William R. Reid

WILLIAM R. REID. It was to the building of the business of the Fort Scott Grocery Company that the late William R. Reid gave the best years of his life. He was preeminent as a salesman. He had the commercial integrity, candor, and enthusiasm which are the bedrock policies of salesmanship, but more than that he always justified his loyalty and confidence in the goods he sold. Moreover, wherever he went, and for nearly two score years he traveled through every section of the states of Kansas and Missouri, he carried with him the gospel of good cheer, and the citizens of numberless obscure towns counted it a privilege to own the friendship of William R. Reid. The members of his profession have been humorously called "Knights of the Grip," and he was in a more serious sense a true knight of business, the soul of honor, courtesy and upright manhood.

He was born October 15, 1845, in New York City and was educated there. He lived to be nearly seventy years of age, and died in the harness at Fort Scott July 20, 1912. Early in his career he became connected with a large dry goods establishment in the City of Chicago. He was married there to Miss Alice McComas, daughter of the late Governor E. W. McComas, at one time lieutenant governor of Virginia, afterwards editor of the Chicago Times, and who spent his last years in and around Fort Scott, where he died. Reference to the distinguished career of Governor McComas, who was claimed as a citizen of Kansas, will be found on other pages.

Governor McComas owned several farms in Nebraska, and finally prevailed upon William R. Reid and his young wife to try farming in the West. They did so, moving to the vicinity of Bellevue on one of the farms, and joining there Governor McComas. Farm life and the complete isolation of the frontier were not congenial surroundings for Mr. and Mrs. Reid and after several years of hardship, in 1869, they removed to Fort Scott, Kansas.

Here Mr. Reid engaged in the retail grocery business and continued his enterprise with excellent success for a number of years. He finally sold and became associated with Homer Pond of Fort Scott in the piano and music business. This connection was also dissolved after several years and Mr. Reid become connected with the Stadden Wholesale Grocery Company. When this firm went out of business he became a director in the Fort Scott Grocery Company. For more than forty years he represented the Stadden and Fort Scott grocery houses as traveling representative. That was his big work, probably in that time he brought more business to the companies than any other one salesman, and he made the reputation of his house and its goods known to nearly every town and village in the two states embraced in his territory. Everywhere he went he made permanent friends.

Although democratic in politics, he always aimed to vote for the best man regardless of party. He was a Knight Templar and Scottish Rite Mason, and also belonged to the Elks and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and was one of the most honored members of the United Commercial Travelers. His wife, who was born in Charlestown, now West Virginia, was a woman of rare culture, education and refinement, and possessed a decided bent for literature and was quite well known among her intimate friends as a writer of poetry. She was active in the Episcopal Church. Her death occurred at Fort Scott July 4, 1896, at the age of sixty years. Four children were born to their union, two of whom died very young. The oldest of the family is Ernest Edward Reid and his living brother is Kenneth Reid, now a resident of St. Louis, Missouri.

Ernest Edward Reid, who has inherited many of the salesmanship qualities of his honored father, and is vice president of the Fort Scott Wholesale Grocery Company, was born in Chicago, Illinois, October 8, 1865. He was educated in the public schools of Fort Scott, in the State Normal School and was still a boy when he began his business career as a utility worker in a Fort Scott book store. Three years later he found a position more to his liking in the local postoffice, and after two years there became express messenger for the Adams Express Company.

For nearly thirty years Mr. Reid has concentrated all his energies and interests upon the wholesale grocery business. In 1887 he was made shipping and bill clerk for the Stadden Grocery Company. When that company retired in 1890, he and his father and Grant Hornady and A. J. McLaughlin organized the Southwestern Wholesale Grocery Company of Fort Scott. Several years later this was consolidated with the Fort Scott Wholesale Grocery Company, of which he is now vice president and has full charge of the local business as city salesman. Twenty-seven years of his life he has devoted to salesmanship, and is a past master of the art.

Mr. Reid is also a director of the Western Automobile Indemnity Company of Fort Scott, is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, has passed all the chairs and is now senior counsel of the United Commercial Travelers, is past eminent commander of the Knights Templar Commandery, and stands high in the Scottish Rite bodies of Masonry. He is also a member of the Elks and in politics is a democrat. His wife is an active worker in the Eastern Star.

On June 22, 1900, at Fort Scott he married Miss Nettie Prager. Mrs. Reid is a daughter of David and Hattie (Briggs) Prager, of an old and well known family of Fort Scott, referred to on other pages.


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 October, 1997.
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