Walter B. (Walter Barlow) Stevens.

Centennial history of Missouri (the center state) one hundred years in the Union, 1820-1921 (Volume 3) online

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One Hundred Years in the Union















Julius S. Walsh, long a leading figure in financial and commercial circles of
St. Louis and recognized as one of America's most able financiers, was born Decem-
ber 1, 1842, in the city which is still his place of residence. He is a son of Edward
and Isabella (de Mun) Walsh, the former of Irish extraction and the latter of
French lineage. Edward Walsh emigrated from Ireland to the United States in
1815, settling first in Louisville, Kentucky, whence three years later he removed
to St. Louis and here organized the firm of J. & E. Walsh, with which he was con-
tinuously identified to the time of his death in 1866.

In the acquirement of his education Julius S. Walsh attended the St. Louis
University and also St. Joseph's College at Bardstown, Kentucky, from which institu-
tion he was graduated as a member of the class of 1861. He began reading law
under the direction of the Hon. John M. Krum, a distinguished attorney of St.
Louis, and subsequently entered the law department of Columbia College of New
York city, winning the degree of LL. B. upon his graduation in 1864. St. Louis
University conferred upon him the degree of Master of Arts in 186 5 and about four
decades later, or in 1904, he received the degree of Doctor of Laws from the same
institution. He was admitted to the bar in the state of New York and left college
with the intention of becoming an active member of the legal profession, but the
death of his father occurred soon afterward and his time and energies were demanded
in other directions. He had been his father's associate in business for two years
prior to his demise and knew more intimately than anyone else the nature of the
operations in which the firm had been engaged. Accordingly he was chosen to
settle the estate and, although scarcely twenty-four years of age, took up the tasks
in connection therewith and discharged them so capably that he won the favorable
recognition and approval of prominent financiers of the city. He became his father's
successor on the directorate of various large corporations and in his opinions con-
cerning intricate business problems displayed a thorough knowledge and mastery
of the situation, with a keen outlook into future possibilities. Thus led through the
force of circumstances into active connection with business enterprises rather than
professional life, he passed on to positions of executive control. He was identified
with the street railway lines of St. Louis from 1870 and was chosen to the presi-
dency of the Citizens' Railway Company and of the Fair Grounds & Suburban
Railway Company, while a few years later he became the president of the Union Rail-
way Company, the People's Railway Company, the Tower Grove & Lafayette Railway
Company, and the Cass Avenue & Fair Grounds Railway Company. He also pro-
jected and built the Northern Central Railway. His operations were continu-
ally broadening in extent, and his ability to plan and perform made his cooperation
sought in various directions. His work in behalf of the St. Louis Agricultural
& Mechanical Association, of which he was elected president in 1874, is particularly
noteworthy. Previous to that year the fair grounds were kept closed except
one week each year. Mr. Walsh saw the opportunity for utilizing them in many
directions and during the four years when he occupied the chief administrative
office of the association the grounds were beautified, new buildings erected, the
zoological gardens established and various other improvements made that con-
verted the grounds into one of the favorite places of amusement and recreation for
the people of St. Louis. Recognizing further opportunities ih the business world,
he began investigating the subject of making improvements at the mouth of the
Mississippi river and in 187 5 was elected president of the South Pass Jetty Com-
pany and thus served until the improvement was completed, giving a full navigable
depth from the mouth of the Mississippi to the port of New Orleans for the largest



sea-going vessels. From 1875 until 1890 he was the president of the St. Louis Bridge
Company, his work in that connection proving of the utmost benefit to the city at
large. In 1882 he was elected to the directorate of the Third National Bank, one
of the strongest moneyed institutions of St. Louis, and he was also identified as
a director with the Laclede National Bank, the Merchants-Laclede National Bank,
the North Missouri Railroad Company, the St. Louis. Kansas City & Northern Rail-
road Company, the Wabash & Western Railroad Company, the Ohio & Mississippi
Railroad Company and the Batlimore & Ohio Southwestern Railroad Company, while
in 1888 he was chosen chief executive officer of the Municipal Light & Power Com-
pany. In 1895 Mr. Walsh was elected vice president of the St. Louis Terminal
Railroad Association and the following year was chosen to the presidency of an
organization controlling the terminal privileges of twenty-two lines of railroad
centering at St. Louis and later became chairman of the board of directors, which
position he now retains. During his term of office as president, he brought about
the unification of the terminal situation at St. Louis. In 1890 he organized the
Mississippi Valley Trust Company, which developed under his guidance until it is
now one of the strongest institutions of its kind in the west. He was first president
of the Trust Company, which office he occupied until January, 1906, when he
resigned to become chairman of the board of directors, of which position he is the
present incumbent. He is also president of the Mississippi Glass Company, and a
member of the board of commissioners of Tower Grove Park. Mr. Walsh was one
of the directors of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company and acted as a
member of the committee on agriculture and as chairman of the committee on
transportation. Various other corporations have felt the stimulus of his coopera-
tion and the benefit of his wise counsel and discriminative judgment. The power
he has displayed in bringing into harmonious working order varied and complex
Interests, his inflexible adherence to a high standard of commercial ethics and his
thorough understanding of a business situation, its uses and abuses, have gained
him recognition as one of the country's "captains of industry."

On the 11th of January, 1870, Mr. Walsh was united in marriage to Miss
Josie Dickson, a daughter of the late Charles K. Dickson, of St. Louis. Their chil-
dren are seven in nunii)er, namely: C. K. Dickson; Julius S., Jr.; Robert A. B.;
N. S. Chouteau; Isabelle, the wife of Charles L. Palms; Ellen Humphreys, who is the
wife, of William Maffitt; and Mary Josephine, who gave her hand in marriage to
Captain John S. Bates. That Mr. Walsh is appreciative of the social amenities of
life is indicated in his membership in the St. Louis, University, Kinloch. Noonday
and Country Clubs of St. Louis and the Union Club of New York. He has, moreover,
served as vice president of the Mercantile Library Association and as president of
the St. Louis Association of the Columbia (New York) University Alumni.


Kansas City with its splendid park and boulevard system, its beautiful homes, its
public baths, its art museum, its high standards of civic virtue and of civic pride, is
a monument to the life of William Rockhill Nelson, for in all these things and many
others of potent worth he had deep concern and was most influential in bringing about
progress along these lines. Said one who knew him well: "In his view nothing was
too big, nothing too good for Kansas City." To the world he became known as the
editor of the Kansas City Star, and the Star was recognized as the exponent and the
defender of all that has to do with the uplift of the individual, the community and the

Mr. Nelson was born in Fort Wayne. Indiana, March 7, 1841. For three cen-
turies his ancestors had lived on the American continent and his forefathers were
among the builders of cities, including Harlem, Brooklyn and Poughkeepsie, New York
and others farther west. The ancestral line was also represented in the early
colonial Indian wars and in the Revolution. His great-grandfather, John Nelson,
fought for the cause of independence and his valor and loyalty was later recognized
In the gift of five hundred acres of land in Tompkins county. New York. John Nelson's
son, Leonard Nelson, a farmer, wedded Mary De Groff, daughter of Moses De G^otf, a



A3Tf P, Ll»<01 ANB


representative of a family conspicuous for their patriotic service during the Revolu-
tionary war period. Isaac De GrofC Nelson, son of Leonard and Mary Nelson, and
father of William RockhlU Nelson, was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, and in 1836
removed with his three sisters to Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was at that time a young
man of twenty-six years. At his death in 1891, the Times of South Bend, Indiana,
spoke of him as a "broad-gauged, noble-hearted, public-spirited man who gave prestige,
stability and fame to the Summit City and to Allen county." He was one of the
commissioners appointed to oversee the construction of the statehouse in Indianapolis
and whose frugal management led to the construction of the building not only within
the amount allotted for the purpose but also left a surplus to be returned to the
state treasury. Isaac D. Nelson married Elizabeth Rockhill, daughter o£ William
Rockhill, a native of New Jersey, who in 1819 removed to Indiana and became promi-
nently identified with the upbuilding of the state, being one of its first representatives
in congress. He engaged extensively in farming and was probably the first man in
the world to plant a thousand acres of corn. Such is the ancestry from which William
Rockhill Nelson sprang.

The boyhood of the future editor of the Star, as he himself described it, was a
period of insurgency. He chafed at restraint and rule, but there came into his life
certain influences which turned this spirit of insurgency into a fighting force for
the right. He would never succumb to the domination of injustice to the many and he
did not hesitate to express his honest convictions. On one occasion in his youth, after
participating in some mischievous prank, he was called before his father and on being
questioned told the full truth. The father's response was: "Well, thank God, you are
not a liar, anyway." He then told the son to come to him when in trouble and he
would see him through. The incident made a deep impression upon the mind of the
youthful culprit. That he had early become a factor of force in his home community
is indicated in his being called to act as secretary when a meeting of the substantial
business men of his town was held to draft resolutions opposing secession. As a
young man he read law. Later with a partner he engaged in growing sea-island cotton
in Georgia, but the venture proved unsuccessful. Returning to his native city he
took up contracting, building roads, bridges and buildings. In this connection he was
instrumental in promoting the first good-roads law passed in Indiana and forever
afterward was a stalwart champion of the good roads movement.

From young manhood Mr. Nelson was deeply Interested in politics and his great
admiration was won by Samuel J. Tilden through the latter's courage in fighting the
Tweed ring. He ever regarded him as one of America's constructive statesmen and
carried as a guiding factor in his own life the words which he heard Tilden utter:
"While it is a great thing to lead armies, it is a greater thing to lead the minds of
men." Throughout his life the pictures of Tilden, Cleveland and Roosevelt hung
above his desk as those of three great constructive leaders in American citizenship.

Mr. Nelson was thirty-five years of age when he turned to what really became his
life work. With his cotton growing venture in Georgia there had been established by
himself and his partner a store which the latter conducted for several years after they
ceased attempting to raise cotton. Then the store failed and in its failure was involved
most of Mr. Nelson's fortune. He had merely enough remaining to purchase an interest
in the Fort Wayne Sentinel. With undaunted enthusiasm he turned to the work Of
editing this newspaper, in which he saw an instrument that promised far greater
opportunity for achievement than the field of politics. After a year or two he sought
still greater scope for his efforts in this direction and in 1880, after carefully looking
over the entire western field, he and his partner in the Fort Wayne Sentinel, Samuel E.
Morss, established the Kansas City Evening Star, the first issue appearing September
18, 1880. A year later he became sole owner and from that time put forth every effort
to transform "the muddiest city in the country" into a metropolis of beauty. His
financial limitations made the publication of the paper uphill work at first, but he
persevered and as his capital increased he put it back into the paper, enlarging and
improving it. In 1882, with borrowed money, he bought The Mail, a small paper
with an Associated Press franchise, thus acquiring the needed telegraph news service.
The development of the Star was indicated in the removal to a new building in 1889,
with the installation of two new Potter presses, and in 1894 the growth of the paper
necessitated still larger quarters, which were secured in what was then one of the
finest newspaper buildings in the country. Another removal was made in 1911 and
after two years the equipment of the plant was increased until its capacity was
four hundred and twenty thousand sixteen-page papers an hour — a marvelous growth


from the little six-column, four-page sheet originally printed. On the 29th of April, 1894,
the first Sunday edition of the Star was issued and on the 18th of November, 1901, the
first morning edition was brought forth, following the purchase of the Times. The
morning, afternoon and Sunday editions of the paper were all furnished to its sub-
scribers without increase of the price — ten cents per week. On the 6th of March. 1890,
Mr. Nelson brought out the Weekly Kansas City Star, an eight-p?ge paper for farmers,
at a subscription price of twenty-flve cents per year, and its circulation grew so rapidly
that ere his death it had reached three hundred and fifty thousand, being sent into
every state of the Union and into many foreign countries. Mr. Nelson always had the
encouragement and support of his wife, who in her maidenhood was Ida Houston, a
daughter of Robert Houston of Champaign, Illinois. They were niarriel November 29,
1S81, and they became the parents of a daughter, Laura, now the wife of Irwin R.
Kirkwood of Kansas City.

Mr. Nelson's contribution to newspaper publication included three distinct and
valuable innovations: the supplying of seven papers to subscriljers for ten cents weekly,
followed by a morning and evening edition and Sunday paper with no increase of price;
and the publicition of a complete farm weekly at twenty-five cents per year. These
prices were continued until mounting costs, during the war, forced an increase. That
he was recognized as a most prominent figure in newspaper circles is indicated in the
fact that he was chosen vice president of the Associated Press in 1902-3 and from 1905
until 1914 was a member of its board of directors. His newspaper policy was expressed
in his instruction to his staff and employes: "Always keep in mind the family that is
paying us ten cents a week — and particularly its women members." One of his
biographers said: "Mr. Nelson's methods in the conduct of the Star were as individual
as everything else he did. His interest extended to the smallest details. But particu-
larly in his later years he paid little attention to the business aspects of the news-
paper. His attention was absorbed in editorial duties. . . . He almost never wrote
anything for the paper with his own hand. He was too l)usy for that. But the day
rarely pas.sed when he did not outline one or more articles of some sort. Almost always
in these outlined articles there would be striking sentences which could be used ver-
batim. He was a master of nervous, epigrammatic English. . . . One of his axioms
was that under all circumstances the Star must be a gentleman. His staff knew that
he would not sanction the publication of articles reflecting on the private life of any
person, unless a court proceeding made it necessary. ... 'I don't enjoy traveling
in a well-trodden path,' he would say. 'The Star should pioneer.' If a poem by Rudyard
Kipling or a story by S. G. Blythe was the most interesting thing that had come into
the office on a day, his instructions were to 'play it up' on the first page." It was Mr.
Nelson's custom to speak of "the Star family" and he had the keenest personal interest
in all of his staff of assistants and employes. His biographer hss said: "It took more
than brilliancy, more than the mere ability to write well, to get a permanent position
on the Star. A man had to be the right sort, in character, in reliability, as well as in
ability. But when he had proved his worth, and had been taken into the Star family,
Mr. Nelson was his loyal friend through thick and thin, and nothing could happen, no
tongue could utter flings enough to shake the loyalty of Mr. Nelson to the men he
trusted and had faith in. . . . The men who worked for Mr. Nelson knew on all
occasions exactly what the policy of the Star would be upon any question, as soon as it
arose. As soon as a msn was mentioned as a candidate for office anyone on the Star
could tell you whether the paper would oppose him, and the same with political move-
ments, and civic movements of all kinds. Were they on the square for the public
good? That was all. If they weren't, it was all settled beforehand that they could never
have the support of the Star."

Throughout his editorship of the Star, Mr. Nelson was the champion of progi-ess in
Kansas City. He worked untiringly to promote its improvement and its beauty. He
labored indefatigably for reform. He was vigorous in attacking measures, men or move-
ments that he deemed to be inimical to the public good. W'hen for three months he
was unable to leave his home during his last illness, he_ continued to direct the editorial
policy of his paper and when the Star was promoting a campiign to raise money for the
Provident Association and he was too weak to sit up, he had the telephone held to
his lips as he lay in bed and dictated a sentiment to be printed across the top of the
Sunday morning paper: "On this His day the Lord asks only for His poor. If the people
of Kansas City were as generous to the Lord as the Lord has been good to them, there
would be here no hunger, no poverty, no want."

In 1902, some years after he had established a summer home in the east, Mr. Nel-


son built a paper mill with capacity sufficient to supply all the white paper used in
issuing The Daily and Weekly Star and continued the operation of the mill until the
market conditions tor ground wood pulp, used in paper manufacture, would have
necessitated the building of his own pulp mill in Canada; but he felt that this venture
would have added too great a burden to him in his advancing age.

One of his first interests in Kansas City was to create a public spirit and a com-
munity feeling, and he started out to create public opinion in favor of street paving.
When he advocated a cause he kept it constantly liefore the people in editorials, in news
write-ups, in quotations from men who were authority upon the subject, in cartoons and
in every possible way until public opinion was with him. In this connection it has
been said: "Street-paving was the first public improvement he advocated, and he
dealt not in generalities, but in facts and figures, and modern instances and ancient.
His first triumph as a defender of the faith was in preventing the gift of the city's
streets to a transportation company that had demonstrated its unwillingness to tur-
adequate street-car service. The greatest municipal achievement in which Mr. Nelson
aided (the parks) is inseparable from the interlacing and interlinking system of
parkways and boulevards — streets of superfine quality, demonstrating by the manner
of their construction and their systematic maintenance what intelligent road-making
might mean." In connection with transportation interests he evolved the slogan "Navi-
gate the river" and advocated water transportation as a preventive measure of high
freight rates. He never faltered in this until a line of boats and barges was put into
operation, connecting Kansas City with the greater waterways of the country. He pro-
moted the campaign that resulted in the building of a six-million-dollar Union Station
in Kansas City and the development of a terminal system sufficient to care for the traffic
of the growing city, involving the expenditure of about fifty million dollars. On the
19th of May, 1881, he began a fifteen-year campaign that at length brought to Kansas
City one of the finest park and boulevard systems on the face of the globe, and in con-
nection with the boulevards he promoted the tree planting which has constituted one
of the greatest features of beauty in Kansas City. High ideals of citizenship which he
entertained made Mr. Nelson a dominant force for good government. Kansas City was
at one time notorious for its gang rule and its election frauds. These reached a climax
in 1894, but the Star's work in denouncing and exposing election crooks was so effective
as to arouse the city and county and resulted in the defeat of the gang ticket at the
polls. He labored untiringly for the passing of better election laws by the state legisla-
ture and "his fundamental democracy made him the earnest supporter of movements
to increase the control of the people over their government — the direct pirmary, popu-
lar election of senators, the initiative, referendum, and recall and the commission
form of government." Writing of Mr. Nelson's policy, the New York Evening Post
said: "As a result of all this, the hold of the Kansas City Star upon its community was
such that in any situation that arose in the affairs of the city — the location of a park,
the undertaking of public works, or what not — its voice was always potent and usually
decisive. This does not by any means imply that it could decide elections. It carried
no 'vote' in its pocket. That is impossible for a truly independent paper; such a paper
must always be ready to fight, when necessary, for the side that is almost sure to
lose, and to take defeat with equanimity, after having done its best for the cause it
thinks right. This is what happened again and again to the Kansas City Star, but its
Influence and standing were left quite unimpaired by the adverse count of noses."

It was characteristic of Mr. Nelson that he never allowed one defeat to discourage
him but kept on with his work though it might take years until the reform or bene-
ficial project for which he was laboring had become an established fact. He continued
a campaign tor an auditorium in Kansas City for five years; his campaign for viaducts
and highways to connect the two Kansas Citys covered several years, and it was fre-
quently his habit to send a reporter into a community to work up public opinion. He
became the champion of municipal ownership of street railways and labored untir-
ingly to secure protection from floods in the Missouri and Kaw rivers, for the lessen-
ing of the smoke nuisance, the installation of smoke consumers, the abolition of railway
grade crossings, the suppression of unnecessary noises, the support of the annual clean-up
of the city, the improvement of alleys and back-yards, the encouragement of the love
of birds, the planting of trees and the suppression of insect pests, the betterment of
public school conditions and in fact everything that had to do with the city's welfare
and progress. He did more than almost any one man to stimulate agriculture in the

Online LibraryWalter B. (Walter Barlow) StevensCentennial history of Missouri (the center state) one hundred years in the Union, 1820-1921 (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 119)