Carrie Westlake Whitney.

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

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THOMAS J. BRODNAX.

Thomas J. Brodnax is the senior partner of the wholesale shipping and
exporting firm of Brodnax & McLiney and is thus a prominent representa-
tive of one of the important commercial interests of Kansas City. He is
likewise interested in land in Alabama and has quite extensive investments
in the gas fields of Kansas. Developing his native powers and his latent
talents and judging with accuracy the value of a business situation,
his course has been marked by an orderly progression that has Ijrought him
to a position of prominence in business circles.

He was born July 3, 1859, in Greene county near Eutaw, Alabama, on
the old plantation known as Meriwether's Landing, bordering the Black
Warrior river. He comes of English lineage, the ancestry being traced back
to the time of Edward IV. Interesting achievements of the Brodnax family
are referred to in a recently published volume entitled Cradle of the Repub-
lic; the History of Early Jamestown, edited by Lyon Gardner Tyler, LL.D.,
president of William & Mary's College; and ako volume 14, Nos. 1 and 2,
of the William & Mary's College Quarterly, published in July and August,
1905. Toward the end of the seventeenth century there appeared in Vir-
ginia two brothers, William and John Brodnax, sons of Robert Brodnax, a
goldsmith of London and native of Godmersham, County Kent, England.
John Brodnax settled in Williamsburg, where he carried on business as a
goldsmith, while William, the younger brother, of whom T. J. Brodnax is
a direct descendant, settled at Jamestown Island. His grandson, General
Robert Brodnax, was prominent in the Revolutionary war. Henry W.
Brodnax. father of our subject, was a merchant and planter and served as
an officer in the Mexican war. Prior to the Civil war he was a wholesale
merchant and export^^r of cotton from Mobile, Alabama. He later removed
to the plantation in Greene county, Alabama, which was his wife's estate,
having been established by her father. Dr. Zachary Meriwether, one of the




T. J. BRODXAX.



L\V YORK ,



HISTORY OF KANSAS CITY 615

early settlers of that county. During the period of the Civil war Henry
W. Brodnax looked after home affairs as commissary and spent the re-
mainder of his life on the plantation. Both he and his wife, who bore the
maiden name of Rachel Meriwether, are now deceased. She was also of
English lineage and traced her ancestry in an unbroken line to Richard
Meriwether, who in the sixteenth century was given a coat of arms by
Charles I for "wisdom in battle." Nicholas Meriwether, head of the Ameri-
can branch of the family, came to America about 1650 and was given large
grants of land in the colony of Virginia by Charles II in 1652.

Thomas James Brodnax acquired his education in the country schools
of Greene county and in the Southern University at Greensboro, Alabama,
where he spent one term. On account of financial reverses he was obliged
to leave the university before graduation and entered upon his business
career in a general store at Eutaw, Alabama. His business training, how-
ever, was largely acquired under his uncle, John T. Brodnax, of New Or-
leans, who was engaged in handling grain for export. In the fall of 1887
T. J. Brodnax came to Kansas City and established an office for carrying on
the grain trade. In 1889 he returned to New Orleans to further enlarge
his connections and in 1891 again came to Kansas City to make his per-
manent home. Upon his return he organized the wholesale shipping and
exporting firm of Brodnax & McLiney. The business of the firm is very
extensive, having been gradually developed along safe, substantial lines until
it has reached large proportions. During nearly the entire time of his resi-
dence here Mr. Brodnax has been an officer of the board of trade and in 1907
was chosen to the presidency, but was obliged to rasign the position on ac-
count of the increasing demands of his private interests. He still holds his
third interest in the old plantation of fifteen hundred acres in Greene county,
Alabama, and owns two thousand acres of timber land in an adjoining
county. He is also heavily interested in gas leases and a gas plant in Pleas-
anton, Linn county, Kansas, and his property holdings in Kansas City
include an elegant residence at No. 3526 Walnut street.

On the 14th of October, 1891, Mr. Brodnax was married to Miss Myrtle
M. Deardorff, a daughter of Louis J. Deardorff, a pioneer lumber-dealer and
at one time prominent in the business circles of Kansas City, but now de-
ceased. He was the builder of the Deardorff building, in which Mrs. Brodnax
owns a fourth interest, together with a third interest in the building occupied
by the North-Mahoney Furniture Company at 1114-16 Walnut street, which
stands on the site of her father's lumberyards in the early days of Kansas
City. Mr. and Mrs. Brodnax have one son, Lewis Meriwether, born June
19, 1899.

Aside from his association with the Kansas City board of trade Mr.
Brodnax is idenified with other interests having bearing upon the business
development and prosperity of the city and its progress in many lines. He
belongs to the Commercial Club and to the Merchants & Manufacturers
Association, while in more specifically social lines he is connected with
the Elm Ridge Club and the Evanston Golf Club. He belongs to St. Paul's
Episcopal church, of which he is treasurer, and no good work done in the



616 HISTORY OF KANSAS CITY

name of charity or religion seeks his cooperation in vain. He is pubhc
spirited, interested in all matters of civic virtue and civic pride and his labors
in behalf of his adopted city have been far-reaching and beneficial. He is
a splendid type of the southern gentleman, congenial, courteous and hos-
pitable, with appreciation for the social amenities of life and posessing at
the same time that force of character and capability that render him a
prominent and forceful factor in business circles.



HON. AKMWELL LOCKWOOD COOPER.

Hon. Armwell Lockwood Cooper, lawyer and state senator from Kansas
City, was born at Willow Grove, Delaware, November 15, 1870. Hi.< par-
ents, Thomas B. and Emily (Marvel) Cooper, the former a farmer, are now
deceased. Both were representatives of early families of Lower Delaware,
their ancestors having located there on coming from England long prior to
the Revolutionary war. The succeeding generations have always been Meth-
odists and democrats and many membei's of both families have been prominent
in the history of that state as factors in its moral progress and in its political
history. These included the Rev. Ignatius Cooper, the Rev. Ezekiel Cooper
and Judge Cooper, who served on the supreme bench of Delaware in the
early part of the nineteenth century. In the maternal line the family in-
cluded such distinguished members as Ex-Governor Robert J. Reynolds, Ex-
Governor Marvel and Judge David Marvel of the supreme court of Delaware.

In early boyhood A. L. Cooper became a pupil in the country schools
of Willow Grove, afterward attended the public schools of Dover and sub-
sequently the Wilmington Conference Academy at that place. He came
to Missouri in 1889 and located in Kansas City, where he read law with
Judge Walter A. Powell as his preceptor until his admission to the bar in
1895. He then began practice alone and subsequently became a member
of the firm of Wollman, Solomon & Cooper, which continued until the 1st
of January, 1905. Mr. Cooper has since again been alone and in" hi-; prac-
tice confines himself to no special branch of the law but has been very suc-
cessful in establishing a large general practice. For the past four years he
has lectured on code and common law pleading in the Kansas City School
of Law. His reputation has been won through earnest, honest labor and his
.standing at the bar is a merited tribute to his ability. He represents many
large corporations and is moreover interested in various local financial and
commercial institutions, in some of which he is a director and in others
counsel.

Mr. Cooper is perhaps equally well known as a democratic leader of
Kansas City, has always taken an active part in politics and has frequently
addressed the public from democratic platforms. Mc brings to the solution
of political problems the same analytical power and keen discrimination
which have characterized his professional labors. He has been spoken of
many times for the nomination for circuit judge and in the fall of 1907



HISTORY OF KANSAS CITY G17

was elected to represent the seventh district in the state senate, being there-
fore now one of the law makers of Missouri.

On the 14th of November, 1899, Mr. Cooper was married to Miss Caro-
line M. Ley, a daughter of Gustave Ley, of Clay county, Missouri. They
have two daughters: Dorothy Emily, six and a half years of age; and Ger-
trude Caroline, three years old. The circle of their friends is almost co-
extensive with the circle of their acquaintances. Mr. Cooper is a Mason
and an Elk and is a past chancellor of the Knights of Pythias, while along
more exclusively professional linas he is connected with the Kansas City
Bar Association and the Missouri State Bar Association. In the law and in
politics he has attained notable distinction for one of his years and yet,
while undoubtedly he is not without that honorable ambition which is so
powerful and useful as an incentive to activity in public affairs, he regards
the pursuits of private life as being in themselves abundantly worthy of his
best efforts.



FELIX L. LA FORCE.

Felix L. La Force, engaged in the brokerage business in Kansas City,
is one of Missouri's native sons, his birth having occurred in Boone county,
on the 31st of Aug-ust, 1847. His parents were Washington and Pheraba
(Wright) La Force. The father was a native of Kentucky, and in 1830
established his home in Boone county, spending his last days, however, in
Mexico, Missouri. His wife was born in Boone county. The La Force fam-
ily was of French descent and early representatives of the name in this coun-
try lived in Virginia. The Wright family removed from Tennessee to Ken-
tucky and thence to Missouri.

After acquiring a public-school education Felix L. La Force engaged
in merchandising, first as a clerk in the employ of Jonathan Kirkbride, a
typical Quaker, and later succeeded his employer in the owmership of the
store. In 1881 he came to Kansas City, seeking a broader field of oppor-
tunity and wider scope for the exercise of his industry and enterprise — his
dominant qualities. Here he embarked in the wholesale dry-goods business
as a member of the firm of Grimes, Woods, La Force & Company. In 1885
changers in the partnership led to the adoption of the firm style of the W. B.
Grimes Dry Goods Company. Mr. La Force was buyer for the house, which
became one of the largest mercantile enterprises of the west. W. B. Grimes
& Company were succeeded by the Sw^offord Bros. Dry Goods Company.
Success attended the efforts of Mr. La Force and when he retired from the
Avholesale dry goods trade he engaged in the brokerage business, dealing in
stocks, bonds and real astate and also making loans. For a time he was
associated with his brother, W. B. La Force, under the firm name of F. L.
La Force & Company, but in 1895 the brother withdrew^ and Felix L. La
Force has since been alone in business. Few men are better informed con-
cerning the money market in its various phases, and aside from an extensive
and profitable brokerage business, w^hich he is now conducting, he is inter-



618 HISTORY OF KANSAS CITY

ested in commercial and farming interests, being at the present time a director
in the Union National Bank.

In 1880 Mr. La Force was married to Miss Ella Eritill, of Howard county,
Missouri, a daughter of the late Colonel J. R. Estill, a distinguished citizen
of Missouri and one of the largest landowners of the state. He was also
curator of the Missouri State University and died in 1900 at an advanced
age, honored and respected by all. Mr. La Force is independent in his
political tendencies, favoring the democratic party, and he belongs to that
class of public-spirited American citizens who in promoting individual suc-
cess also contribute to the general welfare.



EVAN L. CRANFILL.

Evan L. CranfiU is manager for the Home Construction Company of
Kansas City, in which connection he displays comprehensive and accurate
understanding of the great scientific principles which underlie mechanical
engineering and building operations. His ability has been manifest and
is still evidenced in mnny fine structures in different parts of the country
in which he has lived and labored. One of Missouri's native sons, his birth
occurred in Pulaski county, May 31, 1871, his parents being Dr. M. L. and
H. A. (Benbow) CranfiU, who were natives of North Carolina. The father
devoted his life to the practice of medicine and surgery and both he and
his wife are now deceased. In their family were six children, of whom
three survive, the two sisters of our subject being residents of Eau Claire,
Michigan.

When Evan L. CranfiU wa.-; but two years of age his parents removed
to Anderson, Indiana, where he acquired his education as a public school
student. When a young man he went to Summitville, Indiana, where he
was engaged in newspaper work for about three years and on the expiration
of that period he began qualifying himself for mechanical engineering and
has continued in tliL*^ Hne throughout his entire life. He first came to Kan-
sas City in 1890 but remained only a short time, after which he made his
home in several towns in the south and in the east, where he was engaged
on important construction work. In 1904 he returned to Kansas City, where
he has since resided and has been connected with building operations as
manager for the Home Construction Company, save that for a brief period
he was in the employ of Swift & Company, meat packers of this city and
Chicago, as foreman of construction. He built many of the beautiful homes
in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and a number of the large buildings there and
in other towns in the south and east, and as manager for the Home Con-
struction Company he is now closely associated with important contract work
in Kansas City. The company has adopted a somewhat unique plan and
one which others might do wdl to follow. In the construction of factories,
residences and industrial plants they take their contracts on the "cost-plus-
a-fixed-siim" plan, by whicli system th(> owner pays the actual cost of



HISTORY OF KANSAS CITY 619

raatei'iaLs and labor plus a fixed sum settled upon in advance for the use
of the company's building plant, organization and superintendence of the
work. Under this system they contract to design and erect buildings from
start to finish or build according to designs and plans furnished by other
architects. The experience of the largest firms in this country has proven
that the best results in speed, economy and quality of work can be secured
in this way, and the Home Construction Company has rapidly progressed
in popular favor and in the extent of its patronage since this method has
been adopted. Mr. Cranfill as manager has gained a prominent place in
industrial circles and aside from his building operations he is the inventor
of special wood-working machinery, which is used in connection with their
contract work. The business has grown very rapidly and new space is being
added to accommodate the demands of the trade.

In 1894 Mr. Cranfill was married, at Augusta, Georgia, to Miss Minnie
Hallman, and they are parents of two children. The family home is at
No. 1221 Cherry street. Mr. Cranfill belongs to the Yeomen lodge of Kansas
City. He is connected with the Christian Science church and is a man of
broad view^s and liberal ideas, who keeps pace with advanced thought upon
many subjects. In business he entered upon his varied duties with admirable
equipment and his thoroughness and care in execution have gained him a
prominent place in building circles.



CHARLES B. ADAMS.

Charles B. Adams, a practitioner at the Kansas City bar, was born in
Boonville, Missouri, August 26, 1861, and is a representative of one of the
pioneer families of the state. His paternal grandfather was a native of
Virginia, where the family w^as represented in colonial days. He emigrated
to Kentucky in pioneer times and married a sister of Chief Justice Boyle.
Their son, Andrew Adams, father of Charles B. Adams, came to Missouri
in 1812 from Kentucky, his native state, and located in Howard county
near Rocheport. He was engaged in the Santa Fe trade there for several
years and afterward became connected with merchandising in old Mexico.
About 1832 he returned to Missouri, settling in Boonville, where for fifty
five years he made his home, his death there occurring in 1887. He was
closely associated with the early development of the state in its varied phases
of progress and contributed in substantial measure to its upbuilding. He
married Miss Sarah Flourney, who was born at Independence, Missouri, a
representative of one of the oldest and most prominent families of the
western part of the state. One of their sons is Washington Adams, a well
known lawyer of Kansas City.

Charles B. Adams supplemented his preliminary education by study
in Haynes Academy at Boonville, from which he was graduated with the
class of 1880. He is an alumnus of the law department of the University of
Virginia of 1885, and following his preparation for the bar he came to Kan-



620 HISTORY OF KANSAS CITY

sas City in September of that year and has since been a representative of the
legal fraternity here. He was first associated with his brother, "Washington
Adams, then city councilor. After two years he opened an office alone and
in 1889 formed a partnership with E. E. Potterfield that continued for three
years. Subsequently he practiced with N. F. Heitman for three years and
then took offices with his brother, where he still continues. He makes a
specialty of civil law and his preparation of cases is most thorough and ex-
haustive. He readily grasps the strong points of law and fact and presents
his cause in such a manner as to leave no doubt as to the correctness of his
views or of his conclusions. Every point is given its true prominence and
the case is argued with such skill, ability and power that he rarely fail< to
gain the verdict desired.

Mr. Adams belongs to the Kansas City Bar Association and to other so-
cieties and organizations. His religious faith is indicated by his affiliation
with the Presbyterian church and his ])olitical belief by his allegiance to
the democratic party.



JOHN P. PRESCOTT.

Among the buildings of modern construction in Kansas City is the
Terminal Warehouse at Broadway and the Belt Line tracks, which was the
first reinforced concrete building in this part of the west and one of the
first concrete warehouses in America. Since its completion ]\Ir. Prescott has
given his undivided time and attention to its management and rental. The
spirit of enterprise actuates him in all that he does and has enabled
him to overcome obstacles that would have seemed an insurmountable bar
to progress in the lives of other men.

Born at Spirit Lake, Iowa, on the 4th of February, 1859, he is a son
of John S. and Mary (Harris) Prescott. The father, a lawyer, now deceased,
was a native of Boston and came west in 1845 to Wisconsin, removing thence
to Iowa in 1857. He was descended from Puritan ancestry, John Prescott.
the progenitor of the family in America, arriving in this country in 1640
from England. He located near Boston and founded a family which has
numbered many distinguished members, including Colonel Prescott of Breed
Hill fame in the Revolutionary war and William Tlickling Prescott, the
eminent historian, also of the same family.

Mr. Prescott was educated in Ihc counnuu sc4io()ls of Iowa. Illinois and
Mississippi, pureuing his studies to the age of fourteen years, when he began
work as telegraph operator, being thus employed to the age of seventeen.
He afterward lierded cattle in tlic I'an Handle of Texas for two years, after
w^hich he engaged in railroad construction as a member of an engineering
party, his time being thus passed through the succeeding ten years in the
west and in Mexico. Anotliei- decade was devoted to railroad contracting
in Mexico and Central America and in 1898 he arrived in Kansas City, where
he engaged in the milling business, in whi(4i he contiimed until three years




J. p. PRESCOTT.



HISTORY OF KANSAS CITY 623

ago, when he erected the Terminal Warehouse at Broadway and the Belt
Line tracks. This building, the first reinforced concrete structure in this
part of the. west, was put up with a view of giving the most complete pro-
tection from fire and no woodwork was used in its construction. It is one
of the largest warehouses of the southwest. Since the completion of the
building Mr. Prescott has devoted his attention entirely to its management
and is now contemplating the erection of another warehouse which the in-
crease in his business demands. He has made judicious and extensive in-
vestments in real estate and now has considerable income property.

On the 20th of December, 1892, Mr. Prescott was married at Chase
City, Virginia, to Miss Martha Anderson, of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, a
daughter of John Anderson, who was killed in the Civil war. In his politi-
cal views Mr. Prescott is a stalwart republican, but without desire for office.
He belongs to the Manufacturers & Merchants Association, is president of
the Employejs Association and is a member of the Commercial and the
Kansas City Clubs. His identification with these organizations shows his
deep interest in the business outlook and prospects of the city and his ac-
tive cooperation in many movements which are an element in its commercial
and industrial growth and improvement. He started out in life for himself
with no special equipment and from the age of fourteen years has depended
upon his own resources, but has eagerly availed himself of opportunities for
advancement and each forward step has brought him a wider outlook, lead-
ing on to larger successes.



STEPHEN H. VELIE.

Stephen H. Velie, secretary and manager of the John Deere Plow Com-
pany, of Kansas City, was born in Princeton, Illinois, October 20, 1862. His
father, Stephen H, Velie, now deceased, was secretary and manager for
Deere & Company at Moline, Illinois. His mother, Mrs. Emma Velie, was
a daughter of John Deere, the founder of the Deere enterprises, and she is
also now deceased.

Stephen H. A'^elie, of this review, was educated in the Michigan ^Military
Academy and the Racine Business College. At eighteen years of age he
entered the plow shops of Deere & Company, where he remained for three
years, gaining comprehensive and accurate knowledge of the business, bring-
ing to him excellent equipment as a preparation for the responsibilities that
have devolved upon him in positions of executive control and administrative
ability in later years in connection with the development and growth of the
trade. At twenty-one years of age he went to Helena, Arkansas, where for
eight years he was engaged in the operation of a sawmill, and in 1892 he
came to Kansas City as assistant manager of the John Deere Plow Company.
In 1904 he became secretary and manager of that concern, which also con-
trols the John Deere Plow Company of Denver and the John Deere Plow
Company of Oklahoma City. This concern is the largest of its kind in the



024 HISTORY OF KANSAS CITY

world, luindliiig all kind:; of farm iiiachiiiery and light and heavy vehicles.
The Kansas City plant is separately capitalized under the laws of Missouri
and representvs an investment of over a million dollars while the annual
volume of business is many times that amount. Mr. \^elie is also president
of the Fort Smith \Vagon Company, of Fort Smith, Arkansas, and chairman
of its executive board. This concern has a capacity of hfteen hundred
wagons per annum. He is president of the Velie Saddlery Company, of
Kansas City, which he organized live years ago, and which has developed so
rapidly that it equals in size the largest harness, collar and saddlery manu-
factory in the west. He was one of the organizers and i^ the vice president
of the Velie Carriage Company, of Moline, Illinois, one of the largest manu-
factories of high grade vehicles in the United States, its output in 1907 being
tw^enty-one thousand buggies and surreys. He is one of the stockholders in



Online LibraryCarrie Westlake WhitneyKansas City, Missouri; its history and its people 1808-1908 (Volume 2) → online text (page 59 of 65)