Sedalian Francis A. Sampson trained and worked as an attorney and banker in Sedalia, and was recognized for his abilities in both those fields. However, he was primarily known for his avocation—the study of history and natural history.
Sampson was born in Harrison County, Ohio, the son of Francis and Margaret Evans Sampson. His father was Scotch-Irish, the name given to those primarily Protestants of Scottish descent who lived in Ireland. Sampson’s grandfather gave to the United States in 1826, and established a farm in Francis County, Ohio. His son Francis Sampson, Sr. lived on the farm until his death at age 70. Sampson’s mother was of Welsh descent and came by herself to the United States.
Francis Sampson, Jr. received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the City College of New York in 1865 and later earned a Master’s degree there. He studied law with John Bingham in Ohio and was admitted to the bar. In 1868, he received a degree in law from the University of New York.
Following his graduation, he moved to Sedalia, then recognized as a “live” town with plenty of opportunities for a talented, ambitious young man willing to work hard. Here, he became a success as an attorney. In 1869, Sampson married Haddie Lacey in Cincinnati. The couple lived in Sedalia and had three daughters.
In 1894, Sampson established the Arkansas Finance Company and became its president. He also worked as Vice-President of the Missouri Trust Company. Sampson worked to improve the city by being involved in two organizations that were precursors to the Chamber of Commerce — the Sedalia Board of Trade and the Sedalia Commercial Club.
Sampson was active in other organizations as well. He was a Mason and held the positions of Past Master and Past High Priest. He also belonged to the Commandery of the Knights Templar. He was active in the First Methodist Episcopal Church and was secretary of the church’s administrative board.
Active in local politics and civic activities, Sampson was actively involved in the Republican Party and frequently spoke out on city politics. His abilities and connections enabled him to serve on the Board of Directors of the Miner Institute, a medical facility in Sedalia.
Perhaps Sampson’s finest contribution to Sedalia life involved the manner in which he shared his love of learning with others. He served as the president of the Library Board. He organized the Sedalia Natural History Society and brought information and enlightenment to Sedalia citizens through his participation with this organization and through the collection of books on the sciences he assembled for the Sedalia Public Library. Sampson also in the State Chautauqua Society, an organization that presented a series of educational programs to the community every summer.
Sampson’s “recreational” activities, according to the Portrait and Biographical Gallery of Johnson and Pettis Counties, involved the study of natural science and history. Next week’s column details some of his studies and discoveries, many of which are still considered important in their fields.
Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.