W. R. Felker - Rogers' First Banker, Headed Rail Empire
W. R. Felker - Town's First Banker / Headed Rail Empire Majority of this is excerpted from the Rogers Daily News, August 27, 1929, now the NWA Democrat Gazette
Of all of the pioneer business leaders, none has played a greater part in the business and industrial development of Rogers and Benton county than the late William R. Felker. Felker was born near Washburn, Mo. on September 22, 1855, and died August 26, 1929. He married Miss Lyda Evans at Springfield, Mo. February 25, 1877 and to them were born five children. No history of Rogers and Benton county would be complete without reference to the important part that Colonel Felker played in the pioneer days of the east end of the county.
He came to Rogers in 1883 from Barton county, Mo. although most of his early life was spent in Barry county, that state, where he was born in 1855 and where he grew to manhood. When about nineteen years old he began clerking in a store at Washburn and soon was one of the proprietors. He remained at Washburn until 1881 and for a year or two was located in Barton county and then came to Rogers and established the Bank of Rogers. From the day that the bank was opened until he retired in 1914 there was never an issue of the Rogers Democrat that did not carry his advertisement and the line, "The oldest bank in Benton county."
To those who have known Colonel Felker only in his later years, broken in health and in spirit, a mere shadow of the man who was for many years a leader in every civic undertaking in Rogers, it is hard to picture "Bill" Felker - banker, farmer, railroad promoter, mule buyer and what not. He was the chief promoter of the Arkansas & Oklahoma railroad, the present extension of the Frisco from Bentonville to Grove, Okla. and he made money when it was sold upon completion to the Frisco. He promoted the Rogers Southwestern from Rogers to Siloam Springs, Fayetteville and Monte Ne and his ambition was to extend it to Memphis on the east and to some Oklahoma point on the west. He was not the ordinary type of booster and promoter. On the job with the workmen he dressed as they did and many times the writer watched him carrying water and unloading ties. He did not drive a car but his old mule and buggy was a familiar sight wherever he had interests.
So far as we know Mr. Felker never held a political office of any kind, although he was treasurer of the Rogers school district and served on the school board for many years. He was also greatly interested in Rogers Academy and assisted it in many ways and in various capacities. In those early days whenever someone in Rogers wanted to start a subscription list to help some unfortunate family, build a bridge, repair a road, buy new hose, shingle a church, etc.- the only way at that time to secure funds for anything was to pass the hat - one of two names was always at the head of the list, W.R. Felker and the late J.A.C. Blackburn. We believe we are correct in saying that those two men gave more money to charity and to help their friends than any half dozen other men Rogers has known. The last time I saw Mr. Felker I helped him across a street on a busy day. He said, "You know, I have been standing here an hour waiting for the parade to get by. I expect I shall die some day but I'll be darned if I am going to be run over by a Ford." I don't know how he died but though there may have been an ache in his heart I know there was a smile on his lips. [Author unknown]