WILLIAM R. ALEXANDER is a native of Jefferson County,
Kansas, and his life has been spent there
profitably to himself and to the community, partly as a teacher, and for a number of years
as a successful bridge builder. He is now serving his second term as county surveyor.
Mr. Alexander was born on his father's farm in this county March 13, 1863. He is of Scotch
ancestry. His grandfather, William Alexander, was a native Scotchman, but left that
country when a boy and was a pioneer settler at Old Sweetwater, Tennessee. He followed the
trade of mechanic and wheelwright for
many years and was in America in time to participate as a soldier in the War of 1812. His
death occurred in Tennessee some years before the birth of his grandson William.
Alfred Alexander, father of William R., was the founder of the family in Kansas. He was
born in 1838 at
Old Sweetwater, Tennessee, where he was reared to manhood, and in 1856 he moved to
Missouri and in 1860 came to Jefferson County, Kansas. He had been in Kansas only a short
time when he enlisted in the Seventeenth Kansas Infantry and went through all the war as a
fighting soldier of the Union. He participated in a number of campaigns, including that to
repel Price's army in 1864. Otherwise his life was spent as a farmer and he was one of the
well known early citizens of Jefferson County. He died in that county in March, 1895.
Politically he was a democrat and a very faithful member and active supporter of the
Baptist Church. Alfred Alexander married Eliza Ann Scott, who was born in 1845 in Daviess
County, Missouri, member of a very early family there, and is now living at Easton,
Kansas. Of her five children William R. was the oldest. J. W., a resident of Oskaloosa,
has been a teacher with a record of twenty years' service in Jefferson County. J. H. is
living near Winchester and has taught school for twenty-four years and is one of the
veteran educators in this part of the state. A. A. Alexander is a blacksmith at Castle
Rock, Colorado, and the youngest, Nellie J., is the wife of Riley Ross, a farmer in Logan
William R. Alexander learned his first lessons in the rural district schools of Jefferson
County. In 1882 he was graduated from the Winchester Academy. From that time until about
1896 he taught putting in about sixty-four months, as a teacher in different districts in
Jefferson County, and forty-four months of that time were spent in District No. 47. It is
noteworthy that his daughter is now teaching in that same district.
In 1896 Mr. Alexander took up farming in Jefferson County, but after ten years, in 1906,
entered the employ of the Missouri Valley Bridge Company and other bridge companies and
contracting bridge work for himself. That business, which he followed for a number of
years, earned him
some special distinctions in this particular field of engineering construction. Many of
the larger and more important bridges of Jefferson County were erected by him. One in
particular was the bridge over the new channel of the Delaware River at Thompsonville.
This bridge has a span of 154 feet, and the entire structure contains 86,500 pounds of
metal. He built a twin bridge to that one at Jacksonville Crossing. The bridge at Osawkee,
Kansas, also constructed by him, is an eighty-foot span, requiring 37,500 pounds of metal.
Altogether Mr. Alexander built more than a hundred new bridges. Bridge contracting was his
regular business until October, 1914, when he became a county surveyor and engineer,
taking office in the following January. His term as engineer has since expired, but in
1916 he was reelected county surveyor without opposition.
Mr. Alexander is a republican in politics, served on the official board of the United
Brethren Church, is a
member of the Kansas Fraternal Citizens and Oskaloosa Camp of the Modern Woodmen of
America. He is a stockholder in the Capper State Mining Company of Arizona, and is also
interested in farming, owning an improved place of 330 acres three miles north Oskaloosa
in Oskaloosa Township. He is also owner of two buildings in Winchester and two others in
On September 9, 1884, at Oskaloosa, Mr. Alexander married Miss Irene Odell, daughter of
Benjamin and Sarah (Ferguson) Odell. Her mother is now living with Mr. and Mrs. Alexander.
Her father, deceased, was a carpenter and joiner by trade, and followed farming for many
years. Benjamin Odell, her father, was a member of the prominent Odell family of New York
and was an uncle of Benjamin B. Odell, long noted as a leader in New York State politics
and formerly governor of that state. Mr. and Mrs. Alexander have two children. The son, J.
D. Alexander, acquired his education largely in the school of experience, traveled over
the West for six years, and is now manager of his father's farm. The daughter, Edith, has
already been referred to as a teacher in District No. 47 of Jefferson County.