Biography of Willard Volney Church

Willard Volney Church is one of the older settlers in Marion County. This county had been his home for upwards of forty years, and during that time he had played a varied part as a lawyer, public official and business man.

Mr. Church was born at Fort Ann, New York, February 16, 1853, a son of Volney and Harriet (Bush) Church. Mr. Church had the rather rare distinction at this time of being the grandson of a Revolutionary soldier. His grandfather, Willard Church was born at Mansfield, Connecticut, in 1758 and was a very young man when he took up arms and fought for independence from Great Britain. His father, Volney Church, was born in New York, February 25, 1804, and was reared and educated as a physician, but subsequently became a minister of the Baptist Church. To these two vocations he gave the best of his years and energy. In 1853 he removed to Hudson, Michigan, and his death occurred at Saginaw in that state in 1893. He and his wife were married May 19, 1831, at Whiting, Vermont. Harriet Bush was born at Norwell, Vermont, June 6, 1813, and she died at Fenton, Michigan, August 12, 1860. She was a very devout woman and in close sympathy with her husband in his ministerial labors. They had six children, four sons and two daughters: Harriet Eliza, who was born in June, 1832, and died at Hudson, Michigan, September 6, 1861; Frederick A., who was born February 5, 1834, and died in infancy; John P., born at Whiting, Vermont, September 12, 1840, had been an official in the United States weather bureau at Washington, D. C., since 1880; Marcia, born at Wales, Massachusetts, June 27, 1845, and died February 16, 1849; Frank Leroy, born March 26, 1850; and Willard V., the youngest.

In the same year of his birth Willard V. Church’s parents removed to Western Michigan, and he spent much of his early youth at Fenton, where he attended Fenton Seminary. He took up the study of law and was admitted to the bar at Detroit in 1875. Seeking a field for practice in the West, he came out to Kansas and was one of the pioneer members of the bar of Marion County. His location was at Peabody. He soon became editor of the Peabody Gazette, and managed that paper for one year. In 1877, selling his interests in Marion County, he removed to Mechanicsburg, Ohio, and with his brother John P. published the Central Ohio News for two years. He then returned to the home of his first choice, Peabody, Kansas, and bought a farm and was active in its management for six years. In 1890 Mr. Church was appointed deputy county clerk of Marion County, and in 1894 was elected county clerk and served two terms, four years. In 1899 Governor W. E. Stanley appointed Mr. Church state superintendent of insurance. At the following general election he was regularly chosen to that office on the republican ticket and had charge of the State Insurance Department of Kansas, altogether four years. Following this connection Mr. Church became district manager in Kansas for the Illinois Life Insurance Company, but in 1913 he located at Marion and concentrated his attention upon the real estate business.

Mr. Church is a Knight Templar Mason and belongs to the Federated Church of Marion. He was married at Peabody, Kansas, October 15, 1877, to Miss Ida L. Calbeck. She was born in Iowa February 17, 1860, a daughter of William and Elizabeth (Lichtenwalter) Calbeck. Her father, a native of Ireland, was one of the pioneers of Marion County, Kansas, and died at Peabody in 1900. Mrs. Church’s mother was of German origin and died at Peabody in 1915. Mr. and Mrs. Church have one child, Grace Edna. She was born at Mechanicsburg, Ohio, August 20, 1878, and was married in 1903 to John Calvin Smith. Mr. Smith is a native of Kansas, born in Cloud County, and is now in the wholesale lumber business in the Northwest. Mr. and Mrs. Smith have two children: Phillip Church, born May 20, 1907, and Barbara, born in 1917.



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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