William J. Skinner

Hon. William J. Skinner, popularly known as "Sunset Skinner," has endeared himself to the people of Steele county by his generous disposition, kindheartedness and unsullied public career, and it is with pleasure that a brief review of his life is presented to the readers of this volume.

Mr. Skinner was born in Washington county, Vermont, October 17, 1825. His ancestors arrived on America's shores in 1730 and made a home in Connecticut and the grandfather of our subject was a soldier of the Revolution. Our subject was one of a family of ten children and of seven sons he was the youngest. From the time he was twelve years of age he was hired out to neighboring farmers and before he attained his majority his wages paid up a four-hundred-dollar mortgage. He taught school during one winter and after attaining his majority went to Winnebago county, Wisconsin, where he arrived May, 1847, and found a wilderness indeed. He engaged in farming there until 1856, and then located in Chippewa county, Wisconsin, and followed farming until 1860, when he was elected county treasurer and after one term in office established with a partner in the general merchandise business in Chippewa Falls. The business was extended in 1869 to include the handling of lumber and our subject assumed charge of the yards at Davenport, Iowa, and assisted in the improvement of that city. He went to Dakota in1881 and filed claim to land in section 28, in Melrose township, where he followed farming and met with success.

Mr. Skinner was married, in 1854, to Miss Lucy A. Rice, who died in 1864, leaving four children, as follows : Alyra E.; Cyrus, now living in Dakota; Cyren, deceased, and Walter W. Cyrus and Cyren were twins. Mr. Skinner was married, in 1865, to Miss Emily R. Coleman, who died in Dakota in January. 1886. Two children were born to this union, Harvey and Abbie. Mr. Skinner began early to take an active part in the affairs of Steele county, then in Griggs county, and was one of the first justices of the peace appointed, and in 1890 was elected to the state legislature and served on the platform committee, chairman of the committee on expenditures, chairman of the committee on county and state boundaries and his efficient work while a member of the legislative body is recognized by his fellow citizens. He is a Republican in political sentiment, but is popular with the people regardless of party connections and deservedly so.

Source:  Compendium of History and Biography of North Dakota 1900 Page 651

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