Last updated: May 20. 2014 1:27PM - 1003 Views
By Rhonda Chalfant Contributing Columnist

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The 1882 History of Pettis County notes that Sedalia “has been greatly assisted in her growth and prosperity by her railroads.” Although Sedalia did not depend entirely on the railroads for its wealth, the railroads’ presence made Sedalia a major retail and wholesale center. They also provided employment and support for the families of a number of men.

In 1881, the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad employed 562 men in the shops, offices, hospital, and on the trains, with a total yearly payroll of $496,000. The Missouri Pacific Railroad employed 354 men with a total yearly payroll of $240,349. The Sedalia, Warsaw, and Southern Railroad had only begun operation in 1881 and the 1882 History does not provide employment figures for the new railroad.

The 1882 History provides biographies of some of Sedalia’s railroad men. Most of these men had worked in several jobs before finding employment with the railroad.

J. H. Armstrong worked as the ticket agent at the Fifth Street office of the Katy Railroad. The Katy Depot was not built until the 1890s, but the Katy maintained offices near its shops near the present site of the depot.

Armstrong was born in Kentucky, the son of H. J. Armstrong, who brought his family to Lexington, Mo., in 1862 and opened an agricultural implement business there before moving to Kansas City to take a job with the Moline Plow Company. J. H. Armstrong was born in Kentucky in 1855, and attended school there and in Lexington after the family moved.

J. H. Armstrong worked in his father’s business and later became a farmer. He did not find farming a “business he wished to follow,” so he moved to Sedalia and took a job as a car clerk on the Katy. He continued as a car clerk while also working as a ticket agent.

The 1882 History describes Armstrong as a “young man of considerable business ability, courteous in demeanor, and deservedly popular with his employers.”

Hardy L. Berry was born in Bloomington, Ind., in 1850, the sixth of 44 children of Mr. and Mrs. Charles G. Berry, the editor of a Bloomington newspaper. Hardy attended schools and worked for his father at his print shop.

Hardy moved to Sedalia in 1873 and began to work as an assistant ticket agent for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. In 1878, he received a promotion and became ticket agent.

Hardy Berry married Olive M. Norton in 1880. He was a member of the Congregational Church and served as superintendent of the Sunday School.

A “quiet and unobtrusive” man, he had “unusual ability” and was one of the “rising young men of Sedalia” and had a good record with his employers.

Andrew G. Brown was the son of Green Brown, an Englishman who came to the New York , moved through the United States, then went to California during the 1849 gold rush. Andrew was born in 1849 in Michigan. He attended schools there, then worked as a farmer and later as a blacksmith.

Brown worked as a brakeman for the St. Louis and San Francisco (the Frisco) Railroad. In 1884, he married Amelia Craft and in 1882, the couple had two daughters, Ada and Leah.

During his first 12 working for the railroads, Brown had worked at almost every job at the railroad. In 1882, he was working as a conductor for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. His usual route was the passenger train between Hannibal and Sedalia.

The “Railroader” described him as “very popular with a wide circle of acquaintances… one of the most valuable members of the order.”

In its usual manner, the 1882 History provided flattering biographies with emphasis on the men’s work ethic, popularity, and civic activities.

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