Biography of William L. Nesmith

William L. Nesmith is one of the Kansas pioneers. He had lived in this state more than forty years, having come here in 1874 with his young wife and their wagon trip from Iowa was in the nature of a honeymoon journey.

For a great many years William Nesmith was actively engaged in merchandising and in other affairs at Wilson, and is now a resident of Salina and a member of the grocery house of Nesmith & Son. His public spirit as a citizen and his generous contributions to educational institutions and moral movements have been on a par with his notable business success.

His birth occurred April 24, 1852, in a log house on a farm in Van Buren County, Iowa. His parents were Joseph T. and Jane (Truscott) Nesmith, the former a native of Ohio and the latter of England. His father was born September 1, 1823, and spent his life as a farmer. For many years he lived in Ellsworth County, Kansas, and died at Wilson in this state December 1, 1898. He was an active member of the Methodist Protestant Church. In 1845, in Van Buren County, Iowa, he married Miss Truscott, who was born in 1829 in England, and came to America in 1836 with her parents, Stephen and Ann (Benny) Truscott, who lived to be past ninety years of age. Both the Nesmith and Truscott families were among the early pioneers of Iowa, having settled there when Iowa was still a territory. Mrs. Joseph Nesmith died in Iowa County of that state in 1904. All her life she was very sincere and devoted to the Christian religion. To their union were born ten children, five sons and five daughters, namely: Henry Truscott, born October 28, 1846, and died December 23, 1915; Eliza Jane, born September 3, 1850, and now the wife of S. E. Barton, a retired resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota; William L., who was the third in order of birth; Vinette, born April 5, 1854, now living at Fort Scott, Kansas, the widow of D. W. Tilton; Mary Luella, born April 20, 1856, the wife of George White, a farmer at Haigler, Nebraska; Cyrsey Ann, born October 28, 1860, and the wife of Orren Jordan, a farmer in Iowa County, Iowa; Ellwood, who died in infancy; Cora Maude, born in 1867 and the wife of I. D. Jordan, a fruit grower at Hotchkiss, Colorado; Frank Raymond, born September 15, 1870, and died October 26, 1895; and Roscoe Workman, born September 8, 1873, a merchant at Wilson, Kansas.

William L. Nesmith grew up on the old farm of his parents in Iowa. His early education was acquired in the public schools. At the age of nineteen he qualified as a teacher and began that profession, which occupied him chiefly for a number of years. Altogether he taught seven terms in Iowa County.

In April, 1874, at Sigourney, Iowa, he married Miss Clara H. Carhartt, who was born in a log house on a farm in Clark County, Missouri, February 15, 1854, a daughter of Lewis and Nancy W. (Pearson) Carhartt, the former a native of New York and the latter of Ohio. Mrs. Nesmith, like her husband, became a teacher and taught four years before her marriage and one year after. A few days after their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Nesmith as bride and groom set out in a wagon on a wedding tour and arrived in Kansas on the 22nd of April. They remained in this state only three months, and then returned to Iowa, where Mr. Nesmith resumed his work as a teacher and farmer.

His permanent location in Kansas was in 1877. At that time he located at Wilson and for thirty-one consecutive years was actively identified with merchandising in and around that point. Both Mr. and Mrs. Nesmith know what life in Kansas forty years ago meant. Their first home was a dugout. Practically all the hardships incident to pioneer life were part of their experience. The buffaloes had not yet disappeared from the plains and much of their provender was buffalo meat. Mr. Nesmith was one of the earliest members of the Episcopal Church at Wilson, and had always borne a large share in its activities. At Wilson he served as a member of the town council and one year as mayor. For more than a quarter of a century he was superintendent of the Methodist Sunday school at Wilson. He was also a leader in the temperance movement and other reforms in his community from their inception and it had always been a great gratification to him that he lived to see these moral movements accepted as a part of the practice and creed of the great majority of the people of the state.

At the same time he prospered as a business man. In 1908 he removed to Salina, and there continued the mercantile business under the firm name of Nesmith & Sons. Mr. Nesmith owned the Nesmith Block, and was formerly owner of the well known Shaeffer cattle ranch in Lincoln and Russell counties. This ranch he sold in 1915 for $60,000.

Since 1892 Mr. Nesmith had been one of the prominent members of the board of trustees of the Kansas Wesleyan University, and for four years served as president of the board. In 1913 he started the campaign for the endowment of a Bible chair at the university, a chair whose express purpose it is to teach Bible holiness. The endowment fund was set at $25,000 and he gave his personal check for $15,000 of that amount. Mr. Nesmith had never been a member of any secret society.

He and his wife have four children, all sons, and briefly mentioned as follows: Edgar LeRoy, born January 25, 1876, married April 7, 1897, Anna Greenhalgh, and their three children are named Clarence Richard, William C. and Clara Lois. Hal Joseph, born September 10, 1882, married June 6, 1906, Essie Stryker, and their three children are named Frank Albert, Harold and Margie. Verne Louis, born September 9, 1886, married Vera McGuire on April 18, 1908, and they have one child named Donald Louis. Aura Case, born July 4, 1893, graduated from the Kansas Wesleyan University with the class of 1914, won the first honors as orator of his school in the Inter-State Prohibition Oratorical Contest at Clinton, Missouri, June 20th of that year, and is now an active minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He married November 10, 1915, Neva Porter, and had one child, Vera Lynette, born August 28, 1916.



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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