Willis J. Bailey

WILLIS J. BAILEY, who was governor of Kansas from 1903 to 1905, has been a resident of the state since 1879 and has long stood as a leader in agricultural affairs, as a banker, and as a member of the republican party. His home is now in the City of Atchison, where he is vice president and managing officer of the Exchange National Bank.

His administration as governor of Kansas is made the subject of some paragraphs in an appropriate place on other pages of this history. The following is intended merely as a biographical statement of his career and with some notice of his varied and effective interests as a Kansan.

Willis J. Bailey was born at Mount Carroll, Illinois, October 12, 1854, and is of New England ancestry and descended from a long line of whigs and republicans. The Baileys came out of England and were colonial settlers in Massachusetts prior to the year 1640. Governor Bailey's grandfather, Joshua Bailey, was born in 1780 and served in the War of 1812 as a member of Captain Tomlinson's company. For many years he lived on a farm in Warren County, New York, but in 1845 moved out to Mount Carroll, Illinois, and continued farming in that community until his death in 1870. He was a whig during the existence of that party, and then became a republican. He was one of the very active members of the Baptist Church in his different communities. He married Lydia Kinyon, who was born in New York State and died in Warren County there.

Monroe Bailey, father of Governor Bailey, was born in Warren County, New York, in 1818. From his native county he removed in 1839 to Mount Carroll, Illinois, and was one of the very early settlers in that section. He developed a farm and became a prosperous and influential citizen. In October, 1879, he followed his son to Kansas, locating at Baileyville, a place named in honor of this family, and lived on a farm there until his death in 1902 He began voting as a whig and for many years was a loyal and stanch republican. He held some township offices and at one time was a county commissioner in Illinois. A cousin of the late Monroe Bailey is Joseph Cook, the noted lecturer. Monroe Bailey married Nancy J. Melendy, who was born at Cambridge, Vermont, in 1826 and died at Baileyville, Kansas, in 1901. Her father married a member of the Arbuckle family, related to the Arbuckle Brothers, famous coffee merchants. Monroe Bailey and wife had four children: Oscar, who died at Baileyville, Kansas, in 1915; Willis J.; Ernest N., who is in the grain and elevator business and a farmer at Baileyville; and Marion L., wife of C. N. Cafferty, a dentist practicing at Portland, Oregon.

Governor Bailey was educated in the public schools of Mount Carroll, Illinois. His early life was spent on a farm, and the training he there acquired remained a strong factor in his subsequent career He has never been totally divorced from agricultural affairs. Mr. Bailey was graduated from the Mount Carroll High School in 1872 and subsequently entered the University of Illinois, where he finished the Literary and Scientific courses in 1879. In 1904 the University of Illinois awarded him the honorary degree LL. D.

A few days after his graduation, in June, 1879, he started with a span of horses for Kansas. His location was in Nemaha County, seven miles west of Seneca, the county seat; There he opened up a ranch, and on that ranch a town was subsequently started, named Baileyville. Governor Bailey took an active hand in the management of the Bailey ranch until 1906. In that year he removed to Atchison, Kansas, became vice president of the Exchange National Bank, and for over ten years has been the managing official of this institution. His interest in banking dates even earlier, since in 1895 he organized the Baileyville State Bank and has been its president ever since. He is also a director of the Exchange State Bank of Atchison, is a charter director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Missouri, is a director in the Bankers' Guarantee Deposit and Surety Company of Topeka, and is an active director in eight different corporations. Mr. Bailey resides at 419 L Street in Atchison.

Governor Bailey has a national reputation as a stockman. Besides his extensive farming interests in Kansas he owns lands in Colorado and New Mexico.

From early manhood to the present Governor Bailey has given his allegiance to the republican party. In 1888 he was elected a member of the Legislature, and in 1893 was president of the Republican State League of Kansas. In 1896 he was republican candidate for Congress in the First District. In the year 1898 he was nominated for congressman at large by the State Convention at Hutchinson, and in that campaign he defeated Richard W. Blue. He was an active member of the Fifty-Sixth Congress, and then retired from public life to his ranch in Nemaha County. In 1902 he was nominated by his party for governor and in the November election he defeated W. H. Craddock, the democratic candidate, by a substantial majority. He began his term as governor in 1903 and served two years. After his retirement from the governor's chair he was prominently mentioned as. a candidate for United States senator. In 1908 a large number of republicans urged his nomination for another term as governor. He has sought the honors of public office only as an opportunity to make a better and greater state, and a strong element in all his political participation has been his loyalty to the agricultural cause. He has worked consistently for the raising of the standards of agriculture, and from 1895 to 1899 he was a member of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture. He did much during that time to secure the retention of F. D. Coburn in the office of secretary and to co-operate with that great exemplar of modern agriculture.

Governor Bailey affiliates with Unity Camp No. 356, Modern Woodmen of America, and with Atchison Lodge No. 647, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. In 1903 he was married at Kansas City, Missouri, to Mrs. Ida B (Albert) Weede, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Albert, both of whom are now deceased. Her father was a Nebraska farmer. Governor Bailey has two step-sons: Orlin A., who is now claim adjuster for the Union Pacific Railway at Grand Island, Nebraska; and Vernon, a resident of Salt Lake City, Utah, and general agent for an insurance company.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed 1997.
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