A further look at Sedalia’s ‘Railroad Men’

By Rhonda Chalfant Contributing Columnist

May 27, 2014

Both the Missouri Pacific Railroad and the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroads maintained large operations in Sedalia. Both had shops, factories for the building, repair, and maintenance of railroad cars. The Katy had a hospital where sick or injured workers from many states received treatment. Both railroads had freight divisions that employed agents and porters to handle shipments. Both had administrative offices. Both used Sedalia as a base for those who worked the trains such as engineers, conductors, brakemen, and firemen.

The 1882 History of Pettis County gives biographical information about many of Sedalia’s railroad men. Those described are in the upper ranks of railroad employees; mechanics in the shops, porters on the trains, and orderlies at the hospital are not included. They are invariably competent, hard working, and popular.

Emmett A. Gould was born in Indiana in 1852, the oldest of seven children of Mr. and Mrs. Sylvester Gould. Emmett worked at a variety of positions, moving up to positions of more authority.

After finishing public school in Indiana, Gould studied telegraphy. He took a job in East St. Louis in 1870, then worked in Vincennes, Indiana, then returned to East St. Louis. In March 1873, he accepted a job as a ticket agent in East St. Louis. He stayed there until June 1873, when he resigned to take a job at Western Union Telegraph in St. Louis.

In August 1873, Gould left Western Union to come to Sedalia and work as a telegraph operator in the office of the superintendent of the Missouri Pacific Railroad in Sedalia. He continued there until April 1876, when he was promoted to dispatcher. In February 1879, at age 27, he became Chief Dispatcher for the Missouri Pacific Railroad operations in Sedalia, a position he “understood thoroughly…and acceptably filled.”

Joseph Haines moved up the ranks of railroad workers at the same time he moved west. He was born in 1825 in New Hampshire, where he attended public school and at age seventeen began an apprenticeship in the machine shops of the Amoskeg Locomotive Works. After finishing the apprenticeship, he worked in railroad shops in Lowell and Boston, Massachusetts.

In 1853, Haines married Phoebe Rowell; the couple would eventually have five children. Two years later, Haines moved to Illinois and began working as a mechanic at the Chicago and Alton Railroad shops. Three years later, he transferred to the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad shops, where he worked as a mechanic and then was promoted to foreman.

After nineteen years in Illinois, Haines moved to Sedalia to take a position as foreman at the M.K.& T. Railroad. When the Missouri Pacific Railroad leased the Katy Railroad, Haines was promoted to Master Mechanic, where he was viewed as a “workman of acknowledged ability.”

T. F. Kidwell traveled throughout the western states and Mexico working for various railroads before coming to Sedalia. He was born in 1850 in Washington, D.C., the oldest of twelve children. He began his westward journey when he attended Christian Brothers College in St. Louis.

After leaving school, he spent three years in California and Old Mexico. Leaving the west, he moved to Hannibal, Missouri, and worked for the railroad. After five years, Kidwell returned to California, again working for a railroad. In 1871, he returned to Hannibal and worked for a railroad, but soon left again for Texas.

From Texas he moved to New Orleans and stayed about eighteen months. In 1873, he came to Sedalia and took a position as conductor and yard master for the M.K.& T. Railroad. He married a Lucy Edwards, a Pettis County woman, in 1882.

Kidwell remained in his job as conductor and yard master in 1882, and was described as a “thorough, competent man in his business.”

The lives of these men illustrate the mobility of both place and position in workers seeking more stable, lucrative employment. Their biographies also reveal the flattering commentary of the 1882 History of Pettis County.