William Crowell Gunn, of Fort Scott, was born in Keokuk, Iowa, May 29, 1857. His parents were Rev. Elihu and Amy (Barrett) Gunn. (See sketch). William C. Gunn was the fourth in a family of six children. He was educated at the State Agricultural College at Manhattan, the State Normal School at Emporia, and the University of Kansas at Lawrence. Early in life Mr. Gunn was thrown upon his own resources, as the profession of his father, that of a missionary in the West, was not a very renumerative one, and it devolved upon the son not only to care for himself, but to assist in the care of his family as well. Then, as now, Mr. Gunn was not daunted, and cheerfully accepted the first position open to him, that of a section laborer on the M., K. & T., between Fort Scott and Nevada. With the beginning of the construction of a narrow gauge road between Cherokee and Parsons, now an important division of the Frisco system, operating to Cherryvale, Mr. Gunn accepted a position as a laborer in the construction of the road bed. Returning to Fort Scott, at the age of twenty-one years he engaged in his first business venture, that of real estate, which has continued to be his chief occupation. This business in late years has increased to such an extent that he is known as one of the most extensive real estate operators in the states of Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas, and no man in either of these states is wider or better known than he. In addition to his general office at Fort Scott, Kan., he now maintains branch offices at Columbus, Parsons, Eldorado, and other points, and in carrying on this large business has perhaps spent more money and energy in advertising Kansas and the Southwest than any other one real estate operator. As a result of his efforts in this line he is generally credited with having brought and settled in Kansas from the more thickly populated states more emigrants than any other one agency acting in that line. There are innumerable enterprises of a local character that he either promoted to success or contributed both time and means to establish. In 1889 and 1890 Mr. Gunn raised the money and was the promoter and chief spirit in the construction of the New Orleans, Natchez & Northwestern railroad, being the heaviest stock holder and becoming general manager. Seventy-seven miles of this railroad were built and are now in operation, from Natchez, Miss., to Bastrop, Ark. One of his first business ventures of magnitude was the organization of a company and the raising of $50,000 in one day, without assistance, for the construction of the Goodlander Hotel at Fort Scott. The Parkinson Sugar Works, established at Fort Scott for the manufacture of granulated sugar from sorghum cane, though subsidized by the government, proved a failure in that line and would have become a total loss had not Mr. Gunn received the idea of converting it into a sorghum syrup plant, which he did by interesting experienced men with him in the organization of the Fort Scott Sorghum Syrup Company. The plant was purchased by Mr. Gunn for $11,000 and is now the largest exclusive sorghum syrup plant in the United States, the net earnings for the last year it was operated under the direction of Mr. Gunn totaling $100,000. In 1909 the factory was sold to Chicago men, since which time it has continued to grow in magnitude. When oil and gas were discovered in paying quantities in southern Kansas and Oklahoma, Mr. Gunn was one of the first to become interested and was soon a prominent operator in the fields of these two states. The idea of piping natural gas from the heavier fields to Fort Scott was conceived by him, and in 1905, a pipe line to this city was constructed from La Harpe; three years later the line was extended to the main pipe lines of the Kansas Natural Gas Company and now runs to the fields direct, so that Fort Scott has gas supplied from the strongest wells of Kansas and Oklahoma. This is one of the greatest benefits ever accomplished by any one man for the city. During 1911 he continued the construction of this line east, to Nevada, Mo., and largely merged the public utilities of that city under one corporation. True to his nature to smooth out troubled business conditions, soon after the failure of the First National Bank, in 1909, Mr. Gunn purchased the entire assets of that institution, saving to the many depositors the heavy expense and long drawn out delays incident to receivership and making possible an early settlement of their accounts with the defunct bank. In the development of the enormous cement industries of southeastern Kansas, Mr. Gunn has been a leading spirit. The plant of the Fort Scott Brick and Tile Co., one of the largest paving and building brick manufacturing plants in Kansas, also stands as a monument to his business ability, he having purchased it when in a bankrupt condition and promoted it to its present great success. The religious influence under which Mr. Gunn was raised left an indelible impression upon his life which has been plainly visable during his entire business career, and different from a great many men, he believed in liberality, both as to his time and means, in helping all church organizations; and there is not a single church in the city of Fort Scott that has not received his liberal support. In the erection of the recent costly and modern church edifices, regardless of denomination, he has been one of the most liberal contributors. In the work to organize and build the $50,000 Y. M. C. A. building in that city, he was one of the leaders and the largest financial backer of the enterprise. In the purchase, late in 1911, of a building for worship and headquarters for the Salvation Army, he was one of the two largest donors. During 1910 he gave to the Church of God, which religious organization maintains the Collegiate Institute in this city, the National School of that church, a beautiful and sightly fifteen acres of ground within the city limits, as a building site for the new Collegiate Institute, under contemplation. Above everything, Mr. Gunn enjoys seeing all mankind happy and comfortable, and in 1910 he purchased, at an enormous expense, Fern Lake Park, a tract of 160 acres adjoining the city, and donated it to Fort Scott for a public park, at the same time giving a heavy endowment fund for its improvement. It is proverbial in Fort Scott and among his acquaintances everywhere that no worthy person in need or distress has ever been turned away by Mr. Gunn, when appealed to for aid, and his reputation for kindness and charity is such that people in trouble, need and distress have come from many states in the Union to solicit aid from him; and as far as known, none deserving have been denied. Mr. Gunn widely differs in his nature from most men, in that, while being a man of strong views and prejudices, and outspoken on all subjects of a business, political, religious, or social nature, he is carefully considerate of those who oppose his views and beliefs and never offends anyone; and it is an anomaly in nature that so active and positive a character as he possesses should go through such an unusually active life without a personal enemy, for it is claimed that he is one man against whom no malice is held. He is the most popular and idolized citizen in Fort Scott. His private and business offices are large and spacious, located on the ground floor, at the junction of Market and Wall streets and Scott avenue, and they are not locked day or night, the year round, being kept open as free rest rooms for the public. Mr. Gunn is very fond of company, and his home is seldom without guests, his presence being looked for at all public gatherings and social functions. Fraternally he is connected with the Modern Woodmen of America, Heptasophs, Ancient Order of United Workman, and the Elks, and he is a Thirty-second degree Consistory Mason. He is a Republican in politics, but his varied business interests and busy life have been such that he has given politics little attention. On Feb. 22, 1882, Mr. Gunn was married to Loula R. Rice, eldest daughter of Gen. and Mrs. J. H. Rice, of Fort Scott. Two children have been born of this union: William R., born in 1884, is in partnership with his father in all of his business enterprises, and Nana L. is the wife of William Kenneth Calhoun, who is a partner in the large drygoods house of W. J. Calhoun & Co., and president of the Fort Scott Brick and Tile Company.Pages 344-346 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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