WILLIAM HENRY FERGUSON, M. D. A more kindly and capable physician never lived in Western Kansas than the late Dr. William Henry Ferguson of LaCrosse. He did a big share of the pioneer work in his profession not only in that immediate community but all over Western Kansas. He came to the town in November, 1886. He was at that time young and ambitious, and in the years that followed he realized his aims to become a useful as well as substantial citizen.
Doctor Ferguson was of fine family stock and was born in Monroe County, New Hampshire, March 15, 1847. His father, Orrin Ferguson, was born in Scotland, and when a child came to America with his parents. The family located in New Hampshire, where grandfather Ferguson soon afterward died. Members of the Ferguson family acquired wealth in New Hampshire, and the family as a whole at one time owned practically all the County of Monroe. The children of the generation in which Orrin was a member were: Alexander, John and Mrs. Emma Brown, of Alton, Illinois.
Orrin Ferguson became a farmer, and about the time the Civil war began moved out to Alton, Illinois, and engaged in farming in that section of the state. Some years later he moved to Grinnell, Iowa, and while there passed through the experience of the destructive cyclone which laid waste that country. He died in Iowa. Orrin Ferguson married Susan Stevens, who also died in Grinnell. They were very devout and active members of the Methodist Church. Their children were: Dr. William Henry; Edward, who became a telegraph operator and died when young and unmarried; Fred M., now in the real estate business at Grinnell, Iowa; Augustus, who died at Grinnell leaving four children; Arthur, who died in Iowa unmarried; Anna, who lives in Chicago, wife of Paul Leffler, prominent as inventor of electric railways; May, wife of Professor Paul Barker, an educator near Chicago.
Doctor Ferguson spent his younger years in Southern Illinois, took his literary training in Shurtleff College at Alton, and then entered the St. Louis Medical College, where he was graduated M. D. He finished his course at the age of twenty-seven and then began practice at Swanwick in Perry County, Illinois. Thus it was with eight or nine years of active experience as a physician that Doctor Fergusan came to Western Kansas.
LaCrosse was on the frontier when he arrived in 1886, and among some of his early contemporaries and men who practiced in the community while he was active were Doctor Arter, Doctor Goodwin, known as the county physician and also a farmer, Doctor Phillips and Doctor Railey. Doctor Ferguson for many years occupied the LaCrosse field alone, and was the last of the old time doctors to cease professional connections with the community. In earlier years Doctor Ferguson answered the calls of his profession clear to the Colorado line. He made trips by railroad to these distant western calls, and with his buggy rode all over the country around LaCrosse, and became a friend to every family living on its desert plain and in dugouts and sod houses. When automobiles were introduced he owned one and found it a great aid in making prompt visits to his country patients.
For many years Doctor Ferguson was surgeon of the Missouri Pacific Railway at LaCrosse. From the time he came to LaCrosse until his death he was chairman of the board of examiners for soldiers' pensions. He was county physician for years and also chairman of the board of health. Several times he was elected mayor, was a member of the council, and was one of the promoters of the First National Bank of LaCrosse and also helped to establish the LaCrosse State Bank and was one of its board of directors when he died.
It is said that Doctor Ferguson contributed aid to every church built in LaCrosse. Both he and his wife were active members of the United Brethren Church, and he served the church as far as his time and capacity would permit. He also did much to encourage good schools, though his busy professional life did not permit him to become officially identified with their management. Though Doctor Ferguson actively identified himself with a community where the economic necessities pressed heavily upon the people and allowed little time or opportunity for cultural affairs, he was himself a man of literary tastes and of unusual breadth of ideas and ideals.
He was a constant reader and student in the lines of his profession, and kept in touch with the world through broad reading along other lines. He also had the gift of conversation, but made no pretension as a public speaker. In politics he was a republican, but had no time to devote to politics or party affairs. In fact he felt that a business or professional man was out of place in the sphere of politics. Doctor Ferguson was a member of the Masonic and other fraternities.
Since his death Mrs. Ferguson has taken his place in the hearts of his old time friends and patients in LaCrosse and also has been a very active factor in local social affairs. Mrs. Ferguson occupies her husband's place as a director of the LaCrosse State Bank. Her parents were James H. and Joanna (Fletcher) Muzzey. Her maternal grandfather, Samuel L. Fletcher, was of a family that came from England to the United States during colonial days, and his father, Robert Fletcher, was one of the founders of New London, Connecticut. Mrs. Ferguson's mother was a cousin of Rear Admiral Fletcher of the United States navy. The Muzzey family is also of English origin, and by marriage became connected with the Gregg family. James H. Muzzey's grandfather Gregg came from England, and as a man of wealth loaned considerable money to the prosecution of the cause of independence, but the papers indicating these loans were subsequently lost and the family never had any recompense for his patriotic sacrifice. Mr. James H. Muzzey, father of Mrs. Ferguson, was designer in a furniture factory, and died at Bunker Hill when a young man. His wife died nine years later, in 1863. They reared three children: Caroline J., who took up a claim in Lane County, Kansas, and now lives with Mrs. Ferguson; Mary E., who married A. L. Turk, of Bunker Hill, Illinois; and Mrs. Ferguson.
Doctor and Mrs. Ferguson had two daughters, Carrie Ella and Effie Adelia. Carrie E. is the wife of R. A. Torrey, postmaster of LaCrosse and editor of the Chieftain. Mr. and Mrs. Torrey have two children, William H. and James Rodney. The daughter Effie A. died in March, 1915. A short time before her death she had proved up on a claim in Colorado.
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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