William H. H. Curtis, late probate judge of Doniphan county, was born Nov. 10, 1840, in Adams county, Illinois, a son of John N. and Mary (Warren) Curtis, both born and reared in Tennessee. His father located in Illinois at an early date and engaged in farming, but he heard of the fight the people of Kansas were making to have the state admitted free from slavery and joined that brave band of men and women who settled in the territory for that purpose. He was one of the strongest of free-state advocates and played an active part in all the events that led up to the admission of Kansas free. In 1854 John N. Curtis preëmpted a claim in sight of St. Joseph, which he cleared, built a house and established a home. He entertained many of the free-state men there and was host to the famous John Brown, of Ossawatomie. From the time of casting his first vote he was a stanch Republican and never swerved in his allegiance to that party throughout his life. Although he never held office Mr. Curtis was a public-spirited man and ever worked for the good of the community. He lived to the hale old age of ninety-three and was laid to rest, after a long and useful life, in 1906. Mrs. Curtis died in 1892, after rearing a family of fifteen children, ten of whom are still living.
William H. H. was fourteen years of age when his parents left Illinois and had already attended the common schools in that state. Soon after coming to Kansas he determined to devote his life to the study and practice of law and was a student at Atchison when the Civil war broke out. In May, 1861, he enlisted as a private in the First Kansas infantry, Company K. The first time Mr. Curtis was under fire was at Wilson's Creek, Aug. 10, 1861, and later, with his regiment, took part in the battles of Corinth, Tusangua, Luddinton's Mills, Abbeville, Holly Springs, Lake Providence, Bayou Tensas, Baxler Bayou, Cypress Bend, Milliken's Bend, the siege of Vicksburg and the many engagements before its fall. From there the regiment was ordered to Natchez, Lake Washington, Vidalia, La., and took an active part in the engagement of the Yazoo river, and thence back to Vicksburg; from there to St. Louis, then up the Missouri river to Fort Leavenworth, where it was discharged. Mr. Curtis was wounded at Wilson's Creek, Lake Providence and three other engagements, but as soon as he recovered from his wounds he always reported for duty. At the close of the war he returned to his home, and shortly resumed his studies at Atchison. Within a short time, after careful preparation, Mr. Curtis took the bar examination and was admitted to practice. Soon after this he saw a good business opening at Severance, Kan., and engaged in the lumber and grain business there. The affairs of the concern prospered. Mr. Curtis seemed to have marked natural business ability and made a comfortable fortune during the twenty years he remained in that city. During this time, however, he had ever longed for his profession, and disposing of his interests, he engaged in the practice of law, soon gaining a reputation as an able attorney. Mr. Curtis has always taken an active part in local affairs and politics and was elected probate judge of Doniphan county, where he had lived some years. Judge Curtis filled this office with marked credit and ability and to the entire satisfaction of his constituents; was reëlected to the office three times, serving four terms, or eight years. He was a man of strong character, just and upright, and was held in the highest respect and esteem by his associates in the law, and loved as a man by his many acquaintances. During the years of stress and storm in this state he never swerved from his allegiance to the Republican party and was one of the earnest workers in its interests. He was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and a past commander of Severance Post No. 191. His death occurred May 3, 1911. In 1872 Mr. Curtis married Fannie Leonhard, of Philadelphia, Pa., and two children were born to the union: William J., a traveling passenger agent for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad, and Grace, the wife of Ralph Valentine, of Kansas City, Mo., manager of the American Surety Company for the states of Missouri and Kansas.Pages 900-901 from volume III, part 2 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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