Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens
DAVID MICHAEL DIFFENDERFFER. The man who gains success in this age of materialism is he who can see and utilize the opportunities that come in his path--seize them at the right time and use them properly. To do so requires innate tact, keen discrimination and sound judgment; but after all, the basic conditions of human life are ever the same, the surroundings of individuals differing but slightly, and whether we achieve positions of wealth and influence or whether we are underlings throughout our earthly span of years depend, according to Shakespeare, "Not in our stars but in ourselves." Realizing this at the outset of his career, David Michael Diffenderffer, one of Springfield's successful business men, has sought to advance himself along legitimate lines by hard work and persistent effort.
Mr. Diffenderffer was born, August 30, 1870, in Ft. Bliss, Texas. He is a scion of a Pennsylvania family of German ancestry, and is a son of David R. and Margaret (Dunham) Diffenderffer. The father was born in New Holland, Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, and there grew to manhood and was educated in Franklin-Marshall College in the city of Lancaster. Shortly after his graduation he went to Mexico and was appointed United States consul to that country by President James Buchanan. After serving his term in this responsible office in a manner that reflected credit upon himself and to the satisfaction of the government, he returned to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and there engaged in the banking business with gratifying success until 1874, when he came to Lebanon, Missouri, and there continued in the banking business until his death, which occurred in the spring of 1900. He enjoyed the good will and esteem of all with whom he was associated. Margaret Dunham, also a representative of an old family of the Keystone state, was reared and educated in Lancaster and there they were married. She is still living in Lebanon, this state. To these parents seven children were born, namely: William, who lives in Lebanon; Mary has remained at the old home in Lebanon; Harry W. is associated in the carriage and implement business with our subject in Springfield; Jennie is the wife of Carl Morris, and they live in Springfield; John is cashier of the bank in Lebanon; Grace is the wife of William Owen and they live in Lebanon; David M., of this sketch.
Harry W. Diffenderffer was but two years old when his parents established the family home in Lebanon, Missouri, and there he grew to manhood and attended the public schools, later was a student in the University of Missouri. Leaving school in 1891 he went to St. Louis and engaged with the Kansas & Texas Coal Company as assistant superintendent, remaining in the em ploy of this firm three years, then went to Galveston, Texas, and took a position as a reporter on the News, later went to Phoenix, Arizona, and after working there two years went to Alaska in newspaper work and a general prospecting expedition. He spent five years in that country, one year of which was spent in carrying the United States mail from Dawson to Circle City, over the ice, down the Yukon river, a distance of three hundred miles. He walked this six hundred miles each month, driving six dogs to a sled. He was also a member of the famous mounted Canadian police force, and assisted in running down many criminals, including a gang that had murdered three prospectors. He captured one, who was subsequently hanged.
Returning to the United States in 1902, Mr. Diffenderffer located at Caddo, Oklahoma, where he engaged in mercantile pursuits. He also entered politics there and in 1908 he was assistant secretary at the national Democratic convention in St. Louis, when William J. Bryan was nominated for a third time for President. Mr. Diffenderffer was subsequently national committeeman of the Independent political part of Oklahoma. In 1910 he went to New York City and was employed by William R. Hurst on the New York American and the New York Journal, handling principally political assignments, being sent all over the United States. He was regarded as one of the ablest and most versatile writers on the Hurst papers and most conversant with the political situation of the country. Finally tiring of newspaper work and desiring to re-enter business, he came to Springfield, Missouri, in the, fall of 1911 and engaged in the buggy and implement business with his brother, Dave Diffenderffer, under the firm name of D. M. Diffenderffer, the name being later changed to the Diffenderffer Buggy & Implement Company. On April 24, 1902, he married Edith Kirk, and their union has been without issue.
David M. Diffenderffer was about four years old when his parents removed with him to Pennsylvania, and in 1876 the family came to Missouri. He received his early education in the public schools of Laclede county, this state, finishing his education at Drury College, Springfield.
He was with W. H. Owens Mercantile establishment in Lebanon while receiving his early schooling. After leaving Drury College he went to Portland, Oregon, where he was employed by a produce concern one year, after which he returned to Greene county and went to work for the McGregor- Noe Hardware Company in Springfield, and after working about a year for this firm he took a position as traveling salesman for a hardware firm in Chicago and remained with it one year, then, in 1897, he began in the implement business in Springfield, under the firm name of D. M. Diffenderffer, located at the corner of Walnut and Campbell streets, where he remained about three years, during which he got well established, then removed to the corner of Pearl and Walnut streets on what is known as the Stewart and Cowan building, which was erected especially for Mr. Diffenderffer. After remaining here about six years it became necessary to seek larger quarters, and our subject purchased property at the corner of Walnut and Market streets, where he erected a two-story, modern and convenient brick building, with twenty-one thousand feet of floor space, where the business has since been located.
This is the oldest implement company in this section of the state. A large and well-selected stock of buggies, carriages and implements is carried at all times. The business has been established over eighteen years and is one of the most widely and favorably known of its kind in southwestern Missouri. The volume of business has constantly increased with advancing years until it has assumed vast proportions, an extensive jobbing business being carried on over the Southwest, including a large portion of this state, eastern Oklahoma, and northern Arkansas.
David M. Diffenderffer was married, June 14, 1900, to Mabel Dunning, who is a daughter of A. C. and Laura (Crothers) Dunning, the mother being a daughter of Colonel Crothers, formerly of Indiana. Both the colonel and his wife are deceased. They were the parents of two children, Mrs. Mabel Diffenderffer being the oldest; the other, Mrs. Edith Sheppard, is also living in Springfield. Four children have been born to our subject and wife, namely: Margaret Jane, born July 17; 1902; Katherine Louise, born February 21, 1904; Mabel, born February 1, 1906, and David Rittenhouse, born May 24, 1909.
Politically, Mr. Diffenderffer is a Republican. Both he and his wife are members of Calvary Presbyterian church. He is a member of the Masonic Order and the Royal Arcanum lodge; he belongs to Solomon lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. He is one of the charter members of the Springfield Club.
Mr. Diffenderffer has recently organized the Overland Motor Car Company, of Joplin, Missouri, which has been incorporated by D. M. and J. L. Diffenderffer. The object of the firm is to distribute the Overland automobile in a territory of about fifty counties tributary to the city of Joplin. Harry W. Diffenderffer will be in charge of this new enterprise, with headquarters in Joplin.
Springfield-Greene County Library