Carrie Westlake Whitney.

Kansas City, Missouri; its history and its people 1808-1908 (Volume 2) online

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Masonic College at Lexington until his seventeenth year, when he made his
entrance into the business world as deputy clerk in the circuit and probate
courts and recorder of deeds in Lafayette county. He was eighteen years
of age when he enlisted as a private under Colonel John Bowman of the
State rJuai-ds. He saw active service in behalf of the Confederacy in various
engagements, including those at Lexington, Oak Hill and Pea Ridge. Later
he went to Memphis, Tennessee, where he joined the Landis battery of ar-
tillery, wilh which he j)arlicipated in the first and second battles at Cor-
inth and also the battles of luka, Hatchie River, Grand Gulf, Fort Gibson,
Champion Hills, Black River and the siege of Vicksburg. Refusing a parole
at \'ick.-l)ing, he was sent as a prisoner of war to Camp Morton. Indianapolis,
from which ])lace he later made his escape.

Mr. Keith then went to California and afterward was connected with
trading interests in Leavenworth, Kansas, and New Mexico for two years
and also conducted a dry goods store in the former place for a year. As
stated, he became a resident of Kansas City in 1871 and invested his entire
capital of forty dollars in the establishment of a little coalyard on Bluff street.
Kansas City then had but little industrial or commercial importance and han-
dled not more than thirty or forty carloads of coal per day. Mr. Keith lived to
witness the growth of the city and its business development \mtil between





three hundred and fifty or four hundred car loads of coal are handled daily
liere. He conducted his retail business for several yeans and eventually be-
came one of the most prominent and successful retail coal dealers of the
country as the president of the Central Coal & Coke Company. Constantly
watchful of opportunities for expanding his business, in 1878, he opened his
iirst mine at Godfrey, Bourbon county, Kansas, and in the succeeding two
years opened other mines at Rich Hill, while eventually he became the
owner of extensive and valuable coal lands in the Bonanza district of Ar-
kansas. The increase of his Inisiness led to the organization of the Central
Coal iSc Coke Company, which now owns coal bearing lands that produce four
million tons of coal annually. Something of the growth of the business
is indicated in the fact that when Colonel Keith oi)cned his little coalyard
on liluff street he employed but two or three men and ere his death the
employes of the Central Coal & Coke Company numbered about ten thou-
sand, while its output amounted to one hundred and twenty thousand cars
and its business reached the sum of seven million dollars yearly, mining
coal in Kansas, Missouri, Indian Territory, Arkansas and Wyoming. The
interests of the company were constantly expanded and in connection with
the operation of the coal fields and the marketing of the products the com-
pany also established and controlled ere the death of Colonel Keith twenty-
five stores, handling goods to the value of three million dollars. Retail
coalyards and offices were also established at Wichita, Kansas, St. Joseph,
Missouri, Omaha, Nebraska, and Salt Lake City, while the products are
widely shipped throughout the entire west and south, the business of the
company exceeding that of any other firm in the western states.

The Keith & Perry Coal Company was reorganized as the Central Coal
A: Coke Company, May 1, 1893. Previous to this time the company had
dealt in lumber on a small scale in connection with the coal business but
THuler new management the lumber enterprise developed rapidly, so that
the company in this connection soon gained recognition among the most
prominent lumber manufacturers and dealers west of the Mississippi. The
property of the Bowie Lumber Company of Texarkana, Texas, was pur-
chased, including twenty-five acres within the corporation limits of that city,
and the plant was reconstructed along most modern lines and equipped Avith
the latest improved machinery. The Central Coal & Coke Company began
its actual operations in lumber mannfacture in January, 1894, and the plant
at Texarkana was in operation until the summer of 1902, when it was
torn down and removed to Carson, Louisiana, owing to the exhaustion of
the timber supply of the company at the former place. At Carson the com-
pany's mills cut about five million feet of lumber per month and shipments
to and from the mills were made over the Missouri & Louisiana Railroad,
fifty-one miles in length — a road practically owned by the Central Coal &
Coke Company. With the continued growth of the business a second saw-
mill ]ilant was erected at Keith, Louisiana, on the Kansas City Southern
Railway, and daily converts one hundred and forty thousand feet of logs
into lumber. Mr. Keith was also interested in one hundred and sixty-five


thousand acres of jiiiic lands in Houston county, Texas, lying between the
Cotton Beh and the International A: Gvea.t Northern Railway. The business
at that })uint was organized under separate incorporation as the Louisiana
cV: Texa> huinber Company. A mill plant was erected at Kennard, Texas,
witli a cajiacity of three hundred thousand feet per day, this being the larg-
e.-;t mill in the south. Mr. Keith became [n'osident of the company, with
Charles Campbell as treasurer and secretary. The product of the Louisiana
& Texas Lumber Company's plant, however, was handled by the Central
Coal & Coke Company. ]\lr. Keith stood pre-eminent as a central figure in
lumber and coal circles, possessing superior ability that enabled him to for-
nndalc large ])lans and carry them forward to successful completion, con-
trolling not only the salient features of the business but also giving super-
\i.<ion to the slightest detail. His l)usiness methods were always in strict
conformity to a hiuh standard of commercial ethics and thus won for him
the admiration and respect of his business colleagues and associates. He
was a Catholic in religious faith, a republican in his political views and a
i\Iason in his social relations. He was also a brigadier general of the Con-
federate Veterans' Association of Kansas City.

Mr. Keith was first married in 1871 to ]Mi.-s Anna Boorman and their
children were: Charles S., of this review: Dr. Robert L. Keith; and Mrs.
C. W. Hastings. l'^)r his second wife Mr. Keitli chose Miss Mary B. Boor-
man, liv whom he had the following children: INIrs. A. K. Taylor, R. H.
Keith. .Ir., Mrs. Freeman Field, Anna Keith and Mary Taylor Keith.

Charles S. Keith supplemented his early educational privileges by study
in St. .Tohn's College at Fordham, New York city, and was graduated in
1891 with the degree of Bachelor of Science. In .Tuly of the same year he
entered the offk'e of the Central Coal & Coke Company as bookkeeper and
has throughout liis entire business career been connected with this enterprise.
He acquainted himself in principle and detail, closely studied the trade and
in .July. 1007, b3came the president and general manager of what is now
the largest coal and lumber enterprise of the southwest. He occupies a posi-
tion in linsiness circles not alone by reason of the success he has achieved but
al.-o on acconnt of the straightforward business methods he has ever followed.
It is trne that lie entered upon a business already established and upon a
paying basis but as general manager he has enlarged and extended its scope,
liis record proving conclusively that success is not a matter of genius, as
lu'ld ])y some, but results from clear judgment, experience and unwearied
industry. He is also popular in the city where his entire life has been
passed, having won an extensive circle of warm friends.


In that period of Kansas City's history when lu^r mercantile establish-
ments were but entering uf)on a pioneer existence, Januv P. Kenmuir became
a factor in commercial circles. Ho arrived in the city in 1S78, and through-
out hi- remaining days was closely a.ssociated with the jewelry trade. In an


analyzation of his life work there can be placed but one interpretation upon
his success, and that is that it resulted from merit and ability. He had no
special advantages at the outset of his career other than the American youth
usually enjoys, but he possessed a determined spirit, combined with high
ideals in business that won for him an honored name as well as a comfortable

Mr. Kenmuir was a native of Balany Hindi, Ireland, where his birth
occurred in March, 1838. His parents were also natives of the Emerald Isle,
where they passed their entire lives. The father was also a watchmaker by
trade, and continued in that line of activity throughout his entire business
career. One of the sons of the family, John Kenmuir, came to America in
early life and settled in Leavenworth, Kansas, where he engaged in the
jewelry and watchmaking business for several years. He then removed to
St. Joseph, Missouri, and became a leading jeweler of that city, conducting
an extensive business, which brought him gratifying prosperity.

The common schools of Ireland afforded James P. Kenmuir the educa-
tional advantages which qualified him for life's practical and responsible
duties, and his business training was received under the direction of his
father, in whose establishment he learned the jewelry and watchmaking
trades. After continuing with his father in Ireland for several years, the fact
of his brother's success in America induced him to seek a home beyond the
water, and when he had reached the eastern coast he tarried not until he had
reached Leavenworth, Kansas, where he entered into partnership with his
brother. He was connected with the business interests of that city until 1873,
when he removed to Kansas City. Here he began work at his trade with
the we.ll known jewelry firm of Cady & Olmstead, but after a brief period
engaged in business on his own account, opening a store on Main street,
between Seventh and Eighth streets. His business soon increased and necessi-
tated his securing larger quarters, so that he removed to Ninth street, between
Main and Walnut streets. The gradual growth of his business continued
and he finally opened his store in larger rooms on Tenth street, between
Main and Walnut streets, where he continued in the jewelry and watchmak-
ing business for many years. He prospered in his undertakings, for in his
business methods he displayed marked energy, careful systemization, strong
purpose and unswerving commercial integrity. At length he sold out and
lived retired in Kansas City throughout his remaining days, enjoying well
merited rest.

Mr. Kenmuir was married in 1876, in this city, to Miss Celia H. Rowlett,
a native of Bath, Steuben county. New York,' and a daughter of James and
Mary A. (Mitchell) Rowlett. Her father was a native of Ireland and came
to America in an early day. He joined the Presbyterian ministry, and in
that capacity was called to various Presbyterian churches in the east, devoting
his remaining days to the work of proclaiming the gospel. Both he and his
w^ife were residents of Steuben county, New York, when called to their final
rest. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Kenmuir were born two daughters and a son.
Mabel, the eldest, is the wife of Professor Walter H. Fickland, who was a
teacher in the Central high school of Kansas City for several years, and they


now reside in Littleton, Colorado, where he is business manager for Miss
AVolcott's schools. Charles E. Kenmnir, one of the leading young business
men of Kansas City, is now teller of the Fidelity Trust Company Bank. He
has recently married ]\Ii.>s ]\Iira Green and they reside at No. 20 Clinton
place. Nellie, who completes the family, is at home with her mother, and
they occupy a handsome and attractive residence at No. 132 Spruce avenue,
which was erected by Mrs. Kenmuir in September, 1905.

In the early days of their residence here Mr. Kenmuir erected a home at
No. 917 Troost avenue, where he and his family lived for a quarter of a cen-
tury. The death of the husband and father occurred September 9, 1902, and
the news of his demise carried grief and regret to many friends. His political
allegiance was given to the republican party, for he firmly believed that its
principles were most conducive to good government and the welfare of the
people. He was never an office seeker, but in the early days made official
observations and reports upon the weather and river, continuing in that service
until the work was put in control of the army. In Ireland he was a member
of the Masonic fraternity but united with no societies or secret organizations
in this country. His attention was largely given to the development of his
business, which, successfully controlled, made him one of the prosperous
residents here. It was not his success, however, but his honorable busine,ss
principles that gained him the entire respect and confidence of his colleagues
and his contemporaries, while the many commendal)le traits of his character,
as manifest in his kindliness, his consideration and his deference for the
o])inions of others, won for him the warmest esteem of all with whom he was
associated. It is not from the few conspicuous deeds of life that the blessings
chiefly come which make the world better, sweeter, happier, but from the
countless lowly ministrations of the everydays, the little faithfulnesses that
fill long years, and in this way Mr. Kenmuir contributed much to the happi-
ness of those around him.



ill \';iii Clicf Karnes was Ixirn on a farm in Boone county, Mis-
souri, February 11. 1841. His parents, Thomas and Elizabeth (Payne)
Karnes, came to this state from Virginia in 1835. The former was of Ger-
man lineage and the latter of English and Dutch descent.

Joseph Van Clicf Karnes, the youngest of a family of four brothers,
attended the coniiti-y .<cliool.< continuously between his fifth and twelfth
years and then devoted four years to farm life. He entered the then pri'-
paratory cDur-c in the Missouri State University in 1857 and, completing
the academic course was graduated in 1862, with the degree of Bachelor of
Arts, liis ])ciiig the higlic.-t standing among all the students of the university
during the entire five years. Immediately after graduation Mr. Karnes en-
tered the law .school of Harvard Univer.^ity, but left during his first year to
acce])t a Greek and Latin tutorship in the Missouri State University. His






fondness for languages has kept his Greek and Latin fresh to the present
time. He left the State University in 1865 with the degree of Master of
Arts. During his tutorship he was a student in the law office of Hon.
Boyle Gordon, of Columbia, with Henry N. Ess, then a tutor of mathematics
in the university. In August, 1865, they came to Kansas City and opened
an office under the name of Karnes & Ess. The partnership continued for
twenty-one years. Mr. Karnes is now the senior partner of the law firm of
Karnes, New & Krauthoff. When he arrived in Kansas City it contained a
population of only six thousand.

In addressing young men upoil the subject of how to succeed in law,
Mr. Karnes has said, "Be a gentleman; it pays nowhere better than in the
law. . . . Take advantage of no man's situation to extort from him un-
duly large fees. ... Be honest, both with the court and with the jury."
The advice which he has thus given to others he has always followed in his
own practice, and therein, in large measure, lies the secret of his success. It
is his theory of the law that the counsel who practice are to aid the court
in the administration of justice and there has been no member of the pro-
fession who has been more careful to conform his practice to a high standard
of professional ethics than he has. He has never sought to lead the court
astray in a matter of fact or law; has ever treated the court with the studied
courtesy which is its due and indulged in no harsh criticisms because it
arrived at a conclusion in the decision of a case different from what he hoped
to hear. Calm, dignified, self-controlled, free from passion or prejudice and
with the most kindly spirit, he gives to his client the service of great talent,
unwearied industry and rare learning, but he never forgets that there are
certain things due to the court, to his own self-respect, and above all to
justice and the righteous administration of the law that neither the zeal
of an advocate nor the pleasure of success permits him to disregard. He is
an able, faithful and conscientious minister in the temple of justice. He
has been connected with much important litigation and has won many hon-
orable victories.

In his bovhood days Mr. Karnes became an anti-slaverv advocate,
although living in a slave-holding community and his father to a limited
extent a slave-owner. He became a stanch supporter of the republican
party and was nominated for the supreme bench in 1880, but was defeated
with the remainder of the ticket owing to the strong democratic majority in
Missouri. His devotion to the general good has been manifest in manj'-
tangible ways. He served for twenty years on the school board of Kansas
City without pay and aided in securing much needed legislation and in
placing the schools upon an excellent foundation. No one was more active
or instrumental in founding the public library and he served for many
years on the library committee of the board. He is a member of the Com-
mercial Club and has been chairman of the committee on municipal legis-
lation, and was one of the freeholders who framed the present city charter.
He assisted in organizing the Kansas City Bar Association and was its presi-
dent for three consecutive terms. He was one of the founders of the Kansas
City Law Library Association and for several years was its president. He


•was one of the organizers of the Provident Association, drafted its charter,
and gave much thought to the furtherance of the cause. He has been a
prominent and effective advocate of the park and boulevard sj^stem and has
served as a member of the park board, and he is now chairman of the tene-
ment commission. His services are freelj' given to the city wherever he feels
that he can aid in advancing its material, intellectual, social and moral prog-
ress, but always without compensation.

In Octol)er, 1903 , the degree of Doctor of Laws wa.s conferred upon
Mr. Karnes by the Missouri University. On the 27th of January of that
year he had been made an honorary member of the Commercial Club. His
fellow citizc]is recognize in him a man of scholarly attainments, of superior
ability in hi- profession, of marked public spirit and untiring devotion to
the general good. His success has been great but his liberality has made his
fortune only moderate. There are few men who have the strict sense of
honor in regard to professional service that has always characterized Mr.
Karnes in his practice and has made him one of the most respected, as well
as one of the most capable practitioners of the Kansas City bar.

avillta:\i xjaet.

William \'li('t, wi'll known as a bridgebuilder and contractor in general
civil engineering work u\) to the time of his death, which occurred in Kansas
City in March. 1893, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and at the age of nine
years became a resident of ^Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After acquiring a good
public-school education he studied civil engineering, and thus qualified for
the profession which he made his life work. In 1876 he removed to Kansas
City, ]\Iissouri, and followed civil engineering in connection with the King
Bridge Company, building iron bridges all over the country and especially for
the Union Pacific Railroad. He was also the builder of the reservoir here.
He thoroughly understood the great scientific jirinciples which underlie civil
engineering as well as all of the practical work connectL'd with the business,
and his skill ;iiid efficiency gained him i»r(niiincn(e as a representative of that
departiiiiMit of IhImh'.

At tlie Slierniini House in Cliicago. in 18r)3, Mr. Vliet was married to
Miss Sarali T. Tloageland. a daughter of Edwin Iloageland, who Avas a native
of the state of New York and was ca|»tain of a ve.^^sel that ])lied between Fish-
kill Landing niid New York city. Tie died, howevei'. when his children were
very yonng. His widow, who liore the maiden name of Diana IIasl)rook,
and was al.«o a native of the iMiipire ,-tate, married again after the death of
her first hu.«band. l)ecomiiiu the wife of .John .Tohn-on. mid removed to Mil-
waukee will) the rmiiily. In LS.")! Mr. .lohn.-on came to Kansas City, Mis-
souri, and two years later moved the family here. He eoniint'iieed work in
contracting line.- and foi- ,-oiiie year.< was thus engaged. At first the family
lived in a lou hon.-e, hut as in- financial resources increa-ed Mr. Johnson
embraced liis o|i|M)i'tunitie.- {'t)V judicions inve-tment and pnrchased a large


amount of property, owning what was later known as the Johnson addition
and also the land where the junction now stands. He became one of the most
prominent and influential residents of the city in early days, and was elected
the first mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, but declined to serve, for his ambi-
tions were in other directions than official preferment.

He continued in business here until after the outbreak of the Civil war,
and was the first man to float the stars and stripes in Kansas City. However,
on account of the trouble brought about through the bitter feeling engendered
during the Civil War he removed to Leavenworth, Kansas, where he took up
the occupation of farming, and there made his home until his death, which oc-
curred in 1904 when he had reached the venerable age of eighty-four years.
He was an active republican and a man always loyal to his principles, never
swerving in his support of his honest convictions. Mrs. Vliet had two broth-
ers, Walter and George Hoagelund, who came here with their stepfather.
Mrs. Vliet, however, remained in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, until 187'6, when she
accompanied her husband on his removal to Kansas City, where she has since
made her home. Their daughter Emma became the wife of Frank S. Ford,
and they now reside with ^Irs. Vliet. Mr. Ford was born in Ohio and came
to Kansas City, Missouri, when twenty-seven years of age. He has since been
engaged in conducting a planing mill for Mr. Lovejoy. He is a member of
Ivanhoe Lodge, A. F. & A. M., also belongs to the Royal Arch Chapter and
to the Modern Woodmen Camp. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Ford has been born a
daughter, Frances Bernice. Mr. Ford was a son of Henry N. Ford, who hiis
been in the planing mill business in Ohio for years, and of Mary (Leclercq)
Ford, a native of France.

^Ir. Vliet was a worthy exemplar of the ^Masonic fraternity, and attained
the Knight Templar degree. His life was in harmony with his principles-,
and he enjoyed to the fvillest extent the confidence and good will of his fellow-
men. He was ever accurate, thorough, progressive and reliable in business,
while those with whom he was associated in friendly relations knew him as
a man of many excellent traits of character, of kindly purpose and genial
disposition. He died in March, 1893, at the age of sixty-two years, and his
memorv is vet cherished bv manv who knew him.


Con Murphy, who is engaged in the livery business at No. 1309 Walnut
street in Kansas City, was born in County Cork, Ireland, in 1848, and the
following year was brought by his parents to the new world, the family home
being established in Virginia. His father, Charles Murphy, was also a native
of County Cork, and during his residence in ^^irginia was identified with
railroad interests. In 1857, however, he left the Old Dominion and came to
Kansas City, traveling by boat a part of the way. This city was then a small
town of little industrial or commercial prominence, and giving but little
promise of rapid future development. Mr. Murphy settled near what is now


the intersection of Fifteenth and Locust streets, where he built a log cabin,
cutting the timber on the west bottoms w^here the Union depot now stands
in order to l)uild his house. The district all around him was farm land, and

Online LibraryCarrie Westlake WhitneyKansas City, Missouri; its history and its people 1808-1908 (Volume 2) → online text (page 2 of 65)