William Henry Webster, a popular and influential citizen of Greenleaf, and senior member of the firm of Webster Brothers, extensive stockmen, of Rooks and Washington counties, Kansas, was born at Maryville, Mo., February 26, 1868, a son of John and Eliza (Molyneaux) Webster, personal mention of whom precedes this article. He was reared on his father's farm in Washington county and obtained his education in the country schools, which he attended until he was aged seventeen. "Willie," as he was known to his familiars, began learning the A B C's of farming when he was hardly able to herd the cows, and under the instruction of his father became proficient in all its details. Before attaining his majority he was practically in charge of the property, which was one of the largest and best improved in the county. Through the failure of a bank, in 1886, his father was obliged to mortgage the farm and it was sold under foreclosure. It was bought in by Caldwell & Peterson, of Concordia, holders of the second mortgage, who considered it an "elephant," and who consulted the sheriff, A. H. Scott, of Washington county, as to what was best to do with their new farm. He told them that if they could come to terms with Webster's eldest son they would make no mistake. J. W. Peterson went out to the farm with W. H. Webster and the same evening closed a deal by which the latter bought the property for the amount of the total indebtedness, which was $7,100, with a payment down of $150 and the balance on reasonable terms. Under the handicap of this large debt, with one-half of the property in Prairie hay, which yielded no revenue and limited credit, young Webster made his start. He was able to secure machinery, horses and equipment and soon had the farm on a paying basis. Crops were bountiful but prices were low and it required several years in which to establish a credit, on which to run a ranch property of this extent. This he accomplished, however, and became an extensive feeder and dealer in cattle and hogs. His farm animals and equipment at first were cheap and poor, but in a few years these were replaced by the best horses and mules obtainable, and equipment and improvements keep pace with the stock used on the ranch. He soon attained recognition as one of the expert judges of horses, mules and cattle of his State and he probably has marketed more high priced mules than any man in his section of the State. In addition to his home ranch he leased considerable pasture land and grazed large numbers of cattle, which he wintered and conditioned for market. Up to the year 1901, James Webster, a younger brother of our subject, had remained on the old home place, and in this year the boys formed the firm of Webster Brothers, and leased 1,100 acres of land in Rooks county, which was placed in wheat, realizing a dream of years on the part of William H. This acreage was increased in 1902 to 2,300 acres. They had varied success in this enterprise, the crop of 1903 yielding about 30,000 bushels, some acreage running fifty bushels, while other sections were a total loss. They later bought a tract of 960 acres in Rush township, which they placed in wheat and corn, and fed large numbers of hogs and cattle, realizing a nice profit. This ranch they sold and bought 480 acres of choice river bottom land six miles southwest of Stockton. They operate this property and leased lands, totaling 4,000 acres. They feed from 800 to 1,200 head of beef cattle and 400 to 600 head of hogs and are known among stock raisers as highly successful, and experts in their line.
Mr. Webster is possessed of qualifications for the successful handling of large propositions in his line of endeavor, and has made a very creditable success. He is a progressive and aggressive man, who has been of great value in the development of his home county, as well as that of Rooks, and as he is in the prime of life his future usefulness to the agricultural life of the State will be of great value. Political affairs have never taken much of his time, and political office has never appealed to him. He is a Democrat. His fraternal affiliations are with the Modern Woodmen of America, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, his membership in the latter being in Concordia Lodge, No. 586.
Mr. Webster married, in May, 1902, Miss Harriette E. Lewis, a daughter of William A. Lewis, a retired farmer, of Clay Center, who is one of the pioneers of Clay county, Kansas, where he located in 1868. They are the parents of one child, a daughter, Helen Alma Webster, born in May, 1906.Pages 555-556 from a supplemental volume 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 October 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM196. It is a single volume 3.
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