WILLIAM CAMDEN STOUT. Even if Seward County were many times as populous as it is it would not be possible to lose among mere members such a citizen and business man as William Camden Stout, who is that type of man that sands[sic] out conspicuously in any community whether large or small. Mr. Stout is one of the pioneers of Seward County, has been a rancher in that section of Western Kansas almost from the beginning of civilization, and is also at present interested in merchandising at the old Town of Arkalon.
Mr. Stout's success is the more interesting and praiseworthy as an achievement because of the exceedingly difficult handicapped start he made in the world. He was born in Eastern Ohio September 1, 1864, son of Retus and Margaret (Sennett) Stout. His father died the year following the birth of William C. There were two daughters: Rose, who married Salathiel Nottingham and lives in Braxton County, West Virginia, and Arvilla, who married Ed Moyer and died in West Virginia. The widowed mother subsequently married George McKinley, and by a third husband, Wright Childers, has one child still living, Claude Childers, near the West Virginia home.
William C. Stout grew up in Doddridge and Ritchie counties, West Virginia, and had his education in the public schools there. His home life during boyhood was far from pleasant. He often felt the weight of his stepfather's displeasure, and, like many other similarly situated, finally broke away from such ill usage and started out on his own hook, so that life has meant to him a struggle since mere boyhood.
In 1884, when he was twenty years of age, he joined a few neighbor boys for a trip to Kansas. The party stopped at Chase in Butler County, and for a time young Stout worked on a ranch in the former county, although later he found work at Slater, Missouri, and in the fall returned home to West Virginia. In the spring of 1885 he joined a farmer in Edgar County, Illinois, spending one season in his employ, and the next November came out to Garden City and down to old Fargo Springs, thus initiating his residence and experience in Seward County.
It was in November, 1886, that Mr. Stout reached his destination after a stage ride from Garden City to Fargo Springs, the first county seat of Seward County. He had no acquaintances and practically no knowledge of this country, and it was merely to satisfy his quest of adventure and a longing to find work and permanent interest that brought him into this region. He at once entered a pre-emption five miles northeast of Arkalon and on that built a half dugout. He lived there during the time necessary to commute and secure title and was isolated by several miles from his nearest neighbor. He then took a homestead along the breaks of the Cimarron, but soon relinquished that to the government and bought and re-entered a relinquishment in the river bottom east of Arkalon. On this he put his homestead filing. There he began his improvements by erecting a stone house 32 by 38 feet, a story and a half, the most substantial residence in the entire country and one of the few stone buildings then in existence throughout a large area.
But before this had been done many experiences had made up his days and months in Western Kansas. He had acquired a yoke of cattle, having had experience in managing such a team in his native state. These he used while on his pre-emption to haul water and to do other farm work. He paid $62.50 for the steers, broke them after the purchase, traded for a yoke, and with these cattle and a cheap wagon which he had also traded for he did considerable hauling until the next fall. He then sold the outfit for $85. This capital he invested in a few calves, worth from $2.50 to $5 a head, and other earnings as a laborer he also invested in young stock. The calves were branded and turned loose among the herds of other cattlemen for whom Mr. Stout was then working as a herder on terms that provided for his own board and lodging and also the keeping of his modest herd of live stock along with the larger herds. At that time cowboys commanded wages of about $15 a month and board. It was in this period of his career that Mr. Stout borrowed enough money on his pre-emption to boy the relinquishment above noted, where he homesteaded. When he occupied his homestead and started his ranch as a rattle man he owned about forty head, and from that time since his interests and activities as a ranchman have been steadily growing. At one time in his career as a cattle man he had about 1,000 head grazing on his pasture and range. His stock he bred up from year to year until he had a good grade of Herefords. He sold many car loads to local feeders and also shipped to the Kansas City markets after the Rock Island Railway was built through this country.
A word should be said concerning his relation to market and railroads, so as to explain his own economic situation and also furnish some interesting historical facts. When Mr. Stout came to Seward County thirty years ago it was sixty miles north to the railroad at Garden City, eighty miles to Dodge City on the east and an unlimited distance to rapid transportation on the south and west. The trading points for people at Fargo Springs were Garden City and Cimarron. At Fargo Springs the local political pot boiled up occasionally, and there all the voting was done for the election of local candidates and the settlement of local problems. In local politics Mr. Stout had his modest share. He served as township clerk for several years and was also a member of the board of county commissioners one term. His associates on the board of commissioners were Joe Feust and William Anthrim. Among the things they did officially was taking care of the maturing indebtedness of the county by paying it off or refunding it. Mr. Stout has also served on the school board of district No. 20, and has given his influence steadily to the maintenance of churches and Sabbath schools. In politics he began voting as a republican, and has never left that party, at least on national issues.
Most people would say that Mr. Stout has been abundantly prospered, and so far as material things are concerned he has been rewarded fully for all the sacrifices and hardships he endured as a pioneer in Seward County. Out of his labors and investments he has secured thirty-seven quarter sections of land in a single body. All of this is fenced and about 600 acres are in cultivation, devoted to small grain and live stock feeds. Mr. Stout exercised his influence to get Fargo Township to vote bonds for the support of the Rock Island Railway and has been liberal with his means and efforts in support of everything that he thought would benefit the community. He became interested in Arkalon after almost every one else had moved away. At one time Arkalon contained a population of about 500. But the people gradually left, the business houses closed their doors, and about the time the last merchant retired Mr. Stout came upon the scene, bought a store house and installed a stock of goods, and from the fall of 1903 to the present has been the leading merchant of the town and has maintained it as a spot of trade and the rallying point for some of the activities and prosperity which are bound to come in the future.
Mr. Stout married after coming to Seward County, on January 1, 1896, Miss Cora Larrabee, daughter of Henry and Kate Larrabee. Mrs. Stout was born in Indiana, from which state her parents came to Kansas. She has a sister, Lena, wife of F. M. Macey, of Liberal, Kansas, another sister, Mrs. May Bush, of Arizona, and a brother, Lee Larrabee, who is a prominent business man of Seward County and a resident of Liberal. Mr. and Mrs. Stout have children growing up to manhood and womanhood in whom the parents deservedly take the greatest pride and interest. The names of these young people are Ward, Cecil, Billy, Barbara and Victor. His residence has all the conveniences of city life.
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.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
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