Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens
GEORGE ALBERT ATWOOD. Truly one of nature's noblemen was the late George Albert Atwood, one of the most prominent journalists and experts on horticultural and agricultural subjects that southern Missouri and eastern Kansas has ever known, and withal a citizen of high ideals and wholesome life. As to his character one can truly say that he was a sturdy type of a true man, firm in resolution, strong in conviction, helpful to his fellowman. Among the numerous commendable qualities which stood out in his character were business integrity, fidelity to trusts, reposed in him, a deep love of nature in her various forms and family devotion. A thinker and philosopher he knew that difficulties confronted men in every occupation, that every man has his troubles and adversities, but he believed that these things were necessary to develop the best qualities in us; that man's necessity was ever the incentive to prompt him to seek out a better way of doing things, a way to overcome, that cheerfulness and optimism would help him find a way, when gloom and despair would only aid in sinking him under the load. So he tried to remain cheerful, and, also knowing that man cannot stand still, must either make progress or retrograde, he always looked toward the heights, keeping in mind the motto, "There is no excellence without great labor." His life was an open sesame with all the simple sincerity that belongs to great-souled men.
George Albert Atwood was born in Barnard, Vermont, January 15, 1840, the fourth in a family of ten children. He was the son of George Hammond and Mary N. (Culver) Atwood, the father a descendant of William Penn and the mother of Samuel Adams. George Hammond Atwood was the son of Ebenezer Atwood. His parents were honest, industrious New England people, and spent their lives on a farm in Vermont, on which their son George Albert Atwood was reared to manhood, and on which he worked during the summer months when he became of proper age. By dint of hard work under many disadvantages in the rural schools, by alternately attending school and teaching school, he obtained a good foundation for the fine education which he finally obtained by persistent home study and contact with the world. He studied at Kimball Union Academy at Meriden, New Hampshire, and Oswego Business College of Oswego, New York. When the war between the states came on he proved his patriotism and courage by enlisting in the Union army in 1862, in Company B, Twelfth Vermont Volunteer Militia, receiving honorable discharge after nine months' service. He then left the home farm to carve out his own career in the world, and was appointed to a clerkship in the United States treasury department, which position he held for two years in a highly acceptable manner, and was in Washington when President Lincoln was assassinated and shared in the intense excitement that tragedy occasioned. Being ambitious to do something and to be something, he resigned his position as clerk, seeing that there was no chance for advancement, and returned to Vermont in 1866, where he farmed a year and in 1867 started out West, where he thought to find larger opportunities, and the remainder of life was spent, the major part of it at least, west of the Father of Waters, with only occasional visits to his New England home, to which he was always devotedly attached. He first located in Adel, Iowa, and there his long editorial career began, publishing the Adel Gazette, and served a term as postmaster at that place. Leaving there he went to Kansas, where he spent seventeen years in newspaper business. He published successively the Ellsworth Reporter, the Western Magazine of Lawrence, the Manhattan Republic, and the Daily Evening Press of Leavenworth. In all of these ventures he was successful, being a man of keen foresight, executive and editorial ability, and he did much through his publications for the upbuilding of Kansas in her earlier history, and was recognized as one of the leading journalists of that state, was widely known and his opinions and advice were constantly sought by the leading public men of the Sunflower State in those days. During these years he served a term in the Kansas state legislature with satisfaction to his constituents. This was in 1875-76. At that time he was also in charge of Fort Harker, an abandoned military post, now known as Kanopolis, having received this appointment in 1875. He held this position two years when the reservation was opened up for settlement. Here it was that he distributed by appointment, government clothing to the sufferers from the memorable grasshopper scourge in that dreadful season of 1875-76. And in 1880 he was appointed a member of the commission to appraise the United States military reservation of Fort Harker.
Subsequently being somewhat broken in health, under the advice of physicians all moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota, where he bought an interest in the Grand Forks Plaindealer. The rigor of the climate proving too severe, he disposed of his interests there and went to Florida, intending to make that state his permanent home. But after repeated freezes of the orange groves he had planted, and but little success with his vineyards, he returned to Grand Forks and established an agricultural paper, the Northern Farmer. This he sold as soon as it was placed on a good footing. And when a warmer climate lured him again he came to southwest Missouri. He had owned a farm near Neosho for several years. This may have had some influence in his derision. He was captivated by the country and its wonderful possibilities. In this faith he came to Springfield in 1893, where the rest of his life was spent, and started a horticultural journal, the Southwest, later known as the Practical Fruit Grower. In the interest of this publication he traveled extensively over the Ozark region, and met and interviewed more fruit men, probably, than any other man in southern Missouri, acquiring a knowledge of facts and conditions that made him an authority in matters horticultural. He bought an eighty acre farm in Arkansas and set practically all of it out in peaches, and at Garber, Taney county, Missouri, he planted a pear orchard. He superintended the planting of the extensive orchard and vineyard on the grounds belonging to the Maine Fishing and Hunting Club, near Branson, in Taney county. Under his expert direction all these orchards and vineyards proved highly successful. His candid opinion was constantly sought by growers and orchardists for advice and it was always freely and gladly given and was invariably followed with gratifying results. He was prime mover in the organization of the Ozark Fruit Growers' Association, which is one of the largest organizations, of its kind in the Southwest, and has done much to better general conditions of the horticulturists of this section of the country. He also assisted in forming many local societies. He was one of the most active and prominent members of the Greene County Horticultural Society, of which he was at one time president. In addition to being directly connected with these associations, Mr. Atwood took an active part in every movement where the farmer and the fruit growers were interested, his opinions on all subjects being accepted as coming from an authority. He was for some time editor of the farm page of the weekly edition of the Springfield Leader. By reason of his experience he was appointed superintendent of the Missouri fruit exhibit at the Trans-Mississippi Exposition at Omaha, Nebraska. In this capacity he also served at the annual state fairs held at Sedalia, Missouri, and he was appointed by Governor Folk as a delegate from this state to the seventeenth National Irrigation Congress held at Spokane, Washington, in August, 1909.
Mr. Atwood was a personal friend of a number of the leading men of the nation, including Gen. Nelson A. Miles and Senators Plum and John J. Ingalls. From these celebrities and many others he received numerous letters while engaged in newspaper work in Kansas. He also carried letters of recommendation from Governors Burke of North Dakota; Humphrey of Kansas and Governor Morrill, of Iowa. Among the many interesting letters he received was one which Mrs. Atwood justly prizes more than all. It is a letter and an original poem from Alice Cary, America's most famous poetess. The poem is entitled "My Native Hills," and contains six verses in the usual fine swing and imagery of that gifted writer. It was purchased by Mr. Atwood and published in the Gazette in Adel, Iowa. The letter and poem were written in the bold, legible handwriting of Alice Cary, and in the letter which was written from New York City, she tells Mr. Atwood that she usually received from twenty-five dollars to fifty dollars for such verses, but in view of the fact that he was starting a new publication, she asked only ten dollars for them. This was in 1867.
Mr. Atwood was married in 1865 to Rosa Ward, of Montpelier, Vermont, where she grew to womanhood and received a good education. She is the daughter of Hezekiah and Adeline (Walbridge) Ward. Mrs. Atwood is a direct descendant of Gen. Artemas Ward, of Revolutionary war fame, and is a woman of many estimable characteristics. They began married life in Washington City. To this union three children were born, Birdie, who lives at home. She has a studio in the Masonic Temple and is an accomplished piano and pipe organ teacher and is the organist at St. Paul Methodist Episcopal church, South. Linnie, who died in infancy, and Ward, who is a linotypist at the Inland Printing Company and also is a photographer of no mean ability.
Politically Mr. Atwood was a Republican. When a young man he was an active member of the Masonic Order, but when he came to Springfield he never took up lodge work. He also held membership in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and a number of other fraternal organizations, including the Grand Army of the Republic, in none of which he took an especially active interest during the last few years of his life.
The death of George Albert Atwood occurred in Springfield on May 2, 1911, at the age of seventy-one years, after an illness of three months. At a regular meeting of the Greene County Horticultural Society, a few days after the death of our subject, the following resolutions were adopted:
"Whereas, In the course of Divine Providence, one of our midst useful members, Brother George Albert Atwood, has been removed by death from our midst. We shall miss his presence and wise counsel in the advocacy of a purer and better horticulture. Therefore, be it
"Resolved, That we express our deep sorrow and loss, and extend to the bereaved family and friends, our sympathy and condolence, and recommend that this resolution be spread upon the minutes of the society and that a copy be sent to the bereaved family and published in the Springfield papers.
Horticulturists could ill afford to lose such men as Mr. Atwood from their ranks. The passing of such a man always leaves sadness and sorrow not only in his immediate family, but among those who know him best. He was an ardent lover of nature and took delight in being among his trees and watching them grow. He was an optimist. He liked to help people. He was pure minded and ambitious. He had the friendship of men of high official rank, and of literary people as well. Genial in character and disposition he made many friends, and was a promoter of peace in every organization with which he was connected. He was devoted to his home and family, and was a kind and affectionate husband and father. He loved life, but when the end came he met it nobly, sweetly--almost his last words being, "Beautiful Life!"
Springfield-Greene County Library