William T. Soden, a pioneer of Emporia, an efficient business man and leading citizen of that city for nearly half a century, was born in Ireland, Nov. 22, 1835, and died Aug. 14, 1906, at Boulder, Col., where he had gone to spend the summer, hoping to benefit his failing health. When he was but one year old he came to the United States with his parents, who settled in Clinton county, New York, where he was reared. In 1856 he came west, spending the winter of 1856-57 in Iowa and coming to Kansas in March, 1857. He became the owner of a farm in Pike township, Lyon county, but not long afterward he began his career as a miller. He was first employed at Hayworth, in the mill of Joel Hayworth, with whom he afterward became a partner. In 1858 he began building the Emporia water mill on Cottonwood river just south of Emporia, at the foot of Commercial street. The daily capacity of the mill was at first about 250 bushels, but as Mr. Soden prospered he enlarged his mill until it had a daily capacity of 200 barrels, For years this mill was the source of the flour supply for a large portion of western Kansas. It was a creation of his own and grew under his hand and management. He was industrious and thrifty, and remained in management of the mill up to 1900, when he turned it over to his son, Justin R. Soden, who has since owned and successfully conducted it. He was a pioneer in Emporia and was closely identified with the growth and development of the city from the time he became one of its citizens in 1860 to the hour of his death. The first bank of Emporia was organized in 1867 by Mr. Soden, J. R. Swallow and L. T. Heritage, under the firm name of Swallow, Heritage & Soden, which was the predecessor of the Emporia National Bank, having been nationalized in 1872. This bank has for years been one of the leading financial institutions of Kansas. Mr. Soden remained identified with it in an official way until his death. He was one of the promoters of the Emporia Gas Company, the plant of which was constructed under his supervision. Several of the best business houses of Emporia were erected by Mr. Soden, and they stand as monuments to his spirit of enterprise. He commenced his business career on limited capital, but by industry and good business judgment he amassed a large estate. He was aggressive, but always at peace with his fellowmen. In all of his business transactions he manifested the strictest regard for honesty, fairness and justice, and was universally respected for his probity of character and public spirit. Being quick to see opportunities, he improved every business opportunity that offered itself to him. During the Civil war, as soldiers were leaving for the front, Mr. Soden told them to send their wives to him for flour, which he furnished without a cent of charge. He was generous, and no worthy family ever went hungry if he knew it. In his giving, which was liberal, his right hand seldom knew what his left hand did. For a generation Soden's Grove was given without charge as a public park to the city of Emporia. No worthy cause ever failed to receive support at his hands. He was not a politician, but he was one of the first commissioners of his county after the organization of the State of Kansas in 1861. His life was exemplary and worthy of emulation.
Mr. Soden was married three times. In 1860 he married Fannie Jane McCormick, who died a year later, and their only child died soon afterward. For a second wife Mr. Soden married Jennie Weaver, who died in 1876, leaving three childrenMrs. Hallie B. (Soden) Currie; Justin Rosenthal and Harry Norman Soden. The last named died in 1884. Justin R. Soden married Jennie Perley, daughter of Isaac E. Perley, one of Emporia's worthy citizens, and a veteran of the Civil war. Justin R. Soden is one of the best known business men of Emporia, and now owns and operates the mill established by his father.Pages 1384-1385 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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