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Stilwell, Arthur E., KC Southern & Janssen Pl, 720 Armour, 620 E 36th St, 3442 Charlotte

Janssen Place Walking Tour

"Kansas City, Missouri, Its History and Its People 1800-1908" by Carrie Westlake Whitney. 1908.

The name of Stilwell has long figured prominently and honorably in connection with enterprises of magnitude, and Arthur E. Stilwell of Kansas City, in accord with the family record, has been conspicuous in the financial world for originality in the conception of great enterprises and skill in effecting their establishment. He has instituted more projects for the commercial good of Kansas City than any other one man and as a railroad builder has gained a most prominent place, his labors in this direction being of inestimable value to the sections of country in which he has operated. It is an age of progress, when vast commercial enterprises involving millions of dollars depend upon rapid transportation. The revolution in millions of dollars depend upon rapid transportation. The revolution in business that the past half century and even less has witnessed has been brought about by the means of the railroads and through this avenue of labor Mr. Stilwell has opened up civilization and vast regions with unlimited resources.

A native of Rochester, New York, Mr. Stilwell was born October 21, 1859, his parents being Charles H. and Mary (Pearson) Stilwell. His paternal grandfather, Hamblin Stilwell, was one of the builders of the New York Central Railroad, of the Erie Canal and other great enterprises. It was the story of his grandfather´s achievements that inspired Arthur E. Stilwell well to enter the field of railroad building, but before he gained recognition as one of the conspicuous business men of the age there came to him a period of toil and struggle. At fourteen years of age he was apprenticed to the printer´s trade but he possessed laudable ambition and unwearied industry that enabled him to overcome obstacles and disadvantages and work his way steadily upward.

As We See’ Em Arthur E. Stilwell

From As We See’ Em; A Volume of Cartoons and Caricatures of Kansas Cityans, ca. 1908.

In 1879, when twenty years of age, he came to the west , locating at Kansas City, where he leased a small printing office on Union avenue. He soon succeeded in building up a good business, but after a few months was taken ill and returned to the east. On recovering his health he engaged in the insurance business in the east and was advanced to special agent for the Travelers Insurance Company and state agent for the Connecticut and Rhode Island Company. His employers recognized his talent and business capacity and he was gradually advanced from one position to a higher one with larger responsibilities and duties. The example of his grandfather, however, in railroad building determined him to return to Kansas City and build a railway. He was willing to wait for opportunity but always had this end in view. In 1889 he organized the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Trust Company under his own management, with a capital of one million, two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and in ten years the surplus and undivided profits had amounts to one million, three hundred thousand dollars, wile the amount of eastern and foreign capital invested through the company had reached thirty million dollars.

Mr. Stilwell has long since demonstrated his right to be classed with the foremost financiers of the country. Becoming identified with the Kansas City Suburban Belt Railway Company, he was elected its vice president and greatly extended its system. He afterward became financial manager of the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railway, then only a small road. He immediately began studying and formulating plans to extend its line. It was his purpose to continue it through northern Missouri and south to the gulf. His project was derided, however, and he could not secure his stock listed in Wall street. Opposition, however, has always seemed to serve as an impetus to carry out his project. It was his first intention to make the terminus at Galveston, but he could not purchase the Gulf Interstate road for entrance. He then decided on New Orleans, which was blocked by the Southern Pacific and Texas Pacific roads, after which he resolved to make a terminus at Sabine Pass. Most of the town and country land was owned by Koutze Brothers, bankers of New York, who asked an impossible price for the right of way for wharf frontage. Foiled in this direction Mr. Stilwell never for a moment lost heart or wished to abandon the project. On the contrary, he was more determined than ever to carry forward his plans and bought a large tract of land fifteen miles north of Sabine Pass on Lake Sabine. The work of digging a canal through a shallow lake through deep water to Sabine Pass was then begun but he was bombarded with suits and the work was stopped by the secretary of war. He then again changed his plans and dug a canal across the prairie to the pass, building a town on the lakeside, which was called Port Arthur, in his honor. A few miles north he built a town called Netherlands and brought over hundreds of Dutch families for colonization. He irrigated the land, built an elevator and wharves and thus carried forward his purpose of extending the railway line and securing trade facilities in the south, opening the train service from Kansas City to Port Arthur on the 11th of September, 1897. During the building of the line all payments were made promptly and the year of the financial panic of 1893, his monthly payroll was two hundred thousand dollars, which was practically the only money expended in the city. Mr. Stilwell was afterward elected president of the railroad company which absorbed other lines. The road proved a great success, but hardly had it begun to pay when Dutch bondholders and American creditors, secured control of it and it is now owned by George Gould and John W. Gates.

In 1898 Mr. Stilwell organized the Kansas City, Mexico & Orient Railroad, and as its president, secured valuable concessions from the Mexican government, while the name of the terminal town was changed to Port Stilwell in his honor. This road will connect Kansas City with the Pacific ocean at Fort Stilwell, Mexico. He obtained a subsidy of five million, five hundred thousand dollars for six hundred miles of road from the Mexican government and also additional sums from the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sinaloa. The line is to be sixteen hundred and thirty miles long and will open up a new country with its unlimited resources, providing for every means of labor, giving homes to the miner, the farmer, the commercial man. Half of the line is already graded and eight hundred miles is now in operation. While in his railroad building Mr. Stilwell has done much for the success of the country in which the lines have been laid, he has also contributed in large and substantial measure to the welfare and upbuilding of Kansas City through the promotion of extensive business interests. He projected the West Side Electric Railway, now a part of the Metropolitan Street Railway System. Originating with the Trust Company, of which he is the head and under his management have been developed more than forty corporations, which have established and controlled railroads, terminals, extensive grain enterprises, street railways and various other business interests along the line of the Kansas City, Pittsburg & Gulf Railway, including the Central Coal & Coke Company. The Missouri, Kansas & Texas Trust Company was reorganized on the Guardian Trust Company, with Mr. Stilwell yet as president.

He has founded and promoted more projects for the commercial good of Kansas City than any other one man and among the real upbuilders of the city he stands in the front rank. Beautiful Fairmount Park owes its existence to his labors and enterprise. He has done much to beautify the city, in the building of its boulevards, parks and driveways and has conceived and carried out plans for an annual horse show, now attended with marked success. He was the first to subscribe liberally for the building of Convention Hall, his donation for this purpose being fifteen thousand dollars. He has been a close student of the great sociological and economic questions and as few have done, has fully met the responsibilities of he wealthy in every relation to the general interests of society. He built, furnished and maintained, at his own expense, the Bethany Free School in East Bottoms, a night school for boys and girls who are compelled to work in the daytime.

Mr. Stilwell is a Christian Scientist, who regards religion, not as a Sunday garb, but as a matter of everyday living. He has written several hymns and music has been his recreation, deriving his greatest pleasure from this art. Starting out in life empty-handed his success has been so great as to make him a conspicuous figure in financial circles, yet there has not been an esoteric phase in his career. He has always worked openly and above board, having nothing to conceal. He has been conservative rather than speculative and his probity stands as an unquestioned fact in his career.

Arthur E. Stilwell by Wilda Sandy, Kansas City Public Library Local History (includes picture)