William Noftsker: Craftsman known for integrity

Rhonda Chalfant - Contributing Columnist

Rhonda Chalfant

Contributing Columnist


In the years after the Civil War, many immigrants from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania settled in Missouri. They brought their skills and attitudes and made an impact on the culture and the landscape of their adopted state. One of those men was William H. Noftsker, who was born in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, in 1855. Information about Noftsker is sketchy, but adequate enough to provide the basics of his life and work.

According to the 1895 Portrait and Biographical Gallery of Johnson and Pettis County, Noftsker was one of the ten children of Henry Noftsker and Ann Barbara Tritt Noftsker, both of Pennsylvania. William attended the public schools until he began an apprenticeship as a plasterer, his father’s trade.

In 1877, William moved to Missouri, joining his uncle William Tritt in Sedalia. The 1880 census identifies William Tritt, a carpenter, living with his wife Mary and five children on Fifth Street in Sedalia. Although Noftsker is not listed in the 1880 census in Sedalia, the Portrait and Biographical Gallery reports that Noftsker and Tritt engaged in the carpentry business for a few years, before Noftsker opened his plastering business.

In 1881, Noftsker married Florence Wright, daughter of Felix Wright of Washington Township, Pettis County, who had originally come from Kentucky, and Elizabeth Mather Wright, who had originally come from Ohio. The two had two children, Henry and Anna. After Florence’s father died, Elizabeth moved into William and Florence’s home.

Noftsker was active in Sedalia’s political and cultural life. He was active in the fraternal order the Knights of Pythias and held an office in that fraternity. He served as treasurer of another fraternal order, the Royal Tribe of Joseph. A Democrat, he held a seat on the City Council and participated in local affairs. He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

During the 1880s and 1890s, Noftsker made his mark on Sedalia’s built environment. The firm had done the plastering on Prospect Elementary School, Summit North Elementary School, and Southeast Elementary School, as well as Broadway Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, the Hoffman Building, the Knights of Pythias Building, and the 1884 Pettis County Courthouse.

By the early 1890s, Noftsker had changed the nature of his business and was concentrating on building concrete sidewalks, “giving perfect satisfaction” for the quality of “his workmanship.” He employed 20 men.

Noftsker also dealt in real estate, owning “considerable property.” He had a reputation for “integrity and honor.”

Interestingly enough, information about Noftsker is missing from much of the local records. In addition to not being listed in the 1880 census, he is not listed in A Feast of Cold Facts, a pamphlet describing Sedalia’s businesses written by I. Mac D. Muth in 1898, nor is he identified in the Sedalia City Directory for 1898-1899 as a carpenter, a plasterer, a concrete worker, a builder, or a sidewalk paver.

However, he is listed in the 1900 census, where he is listed as living with his three children, Florence having passed away. The family resided at 408 North Grand Avenue. Noftsker was still working as a plasterer and concrete contractor.

Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.

Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.

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