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Willis J. Bailey, who was governor of Kansas from 1903 to 1905, had been a resident of the state since 1879 and had long stood as a leader in agricultural affairs, as a banker, and as a member of the republican party. His home is now in the City of Atchison, where he is vice president and managing officer of the Exchange National Bank.
His administration as governor of Kansas is made the subject of some paragraphs in an appropriate place on other pages of this history. The following is intended merely as a biographical statement of his career and with some notice of his varied and effective interests as a Kansan.
Willis J. Bailey was born at Mount Carroll, Illinois, October 12, 1854, and is of New England ancestry and descended from a long line of whigs and republicans. The Baileys came out of England and were colonial settlers in Massachusetts prior to the year 1640. Governor Bailey’s grandfather, Joshua Bailey, was born in 1780 and served in the War of 1812 as a member of Captain Tomlinson’s company. For many years he lived on a farm in Warren County, New York, but in 1845 moved out to Mount Carroll, Illinois, and continued farming in that community until his death in 1870. He was a whig during the existence of that party, and then became a republican. He was one of the very active members of the Baptist Church in his different communities. He married Lydia Kinyon, who was born in New York State and died in Warren County there.
Monroe Bailey, father of Governor Bailey, was born in Warren County, New York, in 1818. From his native county he removed in 1839 to Mount Carroll, Illinois, and was one of the very early settlers in that section. He developed a farm and became a prosperous and influential citizen. In October, 1879, he followed his son to Kansas, locating at Baileyville, a place named in honor of this family, and lived on a farm there until his death in 1902. He began voting as a whig and for many years was a loyal and stanch republican. He held some township offices and at one time was a county commissioner in Illinois. A cousin of the late Monroe Bailey is Joseph Cook, the noted lecturer. Monroe Bailey married Nancy J. Melendy, who was born at Cambridge, Vermont, in 1826 and died at Baileyville, Kansas, in 1901. Her father married a member of the Arbuckle family, related to the Arbuckle Brothers, famous coffee merchants. Monroe Bailey and wife had four children: Oscar, who died at Baileyville, Kansas, in 1915; Willis J.; Ernest N., who is in the grain and elevator business and a farmer at Baileyville; and Marion L., wife of C. N. Cafferty, a dentist practicing at Portland, Oregon.
Governor Bailey was educated in the public schools of Mount Carroll, Illinois, His early life was spent on a farm, and the training he there acquired remained a strong factor in his subsequent career. He had never been totally divoreed from agricultural affairs. Mr. Bailey was graduated from the Mount Carroll High School in 1872 and subsequently entered the University of Illinois, where he finished the Literary and Scientific courses in 1879. In 1904 the University of Illinois awarded him the honorary degree LL. D.