William Peffer was born in Cumberland County on 10th September, 1831. At the age of fifteen Peffer became a school teacher. However, after the discovery of gold in California he moved to San Francisco. He failed to make his fortune and moved to Indiana.
On the outbreak of the Civil War Peffer joined the Union Army as a private. He developed into a good soldier and reached the rank of second lieutenant and served as regimental quartermaster and adjutant.
After leaving the army Peffer studied law and after qualifying worked in Clarksville, Tennessee before moving to Fredonia, Kansas. Peffer continued as a lawyer but also edited the Fredonia Journal, the Coffeyville Journal and the Kansas Farmer.
Peffer joined the Populist Party. The recently formed party advocated the public ownership of the railroads, steamship lines and telephone and telegraph systems. It also supported the free and unlimited coinage of silver, the abolition of national banks, a system of graduated income tax and the direct election of United States Senators.
In 1891 Peffer was elected to the Senate and served until March 1897. The following year he failed in his attempts to become Governor of Kansas. William Peffer died in Grenola, Kansas, on 6th October, 1912.