Lambert Erpelding

1819 - 1890

This man is the one man who is probably the most responsible for the founding of Leonardville. He was the head inventor for the McCormick Reaper Works in Chicago for forty years until 1884. 

He had purchased a section of land in the 1870's and sent his three sons, Frank, George and John here to farm the land. In 1881 when the new Kansas Central Railway was planning to build across Riley County, he created the new townsite and convinced the president of the railway, Leonard T. Smith, to lay the tracks through the new town, which would be named Leonard in his honor.

The Erpelding Avenue, the main street running north and south in Leonardville is named for Lambert and his family.

The rest is history...

The Erpelding Family home built in 1885.

For more information about the Lambert Erpelding family, go to this web page:

So Leonardville Was Born
This article was written by a grandson of Lambert N. Erpelding.

The article appeared in Leonardville's Centennial book,

"City of the Plains, A Story of Leonardville."

(Taken from The Leonardville Monitor, Thursday, January 30, 1890)


Lambert Erpelding

Died, January 25, 1890, at his home in Leonardville, of complications of diseases and after a long and painful illness, Lambert Erpelding, aged seventy-one years and twenty days.

The funeral services were conducted at the family residence Tuesday at 2 o'clock, P.M., Rev. M.L. Lelley officiating clergyman, and the remains were interred at the Leonardville cemetery. Mayor Bredberg, ex-mayor Laflin, and councilmen Hudson, Sikes, Anderson and Newman acted as pall bearers.

Thus ends an eventful and useful life. Mr. Erpelding was born in Brussels, Belgium, January 5th 1819. He was brought up on a farm and when a young man learned the locksmith trade in his father's establishment. Later he became an engineer on a railroad, running a passenger engine. After continuing in this business a few years he came to America in 1848 and settled in Chicago, and immediately entered the employ of the McCormick Harvesting Machine company as an ordinary machinist. He soon showed a proficiency and aptness in the work that attracted the attention of the proprietors and won him their confidence and respect. He was soon promoted, as a result, and his continued fidelity to his employers' interest, together with his practical sense and mechanical genius won for him promotion after promotion until he attained to one of the highest positions attainable in connection with the vast establishment, that of master mechanic and chief inventor.

He was the author of many of the important inventions and improvements that have made the McCormick reaping and mowing machines what they are today. Among the many others he was the inventor of the knotter, or tying device used by the McCormick self binder, one of the most important inventions connected with that class of machinery. He also invented many valuable devices and machines for manufacturing the different parts used in the construction of the various machines. Even since his removal to Leonardville he has pursued his inventive work and only a year or so ago took out letters patent on an important invention.

Some years ago he purchased a section of land, a portion of which now forms part of the site of Leonardville, Mr. Erpelding being one to the principal founders of our city. When the great Chicago fire came Mr. Erpelding lost his home and all it contained, besides three other houses, his total loss amounting to at least $20,000. But even this great calamity did not discourage him. As he contemplated the ruin he remarked "Now we will have to commence over again," and he at once set about the work of regaining what had been so suddenly swept away from him. With that success our citizens can readily discern. He was a man of eminence and influence well known in Chicago where 37 years of his life was spent. His death has closed a life of great usefulness and cast a shadow in the hearts of a very wide circle of friends. He was a man of no ordinary qualities of mind and it is profitable to dwell upon the history of one who achieved eminence and honorable fame by the force of native qualities of mind directed by unswerving purpose, indomitable perseverance and untiring labor.

After spending about seven years with the McCormick company and accumulating some means, Mr. Erpelding was married in 1866 to Miss Amelia Nockin, of Chicago, a native of Frankfort-on-the-Rhine. Mr. and Mrs. Erpelding were the parents of five children, four sons and one daughter, viz: Frank, Joseph, George, Millie and John. Joseph died of scarlet fever at the age on nineteen. The other four are living at the family home in Leonardville.

After spending 37 years with the McCormicks, finding his health failing after so long a period of close indoor employment, he removed to Leonardville in 1885, with the purpose of enjoying his old age with his family, which he did until this long career of usefulness was cut short by the "Grim Reaper" last Saturday.