|Balie Peyton Waggener
HON. BALIE PEYTON WAGGENER, of Atchison, is easily one of
the most distinguished Kansans of the present generation. A half
century has come and gone since he came to Atchison as a young law student.
He practiced with eminent success, is one of the ablest railroad attorneys
in the United States, and for a number of years has carried the responsibilities
of the office of general solicitor for the Missouri Pacific Railway Company.
Mr. Waggener is much more than an eminent lawyer. He has served
with fidelity and conspicuous ability in high public places. The
power he has come to exert through his profession and through his business
interests as a banker has been applied to the welfare of his home city
and the state at large. But the distinction which he cherishes most
is a title conferred upon him not by reason of his professional prominence,
nor by public office nor by learned institutions, but a spontaneous tribute
from the most discriminating of all critics of greatness -- the title "children's
Mr. Waggener is of old American ancestry. His great-grandfather
fought with the rank of lieutenant in the American war for independence.
His grandfather subsequently served as major in the United States Army
during the War of 1812. Mr. Waggener's parents, Peyton R. and
Sophronia Briseis (Willis) Waggener, were pioneers in Northwestern
Missouri, and it was at their home in Platte County, Missouri, that Balie
Peyton Waggener was born July 18, 1847.
As a boy he had only limited advantages of the local schools.
At the age of fourteen he was appointed to a position as toll-gate keeper
on the old Platte City and Western Turnpike. To grow up and be a
lawyer was the ambition he fostered during these early boyhood duties,
and in the little house beside the toll road he kept a few law books, reading
them when not standing at the toll-gate and also after the day's work was
done. In 1866 he enrolled as a law student in the office of Otis
and Glick at Atchison. His diligence and application were such that
he was admitted to the bar on June 10, 1867, before he was twenty years
Mr. Waggener was always especially fortunate in the choice of his
professional associates. Men of mature years and secure position
in the profession were doubtless attracted by his promising abilities and
when his own fame was secure it was deemed a distinction even by the foremost
lawyers of Kansas to be connected with Balie P. Waggener in practice.
Three years after his admission to the bar he became a member of the firm
of Horton & Waggener, the senior member of which was Albert H. Horton,
then United States district attorney. This firm continued at Atchison
until 1876, when the senior partner was elected to the office of chief
justice of the Kansas Supreme Court. In 1887 Mr. Waggener formed
a partnership as Waggener, Martin & Orr. This firm was dissolved
April 30, 1895, and was reconstituted as Waggener, Horton & Orr.
After retiring from the bench Chief Justice Horton resumed his former associations
with Mr. Waggener. David Martin, a partner in the earlier firm, succeeded
Judge Horton as chief justice of the Supreme Court. Judge Horton
died in 1902, and subsequently his place in the firm was taken by ex-Chief
Justice Frank Doster, making the name Waggener, Doster & Orr.
Mr. Waggener was therefore associated with three chief justices of the
Kansas Supreme Court. In 1910 Mr. Orr withdrew from the firm, and
the firm thereupon became Waggener & Challiss, and later on, in 1916,
became the firm of Waggener, Challiss, DeLacy & Brown.
On January 4, 1876, Mr. Waggener was appointed general attorney
of the Missouri Pacific Railway for the State of Kansas. He filled
that position nearly thirty-five years and on May 1, 1910, was made general
solicitor of that company for the states of Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado.
His son W.P. Waggener succeeded him as general attorney.
Through all the years of his practice Mr. Waggener has put into
his profession the very best of his conspicuous mental talents and strength
and integrity of character. Beginning as a comparatively obscure
lawyer in almost a frontier state, he has risen to rank with the ablest
members of the American bar. Mr. Waggener is a student and scholar.
It is said that he has collected about him one of the most complete law
libraries in the United States, containing upwards of ten thousand volumes.
This library is at his residence in Atchison, and for years he made it
a custom to prepare most of his cases in his study, where his privacy was
safeguarded more than in his office.
In 1892 Mr. Waggener was elected president of the Exchange National
Bank of Atchison, and he has guided that solid institution through all
the subsequent years. He also perfected and put into operation the
Atchison Railway, Light & Power Company. A source of recreation
and one of his most cherished interests is his noted Green View Stock Farm,
containing 500 acres and beautifully situated a short distance west of
Atchison. It is a model country estate, equipped with everything to guarantee
efficiency of farm management, and though owned by a man of wealth it has
been conducted not without profit and with an advantage that has flowed
to the good of Kansas agriculture and live stock interests in general.
To not a small degree it has been an experimental station. Here modern
methods have been adapted to agriculture in a practical way, and for a
number of years Mr. Waggener has been a recognized authority on farming
and animal husbandry. The annual sales of live stock raised on his
farm are an event in stock circles in the Middle West and buyers attend
these sales from all parts of the country.
Politically Mr. Waggener has always been a democrat. While
political honors have not been in his line, he has considered it a public
duty to help build up and support a strong party organization and his influence
has been a factor in making the democratic party in Kansas strong and efficient
and in later years frequently successful over the state at large.
Mr. Waggener had been in practice only a short time when in 1869 he was
elected to the Atchison City Council. In 1872 he was his party's
nominee for the office of attorney general of the state. In 1873 he was
chosen city attorney for Atchison. From 1889 to 1891 and again from
1895 to 1897 he was Atchison's honored mayor. In 1902 he was elected
a member of the lower branch of the Legislature, and was chairman of the
Judiciary Committee and one of the active leaders on the floor of the House
on the minority side. In 1904 he was elected to the State Senate
from a strong republican district. This was perhaps the greatest
triumph of his political career. He carried his district by a majority
of 1,500 votes, while at the same election Theodore Roosevelt, the republican
candidate for president, carried the district by over 3,600. Mr.
Waggener was a member of the Senate during the sessions of 1905 and 1907
and in November, 1912, he was again elected by a majority of over 2,000.
Mr. Waggener served in the Senate until 1916.
His name appears on the membership rolls of many fraternal and civic
organizations and he has long been prominent in Masonry. He is a
Knight Templar and Scottish Rite Mason and also a member of the Mystic
On May 27, 1869, he married Emma L. Hetherington. Her father,
W. Hetherington, was one of Atchison's most prominent citizens.
They are the parents of two children: William Peyton Waggener, mentioned
elsewhere; and Mabel L., wife of R. K. Smith, vice president and
general manager of the Mississippi Central Railway.
A reference to the files of the Atchison papers and the state press
generally reveals the fact that Mr. Waggener's name has been more frequently
connected in recent years with occasions that are never described in the
political news but in those more intimate events connected with the happiness
and joy of children. In 1897 Mr. Waggener gave some definite expression
to his long cherished regard for and interest in children by inaugurating
an annual picnic for the children. Every year since then at his personal
expense he furnishes free transportation, free entertainment and free refreshments
to all the children of Atchison County who attend these picnics.
It is said that the larger the crowd the greater his personal delight in
the affair. The Atchison County children's picnics are now an institution,
and every year the occasion receives a great deal of attention in the newspapers
of the state. In fact a record of the picnic has been placed in the
annals of the Kansas State Historical Society. The Historical Society's
secretary in the year 1911 mentions the visit of President Taft to Kansas,
and the President's presence at the Waggener Picnic in Atchison County.
On September 27th of that year the President left Topeka about an hour
after laying the cornerstone of the Memorial Hall Building and arrived
at Atchison so as to participate in Mr. Waggener's twelfth aunual picnic.
It became Mr. Taft's duty and pleasure to present the founder of these
picnics with a silver loving cup, given by the people of Atchison County.
The words of Mr. Taft in presenting the cup were quoted as follows: "A
token is this, Mr. Waggener, that carries real sincerity and friendship.
I present this beautiful vase of silver in the name of the people here
assembled as a sign of love and esteem. I congratulate you on the
eminence you have obtained." The response of Mr. Waggener was: "This
is a distinction unmerited. I have no words to express my grateful
Several years ago Mr. Waggener was obliged to undergo a surgical
operation in the famous hospital at Rochester, Minnesota. His return
to Atchison was signalized by such a reception as would be gratifying even
to kings and emperors and such as is seldom accorded to a man either in
private or public life. The Atchison children had prayed for his
recovery while he was in the hospital, and when word came that he was safely
by the crisis and would soon return home preparations were made to extend
him a welcome. All the children were on hand, and the automobile
conveying Mr. Waggener from the station to his home passed through lines
of children on both sides. The Kansas City Journal had a special
reporter on the scene, who described it in the following words: "Few
men have been so fortunate as to enjoy such an ovation. Men who have
done important things have been received by town bands and by citizens'
clubs with fluttering badges. Men have come back to their home people
to he received in the Opera House, and cheers have echoed in their receptive
ears. But it must be understood that no such home coming as Mr. Waggener's
could come to an ordinary man. It was the tribute of sincere devotion
and genuine friendship. It couldn't be bought with money or earned
by material success. These Atchison children didn't care a rap for
Waggener the railroad attorney, nor Waggener the politician, nor even for
Waggener the exemplary citizen. It was Mr. Waggener the good, kind
friend they loved, to whom the welcome was given, and it sprang from sheer
joy that he had recovered his health and was with them once more.
And who can say that the earth holds a more splendid triumph as the crowning
glory of a life than this? All other laudations and exclamations
are tame compared with the flushed enthusiasm of hundreds of happy children
shouting a welcome from their hearts."
Mr. Waggener is a member of the Kansas State Historical Society
and one of its most liberal and interested friends.