Biography of William B. Wade

William B. Wade. When the pioneers of 1854, who were men of solid worth, as was William B. Wade, later a member of the First Territorial Legislature of Kansas, came to Shawnee County, it was for the peaceful conquest of the soil and for the establishing of permanent homes in which they could rear their families to succeed them with credit to state and parentage. These pioneers were home-seekers, not restless, irresponsible wanderers, and, while many brought a measure of capital, all came with sturdy, industrious habits insuring the earning of it. The historian of today looks back over the intervening period and may, with admiring wonder, contemplate some of the hardships which faced our pioneers of sixty years ago that they overcame through their courage and resourcefulness. History on many a printed page, has told the story of danger and conflict that ensued with the coming of the white man into Kansas, and in 1854 there was still serious menace. While pioneer life was necessarily simple, the most primitive demands of existence made striving necessary, and in Shawnee County self denial was obligatory and the merest comfort a luxury. With no adequate means of heating the rude log cabins, into which came frequently the deepest mysteries of life (birth and death), with no machinery and often with no tools with which to clear or cultivate the wild land secured from the government, with no modern methods of transportation and often with no reachable markets for sale of products or purchase of supplies, the mere preservation of life presented serious problems. Added to the strain of hard labor, social recreations as such, were often unknown and the tension on strained nerves was as harmful as on overworked muscles.

Nevertheless, with knowledge of such conditions and unawed by them, William B. Wade left the comforts and civilizating influences of his eastern home and in 1854 came to Kansas. In his native state he had been a man of some importance and, the time came when, from situations as above pictured, in his new home he developed public order and secured financial independence. His superiority in education, judgment and faithful devotion to public interests were soon acknowledged by the other settlers and he was chosen their representative in that remarkable body of statesmen, the First Territorial Legislature of Kansas. There were no railroads through Shawnee County at that time and Mr. Wade rode on horseback, as did our distinguished legislators in colonial days, to attend the session and take part in its deliberations.

William B. Wade was born near Richmond, Wayne County, Indiana, and was a son of Thomas and Mary Wade. Undoubtedly they were of New England ancestry and probably of old Quaker stock. Indiana still claims many of the name. An agricultural life was chosen by William B. Wade but the spirit of enterprise also possessed him and hence removal was made first to La Salle County, Illinois, and from there, in 1854, to Kansas. He located first on a claim on Rock Creek, near Meriden, in Jefferson County. The trip was a long and tiresome one at that time, the travelers finding railroad accommodations only to St. Louis, Missouri. They journeyed up the river to Leavenworth and there hired teams to take them to their destination. During the three years that they lived on Rock Creek a one-room cabin was the family home. It was often visited by the Indians and the wild beasts of the prairies had not yet been exterminated. It was while he yet lived on Rock Creek that Mr. Wade was elected to the territorial legislature and helped to build the constitution of the state. In 1857 he removed with his family to the northwest corner of what is now Tecumseh Township, Shawnee County. During his declining years he sold the place and removed to Topeka, living a retired life in that city until his death in 1895, when aged eighty-two years.

William B. Wade was united in marriage with Caroline Burbank, who was born in Vermont. Seven children were born to this union, six of whom grew to maturity, and of the three survivors one is Mrs. Susan Dawson, who is the widow of Benjamin Franklin Dawson, formerly of Shawnee County.

William B. Wade was a stanch Free Soil man and many political battles were fought in those carly days between the Free Soil and the Proslavery factions. Mr. Wade never relinquished his principles and in this regard had the hearty co-operation of two of his sons, Samuel B. and Spencer P., both of whom are now deceased. He was influential in the Masonic fraternity. Generosity and kindness marked his personal attitude to every one. No history of Shawnee County would be complete without honorable mention of this early settler and legislator.



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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