William R. Biddle, a member of the bar of Fort Scott, and one of the best known attorneys of southeastern Kansas, is a native of the Buckeye State, born in Wayne county, Ohio, Nov. 22, 1840. He is a son of Rev. Alexander and Magdalena (Noftzger) Biddle, natives of Pennsylvania, the former born in 1810, of English and German extraction, and the latter in 1812, of German descent. The father was a United Brethren clergyman who educated himself by his own personal efforts, as opportunities in that day to acquire a college education were extremely limited. Shortly after his marriage he was sent to Ohio as a missionary and made his headquarters in Wayne county, though his work took him to all parts of Northern Ohio. He served as circuit rider and presiding elder, sixty-eight of the eighty-nine years of his life being passed in the work of the ministry. A history of the United Brethren denomination speaks of him as "a hero of the church." He was one of twelve children, nine of whom grew to maturity. In his political views he was a Whig until the organization of the Republican party, when he cast his lot with that organization. He was always an ardent anti-slavery man and was never backward about making the fact known. He was married three times. His first wife died in 1849, at the age of thirty-seven years, and he was twice married afterward, but no children were born of the second and third marriages.
William R. Biddle was reared on his father's farm, attending the district schools during the winter months, and completed his education at the United Brethren College at Westerville, Ohio. In the spring of 1861 he left college and went to Hagerstown, Md., where he was engaged for some time in organizing government wagon trains, though not regularly enlisted in the United States service. In October of that year he went to Washington, D. C., where he enlisted, on the 10th, in what was known as the Oneida cavalry, an independent company from Oneida, N. Y., the members of which served as couriers and orderlies for the officers connected with the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac. On Dec. 4, 1864, he was mustered out as sergeant at Petersburg Landing, Va., on account of expiration of the term of enlistment, and returned home and at once entered Otterbein University, at Westerville, Ohio. During the summer of 1865 he worked on his father's farm, reading law as opportunity offered. During the winter of 1865-66 he taught school, still pursuing his legal studies, and in the fall of 1867 entered the law department of the University of Michigan. He remained a student in that institution, under the tutelage of Judge Thomas M. Cooley, until the following Junethe close of the college yearand in July, 1868, was admitted to the bar at Bucyrus, Ohio. Soon after his admission he went to Holden, Mo., with a view of opening a law office there, but three months later located in Mound City, then the county seat of Linn county, Kan. Here he practiced until the county seat was removed to La Cygne, when he moved his office to that place. In 1874 the county seat was again removed, this time to Pleasanton. Mr. Biddle followed the seat of justice and practiced at Pleasanton, with Hon. R. W. Blue, under the firm name of Biddle & Blue, until in 1887, when he removed to Fort Scott. Here he formed a partnership with Eugene F. Ware and C. F. Cory, under the firm name of Ware, Biddle & Cory, which association lasted until 1892 and acquired the reputation of being the leading law firm of Southeastern Kansas. Mr. Biddle then practiced alone for some time, when he formed a partnership with John H. Crain, under the name of Biddle & Crain. After the dissolution of this partnership Mr. Biddle again practiced alone until 1902, when he formed a partnership with Hubert Lardner, as Biddle & Lardner, which was dissolved Sept. 1, 1911. Mr. Biddle is a Republican in his political affiliations. In 1872 he was elected county attorney of Linn county and served one term, and he was three times elected to represent that county in the state legislaturein 1876, 1877 and 1879but has not sought political preferment since 1881. He has probably made more public addresses in his home county and surrounding counties than any man south of Kansas City, principally at old settlers' meetings, Memorial Day exercises, etc. Many of his addresses on these occasions have been printed in full in the newspapers. His practice extends to all the state and Federal courts and embraces all classes of litigation. Mr. Biddle is a Mason; a member of William H. Lytle Post, G. A. R., of Fort Scott; the Heptasophs; and the Knights and Ladies of Security. Mr. Biddle has had an extended acquaintance with the early leaders of Kansas. He was well acquainted with Col. James Montgomery and aided him to get a pension. He was also acquainted with Colonel Jennison, the leader of the Jayhawkers in the early border troubles. He also voted for John J. Ingalls for senator, and knew Plumb, Sam Wood, Legate, Cook and Cobb, and was chairman of the convention that first nominated Congressman Haskell, for whom he had unbounded admiration, and he sincerely lamented that gentleman's untimely death. He was also intimately acquainted with Judges Lowe, Broodhead and Stevens, also many others of the builders of Kansas, who are still living.
On May 8, 1870, Mr. Biddle lead to the hymeneal altar Miss Lauretta S. Streeter, a native of Bucks county, Pennsylvania, but who at the time of her marriage was living with her sister at Mound City, Kan. Mrs. Biddle is a daughter of Benjamin F. Streeter, a native of Pennsylvania, who came to Mound City in his old age and there passed his declining years. Mr. and Mrs. Biddle have one daughter, Maude, the wife of G. W. Combs, of Portland, Ore., and the mother of two sonsWilliam Biddle and Albert Nelson.Pages 440-442 from volume III, part 1 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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