The biographer, in writing of the representative citizens of Nodaway County, Missouri, has found no subject more worthy of representation in a work of the province of the one at hand than Prof. Benjamin Franklin Duncan, who is widely known as a man of high attainments and practical ability and as one who has achieved success in his profession principally because he has earnestly worked for it. His prestige in the educational circles of this locality stands in evidence of his ability and likewise stands as a voucher for intrinsic worth of character. He has used his intellect to the best purpose, has directed his energies in legitimate channels, and his career has been based upon the wise assumption that nothing save industry, perseverance, sturdy integrity and fidelity to duty will lead to success. The profession of teaching, which the subject has made his principal life work, offers no opportunities to the slothful. It is an arduous, exacting, discouraging profession to one who is unwilling to subordinate other interests to its demands, but to the true and earnest devotee it offers a sphere of action whose attractions are equal to any and whose rewards are unstinted. That the subject possesses the qualities enumerated is undoubted, owing to the success he has achieved and the high regard in which he is held by all who know him.
Benjamin F. Duncan was born in Shelby County, Kentucky, on April 29, 1842, and is a son of Daniel Boone and Eleanor (Cook) Duncan. His paternal grandparents were William and Martha (Jennings) Duncan, of Garrard County, Kentucky, where the former was a successful farmer. His wife was a daughter of Gen. William Jennings, a prominent officer in the American army during the war of the Revolution. Daniel Boone Duncan was born in Garrard County, Kentucky, on November 5, 1806, was reared on a farm, and after the completion of his common school education, he read law with Judge Lusk, at Lancaster, Kentucky. He was admitted to the bar and rapidly gained not only a large legal practice, but a wide recognition of his ability as a successful trial lawyer and jurist. He served as surveyor of Shelby County, Kentucky, and also gave efficient service as judge of the probate court of that county. In October, 1832, he married Eleanor Cook, a daughter of Rev. Abram and Sarah Cook, natives of Virginia. To this union were born nine children, six of whom are living. The subject’s parents are both deceased, the father dying in 1883 and the mother in 1892. They were Baptists in their religious faith.
Benjamin F. Duncan was reared on a farm and received his elementary education in the public schools. Having determined upon a pedagogical career, he pursued his studies in Jewel College, in Missouri, and Georgetown College, Kentucky. On the completion of his education, he became principal of an academy at Campbellsburg. Kentucky, retaining this position three years. He then became president of Concord College, at New Liberty, Owen County, Kentucky, a position which he had declined three times previously because of a predilection for the legal profession But his ability as an instructor was so plainly indicated that he was not permitted to relinquish this work and he remained at the head of Concord College three years. At the end of that time Professor Duncan purchased the seminary at Eminence, Kentucky, and during the following six years he remained at the head of this institution. In 1879 he came to Missouri and during the following three years he was superintendent of schools of Richmond, this state. Then for four years he was principal of the Maryville high school and during the following eight years he was superintendent of the Maryville schools. His educational and executive abilities were generally recognized, and he was elected county superintendent of schools, giving such eminent satisfaction in this position that he was re-elected, serving two full terms. On the completion of his official term, he accepted the chair of Latin and economics in the Fifth District Normal School, at Maryville, filling the position satisfactorily for three years.
On November 14, 1867, Professor Duncan was united in marriage to Sallie E. Buchanan, the daughter of Prof. J. M. and America (Greathouse) Buchanan, natives of Kentucky. To this union have been born four children, namely: James B., of Kansas City, Missouri; Blanche, wife of S. V. Dooly, of Parkville, this state: John M. and Eva M., of Maryville. Religiously, Professor Duncan is a member of the Baptist church, to which he renders an earnest and generous support. Professor Duncan is a man of broad mind and large-hearted sympathy and enjoyed remarkable success as an instructor, not a little of his success being due to the fact that he always kept in close touch with the students under his charge, showing his friendly and personal interest in their welfare at all times, thus winning not only their esteem, but the confidence and respect of the community at large. He is popular in the city, where he has resided for so many years and enjoys a large circle of warm personal friends, who esteem him for his genuine worth.
Source: B. F. Bowen & Company. Past and present of Nodaway County, Missouri, p. 384-6. Indianapolis, Indiana: B. F. Bowen & Company. 1910.