Miss Katrine Maxwell King
by Doug Mauck
Katrine M. King was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1872, moved to Topeka with her mother and two brothers in about 1890 and died at age 65 at her home at 1017 N. Quincy.
When Ms King arrived in Topeka, she was only about 18 years of age, but she quickly began her life’s career helping any and all humans or animals that were in distress. The work she did was considered to be ‘humane’ and it consisted of being humane to all beings at all times.
In the 1890’s, horses were used for nearly all local transportation and freight movement. The owners of the horses were not always attentive to the needs of the animals, but people such as Ms King made it their business to correct bad treatment of beasts of burden. Ms King and her brothers caused a watering trough to be placed in the intersection of 6th and Quincy so that drovers would have no excuse to not provide water for their horses.
In 1896, Ms King was given a medal by the Topeka Fire Department for rescuing several horses from a burning barn after the men had determined that the rescue was impossible.
There had never before been a woman sworn in as deputy sheriff until February 20, 1910 when Ms King was sworn in to assume the duties of a welfare officer for Shawnee County. Although the term ‘Special Deputy’ was not used at the time, her office fit the description, as she was not expected to serve in all of the capacities of a deputy sheriff, but only the duties as a welfare officer.
When Jay E. House became mayor of the City of Topeka in 1915, he offered Ms King a position with the city as the welfare officer. Ms King was hesitant to accept the position as she had been doing the work with her own money and was independent in her decisions. Mayor House assured her that she would be in charge of the duties and could remain independent in her decisions. Ms King provided assistance for persons living in poverty and also assisted immigrants in gaining citizenship. In September,1922, Katrine King herself became a citizen of the United States, although in the preceding years Ms King had assisted many immigrants in obtaining citizenship, she was unaware that she was not included years ago when her brothers obtained citizenship.
Katrine and her brothers put together a wagon filled with cots and medical supplies and brought the wagon to events such as the State Fair where large crowds could be expected so that they could provide first aid and medical assistance when needed.
Perhaps most notable is the fact that Ms King and her brothers provided these humane services at their own expense and never solicited donations. When Federal Judge C. G. Foster died, he appreciated Ms King’s work to the extent that he left a business building at 917 Kansas to Ms King and her brothers to continue their charitable work. The Foster Humane Society was established in the building and the Kings operated their activities from there.
In 1937, Katrine King became ill at age 65 and was unable to continue her work. Her friends urged her to apply for a city pension. It should be noted that in 1937, in the final years of the Great Depression, pensions were not considered to be employee rights, but a favor that may or may not be granted.
Ms King died later in 1937 in her home at 1017 North Quincy and was buried in Rochester Cemetery.