WILLIAM C. WASHBURN was one of the first settlers at Elkhart, camping there the night before the sale of town lots, and almost immediately engaged in business as manager of the Star Lumber Company, which he still continues along with various other public spirited activities which have made him a forceful factor in the upbuilding of the community.
Mr. Washburn was born at Niles, Michigan, April 11, 1879. His father died the same year, and in 1880 he and his widowed mother came out to Kansas, where she entered a homestead in the northwest portion of Pratt County, near the present Town of Byers. The earliest recollections of William C. Washburn are of Western Kansas, and as a boy he played and rode all over this part of the country. In 1886 his mother abandoned the homestead and moved to Larned.
William C. Washburn spent his early youth at Larned, finished the high school there, and in 1902 graduated from the Kansas State Normal. While he qualified for teaching and spent one year in the schools of Garfield, he found the occupation little in harmony with his real tastes, which were in the direction of business. His first business employment was in the postoffice at Larned under Postmaster Frank Johnson, but a few months later he found his opportunity to engage in the lumber business as an employee of the Lindas Lumber Company. He was advanced to the position of auditor and remained with the company until 1909, when the Home Lumber and Supply Company gave him the responsibility of closing up an old yard at Larned. In the capacity of manager he was with the S. J. Houston Lumber Company of Hutchinson until he entered the service of the Star Company in 1913.
He is one of the stockholders and directors of this company. When the completed section of the railroad was still four miles from Elkhart Mr. Washburn came to the proposed town site, and the first night he and his companion, Lee Larrabee, pitched their tent in front of where the front gate of the Star Lumber Company now is. They picked up "chips" with which to cook their supper, and spent the night there. The next day the townsite company occupied their tent as an office for the sale of town lots. Washburn and Larrabee bought at that sale the present site of the Star yard. The material for building their lumber office was hauled from Liberal, and the first lot of lumber came in with the completion of the Tailroad, arriving on May 9, 1913. This is the pioneer lumber yard of Elkhart and it has supplied a wide range of territory, even as far away as 125 miles. The surrounding prairies are dotted over with houses and other buildings which were hauled out from this yard.
As already indicated Mr. Washburn has done more than supply business enterprise to Elkhart. He was the first mayor of the town by election, was active in the movement to incorporate, and has done a good deal to improve the local schools, though he has never served on the board. He was one of the organizers of the Elkhart Commercial Club, and has always been one of its directors. This club has proved a strong and effective organization. Its road building achievement has been conspicuous, and it has exercised a general oversight over the welfare of Elkhart and community. Through its influence the Dallas-Canadian-Denver highway was laid out through Elkhart. At present Mr. Washburn is one of the board of food administrators of Kansas, by appointment from J. H. Waters and is food administrator for Morton County.
He exercised his homestead right within a mile and a quarter of Elkhart, and has his patent to the southwest quarter of section 4, township 35, range 42. He himself has discovered that this is more of a stock and feed growing locality than a purely agricultural region, and his individual example has served to make that discovery available to many other poeple[sic] in this region, so that the old methods of farming have been abandoned and the land has been stocked with cattle. Many silos have been constructed for the preservation of feed. This soil is well adapted for the construction of pit silos. At different times Mr. Washburn has held out inducements to the farmers to build such silos and has made arrangements to furnish the capital, wherever necessary, for a year. Politically Mr. Washburn is a republican. He is a master of the Masonic Lodge in Elkhart, belongs to the Knights Templar Commandery, and is affiliated with Midian Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Wichita. He took his first degree in Masonry at Larned.
Mr. Washburn's parents were John and Angie (Babcock) Washburn. His father was a native of Michigan, spent his life as a farmer and was a Union soldier, being in the Thirty-sixth Michigan Infantry in General Grant's army. As already noted, he died in 1879, and his son William C. was the youngest of three children and the only one to grow up. Mrs. Angie Washburn was born in Michigan October 17, 1846. She is now the wife of Robert Griffin. In 1908 they moved from Larned to Missouri and now live at Lowry City in that state. Robert Griffin was also an old soldier, was in the Fifty-sixth New York Infantry, saw active service in the Army of the Potomac, and at the battle of Malvern Hill was wounded and incapacitated for further duty.
On October 12, 1907, William C. Washburn married at Kansas City, Kansas, Miss Grace Stockton. Her father, Douglas C. Stockton, is a live stock commission man, a native of Missouri, and for thirty-five years has been a familiar figure in the Kansas City stockyards. He married Laura Davidson, who is the mother of Mrs. Washburn, born October 12, 1884, and another daughter, Miss Blanche, and a son Ray, both of Kansas City. Mrs. Washburn was liberally educated, attending both the Kansas Normal School and the Kansas University.
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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