Rufus M. Emery of Seneca ranks not only as one of the leading lawyers of northeastern Kansas, but also as one of the leading financiers. He is a native of Ohio, born on a farm near Loveland, Clermont county, April 23, 1854. For generations back the Emerys have been tillers of the soil and have represented that sturdy type of Americans who have always been found in the vanguard, pushing civilization westward. His father, Elisha J. Emery, was born in Hunterdon county, New Jersey, Sept. 1, 1814, and was a son of Judge John Emery, a native of the same county, who removed with his family to a farm near Cincinnati, Ohio, when Elisha J. was but one year old. There the latter grew to manhood and turned his attention to farming in Clermont county, Ohio. There he met and married Miss Eliza V. Johnson of Hunterdon county, New Jersey, who accompanied her parents to Ohio in 1828. Later her father removed to a farm in Cook county, Illinois, where he resided until his death. Elisha J. Emery continued his farming operations on an extensive scale and with marked success until 1873, when he disposed of his large realty holdings in Clermont county and immediately thereafter located in Seneca, Kan. Having arrived here with a competency he devoted the rest of his life to the handling and care of his finances, partly in the capacity of a private banker and later as president and one of the largest stockholders of the Bank of Nemaha county, which he was instrumental in establishing in 1882, and was vice-president for many years, but for several years prior to his death, in 1894, he lived practically retired. He and wife became the parents of ten children: Almira, who died at the age of eighteen; William A.; Samuel A.; George J.; Edwin D.; Jabez N.; Eliza C., who married W. H. Fitzwater; Charles F.; Rufus M.; and Mary M. Of these children Almira, William A., George J., Edwin D., and the Rev. Jabez N. are deceased. The patriotism of this family cannot be doubted, for four of the above named sons-William A., Samuel A., George J. and Edwin D.-entered into the defense of the Union when the great Civil war broke out and two of them, George J. and Edwin D., lost their lives when in line of duty. Both met death by drowning, George J. in the Ohio river, and Edwin D. off the coast of North Carolina, when the transport on which he with other troops was being carried north after Lee's surrender is supposed to have been wrecked.
The evolution of a keen witted farm boy into a man of affairs is always a subject of interest. Judge Rufus M. Emery was reared to farm life and received his early education in the district schools of Clermont county, Ohio. Honest, ambitious and clear headed, he applied himself to his studies with so much intelligence and success that by the time he was seventeen years old he was a teacher in the district schools. When still a youth he mastered the art of telegraphy and spent two and a half years as an operator for the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis railroad. He then resigned and came directly to Seneca, Kan., arriving on July 15, 1875. Soon after his arrival he began reading law in the office of Simon Conwell of Seneca, and by hard application and self-study he qualified for admission to the Nemaha county bar in 1877. He at once began the practice of law in Seneca, and being a young man of fine tact and address, as well as a forcefull speaker and a logical thinker, success attended him from the start. In the intervening years since that he has gained a high standing in his profession. His gift of clear and keen analysis, his agility and resourcefulness of mind, together with his commanding power of expression, have made him a strong advocate at the bar, and whose force and probity of character maintained during more than thirty-five years of practice, has been a complete refutation of the adverse criticism directed toward the legal profession and its practitioners for a claimed laxness in their integrity of purpose. Such has been Judge Emery's conduct, both professionally and personally, that he has been an honor to the profession and has added to its dignity. Although he had been reared a Democrat he decided to adopt the principles and policies of the Republican party, and accordingly has lent his energies and influence to the interests of that party, and has been and is one of its leaders in northeastern Kansas. He has held various official positions. He has served as both city and county attorney, having held the latter office three consecutive terms, from 1881 to 1887. In 1888 he was elected to the state senate to represent Nemaha and Pottawatomie counties, which position he held for one term, or for four years. During his senatorial service he served on some of the most important committees of the senate, being a member of the judiciary committee and chairman of the committee on county seats and county lines, as well as a member of the committee of cities of the second class. In 1894 he was elected judge of the district comprising the counties of Doniphan, Brown and Nemaha, and gave universal satisfaction while on the bench. After his judicial term expired he again took up the active practice of law and this with his large financial interests has since occupied the whole of his time and attention. When the National Bank of Seneca was organized, in 1897, which is regarded as one of the best managed and safest banks in northeastern Kansas, Judge Emery was made president and has since held that position. He has made finance the subject of diligent study and to his untiring labor and watchfulness, his genial manners, cool judgment and thorough understanding of finance, the subsequent success of the bank has been largely due. Although devoted to the practice of law and his business interests he also finds time to enjoy the fraternal and social side of life. He is a member of the Masonic order, in which he has attained the Royal Arch and Knights Templar degrees and has served as high priest of his Chapter and as eminent commander of Seneca Commandery, No. 41. He is also a member of Abdallah Temple, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine of Leavenworth. He is a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen and, in 1890, was the grand master workman of the state. He is president of the Seneca Commercial Club, and has held commissions as captain and as major in the Kansas National Guard.
On Sept. 19, 1877, at Corwin, Warren county, Ohio, Judge Emery was united in marriage with M. Lou Thompson, the daughter of Samuel B. and Martha J. Thompson. The father of Mrs. Emery died in Seneca, in 1911, in his ninetieth year, and the mother is still living. To Judge and Mrs. Emery have been born six children: Marie; Rufus M., Jr., now associated with his father in the practice of law; George B., who is in business in Hutchinson, Kan.; Helen M., who married Eugene Hill of Kansas City, Mo.; Alice and John R., the latter a student in the University of Kansas.
Judge Emery expects to make Seneca his permanent home and there, in one of the best residence districts and in one of the best homes of the city, he and his wife expect to pass the remainder of their lives. In professional, business and social life Judge Emery's personality has been so marked and of such force that his activities have left their impress upon the life of his county and his state and have placed him among those men recognized as typical of the best citizenship of Kansas.
Kansas Biography, Part 2, vol. III