Who Was Kendall Young?
Kendall Young’s name is familiar to most Webster City residents. An early resident and settler of town, Kendall Young left a lasting legacy in Webster City through his gift of the public library.
While living in Webster City, Kendall Young was known for being a successful businessman. But Kendall Young’s story began far from Webster City and spanned the entire continent.
Kendall Young was born in Eden, Maine (now named Bar Harbor) on Mount Desert Island on Jan. 19, 1820. He spent his childhood on his father’s farm. Kendall Young’s family had ties to the Revolutionary War, as his grandfather was a solider in the war and was part of the group that threw the British tea into Boston Harbor.
When he was 20, Kendall enlisted in the Maine Militia, and served for two months during the Northeastern Frontier disturbances, called “The Aroostook War,” between the state of Maine and the Canadian province of New Brunswick. Kendall received, in return for his service, land warrants for 40 acres in Hamilton County and 120 acres in Kossuth County, but it was many years before he landed in Iowa.
After his military service, Kendall spent time as a sailor. In this occupation, he visited England, the West Indies, and many other ports, including working on the coast of Labrador, Canada in cod fishing. After a short period back in Maine, he then headed to Wisconsin in 1847 to farm. When the Gold Rush of 1849 was sparked at Sutter’s Mill, Kendall was one of the 49ers headed to California to try and make his fortune. In 1849, he joined a party headed west and spent the next seven months driving a team of oxen across the continent. Once in California, he set up a claim on Mormon Island in the American River, obtaining the gold that was the foundation of his fortune.
After several years in California, he returned to Maine in 1852. However, his time spent out West had left him unable to stay in ‘slow old Maine’, and so he left a year later for Rockton, Illinois. When his business prospects didn’t succeed in the manner he wanted, Kendall set out west again, this time teaming up with a longtime friend, Mr L. L. Treat. They established business briefly in Albion then laid out the town of Irvington in Kossuth county. The growth of nearby Algona kept this town from succeeding, so they abandoned the project.
In 1859, Kendall Young and his new bride Jane (formerly Underdown) settled in Webster City. He opened a general store on Seneca Street and his first dozen years in town were devoted to merchandising. In 1871 the First National Bank of Webster City was organized. Kendall Young was one of its largest stockholders and was elected its first president, continuing in that role until his death in 1896. As a banker, he was careful, conservative and successful. Kendall also owned farmland throughout Hamilton County, from his time in the Maine Militia.
A local story tells of how, some years before his death, he was approached by a member of the Six O’Clock Club to request his help and support of effort of starting a public library for the town. At that time he declined, not believing they could raise enough money. While the women were disappointed at the time, later when Kendall’s will was read they felt that he had been planning the gift even then. Others felt the request may have inspired his bequest. However it was inspired, the amazingly generous gift from Kendall Young has had a lasting impact on Webster City and preserved his memory for generations.