Albert B. Willard. Historically one of the most interesting communities in Southeastern Kansas is Baxter Springs. The history of that town might possibly be written without reference to the name Willard, but could not be adequately told without reference to the enterprise and activities established and carried on by members of that family.
One of the real founders of the town and for many years one of its most prominent merchants was the late Albert Willard. The Willard family is of Scotch-Irish ancestry, and had been identified with America since Colonial days, when the first of the name established a home in New York State. The late Albert Willard was born in Erie County, New York, in November, 1836. When he was about five years of age he was left an orphan, and was reared in Indiana. He was a Kansan of the territorial period. In 1856 he arrived at Fort Scott, Kansas, and in the following year became a pioneer at old Baxter Springs. By occupation he was a miller. During the Civil War he had charge of the government trains engaged in hauling supplies between Fort Scott, Kansas, and old Fort Gibson in Indian Territory. For years he was the leading business man of Baxter Springs, and it can truthfully be said that his enterprise and influence were one of the solid cornerstones on which the town was builded. He was in the cattle feeding business, was a general merchant, sold implements, and several of the business lines which he established are now conducted by his son.
He arrived in Southeastern Kansas when Baxter Springs was on the frontier, on the fringe of white settlement, and an outpost against the Indian tribes that lived in this section of Kansas and a little south in Indian Territory. He helped to establish law and order and maintain it, and for a time was president of the Vigilance Committee. In a calmer and more settled period of the town history he was a member of the council and for years was on the school board. In politics he was a stanch republican. His only fraternity was the Ancient Order of United Workmen.
By his first marriage Albert Willard had one daughter, Mattie, who died at Baxter Springs in 1888, the wife of Louis Halsey, who was a tombstone cutter and is now deceased also. Albert Willard married for his second wife Lucinda Ann Harland. She was born June 28, 1840, at Shoal Creek in Cherokee County, Kansas. Kansas was not in existence at that time, nor of course Cherokee County. Her family thus belonged to the pre-territorial period of Kansas affairs. This remarkable woman spent practically all her life in Cherokee County, except for a short time during the Civil war. Her death occurred at Baxter Springs in March, 1911. She was the mother of two sons: L. L. Willard and Albert B. Willard. L. L. Willard is associated with his brother Albert in business at Baxter Springs.
Albert B. Willard, a son of the pioneer business man and citizen of Baxter Springs, was born in that town October 3, 1884. His education was acquired in the local public schools, and when he left school in 1900 he had nearly completed the full course of high school. He at once took up work with his father, at first in the mill, and then entered the coal, ice and grain business, as successor to his father. The two brothers have carried on the chief business of its kind in the town. Their headquarters are on the west side along the Frisco tracks. There they have offices, storage rooms, ice plant, coal bins and elevator, and they are also in the coal and grain business at Neutral, Kansas, where they have another plant and warehouse.
Mr. Albert B. Willard owned over 400 acres in Cherokee County and is one of the practical stock raisers of this section. He also owned a fine residence on South Street in Baxter Springs, and he and his brother own the large office building on West Neosho Street where their plant is located.
The citizens of Baxter Springs honored themselves when they elected Albert B. Willard as mayor in April, 1915. Since he took charge of municipal affairs he had succeeded in paying off a large amount of the indebtedness of the city and at the same time had given a very progressive administration. He is a republican, and is affiliated with Baxter Lodge No. 71 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, Baxter Chapter No. 78, Royal Arch Masons, Galena Commandery No. 46 Knights Templar, with the Modern Woodmen of America, and is an active member of the Commercial Club of Baxter Springs.
August 31, 1903, at Baxter Springs he married Miss Della May Farris, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Farris, who reside at Joplin, Missouri. Her father was formerly a locomotive engineer with the Frisco Railway. Mr. and Mrs. Willard have one child, Anton, who was born May 10, 1905, and is now a student in the public schools.