Biography of Clement L. Wilson

This biography appears in
"A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans", written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918.

CLEMENT L. WILSON. One of the members of the graduating class of the law department of Nebraska University in June, 1897, was Clement L. Wilson, now a lawyer, abstracter and real estate man at Tribune, Greeley County. His diploma secured him admission to the Kansas bar, and he first located at Colby. He hung out his shingle and began seeking an opportunity to practice what he had learned in law school. The first case entrusted to him was the defense of a client charged with stealing two skunk hides and a badger hide. A member of the jury that heard the case was J. R. Connelly, who has now attained the dignity of representative from this section of Kansas in the United States Congress.

After a time Mr. Wilson formed a partnership with E. H. Benson, under the name Wilson & Benson. While they did a general practice, Mr. Wilson applied himself more and more to criminal law and land titles. As a member of the firm of Wilson & Benson he brought the contest suits against the Berry claimants, employes and cattle rustlers for Chauncey Dewey. This suit led up to and was the foundation of the trouble which ended in the killing of the Berry men by Dewey and his men. Mr. Wilson went to the scene of the killing, and was the first man permitted to pass through the Dewey ranch. While on the scene he was special correspondent and representative of the Rocky Mountain News and the Kansas City Star. After seven or eight years of practice at Colby Mr. Wilson moved to Greeley County in June, 1905.

He was born in Nemaha County, Nebraska, April 24, 1874. His grandfather, Ira Wilson, was a native of Ireland, lived in Canada for several years, and from there moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin. He was a farmer and mechanic. He had the distinction of making the first skein for the noted Bain wagon. Late in life he removed from Wisconsin to Missouri, and died at the venerable age of ninety-two. His first wife was Miss Jones, a native of Wales. Their children were: Anthony P. and Mary J., the latter the wife of O. R. Pickens, of McCoy, Oregon. Ira Wilson was married the second time, and by that union had children named John, Ira, William, Charity and Maggie.

Anthony P. Wilson, father of Clement L., is now a resident of Topeka. He was born at Kenosha, Wisconsin, was reared and educated in that state, and at the age of sixteen entered the volunteer army with the Thirty-third Wisconsin Regiment and saw three years of service in the Civil war. He was in the armies of Grant and participated in the siege of Vicksburg. Following the war he went back to the frontier of Nebraska, took a homestead in Nemaha County, proved up his claim and also read law in an office at Brownville. He practiced at Brownville for a number of years. He has never been a seeker for official honors. However, he has been a steadfast supporter of the democratic party since 1876. He is a member of the Episcopal Church. In Nemaha County, Nebraska, Anthony P. Wilson married Miss Mary E. Boldon. Her father, Asher Boldon, of Scotch stock, was born in Indiana, moved from there to Alden, Iowa, and afterward to Nebraska. The children of Anthony P. Wilson and wife are: Clement L.; Anthony P., Jr., of Topeka; Chalkley, a lawyer by profession but now president of the Citizens National Bank of Akron, Colorado; Asher B., a lawyer at Twin Falls, Idaho; Mary E., wife of John Brown, of Akron, Colorado; Maude E., wife of H. H. Christler, of Topeka; Roy R., a newspaper man at Mexico City.

Clement L. Wilson spent most of his early life on a farm. Besides a public school training he attended the Lincoln Normal University, graduating in the normal course in 1893. He had taught school prior to that, and after graduation he took a course in business practice and shorthand at Lincoln. He also carried on his studies in the law department of Nebraska University.

On coming to Greeley County, Mr. Wilson opened an independent office at Tribune. He has since been one of the leading lawyers of Western Kansas, and has done a great deal for his community as a public leader and by his legislative record has become well known over the state. He had been in Tribune but a short time when he began agitating public improvement, particularly the building of sidewalks. In 1906 he was elected mayor on that issue, and served two terms. His administration was largely responsible for the extensive construction of granitoid walks, now found along most of the streets of the county seat. Mr. Wilson personally paid for $1,000 worth of that improvement along his own property. He also erected his splendid home at Tribune, the best residence in the county. It is of cement block construction, and the material was all made at Tribune.

As a republican Mr. Wilson was elected a member of the State Legislature in 1910, the successor of Robert Eadie. During the first term he supported Stone for speaker against Buckman. In the second session he supported Robert Stone for minority leader, and secured his election by one vote. He himself was the recipient of the unanimous nomination by the republicans for speaker pro tem. Most of his active work during his first term was on the floor of the House rather than in committees. Mr. Wilson has the distinction of having assisted in the last election of a United States senator in Kansas by the Legislature. It was during his second term that he supported Mr. William H. Thompson for the United States Senate. The law providing for a popular election of United States senators had not yet been passed, but as a result of a state wide primary Mr. Thompson as a democrat had been nominated and in accordance with a rule adopted by a former Legislature the nomination had to be ratified and given formal endorsement in the Legislature. Mr. Wilson came from a democratic family, but began voting as a republican and has not yet desisted from the practice. He has shown a striking independence of judgment and opinion in his political allegiance. It is noteworthy that he studied law in the office of Bryan & Talbott at Lincoln, Nebraska. The senior member of that firm is William J. Bryan. Nevertheless, he cast his first presidential vote for William McKinley in 1896, when Mr. Bryan was first nominated as the democratic standardbearer. Since coming to Kansas Mr. Wilson has attended the majority of the state conventions. He actively supported E. H. Madison for congressman when the latter was first nominated.

Besides the record above noted Mr. Wilson had some more important constructive achievements to his credit while he was in the Legislature. In his first term he secured the location of the state experimental station at Tribune. During his second term he was a member of the judiciary and irrigation committees. As member of the latter committee he wrote the Kansas state irrigation law, the object of which was to test the underflow of water in Western Kansas for irrigation purposes. He proposed and introduced every amendment to this bill, and the law was passed by both bodies and signed by Governor Hodges. The significance of the achievement will be better understood when it is recalled that the measure was written by a republican and actively supported by him, and as a republican Mr. Wilson secured its passage through a democratic House and Senate and a democratic governor gave his approval to the bill by signing it. Mr. Wilson was also author of the law compelling railroad companics to bulletin their passenger trains. Another measure to which he gave his support was the bill providing for a new historical society building.

In the general election of November, 1916, Mr. Wilson was elected county attorney of Greeley County. For six years he served as treasurer of the Tribune School Board. He has always believed in fraternalism and has identified himself with a number of orders. He is especially well known in the Modern Woodmen of America. He joined the camp at Tribune, was a delegate to the head camp at Toledo in 1914, and is chairman of the committee and the report of head officers for the head camp. In Masonry he took his first degrees in Horace Lodge, where he still has membership, and is affiliated with the Royal Arch Chapter at Syracuse, the Knight Templar Commandery at Garden City, and the Wichita Consistory of the Scottish Rite. He also belongs to the Eastern Star at Tribune. He is a member of the Knights of Pythias at Tribune and member of the Grand Tribune of the Grand Lodge. Other affiliations are with the Great Bend Lodge of Elks, the Horace Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the camp of the Woodmen of the World at Auburn, Nebraska, and the Ancient Order of United Workmen at Horace.

Mr. Wilson is married and has two children. His marriage occurred at Franklin, Nebraska, November 20, 1901, when Miss Martha Byerly became his wife. Her father, Dr. W. H. Byerly, came west from Staunton, Virginia. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson's children are Lucile and Bernice.



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