Sylvester Dana Storrs was born in Cortland county, New York, in the year 1820. He was the youngest of twelve and the only child to be born after the family removed from their home in New Hampshire to what was then the western frontier. His was the seventh generation in New England of pure English stock, pioneers all, from the time his four times great-grandfather had left old England for conscience sake to bear his share in founding a Connecticut town. His father's venture proved one of many hardships and young Dana grew up amid privations and keen struggles with the soil. His elder brothers and sisters, many years his senior left the farm for homes of their own and the youngest boy became the mainstay of his father in ill health and declining years. His opportunity for education was of the meagerest, in the short and irregular sessions of the district school, but his desire for further opportunities grew with his years and strengthening will and at twenty-one, at an age when most young men are finishing their academic life he felt free at last to leave home to prepare himself for the college education he was determined to have. His father could do nothing for him and with only his hands and his head to help him he passed through the academy at Virgil and went back to his old home in New Hampshire to seek a college education. There he received no encouragement from well-to-do uncles or other relations, because every one thought him too old to think of going through college, but nothing daunted, entirely through his own efforts, he graduated at Dartmouth with the class of 1851. Afterwards he spent four years teaching in a Friends' school, and then he became a student at Andover Seminary, having determined to devote his life to the service of the church of his father's, the Congregational church of New England. Long before this Mr. Storrs had turned his farming experience to account and both at Hanover and at Andover he established small nurseries, not only paying his own expenses but affording many a day's work to other students in need of an opportunity of earning their way. All his life he loved trees and their culture and took the greatest interest and pleasure in introducing new varieties wherever he happened to be. Many a clump of shade trees on the Kansas prairie, many an apple or peach of rare species owed its Kansas introduction to this lifelong habit. It was while he was at Andover that Mr. Storrs became keenly interested in the struggle then going on in the Territory of Kansas against the further extension of human slavery. With three other classmates he organized the famous Andover Band and pledged himself to go to Kansas upon the completion of his seminary course to help establish New England ideals and New England institutions and New England religious observances on the virgin prairies of the West. So, in the summer of 1857, he became a pioneer as his fathers had been before him and began what was to be nearly forty years of life work in his chosen state, first, as a pastor of struggling churches on the border in those bloodstained years, later as the superintendent of the mission work of his church throughout the state. Many churches all over the state were organized and kept together during the hard years which succeeded the Civil war by his personal care, traveling as he often did many miles to hold a monthly service. His work was with the beginning of things, with the lonely settler, the struggling settlement, wherever people could be gathered together in school house or farm house, there he brought a bond of true Christian fellowship. Much of such work is transitory in its nature. Discouraged settlers move away; a rival town obliterates its neighbors; a school house is left empty; and while many churches remain to tell of his gift of organization, his peculiar service to his state was in personal ministry to the men and women who fought with poverty and failure during those first trying years. Mr. Storrs never knew what it was to be discouraged and he had the gift of imparting his abundant optimism. When crops failed, corn dried up in parching wind, when houses and churches were blown down by cyclone and all green things were devoured by grasshoppers, he went from settlement to settlement with unfailing courage and a radiant faith, speaking words full of cheerful comfort, of perfect confidence in that future when the prairies would bring forth abundantly, when the state of Kansas would be filled full of a prosperous people whose "God shall be the Lord."
Mr. Storrs first located with his bride, Fanny J. Terry, at Quindaro, in 1857, where he lived about five years. He then located in Atchison, where he remained six years. He then spent one year in Iowa, returning to Quindaro for a short time and later, in 1877, with his family of wife and two sons and two daughters, located in Topeka, Kan. He lived there until his death, in the seventy-sixth year of his age. His widow survived him nearly ten years. She was also widely identified with Kansas religious history, having organized the first Woman's Home Missionary Society in the state.Pages 689-691 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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