April 16, 1840 – Michael Senn Biography

April 16th, 1840

Time Node:  April 16, 1840 – birth date of Michael Senn

Michael Senn founded Lasita, Kansas, where he built and operated a store.


[Note: Lasita is French for “La Sita”, meaning “The Site“.]

Michael Senn, son of Leonard Senn, was born April 16, 1840 in Bucks Canton, Saint Gallen, Switzerland (about 50 miles west of Zurich).  He died on September 4, 1923 in Lasita, Kansas.  He was buried in Enterprise, Kansas.  In the 1860’s he married Josephine Meyer who was born in 1851.  She died in Lasita, Kansas.

Michael Senn emigrated with his family to Wisconsin in 1855 and in 1858 the family moved to Enterprise, Kansas (near Abilene, before the Eisenhowers) where relatives (the Hoffmans and the Ershams) had established the JB Ersham Machine and Foundry Co.  During the Civil War Michael served with Co. E, 1st Reg.

Returning home he opened the first general store in Enterprise in 1869.  In October of 1877 Michael purchased land in Fancy Creek township near the present site of Lasita, which he founded and named about 1880.  He opened a general store on his homestead, then persuaded the Kansas Central Railroad Co. to run their line through the town.  The narrow gauge railroad was completed through Lasita in 1881, adding to the town’s growth and prosperity.

Lasita had Stockyards, an elevator, a creamery, blacksmith shop, and an enlarged general store which served the settlers of the area which soon numbered enough to prompt the building of a two-story schoolhouse.  In 1892 a post office was added and functioned until 1935.  The railroad closed its line in 1936, which contributed to Lasita’s decline.

Michael Senn believed in free enterprise and Christian Science.  He was a Populist in political belief during the 1890’s when Populism was the main political party in Kansas.  He served in the Kansas House of Representatives 1891 – 1893 and in the Kansas State Senate from 1893 – 1897.  He also wrote pamphlets on free enterprise and economics. – a common practice of the day.

About 1900 the present Senn family home was built across from the general store in Lasita.  The design followed the Senn’s home in Switzerland and leaded windows from this home were used in the new home in America.  Michael’s son, Edward Senn, carried on the family farming business after attending Kansas State Agricultural College (KSAC).

The Senn home still remains (circa 1976), and until 1971 Michael’s grandson Herbert E. Senn lived there, managing the family farms.

A list of children and genealogical information is presented.

This biography was written by Mrs. Herbert Senn (Amanda Marie Mutschler Senn – born May 16, 1900), a resident of Clay Center, Kansas in 1975.  The information was written for the benefit of family and historians and appears in the publication Pioneers of the Bluestem Prairie as a part of the American Revolution Bicentennial “capturing history” project.

Michael Senn journalism article – Lasita, Kansas – by Hemme Backlund – Correspondence Institute of America (CIA) – Circa 1907:

Hemme Backlund (Martin), age 19, interviewed Michael Senn and wrote the following for Lesson J 9003 for the Correspondence Institute of America course on journalism.

Michael Senn was born in Switzerland about sixty years ago.  Because of the wonderful opportunities rumored from the New World many emigrated thither.  It was said that in America one could succeed if he knew a trade.  So Michael’s father had him taught basketry before he allowed him to venture to this new country.  At the age of thirteen with his two younger brothers he reached America.  The brothers were sent to school and Michael studied in the evenings.  When the Civil War began Mr. Senn, then a young man, joined a Kansas regiment.  He carried a gun through the entire war.  Later he settled with his wife in the booming town of Enterprise, Kansas where he invested in real estate and started a general merchandise store in partnership with his brother-in-law.  He also for awhile had interests in a Furniture factory.  He was nominated as Representative to the State Legislature and then elected Senator from his district.  He fought earnestly and successfully for the Oleomargarine law.  Moving to Lasita, Kansas he bought a store there and acted as Postmaster for many years.  In 1905 he retired from active business and now lives in Lasita and takes pleasure in his books and his farm which adjoins the town.  He is socialistic but believes in gradual reform brought about by a change in public opinion and not by law.  He has written many articles and before his speech at the Clay Center Chautauqua last year was introduced as the “Tolstoy of our Community”.  His neighbors elected him Justice of the Peace of this township in 1904 and he still holds this office.

[“Michael Senn Biography” Post written on April 26, 2011 @ 23:50  ZLT / GMT / Zulu / UTC]