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Frank Pitts MacLennan

Frank Pitts MacLennan

Publisher. Born: March 1, 1855, Springfield, Ohio. Married: Anna Goddard, May 28, 1890, Emporia, Kansas. Married Madge Overstreet, May 18, 1925, Topeka, Kansas. Died: 1933, Topeka, Kansas.

The son of Kenneth and Adelia M. (Bliss) MacLennan, Frank Pitts MacLennan was born March 1, 1855 in Springfield, Ohio. He gained experience in the newspaper industry, working as a newsboy and doing odd jobs around the office when he was a teenager. His family moved to Emporia when he was 15 years old.

MacLennan graduated from the University of Kansas in 1875 with a degree in engineering. He earned a master's degree in 1877 and worked as a harvest hand or in the field of railroad engineering in western Kansas and Colorado to pay off $300 in college loans.

Around 1878 he joined the staff of the Emporia News where he gained experience in all departments. In 1880 he became one of the three owners. He sold his interest in the newspaper in 1885 with plans to work as a news correspondent in Washington, D.C.  Instead he placed what turned out to be the low bid for the Topeka State Journal newspaper. The first years were a struggle but eventually MacLennan turned the newspaper into one of the leading newspapers in the state.  He served as owner and publisher until his death in 1933.

MacLennan married Anna Goddard, on May 28, 1890, in Emporia.  They had one daughter, Mary, born on March 15, 1891. She died in April 29, 1922. He married Madge (Overstreet) Wright, on May 18, 1925, in Kansas City, Missouri. 

After waging a campaign against high interest rates at Topeka banks, MacLennan organized the Kansas Reserve State Bank, which opened November 1, 1916. A leader in the construction of the Hotel Kansan in 1923, MacLennan served as president of the Kansas Hotel Company. He served as vice president until 1925 and then as president until the bank merged with the National Bank of Topeka.

The MacLennans purchased 244 acres on the west side of Topeka and built a French-Norman style house in 1928 that would become Cedar Crest. The name derives from the house sitting on a hill overlooking the Kansas River valley, which was filled with cedar trees. The house, designed by Kansas City architectural firm Wight & Wight, was built at the cost of $60,000. Frank MacLennan paid homage to his Scottish heritage by carving the Scottish thistle above the front door and in the library’s fireplace mantle below his family’s coat of arms. His love of printing is displayed in the six printers’ marks, dated 1457 to 1555, and carved into the library paneling interchanged with colorful book plates of his favorite authors. The printers’ marks represent six of the earliest printers in Europe.   

MacLennan enjoyed traveling, especially on sea voyages. MacLennan authored several books: A Kansan in New York (1919), Four Weeks with the Navy (1924), and A Tale of the Great Sea (1925). He was a member of the Saturday Night Literary Club, Topeka Country Club, Topeka Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, Authors Club, Topeka Press Club, and Beta Theta Pi.

The MacLennan’s decided that upon their deaths the house would be offered to the state of Kansas for use as the governor’s residence. According to the will, if the state of Kansas turned it down the house would be offered to the city of Topeka for use as a library or museum. Failing that plan, the house and land would be sold and the profits evenly divided between Washburn University and the Jane C. Stormont Hospital and Training School for Nurses, Inc., of Topeka.

Entry: MacLennan, Frank Pitts

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: December 2015

Date Modified: September 2016

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.