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 BUCHANAN SANFORD. One of the most conspicuous figures in the recent history of southwest Missouri is William Buchanan Sanford, too well known to the readers of this historical and biographical compendium to need any formal introduction here, a man actively identified with the industrial and business interests of the city of Springfield and vicinity, widely known as one of the leading financiers of this section of the state. Equally noted as a citizen whose useful career has conferred credit upon Greene county and the Ozark region, and whose marked abilities and stirring qualities have won for him much more than local repute, he holds today distinctive precedence as one of the most progressive men that ever inaugurated and carried to successful termination large and important undertakings in this locality. For a period of thirty-five years he has been a conspicuous figure in the banking world, and the position he now occupies, that of president of the great Holland Banking Company, brings him up to the front rank of his compeers in this state. Strong mental powers, invincible courage and a determined purpose that hesitates at no opposition have so entered into his composition as to render him a dominant factor in the business world and a leader of men in important enterprises. He is essentially a man of affairs, of sound judgment, keen discernment, rare acumen, far-seeing in what he undertakes, and every enterprise to which he has addressed himself has resulted in liberal financial returns. Mr. Sanford's extensive business interests are but the legitimate fruitage of consecutive effort, directed and controlled by good judgment and correct moral principles. He has forged his way to the front over obstacles that would have discouraged and even thwarted men of less heroic mettle, gradually extending the limits of his mental horizon until he is not only one of our twentieth century captains of industry in the South West, but also one of the best developed mentally, having always been a close observer and a profound student and kept fully abreast of the times. Taken as a whole, his career presents a series of continued successes rarely equaled in Missouri. In the most liberal acceptation of the term, he is the architect of his own fortunes and eminently worthy of the proud American title of self-made man.

Mr. Sanford was born at West Point, Bates county, Missouri, December 29, 1858. He is descended from a sterling old Southern family, and is a son of Wyatt, and Susan Green (Bigbee) Sanford, and a grandson of John Sanford, a native of Virginia. The father, Wyatt Sanford, was a member of the famous band of "forty-niners," having made the long, perilous overland trip to the gold fields of California in 1849. After spending several years in the far West he returned East and located in Springfield, Missouri, but subsequently removed to Bates county and engaged in mercantile pursuits. He was a good business man and possessed the many commendable traits of the sturdy pioneer of his day and generationócourage, industry, hospitality and unswerving honesty. He frequently bought up large numbers of mules which he drove across the mountains to the New Orleans market, and it was while on one of these trips that his attention was attracted, to a fine farm near Searcy, Arkansas, which he later purchased and operated, removing there from Butler, Missouri, during the Civil war, and most of -his succeeding years were spent on that place, his death occurring there April 16, 1872. In connection with general agricultural pursuits he also engaged successfully in contracting and building, and one of the enduring monuments of his skill as a builder is the old court house at the town of Searcy, which he completed only a short time before his death.

William B. Sanford was but a child when his parents removed with him to Arkansas and there he grew to manhood on the home farm, where he assisted with the work of the same and there began his education in one of the historic old log school houses in White county, later attending the public schools in Searcy. But this limited amount of text-book training has been made up in later life by wide miscellaneous home study and actual contact with the world until today Mr. Sanford is a well informed man on all topics. He was fourteen years of age when his father died, and the responsibilities that then devolved upon him no doubt had much to do in moulding his character for his future career. He was one of eight children, five sons and three daughters, he being the third oldest of the sons. The family remained on the homestead two years after the father's death then came to Springfield, Missouri, the mother and daughters making the trip by rail, while the sons made the trip by wagon and a four-horse team.

After locating in Springfield, Mrs. Sanford kept her family together by maintaining a boarding house, assisted by her younger son, our subject, the two older boys working with their teams on the street. Young Sanford helped his mother until he secured a position in a law office, his duties being such menial labor as building fires and cleaning up in a general way. It was during this period that he first saw the farm that he now considers one of his most valuable pieces of property, not especially because of its superior improvements and productivity to other Greene county farms, but for the pleasure derived from the time he spends there each year, It seems that he and his two brothers made a trip to this farm for the purpose of buying feed for their teams, when farm products were both high and scarce in the city, and the younger boy was so favorably impressed with the general appearance of the place that he never forgot it. Finally fortune smiled on his efforts and enabled him to buy the property. He has also added to his possessions the old Sanford homestead in White county, Arkansas, and there he spends many of his vacations away from the exactions of business, deriving a great deal of pleasure amid the scenes of his boyhood.

After leaving the lawyer's office, young Sanford began work as delivery boy for a grocery store, and for four years he put in his spare time selling papers on the streets. He would do anything to earn an honest dollar, some times driving a cab when work was hard to get, and for years performed odd jobs over the city.

Mr. Sanford began his long career as banker at the very bottom rung of the ladder, and his steady climb to the top, from janitor, messenger boy and general aide to everyone about the institution to his present position of president, was gained solely through merit, honesty, fidelity, trustworthiness and an indefatigable industry. During his spare moments he watched the bookkeeper and, being a close observer by nature, soon was able to keep a set of books. Rapid promotion resulted from his devotion to business and the careful discharge of his duties. In 1888, after a connection with the bank of nine years he became cashier. His promotion did not stop here, for he was soon afterwards a stockholder and a member of the board of officers of the institution, which is now the oldest bank in Greene county, and one of the largest in the Southwest. On October 21, 1911, he purchased the controlling interest in the bank from T, B. Holland, who had assumed the place of his father, Gen. C. B. Holland, who laid the corner stone for the financial Gibraltar of Springfield in 1875. It is rather a significant fact that up to the fall of 1911 no sale of shares had been made since 1896, when the bank was incorporated. President Sanford, who, in the handling of millions, is giving eminent satisfaction to the stockholders and patrons of the bank, is proving himself a capable, conservative and sagacious financier.

Banking is not the only business in which Mr. Sanford's time is occupied. He is financially interested in the Hermann-Sanford Saddlery Company, a widely-known Springfield concern doing an annual business of half a million dollars. He owns numerous valuable pieces of property in Springfield, and finely improved farms in Missouri and Arkansas. He has manifested a great deal of interest in agricultural pursuits ever since he was a boy, and when fortune came to him he purchased good farm lands in various places and has taken particular pride in bringing them up to a high state of improvement and cultivation. The interest shown in this line has contributed very materially to his fortune, for he has always sold his farms at good profits. His delight in such work and his inherent love of nature was the incentive that caused him to begin planting shade trees in his earlier years. It is doubtful if there is any one living man in Springfield who has caused as many splendid shade trees to be planted as Mr. Sanford. His advocacy of "a city beautiful" has had far-reaching effects, and future generations will owe him a debt of gratitude. In recent years he has given a great deal of attention to the development of his fine farm near this city. There he maintains a large herd of registered Holstein cows and has many head of other live stock of superior grades, including several very fine saddle horses. He has done much to encourage a better grade of live stock in this locality.

While laboring for his own advancement, Mr. Sanford has never lost sight of his larger duties to his city and county, and in a public way he has contributed much to the development of each, and to the Ozark country in general. It was largely through his foresight, energy and influence that the Missouri Pacific Railroad was built into Springfield. When it seemed that the company would give up its proposal to extend its lines in this direction, Mr. Sanford made a trip to New York City, with the knowledge of but few of his business associates. He went there solely for the purpose of inducing those who controlled the road to build their lines into Springfield. His tact, diplomacy and enthusiasm won, and upon his return to this city, it was definitely announced that the road would be built into Springfield, and work on the same was begun soon thereafter.

He was one of the founders and builders of the Colonial Hotel, which would he a credit to a city much larger than Springfield. He was also largely interested in the building of the first substantial home of the Young Men's Christian Association in this city. The movement had started but was about to be abandoned when it was found that a suitable site would be costly and difficult to secure. Knowing that the proposition would be a good thing for the city, Mr. Sanford became active and with the aid of several other business men, purchased a lot at the southeast corner of Jefferson and St. Louis streets and presented it to the local association.

In the organization of the Greene County Bureau of Agriculture, Mr. Sanford took a leading part. The establishment of the bureau was the result of his devotion to the cause, and it has resulted in incalculable good to the farmers and general public of this locality. In banking circles his ability has been recognized on numerous occasions. He attends each session of the Missouri Bankers' Association, where his influence for modern, safe and sane banking methods is powerful and salutary; and he is a member of the committee on agriculture, and he has been largely instrumental in making the work of this committee potent for the general good.

The domestic life of Mr. Sanford began on Thanksgiving day, 1886, in, Springfield, when he was united in marriage with Cora E. Holland, the accomplished and cultured daughter of the late T. B. Holland. Her untimely death, which occurred on May 10, 1901, was sincerely lamented by her wide circle of friends in which she had long been a favorite. She left an only child, Grady Holland Sanford, who was born November 13, 1891. He has been given excellent educational advantages and is a young man of promise.

Politically Mr. Sanford is a Democrat, and while he is loyal in his support of the party, he has never sought public office, preferring to devote his attention to his large business interests, his attractive and modernly appointed home and to the general good of his city and community. He holds membership in Florence Lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and he belongs to the Presbyterian church. He has done much to encourage deserving young men, and many people in Springfield owe to him their start on the road to success, especially in the field of business. His contributions to charity, though not known to any extent, have been large. His benefactions have sprung from a kind heart and an altruistic nature and not to win the admiring plaudits of his fellowman. His desire to avoid display of any kind has prevented general knowledge of the extent of his work in that particular field. He merits in every way the high esteem in which he is universally held. His high position in the minds and hearts of the people has been won to a considerable degree through his marked ability as a man of industry, his public benefactions, his sympathetic, true and generous friendships and his reputation as a genial, companionable and unassuming gentleman.

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