jennie Linn Graves at Exeter. To this union were born seven children, three of whom preceded him in death.
John began his mercantile career when he moved to Alton on June 6, 1878 into a small, frame building in the south part of the business section and with a stock which would invoice at little more than $1,600. He soon needed more room, and as Hiram Bull offered John a lot and a half interest in the wall if he would build adjoining his own store building which stood on the corner north of the then-city fire department quarters. Mr. Taylor accepted the offer and built a two-story building with full basement adjoining the General Bull store building.
Early in the year 1881 E. M. Beal, of Junius, New York, came to Alton and a partnership was formed with John. In 1886 the City Hotel was purchased and the building razed to provide a place for a new store. Beal and Taylor, as the firm was styled, built the two-story part of the native stone building and equipped the upper rooms for offices, which were rented out. This structure housed the business until 1898 when increasing business again demanded larger quarters. The space between the store building and the First State Bank was built up, making another large room which was used as a store room.
During 1903 John purchased the buildings and lot east of the store building and built still another addition. The east wall was taken out and the part which now houses the shoe and clothing department added, thus converting the whole into one large room. This made the Taylor Store the largest in town and the largest company of its kind in all of northwest Kansas. After 1908 John no longer actively engaged in the mercantile business and it was managed by his son, Grover. During the time John was in business in Alton he bought other city property and several farms nearby. John was a member of the Masonic Lodge, Occidental Lodge, and the Odd Fellows.
John staked his place in almost every office from Alton mayor to Kansas state representative. He was elected as Osborne County Representative to the Kansas state legislature in 1902 and was re-elected for two succeeding terms. The fact that he was re-elected for two terms speaks for the splendid service he rendered his people while serving them in this capacity. It was during this time that John’s health broke down, and he was not permitted to enter the race again for representative. After twenty years of hard toil with public service he retired to Kansas City, Missouri. Here his wife’s health broke down. They then left for Whittier, California, hoping that she might recuperate, but she passed away January 13, 1919. Since that time John lived with his daughter at Concordia, Kansas, until his own passing. After a brief funeral service his remains were interred in the Sumner Cemetery near Alton.
During the last few years of his life John Taylor made frequent visits to Alton and always took an interest in Alton and Osborne County people. He was a man who was highly respected by all who knew him and probably the greater amount of his success can be credited to his integrity in business affairs. As stated in the Concordia Kansan newspaper at the time, “It was an honor to know and to have the friendship of John Taylor.”
John Taylor left a record behind him that your children might well be proud of. His life, from schoolteacher, farmer, town councilman, school board member, to state representative – serving from village to state – you will do well to follow as an example.