Wilbur Austin Lawton. When Mr. Lawton came to Lyon County more than thirty years ago he found the district around what is now the flourishing little City of Americus a raw and almost unbroken prairie. He was one of the men who undertook to convert the former cattle range into a fertile farming district, and he had contributed to this development to the extent of several hundred acres at least. At the same time he had been an important factor in local affairs, had been a banker, active in local politics, and for a number of years had been postmaster at Americus.
He is an Eastern man, and when he came West he had a liberal education and was thoroughly trained to meet the exigencies of Western conditions. He was born in Skaneateles, Onondaga County, New York, February 7, 1857, grew up on a farm, attended a country school two miles south of his birthplace, afterwards Quaker Seminary at Union Springs, New York, and until 1876 was a student in the Academy at Skaneateles.
It was in 1880 that he came West, and after one year as shipping clerk in a transfer implement house at Kansas City, Missouri, made a trip to Mexico and Western Texas, and then to Colorado Springs, Colorado, in which locality for three years he was in charge of a large sheep ranch.
Coming to Americus in the spring of 1884, where he found himself among the early settlers of that locality, he established his home on a raw piece of land and in a few years had it transformed into a farm. That was his home until 1904, and he still owned the place, comprising 240 acres and situated a mile east and a mile north of Americus. He also owned 240 acres in Woodson County, Kansas. In 1904 Mr. Lawton took another farm half a mile east of Americus and in the next two years did much to improve that with buildings and equipment. He sold it in 1906 and after serving as under-sheriff of Lyon County for eight months he resigned and entered the Americus State Bank as cashier, which post he held three years.
In 1909 he was appointed under President Taft postmaster of Americus, and had now looked after the local office and had been its capable manager for seven years. He is also a director in the Americus State Bank.
Politically Mr. Lawton is an independent republican, for two years he held the office of township clerk, was on the school board six years, a justice of the peace two years, and he is always ready to turn aside from private affairs to serve the public welfare. Fraternally he is affiliated with Americus Lodge No. 109, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, Americus Lodge No. 28, Ancient Order of United Workmen, and with Lodge No. 286 of the Occidental Mutual at Salina, Kansas.
In November, 1884, soon after coming to Lyon County, Mr. Lawton married Miss Etta Little, daughter of T. F. and Edna Little. Her father died in 1911 at the age of eighty-seven and her mother in 1915 aged eighty-six. F. F. Little came from Indiana to Kansas in 1859, during territorial times and was one of the pioneers in the southern part of the state. Mr. and Mrs. Lawton have seven children: Marian, wife of Earl Clayton, who manages Mr. Lawton’s home farm; Edwin F., who was killed in a railroad accident in 1905; Wilbur Austin, Jr., a farmer in Arkansas; Edna E., a teacher of domestic science in Syracuse, Kansas; Henry Brownell, a junior in the Manhattan Agricultural College; Loverna and Anna, both attending school at Emporia.
This branch of the Lawton family came from England to Rhode Island in the seventeenth century. Mr. Lawton’s father, Edwin F. Lawton, who was born in Greene County, New York, April 14, 1833, was a New York State farmer all his life, and died at Auburn in that state in 1907. He was a member of the Quaker Church. He married Mariam Austin who was born at Skaneateles, New York, October 6, 1834, and died in 1903. She was born, reared, married and died in the same house. Their children were, Wilbur A.; Harriet, of Buffalo, New York; Charles Edwin, a resident of Auburn, New York, where since 1889, for more than a quarter of a century, he had been principal of a grammar school; and Laura, wife of George M. Turner of Buffalo, New York. George M. Turner is head of the Mastin Park High School at Buffalo, and when that institution was recently rebuilt he had entire supervision in regard to the building, furnishing and equipment, all of which cost about $850,000. Mrs. Turner is a naturalist, had written and delivered many addresses on nature studies, is secretary of the Buffalo Audubon Society, and for some years up to 1916 was secretary of the Confederation of Mothers’ Clubs of New York.