William E. Durant

WILLIAM E. DURANT. Few citizens of Clay County are better known than William E. Durant, who is clerk of the District Court, a veteran of the Civil war, and a representative and bearer of a name that has been honorably known in this state for over a half century. He was born in Will County Illinois, April 25, 1843. His parents were Edward T. and Sally Ann (Whallon) Durant, and his paternal grandparents were Edward and LuGina (Willey) Durant, natives of New York. The Durant ancestors went from France to England and in colonial days came to the United States and located in Connecticut, a later generation moving to New York and those still later establishing homes in Kansas.

Edward T. Durant, father of William E., was born in Geneseo County, New York, in 1819. His father died when he was young and he remained in Geneseo County until 1837, when he became a pioneer in Will County, Illinois. He engaged in farming for a time and then worked at the carpenter trade until 1861, when he enlisted for service in the Civil war, entering the Thirty-third Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He participated in many battles and was in the siege of Vicksburg and in much of the military activity along the border west of the Mississippi River. He was honorably discharged and was mustered out December 7, 1865. In the spring of 1866 he came to Monrovia, Kansas, and worked at his trade there until 1869, when he removed to Waterville in Marshall County, and there he died in 1915. He supported the principles of the republican party, belonged to the Masonic fraternity and was a faithful member of the Baptist Church.

Edward T. Durant married Sallie Ann Whallon, who was born in 1822 and died at Clay Center, Kansas, in 1896. They had the following children: William E.; Sophia Willey, who married first M. A. Sherburne, a painter, and after his death, Martin Norton, also deceased, who was a traveling salesman, and she resides at Topeka, Kansas; Clara Maria, who is the widow of John Davison, a farmer, resides at Waterville; Charles, who died when aged eighteen months; Percy, who died aged two years; Albert, who died at the age of one year; Frances C., who lived to be twenty years old, as also did Edward T.; and Tracy C., the ninth and youngest, who lived to be twenty-three years.

William E. Durant attended the country schools in Will and Du Page counties, Illinois, and followed farming until he was eighteen years old. He then proved as patriotic as his father and enlisted also in Company B, Thirty-third Illinois Volunteer Infantry, on the same day, August 19, 1861, and father and son marched and fought side by side through those long years of strife, taking part in the same battles and skirmishes and facing the same dangers. Both were spared to return to the dear ones at home. It was a tie of comradeship as well as kindred that bound this father and son together.

After the war was over William E. Durant attended school in Chicago for a short time and then joined his father, reaching Monrovia, Kansas, August 2, 1867. For two years he worked on farms in Atchison County but in 1869 went to Waterville and entered the flouring mill, and worked in such mills for the next ten years and then was in a hardware store for one year at Downs, Kansas. In 1880 Mr. Durant came to Clay Center and resumed work in the flour mills and continued until 1913.

From early manhood Mr. Durant has been affiliated with the republican party, believing firmly in the basic principles of that organization and loyally supporting its candidates. After retiring from the industry to which he had devoted so many years of a busy life he served one year as city marshal of Clay Center, and 2 1/2 years as deputy for the county clerk. In 1916 he was elected clerk of the District Court for a term of two years, and his office is in the courthouse.

Mr. Durant married October 3, 1869, at Monrovia, Kansas, Miss Lucretia Rhodes, who is a daughter of John and Jemima (Allee) Rhodes, both of whom are deceased. The father of Mrs. Durant was a farmer before the Civil war, of which he was a veteran. His death occurred at Prairie Grove, Missouri. Mr. and Mrs. Durant have two sons, Ira Edwin and Charles Willey. Ira Edwin Durant resides with his parents at the time this record is made. He is a physician and surgeon, a graduate of the Kansas City Medical College, from which he received his degree. He is a member of the Kansas National Guard, with the rank of captain, and is attached to the medical corps. In 1916 he was with the First Regiment, Kansas National Guard, on the Mexican border.

Charles Willey Durant, the second son, is a resident of Kansas City, Kansas, and is in the employ of the Morris Packing Company. He is a graduate of the Clay Center High School and taught school for nine years in Clay County and for one year in Riley County. Mr. Durant and family belong to the Methodist Episcopal Church.

For many years Mr. Durant has been identified with the Order of Odd Fellows and is a member of Clay Lodge No. 115, of which he is past noble grand, and also a member of Humane Encampment No. 34, and of Queen Esther Lodge No. 19, Rebekahs. He belongs additionally to Clay Center Lodge No. 13l, Ancient Free & Accepted Masons. Mr. Durant owns his comfortable residence that stands on Twelfth Street between Dexter and Court streets. He has lived through a period of marvelous change since he came to Kansas and he feels proud of the advancement which has been made along so many lines. As a veteran of one great war, he is keenly alive to the issues which are now paramount in the country he offered his life to keep united.


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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