Biography of Henry Jackson Waters

Henry Jackson Waters, president of the Kansas State Agricultural College at Manhattan since 1909, is a leader in that group of men who have served to elevate and dignify the science of agriculture. His work and influence are of growing value every passing year. His reputation is by no means confined to Kansas and Missouri, the states in which most of his work had been done. The agricultural journals and writers all over the country are coming to pay special attention and respect to any movement or experiment with which the name Henry Jackson Waters is in any way associated.

Professor Waters was born at Center in Ralls County, Missouri, November 23, 1865, and is a son of the late George Washington and Lavinia Jane (Smith) Waters. His grandfather, George Waters, was a Tennesseean, moved from Wilson in that state to Missouri in 1829, and after a short residence in Pike County moved to a farm in Ralls County, where he not only followed farming but also preached as a minister of the Gospel. Professor Waters comes from a long line of agriculturists, and his father in particular was for years a noted authority on many phases of agriculture, and gained the reputation of being an expert not so much from his association with the former schools and laboratories of agriculture as from the stern school of practical experience.

The late Col. George W. Waters was born in Ralls County, Missouri, August 1, 1836, and died at his home in Hope, Arkansas, February 23, 1906. He was reared in a country district, attended local schools, also an academy at Louisiana, Missouri, and began a college career in the University of Arkansas, where his studies were interrupted by ill health in 1859 and the outbreak of the war put an end permanently to his aspirations for a university education. He followed farming in Ralls County in Missouri near his father’s old homestead until 1892, when he removed to Canton, Missouri, to give his children the advantages of the Christian University. Only a few years before his death he had removed to Hope, Arkansas.

Col. George W. Waters became widely known throughout the Middle West as a Farmers Institute lecturer and as an agricultural writer. He began institute work in 1886, several years before any appropriation was made by Missouri for that purpose. He paid his own expenses and was truly a pioneer in agricultural education. Later he was among the first selected by the state board of agriculture for carrying on the Farmers Institute service and continued that work almost until his death. He visited every county and almost every farming community of Missouri. During all this time he was a constant contributor to agricultural publications and especially to Colman’s Rural World of St. Louis. He contributed practically all the material that made up Missouri’s agricultural exhibits at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893, performed a similar service as a commissioner from Missouri to the Omaha Exposition, and was assistant superintendent of the agricultural department from Missouri at the St. Louis Exposition. He had been called the father of the good roads movement in Missouri and was the author of several laws passed by the Legislature for the improvement of roads. He was active in the movement for the improvement of corn, and it is said that he did more to accomplish that purpose than any other man in Missouri. Some of his striking characteristics were thus summed up in Colman’s Rural World in an article published shortly after his death:

“He was essentially a pioneer, a pathfinder, a leader. He was among the first men of his community to breed registered Shorthorn cattle and registered Cotswold sheep at first, and later Shropshires and Berkshire hogs. He was among the first in his community and in the state to adopt a systematic rotation of crops and a definite plan of building up the fertility of his farm. He was a student, a man to whom the intellectual side of farming appealed strongly, a man with a frail body but a rugged, vigorous mind, a man who at the age of fifty, becoming interested in the science of agriculture was able to master the fundamentals, the underlying principles of the sciences in their relation to its practice, and to teach as sound agriculture as the men who had had the benefit of an agricultural college training. In addition to this, his acquaintance with the practical part of this industry made his teaching of unusual value and importance. He was a peacemaker, and throughout his own life acted as a buffer between the contending elements of families, neighbors, political parties; he was a philanthropist, with no thought or care for personal advantage or gain and willing to give his best thought and effort to the advancement of the interests of mankind. Above all, he was a Christian, having been an elder in the church of his choice for nearly fifty years.”

About the beginning of the Civil war Colonel Waters married Lavinia Smith, daughter of Alfred Smith, an early pioneer in Ralls County, Missouri. Colonel Waters was survived by his widow and seven children, among whom Henry Jackson was the third in age.

Henry Jackson Waters spent his early life on his father’s farm in Ralls County. He was one of the first graduates from the Missouri Agricultural College, taking his degree Bachelor of Science of Agriculture in 1886. Because of his work and attainments he was made in later years a recipient of further scholastic honors. In 1913 the New Hampshire State College conferred upon him the honorary degree LL. D., and he was similarly honored by the University of Missouri in 1916. Immediately after his graduation he was a member of the faculty of the State Agricultural College of Missouri, and served as assistant secretary of the Missouri State Board of Agriculture from 1886 to 1888, and as assistant in agriculture to the Missouri Experiment Station from 1888 to 1891. His ability next attracted the attention of the State of Pennsylvania and in 1891 he was made professor of agriculture in the Pennsylvania State College and agriculturist of the Pennsylvania Experiment Station, serving until 1895. There were only three students at the Pennsylvania Experiment Station when he took charge. He visited every county in Pennsylvania and worked up an interest in the subject until when he left the college it had more than 100 pupils enrolled.

From Pennsylvania Doctor Waters returned to Missouri to become dean of the College of Agriculture, director of the Experiment Station and professor of agriculture of the University of Missouri, a connection he retained until 1909. The Missouri Agricultural College had suffered much by its subordination to the State University, and under him its administration was made more independent and progressive, and in thirteen years it had grown to be the second most important state school in Missouri. In the meantime other opportunities and honors had come to Doctor Waters. During 1902 he served as instructor in animal nutrition at the Graduate School of Agriculture, University of Ohio. From 1901 to 1903 he gave most of his time to agricultural exhibits for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis. He served as director of the Missouri State Agricultural Exhibit at that fair during 1903-04 and its work was carried on under his direct personal supervision.

The year following the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Doctor Waters utilized the year of absence from his university duties in going abroad and pursuing studies at the universities of Leipzig and Zurich during 1904-05, under the eminent German authorities, Doctor Kelner and Doctor Zuntz. While in Europe he was elected president of the Agricultural College of California, but declined that office, and similarly declined to become president of the Colorado Agricultural College. During 1906 he was instructor in animal nutrition at the Graduate School of Agriculture, University of Ohio. He served as president of the Missouri State Board of Agriculture during 1908-09. In that year he accepted the call to become president of the Kansas State Agricultural College at Manhattan.

Doctor Waters was president of the Kansas State Teachers’ Association in 1911-12, and was president of the International Dry Farming Congress in 1913-14. In 1914 he was special commissioner to the Philippine Islands. He was also president of the American Society for the Promotion of Agricultural Science during 1913-14. Doctor Waters is a democrat, and is a member of the Episcopal Church. He was married June 3, 1897, to Miss Margaret Watson, of Columbia, Missouri. He is a member of the American Nutrition Society, of the Phi Beta Kappa, the Sigma Xi and the Alpha Zeta. Doctor Waters is author of the “Essentials of Agriculture,” 1915; the “Development of the Philippine Islands,” 1915.



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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