Francis Goble, Apple King of Kansas

By Evelyn Goble Steen

Francis (Francisco) E. (9) Goble was the sixth child and third son of William Henry "Harrison" (8) Goble and Lydia Matilda Osborn Goble. He was born in Ainsworth, Washington County, Iowa on March 21, 1850. He was about two years old when his family moved to Weston, Missouri before settling in Kickapoo, Kansas in 1855. He was a very good student and as a young man secured employment as a schoolteacher in Oak Mills, School District number 34. One of his students was Elizabeth Douglas, age 11. He was married to Elizabeth Douglas, at Oak Mills, Kansas on May 17, 1874, when she was seventeen years old. In the spring of 1881 Francis bought his father's farm, near Hund Station, and began farming. (The 1860 Kansas census listed him as Sanfrancisco, however the 1850 Iowa census listed him as Francis.)

Francis and Elizabeth had 11 children: Edgar Allen "Al" (10) Goble, born March 27, 1875; Laura (10) Goble, born May 13, 1876; Oscar (10) Goble, born in 1877; Lucian Elzie "Dick" (10) Goble, born February 16, 1879; George (10) Goble, born December 28, 1880; Walter Herbert (10) Goble, born June 16, 1882; William Frank (10) Goble, born December 15, 1883; Jesse (10) Goble, born September 1, 1885; Louis (10) Goble, born March 16, 1887; Fannie (10) Goble, born May 3, 1888; and Robert (10) Goble, born May 16, 1889, all in Kansas.

Francis (9) Goble

Francis (9) Goble was a prominent businessman and horticulturist in Leavenworth County, Kansas and was known as the "Apple King." Many newspaper articles were published regarding his business prominence, character, and intellect. The Topeka Daily Capital of May 20, 1906 quoted an article from the Leavenworth Post stating that Francis Goble had taken over his father's farm and planted apple trees and other small fruit. "The strawberries and other small fruits easily made him a good living until his apple trees began to bear. After the apple trees began to produce Goble made a sizable profit each year for 5 years. He started with little capital, but was one of the richest men in the county."

Yet another article in the Kansas City Star on December 6, 1912 referred to Francis Goble as managing "the largest apple orchard in the county" producing 90,000 bushels of apples per year. He was credited with employing up to 30 men for pruning, 36 as packers and housing them in a boarding house with a dining room which had a seating capacity of 100 men. Another article (date missing) is titled "half a Million Bushels Apples in one Orchard" and "Employment of 200 Pickers."

Francis (9) Goble probably gained his greatest prominence in connection with the 880 acre Morrill Farm at Wallula, Kansas where he personally supervised the planting of 70,000 fruit trees. In 1898 ex-Governor E. L. Morrill entered into a contract with Francis Goble to plant trees and care for the orchard. He was to receive half the orchard proceeds for 15 years. The contract expired in 1912. Descendants remember the profit amount discussed as being about $75,000 in apples and another $75,000 in corn. The Morrill Farm proved to be one of the best paying as well as the largest in the state. When Francis Goble retired he had accumulated a "comfortable fortune".

Francis and Elizabeth were planning a world tour and after closing their home and starting west Francis began to suffer from the high altitudes affect on his heart. They changed their plans and decided to go to the hot springs in Missouri in the hope it would help Francis recuperate. They were there about seven weeks when Francis died on November 25, 1913 at the Excelsior Springs Hotel. Heart disease was cited as the cause of death.

The Leavenworth Newspaper heading read "Death Comes to Francis Goble, Apple King succumbed in Excelsior Springs, Mo, Famous Horticulturist Planted and Developed One of the Lrgest Orchards int he country." Another newspaper read "Unusual Were the Qualities of Francis Goble, Attributed success to Finishing What He Started, Farmer of Rare Ability who Formed a Company Among his Sons, Personally Superintended Affairs of State's largest orchard, Which Made Him Rich in Short Time."

During his life Francis filled many positions of honor and trust. For many years he was president of the Leavenworth County Horticultural Society, and in 1895 was in charge of the "Million Club Train" which took the greatest display of farm products ever seen, to Chicago, and started the idea of exhibiting state products.


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Copyright © 1998-1999 by Evelyn Goble Steen, All Rights Reserved