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Wesley R. Childs is a native Kansan, had been a resident of Kansas City, Kansas, since 1895, had accepted the many opportunities to make himself useful in civic affairs as well as in business, was formerly postmaster, and is now giving his attention to his duties as executive special representative in Kansas and Missouri for the Illinois Life Insurance Company.
Mr. Childs was born June 26, 1869, in Allen County in an old log cabin that stood on the farm now owned by L. L. Northrop near Iola. His parents, Lucas S. and Sophia (Keyes) Childs had come to Kansas and located on this farm in 1867. They were natives of New York State, where they had grown up and married, and both were of Scotch-Irish ancestry. Before coming to Kansas Lucas S. Childs proved himself a gallant defender of the Union during the Civil war. He served with the One Hundred and Thirty-sixth New York Infantry, participated in twenty-two engagements, and was in some of the most memorable battles of the conflict, including Gettysburg, Antietam, Lookout Mountain and the Atlanta Campaign and the March to the sea. He held the rank of corporal and though in some of the most hotly fought campaigns of the war he was never seriously wounded.
Kansas as a land of opportunity beckoned to him as a place in which to provide for his growing family, and in Allen County he developed a productive farm out of a tract of land originally in a state of virgin nature. For years after he came to Kansas many of the counties were sparsely settled and few of the institutions of civilization had reached them. Lucas S. Childs, after his sons were old enough to take charge of the farm, devoted himself to the work of the church and the extension of religious influences along the frontier. For a number of years he represented the American Tract Society in distributing Bibles and religious pamphlets, and also did the practical work of the minister. He visited many a lonely dugout and sod house on the western prairies, and brought consolation and the light of the Gospel into those homes. He was a man of liberal education and was finally ordained to the ministry of the Congregational Church, and gave the last twenty-five years of his life to its work. As Kansas became more and more developed through the extension of railways and settlements, and as churches were established in nearly all the communities, Mr. Lucas Childs found further opportunities for carrying on his good work in the Territory of Oklahoma. He was engaged in church extension work there and altogether built twelve churches in as many settlements. His last years were spent in Oklahoma, and his death occurred at Adair in that state in August, 1909. As a Kansas he had endured all the hardships of the grasshopper era and of continued drought and had finally reached a place where he was almost financially independent and at the same time had extended liberal assistance to some of his less fortunate neighbors in the struggle with soil and climate. He also stood shoulder to shoulder with the pioneer Kansas during their fight for prohibition. His widow is still living in Oklahoma. They were the parents of five children: Minnie A., who lives at Adair, Oklahoma; Mrs. Sadie Childs Lee of Adair, at whose home her mother resided; Frederick, who occupies the old homestead farm in Allen County which he had since increased to 480 acres; and Wesley R. One son is now deceased.
Wesley R. Childs had some recollections of a Kansas farm during the plague stricken and dry years of the ’70s and ’80s. As a boy he had only the advantages afforded by the district schools of Allen County. He early determined to become self supporting and his higher education was acquired largely through his own efforts and earnings. He spent about two years in Park College on the Missouri River above Kansas City, and paid his expenses while in that school. For a time he worked in a smelter at Scammon, Kansas, and then became a car trimmer with a coal mining company at Weir City. He was employed in a similar capacity by the J. C. Crowe Coal & Mining Company of Kansas City, Missouri, and gradually worked himself to a position where he could command larger responsibilities. He became a salesman for the Crowe Company, and eventually was promoted to general sales manager. In 1895 he removed to Kansas City, Kansas, and opened an office for the Crowe Coal & Mining Company and continued to handle their business in that city for over ten years.
On April 29, 1907, Mr. Childs was appointed postmaster of Kansas City, Kansas. His appointment was not confirmed by the United States Senate until the following December. He served through the remainder of the Roosevelt administration, also under President Taft, and held the office during nine months of President Wilson’s term. While postmaster Mr. Childs’ administration was marked by many improvements. During that time an appropriation of $165,000 was obtained to remodel and extend the old postoffice. Fifteen additional postal stations were installed, and many other improvements effected, including the establishment of a postal savings bank and the installation of the parcel post system.
Since retiring from the postoffice Mr. Childs had been in life insurance work as representative of the Illinois Company since 1914.
The city recognizes no more liberal or enterprising citizen than Wesley R. Childs. For two years he was a member of the Kansas City Associated Board of Charities. He had served as vice president of the Missouri River Navigation Congress and as a member of the Board of Governors of the Lakes to the Gulf Deep Waterway Association. He is also vice president from Kansas of the National Rivers and Harbors Congress. He was elected honorary vice president of the Lincoln University Endowment Association, whose object was the establishment of the Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee. He had been prominent in republican politics, in 1905 was manager of the campaign of Charles Scott, candidate for Congress, and in 1914 handled the finances in his section of the state for Governor Capper. Mr. Childs belongs to various fraternal organizations and he and his wife are active members of the Western Highlands Presbyterian Church. Mrs. Childs is a member of the governing board of the Young Women’s Christian Association of both the Kansas Citys, and had also had active connection with the Kansas State Association of Women’s Clubs.
On January 2, 1892, Mr. Childs married Miss Ella McClung. Mrs. Childs was born in Arkansas, a daughter of Charles L. McClung, who afterwards located at Iola, Kansas. Mrs. Childs is a sister of Prof. C. G. McClung of the University of Pennsylvania. To their union have been born two children: Wesley McClung and Ann Katherine Childs. The son is now a student in the University of Kansas. The daughter spent three years in the State University and is now taking kindergarten work in the Pittsburg Normal School of this state.