Henry Williams, capitalist, and one of the best representatives of the agricultural interests of Smith county, has lived in Kansas over a quarter of a century. He is a type of the sort of men who came to the State at an early day, suffered all the privations and hardships of a new country, and who was courageous, and had faith enough in Kansas to stay through the hard years of droughts and grasshoppers until the earth returned bountiful crops and verified his faith. He was born in Carroll county, Illinois, July 3, 1858, and was reared upon his father's farm, attending the public schools until sixteen years of age, when he removed to Jo Daviess county, Illinois. Four years later he came to Kansas, arriving in November, 1878. He at once located on a homestead in Smith county, where he built a dug-out house and barn. Mr. Williams made the trip west with a wagon and team, as railroads were few in Kansas in the early '70s. Within a few hours after arriving he lost one of his horses, which was a serious matter, as he had but little money and found it difficult to buy another. He began to farm his land and soon proved up his claim. For a time Mr. Williams worked for a contractor of the Burlington railroad, which was being built, but the contractor cheated him of his honestly earned money. Mr. Williams stored some of his grain in his barn, and while away the cattle of one of the nearby settlers hooked the roof off and ate all the grain which he had for his own horses. In addition he found the roof of his house full of holes, where the cattle had dug it with their horns. The owner of the cattle offered to pay for the damage, but with the big heartedness of frontier men, Mr. Williams refused the money, as he knew they would help him if he ran short of provisions. The spring after his arrival in Kansas, Mr. Williams drove from Bloomington, Neb., to Oberlin, Kan., a distance of 125 miles, for which he received $24.00, boarding himself on the ten-day trip. The nearest railroad at this time was at Red Cloud, Neb., forty miles away, where supplies were purchased and produce marketed, a trip of several days when a farmer went to market. Food was often scarce, and Mr. Williams lived for many days on "sow belly and corn dodgers," being glad to get them. He had great faith in the country and while some settlers returned to the East, in defeat, he remained to gain a comfortable fortune. Mr. Williams early saw the advantage of allied business interests and bought a threshing outfit, which he ran for a number of years. In addition to this he began feeding cattle and hogs, which, under his able management and thrift, became profitable. The first money he borrowed for business purposes was in 1879, the amount being $25.00, on which he was obliged to pay five per cent. interest per month, but he was a good manager and soon paid off the debt. Mr. Williams attributes all his success to his honest policy, as he met all his obligations as he would wish other men to meet theirs, paying every note as it fell due. Because of this policy he has unlimited credit, which has been of great advantage to him in business. For many years he has bought cattle all over the country. Sixteen years ago he purchased over a thousand head in New Mexico, which he shipped to Kansas and sold over a large part of the country. Since 1877 he has been rated as one of the most prosperous cattle men of Northern Kansas, being the first to ship on the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific railroad from Smith county. His business increased to such an extent that he moved to town in order to more easily handle it, and soon entered the milling industry, and has been president of the mill company since the time of its organization. At the present time the company has over $50,000 invested. They also operate the electric plant which lights the city. Mr. Williams has not confined his interests to one line, but is also the proprietor of the largest clothing firm, under the name Williams & Company. He is interested in three banks, being a director of the First National Bank of Smith Center; vice-president of the First State Bank of Athol, Kan., and vice-president of the First State Bank of Portis, Kan. Since coming into town Mr. Williams has become the local agent for the Ford automobile, great numbers of which his local company have sold, in connection with the garage which he has started. Although such a busy man, Mr. Williams still manages his 1,500-acre ranch, where he is engaged in feeding cattle, usually having about 500 head. This land is some of the finest in the county, being worth about $75.00 an acre.
On June 12, 1882, Mr. Williams married Mary, the daughter of Rhinhardt Sinsel, of Kearney county, Nebraska. They started housekeeping in the little sod house which Mr. Williams first erected, but two years later he built a frame dwelling on the homestead which he still owns. There are five children in the family: Bertha A., the wife of George B. Morgan, of Smith county; John H.; Iva M., wife of Otho H. Munger, of Smith Center; Leo E., and Roy R. John H. and Leo E. have rented their father's farm for the next year. In politics Mr. Williams is a stanch Democrat, although he has never held office, but has devoted his entire time to his vast business interests.Pages 322-324 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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