Webster Davis was born June 1, 1861, in Ebensburg,
Pennsylvania. In 1868 the family settled on a farm in Davies County, Missouri, but after six years moved to Chillicothe and later
to Gallatin, all in the same county. The young Webster worked on
the farm, clerked in a store, and in Gallatin took up shoemaking under
his father's instruction. In 1881 he determined to have an
education, and so he went to Lake Forest, near Chicago. He
became town lamplighter, and not only paid his schooling, but sent
money home. It was not sufficient, however, and returning to
Gallatin, he resumed shoemaking, and later clerked again.
1882 he became a copyist in the law office of Shanklin, Low, &
McDougal and studied while he worked. In 1884 he contrived to
take a two years' course in the Kansas University, and securing
admittance to the bar began to practice law in Garden City, Kas.
He later attended the Ann Arbor Law School, after which he located in
Kansas City. He soon made a reputation for brilliance and
ability, and became prominent in Republican politics. His
splendid, but unsuccessful race for Congress in 1892 was followed by
his election as Mayor in 1894. In 1897 he was appointed
Assistant Secretary of the Interior, which place he held until a trip
to South Africa in 1899 made him a Boer sympathizer. He
resigned, and failing to have the Republicans adopt a resolution of
sympathy with the Boers, secured such a plank in the Democratic
platform, and so joined that party.