History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs


Historic People of Kansas - "W"

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John Wilkins WhitfieldJohn Wilkins Whitfield (1818-1879) - Indian Agent and the first delegate to Congress from the Territory of Kansas, Whitfield was born in Franklin, Tennessee on March 11, 1818. He went to Missouri 1853, and soon became an Indian agent Kansas, settling in Tecumseh. He began to take an active part in local politics and was elected a representative to Congress on November 29, 1854, a position he held until 1856. WhitfIeld took an active part in the stirring border warfare carried on between the pro-slavery and Free-State men. He had been a pro-slavery man in politics from the time he came to Kansas and was elected by that party. He moved Texas before Civil War and when that broke out, he organized the Lavaca County Company. He also organized as 27th Texas Cavalry Regiment, commonly called "Whitfield's Legion" in  April,  1862. He as wounded in battle at Luka, Mississippi in 1862 and in 1863, he led the 4th Battalion Texas Cavalry at Pea Ridge, Arkansas. He was made brigadier general 1863, but left command due to ill health that fall. He returned to Texas where he died on October 27, 1879 in Halletsville.


Daniel Webster WilderDaniel Webster Wilder (1832-1911) - Journalist and author, Wilder was born in Blackstone, Massachusetts on July 15, 1832. He entered the public Latin school of Boston in 1848, graduating in 1852. He received a Bachelor's degree in 1856 from Harvard, then studied law in that institution and at Rochester, New York. He came to Kansas in 1857 and settled at Elwood the next year; edited the Free Press and practiced law. He was one of the founders of the Republican Party in Kansas in 1859. He  became editor and one of the publishers of the Free Democrat at St. Joseph, Missouri in August, 1860, and in the December following, Wilder and the whole office force was indicted for violating the laws of a slave state and advocating emancipation. He then returned to Kansas and became editor of the Leavenworth Conservative, an anti-slavery newspaper. In 1863 he was appointed Surveyor-General of Kansas and Nebraska by President Abraham Lincoln. In 1864 he married Mary E. Irwin in Atchison County and the following year he became the editor of the Evening Express at Rochester, New York. He was back in Leavenworth in 1868 and was editor of the Leavenworth Times and Conservative; was elected president of the Missouri Valley Associated Press in September of that year; was re-elected in 1870, during which year he became editor of the Fort Scott Monitor. Wilder was one of the incorporators of the Kansas Magazine in 1871, to which he was a frequent contributor; was one of the founders of the Kansas Historical Society in 1875, of which he was later the president and for many years one of the directors. His political career covered one term as State Auditor, one term as Executive Clerk under Governor Martin, and two terms as Superintendent of Insurance, from 1887 to 1891. On his retirement from office he went to Kansas City and published the Insurance Magazine. He then went to Hiawatha in 1892 and established the Hiawatha World. Wilder also published two books -- Annals of Kansas and Life of Shakespeare, and was one of the compilers of all editions of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. He continued to live at Hiawatha until his death on July 15, 1911.


Charles H. Withington (1816-1881) - A blacksmith for the Sac and Fox Indians, Withington was the first white settler in Lyon County, Kansas. There, he operated a successful store along the Santa Fe Trail, as well as serving as a mail agent. See full article HERE.


Sam WoodSamuel Newitt Wood (1825-1891) - Free-State advocate and politician, he was born at Mount Gilead, Ohio on December 30, 1825, the son of Quaker parents, from whom he gained his anti-slavery sentiments at an early age. He went to public schools and while still a young man, became greatly interested in politics. In 1844, although too young to vote, he was Chairman of the Liberal Party Central Committee of his county. Four years later he supported Martin Van Buren, the Free-soil candidate for president. One of the lines of the Underground Railroad passed near his home in Ohio and  Wood was one of the conductors on the route. In 1859, on his return from a trip with some freed slaves, he made the acquaintance of his future wife, Margaret W. Lyon. He taught school and at the same time, read law and was admitted to the bar on June 4, 1854. Long before that time he had determined to cast his lot with Kansas to assist in her admission to the Union, free from the taint of slavery, and two days after being admitted to practice, he was on his way to the territory. Early in July, he settled on a claim four miles west of Lawrence. He immediately entered into the political and social life of the area and became an acknowledged local leader of the Free-State Party. He was one of the men who rescued Jacob Branson from Sheriff Jones, an act which brought on the Wakarusa War. He was a delegate to the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Convention which organized the Republican Party in 1856, to the Philadelphia Convention the same year, and to the Leavenworth Constitutional Convention in 1858. The following year he moved to Chase County, represented Chase, Morris and Madison Counties in the Territorial Legislatures of 1860 and 1861, was a member of the first State Senate in 1861 and again in 1867, a member of the House in 1864, 1866, 1876 and 1877, and speaker during most of the last session. In 1864, he was appointed Brigadier-General of the Kansas State Militia, and in 1867 Judge of the 9th Judicial District. For two years he was in Texas, was one of the original stockholders of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, was part owner of the Kansas Tribune of Lawrence in the 1850s, established the first newspaper at Cottonwood Falls -- the Kansas Press; and at Council Grove -- the Council Grove Press. He was later connected with the Kansas Greenbacker of Emporia, the Topeka State Journal, the Woodsdale Democrat and the Woodsdale Sentinel of Stevens County. He was always a reformer or a progressive in politics, and was a member of the Republican, Greenback, Labor and Populist parties. He was killed on June 23, 1891, by Jim Brennen, as the result of a vicious county seat fight referred to as the Stevens County War in southwest Kansas.




Daniel WoodsonDaniel Woodson (1824-1994) - The first secretary and several times acting governor of the Territory of Kansas, Woodson was born in Albemarle County, Virginia on May 24, 1824. He was raised on a farm, received a limited education in the public schools, and while still a boy began learning the printer's trade. He became an expert editor,  took an active interest in political affairs, developed considerable ability as a writer on questions of public policy, and in time was made editor of the Lynchburg Republican, one of the influential Democratic newspapers of the Old Dominion. His editorials attracted wide attention, and were no doubt largely responsible for his appointment as Secretary of Kansas Territory in 1854. In October of that year he arrived at Leavenworth, and the remainder of his life was passed in Kansas. At different times during his term as secretary, he was called upon to exercise the functions of the Chief Executive. The first of these was in the spring of 1855, while Governor Reeder was absent from the territory. After Governor Reeder's removal he acted as governor until the arrival of Governor Shannon. Again, in the spring of 1856, he served as governor while Governor Shannon was in St. Louis, and after the Shannon's resignation he acted as governor until the arrival of Governor Geary. From March 12 to April 16, 1857, Governor Geary having retired from the office, he once more discharged the executive duties. On April 1, 1857, he was appointed receiver of the Delaware Land Office, but continued to act as governor until the 16th, when he was succeeded as secretary by Frederick P. Stanton. His record as Receiver of the Land Office is that of an efficient and painstaking official. Upon retiring from this position, he engaged in farming for about twelve years in Leavenworth County. At the end of that time he moved to Parker, Kansas where he established a newspaper. This venture proved to be unsuccessful from a financial point of view, and he entered the employ of the Coffeyville Journal. For twelve years he served as City Clerk of Coffeyville. Woodson was a strong pro-slavery man in the early days of Kansas' existence and he sometimes did things that aroused the anger of the opposition. He was always conscientious; however, in the discharge of his official duties as he saw them, and there was never a word against his habits in private life. He died on October 5, 1894 at the home of his son at Claremore, Oklahoma where he had gone in the hope of regaining his health.


Henry WorrallHenry Worrall (1825-1902) - One of Kansas' first artists, Worrall was born at Liverpool, England on April 14, 1825. His father was an editor, who came to America in 1835 and settled in Canada but Henry soon went to Buffalo, New York, where he sold newspapers on the streets. Later he went to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he followed the trade of glass cutter and studied music. He showed marked musical ability and while in Cincinnati composed a guitar piece entitled, Sevastopol, which became famous. The sale of the piece made a fortune for the publishers, though Worrall received only a small price for it. He came to Kansas in 1869 on account of his health; settled at Topeka and became interested in the welfare of the city and state. He devoted himself for some time to the cultivation of grapes, and planted one of the finest vineyards in Shawnee County. In 1869 Worrall became well known by his picture Droughty Kansas, which depicts the state's crops in an exaggerated manner and was one of the best advertisements Kansas ever had, copies of it being printed and distributed all over the country. He became noted as a musician, artist, composer and wood carver, played on more than twenty different instruments, and invented several wind instruments made of wood and straw. Worrall made the large wood carving of the seal of Kansas surrounded by products of the state, which was exhibited at the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia in 1876 and which was on view at Mount Vernon until 1910, when it was returned to Kansas and placed in the museum of the Kansas State Historical Society at Topeka. During the Centennial Exposition Worrall was employed by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Company to write articles which would draw immigration to Kansas. He was always active in representing Kansas at state fairs and industrial expositions. He made crayon portraits of members of the supreme court and an oil portrait of Governor Osborn, which hangs in the museum of the State Historical Society. He died at his home in Topeka, June 20, 1902.




Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of Kansas, updated March, 2017.


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