Sunday, February 24, 2019

There Is An Extra Line

William Douthitt was born in Vevay, Illinois in 1827. He studied law and graduated from the University of Illinois in Bloomington. He came to Kansas aboard a steamboat from St. Louis, landing in Leavenworth, in 1857. He came to Topeka in 1859 and immediately began a life. Douthitt was an attorney and operated a law firm for most his life in Topeka, the last with his son-in-law, Eugene Wolfe.

Douthitt tried the first case in Shawnee County, in Tecumseh, then the county seat, which was over a promissory note. He was elected to the legislature in 1863 and was instrumental in getting the railroad and telegraphs installed in Kansas--connecting the forts and major cities in eastern Kansas. Douthitt had a house at 3rd and Van Buren and then owned an 80 acre tract of land along Kansas Avenue that stretched from Kansas to what is now Central Park Avenue between 14th and Euclid (17th) Street. Both houses have been torn down but you could see the Kansas Capitol from each house.
Views of the Kansas Capitol from 3rd & Van
Buren (r.) and 15th & Kansas.

On his land he kept a veterans' campsite where veterans could come and stay. Being just north of the fairgrounds meant that Douthitt's land was very attractive to developers in the latter part of the 19th Century but Douthitt held off on selling the land until 1897 when he deeded it to his daughters and son-in-law.

William Douthitt died of paralysis (possibly a stroke) on November 28, 1897. A funeral was held in his house and he was buried in Topeka Cemetery. Soon after his death, his land was opened for development. Polk and Tyler Streets were extended through the property and two other streets were build east to west. The first, an extension of 15th Street, was named Douthitt Avenue. The other was named Huntington Street after Douthitt's grandmother.
ca. 1905 map of Topeka showing Douthitt and Huntington Streets
The streets kept those names until the city, wanting consistency in the names of their streets, renamed Douthitt to 15th Street and Huntington to 16th. A small portion of Douthitt Avenue still exists between Central Park Avenue and Western Avenue, a nearly forgotten memorial to one of Topeka's first pioneers.

Sadly, I could not find much on Douthitt's family. He married but I could not find his wife's name, and had at least three daughters and one son--Ada, Laura, Louise, and John. After his father's death, John got caught up in a messy divorce. Louise married Eugene Wolfe in 1891 and they had two children, William and Eugene. Sadly, Eugene would pass away in 1899 of a sudden illness at the age of 34.
Lt. William Douthitt
Lawyer ~ Pioneer
This originally appeared in a somewhat different format on my Twitter. If you would like to support my writing and research, you can buy me a cup of coffee over on Ko-Fi.

I wonder how much I would have to pay Chip to never draw Gladys like in the third panel ever again.