Willis Franklin Sams. Neosho County figures as one of the most attractive, progressive and prosperous divisions of the State of Kansas, justly claiming a high order of citizenship and a spirit of enterprise which is certain to conserve consecutive development and marked advancement in the material upbuilding of the section. The county had been and is signally favored in the class of men who have controlled the affairs of its different communities in official capacities, and in this connection Willis Franklin Sams, commissioner of finance of Chanute, is worthy of representation as one who had served the locality faithfully and well in positions of distinct trust and responsibility.
Mr. Sams was born in Logan County, Illinois, January 8, 1862, and is a son of William H. and Almira (Buckles) Sams. On the paternal side he is descended from an old English family which located in North Carolina in Colonial days, his paternal grandfather being a native of Tennessee, born in 1804. The grandfather, who was a farmer by vocation, was the pioneer into Illinois, and there rounded out his long and industrious life, passing away at Mount Pulaski, that state, in 1874.
William H. Sams, the father of Willis F. Sams, was born in 1841, in Logan County, Illinois, and was there reared, educated and married. In 1862 he enlisted in Company B, One Hundred Sixth Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, with which organization he fought bravely throughout the remainder of the war, participating in many hard-fought engagements, including that at Lookout Mountain. When he received his honorable discharge he returned to the duties of peace and for a number of years was a farmer and stock shipper in Logan County, Illinois, but in 1881 removed to Sedan, Chautauqua County, Kansas, where he invested in real estate and also bought and sold stock. He was a good business man and accumulated a competence, so that in his declining years he was able to retire from business, at which time he went to live at the home of his daughter at Independence, Kansas, Mrs. Mary S. McLaughlin, where he died in February, 1907. Mr. Sams was a man universally respected for his many sterling traits of character, and as a citizen took part in the movements making for the betterment of his community. He was a stanch democrat in his political affiliations, and his religious faith was that of the Christian Church. Mr. Sams married Miss Almira Buckles, who was born in 1844, in Logan County, Illinois, a member of a family which emigrated from England to New England at a very early day in this country’s history. Her father was Robert T. Buckles, who was born in 1801, in Tennessee, was a pioneer into Logan County, Illinois, where he engaged in farming, and was a close friend of Abraham Lincoln during the Black Hawk war. He died in Logan County in 1869. Mrs. Sams passed away at Independence, Kansas, in 1895, having been the mother of two children: Willis F. and Mary Selina. Mary Selina Sams married A. H. McLaughlin, of Independence, Kansas, who for sixteen years was manager of the Rock Island Lumber Company is now engaged in the dairy business.
Willis Franklin Sams attended the public schools of Logan County, Illinois, and Sedan, Kansas, and subsequently took a course in Bryant & Stratton’s Business College at Saint Louis, Missouri, from which he was graduated in 1887. Returning to Sedan, he secured a position in the office of the county treasurer, where he remained as assistant for one year, and then accepted a like position in the office of the county clerk. After six months he went to Salt Lake City, Utah, as bookkeeper for Henry W. Lawrence, a real estate and insurance dealer, but after 2½ years spent in this capacity returned to Chautauqua County, Kansas, and located at Niotaze, where he established himself in the mercantile business. While conducting this establishment Mr. Sams was appointed postmaster, a position which he held during a period of seven years, and in 1897 disposed of his interests there and removed to Phoenix, Arizona, where he was engaged in real estate and mining until 1900. That year marked Mr. Sams’ advent at Chanute, which city had since been his home. He first accepted a position in L. B. Keifer’s clothing store, where he was employed for three years, and in 1903 accepted a similar post in the clothing establishment of Mr. Gotthelf. In 1907 Mr. Sams entered official life at Chanute, when he was appointed city clerk, an office which he held for five years, or until the commission form of government was introduced in 1912, when he was elected commissioner of finance. He succeeded in giving such satisfaction in that office that he was re-elected to the position in 1915 by a large majority, and his present term will expire in 1918. Mr. Sams is one of the officials of Neosho County who had a recognition of his responsibilities and who conscientiously endeavors to perform the duties of his office in a manner at once acceptable and beneficial to the people. His integrity is well known to his fellow-citizens, and that he possesses the ability to handle the affairs of his department had already been proved. He had always been a stanch republican. His religious connection is with the Methodist Episcopal Church, and at this time he is secretary of the Sunday school, while his only fraternal connection is with Chanute Camp No. 852, Modern Woodmen of America. Mr. Sams owned his own home at No. 219 South Steuben Avenue.
In October, 1885, at Chanute, Kansas, Mr. Sams was married to Miss Jennie Kittle, daughter of Solomon and Almira (Miller) Kittle, both of whom are deceased. Mr. Kittle was a farmer and boot and shoe merchant in Indiana, and for several years served as county auditor of Ohio County, that state. To Mr. and Mrs. Sams there have been born three children, namely: Helen and Josephine, graduates of the Chanute High School, and Frances, who is in her senior year at that institution. All the children reside at home.