When Pettis County was first settled in the 1820s, the area was filled with game of all kinds and the streams full of fish, according to the 1882 History of Pettis County. The History mentions bear and elk, in addition to the more common deer, rabbit, squirrel, and waterfowl. Hunting was a necessity for the pioneers, who killed game animals for their meat and hides.
As time passed, hunting remained a necessity for those in rural areas, who supplemented the meat from farm animals with wild game. However, those in urban areas saw shooting as a pleasurable competition as well as an activity that might add game to the family table.
By the latter part of the 19th century, many animals’ populations had decreased. Men interested in shooting formed societies to foster a love of hunting but also an awareness of wildlife conservation. Sedalia had two such societies, whose activities are recounted in the 1882 History.
The oldest of these shooting and hunting groups was the Sedalia Sporting Club, established in July 1875. Some of the county’s most prominent citizens were charter members, including A.B. Dempsey, Dr. J.W. Trader, John Kullmer, O.A. Crandall, F. Houston, and S C. Gold. The original officers were president C.T. McElvaney, vice-president T.T. Major, secretary T.J. Cummings, and treasurer W.J. Maltby.
In 1882, the Sedalia Sporting Club had 35 members including some of the state’s best marksmen. The officers were president O.A. Crandall, vice-president John Newton, secretary Arthur Maltby, and treasurer Dr. Ed Small.
The group was active in conservation efforts and was instrumental in the passage of laws protecting fish and game.
By 1880, the group had grown so large that a portion of its members formed a second society, the Sedalia Gun Club. Members included E.H. Smith, C.H. Gauss, J.C. Parmerlee, S.C. Gold, A.P. Morey, J.D. Sneed, J.C. Barber, Dr. E.C. Evans, and Louis Kumm. These men were “men of high standing in the city.” The original officers, still serving in 1882, were president Dr. J.W. Trader, secretary Frank Houston, and treasurer John Montgomery Jr.
The two clubs regularly hosted shooting contests at Sicher Park (now Liberty Park). Some of the contests received press coverage in the Sedalia Bazoo and the Sedalia Democrat. The competitions seemed to be a variant of skeet shooting, involving shooting and breaking glass balls thrown to a height of 21 yards. One contest, hosted in July 1882, offered a $16 silver-plated pitcher to the winner, Dr. Ed Small.
Dr. Small was an excellent marksman; in September 1882, he won a gold medal for shooting 20 balls. John Skinner same in second, with 19 balls. The two men tied on the next round and a shootout, won by Small, was hosted to break the tie.
The two clubs worked together to host the State Sportsmen Association meeting in Sedalia in June 1882. This meeting featured a marksmanship tournament.
The Sedalia Gun Club also worked with the Sedalia Sporting Club to preserve game, to pass state game laws, and to prosecute violators of state game laws, an effort at which it was “highly satisfactory.”