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Below is a family biography included in History of Shawnee County, Kansas and Representative Citizens by James L. King, published by Richmond & Arnold, 1905.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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Hon. Joseph Benjamin Burton Betts, an influential member of the Kansas State Senate and a well-known business man of Topeka, who is reputed one of the largest contractors in the State, was born February 22, 1851, in Morgan County, Illinois. He is one of a family of 10 children born to his parents, Joseph B. and Susan (Wiemer) Betts.

The father of Mr. Betts was born at Dover, Delaware. Upon removing from the East, he became a resident of Illinois and later came to Kansas. He served two terms as sheriff of Piatt County, Illinois. His occupation was farming. He died in 1878.

The subject of this sketch is a self-made man. He had but meager educational opportunities in his boyhood, his father having settled in a somewhat remote region. The first school he attended was in a small school house erected after he was old enough to assist in hauling the lumber that was used in constructing it. Later he enjoyed a course at a commercial college and that was about the extent of his schooling. He has been a resident of Kansas since he was nine years old, his parents settling in Atchison County in 1860. In 1861 he came to Jefferson County and to Topeka in 1878, and ever since he has been engaged in a general contracting business. This he built up into one of the largest and most important in the city, then in the county and finally in the State. His superior work enabled him to secure numerous large and extensive contracts from the United States government. After completing a government contract at Fort Riley, in the fall of 1904, amounting to over $260,000, he was awarded another at Fort Russell, Wyoming, in March, 1905, amounting to $136,244. He has built many hotels and school buildings all over the West, one of these recently completed being the beautiful High School building at El Reno, Canadian County, Oklahoma. Many of the depots and terminal buildings of the various railroads through this and other sections are specimens of his work.

For many years Mr. Betts has been prominent in Republican politics and has been influential in party affairs. He served two years in the City Council and from 1901 to 1905 was a member of the State House of Representatives. Approval of his course in this body was shown by his election in 1904 to the State Senate. His career as a statesman has been a very creditable one and he enjoys the confidence of his party.

Mr. Betts married Lulu Sandmeyer, who is a daughter of the late Jacob W. Sandmeyer. Mr. Sandmeyer was a German by birth and for a number of years lived in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he built the first modern hearse ever made in that city. He died in Mrs. Betts’ childhood, after having become a well-known wagon manufacturer. His widow survived until January 10, 1892. The three children of Mr. and Mrs. Betts are: Joseph W., Rebecca Myrtle and Freda Marguerite. The family belong to the Methodist Episcopal Church. Their beautiful and artistic home is situated at No. 1029 North Quincy street (North Topeka).

Fraternally, the subject of this sketch is connected with the Masonic bodies in the higher branches, the Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias and the Elks. His portrait accompanies this sketch.

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This family biography is one of 206 biographies included in History of Shawnee County, Kansas and Representative Citizens by James L. King, published by Richmond & Arnold, 1905.  For the complete description, click here: Shawnee County, Kansas History, Genealogy, and Maps

View additional Shawnee County, Kansas family biographies here: Shawnee County, Kansas

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