Biography of Thomas E. Wagstaff

An attorney of long and successful experience in Montgomery County, both in Coffeyville and Independence, Thomas E. Wagstaff had been and is a leader in republican politics in the state, and a few years ago his name beeame known all over Kansas as a candidate for nomination to the office of governor. He lost the nomination by only a few votes. This was in 1910, when W. R. Stubbs was nominated and afterwards elected.

His family have been identified with Kansas for forty years. Thomas E. Wagstaff was born at Galesburg, Illinois, July 23, 1875, and was still an infant when brought to this state. His father, Richard T. Wagstaff, who died at Lawrenec in 1901, is said to have been the best known traveling salesman in Kansas, and was known among retail merchants, the traveling fraternity in general, and a great host of other citizens by the affectionate title of “Uncle Dick.” For years he represented a hardware honse of St. Louis, and traveled over all the State of Kansas. He was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1842, a son of Robert Wagstaff, a native of the same place. The Wagstaff family in Ireland were of the gentry, and back in the times of the protectorate Oliver Cromwell gave thom grants of land which are still owned by their descendants. Robert Wagstaff came to America at the close of the Civil war and lived in Monmouth, Illinois, until his death. Richard T. Wagstaff came to this country in 1859 and lived in Monmouth, Illinois, until the breaking out of the Civil war. He enlisted in Company A of the Eightythird. Illinois Infantry, and was in service until the close of the war. At Fort Donclson he was wounded and it was these injuries sustained while fighting for his adopted country that ultimately brought about his death. After the war he returned to Monmouth, but in 1877 moved to Lawrence, Kansas. His popularity as a traveling man is further indicated by the fact that he was first grand councillor of the United Commercial Travelers. He was an active member of the Episcopal Church, and in Ireland had been educated for the ministry. He married Mary E. Jarrell, who was born in Clarksville, Tennessee, in 1849 and died at Lawrence, Kansas, in 1894. Their children, eight in number, were: Henry S., a traveling salesman living at Grand Island, Nebraska; Minnie, who died in 1891, was the wife of Dr. A. J. Anderson, a physician and surgeon at Lawrence; Robert B., a grocer at Lawrence; Richard, who died at the age of ten years; Thomas E.; Mary Belle is the wife of Meritt Jeffries, who is assistant cashier in the Reserve National Bank at Kansas City, Missouri; Charles A., who died at the age of twenty-three; and Bessie, who also died at the age of twenty-three.

Thomas E. Wagstaff had a very fine scholastic training as a preparation for his profession and public career. He attended the public school at Lawrence, gradnated from high school there in 1894, and in 1897 graduated LL. B. from the law department of the Kansas State University. He then went East and pursned post-graduate work in the New York University, from which he received the degree LL. M. in 1898.

Admitted to the bar before the Supreme Court of Kansas June 8, 1897, he did his first work as a lawyer in Lawrence, beginning in the fall of 1898 with the firm of Poehler & Mason. In 1899 he moved to Coffeyville, and was in active practice in that city until January 1, 1905. Having been elected county attorney of Montgomery County in the previous fall, he moved to Independence, and gave all his zeal and energy to his public duties for the term of two years. Since them he had carried on a large civil and criminal practice at Independence, his offices being at 204 1/2 North Penn Avenue. While living at Coffeyville he also served as city attorney and Governor Stanley appointed him to fill out the unexpired term of W. E. Ziegler, who had resigned the office of judge of court at Coffeyville. This was in 1902. In a business way Mr. Wagstaff is connected with several oil companies.

He is a member of the Montgomery County Bar Association, the Kansas State Bar Association and the American Bar Association, and in politics is a republican. He also belongs to the Kansas State Historical Society, had served as president of the Independent Commercial Club, is vice president of the Independent Rotary Club, and is a member of the Episcopal Church, in which he had served as vestryman. He believes in the essential prineiples of fraternalism, and is affiliated with Keystone Lodge No. 102, Aneient Free and Accepted Masons, at Coffeyville; Keystone Chapter No. 22, Royal Arch Masons; St. Bernard Commandery No. 10, Knights Templar; Mirzah Temple of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, was a charter member of Coffeyville Lodge No. 775, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and now belongs to Independent Lodge No. 778, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

In Coffeyville in 1903 Mr. Wagstaff married Miss Jane Morna Wilson, daughter of Capt. E. E. and Morna Wilson. Her father was one of the founders of the City of Independence, was a merchant and banker, very prominent in early affairs, served as second mayor of the town in 1871, and was also county trcasurer of Montgomery County. Mr. and Mrs. Wagstaff have two children: Morna Bell, born Decomber 23, 1905, and now a student in the public schools; and Robert W., born November 16, 1909.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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