E.W. Stephen's Publishing Co.
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Excerpt from Centennial History of Missouri
One Hundred Years in the Union
By Walter Barlow Stevens
Full Text Available Here
EDWIN W. STEPHENS.
Edwin W. Stephens is a name known to every Columbian, to every Missourian, to many Americans, and to many of the prominent men in other nations. He has come to be known as "Columbia's foremost citizen," and well does he deserve the title bestowed on him by his hosts of friends. For about seventy years he has been identified with the growth and development of his native city and county, and perhaps to him more than to any other man or group of men may be attributed the present status of Columbia, whether viewed from the commercial, social or religious standpoint. It may be said of Mr. Stephens, without any desire to offer fulsome flattery, that he has been more of an institution than a man in all matters pertaining to the welfare of that part of Missouri in which he was born.
Edwin W. Stephens was born in Columbia, Missouri, January 21, 1849. His father James L. Stephens, was at that time a well known merchant of Columbia, and his mother was the daughter of the late Judge Irvine O. Hockaday, of Fulton, this state. He was educated at the State University, graduating in the class of 1867, and has received the degrees of A. B., A. M., and LL. 1 >.. from that institution.
Mr. Stephens began the publication of the Columbia Missouri Herald, in Columbia in 1870 and retired from it in 1905. It was known for its editorial and typographical ^excellence as America's model weekly. While he was actively engaged in the newspaper business, in addition to being president of the company which published the Herald, he was also president of the Tribune Printing Company of Jefferson City and of the Central Baptist Publishing Company in St. Louis, and continued in the last named capacity until the Central Baptist merged into the Word and Way. He has since engaged in the printing and publishing business in Columbia under the style of the E. W. Stephens Publishing Company, which does a wide business in the publication of court reports and other books, having printed such reports for Missouri, Tennessee, Iowa, Arkansas, Mississippi, New Mexico and numerous other states, besides many other publications. While in the editorial profession, Mr. Stephens was president of the Missouri Press Association and the National Editorial Association. His vigorous style and his trenchant treatment of all things important, both local and statewide, in the Columbia Missouri Herald, made his influence broad and his ideas widely hearkened to.
Mr. Stephens has always been an active factor in the educational uplift of his state. With a liberal education himself, supplemented by travel and experience, together with his association with men of affairs, he has rendered signal and inestimable benefit to the cause of education in Missouri. His interest and activities in this line have led him to fill various positions of prominence and trust. He has been president of the board of curators of the Missouri State University—his alma mater. He has also been president of the board of curators of Stephens College, named in honor of his father, and for years past has been a member of its board, where his services, his wise counsel, his generosity and untiring zeal have done most to place this splendid institution where it is today. Mr. Stephens has also been president of the Missouri University Alumni Association, and in its various activities has for years demonstrated the deep interest he feels in this capstone of the educational system of Missouri. President of the honorary society, Phi Beta Kappa, and of the Missouri Union are other unsought honors that have come to Mr. Stephens in the field of educational interest.
Mr. Stephens' most conspicuous and most distinguished work has been along religious lines. From young manhood he has ever evinced the deepest reverence for those things that make for the moral and the Christian uplift of his community. His prominence in affairs of this nature has given to him a local, a state, a national and an international reputation. % Mr. Stephens is a Baptist, and in whatever part of the world this denomination is established his name is probably better known than that of any other one individual. The honors conferred upon him, not only by the Baptists of America but by the Baptists of the world are many and conspicuous. He has been moderator of his district association and was moderator of the Missouri Baptist Association for twenty years. He was for three years vice president and for three years president of the Southern Baptist Convention; for three years president of the Baptist General Convention of America and one year vice president of t9e Northern Baptist Convention. He is American treasurer of the World's Baptist Alliance and also of the Roger Williams church in Washington, D. C.; he has been deacon of his church for many years, but the work in which he has taken most interest and has brought, not only him the most gratification, but instruction and religious convictions to the members, has been his Sunday school class of over one hundred and fifty members which he has taught regularly for over thirty-one years without missing a Sunday when he was at home and physically able to attend. With an average of one hundred and fifty members for this long period, it can readily be seen how far the spiritual influence of Mr. Stephens has extended.
Mr. Stephens has been president of the Missouri Baptist Sanitarium; of the Young Men's Christian Association of Missouri; and of the board of trustees of the Young Men's Christian Association of Columbia. In 1866 he was appointed a member of the commission to build Hospital No. 3 at Nevada, Missouri, and was elected chairman of the commission.
During all his life Edwin W. Stephens has been one of those whose aims were always for civic good and advancement. Perhaps the most distinguished service of a civic character he has ever rendered to his state was as chairman of the state capitol commission. He was appointed by Governor Hadley on a bipartisan board and was elected chairman. Of this board he was the guiding spirit, and to this board Missouri owes the magnificent capitol building which graces the grandest capitol site, according to Bayard Taylor, In the United States. Mr. Stephens was president of the Columbia Commercial Club until he wanted some one else to have the honor, and he is now president of the Old Trails Association of Missouri. He was chairman for twenty-six years of the Missouri Baptist Board of Home and Foreign Missions, and when the board passed out of existence he was made chairman of the executive board of the Baptist General Association. In the course of his life he is said to have been chosen president of every organization with which he has been connected, having held the presidency of thirty-five different boards, commissions and associations.
Mr. Stephens has never been a candidate for any political office, although frequently importuned by the best class of democrats In Missouri to be their standard bearer for governor. Mr. Stephens made a tour around the world in 1907 and 1908, visiting the principal oriental and European nations. He wrote letters during the journey to several American newspapers, full of information and human interest. They were afterward printed in a large and handsomely illustrated volume. One of the most notable events in which Mr. Stephens participated was the World's Baptist Alliance in London in 1905, in which he represented America in an address before twelve thousand Baptists attending the alliance. The meeting was held in Albert Hall and was probably the most representative body of Baptists ever convened. The same year he attended the World's Press Congress in Liege, Belgium, and of that congress he was vice president.
No story of a man's life attainments would be complete without something said of the Shekinah of his home—his better half—the Inspiration of all his achievements. Mrs. Stephens has accomplished all as a woman and a mother that Mr. Stephens has as a man. She has always been his helpmeet, one that was more gratified over his successes than himself. In all Christian and charitable work she has always been his complement; in every task he has undertaken she has been a wise counselor, and ever in infinite sympathy with all his undertakings. Mrs. Stephens was Miss Laura Moss, daughter of the late Colonel James H. Moss and granddaughter of Judge Warren Woodson, one of Boone county's intrepid pioneers and long since dead. They were married September 26, 1871, and still live in the residence In which they were married. Their home has ever been the center of social enjoyment of the refined and unostentatious—a place where many men and women of prominence have been entertained upon their visits to Columbia but still where the less prominent were always given as cordial and just as warm-hearted a welcome. Four children survive of the ten of this union. They are: Hugh, of Jefferson City; James L., of Kansas City; E. Sydney, of Columbia; and Mrs. Mary Moss Gray, of St. Louis. There are six grandchildren.
On January 28, 1919, a large number of friends entertained Mr. Stephens at a sumptuous banquet, the occasion being the seventieth anniversary of his birthday. The guests were not limited to Columbians but came from all parts of the state. The dinner was held in the ball room of the Daniel Boone Tavern, a hotel for whose erection Mr. Stephens is largely responsible. The menu itself was reminiscent of the Missouri of seventy years ago, with its roast turkey, baked sweet potatoes, cornmeal mush and corn pones. It made some of the guests regret that they had not lived before the day of Herbert Hoover. Many earnest, eloquent and sincere tributes to the guest of the evening were voiced by several of his old friends, with whom he had been associated in some instances almost from boyhood. His worth as a citizen was paid tribute to in felicitous terms, and his many noble qualities of character had ample justice done them by those best fitted to speak from experience.