Life of Doctor William Henry Stillman

Portrait and Biographical Album; Washington, Clay and Riley Counties; published in Chicago, IL; Chapman Brothers; 1890.
William H. Stillman, M.D. The subject of this notice, one of the leading Physicians of Manhattan Township and a veteran of nearly seventy-one years, comprises no unimportant factor among the elements of Northern Kansas, to which he came during the trying times of its early settlement, and with others was frequently called out to protect the free State capital, Topeka, from the border ruffians. He is well educated, intelligent and a man of more than ordinary ability. He follows his profession with much of his old-time energy and all of its success. He resides on a well regulated farm, one and a half miles of Manhattan, where he has a large stone residence, good barns and other outbuildings, a fine orchard and all the appurtances of the modern country estate. Like many other men, he has met with reverses and has had various difficulties to contend with, but notwithstanding all this he has preserved his integrity and courage and made for himself a good record, both as a man and as a citizen.

The subject of this sketch was born in Westerly, R.I., Jan. 7, 1819, and is the son of William and Charlotte (Champlain) Stillman, who were likewise natives of that State, as was also his paternal grandfather, William Stillman. His [grandfather William Stillman's] grandfather John Pickard, an Englishman, was an officer under Cromwell, and fled to America after the death of the Protector. There being a reward for his capture, he changed his name to Stillman and settled in Wethersfield, Conn. There is in the family a Bible which he brought with him from England and which bears his name in his own handwriting.

[The previous paragraph last two sentences describing one "John Pickard" is a totally false extrapolation of what is presented in the inaccurate writings of Deacon William Stillman and other references. Documented accurate accounts of the lives of Mr. George Stillman and his son Doctor George Stillman are found elsewhere in this page. One plausible interpretation is that the name is that of his mother - Jane Pickering - or, the name of Sir John Pickering, Baronette of Nova Scotia 2nd - brother-in-law of Mr. George Stileman Pickering and uncle to George Stileman Pickering, Jr. whom the latter most likely would have lived with while obtaining his medical degree in London, England during 1689 - 1700.]

William Stillman, the father of our subject, was in his younger years a mechanic, but later he studied medicine and for a number of years was a practising physician in Rhode Island and Connecticut. He lived to be eighty-five years of age, and died in Ashaway, R.I. His father was by trade a watch and clock-maker, and lived to the advanced age of ninety-six years. Adam Champlain, the maternal grandfather of the Doctor, was reared in Newport, R.I., and served in the Revolutionary War. He spent his last years in Hopkinton, R.I., passing away at the age of eighty years.

To the parents of our subject there was born a family of seven children, William II being the eldest. Abram C., died in Rhode Island when a promising youth of about nineteen years. Ezra went to California during the early days of the gold excitement, and on his return started from San Francisco for the Isthmus. The vessel was wrecked and he and many others cast away, and having never been heard from, the supposition is that he is dead. Elizabeth married George W. Taylor, a manufacturer of Hopkinton, R.I., and later went to Florida for her health, where she died, leaving no children; Joseph; Mathilda married Jonathan Larkin, a carpenter and wagon-maker by trade, and died in 1886 in Florida. In the meantime Mr. Larkin in 1849 went to California, returning in the '50's to Rhode Island, where he is probably now living. Elisha is married and employed as a book-keeper at Hopkinton, R.I.

Dr. Stillman pursued his early studies in the common schools, and after reaching his majority attaended the High School one year in Westerly, R.I. Later he attended school at Providence four months. He next went to New London, Conn., and commenced the study of medicine under the instruction of Dr. Azar Estee, and subsequently attended lectures two years. He began the practice of his profession at Westerly, following it there for a period of fourteen years. Then in the spring of 1855 he came to Kansas Territory and took up 160 acres of land on the branch of Rock Creek in Blue Township. He began its cultivation and improvement, and was the second practicing physician in the county, the first being Dr. Hunting.

During the latter years of his sojourn in his native State, Dr. Stillman had been in poor health and sought the West in hope of recovering. He intended then to abandon the practice of medicine. He had been accompanied hither by parties who came with him soley because he was a physician and who forced him back to his practice. He remained here for the first time only about six months, returning to Rhode Island to settle up his business, intending to return with his family to Kansas when this was accomplished. Upon his arrival there he was taken down with pneumonia and was an invalid for six months. After his recovery he came back to Kansas, still leaving his family in Rhode Island. Upon arriving here he found another man in possession of his claim and accordingly made another on section 6, which is included in the farm which he now owns and occupies. He proceeded with the cultivation and improvement of this and was prospered in his labors. He is now one of the largest land-owners in Riley County, having 525 acres. He has practiced and farmed continuously, being equally successful in both callings and furnishing a fine illustration of the results of energy and perseverance. He is a sound Republican politically but has invariably declined the cares and responsibilities of office.

The subject of this sketch was married in Westerly, R.I., March 12, 1813, to Miss Sarah, daughter of James and Mary Ross and a native of that place. This union resulted in the birth of five children, the eldest of whom, William and Abram, died in infancy. James a resident of New York City, is the first engineer in the Tribune building; he is married and the father of a son, George. Phebe, died Dec. 24, 1870, unmarried, in Rhode Island when about 21 years old. The youngest, William R. born April 19, 1854, was killed at sea in a storm, being thrown from the ship's berth. Mrs. Sarah (Ross) Stillman departed this life at her home at Westerly, R.I., in 1851. She was born Dec. 19, 1821.

Dr. Stillman was the second time married, in 1855, to Mrs. Mary (Irish) Green, by whom she became the mother of two children, Thomas and Elizabeth, the former of whom is a resident of Rhode Island and the latter died there in August, 1889. Of this marriage of the Doctor there were no children. His third wife was formerly Miss Josephine A. Cottrell, and there were born to them two children, Elsie and Lottie E. Elsie died in early childhood from the effects eating a box of sugar-coated pills, which she obtained without the knowledge of her mother. Miss Lottie remains at home with her mother.

Exerpts from "Excavations at the Meadowlark Cemetery, Manhattan" of Research News from Members of Professional Archaeologists of Kansas Number 5 2004 authored by Jeremy W. Pye, University of Oklahoma; Holly C. (H.C.) Smith, University of Oklahoma; and, Donna C. Roper, Kansas State University
Page 77-78
William H. Stillman, the landowner, was a physician from Rhode Island, who homesteaded in Riley County, Kansas, in 1860 (R CGS 1976:461). 1890, the Portrait and Biographical Album of Washington, Clay and Riley Counties, Kansas, claimed that Stillman had 525 acres and was one of the largest landowners in Riley County (Chapman Bros. 1890:662). Though records on file at the Riley County Historical Society show that Stillman leased and mortgaged parcels of this land to various people between 1860 and 1900 (WHSF, Warranty Deeds), he never parted with the specific lot of land containing the cemetery, as this lot also contained his house (WHSF Warranty Deeds 1860-1901). Dr. Stillman advertised in the local newspapers as "Wm.H.Stillman, Botanico Eclectic Physician and Surgeon office at residence 1 mile north of Manhattan on Blue River Road" (Manhattan Independent 1864 4/18).



Courtesy of Jeremy W. Pye
Jan 2006

Evidence corroborating the local folklore that this cemetery was a result of the land having been a poor farm and orphanage consists of sporadic notices in the newspapers of the day regarding Dr. William H. Stillman receiving funds for the poor. In 1882 and 1883, notices were published stating that William H. Stillman was paid $125.00 and $189.00 for keeping the poor (Manhattan Nationalist 1/12/1882; Manhattan Republic 1/12/1883 respectively). Not necessarily corroborating this as a poor farm, but ay least consistent with it are the notices of the opening of the first official county poor farm at the beginning of 1894. Stillman had apparently been providing these services on a more or less ad hoc basis until that time. The excavation of the cemetery provided additional evidence for the property having been used in this capacity.

Page 81
Graves and Burials
Thirteen of the seventeen graves contained relatively complete skeletons; the other four contained sparse or no bone and few artifacts. The individuals originally interred in the graves containing little recoverable material were removed at an earlier date. Dr. Stillman himself, along with a daughter, had been buried in this cemetery, but were removed in 1901 (about 6 months after Stillman's death), and re interred in Sunset Cemetery, in Manhattan (Soldan and Olney 1979:204).
The curator is especially grateful to Jeremy W. Pye for his correspondence, pictures and for providing the additional insight into the life of Doctor William Henry Stillman.


Findings of Alfred William Stillman, Jr. in 1971 while visiting in Manhattan, KS
The will and other papers related to the public records of Doctor Willam Henry Stillman - brother to my great grandfather - Joseph Fulton Stillman, mentioned only as Joseph in the preceding - was found in the Riley County, KS archives in Manhattan, KS. Among the deeds was one that provided 10 acres to my great grandfather from 1868 until 1878. In the summer of 1971, I twice visited his cemetary site, where his remains are buried with those of his daughter, Elsie, who died on 11 Aug 1879. Doctor William Henry Stillman died on 12 Sep 1900. In Manhattan, KS I was able to find an abandoned stone shell dwelling at the end of Stillman Drive - which apparently was the outside of his residence when he was alive.

My grandfather, Joseph LaVerne Stillman, his sisters Margaret May Stillman and Phoebe Charlotte Stillman, and brothers Benjamin Silas Stillman and Arthur Main Stillman have all provided me with impressive stories of how they loved to ride their Uncle William's Indian ponies when they were in Manhattan, KS. As a matter of historical reference - Doctor William Henry Stillman was the only physician who treated Native Americans of that region of the Kansas frontier territory - for his services the Native Americans would pay him with ponies, livestock, game and personal services. My grandfather and siblings all stated that his last wife was a nurse/receptionist who was a 29 year-old indentured servant when he married her on 20 Sep 1891 at age 70.

Doctor William Henry Stillman - a member of the Kansas militia - was once called to Wichita, KS to assist in rousting out one William Bonney - aka Billy the Kid - which they were successful in doing. Numerous other outlaws were treated in the same manner from 1860 - 1900.



Courtesy of Jeremy W. Pye
Jan 2006


Children of Doctor William Henry Stillman
and 1st wife - Sarah Ann Ross

daughter of James Ross and Mary Potter


William Ross Stillman
Born: 9 May 1844
Place: Westerly, RI
Died: 23 Nov 1844
Place: Westerly, RI

business loans

Edwin Stillman
Born: 29 Mar 1845
Place: Westerly, RI
Died: 13 Apr 1858
Place: Riley County, KS - drowned in Big Blue River


James Abram Stillman
Born: 8 May 1848
Place: Westerly, RI
Died: 2 Jan 1921
Place: Norwalk, CT
Married: Henrietta Johnson
Born: 9 Sep 1848
Place: New York, NY
Died: 31 Jul 1935
Place: Norwalk, CT
Date Married: 5 Sep 1871


New York(Manhattan)1910 Federal Census


New York(Manhattan)1920 Federal Census


New York(Manhattan)1910 Federal Census


Phoebe Stillman
Born: 14 Feb 1851
Place: Westerly, RI
Died: 25 Dec 1869
Place: Ashaway, RI


William Coggeshall Stillman
Born: 19 May 1853
Place: Westerly, RI
Died: 19 Apr 1854
Place: Westerly, RI



Census Record of Doctor William Henry Stillman
and Children of 2nd wife - Mary (Irish) Green


1870 Federal Census Riley, KS



Children of Doctor William Henry Stillman
and 3rd wife - Josephine Cottrell Jones

daughter of Joseph Cottrell and Ann Stillwell


1880 Federal Census Manhattan, KS


Elsie May Stillman
Born: 8 Mar 1877
Place: Manhattan, KS
Died: 11 Aug 1879
Place: Manhattan, KS


Courtesy of Jeremy Pye
Jan 2006



Charlotte "Lottie" Eva Stillman
Born: 17 Jul 1879
Place: Manhattan, KS
Died: in 1920s
Place: Santa Maria, CA
Married: Herbert C. Graham
Born: 8 Nov 1876
Place: PA
Died: 9 Jul 1964
Place: Santa Maria, CA
Date Married: circa 1903





Children of Doctor William Henry Stillman
and 4th wife - Ida Christiana Holtburg

1900 Federal Census Manhattan, KS



1930 Federal Census Tulsa, OK


Segur Edwin Stillman
Born: 17 Dec 1889
Place: Manhattan, KS
Lived: 1900
Place: Manhattan, KS
Lived: 1930
Place: Tulsa, OK
Died: 12 Dec 1951
Place: Tulsa, OK
Married: Della Lois Davis
Born: 23 Jan 1895
Place: Houston, MO
Lived: 1930
Place: Tulsa, OK
Died: 12 Mar 1986
Place: Tulsa, OK
Date Married: circa 1912

When Doctor William Henry Stillman died, Ida and son Segur moved in with a woman chiropractor who rented rooms in a two story house in Manhattan, KS. Ida then moved with Segur and wife Della Lois Davis Stillman to Topeka, KS; later to Drumright, OK [see WWI Draft Registration]; to Oilton, OK; to Tulsa, OK; and, to Seminole, OK where she resided until her death


Data and information has been obtained from ancestry.com
Information was obtained from Warren Houston Stillman in Sep 2006