William Leslie Combs

Following article is typed from a story appearing in the Monroe County Appeal, Madison Times & Paris Mercury, dated about December 1, 1973.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

History of Monroe County
Reprinted from an 1884 History of Monroe County, which gives anecdotes and names of many early settlers.

William Leslie Combs
(President of Missouri Association of Surveyors and Engineers, Paris MO.)

Mr. Combs, a well known and influential citizen of Monroe County, is a representative of the Combs family of which Gen, Leslie Combs, a gallant officer in the War of 1812, was distinguished member. The Combs family came originally from Wales. Mr. Combs' great-grandfather and three of the latter's brothers having emigrated to this country prior to the Revolution. His great grandfather settled to Virginia where he reared a family of children. One of his sons, Benjamin Combs, became the father of Leslie and Fielding Combs of Kentucky, both of whom served to the War of 1812, and in 1818, soon after the close of the Second War with Great Britain, he came to Missouri with his family and settled in Ralls County. That was in 1818, whilst Missouri was still a territory. He entered land and opened a farm in that county, and resided there for a period of 20 years. From Ralls he removed to Monroe County, in 1838, and lived here successfully engaged in farming until his death, for 46 years, in 1878, having reached the advanced age of 83. His wife has preceded him to the grave by only four years. They left a numerous family of children, several of whom are now, themselves, the heads of families, and residents of this and other counties. The father, besides being a farmer, was a carpenter by trade and occupied his time during the winter months for many years in working at his trade. He built the first house in Palmyra, and builr many of the better houses throughout the section of country in which he lived. He was quite poor when he came to Missouri, as most of the early sttlers were, and indeed, it is a well-known fact among his descendants that he had but five picayunes in cash when he spread his tent for the first time in Ralls County. His worldly possessions consisted of his family, horse, a small wagon, an old flint-lock gun and a powder horn. The picayunes still remain in the family, and are treaured as heirlooms by his descendants. They are now in the possesion of one of his children. He became, however, quite well-to-do, for he was a man of great industry and sterling worth.

William Leslie Combs, the subject of this sketch was born in Ralls County, MO, June 28, 1828, and was 10 years of age when the family serrles in this county on what subsequently became their permanent homestead, situated five miles north of Paris. For the next six years his time was occupied in assisting on the farm and attending the local


schools, His health failing, however, from the exposures incident to farm life, it became necessary for him to engage in some indoor pursuit. Of a quick mind and retentive memory he had acquired a sufficient knowledge of books to qualify for teaching and although quite young for such a calling, he engaged, and with success, at that occupation. For a number of years, succeeding, he continued teaching, atlernating with attending school himself, and thus persevered until he had acquired a somewhat advanced general knowledge of higher mathematics and an elementary knowledge of the classics. He finally became identified as teacher with the high school at Paris, and taught there with enviable success and increasing reputation for about two years.

In the meantime, having become throughly conversant with the science of surveying, in his educational course, and being recognized as a young man of high character, as well as possessed of popular manners and address, he was selected by general consent as the proper person to fill the office of surveyor, to which he was accordingly elected. This office Mr. Combs has filled almost continuously since 1855, when he quit the high school to accept it, except during the hiatus in his official terms caused by the war. Soon after the war he was re-elected to this office and has continued to hold it. His continued indorsements for a position so responsible, which has to do with the most important property rights of the people, their real estate holdings, and land titles, the settlement of disputes as to boundaries, etc. this unbroken confidence expressed by those who have known him from boyhood, speaks more for his character as a man and his record as a public official that anything that could be said here.

Mr. Combs stands without a reproach among his fellow citizens, and esteemed by all not only as an officer and man, but for qualities, his wide general information, and his culture and refined sensibility. November 6, 1852, Mr. L. Combs was married to Miss Nancy B. Smith. They have two children: Leslie Marion and Efi Estelle. Mr. Combs has always taken a public spirited inyerest in the cause of education, and has contibuted perhaps as much to the formation of the general sentiment of the county in favor of popular education as any other man in it. He was a menber of the first teacher's institute held in the county and a prominent officer in its organization. He was also active in forwarding teachers' organizations for the county for a number of years, and so continued until the cause was so well advance that is success was assured. He was also taken a commendable interest in the general good and progress of the surveyor's profession, and was prominently instrumental in establishing the Missouri Association of Surveyors and Engineers. In recognition of his activity and public spirit in his behalf, as well as his conceded ability and high standing as a surveyorm he was at the beginning elected president of that association, and has since been continues at its head by consecutive re-elections.

Typed by Breck Combs from copy of original article given to me by Opal T. Combs, Combs Family Historian in January 1997.

Return to Monroe Co, MO