Kendall Young

Kendall Kitredge Young

The Man and His Library


Webster City has been blessed with having a wonderful library. We have from time to time told the story of the library and its impact on the citizens of Webster City and Hamilton County. To better understand how the library came to be, a study of its benefactor must be considered.

Kendall Kitredge Young was born in 1820 in Eden, Maine. He attended school for only about two to three months each year, as he worked on the family's farm the remainder of the time, as was the custom. When he was 20 years of age, he enlisted in the army to serve in a border dispute with Canada. This took place along the Aroostook River and became known as the Aroostook War. He served on this border duty for about two months when the dispute was settled. When he mustered out of the service, he was paid $18 and was given two warrants for government land - one for 40 acres in Cass Township, Hamilton County, and the other for 120 acres in Kossuth County, both in Iowa.

For a time he traded with the New England Indians, bartering food and merchandise for the Indian's fish, which he then sold. Later, Young went to sea and fished commercially off the coast of Labrador near Belle Isle. Next, he tried farming in Wisconsin, where he stayed for about two years. He might have stayed there longer, but he heard of news of successes of the California Gold Rush and decided to seek his fortune there.

He walked and drove a team of oxen on a seven months' overland trip to the gold fields, becoming one of the Argonaughts, which is what the original '49ers were called. He stayed two and a half years, panning for gold with a tin pan, on Morman Island in the American River. He was quite successful in this lone venture, and in 1852 he went to the assay office in San Francisco, where he had his gold dust melted down and made into coins. These coins were called "California Slugs."

Young then carried his gold on his person, putting much of it into his boots. He took a ship to Panama, where he walked across the Isthmus. The Panama Canal had not yet been built. There he caught another ship to Philadelphia, where he converted his gold to U. S. currency. One account related that he never removed his boots until he got to Philadelphia, because he did not want to let other travelers know about his gold dust.

From there he went back to Maine for a short time until he decided to enter the paper business. In Rockford, Illinois, he purchased a paper mill and also ran a merchandise store. Here he met a long-time friend, L. L. Treat. They decided to go to Iowa and start a business together. In 1855, they decided to go to Young's 120-acre grant and founded a town they called Irvington. Here they operated a saw mill, a general store, and a bank. Young passed through Webster City many times while trying to create Irvington. He always stayed at the Willson House, which was then operated by Dan Underdown. Dan needed some help in operating the hotel, so he enlisted the aid of his sister, Jane Underdown. According to one article, she had many suitors, and her brother encouraged her to marry one of them. She declined until she met Kendall Young.

They were married in September of 1858, at 10:00 AM in the Willson House. They both moved to Irvington in a last effort to promote the town. The town Young founded lost the courthouse bid to Algona, so he conceded defeat and came back to Webster City in 1859. Young opened a general merchandise store. Then Young and L. L. Estes, the town druggist, opened the first bank on Bank Street. It was called Young and Estes Bank. Later, they formed the First National Bank and constructed a two-story brick building on Seneca Street. Young was the President and Estes served as Vice-President.

According to a listing in the Hamilton Freeman in 1861, Young paid taxes on an income of $1,852, which was the highest in Hamilton County. Treat had an income of $981, and Estes had an income of $299. The newspaper articles indicated that Jane and Kendall enjoyed gardening. Hoping to overcome Jane's long time illness Kendall built what is now called the Jane Young House in 1874. Jane's health continued to decline so Young turned his business over to Julius M. Jones and took Jane back to Maine to recuperate. Her health deteriorated until Kendall was forced to place her in a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1888. She remained there for the rest of her life. Charlotte Crosley wrote that "this house never knew much happiness, due to the extended illness of Jane and to the lack of children in the family."

During this time, Teresa Treat approached Kendall Young to ask for a donation to a library fund. He turned her down with the comment that the ladies would never be able to raise enough money for a proper library. Perhaps the idea for a library for our town was planted then.

Kendall Young's own health declined and he closed his house, visited each of his farms, and then went to spend his remaining time with his beloved wife. About a month later, on June 30, 1896, he died. His body was returned to Webster City for a funeral in their home. The funeral was held in his home on July 3, 1896. On July 6, 1896, his will was read and the city was shocked to learn that he left his entire estate, after the proper care of his wife, to the City of Webster City for the establishment of a free public library to be known as the Kendall Young Library. This is the library into which we place another cornerstone to celebrate its 100th birthday.