In the early history of Downs, Osborne County, Kansas there are three men who achieved such legendary business status that they are forever known as The Lumber Barons of Downs. Two of the three – George Howell and Marion Hardman – have been previously inducted into the Osborne County Hall of Fame. Here now the third and last of the Lumber Barons joins them in being so honored.
Henry Harrison Welty was born on February 22, 1855 in Nora, Jo Daviess County, Illinois. He was educated in the Nora public schools and graduated from Carthage College at Carthage, Illinois.
In the 1870s Henry headed west and settled in Logan, Kansas, where he engaged in the lumber business for a number of years. He then moved to Downs after its founding in 1879 and worked for George Howell at the Howell Lumber Company.
In 1903 Henry was one of the three founders of the Central Lumber Company, which later became known as the Hardman Lumber Company, and was the company president. He extended his business empire over several states and after a merger presided over the Noll-Welty Lumber Company.
From 1902 to 1906 Henry served as mayor of Downs and is accorded the accolade as being the finest mayor in the city’s history. He was a leading spirit in all of the town’s undertakings and it was largely through his energy and influence that the Carnegie Library and many other advantageous civic projects were completed, elevating Downs at the time as being one of the most progressive small cities in the state. In 1905 Henry served as president of the Lincoln Park Chautauqua and completed what would be the largest home ever built in the city. During this time Henry married a widow, May (Rice) Meadows, and adopted her daughter, Rebecca, a 1996 Osborne County Hall of Fame inductee in her own right. Together they raised two more daughters and two sons.
In June of 1912 Henry decided to retire from active business and moved his family to Topeka, Kansas. There he served on the board of trustees for both the Central Congregational Church and Washburn College, and was a member of the Topeka Scottish Rite as well as Siloam Lodge #225, A. F. and A. M.
Henry Harrison Welty passed away on August 23, 1929 and was laid to rest in Topeka’s Mount Hope Cemetery.