William Eugene Stanley.There is no quality in man that contributes so much toward his success or failure in life as that great fundamental in his make-up which we call character. It should be the ambition of every one so to shape his character that it may be classified under the one general headgood; and, perhaps, no man ever lived who better succeeded in that laudable ambition that the late William Eugene Stanley, of Wichita, ex-governor of Kansas, distinguished lawyer, honored citizen, and true Christian gentleman.
Governor Stanley was a Buckeye by birth, born near Danville, Knox county, Ohio, Dec. 28, 1844, son of a physician. He was reared on a farm, was educated in the common schools of Hardin county, Ohio, and in the Ohio Wesleyan University. In his early manhood he studied law, in Kenton and Dayton, Ohio, and was admitted to the bar at the former place in 1868. He came to Kansas in 1870, and for two years resided in Jefferson county, teaching school at Perry, and later serving as county attorney, which office he resigned, in 1872, and removed to Wichita. This city becoming his permanent abiding place in the Sunflower State, he resided here continuously from 1872 to the date of his death, a period of nearly forty years, barring the four years he served as governor of the state, during which he necessarily resided in Topeka. But during that time he regarded Wichita as his home. At the time he located there Wichita was a hamlet; a mere speck, so to speak, upon the great unsettled plains of southern Kansas, its population consisting, for the most part, of cowboys, ranchmen, and adventurers, together with a generous supply of that undesirable element who derived their living from a game of chance, and whose wits were taxed to their utmost in the hatching and baiting of schemes which would enable them to entrap and to fleece the unsuspecting, faith-laden settler. For a man who possessed the habits, tastes and tendencies of young Stanley, and who had been brought up in the atmosphere and environment that attended his early life, it must have required a herculean courage for him to locate there at all. But he did so, and instead of sinking to the level of his new environment, as many another would have done, and instead of becoming a part of the great homogeneous mass of fleecers, fakers, and lawbreakers, which obtained here then, the inborn, high-bred, manly character of William Eugene Stanley and a few other men of the same type, was such as to enable them to stand firm for the right; to blaze the way, by precept and example, for order and good; to fertilize the Wichita soil in such manner that, where only weeds of wickedness and sin grew before, there would take root and spring up the massive oaks of religion, education and civilization. Slow, but sure, was the metamorphosis. But in time it came. Right triumphed, and today Wichita is one of the most orderly and law-abiding cities in the land; thanks to William E. Stanley and those who had the moral courage to stand with him.
As soon as Mr. Stanley located in Wichita he entered upon the pursuit of his profession, and, barring the time he occupied the gubernatorial chair, was a practicing lawyer at the bar throughout the full period of his residence there, and his record as a lawyer forms a large part of the legal history of Sedgwick and adjoining counties during that time, and it is, also, stamped upon the jurisprudence of the state, as well. In the court records of several Kansas counties, including Sedgwick, the name of William E. Stanley appears far more frequently than that of any other lawyer, showing conclusively that he was the foremost and most successful legal advocate in his section of the state. However, while Mr. Stanley was a great lawyer, it is not his legal talent, alone, that entitles him to go down in the state's history as one of the great men of his time. In truth, there were other qualities and accomplishments in his make-up, which would, doubtless, completely overshadow his legal attainments, great as they were. He was twice honored by the highest gift which the people of his state had it in their power to bestow, and in the estimation of the commonwealth's historian, this fact, together with his official accomplishments, would undoubtedly outweigh all of his achievements at the bar, brilliant though they were. But there was one other grand quality in Mr. Stanley's personality which completely overshadows both of these; a quality beside which his legal talent was as an ant hill to a mountain; a quality to which, when we liken the matchless triumphs of the great office he held, it is like comparing the importance of a brooklet to that of a mighty stream. This one paramount quality in the man was his true, manly, inbred, irreproachable, good charactera character which to him was the first consideration of his life; a character that was so steadfast in him that every other consideration was subordinated to it, and made to occupy a minor place. This one great factor in his life ever and at all times occupied the main track, and had full right-of-way over and above every other alternative. It was the corner stone of his very existence, and builded, as it was, upon bedrock, it was as unshakable and as immovable as Gibraltar itself. It was this priceless quality in Mr. Stanley's makeup, more than any other, that was responsible for his great success in life, both at the bar and in politics. He not only possessed a character of the highest order, but it was of that superlative kind which we call Christian character, and a more splendid specimen of it was, perhaps, never exemplified by the life of any one. Always a God-fearing man and a devout adherent of Christianity, he was for twenty-five years one of the pillars of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Wichita, and for the same length of time was superintendent of its Sabbath school. Furthermore, Governor Stanley's religion was not merely a Sunday religion. He wore it for seven days in each week. In his law office and home, in the court room and in the executive chair of the state, his Christianity and religion were constantly at his elbow, ready to guide, aid and influence his every thought and act. This, therefore, was his one supreme quality, and while there were many others that were excellent, this one sterling asset in the storehouse of his many talents should have first place and should occupy the post of honor, for a beautiful Christian character is of more real value to a man than richesyea, of more value even, than mountains of pure gold.
While Mr. Stanley had always taken a keen interest in political matters and was an ardent member of the Republican party, yet he was in no sense a politician, and barring three terms of service as attorney for Sedgwick county, shortly after locating in Wichita; also as police commissioner for a time, under the metropolitan system, together with one term in the state legislature, he had never held nor been a candidate for office up to the year 1898, devoting himself energetically to his law practice, which pursuit was more congenial to his tastes and inclinations. However, in 1898, when the Republican party, smarting under the sting of defeat at the hands of the Populists and Democrats in the previous election, fairly ransacked the state in search of a standard-bearer for governor on whom all factions of the party could unite, the trend of political sentiment spontaneously cemented itself in favor of William E. Stanley, and at the convention held at Hutchinson, in June of that year, he received the nomination for the highest office in the state, and at the election which followed was triumphantly elected to the office of governor. His first administration having been a most brilliant success, in the year 1900 he was renominated for the office by acclamation and was reëlected to it by even a larger majority than he had received the first time, in spite of the most strenuous efforts the fusion ticket could put forth. He served out the two full terms and undoubtedly made one of the best governors the State of Kansas ever had. It is not the purpose of the writer to enter upon an exhaustive discussion of his official acts in this brief sketch, for all of that will be fully covered in another department of this work. Suffice it to say, however, that the two administrations of Gov. William E. Stanley will go down in history as two of the most successful administrations the state ever had, and his fame as a splendid chief executive now permeates every part of Kansas and is admitted by all exponents of public opinion, regardless of political sentiments and affiliations. At the close of his second term as governor he returned to Wichita and resumed the practice of law, and was thus engaged at the time of his death, being the senior member of the firm of Stanley, Vermillion & Evans, composed of himself, R. R. Vermillion and Earl W. Evans. Four years after Mr. Stanley first located in Wichita, or on May 30, 1876, he was united in marriage to Miss Emma Lenora Hills, the daughter and only child of Henry James Hills, a dry goods merchant of Wichita. Her mother's maiden name was Willampy Du Bois. Mrs. Stanley was born in Covington, Ind., April 4, 1858. Both of her parents were born in Franklin county, Ohio. She came to Wichita with them, in 1871, from the State of Iowa, whither they had removed from Indiana when she was a small child. For several years her father was engaged as a merchant, in both Keokuk and Prairie City, of the Hawkeye State. Henry James Hills had been partly reared in Ohio and at Crawfordsville, Ind. He had learned the dry goods business at Delaware, Ohio. He became one of the pioneer dry goods merchants of Wichita and built on the corner of Second and Main streets the first brick store in the city, which building still stands. He followed mercantile pursuits there for many years and made a name for himself as a man of sterling habits, inflexible honesty and unimpeachable integrity. He died on June 20, 1908, having celebrated his golden wedding in the previous year, an occasion which was attended by several brothers and sisters of himself and wife, from other states, as well as by two attendants at their marriage, fifty years before. His widow, the mother of Mrs. Stanley, still survives, and she resides near the home of her daughter, in Riverside, Wichita.
Mrs. William E. Stanley is one of the most prominent women in the state and is scarcely less prominent than her distinguished husband. In Wichita, her home, she easily occupies the post of honor as the first lady of the city. Having finished her education at the Atheneum of Jacksonville, Ill., she has throughout all her life taken an active interest in all movements inaugurated and conducted by the patriotic women of the land; and she has been particularly active in those two superb organizationsthe Society of Colonial Dames and the Daughters of the American Revolutionbeing one of the foremost women in Kansas in the work of both. Her membership in the Colonial Dames was secured through her relationship to Gov. Thomas Wells of Connecticut, who was one of her paternal ancestors, while her admission to the Daughters was brought about through her descent from Joseph Allen, of her maternal ancestry. However, her eligibility to become a Dame came through ten different lines of descent, and to become a Daughter through five different lines of descent. She served for two years as the regent of Eunice Sterling Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, of Wichita, resigning it to become state regent, in 1903, and serving as such for five years. She is now vice-president general of the National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, having been elected as such in 1908, and reëlected in 1910, being one of twenty such vice-presidents in the United States, as well as the only Kansas woman who has ever been thus honored. In 1910 she was made an honorary state regent by the National Society. She was one of the charter members of the Society of Colonial Dames, of Kansas, and is prominent in its work. Besides her work in these national organizations Mrs. Stanley takes a prominent part in the social and religious life of Wichita, being deeply interested in the local chapters of the two organizations mentioned above and a prominent and active member of the First Methodist Episcopal Church; and she is the honored and central figure at a large number of the exclusive social functions of the city.
During the four years that Mrs. Stanley was in the social lime-light as mistress of the governor's home in Topeka she wore her honors with becoming modesty and discharged the trying duties of the "first lady of the state" in such a manner as to win the plaudits of the most exacting critics. It was the universal acclaim of every one who was in a position to observe and to know something of the social side of Governor Stanley's two terms that as the presiding head of the state's "white house" she honored herself and the state as few governors' wives have done, and though she, herself, would make no such claims she undoubtedly deserves a large share of the credit for the splendid success of Governor Stanley's two administrations. She also has the honor of being the first mistress of the new executive residence in Topeka. She now occupies the old Stanley homestead in Riverside, one of Wichita's most fashionable residence suburbs. It is one of the most picturesque and delightful homes of the city, and has been the scene of many of Wichita's most exclusive society gatherings. Her marriage to Governor Stanley resulted in the birth of four children: Charles Albert died at the age of twenty months; Harry Wilbur is a general agent of the Equitable Life Insurance Company with headquarters at Wichita; Miss Harriet Eugenia, after studying at Wellesley, graduated at Baker University and is a former teacher in the Wichita High School; and William Eugene, Jr., is a student at the University of Chicago.
Though Governor Stanley was twice the recipient of the highest political honor it was possible for the people of the state to confer his high character and splendid qualifications were such that he received many other honors in the course of his career, some of them being of a national character. On Nov. 6, 1899, President William McKinley appointed him a member of the committee on the national celebration of the establishment of the seat of government in the District of Columbia, and his commission as such, signed by both President McKinley and John Hay, secretary of state, is one of the cherished possessions of the Stanley family. Again, on Feb. 16, 1903, he was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt a commissioner to negotiate with the Indians of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Muskogee and Seminole nations, and this commission, bearing the signature of Theodore Roosevelt, is likewise a cherished heirloom of the family. Another honor he received was that of Doctor of Laws, conferred on him by Bethany College.
It is fitting that a biography in a work of this description should contain, to some extent, the ancestry of those whose biographies appear. Governor Stanley was descended from an ancestry that played a very prominent part in the early history of this country. In direct line, his ancestor, Thomas Stanley, came to this country in 1634, and removed to Hartford in 1636, in which locality the activities of the family were confined for the next century. His son, Nathaniel, married Sarah Boosey; their son, Nathaniel, married Anna Whiting; their son was Nathaniel, a Yale graduate of 1726, who married Mary Marshall, and their son was Marshall; his son, Nathaniel, married Mary Moore; their son, William Lytle, married Eliza Fleming; and their son, Alman Fleming, father of Governor Stanley, married Angelina Sapp, daughter of John Sapp and Elizabeth Myers. Three of Governor Stanley's ancestorsJohn Fleming, Lieut. Robert King and Lieut. William Moorefought in the Revolution, from Pennsylvania. Nathaniel Stanley, son of Thomas, was one of the members of the body which acted as the supreme court, from 1690 until his death in 1712. His son occupied the same position and was treasurer of Connecticut from 1725 to 1755. He was preceded in the office of treasurer by his father-in-law, Joseph Whiting, who held the place from 1679 to 1718, and was preceded by his father, William Whiting, who, in addition to being treasurer, was a supreme judge and a member of the first house of representatives in Connecticut, in 1637. The grandfather of Nathaniel Stanley (3) was John Allyn, who was secretary of the colony from 1657 to 1695, supreme judge for many years, and a member of the council of Sir Edmund Andros. His father, Matthews Allyn, likewise a representative and supreme judge, from 1658 to 1667, was a commissioner of the United Colonies in 1660 and 1664. The line also runs back to William Pyncheon, one of the original patentees of Massachusetts, under the charter of Charles I, granted in 1629. Pyncheon came over with Winthrop in 1630 and founded and governed Springfield, Mass., to 1652, when he returned to England. Possibly the most distinguished man among all these was William Leete, a graduate of Cambridge, who came to America in 1638 and was a magistrate of Guilford, deputy and governor of New Haven colony from 1658 to 1664; deputy governor of Connecticut from 1669 to 1676, and governor from 1676 until his death in 1683. Governor Leete was one of Connecticut's greatest early statesmen and it is through him that Governor Stanley became a member of the society, "Sons and Daughters of Colonial Governors." Governor Stanley was proud of his parentage, but it made no change in his demeanor, as his belief was in the individual building of character and not in its inheritance.
It was not destined that Governor Stanley should be permitted to enjoy a long span of life after he retired from public office, though the seven years which intervened between the close of his second term as governor and his death formed perhaps the happiest epoch in his career. In the full enjoyment of private life he devoted himself to the law, to his church and to his family and home; and it may also be said, to his neighbors, for one of the marked traits of his character was to do little acts of kindness and to drop a flower here and there in the pathways of those with whom he came in daily contact. But it was not the Supreme will that he should be spared to his neighbors and family very long, and on Oct. 13, 1910, yielding to the ravages of an ailment which had annoyed him for some time, the great heart of William Eugene Stanley ceased to beat and his spirit joined the hosts in the great beyond.
The death of Governor Stanley, though not wholly unexpected, proved a shock to the whole community and to the entire state. The people of Wichita and of Kansas, as one great unit, bowed their heads, and, for the time being, became mourners. Messages of condolence from Governor Stanley's friends in both Kansas and other states poured in on his surviving helpmeet, and these served, to some extent, to soften the blow and to lessen the pangs which ever attend the great sting of death. Many were the personal letters she received from prominent friends of the governor throughout the state. Numerous associations, societies and other organized bodies hastened to meet and pass resolutions of sorrow and respect. The Sedgwick County Bar Association, of which he had been an honored member ever since its organization, was among these and as an additional mark of respect it presented its resolutions to Mrs. Stanley in the form of a handsomely printed morocco bound volume. Since these resolutions were drafted and adopted by his colleagues at the bar it is thought to be most appropriate to reproduce them herein, in full. They are as follows:
"By sudden death, which came as a shock to our city and state, there has been removed from our midst Hon. William E. Stanley, one of the most gifted, honorable, high-minded and able members of our profession. Brother Stanley was for nearly forty years one of the leaders of the Sedgwick county bar and was accorded a place in the legal profession throughout the state as a trial lawyer, counsellor and jurist. His life is worthy of emulation by the members of the bar and merits a recorded tribute. Therefore, be it
"Resolved by the Sedgwick County Bar Association that the following resolutions be adopted, and that the committee from this association present a copy of the same to the supreme court of Kansas, the circuit court of the United States for the District of Kansas, sitting at Wichita, and the district court of Sedgwick county, Kansas, with a request that the same be entered on the journals and made a permanent record in the said several courts:
"In view of the services of Brother Stanley as a citizen of Wichita and one of the great factors in its upbuilding, his services as county attorney, as a member of the state legislature, and as governor of the state, his high character and noble attributes as a man, rare gifts as a comprehensive and ever-ready public speaker and orator, integrity and ability as a lawyer, and sound judgment as a jurist, we, the members of the Sedgwick County Bar Association, as a memorial of the high esteem in which he was held by his brethren of the bar, bear testimony of and attest the good humor, ability, integrity and industry with which he discharged his obligations and fulfilled his duties in every public and private station in life; that his private character and life were without reproach, his public acts without blemish or stain; his official life was honorable, marked by fidelity, distinguished by learning, honesty of purpose and uprightness; that his professional courtesy, his generous bearing toward the members of the profession, ready help to the younger members of the bar, hearty submission to the verdict or decision against him, sincere faith in the honesty and integrity of judges and juries, generous forbearance in victory, endear his memory to this bar, and will cause it to recall him, not only so long as the members frequent this room in the practice of the law, but until they follow him.
"We recognize that in the period of time that has elapsed since Wichita was a struggling town on the border of civilization down until yesterday Governor Stanley stood in the front rank as a citizen in promoting everything tending to upbuild or advance the city of Wichita, freely giving his energy, time, money, voice and brains; ever encouraging the building of the common schools and higher institutions for learning or morality, helping to promote all these things to our general good, and at all times striving to raise the standard of our citizenship; ever eager and anxious to witness the crystalization of the moral sentiment of the city. He was an intellectual force and moral power of the city toward a higher plane. His death leaves his place vacant in Wichita. His mantle has fallen and there is none to wear it. He was looked upon as a leader by all classes in whatever engaged his time and sympathies.
"He possessed moral and physical courage, self-reliance, talent (at times amounting to genius), absolute faith in his cause, and the confidence of his co-workers; all of which go to make up those rare and indefinable qualities in a man, which, united, are at once recognized under the one word, 'leadership'.
"Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be transmitted to the family of our dead brother, and to the 'Wichita Beacon and Eagle' for publication. Signed: Kos Harris, Henry C. Sluss, D. M. Dale, Thomas C. Wilson, E. B. Jewett, and Earl W. Evans."
No sketch of Governor Stanley, however long, would be complete if it did not have something to say concerning his domestic and private life, for it is this mirror which more nearly reflects a man's true likeness than any other. A loving husband, a kind, patient and indulgent father, his home life was one perpetual session of domestic felicity and happiness. It was among the treasures of his private life that the real gems of his character were most abundant, and it was within the sacred precincts of his home that the great polar star of his being shone most brightly. In the close proximity of his family, neighbors and friends the sunlight of his nature gave forth its most radiant light. Possessing a warm heart and an unfailing tendency to do good his pathway was strewn with flowers of kindness and his associations were decorated with deeds of love. To the widow and daughter, to the sons and his friends, his life should ever be an inspiration; and to the rising youth it should ever be a worthy object of emulation.Pages 912-919 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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