Most people have heard about John D. Rockefeller, the Standard Oil tycoon, but few have heard about Frank Rockefeller.
Frank, the youngest brother of the Rockefeller clan spent most of his childhood in Richford, New York. After moving to Cleveland, Ohio with his father, Frank joined the 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in September 1861, even though he was underage and participated as an infantryman in numerous battles, including Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and Sherman’s march to Atlanta.
He was wounded in the head by a grape shot at Chancellorsville. Frank became a landowner in the southern part of what would become Kiowa County in 1878, where he purchased 600 acres of land on Soldier Creek. He then formed a partnership with Lawrence Wilson, who owned an adjoining 520 acres and those two controlled a good portion of Soldier Creek, hoping that if they controlled the water, they could “free graze” many acres of government land.
He also became involved in his brother’s Standard Oil Company, but left the company after a falling out with his older brother in 1898. He then moved with his family to Kansas, but kept his base of operations in Cleveland. Frank hoped to build his land into a show place that would be known throughout the nation by purchasing expensive cattle and horses.
In 1909, the Kiowa County Signal reported that the ranch consisted of 14,000 acres of land with 2,500 acres under cultivation. After Frank died in 1917 his widow sold part of the ranch to W.C. Miller, Clyde Piester and John Fontron of Hutchinson.
To learn more about “The Lesser Known Rockefeller” come visit the Kiowa County Historical Museum & Soda Fountain at the Kiowa County Commons Building. Now open at noon on Mondays after Memorial Day.