WILLIAM H. PHELPS.
In no profession is there a career more open to talent than is that of the law, and in no field of endeavor is
there demanded a more careful preparation, a more thorough appreciation of the absolute ethics of life, or of the
underlying principles which form the basis of all human rights and privileges. Unflagging application and intuitive
wisdom and a determination to fully utilize the means at hand, are the concomitants which insure personal success
and prestige in this great profession, which stands as the stern conservator of justiceand it is one into which
none should enter without a recognition of the obstacles to be overcome and the battles to be won, for success
does not perch on the fafaichionf every person who enters the competitive fray, but comes only as the diametrical
result of capability. Possessing all the requisite qualities of the able lawyer; William H. Phelps stands today
among the most distinguished practitioners of southwestern Missouri, and is equally prominent in St. Louis, where
he is located much of the time as an attorney for the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company.
Mr. Phelps was born on a farm near the town of Hinsdale, Cattaraugus county, New York, October 16, 1845, and represents
one of the old families of Connecticut. His youth was passed on the old homestead and his eduelcationbegun in the
common schools, was completed by a course of study in Olean, New York. Not desiring to follow agricultural pursuits,
but preferring a professional career, he began the study of law at the age of nineteen. years, under the direction
of the Hon. M. B. Chaplain, of Cuba, New York. He afterward entered the Albany Law School, and was graduated in
that institution in the spring of 1867.
Believing that the west would furnish better opportunities for advancement to a young practitioner than could be
obtained in the more thickly sesettledast where competition was greater, Mr. Phelps at once started for Missouri,
locating in Carthage, where he has since made his home, although his professional duties demand that he spend a
large portion of his time in St. Louis, where his business office is located. He had not been long in Carthage.
before he tried his first case, Indeed he had not opened an office at the time. The incident, illustrating the
energy and resourcefulness of Mr. Phelps, is as follows: A countryman living about ten miles from Carthage came
to the town and engaged another young lawyer to go to Preston, a village about ten miles away, and conduct a law
suit before a justice of the peace. Mr. Phelps learned of this fact and on the day of the trial he walked to Preston,
hunted up the opposing party in the suit and told him that his opponent had a lawyer. "I am a lawyer,"
continued Mr. Phelps, "and will you give me five dollars if I successfully represent you in this case?"
The man agreed to the proposition and Mr. Phelps won the case, and after receiving his five dollars - his first
fee - walked back to Carthage. This incident was afterward related by the man whom he had defended and brought
his name before the public. From that time his clientage grew, but the satisfaction which he had in winning his
first case has perhaps never been greater, even when he has won suits involving thousands of dollars.
Interested in the political situation of the country and its possibilities from an early day, Mr, Phelps soon became
a leader of the Democracy in Jasper county, and was chairman of the county committee in 1868. In 1874 he became
the nominee for representative to the legislature from Jasper county. The Democrats having always been hopelessly
in the minority, his party friends did not think he could possibly be elected, but to their great suprise and to
that of the Republicans as well, he was victorious, owing largely to his energy and capable management, which resulted
also in the election of many other candidates on the ticket. From the beginning he was prominent in the legislature
and soon became a recognized leader in the councils of his party in the state. For many years he was a member of
the Democratic state executive committee and has been a delegate to almost every national convention since 1868.
In Northfield, Ohio, in 1868, Mr, Phelps was married to Miss Lois Wilson, who was accidentally killed in a runaway
in 1894. He has two daughters and a son - Helene, Mrs. Florence Rothert and William H. His home is the finest residence
in the county. It is built of Carthage stone and occupies a splendid site. Mr. Phelps has always manifested a laudable
public spirit, and has contributed generously of his means to the promotion of many movements and measures calculated
to prove of general good. A man of distinctive and forceful individuality, of broad mentality and most mature judgmeant,
he bias left and is leaving his impress upon the political and professonal interests of Missouri. His study of
economic questions and matters of public polity has been so close, practical and comprehensive that his judgment
is relied upon and his utterances have weight in those circles where the material progress of the state is centered,
as well as among those who guide the destines of the commonwealth.
The Biographical History of Jasper County, Missouri
By Hon. Malcolm G. McGregor
The Lewis Publishing Co.
Jasper County, MO
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