Thursday, April 5, 2012

William L. Webster

William L. Webster is my wife's great-great-grandfather on her mother's side. Neither my wife nor anyone else in her family had ever heard of him until I found the connection.

One of William Shakespeare's most quoted passages is uttered by the chronically melancholy Jacques De Bois in As You Like It,  Act II Scene VII.
 All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, ...

William L. Webster's time on the stage of Kansas history was brief, from 1857 until sometime shortly after 1860. During that time he participated in the Free State Movement, joined in the Constitutional Convention, farmed, fathered, and survived a violent time. Then, his trail goes cold. I can not find any records of William or his family, until his daughter Fannie marries Charles Miles many years later.

William L, Webster

William L. Webster was originally from New York. The 1860 census tells us that. (Page 27, entries 7 through 12.) He was 41 years of age at the time of the census and married to Julia, who was 13 years his junior. He must have lived in California at or near the time of the California Gold Rush, for a daughter Martha was born there. In all, there were three daughters living at the time of the census, Martha, Fannie, and Josephine, ages 5, 3, and 1. (Fannie is my wife's ancestor.) The census tells us that too.

From California, we can surmise, he and his young family moved to Kansas. For in 1857, he appears in Anderson County, Kansas near Garnett. Anderson county is undulating, farmland, divided into bottom land, timber and rolling upland, bordered by the branches of Pottawatomie Creek.

The census of 1860 records that he owned 4,000 acres, although the county records can confirm only 640 acres. The exact location of his homestead is just to the north of Garnett, along Highway 169 on the way to Osawatomee. (Between roads 1900 and 2000). In the Spring of 2012, the fields are green with new wheat. The corn crop has yet to be planted. Small gatherings of cattle graze the grass. The Pottawatomie Creek runs full, and along the banks walnut, cottonwood, oak, hickory, hack-berry, elm, sycamore, and maples trees are plentiful. The presence of deer is evident today and in 1857, game would have been bountiful.

William Webster figured prominently in the settlement of Anderson County. At one time or another he was a delegate to the Free-State Convention, County Treasurer, and Supervisor of Buildings.

In 1857 or 1859, a daughter, Fannie was born, and two years later another daughter Josephine. Fannie and her two sisters would survive the Indians, the Ruffians, the sickness and disease that took far too many lives. Fannie would later marry my wife's great grandfather, Charles Dallas Miles. This Charles Dallas Miles had a son named Frank Ottley Miles. He, in turn, had three children, one of whom was Mary Miles. She married Robert Van Huss, and from this union was born by wife, Robin.

Bill, if I may call him that, I suppose his wife Julia called him by that name, fought against the Border Ruffians from Missouri who terrorized the Free-Staters. He must have been an acquaintance of John Brown, who fought against the Missourians, with whom he shared the stage. He was steadfast in his views of a Free Kansas. He was County Treasurer, delegate to the Free State Convention, farmer, father of three young girls.

And then, after the U.S. Census of 1860, he again disappears from the stage of history. There is no record of him, either before or after.

Back to Shakespeare's As You Like It. There are seven stages to this life.

          [The seven parts are listed. Read it you wish to find your stage in life.]
Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
At one time or another, I suppose we have all felt like a bit player in a stage show . So, Bill was pretty much spot on in looking at life as a progression from mewling and suckling infant to doddering fool, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything, with a moment or two center stage. I am writing this as American Idol plays in the background. Somebody is saved, to go on another day. Somebody is singing to be saved, not knowing if his day in the sun is done. "One save", if it were only so easy to keep our hopes and dreams alive.

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