Hugh Ellsworth West has been one of the most prominent citizens of Independence for many years, though his interests as an oil operator have extended far and wide and now include valuable holdings in perhaps half a dozen states. The family were pioneers in Indiana, in which state in Clinton County Hugh E. West was born December 11, 1864. His great-grandfather William West was a native of Kentucky, and went into Indiana when almost the entire state was a wilderness. He died in Clinton County when ninety-six years of age, while his wife lived to be ninety-one. The West family came originally from Scotland and from Virginia moved across the mountains to Kentucky, where they were identified with the first settlement. The grandfather of Mr. West was also named William and he was born in Indiana in 1819, spent his life as a farmer and died in Clinton County in 1874.
Samuel M. West, father of Hugh West, was born in Clinton County, Indiana, in 1843, was reared and married there, and at the beginning of the Civil war in 1861 enlisted in the Twenty-sixth Indiana Infantry. In the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, he was badly wounded, was incapacitated for further service, and never completely recovered his strength. In 1870 he moved to Elk City, Kansas, and was engaged in the real estate business for many years. He died at Elk City in August, 1915. He was a member of the United Brethren Church. Samuel M. West Married Marie P. Hamilton, who was born in Boone County, Indiana, in 1844, and died at Elk City, Kansas, in 1880. Their children were: Hugh E.; Glendora, wife of Joe Johansen, who is in the milling business at Independence; W. M. West, a blacksmith in South Dakota; and C. M. West, an oil producer living at Wann, Oklahoma. For his second wife Samuel West married Katy Arnold, who came from Indiana and is still living at Elk City. Their one child, Othel H., is now connected with the Cleveland Oil and Gas Company at Cleveland, Oklahoma.
Hugh E. West was about fifteen years of age when his parents came to Kansas, and after the death of his mother, which occurred soon afterwards, he went to work on his own account. Thus he had very little schooling, and has really educated himself by study and observation and practical experience. For a time he was employed in a brickyard, and then became connected with the Deering Harvester Company of Chicago and traveled for several years on the road. In 1892 he had advanced so far as to be able to buy a farm in Chautauqua County, Kansas, and he lived on and conducted that place for five years. In 1897 he moved to Peru, Kansas, and conducted a marble yard and sold tombstones until 1902.
After selling his farm of 200 acres in Chautauqua County and his interests in the marble business, Mr. West went to Chautauqua County, Kansas, and there first became actively identified with the oil industry. Since 1906 he has had his home and headquarters in Independence. His oil holdings now extend throughout the state, and also to Oklahoma and other states. He is a director in several oil companies. In Oklahoma his holdings are in Washington, Nowata, Osage and Tulsa counties, while in Kansas they are located in Chautauqua, Montgomery and Miami counties. All these properties are producing oil, and in addition he has leases to considerable oil lands. He has also acquired extensive holdings of farm lands in Chautauqua County, Kansas, Tulsa County, Oklahoma, Little River and Desha counties, Arkansas, and has other lands in East Carroll and Webster parishes in Louisiana.
Mr. West is a stanch republican. He has been a member of the school board continuously for twenty-two years excepting eight months, and is now on the board at Independence and takes much interest in school affairs. Since 1889 he has been a member of the Modern Woodmen of America at Peru, Kansas. In 1915 he was associated with R. S. Litchfield and A. C. Stich, both of whom have since died, in erecting one of the finest mausoleums in the state at Indenendence.
Mr. West and family reside at 618 West Maple Street. In 1889 at Elk City he married Miss Mollie A. Piper, daughter of R. H. and Elizabeth Piper, both of whom are now deceased, her father having been a farmer. To their marriage have been born two children: Helen, wife of W. H. Eyssen, a contractor at Independence; and Della, wife of H. P. Decker, who lives at Independence, and is associated with Mr. West in the oil business.
It should perhaps be mentioned that Mr. West together with William E. Connelly of Topeka were at the head of the association which brought about the investigation and legislation against the Standard Oil Company in Kansas during the years 1904-05.