William Chrisman was an early Jackson County pioneer and a well-regarded attorney, banker and an early champion of public education. He was born Nov. 23, 1822 near Lexington, Kentucky. His parents were Joseph and Eleanor Chrisman, a family with Virginia roots and German heritage. He was educated in Kentucky at Georgetown and Center colleges. He married Lucy Ann Lee (1828-1889) in May of 1848. She was a member of the Lee family of Virginia. The couple moved immediately to Independence, Missouri.
Source: Ben Ferrell Museum, Platte City, Missouri
Chrisman initially practiced law from an office on the Square in Independence. In 1857 he began a distinguished career in banking with a financial institution which became Chrisman-Sawyer Bank and continued until 1995 when it was purchased and renamed. Chrisman was an education advocate and served as Board Secretary on the first board of education for the Independence School District in 1867. He helped establish the short-lived Independence Female College. He was a member of the state 1875 Constitutional Convention which provided state support for public education for all persons between six and 20 years old with separate schools for African-Americans. He died in Jan. 27, 1897. Twenty years later, his daughter, Maggie, provided land for a new public high school at Union and Maple streets with the stipulation it be named for her father. William Chrisman High School is now located on Noland Road in Independence.
Lucy Ann (Lee) Chrisman
Source: Missouri Valley Special Collections, KCPL
William and Lucie are buried in Mount Washington Cemetery as are their children.
Their son, George Lee Chrisman (1851-1916) first entered his father’s law firm, then Chrisman-Sawyer Bank before being elected as a Judge of the Eastern District of Kansas City in 1896. He served two terms as Presiding Judge of the County Court. He was also the president and majority stockholder of the Kansas City Times newspaper. He married Lutie Lucy Duke (1866-1933). Another son, James Chrisman (1853-1872) was a student at Westminster College when he died at the age of 18. Their daughter “Maggie” (1855-1942) married Logan Oliver Swope, Sr. (1847-1900). Members of the Logan Oliver Swope family are also buried in Mount Washington. Logan was the brother of Col. Thomas Hunton Swope, the benefactor of Kansas City’s Swope Park, and one of three members of the Swope family to die at the same time in the Swope Mansion. The three, James Moss Hunton, William Chrisman Swope and Col. Thomas H. Swope were all patients of Dr. Bennett Clark Hyde who married Frances Hunton Swope, a daughter of Logan and Maggie. Dr. Hyde was tried, and convicted, in a first trial. After an appeal and two subsequent trials the appeal was upheld.
The Chrisman family gravesite
Photo by Bruce Mathews