Last week’s column provided a few bits of information about William D. Steele, II, a Sedalia attorney and at one time considered one of Sedalia’s most eligible bachelors.
More information about Steele has come to in a book published in 1895 called the Portrait and Biographical Gallery of Johnson and Pettis Counties, Missouri. The book gives biographies of many of Johnson and Pettis Counties most important and well-to-do men, and photographs of a few of them.
Steele was born in Pettis County in the area near Windsor. The Portrait and Biographical Gallery focuses on the ancestors of its subjects. Steele was the grandson of Robert M. Steele, a native of Virginia who owned a large salt mine and processing plant.
Steele’s father, William D. Steele, I, attended school in Marietta, Ohio, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. He studied law, was admitted to the Missouri Bar, and began his practice in St. Clair County. He later moved his family to Henry County. He was married to Frances DuLaney, the daughter of a doctor in Kentucky. One of Miss DuLaney’s ancestors had served in the siege of Yorktown with General Washington.
William D. Steele II read law with General B. G. Boone, who had been an Attorney General of Missouri. He also studied law Washington University in St. Louis. Steele was admitted to the Missouri Bar in Clinton, and began his practice there.
He later came to Sedalia and established a law practice. A Democrat, he was elected to represent the Sedalia District in the General Assembly in 1884, where he was Chairman of the Committee of Criminal Justice. He supported Sedalia enterprise, and worked to get the capital moved here from Jefferson City.
He was a very successful attorney, specializing in criminal law. According to the Sedalia City Directory, in 1898, his offices were located 223 South Ohio.
In 1894, he married Helen Gallie, daughter of Sedalia merchant John Gallie and an accomplished musician. Helen Gallie Steele chaired the music department in the public schools, and in many respects, is responsible for the tradition of a strong music program in the city’s schools today.
After her marriage, Mrs. Steele continued to serve as president of the Ladies’ Musical Club, which performed yearly concerts that were the highlight of Sedalia’s social and cultural scene. The club traveled throughout the state to compete in musical contests, and generally won. She also wrote the plan of study for the Missouri Federation of Music Clubs.
During World War I, she was active in Red Cross work and bond sales. Another of her wartime activities was organizing community sings. She worked with the University of Missouri School of Agriculture to organize community sings at various farmers’ institutes held at the university.
Helen and William Steele had one child, a son, William D. Steele, III. The son won prizes for his exhibits of poultry at various fair competitions.
After pulling the various bits of information about the Steele family together, we may deduce that Mr. Steele was proud of his wife’s accomplishments and allowed her to continue using her abilities to help her community.
Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.