In the late 1800s, a man known as “Buckeye Bill” came to Paola and developed an auctioneering business second to none.
He was known throughout the Midwest and traveled extensively in that part of the country. He made sales in Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, and the Indian Territory. It is very conservative estimate that he sold over $5 million worth of property at public auction.
His real name was Milton E. Thorpe, and he was born in Defiance County, Ohio, in 1841. He grew to manhood amid the hard work and happy days of frontier life. He was venturesome and energetic. Diligence and intelligence were in him from the start.
When he was 22 years old, he enlisted in Company C of the 111th Ohio infantry and served the Union for nearly three years. He was a brave soldier and he fought in many battles. He was captured by the Confederate Army and spent eight months in Libby prison (Richmond, Virginia).
After a prisoner exchange, he spent time in the hospital with typhoid pneumonia, dysentery and diarrhea. He was discharged (medically) on June 24, 1864. After regaining his health, he engaged in the mercantile business for several years, and after he disposed of that business, he took up the business of selling goods on the streets and traveled nearly every state of the union.
Mr. Thorpe was a man of commanding presence, dark wavy hair, piercing dark eyes, military in his bearing, strait as an arrow, and elastic of step.
At the time he came here to Paola in 1877, there was no farm auction business in Eastern Kansas. When men were going away, they sold their stock and implements generally at private sales. So, from street auctions Bill took up the farm sale business.
In fact, he was the originator of the present system that prevails throughout this part of the West. And he was a winner from the start. He also had a machine shop, a ladder production facility in Missouri, and an actual patent on a specialized ladder.
He had a rare knowledge of human nature. He had a captivating voice and a manner that threw a spell over his hearers. In the course of time, he had many imitators, but no equals. His fame spread, and the name of “Buckeye Bill” became a household token throughout Miami County. Many people who were acquainted with him never knew his real name.
On November 7, 1878, he married Miss Barbara Goodrich in Paola. This is where he lived until his death in 1910. He actually died while calling a sale in Missouri. He had been a member of the Christian church and also a Masonic fraternity. He also was a member of the McCaslin Post of the G.A.R.
He made over $100,000 during his life. He spent it not upon himself, but mainly on others. He never allowed a paper for charity pass him without getting a subscription. He gave to every church and every needy person who asked him. The truth of it is, he didn’t know what money was made of. Had his income been five times what it was, he would still have been poor in the end.
Vincent Thorpe is the treasurer of the Miami County Historical Museum.
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