WILLIAM C. KING is a veteran real estate man, in business in Scott City, has been through all the ups and downs that have characterized Western Kansas, has lived in close touch with the great realities all through his life, and has come out of the fire of adversity big and strong, resourceful, capable of helping himself and of helping others. It is to men of Mr. King's energy and capacity that Scott County owes much of its reputation as a mecca for settlers. He never tires, and when he does take time to sleep he dreams of the great future of the locality which he has done so much to settle up and develop. He is a Kansan by birth, by rearing and education, and has spent practically all his life within the state. Since a school boy his home has been in the western counties. His early training was in the country schools, and in getting a better education he had the experience of boys who "built fires and swept out." While he was a boy he was the youngest in his widowed mother's household, and he spent most of his time working while the older children were in school.
William C. King was born in Potawattomie County, Kansas, December 14, 1871. His father, William King, was born near Wheeling, West Virginia. He was a Union soldier during the war, serving in Company E of the Tenth West Virginia Volunteers. He was in the Army of the Potomac, and among the many battles in which he participated was the great engagement at Gettysburg. He was a soldier over three years, and at the end of the war was mustered out. He had been wounded in battle, and he went through as a private in the ranks. At Appomattox he was drawn up in line and could have touched the Confederate chieftain, General Lee, as the latter passed through the line to meet General Grant at the place of surrender. About 1871 William King moved to Kansas, locating in Potawattomie County, where he spent the rest of his life as a farmer. He died on his homestead in 1877. William King married Leona Steed. Their children were: Andrew, who died as a young married man, leaving clildren; Laura, who married Cal Bray and died in Rooks County, Kansas; and William C.
Up to the age of seventeen William C. King lived on a farm. When he left home he had little to recommend him to the confidence of the world beyond a fixed determination to succeed. For a time he was employed on the B. J. Kendall ranch, afterward took a string of horses to Oklahoma, and on the return he stopped at Wichita. There he found employment in the Imboden & Oliver mill, also with the street car company, and finally hired out to work for a farmer. He put in several months of hard labor on this farm. He had already entered upon a contract for another year of service, but one day while cutting hedge he determined that his dissatisfaction grew out of the hopelessness for the future and he told his employer he intended to quit. He had made up his mind that his real vocation was something different and he determined to equip himself "for farming the farmers." His first step in that direction was to enter the Stockton Academy, and while a student there he built fires and swept out the rooms to pay for his tuition, he also found work as a clerk in a general store at Stockton. After 2 1/2 years he bought the drug store where he had worked, securing it on credit, and though, as he says, he did not know "camphor from terpentine" he learned the business by actual experience. He remained with the store several years, but at the end had only his experience and his education as a result of his work.
On leaving Stockton in 1901 Mr. King came to Scott City. Though he was unfamiliar with the technical knowledge required for locating townships and ranges, he determined to engage in real estate as an independent dealer and under his individual name. A further handicap was his lack of capital. To support himself while building up a business as a real estater he sold Cosley's language charts and had considerable success with that. While in the drug business he had also proved his salesmanship by selling Andrew's school desks. Thus he had acquired by actual experience considerable knowledge of business affairs, and that knowledge was his chief asset when he started to sell farms.
During this critical period of his early life in Scott City Mr. King had his home in a long one-story building, the front part of which was occupied for a repair shop, his own quarters were in the middle section, while another family occupied the rear. At first his chief activities in the real estate field were clearing the lands of incumbrances and of liens for taxes. He became very proficient as a title man. He did much compromise work with the county and secured quit claim deeds, and after a tract of land had been cleaned up he looked out a buyer for it. At that time quarter sections were selling at $200 apiece. Strangely enough, as prices advanced, buyers became more numerous. Leonard Everett was one of the chief buyers of Scott County lands at the time, and about that period Leonard Hillis bought a large part of the Jarvis-Conklin holdings in the county, afterward advertising and selling many of the quarter sections for $25 or $50 apiece. As a result of a number of relinquishments, a removal of early settlers, tax sales and speculative buying, large bodies of Scott County lands came under the ownership of outsiders from New York to California.
Real estate was a very difficult proposition for Mr. King and other men until about 1905. About that time the old depression which had hung over this part of Western Kansas for years began to lift and people from a distance were coming in increasing numbers to look for Scott County lands. Some of them were the big speculators, others were speculating on a small scale, and there was also an increasing stream of actual settlers. Thus gradually the big pastures were broken up. Mr. King himself bought the Lynch ranch of forty quarter sections and sold it out, and also some large tracts of land owned by the Securities Company of New York. Mr. King continued actively in the field until the spring of 1911, and during all those years was an abstractor, examining titles, and was accounted an expert in those lines.
On leaving Scott City Mr. King moved to Wichita, where he began handling Texas coast lands. That venture proved unprofitable, and he then began selling city real estate at Wichita. Local conditions were such as to give him little promise of financial success, and after a few years he determined to return to Scott County, where he had practically a clear field and where his old friends stood him in good stead. His work in the county since his return has been selling lands to actual settlers. He has established influential connections in other states and has brought in many substantial families who are buying for the purpose of immediately improving and developing farms.
Mr. King became of age about the time the populists were in the full tide of their strength in Kansas, and he himself became allied with that movement. He cast his first presidential vote for Mr. Bryan in 1896, and twice supported him as a presidential candidate. After the dissolution of the populist party he became a democrat. He seldom missed a state convention until recent years and has become acquainted with all the state democratic leaders in Kansas. However, he has had no aspirations for political office.
Mr. King was married in Osborne County, Kansas, November 24, 1895, to Miss Rilla Cross. She is the only child of A. J. and Alice (Bowman) Cross. The father came to Kansas from Iowa and was a railroad man and a farmer. Mr. and Mrs. King are the parents of six children. Alpha is the wife of E. E. Bupp, of Scott City, and has one son, William Jack. Ralph is now attending the high school at Scott City, and the younger children are Alice, Forest, William C., Jr., and Zeta.
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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