October 4, 1909


Millionaire Philanthropist Gifts
to Kansas City Alone More
Than $1,500,000 -- Many
Other Benefactions.
The Late Thomas H. Swope.

Colonel Thomas H. Swope, multi-millionaire philanthropist, whose gifts to Kansas City included Swope park, alone worth $1,500,000, died at 7:25 o'clock last night at the home of his sister-in-law, Mrs. L. O. Swope, in Independence, following a stroke of paralysis at 10 o'clock yesterday morning. Colonel Swope never regained consciousness. He was in his eighty-second year.

Colonel Swope was stricken while reading in the Kansas City and Independence papers of the death of his cousin and friend, Colonel James Moss Hunton, who died in the same house Friday and whose body rested in an adjoining room, awaiting burial today.

Ten years ago Logan O. Swope, a brother of Colonel Swope, died in the same house, of paralysis.

"Let me have the papers and read what they have to say about my old friend," Colonel Swope said to the nurse.

The papers were taken to him as he lay in bed and he read part of the obituary notices, while tears ran from his eyes and his form shook with emotion. He told the nurse he would read the rest later. These were Colonel Swope's last words. With a faint cry of pain his body stiffened and he became unconscious.

Dr. B. Clark Hyde of Kansas City, who had been in almost continuous attendance for the past five weeks, was present, but despite all efforts of the physicians the patient remained unconscious to the end.


There was present at the death bed Mrs. Logan O. Swope, widow of the colonel's brother, Dr. B. C. Hyde, Mrs. B. C. Hyde, Miss Chrisman Swope, Lucille Swope, Thomas Swope and Margaret Swope, cousins of the dead man.

The illness which resulted in death had been of five weeks' duration. One morning Colonel Swope was walking across the room at his home when he collapsed and fell heavily to the floor. He was put to bed and his strength and vigor seemed to leave him. While physically weak he continued mentally strong and up to a few days ago was able to discuss extensive business affairs with his manager, S. W. Spangler.

Three days ago the colonel was out for a drive of several hours, accompanied by a nurse, and the fresh air and sunshine seemingly helped him. He commented on the pleasure he had derived in being able to again be out of doors, and observed that if he continued to improve he would be strong enough to dispose of some important matters he had in mind. Those who know say they believe he was contemplating making some large bequests to charitable and public institutions not already provided for in his will drawn by himself three years ago. Judge C. O. Tichenor, a life long friend, it is said, volunteered to assist him in the preparation of the will, but the colonel declined the offer. The original will is said to be on file in Independence, and will not be opened until after the funeral.


It is said that relatives have been liberally provided for, and it was announced in Independence last night that they are familiar with its contents. They refused to discuss the matter.

Some time ago it was publicly stated that Colonel Swope had in contemplation the endowment of an art gallery and an industrial school, but it is not known whether he made nay provisions for these in his will.

Since the death of his brother, Logan O. Swope, ten years ago, Colonel Swope made his home with his brother's widow in Independence. He made no provision for a resting place for his body after death. He has two sisters living. They are Mrs. Elizabeth Plunkett, living on a farm near Nashville, Tenn., and Mrs. Margaret Fleming of Columbia, Tenn. It is not expected they will attend the funeral.


No funeral arrangements have been made by the immediate relatives, and none will be made until after the funeral today of Mr. Hunton. Upon learning of Colonel Swope's death, Mayor Crittenden called up the bereaved relatives at Independence and said that if they desired Kansas City would co-operate in the obsequies. The mayor stated that city hall here would be closed on the day of the funeral.

It was suggested last night that the funeral should be held under the direction of the people of Kansas City, but no formal step was taken. There will be meetings today of civic and commercial organizations to take formal cognizance of the death of Kansas City's greatest philanthropist, and the idea of the people as a whole being the mourners and conducting the funeral will be discussed.

There was a sentiment prevalent last night that the body have its resting place in some beautiful spot in Swope park and that an appropriate monument be erected, to be paid for by popular subscription. A mask of the features of Colonel Swope will be taken today for use in the erection of the monument.


Thomas H. Swope was born in Lincoln county, Ky., in 1827 and received a common school education in that neighborhood. Later he attended Central university at Danville, formerly Center college, and was graduated from that university in the year 1848 in the class with Senator George Graham Vest. He then entered the senior year at Yale and graduated that spring. The profession of a lawyer attracted him and he went to Gainesville, Ala., where he studied law under Judge Reavis. Although proficiently equipped for the practice of his profession he did not follow it.

When 30 years of age Mr. Swope came to Kansas City and has been a resident of this county ever since, although not maintaining his legal residence here. He came here in the year 1857 and engaged in the real estate business. His investments in late years have returned him large incomes. Before settling in Kansas City permanently he migrated to Montana and engaged in mining. While in the West he explored the Rocky mountains and made large investments there. He also laid out the town of Butte City while in the West.

Thomas H. Swope descended from a long line of ancient and honorable ancestors. His ancestors settled in Kentucky a few years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. A record of his family preserved by his relatives name the Rev. Benedict Swope as his direct ancestor. He was a minister of the Reformed church and during the war he had charge of the Second Reformed church of Baltimore. Family traditions say he was born in York, Pa., but public records speak of him as being born in Germany. He settled in Logan's Station, Ky., in 1774.


The oldest of seven children, Thomas H. was born of the union of John Brevett Swope and Frances A. Hunton of Virginia. His mother was from one of the wealthiest and most influential and prominent families of the mother state. The Swope family has always counted itself among the F. F. V. Being born in Kentucky, Colonel Swope naturally maintained his affection and sympathies with his native state, and has always held his legal residence in Woodford county, Kentucky. He has maintained a magnificent home in the Bourbon state.

A bas relief of Colonel Swope, done by Miss Maud Miles of Kansas City and first shown in Baltimore at the Baltimore Memorial Art Society, was placed on exhibition in the club rooms of the Commercial Club. The philanthropist heard that a monument of stone was to be carved from the model and discountenanced the idea. It was planned to raise $25,000 for this purpose but was discontinued after his remonstrance. The monument was to have been placed at the entrance to Swope park.

While he made many donations known to the public he made many more that never reached the public ear. It was characteristic of the man to be reserved and silent as to his benefactions. One of the best illustrations of this fact is the lack of information regarding the man to be found in the histories of Missouri and of Kansas City men.

He never paraded his charitable and philanthropic donations and always disapproved of public notoriety given to his bequests. In a speech made by the late ex-Governor Thomas T. Crittenden it was said that Kansas City did not appreciate the greatness of the man who had by his gifts to the city placed himself alongside Girard of Philadelphia and others well known to the public. Kansas City would applaud his goodness and laud the man years after his death, he said, because then the worth of his gifts would begin to be appreciated.