William Prosser, the subject of this sketch, is one of the most prosperous farmers of Meredith township. He was born in Schuylkill county, Pennsylvania, in 1835. His parents were Edward and Mary (Reese) Prosser. His father was of Welsh origin and born in 1806. His mother died when our subject was a mere child and he was reared by his grandfather, who was a farmer. Mr. Prosser's mother was a native of Wales and emigrated to America with her husband in 1829; her father was a miller.
At the age of ten years Mr. Prosser moved with his parents to Bloomsburg, Columbia county, PennsyIvania, and early in life learned the shoemaker's trade. In the spring of 1857 he emigrated west, settling in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, where he worked at his trade and attended school until the spring of 1859, when, in company with a brother and several friends, he started overland for Pike's Peak. They arrived at Little Blue river and at this point began meeting "earIy starters" who seemingly were in a hurry to return and informed Mr. Prosser's party that the road was crowded with people all on the "back track." They were loth to believe the report and remained by the wayside for several days to investigate and as a result they also retraced their journey and were very anxious to return where they could find employment. Arriving in St. Louis Mr. Prosser obtained work, which proved unsatisfactory, and he returned to Illinois, locating in Caseyville, where he remained until the breaking out of the Civil war.
His brother located at Union City, Tennessee, where he worked at his trade, that of a plasterer. However, he had tarried too long and when he desired to leave they questioned his right. The condition of things was critical even at St. Louis, where martial law was in force. Mr. Prosser wrote him to the effect that if he would join him at Caseyville they would emigrate to the mountains together and thus avoid the "present trouble," but in the event that he joined the Confederate army our subject would become a Union soldier. The vigilance committee presented the letter, stating they must know its contents, and after they were satisfied that the brother would leave the state, they gave him leave of absence and he made all haste to get away.
He joined Mr. Prosser at Caseyville, and together they returned to Pennsylvania and enlisted in Company D, Eighty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, under Captain Torick, with Colonel Murray as regimental commander. Mr. Prosser served almost four years, but his brother was killed in their first battle at Winchester, March 23, 1862. Mr. Prosser received a flesh wound in the arm and was sent to the hospital at Philadelphia, remaining until August. They left Harrisburg December 29, 1861. Their colonel was also killed at Winchester. Mr. Prosser participated in the battles of Bull Run September 2, 1862, Fredericksburg December 11-12, and Chancellorsville May 2-3, where he was taken prisoner and detained in Richmond, Virginia; thirteen days later he was paroled and sent to Camp Washington, where he remained until rejoining his regiment the following September. He was in the battle of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Petersburg, Virginia, and various other engagements until August 16, 1864, when he was again captured at Deep Bottom and cast into Libby prison, remaining two weeks. From there they were taken to Belle Isle and two months later to Salisbury, North Carolina, where he suffered intensely from hunger and exposure. In this prison there were nine thousand men on November 1 and the latter part of January, but four thousand remained. They were deceased at the rate of fifty per day, piled on wagons like cord wood and hauled out. After leaving Libby they expected better treatment, but with every change their condition grew worse and upon reaching Salisbury the crisis came and was fearful in its enormity. On their camp, which consisted of seven acres of ground, the prisoners made bricks of mud and erected places of shelter, which melted with the first rain. So ravenous were they for food the starving victims chewed the dried stumps of sorghum cane, extracted soup from meatless bones and afterward baked, broke and ate them. They were physical wrecks and suffered all the horrors of a southern prison, but these brave men would rather die than enter the rebel ranks or go on to the fortifications. They had no shelter, but dug holes and piled sand over them for protection. Their rations consisted of raw flour with no means of cooking it and they were forced to eat paste. Mr. Prosser was released from this place of incarceration February 21, 1865, and placed in the hospital at Richmond, where he remained two weeks. He was mustered out July 6, 1865, at Philadelphia, returned to Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, and two years later emigrated to Collinsville, Illinois, where he worked at his trade. After various removals to different parts of that state, in 1884 he came to Cloud county and purchased the old Solomon Pace homestead in Meredith township, which he has improved and made one of the finest farms in that vicinity. He owns two hundred acres of land and makes wheat raising his chief industry.
Mr. Prosser was married in 1871 to Martha Medora, a daughter of Simon Smith, an old settler of Johnson county, Missouri, formerly of Tennessee. To Mr. and Mrs. Prosser six children have been born, viz: The eldest son, William F., a farmer in Meredith township, married Gertie Upjohn (they are the parents of one child, a little daughter, Ada); Mary, their only daughter, is the wife of Wilbur F. Powell, an Ottawa county farmer; Edward is a farmer of Lyon township; Howell is interested with his father; the two younger sons are Oliver and Emmett, aged seventeen and fourteen years, respectively.
Mr. Prosser is a Republican in politics and takes an intelligent interest in political affairs. The family are members and active workers in the Bethel Methodist Episcopal church, of which Mr. Prosser is steward and trustee. He is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic Post of Delphos. The Prosser home is a pleasant one and as the passerby approaches, his attention is attracted toward the neat and freshly painted cottage that bespeaks the comfort of its inmates and a fine bank barn that insures his stock are also well cared for. Mr. and Mrs. Prosser are good people and the class that every community needs more of.
Transcribed from E.F. Hollibaugh's Biographical history of Cloud County, Kansas biographies of representative citizens. Illustrated with portraits of prominent people, cuts of homes, stock, etc. [n.p., 1903] 919p. illus., ports. 28 cm.
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