December 25, 1908


Dropping Down the Vista of Years,
a Decade at a Time, the Festal
Day Is Reviewed - A
Mayor's Charity.

Kansas City is notable for its Christmas weather. The records show that it is ten to one there will be clear skies on Christmas day. In 1858, a half a century ago, the day was a duplicate of today, "though," says the Journal of 1858, known then as the "Western Journal of Commerce," the weather sometimes froze at night and thawed at daytime, and then sometimes it was vice versa."

Kansas City was not much of a town in 1858, for The Journal had some important city news that Christmas morning. It announced that Delaware street had been "filled" from Third "all the way to Commercial street." That morning there was a fight on the hill. The hill was Third and Main. As the city proper lay along the river front, the hill was quite on the outskirts and just the sort of a place for the hoodlums to mix it up.

Others "mixed it up" besides the hoodlum. The Leavenworth Journal took a nasty fling at this place when it said in its current issue:

"The people of Kansas City are so dirty the assessor classifies them as real estate and they have to pay taxes."

The editor of the Kansas City Journal was on his metal in a minute.

"If the assessor of Leavenworth," was said in the Journal of Christmas day, 1858, "has yet waited upon the editor of the Leavenworth Journal, we would like to know what he estimates asses at."

"The curtain at the theater at Independence dropped sine die last night," is a local item. Independence never got over the closing of its theater. It, and Westport, had scoffed at Westport Landing, and laughed outright when it took on the high falutin' name of City of Kansas. But the City of Kansas opened up an opera house of its own and the one at Independence had to turn the lights out, and the janitor with them.


"We find it difficult," said The Journal that same Christmas morning, "to convince our readers that we are really in receipt of dispatches of the day previous from St. Louis and the East, but we are, and shortly we will be in telegraphic touch with all parts of the United States," and later on in the report has it that wire was expected by every steamboat for the opening of a telegraph office in Kansas City.

Having no telegraph wires, and certainly no trains, the city had to depend upon the overland stages and river boats for the mails. That morning the mails arrived from Salt Lake, after a phenomenally good winter run. They had left Salt Lake November 29. The trip had been without incident, though a large party of Cheyenne Indians had been passed.

Christmas day ten years later, 1868, saw Kansas City quite prosperous. It had eleven trains in and out every day. President Johnson the day before proclaimed full amnesty to all who had taken part in the war of the rebellion, whether they had been indicted or not. "It is supposed to be issued to enable the supreme court to dodge trying Jeff Davis," was the comment of The Journal, and the editor did not like the prospect a bit. He wanted Mr. Davis tried for treason.


Showing how the town was growing, one of the most important local stories was of an improvement:

"Cassidy Brothers have a new bus for their Westport line. It is one of the gaudiest institutions of the city."

The fame of that bus lasted until the father of Walton H. and Conway F. Holmes started tram cars, by building a suburban line to couple Kansas City with Westport.

For the first time The Journal made note of the festivities in the churches. The Grand Avenue M. E. church, known as the mother of churches, was reported as having been crowded with members of the Sunday school and congregation to watch the unloading of a Christmas tree. At Westport the Rev. W. W. Duncan had a tree in his church, too.

Besides Christmas trees there were "oceans of egg nog" in town, according to the report that day, and a grand dinner was given at the Sheridan house, "A. C. Dawes, agent of the Hannibal & St. Joseph," being one of the guests, they had "whisky a la smash up," among other things. Ex-Governor Miller attended that dinner and made a speech. At the dinner it was announced that the steamboat Hattie Weller had brought 500 fine hogs up "for the packing houses in the West Bottoms."

D. L. Shouse, father of Manager Louis Shouse of Convention hall, was publicly presented with a gold badge, because of his great services in the Mechanics' bank.


Dr. G. W. Fitzpatrick may have forgotten all about it, but The Journal of thirty years ago yesterday announced his having gone to St. Joseph for the day. In late years, Dr. Fitzpatrick has lived a retired life, but he was quite a figure in local affairs in his day. He always led the parades. An abstemious man himself, he always started his parades from Sixth and Broadway "because," so he used to say, "it is the only point in the city where there is a saloon on each corner."

It was very cold that Christmas. "The hydra gyrum dropped to 8 degrees below zero," so The Journal tells. Trains were from half a day to all day late and the storm was all over the North and Northwest. Great attention was paid by The Journal to the railroad construction work, and an item appearing that morning, Christmas, 1878, is interesting now because it says that the M. K. & T. had agreed to build from Paola to Ottawa if the people would raise$50,000 bonus and grant a free right-of-way.


George M. Shelley, at present assessor and collector of water rates, was mayor, and as mayor in 1878 he did what Mayor T. T. Crittenden, Jr., is doing today. He distributed gifts to the poor. To ninety-one families in the First ward, fifty-four in the Second, fifty-nine in the Third, twenty-nine in the Fourth, fifty-five in the Fifth and thirty-four in the Sixth his honor gave orders for provision. Three hundred and sixty-seven individuals and firms -- names all printed in The Journal -- donated money or groceries, and by this means the poor were taken care of.

One man, traveling through the city, told Mayor Shelley he was comfortably provided for but for the moment without money. He was anxious to do something for some poor fellow so he turned his $25 overcoat over to the may or, and his honor soon had it on the back of a man who needed it. The generous traveler refused to give his name to Mayor Shelley.

Kansas City, Kas., was Wyandotte in those days, and Christmas was celebrated there evidently, for an item from that place reads:

"The colored Society of the Daughters of Rebecca had a festival in Dunnings's hall yesterday. Two hens got in a fight. A knife was flourished, but no blood was drawn."


At Grace Episcopal, Washington Street Tabernacle, the First Congregational and the Grand Avenue M. E. church there were Christmas trees and festivities.

Christmas day, 1888, saw Father Glennon preaching at special services at the Catholic cathedral. Father Lillis officiating at St. Patricks, and the Rev. Cameron Mann in the chancel at Grace church. Since then all these clergymen have been elevated. Dr. Mann and Father Lillis to be bishops, and Father Glennon to be archbishop; Bishop Talbot, that same day, preached at Trinity, of which church his brother, Robert, is the rector. Dr. Robert Talbot would have been a high bishop himself by this time only for the fact that Episcopalians think one bishop in a family is enough.

That Christmas day was a dreary one. It rained most of the time, at night the downpour turning to sleet. Over 100 telegraph poles were broken down, and almost every wire in the city snapped under the weight of the ice.