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Biographical Sketch
John M. Cain
Atchison County, Kansas


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The following transcription is from a 750 page book titled "Genealogical and Biographical Record of North-Eastern Kansas, dated 1900.  These have been diligently transcribed and generously contributed by Penny R. Harrell, please give her a very big Thank You for her hard work!

Gold Bar

John M. Cain

The gentleman here named figured conspicuously for many years in connection with the material interests of Atchison that contributed to the upbuilding and prosperity of the city.  He was a man of marked force of character, determined, purposeful and energetic, and at all times his honorable dealings commanded the respect and confidence of those with whom he came in contact. He came to the west when a young man, and as opportunity offered he steadily enlarged his field of labor until his name became known throughout the country in connection with extensive milling interests in this city.

His reputation in industrial circles was above question, and to his family he left not only a comfortable competence but also an untarnished name which is rather to be chosen than great riches.  Mr. Cain was born July 30, 1839, on the Isle of Man, his father being John W. Cain, also a Manxman.  The mother bore the maiden name of Ann Mylchreest and died in the Isle of Man.

In 1856 the father crossed the Atlantic to the New World, and taking up his residence in Atchison, Kansas, spent his last days here and his remains were interred in Mt. Vernon cemetery.  At the time when public feeling ran very high in Kansas on the question of the introduction of slavery, Mr. Cain was a free-soil man and supported the principles in which he believed regardless of the threats of violence made by the pro-slavery party.

He was extremely just in everything, and his fellow townsmen chose him for the office of justice of the peace, in which capacity he served for a number of years, in a most creditable way.  From his native isle John M. Cain, whose name introduces this review, spent his boyhood days and to its school system he is indebted for the educational privileges which he received. 

In November, 1856, he crossed the briny deep to the new world, making his way at once to Kansas.  In Mount Pleasant township he pre-empted a tract of land and turned his attention to farming, but the city seemed to offer him a wider field of labor, and in 1872 he removed to Atchison, becoming connected with the grain trade in this place. 

In the meantime however, he had offered his services to the government and had defended the stars and stripes upon the field of battle as captain of Company G, Eighty-third United States Colored Infantry.  He was always found at his post of duty, laboring earnestly to support the government of the Union, and when hostilities had ceased and the flag of the Union had been planted in the capital of the southern Confederacy, he received an honorable discharge and was mustered out at Fort Leavenworth, in November, 1865.

He took part in all the battles in which his command engaged, and not only gave the orders to his men but led them in many a gallant charge.  His company originally numbered one hundred, of whom twenty were killed in action and forty were lost through disease and other casualties.

In 1868 Mr. Cain again entered his country's service, and held the office of first lieutenant of one of the companies of the Eighteenth Kansas Infantry, a regiment raised for frontier service against the Indians.  After locating in Atchison Mr. Cain steadily worked his way upward to a position in the foremost ranks of the business men of the city.  He joined his brother, A. D. Cain, in the grain business, and as a result of their capable management their trade steadily increased in volume and importance.

They erected large mills and elevators, and were potent factors in making Atchison one of the leading milling centers of the United States.  As the business developed and improvements were made in accordance with the progressive spirit of the times, the Cain Brothers not only followed in the progressive movements but were leaders therein.  They were among the first to make a specialty of hard-wheat milling, recognizing long ago the incoming tide of public favor for that cereal.

They devoted their time and attention exclusively to the best methods of treating and reducing hard wheats and evolved a system quite unexcelled either in this country or in Hungary, in which land hard-wheat milling is a very important industry.  Their processes were unique in some respects and were certainly original, but above all they were practical and paying.  The standard of flour which they put upon the market commanded the highest prices, and certain brands won reputation not only in this country but in Europe as well.

They secured a good market for their trade in London, and the Cain brands of flour are now used extensively throughout the entire country.  J. M. Cane became the senior member of the firm of Cain Brothers, of Elevator B, of Atchison, and under his management the immense and constantly growing business in grain and flax seed was built up.

Later, going out of the elevator business, he engaged exclusively in milling, together with banking.  In 1897 fire destroyed the mill and bank at one and the same time, involving heavy losses, and the trouble had a very depressing influence upon the health of Mr. Cain.  He was a man of unfailing energy, of strong purpose and unflagging resolution, and whatever he undertook he carried forward to successful completion.  His ambition was guided by sound judgment and by most honorable business principles, and so worthy was his success won that the most envious could not grudge him his prosperity. 

On the 13th of May, 1878, occurred the marriage of Mr. Cain and Miss Lucy Neerman, the eldest daughter of Frank and Isabel (Rust) Neerman.  Their union was blessed with four sons and two daughters, namely: Eva, Ralph, Florence, John Milton, William Q., and Alfred A.; and the family is one of prominence in the community, members of the household occupying leading positions in local circles.

Mr. Cain took considerable interest in political affairs, kept well informed on the issues of the day and gave a stanch and steadfast support to the principles of the Republican party, yet was never an aspirant for office.  He held membership in the Grand Army Post of Atchison, and was a valued representative of the order, through which he maintained pleasant relations with his old army comrades of the "blue."  He was, however, a man of domestic tastes, whose greatest interests centered in his family, and he could not do too much to promote their happiness and enhance their welfare.

Death came to him on the 5th of December, 1897, and the community thereby lost one of its most valued and representative men.  Mrs. Cain and her children still reside in Atchison, and enjoy the warm friendship and regard of a large circle of acquaintances.

  Gold Bar

Last update: Friday, January 13, 2006 23:21:42

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