After returning from military duty in the summer of 1919, Ralph Jarvis went to work as a lineman for the Pawnee Power and Water Company. The company was building transmission lines to several small towns around Larned.
The Pawnee Power and Water Company had been founded by Nathan Jones.
The backstory of the company’s founding had begun three years earlier. It’s an interesting story. But even more fascinating is its future.
Ralph Jarvis couldn’t have known it at the time, but his association with Pawnee Power and its visionary founder would impact his career for the next decade.
Let’s meet the founder of the Pawnee Power and Water Company, the charismatic and visionary Nathan Jones. He was to have a profound effect on the career and life of Ralph and Chleo Jarvis.
Born in Seattle in 1892
Nathan Leroy Jones was born July 25, 1892, in Seattle, Washington. His father was Arthur Jones, age 26, an electrician born in Ohio. His mother was Iona Housal, age 22, who was born around Atchison, in Doniphan County, Kansas.
Arthur and Iona Jones had three children – Nathan, born 1892, Clarence, born 1897, and Mabel, born 1899. Mother Iona died in 1901.
The family moved from Seattle to Baca County, Colorado. Arthur married Carrie Rousseau in 1904 in Colorado, and a daughter Bernice was born in 1906.
Arthur and Carrie Jones had moved to Milan, Kansas by 1915. Milan was a small town 15 miles west of Wellington and southwest of Wichita.
Nathan got married
Nathan married Orlena. We don’t have their marriage license, and don’t know Orlena’s surname or background.
The 1915 Kansas census shows Arthur and Carrie Jones and three children living in Milan.
Nathan Jones and his wife Orlena were living next door with two children, Frank and Kathleen Barnhart, ages 6 and 2. We can assume that Orlena had these two children from a previous marriage.
Nathan is age 22 and Orlena age 25.
Some sources say Nathan had a short stint in college in Nebraska, or that he learned the electrician’s trade in Kansas City. Maybe so. I couldn’t find documentation.
We do know that his father was an electrician. And we know that Nathan was working as an electrician in 1915. He was wiring the new Hatcher Hospital in Wellington.
He was age 23.
A peek into the future
Over the next two decades, Nathan Jones will become a millionaire, a utility tycoon, a philanthropist, a show-horse owner, and a political operative. He will also suffer a fall from grace.
Ralph Jarvis begins working as a lineman for Nathan Jones. As Jones’ star rises over the ensuing years, Ralph Jarvis follows.
The following stories are about the rise and fall of Nathan Jones and his protégé Ralph Jarvis.
- Newspaper articles – newspapers.com
- Birth record of Nathan Jones – Seattle King County, Health Department Birth Records: 1890-1894 – Ancestry.com
- Census – Arthur Jones and Nathan Jones families 1915 – Kansas, U.S., State Census Collection, 1855-1925 – Ancestry.com
- Image – Hatcher Hospital, Wellington, Kansas – https://www.cardcow.com/166120/wellington-kansas-hatcher-hospital/