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Daniel Webster Wilder was born at Blackstone, Mass., July 15, 1832. He died at his home in Hiawatha, Kansas, July 15, 1911. He was the seventh son of Dr. Abel Wilder. He spent four years at the Boston Latin School, was an attentive and studious boy, received prizes every year, graduated second in his class, and received a Franklin medal. At Harvard he was an officer in the Hasty Pudding Club, the Alpha Delta Phi, and three other college societies. He graduated in 1856, and was awarded the first prize, a gold medal, for elocution in competition with all the classes. Charles F. Browne, better known as "Artemus Ward," was his roommate, and the friendships formed there with such men as F. B. Sanborn continue to this day.

 

After his graduation Mr. Wilder studied law, and he was admitted to the Boston bar in 1857. In June of that year he visited Kansas. In 1858 he settled at Elwood, in Doniphan county, and became the editor of the Elwood Free Press. In August, 1860, he went to St. Joseph, commercially a Kansas town on Missouri soil, where he was editor of the Free Democrat, a Republican paper. For the advocacy of freedom for the slaves he was indicted, and compelled to return to Kansas, losing his investment in Missouri. He became editor of the Leavenworth Daily Conservative in January, 1861. He was one of the founders of the paper, and when Col. D. R. Anthony went into the army he purchased the Anthony interest and became the sole proprietor. He married, March 3, 1864, Miss Mary E, Irvin, of Atchison county. In 1865 he went to Rochester, N. Y., where he was the editor of the Evening Express; but he found it impossible to remain away from Kansas, and returned again in 1868 to edit the Leavenworth Conservative. He became the editor of the Fort Scott Monitor in 1871. In 1872 he was elected auditor of state, and his first official report created a sensation. Dishonest and corrupt practices had long been in existence in the office of the state treasurer. Mr. Wilder laid bare the foul ulcer with keen sentences and facts sharper than the surgeon's scalpel. He turned a blaze of light into the caves of official corruption, and the plunderers fled in consternation. They did not return, and from that day Kansas has met her obligations faithfully. His reforms extended even to the administrative affairs of counties, and they have been of immeasurable value to the people of Kansas.

In October, 1876, Mr. Wilder resigned his office to become editor of the St. Joseph Herald; but this was only for another attempt at the impossible, and he returned again to Kansas and settled in Hiawatha, where he was editor and proprietor of the World. This he disposed of to accept the office of state commissioner of insurance. In this capacity his fidelity to his trust and his methods of insurance in Kansas have resulted in great benefit to the people of that state.

A word about the "Annals of Kansas." This is one of the greatest of American books the greatest Kansas book. Before it we had much writing and some bookmaking, but we had no order, no arrangement. We needed some one to blaze a pathway through our wilderness of material and give a proper proportion to the perspective. Only a man of creative power could do that. We had accumulated, like David of old, a great store of precious stuff, but we had built no temples. Wilder became our architect; he pointed out the proper place for each stone and timber. We shall always build along his plans. Utility is the great object of all labor, of all effort; what is of no utility fails and is cast aside. In this principle lies the imperishable fame of Wilder. In writing this great work perhaps he did not realize the value of the services he was rendering his country. But it was put into his mind to do it, and he could not but comply; he could no more escape it than could the prophet in his mission to Nineveh. It is certain that he did not write in any effort to seek fame. It is most likely that it was suggested in his editorial labor, and that his paramount purpose was to supply the "boys," his contemporary journalists, a terse guide to what had been done here.