Tuesday, December 6, 2016

We Used to Hunt Rats There

Buddy Baker, 92, remembers Jay's Garage very well.  "It was where BiLo is now.  Jay's dad owned all of that land all the way to Gay Street - that area where Parkview Gardens is now.  That creek between BiLo and Parkview Gardens - it was an open sewer back when I was a kid.  We used to go down there and hunt rats for fun.

"He was a fine fellow.  He did a lot of mechanic work for me.  My son, Bob (Baker), worked for him until Jay died, then his wife sold the land and the garage.

"He had a cat in the shop that would climb a step ladder clear to the top and would sit up there and watch everything that was going on.  He had his garage there when I was young.  He built it before I was driving."

Jay was Jay Eller.  

He died in 1974. He was so young but he had heart trouble.

And the building sold in 1976

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

We Treat You White

Some of the best reference books at the Johnson County Historical Society are the phone books housed in the archive room in the basement of the Smiser building.  Looking at the advertisements and lists of names and businesses in the old books can give you a glimpse of what the county was like way back when.
There was a time when "white privilege" was openly proclaimed and celebrated.
This ad is from the 1927 phone book.
See how colorful the books were before the great Depression.
During the Great Depression phone books got gray and depressing.
For a short time Sweeney-Phillips took on a third partner.  Business hint: If your name is Gore, don't go into the funeral business.

Another business hint:  If you are in the funeral business don't start an ambulance service.  Nobody is going to get into your meat wagon if your main source of revenue is burying dead people.

In 1961 telephone numbers changed for people in Holden

But not for people in Warrensburg.
By the way, Robert L. "Buddy" Baker still lives at 319 W. Culton and still remembers his old phone number.

In the 1960s the covers got colorful again -
-but not very imaginative.

I like this picture.  I think that's a cool phone.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Hamilton Motor Company

"They called him Precious.  Precious Hamilton.  Where he got that name, I'll never know but everybody called him Precious." Buddy Baker, my resident walkingWarrensburg History Book, couldn't even point out which of these gentlemen in the picture developed from the Simmons Studio collection of negatives was Precious Hamilton.  Maybe someone else knows.

I couldn't blow up the calendar behind them, so I have no idea when this picture was taken, but Buddy believes the car below is a Desoto from around the mid-40s

Buddy remembers when Hamilton Motors was on East Pine street just behind where the United Missouri Bank is today.  However, in the 1948 Warrensburg phone book, they had already moved to 314 N. Holden.
They were still in the 1966 phone book, but weren't listed in 1968.

I think next week, I'll do an article on phone books.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

MO.-Pac. R.R. Imegration Bureau

I love finding a mysterious picture in the Simmons Studio collection of negatives.  This one, for example. I had a million questions. Why is a photograph of a Denver touring car stored in a Warrensburg studio?  What's the connection? What is the Mo. Pac R.R. Imegration Bureau?  Where can I get a neat car like that?

So I looked in the Transportation File upstairs at the Johnson County Historical Society and did a little reading. Did you know that getting a railroad to come through your town was once so important that people killed each other over it.  Here, read this:
Then after you shot all the right people and got a railroad line, they would defraud you and your neighbors by selling you worthless land out west.  Here's an example:
The above story is about the Northern Pacific Railroad but apparently MO PAC had an Imegration (sic)Bureau, too. And I'll bet that one of the Imegration Bureau members pictured above was a capper from Warrensburg with capacious pockets.  (A capper is a huckster.)

Friday, October 28, 2016

Meanwhile Down in the Dungeon

The Historical Society depends on its volunteers to keep running and it has a lot of them - so many, in fact, that it has to store some in the basement.
These women get together every Tuesday morning to work on old Johnson County Court records.
They carefully flatten documents that have been folded for more than a century, and read about the crimes, lawsuits, and divorces that scandalized the county at that time.
Here's a good one. 

State of Missouri VS John Ron and Stella Erving 
An Affray
...John Ron and Stella Erving on the 25th day of Sept. 1898 at Johnson County Missouri did then and there unlawfully make an affray by then and there unlawfully and voluntarily fighting with each other in a certain public street in the city of Warrensburg...

They put the cases in new folders and write a short synopsis on the front.  Then they're boxed and sent to the state to be microfilmed and hopefully someday posted on the internet so that people doing their geneology research can more easily find the horse thieves and public affrayers on their family tree.

The volunteers also bring food and party a lot.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Ralph Green and Avis Tucker

According to Wikipedia the Solomon Valley Milling Company was founded in 1902 by Lemuel K. Green in Osborne, Kansas. The steam mill used to process flour and Green discovered he could sell electricity. Lemuel Green then bought and sold a series of electric companies
In 1926 he sold his assets to the Fitkin Group again which merged with the Missouri Public Service Company. Green retired to Escondido, California where bought a 2,000-acre orange grove. He died in 1930.
The Public Utilities Act of 1935 broke up utilities. Green's son Ralph Green bought controlling interest in Missouri Public Service. He made himself president of the company and his grateful employees gave him this piece of paper with all of their names on it

The book, An  Informal History of Black Families of the Warrensburg, Missouri, Area by Lucille D. Gress explains, "Alice J. Goodwin Jones related some of her experiences, 'My husband...later began working at the Missouri Public Service Company in Warrensburg, When the company moved to Raytown, my husband drove for six months.  April 19, 1955, the company moved the workers to Lee's Summit...' Allice Jones commented that R.J. Green and Truman Henry were swell men to work for.  She recalled, 'When my husband was transferred to Raytown, Mr. Green told him to take me to see whether the house suited me.  When my husband was sick, he visited him.  He kept up with his employees."

The poster then was an acknowlegement from the employees to a good boss.

R.J. Green, lived for a while just outside of Warrensburg near his daughter's (Avis Green Tucker.)  

His daughter Avis Green Tucker  Avis Green Tucker

Avis Tucker was the publisher and editor of the Warrensburg Daily Star Journal for many years after her husband, the previous owner and editor, died.

Buddy Baker remembers, "My dad used to drive a show wagon for William Tucker in parades.  He'd go out to the farm to help with the clydesdales.  R.J. Green would often be there kicking the shit with Tucker and my dad."

Missouri public service provided power to a lot of West Central Missouri counties.  I don't know which district Johnson country was in so here's a closeup of some of the signatures.  You might recognize some of the names.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Most Unusual Death of Samuel P. Sparks

There is a street in Warrensburg, Missouri named Sparks Avenue in honor of Samuel P. Sparks, a lawyer, state senator and prominent citizen back in the 1800s. But it is not so much his life, but his unusual death for which he is best remembered.

On the 14th of May 1892, Sam Sparks bought an Accidental Death Insurance Policy from the National Masonic Accident Association. One night, shortly thereafter, the 48-year-old lawyer got up in the middle of the night, tripped in the darkness and fell face first onto a heating grate in the floor. A sharp piece of metal sticking up from the grate punctured his eye.

Soon infection set in behind his eye and went to his brain, driving him insane. He lingered for several months in this state before taking his own life on Sept. 16, 1892. According to a local newspaper, "...the Senator had been drinking heavily for several days. He laid down on the floor in his night clothes, and, after asking his wife to pray for him, deliberately cut his throat from ear to ear, half severing..." (the rest is unreadable.) His widow, Nannie, tried to collect on the policy, but was told that Sparks didn't die from the accident - he committed suicide.

Nannie took National Masonic to court several times before a sympathetic federal judge ruled that, "his death was the result of a bodily injury, which was effected through external, violent and ACCIDENTAL means..., to wit: the result of a deep gash cut in his throat, with a razor, in his own hands, while he, the said Samuel P. Sparks was insane, mentally deranged and wholly incapable of forming any mental design..."

So it was an accident.

Source: The Sedalia Weekly Bazoo, 20 Sept. 1892 and The Federal Reporter - Vol 79 page 278 and 279.

Here's a little write-up about his first wife Mira.

Close to the entrance of Sunset Hill Cemetery stands a tall, imposing tombstone that tells a story of two young lives that ended much too soon.

Mira Curtis was the 20-year-old daughter of the Sheriff of Henry county when she married 27-year-old Samuel P. Sparks, the clerk of the neighboring Johnson County on April 6, 1871.

Nine months and 13 days later she was dead. A small tombstone inches away from hers give evidence of the reason for her death.

A few words and some random letters are visible on the baby's stone, but if the child has a name it is known now only to God. When the main monument was put up, the grieving young husband meant for it to stand forever as evidence of his love for her, but everyone's enemy, time, is eroding this neglected structure. Soon all earthly evidence of this story of love, hope, and loss will be gone.

I can't remember where on the Internet I found this biography:


Samuel P.  entered Chapel Hill college where he continued about one year when the war broke out, and he enlisted in the 5th Missouri cavalry, commanded by Col. Sigel, and served three years, afterwards on a non-commissioned regimental staff, and was in many hotly contested battles, in the Price raid of 1864.  He was mustered out of service in May, 1865, and returned home and taught a term of school, and in the following fall entered McKendre college, Lebanon, Ill., where he
continued to pursue his studies for five years, and graduated in the full college classical course in June, 1870.  He then returned home and in the fall of the same year was elected to the office of county clerk of Johnson county,.  In 1874,he entered The St. Louis Law School, and graduated in the spring of 1875; Returning home he commenced the practice of law.
and soon gained  reputation as a trustworthy lawyers.  Mr. Sparks’ second marriage occurred April 8, 1874, to Miss Nannie R. Cuningham,,  daughter of Capt.  Anderson Cuningham Little Rock Ark..  Mr. Sparks owns a handsome suburban brick residence just north of the city limits.  He and his family the attend Episcopal church, where his wife is a leading
member.  In politics he is a true democrat.  In business he is prompt and attentive and among his friends, social, kind and benevolent.