Biographical Sketches of the Leading People of Chicago
Chicago And Its Makers, 1929
Chicago real estate has always done the unexpected thing, but there has always been a restraining force behind it. In the Chicago Real Estate Board Chicago citizens have been given untiring service in the regulation and valuation of real estate. As a pioneer in Chicago’s market and as president of the Board, William D. Kerfoot rendered services upon which it is impossible to place an estimate. Though conservative in his dealings at all times, his word was accepted without question in all matters pertaining to the value or wisdom of an investment
Mr. Kerfoot was born on April 16th, 1837, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the son of Dr. George B. Kerfoot, who was equally as distinguished in medicine as his son was to be as a builder. From 1830 to 1851 Dr. Kerfoot was at the peak of his profession, known and honored throughout Pennsylvania as an authority in science, letters and therapeutics. After leading the usual life of a small boy, he became a student at St. James College in Mary land, where he studied for two years. Upon his arrival in Chicago he secured employment in the real estate office of James H. Rees, afterwards entering the services of Thomas B. Bryan as clerk. While here his manifold duties were of great value as business training.
Realizing that opportunities awaited an energetic man in the real estate business of the growing city, Mr. Kerfoot was quick to establish himself at 89 Washington Street. Although young in years, he soon gained a clientele which grew rapidly in numbers, and whose backing increased his confidence. But in the fire of 1871 he lost books, paper, and documents that were vitally necessary to tne continuation of his work. Not to be daunted by disaster, the Wednesday following the subduing of the fire he was found established in a little hut on the former site and ready for business. With characteristic thoroughness Mr. Kerfoot secured a map and plats of the city, and when Eastern buyers arrived on the scene in search of bargains he was ready to greet them. So industrious was he that in a short while his transactions amounted to millions of dollars. In the rebuilding of the city Mr. Kerfoot was a prominent factor for his influence had reached to the East, and even in London his recommendation was accepted as correct. Millions of dollars were invested in the rapidly growing center by people who had never seen the properties in question. It was through his own vision that he was able to convince strangers of the industrial wealth to come. His acquaintances were innumerable and everyone gave him his unbounded confidence.
W. D. Kerfoot
Mr. Kerfoot married Miss Susan B. Mooklar, daughter of William B. Mooklar of Mason County, Kentucky, and of eight children one son and four daughters survived, who with their father and mother were always a devoted family and eager to enjoy each other’s company.
Although occupied with his business, Mr. Kerfoot was always ready to give his available time to public endeavor. During the World’s Fair he was Chairman of the Agriculture Committee, a member of the Executive Committee, Ways and Means Committee, and Dedicatory Committee, so it is logical enough that his name is closely linked with the success of the World’s Fair. In the capacity of president of business enterprises such as the Chicago Opera House, Mr. Kerfoot was given an opportunity to exercise his tact and judgment. He was also a director in the Title Guarantee and Trust Company ot’ Chicago. All through the periods of his success Mr. Kerfo·ot follo’~ved a ‘WeIl-defined policy, that of building his fortune upon the commercial prosperity of his fellows. His agreeable personality and sterling personal worth, combined with his executive powers, made him a splendid business man and a charming friend. He died Jan 5 1918.
Realtor, W. D. Kerfoot’s Office
Painted by W. J. Burton
Realtor, W. D. Kerfoot’s Office
Photographed in 1871
bill Krueger says
Curious to know if any Kerfoot descendants remain in the Chicago area?
Dave Gudewicz says
One of the signs on the image above read: All gone but WIFE CHILDREN and ENERGY. Sign is on display at the Chicago History Museum in their Crossroads Exhibit.
Melvin H. Kerfoot says
I have been told that William Kerfoot is related to me. My Grandfather Melvin H. Kerfoot Sr., my father Melvin H. Kerfoot Jr., and myself Melvin H. Kerfoot III. Our middle name is Herbert.
Have not been able to verify the relative status