Born in Bellair: Wallace Crossley

Elizabeth Davis

Wallace Crossley was born to S. W. Crossley and Elberta (Givens) Crossley in Bellair, Cooper County, Missouri, in October 1874. Sources differ on the exact date. Some say Oct. 4, others say Oct. 8. Crossley was ten when his father died and he and his mother moved to Mexico, Missouri.

Crossley graduated from high school in Mexico, Missouri, then attended William Jewell College and the State University. For at least five years after college, Crossley taught school. He started at Mexico, spent a year in charge of the Pilot Grove Academy, and three years as an instructor in the English department at the Warrensburg State Normal School.

On Dec. 30, 1902, Crossley married Miss Erma Cheatham who was from Warrensburg. They had no children. Crossley’s political career started the following year. He was elected to his first of three terms to the state legislature in 1904. In 1912 he was elected to the state Senate. His interests included a state highway system, public education, and prison reform. He was a member of the Senate committee whose report to the Legislature resulted in sweeping changes in Missouri’s penal system.

After teaching and his start in politics, Crossley went into the newspaper business. His first venture was as editor and proprietor of the Johnson County Star. In 1913, he consolidated the Star and the Journal into the Star-Journal, thus creating one of the largest and most influential democratic newspapers in Missouri.

Crossley’s political career didn’t end when he got involved in the newspaper industry. He served as Lt. Governor from 1917-21, and was a delegate to the Missouri State Constitutional Convention in 1922-23.

Wallace Crossley died in Warrensburg on Dec. 13, 1943, and was laid to rest in Sunset Hill Cemetery, Warrensburg. Erma didn’t join him in death until 1989.

Note: According to Find-A-Grave, Crossley’s date of birth was October 8, 1874.

Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County, Missouri, and has written HISTORICALLY YOURS for the Boonville Daily News since April 2008. She has covered the War Between the States, US history, and Cooper County history. In celebration of Missouri’s upcoming Bicentennial, she syndicated her column statewide in September 2018 and encourages readers all over the Show Me State to submit topic suggestions for future columns to