JUDGE EDWARD H. DUDLEY. It is not so much possessions that distinguish a man as the experiences which, beginning in childhood and continuing to the end, weave themselves into the fabric of a life and a career. In every sense one of the prominent men of Western Kansas, Judge Dudley, of Liberal, is also a man of great interest because of the richness and variety of his experience.
Everyone is what he is partly through the influence of his father and mother and other ancestors. Judge Dudley never had to depend on pedigree for such success as he has achieved, but he could refer to his forbears with good and sound reasons for pride and satisfaction. The family of Dudley is rather an ancient one in England. Its authentic history goes back to a "Baron Dudd," a name that in the middle ages was corrupted to Dudley.
The first American Dudley was John Dudley, who landed on the shores of New Jersey the year before William Penn occupied his colony. The two had been friends in England, John Dudley being a prominent Quaker and had headed a colony of his co-religionists which he established upon a grant of land given him by King Charles. The portion of Jersey conveyed to him by the grant was a sandy, barren region, and after a brief experience there he wrote to Penn with a friendly warning against the lands of New Jersey and advising him to secure his grant on the west side of the river, where it was less sandy. It is claimed that this influence was responsible for William Penn locating his colony where he did.
None of the Dudleys were Revolutionary soldiers, and in fact nearly all remained loyal to the crown until the United States became a really independent and self-sustaining nation. The grandfather of Judge Dudley was Joshua Dudley, who lived in the time of the Revolution, and was injured while that war was in progress when he engaged in an altercation with a British officer who tried to take a horse away from this New Jersey farm. He died on the old farm in that state and was always a farmer. A conspicuous diversion from the toil of the fields was furnished by a rather liberal practice of drinking apple cider. He was a cousin of a noted American family, the Lippincotts, prominent through different generations as Quakers, educators and publishers. Joshua Dudley married a Miss Wills.
The father of Judge Dudley was William Dudley. He was a carpenter and builder and also a farm owner, and lived where his father and grandfather had before him, on the sandy lands of Burlington County, New Jersey. He was born in 1800, and before reaching middle age, in 1838, moved west with his family to Columbiana County, Ohio, and having contributed his share as a pioneer to the development of that region, he sought a home on the rapidly advancing frontier and in 1852 moved to Caldwell County in Northwest Missouri. In that section he remained the closing years of his life, dying in 1883. He married Lydia Carnes, of Virginia, and both are buried in Caldwell County. He was strictly orthodox as a Quaker, and in politics was steadfastly a democrat. Of his children six grew to maturity, but the only two now living are Judge Dudley and William, the latter a resident of Cameron, Missouri.
When the family began its westward movement to Ohio Judge Dudley was a child of four years and had come to the vigorous age of eighteen when the Dudleys entered the forests of Northwest Missouri. He was born in Burlington County, New Jersey, February 21, 1834. From his earliest recollections the practices and teachings of the home were those prescribed by loyal members of the Quaker faith. He was well educated, attending academies at Wellsville and Salineville, Ohio. At Wellsville he worked long enough to acquire a practical familiarity with both the watchmaking and the machinist's trades. When he left home it was to go as second clerk on a steamboat running the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. After a season on the rivers he joined the family in Caldwell County, Missouri, in 1852, and there for a brief interval utilized his superior schooling to teach in some of the backwoods districts of Caldwell and Daviess counties.
When the old Hannibal & St. Joseph Railway was built across North Missouri from river to river young Dudley was one of its early employes in the capacity of station agent at Hamilton. While he did not make a study of telegraphy, he did learn to repair the telegraph instruments when they were burned out by lightning - that was before the invention of the "lightning arrester" or modern fuse. Not long after that the Civil war broke out and the railway company was shorthanded for men to work the key and dispatch the trains. Thus one day the station agent at Hamilton found himself without a telegrapher and unable to get orders for the conductor of "No. 2." While repairing and testing instruments he had picked up more knowledge of their operation than he realized, and in the emergency he painfully picked out enough of the code to satisfy the conductor, and from that time forward for twenty-one years he handled the telegraph key, if not as an expert, at least to the satisfaction of all tests of efficiency applied by his superiors.
During the war, it should be mentioned, Judge Dudley was sworn in as a member of the railroad brigade, and was under obligation to serve as guard of the road while the regular soldier was at the front. During his long service with the Hannibal & St. Joseph he was also in the grain business, buying it and handling it through his own elevators. When he gave up his position with the railroad company it was to locate at one of the old stations on the line, Lathrop, where he gave all his time to the grain business. He sent many carloads over the Wabash, as well as his own road. As a result of the failure of the Wabash Company, owing him nearly four thousand dollars in rebates, which he was unable to collect, Judge Dudley, during a visit to Chicago, urged upon the management of the Burlington that it buy the Hannibal & St. Joseph. He succeeded in bringing his arguments, together with such cogency and effectiveness, that the very next day steps were taken which soon afterward put the Missouri road under the ownership of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Company, where it remains to this day. Thus Judge Dudley helped build up a railroad system and thereby profited personally to the extent that he secured a direct outlet for his grain to Chicago over a new line instead of with the Wabash.
With all these business interests Judge Dudley was pretty well and successfully occupied until 1885, when he made his advent into Western Kansas. He came not as a man of wealth, and yet probably with more means than many of the homeseekers of that time. He homesteaded in Stevens County the southeast quarter of section 7, township 32, range 35, and with that farm and that locality he remained identified as long as he was in the county. Some of the equipment which he brought to the state was a team and also a Shorthorn cow and bull. In section 8 he had entered a tree claim, and on that he established a store where he sold goods for three years. Merchandising was succeeded by well digging. He operated a drilling outfit over Stevens, Seward and Grant counties until he had put down 263 holes for water. Doubtless a number of those wells are still doing service. Money being rather scarce among his customers, he was satisfied to take cattle chiefly in exchange for the work, and at the end found that he had accumulated a hundred head, most of which he sent back to the farm as the nucleus of his herd. His farm had in the meantime been kept going by his sons.
Judge Dudley has always enjoyed the acquaintance of many men of prominence. He had more than a passing acquaintance with Mr. Coleman, the secretary of agriculture under President Cleveland. As a result of this acquaintance he was made a sort of representative of the agricultural department in this section of Kansas to report and advise on the experimental work in the planting of trees on the tree claims. At one time Mr. Coleman asked his opinion of the Osage Orange as a satisfactory tree for this region. Mr. Dudley wrote back that it was about the only tree that could be depended upon to thrive in the climate, but that it was on the list of prohibited trees. Secretary Coleman then straightway had the Osage Orange restored to favor so far as the action of the agricultural department could do so. Judge Dudley continued to experiment with trees for several years, and he produced a number of healthy specimens of forest growth both on his homestead and tree claim. After the Osage Orange the hardiest trees for this region in his experience were the black locust and walnut.
Judge Dudley called himself a stockman, for that was his chief enterprise while on the farm. His ranch grew until it included ten quarter sections. While he had his share of the adversities, he feels that his efforts were more than ordinarily successful in raising stock and the feed required for their maintenance. For some years he also grew wheat with satisfactory yields. But the prevailing low price for that now precious cereal and the distance from market made it more profitable for him to feed the grain to his cattle, and thus very little of his crop was ever converted into flour.
Besides the store he had on his farm Judge Dudley was a merchant both at Lakin and Hartland. He was one of the influences that killed the Kelly toll bridge across the Arkansas by promoting a free public bridge. He also helped prove the water resources of the region. Alvin R. Beaty advised him that he could never pump water enough for his cattle out on the prairie where he lived, but he showed that it could be done and convinced Beaty so that the latter finally gave him a number of well-drilling contracts upon his own ranch.
After Judge Dudley moved to Liberal he was elected mayor of the town, when its population was not more than four hundred. It was his espousal of the cause of the Rock Island interest that led to his election. During his one term as mayor his influence with the railroad was such that the company made Liberal a division point and also brought a permanent water supply to the town. Later for two years Judge Dudley was water and street commissioner of Liberal.
On coming to Kansas he did not leave his political convictions behind, and exercised his privilege of voting and making sentiment among others in the community. Judge Dudley has always been an out and out democrat, and on that ticket he was elected probate judge in 1892, a year when both the old parties had difficulty in getting their proper share of offices in Kansas. Judge Dudley refused to "fuse" with the populists, and fought that party as actively as did the republicans. Thus it was a distinct defeat for populism in Stevens County when he and J. L. Pettyjohn were elected county officers that year. Judge Dudley by election and also by appointment from Governor Humphrey administered the office of probate judge for several years, and he did it with ability and dignity. Most of the work of his office consisted of handling estates and proving up homesteads.
Judge Dudley was a man of family when he came to Kansas, in fact brought some grown children with him. In Caldwell County, Missouri, October 23, 1859, he married Miss Clementine Wyatt Langdon, daughter of Charles Langdon. Her father was a native of Massachusetts, was for many years in the United States custom service and also a teacher. He died in Morton County, Kansas, about 1903. Mrs. Dudley, who was born in Caldwell County October 20, 1842, died at Liberal, Kansas, December 19, 1912, seventy years of age. The brief record of their children reads: Flora C., who died at Johnston, Missouri, wife of H. B. Callahan; Charles E., a rancher at Moscow, Kansas; William O., of Bates County, Missouri; Walter, also of Bates County; Ada, wife of Charles McAninch, of Bates County; Daniel D., of Kansas City; James T., of Shreveport, Louisiana; and Katie, wife of Frank Boles, of Liberal, Kansas.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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