Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck

Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri

Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens


WILLIAM HENRY FULBRIGHT. This well known citizen is an excellent representative of the better class of retired agriculturists of the United States. Mr. Fulbright comes from an ancestry that distinguished itself in pioneer times when Greene county and the Ozark region were covered with vast forests of large trees which alternated with the wild prairie lands, and wild animals of many species were numerous on all sides, his people came to this section of Missouri and began to carve homes from the primeval forests, assist in building schools and churches, and introduce the customs of civilization in the wilderness, and it was our subject's grandfather who enjoyed the distinction of founding the city of Springfield. The Fulbrights were genuine pioneers, willing to take the hardships in order that they might acquire the soil and the home that was sure to rise. They were willing to work and do without many of the luxuries of the older clime under Dixie skies from whence they came and which had been the abiding place of their ancestors so long. It has been just such spirit that has caused the almost illimitable lands toward "the sundown seas" to be reclaimed and utilized, as told in Theodore Roosevelt's book, "The Winning of the West."

William Henry Fulbright of Murray township, was born near Springfield, Greene county, Missouri, August 14, 1837, and practically all of his life of seventy-seven years has been spent in this locality, which he has seen developed from its wild state to one of the foremost in the state and he has taken a good citizen's part in this work of advancement. He is a son of John Lawson and Elizabeth O. (Roper) Fulbright. He is the scion of two old American families of colonial stock. His grandfather, David Roper, was a soldier in the war of 1812, and fought at the battle of Horse Shoe under Gen. Andrew Jackson. The great-grandfather on his mother's side was a soldier in the Revolutionary war. The emigrant ancestor of our subject on the paternal side was a German. William Fulbright, grandfather of our subject, was born in North Carolina, and could speak the German language. He married Ruth Hollingsworth, and went to Tennessee where they owned a large plantation and owned many negroes. In the spring of 1829 he made the overland journey with his family to Greene county, Missouri and located on land which is now covered by the heart of the city of Springfield. His children were Ephraim R., Henry, John I.awson, Rhoda, Eli, Levi, David L., Wilson, Samuel, William D., Daniel N., and Elkana. They all came in wagons, bringing thirty slaves. William Fulbright had four brothers who came to Missouri with families—David, John, Martin and Daniel; they settled where Col. Fellows' wagon foundry was eventually built, and from these brothers sprang the large present generation of Fulbrights. Several of them settled in Laclede county, William being the only one to remain in Greene county, and he built his rude first dwelling near the Frisco's south side shops, which formerly belonged to the old "Gulf" railroad, and this mammoth spring was ever afterward called the "Fulbright spring," by which it is known to this day. The spring where the city gets part of its water, four miles north of the public square, is also known as the Fulbright spring on account of William Fulbright having built a grist mill there which was the first one in this county. It was operated first as a still house and later as a mill. He entered a large tract of land, most of the south part of Springfield now covering this land. The country was open, covered with wild high grass and large trees scattered about, and presenting a beautiful appearance. The country was full of game—deer, wild turkey, prairie chicken, pheasant and many other varieties. William Fulbright was a practical farmer, which business he carried on extensively, and provided the largely increasing immigration which came into the county with farm products. He had one unvarying price for his products without regard to the market prices. He made his price for corn fifty cents per bushel. It being a new country, corn was high and often sold for one dollar per bushel, but he did not alter his price. Albert Patterson was his nearest neighbor, eight miles north. Jeremiah Pearson lived eight miles east of the Fulbrights. The Rountrees came about a year later. William Fulbright was a giant physically, weighing three hundred pounds. He was widely known to the pioneers, was a man of great hospitality, his house being always open to the early settlers and many of them made it a stopping place, He and his wife were members of the Christian church. He lived to be about sixty years of age. He did not live to see much evidence of the great city that was destined to spring up on his land for during his day-here only a handful of people settled in this vicinity. It is not certainly known whether he gave the town its name, however it is known that the place did not receive its name, as popularly supposed, from the many springs in its vicinity, but a meeting of the first settlers was held for the purpose of choosing a name for the new village, and as several of them came from near Springfield, Tennessee, it was agreed that the new place should bear the name of the old town in the south, which was accordingly given it. John L. Fulbright, father of the immediate subject of this sketch, was born on October 11, 1816, and was therefore thirteen years of age when he came with his parents to Greene county and here he grew to manhood and engaged in farming. In 1860 he rebuilt the old grist mill of his father and operated it in connection with farming, Continuing to run the mill about twenty-five years. When he rebuilt the mill in 1860 he added a cotton gin and carding machine. He had learned the milling business when he worked for his father in the old mill here as a young man. After his marriage here he moved to Newton county, this state where he owned and farmed one hundred and sixty acres of land. He did not know that underlying his land were valuable mineral deposits, and he sold it for a small sum when he decided to return to Greene county, the same land subsequently bringing an immense sum, after the mineral had been discovered, but too late to do him any good. Upon his return to Greene county he again took charge of the above mentioned mill. The history of this mill would be interesting enough to fill many pages if space permitted. The old Fulbright spring furnished water power sufficient to operate this mill. This spring was sold by the subject of this sketch to P. B. Perkins of the Springfield water works, and our subject when a boy plowed on what is now South street, one hundred and thirty acres the old Fulbright farm having lain very close to the public square. The death of John L. Fulbright occurred on October 31, 1881 on the old home farm in Campbell township. His wife, who was born in Tennessee in 1816, died on the homestead here June 21, 1885. They were the parents of six children, three of whom died in infancy; the other three were William H.1of this sketch; Mrs, Jane Girley, deceased; and Mrs. Katherine Lee, deceased.

William H. Fulbright spent his boyhood days on the home farm with the exception of a few years of his boyhood spent in Newton county. He was six years old when his parents brought him back to Greene county. He received his early education in the common schools, when fourteen years of age entering school in Springfield. In ago he took active charge of his father's mill which he operated for a period of twenty-seven years, and he took care of his parents during their old age. He moved to his present farm in Murray township in December, 1886. He owns two hundred and sixty acres, mostly under cultivation, and also owns one hundred and sixty acres of prairie land. He has made a pronounced success as a general farmer and stock raiser, and his land is well improved and productive. He has an excellent group of buildings. He remains on his home place and does a little farming, but has lived practically retired from active life since 1904.

Mr. Fulbright was married in 1859 to Habagil Bryant, a daughter of David and Rozelle (Still) Bryant. Mr. Bryant was born in Virginia in 1805. From his native state he moved to Kentucky where he married, and lived there until he came to Missouri, first locating in Lawrence county, when his daughter Habagil was four years old. He followed farming in that county for ten years. In connection with farming he practiced medicine and was a successful doctor of the old school, being known as an "Indian doctor." Upon selling his eighty acre farm in Lawrence county he came to Murray township, Greene county, in 1850, and settled on the farm now owned by Mr. Fulbright of this review. Here he also practiced medicine for many years or until old age compelled him to retire. He was a Republican, and was a member of the Methodist church at Walnut Springs. His wife was born and reared in Kentucky, her birth occurring August 11, 1818, and her death occurred at Pleasant Hope, Polk county, Missouri, while on a visit to her son, James Bryant, April 1, 1895. To David Bryant and wife eleven children were born, namely: Habagil, wife of Mr. Fulbright of this sketch; Timberlake, Mrs. Martha Stoneking, Mrs. Nancy Watson are all three deceased; the next child died in infancy; James is deceased, Mrs. Mary Watson lives in Murray township; Zachariah lives in Oklahoma; Mrs. Eliza Hughes lives in Clark county, Kansas; Warren Pitt also lives in Clark county, Kansas; Mts. Jennie Munroe is deceased.

To William H. Fulbright and wife three children have been born, namely: Alexander, who married Mary Knott, has one child, Guy; the former's wife died in 1897, and in 1900 he married for his second wife, Mollie Mercer, and has one child by her, Russell; Guy Fulbright married Rosa Schmidt and they have four children; Alexander Fulbright lives in Springfield and works at the Davis Planing Mill; his son Guy works in the New Frisco shops. David, second child of our subject and wife, married. Alice Gabie and they had three children, Lawson (deceased), Elizabeth and Alma; David farms in Murray township. Mrs. Anna Cosby, youngest of the children of our subject, is deceased.

William H. Fulbright is a Democrat in politics, but being a quiet, home man he has never aspired to public office. He is liberal in his religious views and has always been regarded as an honest, upright man, kind, neighborly and public-spirited. Mrs. Fulbright is a member of the Ritter Chapel, Methodist Episcopal church, South. They are both widely known in the county and are in every respect deserving of the high esteem in which they are universally held.

[740-744]


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