William Small

WILLIAM SMALL. In the death of William Small Leavenworth lost one of its greatest merchants and one of its most upright, energetic and lovable citizens. He had been a resident of Leavenworth nearly thirty years. He developed the largest real estate establishment of the city, a permanent monument to his name, and still conducted as William Small & Company. He was a man of even and gentle disposition, thoroughly alert in business matters, and public spirited in his attitude toward citizenship and towards the larger social life of his community. He was an invaluable factor in the growth and enterprise of Leavenworth.

While his character was in every respect above reproach he was often misunderstood. His chief characteristic was an unswerving honesty. In business affairs his thrift and keenness were developed to a high degree, but in his personal relations his heart was as tender as that of a woman. It was not easy to convince him with new and untried propositions or with new friendships, but once his word was given his constancy was as perfect as the needle to the pole star. Naturally enough his confidence was sometimes betrayed and sometimes those whom he had aided were disloyal to his friendship.

William Small was born at Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in 1841. His death occurred at Chicago on March 1, 1900. He grew up in his native city and was married there to Zephy Steele. From Canada he came to the United States and located in St. Louis, where he was a dry goods salesman for D. Crawford & Company.

He came to Leavenworth about 1872. In 1875 he was a member of the firm of Weaver & Small, and later became a member of the firm of Small, Ramsey & Vories. This business subsequently came under his sole ownership, and through his fine integrity and ability he made it the most important retail establishment of the city. Throughout his career his honor was his most perfect possession. Of Scotch-Irish ancestry and of Presbyterian family, he possessed all the characteristics associated with these people and with the sect of Presbyterianism. He was saving, industrious, never permitted a bill to go to protest, and while so exact and scrupulous in his individual transactions, he had a thorough-going sympathy for the common frailties and shortcomings of humanity, and his benefactions were extremely large though never set down in any book of record.

Mr. and Mrs. Small had no children. His best monument is the mercantile establishment that still carries his name and the business which has grown up and has been developed upon the solid foundation of his personal character. Mrs. Small has been actuated by many of the generous motives which inspired the life of her husband, and has done much to perpetuate his careful philanthropy. At a cost of $50,000 Mrs. Small founded in the memory of her husband William Small Memorial Home for Aged Women and it is one of the philanthropies of which the State of Kansas may take greatest pride.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed November 11, 1998.

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