There’s an easily overlooked plaque in front of a church on Main St. in White Cloud. It’s well worth seeking out because it tells the story of young Wilbur Chapman and his pig Pete.
In White Cloud, Kansas in 1913, ten-year old Wilbur Chapman was a farmer’s son.
A missionary named Mr. Danner traveled the country doing charity work. He spoke to the farmers of the work he had done with his friends in China, Africa, and India who helped men, women, boys, and girls with leprosy. He ended up in Wilbur’s house to tell them that he was raising money for the people who suffered from leprosy.
The missionary gave Wilbur three silver dollars for caring and listening to his stories. “Here you go, Wilbur,” he said as he flipped the coins to Wilbur. “Thanks for being such a wonderful host.”
Wilbur thought all night, trying to decide what to do with the money. He thought about the lepers and didn’t want to waste these precious silver dollars. He told his parents the next morning that he wanted to buy a small pig, feed it well and when it got big and fat, he’d sell it for a lot of money. It would be an investment. Maybe he could help the lepers with the profit.
His father thought it was a great idea and went out and helped his son pick out the little pig.
Wilbur’s mom was moved by it all and began asking all of her friends and neighbors if they would help her raise enough money to help ten people who had leprosy. By autumn, she had raised enough money to help nine.
She needed $2500 to help ten and was $250 short. It was a lot of money for those times.
Wilbur knew if he sold his pig, which he named Pete, he could get a lot of money for him. He did. To the family’s great joy, it was enough to care for one leper. They had the money to help ten lepers.
Mr. Danner and other workers in the Leprosy Mission were very excited about Wilbur and how his pig was able to help someone with leprosy. They decided they would challenge kids all over America to raise money. They made banks in the shape of a pig and gave them to boys and girls from coast to coast.
These were the very first piggy banks that we use today.
The Wilbur Chapman monument now stands in memory of a special boy and his very special pig.
Famous children’s author E.B. White named the pig in Charlotte’s Web “Wilbur” in honor of Wilbur. Pete is remembered with Wilbur on a monument on a small church in White Cloud Kansas.