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Sunday, June 30, 2019

Twelve Stories of Kansas City's Intriguing History



The stories that make up the complicated, fascinating and oftentimes confusing history of Kansas City have become a large part of my life. 

This journey started four years ago, but the journey of writing a blog commenced in April 2016. I had no idea what I was doing (and sometimes still feel that way) and who would even read what I was writing. In that time, I have slowly worked my way past the territory of south Kansas City where my research started.  I began to receive emails, phone calls and inquiries on different pieces of Kansas City history.

I get my best ideas by talking to people like you.

Twelve stories have been thoroughly researched and written with attention to detail. I wanted to ensure that I was doing this city justice- I want to give everyone a chance to feel as if they are transported back in time and feel a part of this city we love.

Here it is- year THREE in review! Click on the link to view the stories in case you missed something along the way!

June 2018- The McGees of Kansas City: A Pioneer Legacy. You’ve likely heard of McGee St., but do you know the history of this namesake? One of the first families to move into the future site of Kansas City, James Hyatt McGee and his wife, Eleanor packed up their children and moved in 1828 to Jackson Co. This story follows the history of James, Eleanor, and their son, Allen Burr Harrison (A.B.H.) McGee. Before Kansas City developed around James’s 1,000+ acres, they built the first brick house, farmed the land where the Crossroads and Southwest Blvd. now stands, and used real estate to build a true legacy of early Kansas City greatness. To read about A.B.H. McGee and see never-before-seen photos selflessly allowed to be published by the McGee family, click here!

July 2018- Kansas City’s First Amusement Park Illuminated the East Bottoms. What began as a business venture by brothers looking to entice thirsty customers to their brewery, Electric Park was a showstopper back in its day. Started by the Heim brothers in 1900, Electric Park, also known as “the white city,” featured some interesting amusements at the turn of the century. A beer garden, the Loop the Loop, the promenade, “Alligator Joe,” fresh beer pumping into the park directly from the brewery, various vaudeville acts and a large electric fountain with live acts in the center were all features of this park. The only thing the Heims couldn’t control was the lack of land in the East Bottoms. To read more about Kansas City’s first Electric Park, click here!


August 2018- Meet Me in Electric Park!
I was turned onto the idea of writing about the first Electric Park after traveling to the East Bottoms to interview Andy Rieger for a story on the history of J. Rieger & Co., a pre-prohibition whiskey house started by his great-grandfather in 1887 and resurrected in 2014 (to read the story about J. Rieger, click here!).

Rieger had taken over the old Heim bottling plant in the East Bottoms. Cramped in a small office in their warehouse, I asked Andy if he had any other stories he thought I should research. He immediately blurted out, “Electric Park.” It turned out that Andy had some serious plans to rebrand the East Bottoms and tell the history of Heim, J. Rieger and Electric Park as they expanded their operations. In this blog, I continue the story of the Heim’s hope to build a larger Electric Park at 46th and The Paseo- in operation (albeit dry of booze) until 1925. Included in this story are various postcards, photos and attractions that graced the south side of town and inspired Walt Disney. This also follows the incredible story of my friend, Andy Rieger and his revitalization of Electric Park and the East Bottoms, which is to open in July 2019! To read about the second Electric Park and Andy’s electrifying plans, click here!

September 2018- Early Kansas City Was Influenced by Four McGee Brothers. I’ve developed a personal relationship with the McGee descendants in Kansas City, and they have been an invaluable asset to me as I piece together our city’s early history. After I told the story of their direct descendant, A.B.H. McGee in June, I knew I wasn’t finished with this family. Each of James Hyatt McGee’s sons had an impact on how our city grew. Here, you can read about Fry P. McGee, one of the fourteen original founders of Kansas City and his ambitions to spread slavery to the west; Mobillion W. McGee, a man who had an idea to redraw the boundaries of our state line; and Elijah “Milt” McGee, early developer of the area that now is in the heart of downtown and past mayor of the city. These men along with two other brothers were colorful characters that made up the ambitions of so many southern men at the time. To read about the McGee brothers, click here!

October 2018- First Robbery, Then Murder: Martin City’s Bank the Scene of Heists in the 20s. Sometimes stories fall right on my lap- what should be a simple article for the newspaper turns into something much bigger the more I dig into them. That was the case when it came to piecing together how bank robberies went down in the 1920s, and they look quite different than what we would see today! This story showcases how one small-town bank was the scene to some big-time criminals that intertwine stories of murder in Kansas City, a shootout in Spring Hill, Ks., and an insanity plea followed by an escape from a mental hospital. I just can’t make this stuff up! To read more about these hardened criminals, click here!

November 2018-  The Curious Case of the Thanksgiving Date. When I decided to write about the history of Thanksgiving, I thought it’d be easy. I will eat my words now. :) The best part of this story was being able to learn more about how the date we celebrate Thanksgiving directly affected our old “border war” rivalry between Mizzou and KU (go Tigers!). But did you know that the date for Thanksgiving wasn’t really even solidified nationwide until 1941? To read more about the controversy of what date we celebrate, click here!


December 2018- Imagining the Christmases of the Past Through Food and Community.
As I research old pioneer families in Kansas City, I read hundreds of articles and primary sources from those that left manuscripts behind. I always try to save little tidbits of information that could come in handy later, especially as it applies to holiday celebrations. I have been fascinated with how these pioneers used to celebrate Christmas. In this piece, I use old stories told by John C. McCoy’s daughter, Nellie, recipes shared from local pioneer families and some of the earliest holiday recipes across the nation to interconnect what a true 19th century Christmas would have looked like. To read about Christmas traditions and the food served, click here!

January 2019- Civil War History Marked in Stone. Recent history shows us that some are ready to tear down monuments that may not be considered “politically correct.” We saw this when a monument smack-dab in the middle of Ward Parkway, standing incognito in city parkland, was blasted all over the news for its connection to the Confederacy. Unlike cities to our south, Kansas City doesn’t feature any large monument on public grounds paying homage to the “Lost Cause.” But one monument on private property was erected to pay respect to Confederate soldiers buried with no name and those with direct connections to the Battle of Westport. To read about this monument, click here!

February 2019-  An Ode to the Darker Youngers. I first learned about this unknown story of heroism and determination while reading through the Federal Writer’s Project Slave Narrative collection. I had certainly heard the last name “Younger” in local history, but I had no idea that there is irrefutable evidence that shows that Cole Younger’s grandfather fathered some of his slaves, including one man named Simpson “Sim” Younger. After being given his freedom, Sim was able to break down barriers that were created with racial segregation. A powerful poet, talented baseball player, and a man willing to sue for his basic rights as a man, Sim Younger is a part of Kansas City history that has been forgotten throughout the years. To read about Sim Younger, click here!


March 2019- Historic Paseo Boulevard: How Did We Get Here?
If I’ve made a name for myself recently, it certainly wasn’t because of my writing- it was become of my activism! I never thought in a million years that I would use my words and my voice to help save a piece of local Kansas City history. The Paseo Blvd., designed by German landscape architect George Kessler, was the very foundation of Kansas City’s parks and boulevard system. As part of the City Beautiful movement, The Paseo became the street that defined Kansas City as a town of beauty. Under the pressure of the SCLC, the city council voted 8-4 to change the name of The Paseo in January 2019 to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. By March, we were collecting signatures to have the name change stopped. And now, due to our efforts, the city will be able to vote in November to decide the fate of The Paseo. To read about the history of The Paseo and how the name change happened, click here!

April 2019- Fr. Bernard Donnelly: “The Builder” of Kansas City. Often referred to as Kansas City’s first historian and “the builder,” Fr. Donnelly’s appointment to the edge of the frontier changed the course of one fledgling city that wished to grow from the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River. The area was first settled by French Catholic families that helped erect a church known as St. John Francis Regis (or “Chouteau’s Church”) in the 1830s. When he came to the area in 1847, the Town of Kansas was less than ten years old and had many challenges. Fr. Donnelly had training as a civil engineer and was able to work with city officials to transform the future of Kansas City through his visions carved out of the bluffs. To read about Fr. Donnelly’s contributions to early history of our city, click here!

May 2019- Kansas City’s Terrifying Tornado in 1886 Claims Dozens of Lives. No one could see it coming; it looked like it was just going to rain. Before the city could even get inside their homes, businesses and schools, the winds and rain began and a cyclone emerged from the sky. Buildings constructed in haste were no match to the winds and horror would be found underneath the rubble. Thirty lives were claimed in the 1886 tornado that hit the very heart of the city- and most of the deaths were children. To read about this tornado and see photographs of its destruction, click here!

The Podcast! Kansas City: 2, States, 1 Story. My newest “job” is recording a podcast! Co-hosted by 610 Sports radio personality, Bob Fescoe, this podcast is a great way to listen to us discuss some of our fun local history in a low-risk way. We love to joke around and make history fun! Even if you aren’t familiar with podcasts (I’m still learning, too!), this is really, really easy to subscribe to through your phone or online. With an iPhone or Android, you can download the free Radio.com app and then search for the podcast by name. That’s it! Then, you can listen as you work out, clean your house, have a cocktail outside or cook dinner! We will release a new episode around the 15th of each month for you to enjoy. Here are some links to our first podcasts. Just click on the title to open it up and take a listen!

Episode 1: The Border Wars! 
Episode 2: The Paseo

Bob Fescoe and me!
That’s it- another year in review! I am so deeply humbled by all of the support that I get from each of you. If someone would have told me four years ago that my blog would lead me to writing a bimonthly column in a newspaper, have me pursuing a second masters in history, and have me recording a podcast, I would have never believed it.

That's in addition to being a full time teacher and still bartending once a week. :)

A lot of people ask me how I keep up.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Never throughout history has a man who has lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering.” It is my hope that my passion for our past continues to invigorate you- that you are able to look at our city with a renewed, fresh perspective as you are transported back into time through these different stories of our past.

Cheers, readers. I couldn’t continue this calling without the comments, questions, likes and shares from you all. As I continue, I am satisfying my own hunger to learn, preserve and impart these stories for years to come.


*Please search The New Santa Fe Trailer on Facebook and LIKE the page so you don't miss any of my blogs, articles, podcasts and updates! 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Kansas City's Terrifying Tornado in 1886 Claims Dozens of Lives


Courthouse damage from the tornado on May 11, 1886
No one could anticipate the destruction that would rumble within the sky and wreak havoc on blossoming Kansas City. When a population of 132,000 prepared to go to work and school that day, there was only the slightest risk of rain; the clouds had opened up to a pure blue sky with a light wind.

Courthouse at 2nd and Main before the cyclone
On May 11, 1886, there was a change rumbling in the distance- a change most couldn’t have ever predicted. By 10:30 AM, there was cause for concern. It happened quite quickly; the sun had been shining until darkness enveloped the land block-by-block. A curious tinge in the atmosphere colored the sky into a murky green.

Time wore on the sky, changing the coloring from a deep gray to a dense black. Clouds didn’t move in one direction; rather, they scurried one way and the other, a rage mixed into their motives.

First the wind came with distant peals of thunder.

Then, rain and hail covered the downtown streets.

And something was about to permeate the skies and unleash terror. What it was- what we would call this today- could be argued. Regardless, there was no time to prepare and no weather radios, tornado sirens or Doppler radar to track the path of an impending storm.

Citizens learned of weather by looking up into the green sky and identifying the humidity in the air.

People could sense the calamity – citizens began rushing in from the streets and crowded inside stores, homes, and office buildings. As people traveled about their business, something changed. Within minutes, this peaceful spring day was replaced by death and destruction throughout the heart of the city.

Another image of the Courthouse at 2nd and Main
Courtesy Missouri Valley Special Collections
As the sky became densely clouded, the Jackson County Courthouse at the northeast corner of 2nd and Main was business as usual. The building was originally constructed as the Nelson Hotel and was taken over by the Courthouse in 1872. Forming somewhere over the south bank of the Missouri River, the swirling storm quickly transformed into what we would likely call a full-blown tornado. So much water was collected from the river that some at the time called this event “a hurricane.”

Without much warning, the tornado made it onto land and into a direct path toward the courthouse. The Kansas City Star reported, “The force of the wind seemed to be confined to a limited district, and it sought, with almost human intelligence, the weakest buildings for its work of death.”

Because the building was constructed for a completely different business, it was said that many beams and supporting structures were removed to make for larger spaces. The courthouse was no match for the winds that barreled through at 2nd and Main. Within seconds, the top two floors of the courthouse were blown into unrecognizable pieces. Two victims were claimed in its fury almost immediately: deputy sheriff Henry Dougherty and deputy recorder William Hedges.

Dep. Sheriff Henry Dougherty
Courtesy Kansas City Star
Henry Dougherty had been standing in a large area on the first floor as a colleague commented that the storm was indeed a fierce one. Dougherty responded, “Yes, and this is the worst place we could be in.” 

Boy, was he right. At that very moment, the roof gave in and the terror began.

Instead of “duck and cover,” people ran in every direction. Dep. Henry Dougherty was no exception to this; he ran across the street and was quickly buried by falling bricks from the courthouse. When his body was discovered at 4:30 later that afternoon, he was crushed beyond recognition.

Deputy recorder William Hedges was killed as the debris fell within the structure. His little brother, Edward – also a deputy recorder at the courthouse- died four days later from his injuries. His leg had been “snapped like a reed" and thoughts of amputation quickly died as he succumbed to his injuries.

Ironically trapped within the basement were five prisoners held in the courthouse. All escaped the wreckage and all but one returned later that night. Amazed at their survival and honesty, Kansas Citians brought cigars and fruit to them later to congratulate them for their escape. . . and return.

Tornado damage at 4th and Main
Thousands of residents visited the wrecked building to see how bad it was. Much like today, people clamored to get a front-row seat at the sites ravaged on this fateful May day.

The courthouse had $10,000 in “cyclone insurance.” County business would never resume at this location after the path of destruction took those two upper floors. The insurance was used to build their next courthouse at 5th and Oak in 1892.

Smith & Moffatt's, taken cir. 1885
Directly across the street from the courthouse was Smith & Moffatt’s, a tea, coffee and spices wholesale dealer that had been in business since 1884. As the cyclone steamed forward in its southwestern path, it smashed directly into the coffee and spice company owned by Frank O. Smith and Edwin A. Moffatt. The owners were standing in their offices on the first floor as tragedy struck. As the winds ripped through the building, water poured within its structure.

Smith & Moffatt’s was so badly destroyed during the cyclone that the newspaper described it as “overturned.”

Proprietor Frank Smith was killed when a lead pencil drove directly through his heart, thrust there in the power of the gusts. One worker, John Miller, was buried in the rubble for 45 minutes and remarkably escaped without injury. A total of four men weren’t as lucky. One of them, John Kane, employed as a coffee roaster, was crushed to death within the debris.

Edwin Moffatt
William Roome watched from the confines of the courthouse jail as the tornado tore down its southwestern path. 

Mr. Roome had been an employee of Smith & Moffatt’s, tasked with being a debt collector. One year earlier, Roome was charged with embezzlement when he got drunk one night and spent some of the money he had collected for the company. When he was unable to pay it back, Mr. Edwin Moffatt worked to throw the book at him. He was sentenced to six months in jail.

On the day of the tornado, Roome had two months left to serve. As he was able to get free from the rubble, Mr. Roome ran straight for the debris of his former employer and saw men struggling to get free. Without much thought, Roome began digging out men whose cries he could hear. The first man he was able to set free was none other than Mr. Moffatt – the man who had made sure he paid the price in prison.

The following day, Edwin Moffatt went to the jail and asked for William Roome, his embezzler-turned-hero, to be set free. With tears in his eyes, Moffatt was able to return the favor of his life with a shortened prison sentence.

Smith & Moffatt's after the 1886 tornado. Image courtesy of John Dawson
The Old Santa Fe Stage Line building just east of Smith & Moffatt’s spice mills was destroyed completely; it had been a landmark in Kansas City, built in 1858 by Mechanic’s Bank.

Those who experienced the terrors of the tornado tell of “seeing parts of buggies, drays and signs flying through the air like straws . . . carrying death and destruction in their path.”

Advertisement from May 1886 for Smith & Moffatt
Courtesy Kansas City Times
As rain and hail were followed with gusts of wind over 85 miles per hour, the tornado made its way toward the Kansas City Overall Factory at 110 W. 3rd St. Owned by brothers Julien and Joseph Haar, the factory was known to turn out pants and overalls to sell into the marketplace. The three story building housed Graham Paper Co. on the first and second floors while the overall factory occupied the top floor.

Graham Paper Co.’s employees were able to escape, but the “unfortunates in the upper story were borne down in the ruins.”

On any given day, the overall factory employed twenty-five women. Like many of the buildings that booming Kansas City built in haste, this three story structure was not built for durability, even though records report that the walls were at least eighteen inches thick. Forewoman Mrs. Ina Bowes was crushed to death along with four other employees. One man named Will R. Towne was killed as the overall factory’s third floor tumbled to the ground.

Upon examination after the storm of the overall factory, mortar between the brick was deemed “absolutely useless” and “ the bricks might as well have been piled up without mortar.”
Haar Kansas City Overall Factory is just a pile of rubble and a gap
between buildings after the tornado. Courtesy John Dawson
As the storm moved on, the muddy streets of Kansas City turned into small rivers as hail pelted the devastation below. The tornado continued on toward its deadliest path.

This Tuesday morning had been like any other that warm spring day- a day enjoyed by children in schoolyards. It wasn’t until 10:30 AM when a hint of a storm even came. That’s when an “ominous greenish black cloud appeared.”

Fourteen year-old Frank Askew was in charge of ringing the bell at recess for Lathrop School at 8thand May St. The three-story school had been in operation for sixteen years, serving the elite Quality Hill community and the offspring of Kansas City's finest families. Just a few years’ earlier, it had been under examination for not being structurally sound. The school ignored the warnings and classes continued amidst speculation.

Wind howled from the southeast. The storm’s center gathered in the northeast and traveled westward just north of the city.  A mass of green-tinged clouds appeared as two centers joined and “came straight for the city.” Wind changed to the northwest.

Map with overlay showing the locations of the primary
damage of the 1886 tornado
Frank rang the bell for students to come back in from recess, the changing skies foreshadowing what was about to begin. Some students ran home while others sought shelter with their teachers inside the building. When they huddled inside their classrooms around 11:00 AM, it was so dark they couldn’t see across the room.

Miss Fannie McGee, a teacher in the middle school room, could sense the sensitivity of the situation. She asked the principal, Mr. Ripley, twice permission to dismiss school. He thought the rain would overtake the children and they were safer with them inside the school.

Thus, most of the children stayed. Younger children were taken to the first floor classroom of Miss Fanny McGee. As the winds intensified and disaster was looming, Fanny dismissed the frightened children. Under the cloud of whimpers, the littlest of Lathrop School began to scatter in terror.

As the youngest moved in different directions, it was quickly noticed that the bell tower above had begun to sway. Other students followed suit of the younger children and ran from the rooms- a morbid mistake.  On the second floor, Frank Askew and two others were hiding under desks when 6th grade teacher Ella Patterson screamed, “Jump boys, jump!” The ceiling bulged down and the floor buckled under them as Frank jumped into the lower level classroom amidst debris. Children fell into the basement as the middle section of the school caved inward, crashing the bell tower and center roof down upon screaming children that did survive.

On the 50th anniversary of the 1886 tornado, Frank Askew recalled, “I have awful recollection of those children throwing up their hands and starting for the door when that whole mass from the upper room fell through and enveloped them.”

As the announcement of those dead commenced, some were still not identified from the wreckage at Lathrop School, including an “unknown boy, dark hair and eyes, dressed in a black jacket and pants and gray stockings.” Another girl was so mutilated that no one recognized her, and her body laid between L.T. Moore and Robbie Sprague.

Lathrop School after the May 11, 1886 tornado. Courtesy Missouri Valley Special Collections
It was reported that “the tears and cries of mothers of all classes and ranks in life were mingled together” when Kansas City learned of this horrifying tragedy.

"In the Natatorium" where many victims
were brought to be identified.
Courtesy Kansas City Star
Latinas Thomas (L.T.) Moore had been a resident of Kansas City since 1869. He was partner of Bullene, Moore and Emery which would later become known as Emery, Bird, Thayer & Co. (EBT).  L.T. was father to one daughter and two sons and had tragically lost his wife in 1879. His son, Roland died of diphtheria in April 1885 and was placed in a vault at Union Cemetery.

Calamity struck L.T. once more when he received the news that his only surviving son, named L.T., Jr. was crushed when the Lathrop School fell. Devastated, L.T. left three days after the tornado with two caskets to bury “the bodies of his two little sons” next to his wife in Georgetown, Ky.

In true Kansas City fashion, people from all backgrounds emerged from their hiding places and ran to assist firemen, police and doctors as they advanced to Lathrop School to dig out the screaming children.

As the timbers and bricks were pulled away, the sight revealed at Lathrop School was sickening. Little girls lay piled “in straggling heaps, pressed down and crushed by tons of bricks and broken timbers.”

May 11, 1886 drew thousands of onlookers to Lathrop School 
The night before this devastating tornado, two best friends, twelve-year-old Josie Mastin and ten-year-old Bessie Inscho had spent the night together. They were said to be inseparable friends, and when the eleven year-olds were found in the rubble, they were in “a loving embrace.” Because of their connection, the families decided to bury the two little girls in the same grave at Union Cemetery.

After the storm passed, the little brother of tornado victim Mary Lambert went to claim his sister’s books and his own from the destruction. He was so overwhelmed with sadness that when he found his sister’s “broken, battered straw hat” mixed in with the bricks and timbers, he gave his favorite ball to a boy nearby and swore to never play with it again.

Fifteen children were crushed and killed at Lathrop School, a catastrophe striking the hearts of some of Kansas City’s leading families. Over twenty children who survived the tumbling building were trapped under tons of timbers and the belfry that once stood proudly in the center of the school. The bell itself was found twenty yards away from where it had chimed just minutes earlier.

Damage at 14th and Oak. Courtesy John Dawson
The school board denied reports that Lathrop School had been condemned, and they claimed that they made efforts to reinforce the tower. Because of this devastating event, all bell towers at schools across Kansas City were removed.

Just about thirty minutes after it had unleashed its fury on the city, the weather drastically cleared and a light mist fell. Streets had been turned into tiny rivers- and even the deep grading of the roads couldn’t keep flooding out as the sun returned to the sky.

The Hannibal Bridge suffered greatly during this event. 170 feet of the bridge on the Clay Co. side lifted up and was thrown into the Missouri River. Iron bars two and a half inches thick snapped in two. Sixty trains per day used this gateway bridge for travel, and repair on it began almost immediately as to not further disrupt commerce. Telegraph lines were also interrupted as they were broken into pieces throughout the metropolis.

Damage of the Hannibal Bridge. Courtesy Missouri Valley Special Collections
It wasn’t hard to see the damage as one drifted through the heart of the city. Broadway from the riverfront to 10th St. had twisted telephone poles blocking the roadway. Glass fronts of stores on the east side of the street between 9th and 10th were completely shattered. Numerous single family homes were blown to pieces.

Damage of a home at 15th and Wyandotte
Courtesy John Dawson
Two final victims were discovered amidst the wreckage. Twenty year-old John Flaherty had been out in the elements during the heart of the terror at the corner of St. Louis and Santa Fe Street. As the wind howled and ripped apart structures around him, a falling flagstaff off of Long Bros. Wholesale Grocery struck him in the head and killed him as witnesses cowered in fear.

Forty-year-old John McDermott, a stonemason, had sought cover under scaffolding near a quarry at 18th and Woodland. The scaffolding fell on top of him and pinned him as the rain poured from the sky. He drowned amidst the flood waters.

This tornado remains as one of the deadliest tornadoes in the area’s history even though it was far from the most powerful. Just three years earlier, a cyclone swept a large path of damage through the emerging city yet the loss of life was minimal. Kansas City’s oldest residents proclaimed that this weather event was the worst they had ever seen.

Front page headline May 12, 1886
of the Kansas City Times
One business, Parker’s Gallery, decided to make some money off the tragedy. They sold photographs of the ruins of the courthouse, Lathrop School, overall factory and spice factory for 25 cents apiece within days of the destruction.

The Kansas City Star reported that the cyclone “leveled buildings as though they were only eggshells.”

But what exactly unleashed onto Kansas City?

“It was not a cyclone, but a hurricane,” The Kansas City Times reported.

What?!

I’m not sure what this could exactly mean, but a hurricane in the Heart of America seems unlikely.

Straight winds? Maybe.

A tornado? Quite possibly. With winds reported at just 80 miles per hour, this cyclone would measure as a EF-0 on the Fujita Scale.

Can you imagine? Thirty people- half of them under the age of 14- died in this deadly disaster.

“It was a tempest, a hurricane, straight and direct, but furious and deadly as a cyclone would have been,” the Kansas City Times announced. Some even described the storm as having no circular movement.

A scientist later claimed it was “a wind storm accompanied by electrical disturbances.”

Resident Dr. J.M. Ford professed that he carefully studied storms. He believed the wind didn’t blow over 80 miles per hour- and buildings should have been built to withstand at least 125 miles per hour. He said, “The storm was merely a high wind, and but for the loss of life would not have attracted much attention.”

Today, it is widely accepted that, although likely weak, this was a tornado.

In 1886, the only warning people had of impending weather was by keeping one eye at the sky. Sirens, advanced warnings and tornado drills in schools were far from creation. The Kansas City Times wrote, “Never in all her history did Kansas City suffer such a disaster as that which the elements hurled upon her.” 

Elmwood Cemetery marker dedicated to ten victims
of the 1886 cyclone buried there
But this horrific event snatched at least thirty lives from the growing population of Kansas City and lived on as a vivid memory for all who were a part of this fateful day.

Today, we are blessed to have the technology and proper procedures in place to give advance warnings to ensure so many lives are never lost again.

***Do you love my writing? Then you need to subscribe to my FREE podcast with 610 Sports radio personality Bob Fescoe! Click here to take a listen to Kansas City: 2 States, 1 Story! 

***Make sure you go to Facebook and search "The New Santa Fe Trailer" and LIKE my page so you don't miss any of these stories of the history of Kansas City!

1886 Tornado Victim’s List*

Courthouse
Henry Dougherty
Edward F. Hedges
William Hedges

Kansas City Overall Factory
Ina Bowles
Nellie Cavenaugh
Mina Crane
Catherine Creeden
Jennie Fitzgerald
William R. Towne

Smith & Moffatt’s
Samuel Black
Henry Jackson
John Kane
Frank O. Smith

Lathrop School
May Bishop
Nellie Ellis
Edna Evans
Bessie Inscho
Ruth Jameson
Martin Jones
Mary Y. Lambert
Josie Mastin
L.T. Moore, Jr.
Mattie Moore
Edith L. Patch
Julia Case Ranney
Robert Sprague
Richard Terry

Streets of the City
John McDermott
John Flaherty


*This list is the closest I could compile through various records, as no formal list of all the victims exists.