William Henry Tester was born in Burgess Hill, a town nine miles north of Brighton, County of Sussex, England, on July 4, 1869. He received the common school education as given by the parochial schools under the care of the Church of England. Six years of his life were spent in Weston Super Mare, situated on the Bristol Channel in Somersetshire. As a boy of ten or twelve, reading of the wonderful things of America–her immense mountain ranges, her Great Lakes and wonderful Niagara Falls, and last but not least of that Great American Desert as shown on the maps of the late ’60s–a strong desire to become a partaker of the things offered by that promised land possessed him, and he often found himself gazing westward from the seashore watching the sun as it sank into the western sea, and saying to himself, “Some day I shall follow to that wonderful land of promise.” The father of the family also became interested, not for himself so much, as he often said, but that his children might come into that inheritance of better things that great English-speaking continent offered those who sought her shores with a desire for the really good things of life and were willing to do their part.
William Tester, the father of William H., was born at Burgess Hill (St. John’s Common) August 4, 1840, is still living, and for the last thirty-four years has lived in St. Louis, Missouri. Sarah Cornford Tester, the mother of William H., was born at Hurstmonceux, near Hastings, County of Sussex, England, on May 18, 1839. In 1865, on May 27th, at the Old Church of Brighton, England, she was married to William Tester. She died at St. Louis, Missouri, June 1, 1890, at the age of 51.
Six children were born to this union: William H., the subject of this sketch; Frances Alice, who died in infancy; Charles Walter, now living in St. Louis; Alfred Lewis, now living at Fort Scott; Annie Alice, now Mrs. William T. Bishop, living in St. Louis; Emma Jane, who died in infancy.
On May 17, 1883, the morn of the family destiny dawned and the old ties were severed, and William Tester, with his wife Sarah and the four surviving children, set out for the United States from Weston Super Mare, with the town of Jackson in the State of Tennessee as their destination. No one who has never undergone such an experience can form an idea of the momentous seriousness of such an undertaking for a man with his wife and four children, William H., the eldest, not yet fourteen, and the youngest, Annie Alice, but five, entering a new country, unknown and with limited capital, yet with a stout heart, and a mind and disposition for work in his calling, which had prior to his leaving England been that of foreman of a large pottery in Weston Super Mare, where he had enjoyed the confidence of his employer and had on numerous occasions been placed in charge of the plant’s exhibits at the various agricultural shows held throughout England and Wales.
On June 1st the family landed in New York. Many deep and lasting favorable impressions were made on the mind of William H. at the entrance into the land. These have since been an inspiration to him, so that his love for the land of his adoption is of such strength, that as he has these many years lived under OLD GLORY he would willingly offer himself for its defense.
The father of the family shortly after arrival in St. Louis in September, 1883, having moved up there from Jackson, Tennessee, on account of a better means of livelihood offering there, took out his first papers or declaration of his intention to become a citizen of the United States. Enjoying thereby the citizen’s rights, he overlooked taking out his final papers until seven years had passed. In the meantime William H. attained his majority and it became necessary for him to also take out naturalization papers, which was done at Scott City, Scott County, Kansas, where he was then residing, in 1892.
For several years after reaching St. Louis the subject of this sketch was engaged in industrial pursuits, later going with his father to a farm where three years were spent in active health-giving labor. About this time the matter of a life work began to force itself upon him, and the decision was reached to enter the railway service. A preparatory course was taken in the school then maintained in 1888 by the Missouri Paciflc Railway, and in August, 1889, he entered the service as night telegraph operator for that line at New Haven, Missouri. He has been continuously in their service until the present time, having been appointed agent at Coffeyville, Kansas, August 13, 1906.
On January 10, 1894, in Wheeling, West Virginia, he was united in marriage to Miss Virginia Lillian Crawford, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. M. C. Crawford, who were prominent in the social and business life of that city, as well as being one of the older families there. Two children, Katherine Virginia and Allen Crawford, were born to this union, both of whom survive and are growing into promising young lives. Both have attended the state university.
In private life Mr. and Mrs. Tester have identified themselves with the social and religious life of the community in which they have resided for the last ten years, having been closely identified with the Presbyterian Church of Coffeyville, he serving it as elder and clerk of its session for several years, and serving Neosho Presbytery as one of its lay commissioners to the Grand Assembly at Chicago in 1914.
He has also been actively identified in Masonic life, having been made a Mason at Scott City in 1891, served the Coffeyville Lodge as Master in 1911, and the Coffeyville Commandery as Commander in 1916, as District Deputy Grand Master of the Eighteenth Masonic District under Grand Masters Elrick C. Cole, Charles H. Chandler, William L. Burdick, and Giles H. Lamb from 1914 to 1917, inclusive, and as Grand Representative of the Grand Lodge of Indiana to the Grand Lodge of Kansas, also as Grand Representative of the Grand Commandery of Vermont to the Grand Commandery of Kansas.