From Farmer to Lawyer, John Franklin Stout

John Franklin “Frank” Stout 1861-1927

“Dependent upon his own resources from the age of eighteen years, he has made good use of his time and opportunities and his developing powers in the practice of law are now indicated in the large and important clientage accorded him.”

Omaha, the Gate City and Douglas County Nebraska (1917)

Born in 1861, the 8th living child of Emeline and Isaiah Stout, John Franklin Stout, known as “Frank,” made his own destiny. The large family lived on a farm near Middlebourne in Guernsey County Ohio, and when Frank’s father died in 1872, the eleven-year-old boy probably wondered if his future was to be the farmer of the family.

Frank’s oldest brother Will (my great-grandfather) had left for medical school in Pennsylvania, his brother George had attended medical school in Cincinnati and the following year, Tom, his closest brother would leave to go West.  But Frank must have been a bookish boy, who loved to study.  After finishing public school at the age of 17, he went to Ohio Weslyan College in Delaware for a year, and that was enough education to qualify him for teaching.

John Franklin Stout

John Franklin “Frank” Stout, taken in Cambridge, probably while he was teaching (early 1880’s).

Back he went to the family farm and took teaching jobs during the winter, while he helped out with crops and livestock in the summer months. But the pull of the West, that had drawn Tom and probably many of the numerous Stout cousins out west, called to Frank as well.  After six years teaching, he lingered in Guernsey County long enough to study with a lawyer in Cambridge, Ohio for two years and passed the examinations to become a lawyer on June 10, 1887. Soon after, he got on the train for Kansas.

His first practice was set up in Hutchinson Kansas that year,

John Franklin Stout

John Franklin Stout in his law office, probably his first office in Hutchinson Kansas (1890s)

He met his future bride in Cambridge Ohio, perhaps when he was teaching, or perhaps during the two years he was studying for the bar, but the tie must have been strong, because after 3 1/2 years, he returned to Cambridge to marry Lida Stitt in September, 1890. [Correction, March 2018: According to the marriage license, they were married on September 24.  Previously I had said they were married Christmas Eve, but if they had a ceremony then it was repeating their vows.]

They continued to live in Hutchinson, Kansas until 1895, when Frank apparently decided that Omaha was a more fertile ground for a lawyer.  And population figures bear that out.  The population of Omaha jumped from 30,518 in 1880 to 140,451 in 1890, although it fell in 1900 to about 104,000. He established his law firm in Omaha and three years later their daughter Gertrude was born (May, 1898).

Omaha was prospering as a shipping center, supporting stockyards and grain mills. It also became the banking center of the area. The booming city had approved a charter for government in 1886, a library was built in 1871, a Masonic Temple would be constructed in 1900 and the Auditorium in 1904. I wonder if Frank and Lida went to see Sarah Bernhardt or the New York Metropolitan Opera on the stage or attended the astounding electric shows in 1908 and 1909. I picture them joining the throng of nearly 28,000 people attending the Trans-Mississippi Expositions’ opening day in June of 1898, and hearing President McKinley speak. Certainly, Omaha offered a metropolitan atmosphere that far exceeded Cambridge, Ohio.

By 1917, when Frank’s biography was one of those published in Omaha, the Gate City and Douglas County Nebraska: A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement, Vol. II, the Stouts were integrated into the community and his law practice had grown from being the 2nd named partner (Wright and Stout, Hall and Stout) to his own firm of Stout, Rose and Wells, with the additions of Hallick Rose and A. R. Wells as partners. His picture reflects a mature, dapper man, sure of his place in the world.

John Franklin Stout as shown in the Omaha history.

John Franklin Stout from the book on Omaha’s history, published in 1917.

He and his wife attended the Presbyterian church and supported the Republican party. He was a member of the Masons, who had completed their grand temple just ten years after he moved to Omaha. He was one of 2000 members of the Commercial Club, joined the Omaha Club and was an early member of the Omaha Country Club, organized in 1901–all the trappings of success.

Frank’s son, Robert Irving Stout, graduated from Amherst College in Massachusetts (1913) and returned to Omaha to lead a very distinguished career in banking, following in his father’s footsteps by belonging to every important organization in town.  Robert also served in the World War (which we now know as WW I).

When Lida died in 1917, Gertrude was still at home with her father, and in 1923 father and daughter sailed to England.  Although records show me when they returned to New York from Plymouth England, I have no other information about their journey.  Although I heard many stories of family members who were avid travelers, Frank and Gertrude are the first of my ancestors (that I know of) who traveled abroad.  It sounds like an exciting reward for his long path to success.

When they sailed to England, Gertrude was 25, and she had not yet married. Since she married the year that Frank died, is it possible Frank disapproved of the marriage and the trip was a ploy to separate her daughter from the man she wanted to marry? You may accuse me of being a romantic, but I know that my grandmother was sent off to New York City to separate her from an “unsuitable” match. Sent by her father, Frank’s older brother.

Yet census reports tell me that Earl C. Sage, Gertrude’s husband, who also lived with his parents until the couple were married, was a medical doctor, so it is difficult to see why our successful lawyer would have an objection.

On the passenger list, he gives his address as 117 South 39th Street, Omaha. This charming house was built in 1907, and Frank and Lida moved into it in 1915, after living at several other places in Omaha, including twelve years at 1103 South 31st Street.

John Franklin Stout home

Google Map street view Frank Stout home,Omaha

My grandmother seemed to have lost track of her uncles, and she and my mother never had the rich stories about these Western wanderers, Tom and Frank, that they had about other branches of the family. So I am glad to learn and pass on their stories.

If the youngest son was out to make the most of every opportunity and show that he could do as well as his older brothers, John Franklin Stout succeeded.  Frank Stout died in 1927 and was buried in Northwood Cemetery in Cambridge, Ohio beside his wife Lida.

My relationship:

  • Vera Marie Badertscher
  • Daughter of Harriette Anderson Kaser
  • Daughter of Vera Stout Anderson
  • Niece of John Franklin Stout


  • U. S. Federal Census: 1870 and 1880, Wills, Guernsey, Ohio; 1900 and 1910, Omaha, Ward 7, Douglas, Nebraska; 1920, Omaha, Ward 9, Douglas, Nebraska
  • Ohio, County Marriages, 1774-1993, Guernsey County, John F. Stout and Lida Stitt.
  • Kansas State Census Collection, 1855-1925Kansas State Historical Society; Topeka, Kansas; 1895 Kansas Territory Census; Roll: v115_124; Line: 25
  • U. S. City Directories, Omaha, Nebraska, for years 1895-1925, John F. Stout,
  • City populations are from  Nebraska Department of Economic Development
  • Omaha, the Gate City and Douglas County Nebraska: A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement, Vol I and Vol,II, edited by Arthur Cooper Wakely (1917). Vol. II, pg.188-189 for bio of John Franklin Stout; Vol. I for background history of Omaha.
  • Who’s Who in Burt County Nebraska, 1940 for information about son Robert.
  • Cemetery Records available at Find a Grave.
  • From
  • Guernsey County Ohio census for 1870 and 1880; Omaha Nebraska Census for 1900, 1910 and 1920.
  • Ship passenger record Rotterdam, Plymouth England to NYC 1923
  • Google Maps for picture of the house at his address in Omaha.
  • Family photographs  with inscriptions, in the possession of the author.
  • Find a Grave, John Franklin Stout

This has been a weekly post in the 52 Ancestors/52 Weeks Project started by Amy Johnson Crow at “No Story too Small.” Check out her weekly recap showing the list of participants for some ripping good stories.

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