Gen. Wilder S. Metcalf has been a resident of Kansas since 1887, and developed and is now sole owner of the business known as the Wilder S. Metcalf Farm Mortgage Agency at Lawrence. It is one of the oldest and best known agencies of the kind in the state and its business operations cover twenty-five or thirty counties in Kansas and Oklahoma.
He is the only man who held the office of United States pension agent at Topeka for two successive terms. The Topeka agency was the largest in the United States, covering five states, and through it were distributed more than $18,000,000 annually in pensions. General Metcalf was appointed to the office by President Roosevelt in December, 1901, taking charge of the office on March 1, 1902, was reappointed by Mr. Roosevelt in January, 1906, and managed the agency until September 1, 1910.
He is perhaps most widely known for his active connection with military affairs. Before coming to Kansas he was a resident of Ohio and for three years was a member of the Ohio National Guard, advancing from private to first lieutenant. At Lawrence he enlisted as a private in the Kansas National Guard. He held every position in the First Regiment from private to colonel, and was colonel in 1898 when the Spanish-American war broke out. He accepted a commission as major in the famous Twentieth Kansas Regiment under Col. Frederick Funston. He spent a year in the Philippines and from May to October, 1899, was in command of his regiment during the Filipino insurrection. He became colonel of the regiment upon Colonel Funston’s promotion to brigadier general, and received every vote of the regiment except one. In October the Twentieth Kansas returned home. General Metcalf was twice wounded during this service. In the fall of 1899 he was brevetted brigadier general by President McKinley. He soon afterwards resumed the position of colonel of the First Infantry of the Kansas National Guard. In 1909 the secretary of war appointed him a member of the National Militia Board, consisting of five members. He was colonel of the First Kansas Regiment during the service on the Mexican border in 1916.
Wilder Stevens Metcalf was born at Milo, Maine, September 10, 1855. He spent most of his youth in Elyria, Ohio, where various members of the family still reside. The Metcalfs have been prominent for generations. They have achieved success and distinction in business and military affairs in various professions, and many of them have been widely known as scholars and educators. The publication “Who’s Who in America” contains sketches of many Metcalfs, including General Metcalf, and several of his relatives.
The Metcalf family had been in America for nearly three centuries. Michael Metcalf, who headed the first American generation, was a manufacturer of tapestry at Norwich, England. He arrived in Dedham, Massachusetts, in 1637, having left England because of religious persecution. He was a zealous non-Conformist. He was of the Yorkshire Metcalf family, whose name first appears in 1278, and the descent is traced from a Dane who came to England with King Canute in 1016. Michael Metcalf’s service in Dedham included teaching in the first public schoolhouse erected in this country. He married Sarah Elwyn, a daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Elwyn of Hingham, Norfolk County, England. The second generation was represented by Michael Metcalf, who married Mary Fairbanke, daughter of Jonathan Fairbanke, Sr., who built the Fairbanke House at Dedham. In the third generation is Eleazer Metcalf. Michael Metcalf, of the fourth generation, married Abigail Colburn. Peletiah Metcalf, of the fifth generation, married Hepzibah, daughter of Rev. Samuel Mann, who was the first minister of Wrentham. The sixth generation was also headed by Peletiah Metcalf, second child of Peletiah and Hepzibah.
Isaac Metcalf, of the seventh generation, was born at Royalston, Massachusetts, where he was a very successful teacher, both there and in adjacent towns and later in Boston. His first wife was Lucy Heywood. For his second wife he married Anna Mayo (Stevens) Rich, a widow. She was one of the pupils of Isaac Metcalf in Warwick, Massachusetts, when a girl. Isaac and Anna Stevens Metcalf had four children. One of them, the eldest, was Isaac Stevens Metcalf, father of General Metcalf. The youngest of the children was Eliab W. Metcalf, long prominent in business and public affairs in Ohio and father of several sons whose achievements in business, educational and scientific lines have made them famous.
Isaac Stevens Metcalf, father of General Metcalf, was born in Royalston, Massachusetts, January 29, 1822. He graduated from Bowdoin College in 1846, practiced as a civil engineer in New England, and in 1849 came West and had charge as civil engineer of one of the divisions during the construction of the Illinois Central Railway. He was connected with that road until 1855 when it was completed, and then declined an offer of a permanent position with the road. He returned to Maine on a visit and while there General Metcalf was born. In 1856 the family located in Elyria, Ohio, where Isaac Stevens Metcalf lived until his death in 1897. Too old for active service in the field, he nevertheless served as a colonel in the Ohio Home Guard during the war. Isaac S. Metcalf married Antoinette Brigham Putnam, whose father, Rev. John Milton Putnam, was a Congregational minister in New England. The Putnams were prominent in revolutionary times.
Wilder S. Metcalf was reared in Elyria, graduating from the Elyria High School in 1872, and from Oberlin College in 1878. After leaving college he became bookkeeper for a wholesale cheese and butter firm at Wellington, Ohio. In 1887 he removed to Kansas, and on the first of April of that year located at Lawrence and became associated with Edward Russell in the farm mortgage business. The firm of Russell & Metcalf continued until the death of Mr. Russell in 1898. Since then General Metcalf had been sole owner of the business.
General Metcalf was delegate at large in the republican national convention at Philadelphia in 1900, when McKinley and Roosevelt were nominated to head the party ticket. While General Metcalf was absent on the Mexican border in 1916 he was nominated for the State Senate, and was elected in November of that year. For eighteen years he served as a member of the Lawrence School Board and several years as its president. He is a member of the Military Order of Foreign Wars, Army of the Philippines, of the United Spanish War Veterans, the Military Order Carabao, and had a congressional medal for service in the Philippines. He also belongs to the Army and Navy Club of Washington, the Kansas City Club, the University Club of Kansas City, the Topeka Club, the Phi Gamma Delta, the Phi Delta Phi, and is a Knight Templar and a noble of the Mystic Shrine. General Metcalf was married July 30, 1878, to Mary Eliza Crosier of Wellington, Ohio. Mrs. Metcalf died September 8, 1914. He later married Alice L. Bullene.