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John J. Vanier

Businessman.  Born:  February 12, 1897. Died: February 20, 1980.

John Jacob Vanier was born February 12, 1897, in Pawnee County, Nebraska, to Jacob and Julia Frey Vanier. The family soon moved to Kansas City, Missouri.  As a young child he showed an interest in business and trade. He eventually built a business empire.

In 1914 Vanier began work at the B. Stevens Hide Company making $7 a week. Four years later he was making $60 a month with the E. D. Fisher Commission Company. This job exposed him to the grain trade and milling industries. Eventually he became a salesman for the Abilene Flour Mill. He returned to this job after serving in the marines during World War I.

On May 13, 1922 he married Lesta Kauffman in Kansas City, Missouri.  Through saving and investing he accumulated enough capital to secure controlling interest in the Western Star Milling Company in Salina in 1925. The Western Star Milling Company, which had been struggling, became a profitable firm with Vanier’s influence. He added the Weber Flour Mill and Salina Terminal Elevator Company to his holdings. His success led to ownership and involvement in many other grain and milling firms in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska.  During the depression in the 1930s, Vanier took advantage in the drop in land prices and pursued new business.

C. K. Ranch, Vanier’s property near Brookville, grew to include land and ranches near Hunter, Dorrance, Herington, Manhattan, and Salina. At one time, C. K. Ranch was  the largest breeder of registered Hereford in the United States with more than 900 head of cattle on 12,000 acres. His business empire continued to grow with commercial cattle ranches and feedlots in states beyond Kansas, including Wyoming, Colorado, and Oklahoma. 

His vast network of pursuits, located throughout the Midwest, included mills, elevators, soy bean plants, warehouses, food processing plants, livestock feed operations, dehydrating, and pelleting, a dairy farm, alfalfa dehydrator, grain terminals, and macaroni and spaghetti plants.

Vanier served on the American Hereford board of directors, and during 1952 as their president. In 1978 he was inducted in the honor gallery of the Hereford Heritage Hall in the American headquarters building. 

C.K. ranch built a reputation for fine cattle, receiving awards at shows such as the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado. Vanier believed in philanthropy, supporting organizations such as Kansas State University, Kansas Wesleyan, St. John’s Military School, and Marymount.

In 1970 Vainer sold large portions of the manufacturing, processing and marketing facilities to the Arch-Daniels Midland Company. Vanier died February 20, 1980, while at his summer home in Phoenix, Arizona. 

Entry: Vanier, John J.

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 2016

Date Modified: June 2016

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