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his thirst for wide reading, a habit that persisted throughout his

Born in Hiawatha, Mrs. Beck, my mentor and inexorable critic,
was a close friend of the Wilder children, and spent much time in
their home. She has a distinct recollection of the pater Wilder. She
recalls seeing him sit for hours reading a new dictionary, just to
enjoy the new words listed. She appealed to him for help once on
an essay in a Shakespeare-Bacon controversy in school. Wilder was
an ardent Shakespeare partisan, and wrote a book on Shakespeare,
said to be one of the best. She remembers his account of his meet-
ing with Lincoln when the Emancipator made his first incursion into
Kansas territory. Wilder said he sat on the bank of the Missouri at
St. Joseph with the Illinois rail splitter, waiting for the ferry to take
them over to Elwood. He related that Lincoln's long legs, as he
sat crouched on the ground, reminded him of a grasshopper. He
also had a distinct recollection of Lincoln's falsetto voice.


At this point it is well to note Web Wilder's arrival in Kansas. He
came first in 1857. His older brother Carter, also a distinguished
Kansan and a congressman, had blazed the trail. Greeley had not
yet issued his famous dictum. But Web Wilder felt the urge of the
West. It might have been the spirit of the pioneer working in him,
for he was only 24 years old; or it might have been the urging of
conscience to help make Kansas a free state. Leaving the prospect
of a law practice in Boston, he came again in 1858, this time to
remain. His first venture was as editor of the Elwood Free Press;
then in 1860 across the river in St. Joseph he ran a Republican paper,
the Free Democrat, advocating the freedom of the slaves. For this
he was indicted, but escaped back to Kansas, losing his investment
in Missouri.

Thereafter newspaper ventures in Kansas included editorship of

the Leavenworth Conservative in 1861, in conjunction with Col. D.

R. Anthony; a short fling with the Rochester, N. Y., Express, then

back to Kansas with the Fort Scott Monitor in 1871. Here he met



and became the intimate friend of Eugene F. Ware. Five years
later he made another trial with the St. Joseph Herald, but failing
in this he landed in Hiawatha and edited the Hiawatha World,
until Ewing Herbert took over.

Although he was appointed surveyor general for Kansas and Ne-
braska in 1863, it was in 1872 that Mr. Wilder made his first essay
into state politics. The Republicans nominated and elected him
to the office of state auditor. He proved himself as capable in the
realm of figures and budgets as he had in the field of literature. He
held this office four years, being re-elected in 1874, and resigning
near the close of his second term. It was during these four years
that he found time for the extra-curricular work of writing his
Annals. The book came off the press in the fall of 1875. I think
he must not have realized that he was writing what was later to be-
come the authentic history of Kansas, for by his own admission his
object was to collect and write down some facts that would be
helpful to his fellow publishers of the state. His innate modesty
was further revealed in the dedication of the book, in which he
said, "To George W. Martin, a Kansan, of eighteen years' residence,
who, with his customary nerve, has assumed the financial risk of
becoming the publisher of this book, it is gratefully dedicated."

Wilder's four years' service as state auditor stand out as a shining
example of official probity and efficiency. Kansas was plagued with
an era of corruption and thievery in the state treasurer's office. As an
investigator, the new auditor made the Martin Dies committee, the
Truman committee, the King committee, and the Kefauver commit-
tee look like mere amateurs. His first report uncovered what, to use
a current term, was a sorry mess in the state treasurer's office. His
revelation of the crookedness resulted in the impeachment and re-
moval of the then treasurer Col. Josiah E. Hayes, for crimes and
misdemeanor in office, in 1874. Only a year later, another state
treasurer, Samuel Lappin of Nemaha county was forced to resign
because of the purchase and sale of forged school district bonds.
Lappin, a thorough scoundrel, made two attempts at jail breaking
before his trial.

In discussing his official career, the late W. E. Connelley said
this of the state auditor:

Mr. Wilder laid bare the foul ulcer with keen sentences and facts sharper
than the surgeon's scalpel. He turned a blaze of light into the caves of official
corruption, and the plunderers fled in consternation. They did not return.
. . . His reforms extended even to the administrative affairs of counties,
and they have been of immeasurable value to the people of Kansas.


Wilder later was induced to become state superintendent of in-
surance. In this capacity his fidelity to his trust and his intelligent
methods of insurance in Kansas have resulted in great good to the

To my mind Web Wilder set an example of decency and decorum
in politics that might well be followed in this day of campaign
strife. When he was elected auditor in 1874, he sent this letter
to his vanquished Democratic opponent, Col. G. P. Smith of Law-

DEAR FRIEND: I wish to express to you my sincere appreciation of your
course toward me during the recent campaign. It has not only made you
friends everywhere by proving, even to strangers, that you were a chivalrous
gentleman, but added a new element to a Kansas campaign that of courtesy
and honor. Your speeches are spoken of by Republicans who heard them as
the ablest delivered. I remember that you began the fight against a corrupt
treasurer, and I am glad to know that we have both outlived the abuse and
calumies which such a contest always provokes. Very truly, D. W. WILDER.

Love letters are generally regarded as privileged documents, al-
though sometimes admitted as evidence in the courts. The blue
ribbon which binds them as they are stored away in the trunk, along
with baby's first shoes, impregnates them with a sentiment of true
devotion and an outpouring of the heart that, unhappily, is not fully
sustained in after years of connubial association.

D. W. Wilder had reached the age of 31 before he was pierced
by Cupid's dart. All evidence shows he had been heart whole and
fancy free. But when he fell, he fell hard. The object of his affec-
tion was a girl of 17, the daughter of his friend, Dr. J. E. Irvin, who
at the time of the courtship held the government job of provost
marshal and resided with his family at Kennekuk, in the northwest
part of Atchison county. After ten months of urging, Mary Irvin
capitulated, and the wedding occurred March 3, 1864. Their first
home was in modest rented quarters in Leavenworth where the
new husband was editor of the Leavenworth Conservative. Subse-
quently ten children were born.

Many years ago, after she was widowed, Mary Irvin Wilder
visited in our home in Holton, a tall, erect, silver-haired woman,
of beautiful face and queenly bearing, exuding in her every move-
ment the culture and good breeding that in earlier years had en-
tranced the swain Web Wilder.

The letters Wilder wrote to Mary Irvin covered a period from
May 24, 1863, up to the time of their marriage March 3, 1864.
These letters have been preserved and will soon be entered in the


manuscript collection of this Society, probably as restricted matter.
Intermingled with the protestations of a passionate love for the lass
and the yearnings to possess her as his wife, the letters embody many
current observations and his acquired philosophy of life, clothed in
the faultless rhetoric that characterizes all of the Wilder composi-
tions. For example, this comment was thrown in in an early letter:

There is a collision between Anthony of the city government on one side
and Gen. Ewing, Jennison and Hoyt on the other, in which Ewing has declared
martial law in the city. I have to take a position and must take it against
Ewing (whom I despise) and Jennison and Hoyt (whom I love.)

But you don't want to hear about these affairs. The trouble about conducting
a newspaper is this that you have constantly to take positions and bring
yourself into conflict with friends. One cannot desert cherished principles for
the sake of an individual friend but the seeming hostility is extremely un-

Perhaps, however, a newspaper life is as free from these annoyances as
many other spheres of life for life, after all, to a sincere and earnest man,
is a constant battle. Wrong, outrage, crime, slavery, meet us in every pathway.
We must stop and give them battle or meanly desert the principles we believe
in. We are not placed on earth to be the passive recipients of an empty
happiness. God and justice have claims upon us, and the only true happiness
is found in an active championship of divine issues.

Another tenet of his philosophy:

I do not believe that heaven is REST as so many stupid and narrow minds
represent it. Will there be no chance to do good there? No field for charity,
for kindness? Nobody to whom to reach the hand of forgiveness and to help
on to a career of nobleness and virtue? If there is no suffering there to relieve,
no pains to assuage, no erring brother to help forward, Florence Nightingale
would be more happy in the hospital at Scutari than she could possibly be in
Heaven. For the truest happiness is always found in acts of unselfish kindness
to others, and I have had more sincere pleasure in quietly aiding some obscure
person who had no opportunity of returning the favor, than in all the dollars
I ever spent for my own personal comforts.

The Wilder love letters are, in my judgment, in the front echelons
of Kansas literature, and, I believe, deserve a place alongside the
letters of Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett.

Here I record some thumb-nail facts about D. W. Wilder:

He conceived the idea, wrote the resolution at an 1875 editorial
meeting, establishing the Kansas State Historical Society, and was
an incorporator and early president.

He was one of the promoters of the Kansas Magazine in 1871.

He was a secretary of the Osawatomie convention in 1859 which
gave birth and life to the Republican party in Kansas.

He was familiar with five languages, spoke three fluently.


For 50 years he was one of the associate editors of Harriett's
Familiar Quotations.

His passion for the anti-slavery cause was kindled by visitors in
his father's home, including William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phil-
lips, Theodore Parker, and Horace Mann. Later at Harvard he
knew Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott and Frank Sanborn.

Although indicted in St. Joseph for his anti-slavery editorials and
forced to flee to Kansas to escape jail and mob violence, he was
not embittered. Later in Leavenworth he dissuaded a Free-State
mob from attacking an editor of Confederate leanings, urging that
their opponents had the right to a free press and free speech.


Dear friends of the Society, why, you may well ask, of all the
scores of men and women who have wrought so nobly and so well
in bringing our Kansas to its present high rank in the common-
wealths of the nation, and whose names are indelibly etched on the
scroll of fame, do I select Daniel Webster Wilder as the one I try
feebly to exalt today? The obvious answer is:

Because his life's work, and its accomplishments, glorify the
value and dignity of the intellect, and its importance to the enlight-
enment and happiness of our people.

Because he typifies that vanishing breed of country editors, who
in their day paid more heed to the editorial columns than to the
advertising pages; who scorned anonymity, and were courageous in
defending the right as they saw it; self-educated men who wrote of
world affairs as glibly as of local happenings; editors who felt the
responsibility of molding public opinion, and who faced their tasks,
with conscience, the decalogue and the Republican platform as their
guides, without fear or trembling, so come what may! Editors who
have been succeeded by two generations of fine smart young men,
who, perhaps wisely, have shown more concern for the bank ac-
count, the advertising revenues and expanding circulations. But,
while some of our present day editorial writers, in my book, rank
among the best in the field, these modern publishers will go a long
way before they excel the newspaper concept, forceful writing, and
acknowledged leadership and influence of those early Kansas edi-

He typified the ideal public official and office holder who realized
his trust, sought to improve the mechanics as well as the policies of
government; who had a contempt for dishonesty and corruption in
public office and was vocal in exposing and denouncing it.


He was typical of the true lover, who in pursuit of his quest re-
sorted to logic and persuasion rather than to the bludgeon of the
stone age.

He typified a serene home life, a beautiful family relationship,
and the while an untiring energy and a prodigious capacity for

He typified those hardy voyagers who crossed "the prairies as of
old the pilgrims crossed the sea, to make the West, as they the East,
the homestead of the free."

Finally, Kansas is forever indebted to his efforts in behalf of the
pioneer state, to his diligence and integrity as a public official,
and to his foresight in preserving for future generations the history
of Kansas. No Kansan has served his state more completely than
Daniel Webster Wilder, who gave so lavishly of his talents to mold
the thought and guide the destiny of his adopted and beloved state.

At the close of his address, President Beck introduced Mrs. Burns
H. Uhrich, Independence, Kan., and Mrs. Jane Wilder Poynter,
Oklahoma City, Okla., daughter and granddaughter respectively of
Daniel Webster Wilder. Mr. Beck expressed his gratitude to Mrs.
Uhrich for the use of Wilder's papers, in her possession, in the prep-
aration of his address.

Dr. Robert Taft, first vice-president of the Kansas State Historical
Society and professor of chemistry at the University of Kansas, was
introduced and spoke briefly on the J. J. Pennell collection of photo-
graphs displayed in the lobby of the Memorial building. The photo-
graphs, property of the University, will be exhibited throughout the

Following a brief introduction by President Beck, W. L. More,
general manager of the eastern lines of the Atchison, Topeka, and
Santa Fe Railway Co., presented on behalf of the railroad an oil
portrait of its founder, Cyrus Kurtz Holliday. Frank Haucke, for-
mer president of the Society, accepted the portrait for the state.
Mrs. Helen Hodge, the artist, and Mrs. Frank Haucke, who assisted
in obtaining the portrait, were also introduced.

The report of the committee on nominations was called for:



October 17, 1952.
To the Kansas State Historical Society:

Your committee on nominations submits the following report and recom-
mendations for directors of the Society for the term of three years ending
October, 1955:

Barr, Frank, Wichita. Means, Hugh, Lawrence.

Berryman, Jerome C., Ashland. Norton, Gus S., Kalvesta.

Brigham, Mrs. Lalla M., Council Owen, Arthur K., Topeka.

Grove. Owen, Mrs. E. M., Lawrence.

Brock, R. F., Goodland. Patrick, Mrs. Mae C., Satanta.

Bumgardner, Edward, Lawrence. Payne, Mrs. L. F., Manhattan.

Charlson, Sam C., Manhattan. Richards, Walter M., Emporia.

Correll, Charles M., Manhattan. Riegle, Wilford, Emporia.

Davis, W. W., Lawrence. - Rupp, Mrs. Jane C., Lincolnville.

Denious, Jess C., Dodge City. Scott, Angelo, lola.

Godsey, Mrs. Flora R., Emporia. Sloan, E. R., Topeka.

Hall, Mrs. Carrie A., Leavenworth. Smelser, Mary M., Lawrence.
Hall, Standish, Wichita. Stewart, Mrs. James G., Topeka.

Hegler, Ben F., Wichita. Van De Mark, M. V. B., Concordia.

Jones, Horace, Lyons. Wark, George H., Caney.

Lillard, T. M., Topeka. Williams, Charles A., Bentley.

Lindquist, Emory K., Lindsborg. Wooster, Lorraine E., Salina.

Respectfully submitted,
JOHN S. DAWSON, Chairman.

On motion by John S. Dawson, seconded by James Malone, the
report of the committee was accepted unanimously and the mem-
bers of the board were declared elected for the term ending in
October, 1955.

Reports of local and county historical societies were called for.
Orville Watson Mosher reported for the Lyon county society; T. M.
Lillard for the Shawnee county society; Mrs. James Glenn Bell for
the Shawnee Mission Indian Historical Society; Alan W. Farley for
the Wyandotte county society; Gus Norton for the Finney county
society; O. L. Lennen for the Ness county society; and the Reverend
Angelus Lingenfelser for the Kansas Catholic Society.

There being no further business, the annual meeting of the
Society adjourned.


The afternoon meeting of the board of directors was called to
order by President Beck. He asked for a rereading of the report of
the nominating committee for officers of the Society. The report
was read by John S. Dawson, chairman, who moved that it be ac-
cepted. Motion was seconded by Robert C. Rankin and the follow-
ing were unanimously elected:



For a one-year term: Robert Taft, Lawrence, president; Angelo
Scott, lola, first vice-president; F. D. Farrell, Manhattan, second

For a two-year term: Mrs. Lela Barnes, Topeka, treasurer.

There being no further business, the meeting adjourned.



Aitchison, R. T., Wichita.
Anderson, George L., Lawrence.
Anthony, D. R., Leavenworth.
Baugher, Charles A., Ellis.
Beck, Will T., Holton.
Blake, Henry S., Topeka.
Chambers, Lloyd, Wichita.
Chandler, C. J., Wichita.
Clymer, Rolla, El Dorado.
Cotton, Corlett J., Lawrence.
Dawson, John S., Hill City.
Euwer, Elmer E., Coodland.
Farley, Alan W., Kansas City.
Hunt, Charles L., Concordia.
Knapp, Dallas W., Coffeyville.
Lilleston, W. F., Wichita.
Malin, James C., Lawrence.

Mayhew, Mrs. Patricia Solander,


Miller, Karl, Dodge City.
Montgomery, W. H., Salina.
Moore, Russell, Wichita.
Motz, Frank, Hays.
Raynesford, H. C., Ellis.
Redmond, John, Burlington.
Rodkey, Clyde K., Manhattan.
Russell, W. L, Topeka.
Shaw, Joseph C., Topeka.
Somers, John G., Newton.
Stewart, Donald, Independence.
Thomas, E. A., Topeka.
Thompson, W. F., Topeka.
von der Heiden, Mrs. W. H., Newton.
Walker, Mrs. Ida M., Norton.


Bailey, Roy F., Salina.
Beezley, George F., Girard.
Bowlus, Thomas H., lola.
Brinkerhoff, Fred W., Pittsburg.
Campbell, Mrs. Spurgeon B.,

Kansas City.
Cron, F. H., El Dorado.
Ebright, Homer K., Baldwin.
Farrell, F. D., Manhattan.
Gray, John M., Kirwin.
Hamilton, R. L. Beloit.
Harger, Charles M., Abilene.
Harvey, Mrs. A. M., Topeka.
Haucke, Frank, Council Grove.
Hodges, Frank, Olathe.
Lingenfelser, Angelus, Atchison.
Long, Richard M., Wichita.
Me Arthur, Mrs. Vernon E.,


McFarland, Helen M., Topeka.
M alone, James, Topeka.
Mechem, Kirke, Lindsborg.
Mueller, Harrie S., Wichita.
Murphy, Franklin D., Lawrence.
Philip, Mrs. W. D., Hays.
Rankin, Robert C., Lawrence.
Ruppenthal, J. C., Russell.
Sayers, Wm. L., Hill City.
Simons, Dolph, Lawrence.
Skinner, Alton H., Kansas City.
Stanley, W. E., Wichita.
Stone, Robert, Topeka.
Taft, Robert, Lawrence.
Templar, George, Arkansas City.
Woodring, Harry H., Topeka.




Barr, Frank, Wichita.
Berryman, Jerome C., Ashland.
Brigham, Mrs. Lalla M.,

Council Grove.
Brock, R. F., Goodland.
Bumgardner, Edward, Lawrence.
Charlson, Sam C., Manhattan.
Correll, Charles M., Manhattan.
Davis, W. W., Lawrence.
Denious, Jess C., Dodge City.
Godsey, Mrs. Flora R., Emporia.
Hall, Mrs. Carrie A., Leavenworth.
Hall, Standish, Wichita.
Hegler, Ben F., Wichita.
Jones, Horace, Lyons.
Lillard, T. M., Topeka.
Lindquist, Emory K., Lindsborg.

Means, Hugh, Lawrence.
Norton, Gus S., Kalvesta.
Owen, Arthur K., Topeka.
Owen, Mrs. E. M., Lawrence.
Patrick, Mrs. Mae C., Satanta.
Payne, Mrs. L. F., Manhattan.
Richards, Walter M., Emporia.
Riegle, Wilford, Emporia.
Rupp, Mrs. Jane C., Lincolnville.
Scott, Angelo, lola.
Sloan, E. R., Topeka.
Smelser, Mary M., Lawrence.
Stewart, Mrs. James G., Topeka.
Van De Mark, M. V. B., Concordia.
Wark, George H., Caney.
Williams, Charles A., Bentley.
Wooster, Lorraine E., Salina.

Bypaths of Kansas History


From The Kansas Tribune, Lawrence, January 10, 1855.

A shrewd Indian of the Shawnee Nation suggests the establishment of a
Mission amongst the white people of Kansas. He says a murder was a thing
almost unknown until the white folks came in, and now skulls can be found
bleaching along all the roads. The sarcasm is pretty well deserved.


From the Fort Scott Democrat, December 16, 1858.

Since the times are so very close, we have concluded to take a few more
subscribers to read the editorials for the Democrat over the shoulders of the
compositor. It is getting to be quite a fashionable practice in our office, and
we are unwilling to give news in advance, unless at increased rates. Yearly
patrons will be charged twenty-five dollars, with the privilege of questioning
the compositor in regard to the propriety of the article, and who was its author.


From the Olathe Mirror, June 20, 1861.

We have been informed that when one company of the U. S. troops was
passing the Union Hotel in Kansas City, one day last week, a man came out
and hurrahed for Jeff Davis. In an instant the company wheeled about and
levelled a ten-pounder at the building, giving the women and children five
minutes to leave, when it was the intention of the commanding officer to level
it to the earth. He did not molest it, however, as all the inmates came out and
took the oath to support the constitution and the Union.


From the Dodge City Messenger, February 26, 1874.

The new method of closing saloons, recently inaugurated in Ohio, is fast
spreading all over the country. They are about to try it in Leavenworth and
we presume Grasshopper Falls [now Valley Falls] will be the next on the list.
The way it is done is as follows: The Christian ladies of the town form them-
selves into praying bands, and hold prayer meetings in the bar-rooms if allowed
to do so, and if not, on the sidewalk outside. One band relieves another and
the meeting is kept up until the saloon keeper is converted or his business
ruined. Grasshopper Falls Kansas New Era.


Kansas History as Published in the Press

A biographical sketch of B. C. Decker and some of the early
history of the Hoxie area were printed in the Hoxie Sentinel, July
31, 1952. Decker brought his family to Kansas in 1878 and home-
steaded what is now the Mosier ranch near Hoxie.

Ernest Dewey's series of historical articles has continued to ap-
pear in the Hutchinson News-Herald. Among recent articles were:
"Rome [Kan.] Not Built in a Day, But It Didn't Last Much Longer,"
August 3, 1952; "Range War Days Only a Bitter Memory," Septem-
ber 14; "Satank One of Most Cantankerous Indians/' October 9;
"Sod Wall Fort [Protection] .to Be Restored as Western Tourist
Attraction," October 26; and "Chauncey Dewey Tells Truth About
Old Feud," November 2. The Salina Journal also printed the Rome
article August 24, and the range feud story September 14.

Very brief historical notes on St. John's Lutheran church, Lincoln-
ville, appeared in the Herington Advertiser-Times, August 14, 1952.
The church was organized August 19, 1877, by the Rev. C. H.

Articles of a historical nature appearing recently in the Coffey-
ville Daily Journal included: reminiscences of Mrs. Clara Thixten,
August 17, 1952; the story of the Dalton raid in Coffeyville, from
V. V. Masterson's The Katy Railroad and the Last Frontier, October
5; and reminiscences of Mrs. John Wishall, October 26.

Biographical information on the Dexter brothers, Alonzo, John,
and Aaron, founders of Clay Center, appeared in an article in the
Clay Center Dispatch, August 19, 1952.

On August 26, 1952, the Garden City Daily Telegram, printed an

Online LibraryKansas State Historical SocietyThe Kansas historical quarterly (Volume 20) → online text (page 44 of 76)