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Edward Wallis Hoch

Edward HochPolitician, governor. Republican. Born: March 17, 1849, Danville, Kentucky. Died: June 1, 1925, Marion, Kansas. Served as 17th Governor of Kansas: January 9, 1905, to January 11, 1909.

Edward Wallis Hoch was born in Danville, Kentucky, on March 17, 1849, to Edward C. and Elizabeth (Stout) Hoch. His father worked as a baker. Hoch was raised with two brothers and one sister and attended the local common schools. He later attended Central College of Danville, where he studied general education. He had already gained a reputation as a renowned public speaker and writer and left college before graduating to take up the printing trade.

Hoch moved to Kansas in 1871, temporarily settling at Pawnee Rock before moving to Marion County to claim acreage near Florence and settled into farming. In 1874  he moved to Marion to become editor and publisher of the Marion Record newspaper as a repayment of debt from an associate. He continued in that capacity until his death in 1925. The newspaper business brought him some initial hardships but he eventually turned it into a financial success. This was largely due to his eloquent writing style and compelling storytelling that kindled the public’s interest in the state. He always had a convincing argument and a fine pen to reinforce that argument. 

Hoch married Sarah Louisa Dickerson on May 23, 1876; they had two sons and two daughters. He also turned his curiosity toward the affairs of state. He entered politics in 1889 as a Republican in the Kansas House of Representatives. He was elected and reelected a second term in 1893. The political events of the time were contentious, with events dominated by the “Legislative War” between the Populists and the Republicans. Representative Hoch was also the speaker pro tem of the Republican house. Being a Kansas speaker pro tem in that day was a contentious predicament for any Republican house member, but Hoch’s delicate discretion and judgment toward the ruling party brought the right mix of peaceful alternatives for the fractious issues of the day.

He had the distinct ability to argue both sides of an issue with reason and depth. On at least two occasions many of his political contemporaries urged him to run for U.S. Congress, and public opinion toward that goal accelerated. On March 8, 1894, the Republican state convention nominated Hoch by acclimation for governor of Kansas. 

Hoch was endorsed by what many in the day considered the progressive wing of the Republican Party, better known as the “boss busters.” The progressive movement was spawned at the federal level by President Theodore Roosevelt’s new policy for personal and economic growth for the 20th century. Hoch was considered a reformer of the same stripe, and for many constituents, a breath of fresh air compared to the incumbent Willis Joshua Bailey. Hoch won the election by large margin over his Democratic opponent, David M. Dale of Wichita.

In Governor Hoch’s first term, while enjoying the active support of the progressive wing of the Republican Party, many changes occurred in the administrative affairs of Kansas. Among the largest issue on the agenda was his gutsy fight with the Standard Oil Company. Standard Oil was operating rather aggressively throughout the country, and it also vied for the control of Kansas’ natural resources. These operations of glut were prior to any controls mandated by the state or the federal governments.

Governor Hoch’s determined devotion to principle led his movement to oust the Standard Oil Company from Kansas. At the time of the governor’s inauguration, one of the legislative conflicts involved the state of Kansas and Standard Oil. With virtually no regulation in place to limit the monopolizing of natural resources, the company’s aggressive business plan was to pipe natural gas out of the state all the way to the eastern seaboard. The governor believed that any monopoly that threatens the state's organic gas and oil resources was a misuse of the public’s domain. In a message to the state, he said, “I am a firm believer in the competitive system, and entertain with caution any proposition tending to the centralization of governmental power over commercial enterprises which should, as far as possible, be left to individual control. ... Moreover, I have been a student of these subjects for years, and am grounded in the philosophy of the competitive system in contradistinction to the socialistic idea of government absorption of business enterprises.”

Governor Hoch on February 17, 1905, proposed an act to the legislature. The bill directed the warden of the state penitentiary to construct a new oil refinery to be operated in Peru, Kansas, as a branch of the penitentiary “for the refining of crude oil, market the same and its by-products, keep the refinery in repair, and furnish therefore requisite machinery and equipment, and the necessary facilities and instrumentalities for receiving, manufacturing, storing and handling crude, and refined oil and its byproducts.”

The governor succeeded in his first term in persuading the legislature to enact seven laws in the interest of producing, preserving, and controlling petroleum products; all but one of those laws stood the test of time. The Kansas Supreme Court, however, declared the law appropriating $410,000 for construction of a state refinery unconstitutional. The decision to nullify the appropriation was rendered by the Associate Justice Adrian Lawrence Greene. The constitution, Greene declared, said “the state shall never be a party in carrying on any works of internal improvement.” However, the governor’s bold move to curb such monopolies resulted in some substantial compensation from the oil industry operating in the state. 

Governor Hoch also worked effectively with the legislature to liquidate a $240,000,000 mortgage debt after lingering for more than 15 years weighing down the state’s budget. He also urged the assembly to pass a primary election law to model that of Wisconsin providing that candidates for the U. S. Senate run for nomination at a primary election. The governor worked tirelessly to reapportion the State into eight congressional districts. The census of 1890 called for eight members of Congress from Kansas, but the state wasn’t divided into eight districts. The governor was also in favor of a public depository system where public revenues would earn interest for the benefit of the state. He also advocated a separate juvenile court system, strict child labor laws, establishing a state printing plant, a pure food law, no regression on prohibition, and a thorough revision of the tax laws to include using county assessors responsible for property assessments in each township. 

The summer of 1906 ushered in the first markings of the Santa Fe Trail by the Daughters of the American Revolution. In September that year Kansas, recognizing the significance of the trail, held its first centennial celebration. The celebration also marked the 100th anniversary of the raising of the American flag on Kansas soil by Lieutenant Zebulon M. Pike in 1806. Pike would later have some claim to fame in the state of Colorado when Pike’s Peak was named after him.

Governor Hoch was nominated for a second term in 1906 and won re-election, but narrowly. At one point he trailed another Republican candidate because of suspected internal factionalism that resembled the old political machine in power in the late 1800s. Hoch’s firm prohibition stand was rapidly losing steam in the public view, and his failure to induce a vigorous economy sent him tumbling in the polls. That said, much of his reform legislation did pass in the second term, although he did not get the direct primary law he wanted. He convened a special session of the legislature in January 1908 that forced that measure through. This emergency session also passed a bank guaranty law, a kind of primitive deposit insurance.

The governor in his second term also succeeded in passing an anti-free-pass act, a single party primary law, a pure food act, a child labor law, and a maximum freight rate bill. He also established a three-person commission to review railroads, taxation methods, juvenile courts, and state institutions to recommend improvements.

The first party primary in Kansas was held in August 1908, and a new candidate for governor emerged on the stage, Walter Roscoe Stubbs. Stubbs had more public appeal for the electorate, and was perceived less of an inside party politico; consequently, he was elected the next governor.

Governor Hoch left office on January 11, 1909, and returned to his beloved Marion Record as its editor and publisher. Hoch also enjoyed some occasional lecturing on the Chautauqua circuit. For his superb oratorical style, the University of Kansas in Lawrence honored Hoch by naming a large auditorium after him. Hoch served on the state board of administration from 1913 to 1919, an agency that administered to all public institutions except the Kansas State Capitol. His son also served in public service becoming a longtime congressman and a state supreme court justice. 

Hoch died in Marion on June 1, 1925, of a lengthy illness that culminated in severe kidney failure. He is buried at Highland Cemetery in Marion.

Entry: Hoch, Edward Wallis

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: June 2011

Date Modified: February 2017

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