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Arthur Edward Stilwell, Railroad Entrepreneur and Visionary


From the Kansas City Journal, February 11, 1900
Two Hundred of them at a Complementary Banquet to the Man
Who Built the Pittsburg & Gulf Railway From Kansas City to the Sea
   A. E. Stilwell sat down to dinner with 200 friends at the Midland hotel last night.  It was a complimentary dinner and participated in by Kansas City business men, who took this means to show their appreciation of Mr. Stilwell's efforts for the good of Kansas City.

   The dinner was elaborate and perfect in all its details.  The decorations were in unusually good taste.  Draped from each of the numerous windows of the spacious dining room was a large American flag.  A profusion of small palms and rubber plants adorned the long tables.  Behind an embankment of palms and tropical plants an orchestra played during the entire evening.

   Judge E. L. Scarritt acted as toastmaster.  At his right sat in this order:  A. E. Stilwell, A. F. Nathan, J. Will Merrill, C. J. Schmelzer, M. V. Watson, George C. Smith, J. L. Lombard, Judge Jefferson Brumback.  On Judge Scarritt's left sat ... Campbell, U. S. Epperson, Frank...,  Rev. Father Dalton, Judge J. C. Tarsney, Homer Reed, J. F. Richards and Ira C. Hubbell.

   One of the features of the evening was the entrance of the Rev. Dalton, who arrived a little late.  As he entered the room he was greeted with applause, which increased as he walked the length of the hall bowing his thanks.

     The dinner began at 8 o'clock, but it was 10 o'clock before the toasts began.  It was then that Judge Scarritt arose and, amid applause, said:

   "We have met to-night to extend the hand of friendship and voice of welcome to one of Kansas City's most enterprising citizens.  And before we hear from those who are to speak I desire to read a few telegrams and letters from some who are  not able to be here.


   Judge Scarritt then read regrets from Colonel S. F. Scott, W. R. Nelson, J. D. Lund, the Rev. W. P. George, C. H. Hammett, B. F. Hobart, W. A. Wilson, Gardiner Lathrop, George F. Winter, George M. Shelley, Edward C. Lewis, W. W. Harden, W. Davis Foster, E. M. Collins, J. B. White, B. W. Mahorney, Mayor J. M. Jones, E. F. Allen, E.. P. Wheat, mayor of Beaumont, Tex.; W. P. Jones, mayor of Drexel, Mo.; J. F. Shannon, mayor of Neosho, Mo.; J. H. Spencer, mayor of Joplin, Mo.; officers of the Commercial league of Fort Smith, Ark., and John Pratt, mayor of Stotesburg, Mo.

   During the reading of the letters the enthusiasm was at its height and before they were finished three cheers were given with a will for Mr. Stilwell.

   After the reading of the letters and telegrams Judge Scarritt said:  "The good that men do lives after them.  Anyone who expects in this civilization to obtain a monument of stone or bronze while he is living must build a monument in the hearts of the people.  We meet to-night to do honor to a man who has erected not one, but scores of monuments to the people, a man who has done more for Kansas City than any man Kansas City has ever had.  He has paved the way to carry Kansas City products, not only to every part of the Gulf of Mexico, but to Europe as well.  He stood by Charles Campbell and worked week in and week out to construct the greatest monument in Kansas City -- our Convention Hall. But, as I say, it is in the memory of our people that we must erect the monuments to Arthur E. Stilwell.  The working people look upon him as the greatest benefactor they ever had.  They received $90,000 per annum and made some of you better off.  We find him going among the people, erecting and establishing schoolhouses and giving them the same education as richer children enjoy.  Such monuments will live in the hearts of the people until the waves of time break on the shores of eternity.  We love him for what he has done and not for what we expect from him."

   Judge Scarritt then called upon Charles Campbell.

   "I met our guest in 1892," said Mr. Campbell, "When the dark clouds of panic were hovering over our country.  I asked what he was doing there.  Selling P. & G. bonds," he said.  I tried to follow him around Antwerp, and was compelled to take a cab while he went on foot.  It was he who worked so arduously for Convention Hall and it was he who gave $75,000 for the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Trust company.  It was he who took us in a special car to Chicago to get the railroads to help.  But unfortunately we did not meet with success."

   Ex-Congressman John C. Tarsney spoke next.  The genius of Kansas City is here to set aside the fiction that a man must die to be honored.  I remember in 1892, when the Democratic National Committee met in Washington to fix the time and place for the next Democratic convention.  A man of the opposition said that no city could offer the accommodations as Kansas City, because all its houses were empty.  The next year the same unfortunate conditions prevailed, but in spite of the gloom A. E. Stilwell was able to do the right thing at the right time.  There are gathered here two hundred citizens, who, without selfishness, are able to give honor where honor is due.  Yes, with some selfishness, as we hope he will do something more for us.  All roads lead to Rome, but all the roads are not yet built.  There are other fields.  If Arthur Stilwell has done so much for Kansas City in the last twelve years what can he not do in the twenty-five he ahs yet to live.  He has endeared himself to every lover of benevolence, charity and brotherly love.  We do not meet to honor him, but to honor ourselves."

   "I now call upon Mr. Stilwell's friend, Ira C. Hubbell," said Judge Scarritt.  Mr. Hubbell said, among other things,

   "Perhaps few, better than your speaker, know just how  tenderly our beloved guest holds Kansas City and its people in his remembrance, and it is therefore proper that we should tell him to-night not only of our affectionate regard for him, but also manifest fittingly our gratitude for that which he has done, not only for our city but for the entire country lying to the west of the Mississippi River.

   "A monument to the characteristics of this man is found in that portion of our city known by the euphonious title of 'Hell's Half-Acre.' where for years past our guest has maintained a free night school and free baths for boys and girls, men and women, who desired to avail themselves of its privileges, and from this school have gone out into the busy world many who will continuously hold their benefactor in grateful recollection.  For this work Kansas City is justly indebted, in that advanced education contributes necessarily to empty public institutions.  At the school mentioned is also conducted a kindergarten and sewing school, likewise free, and which in their turn send out their tender tendrils of love, leading the thoughts to higher planes, and so paving the way for good citizenship to follow."

   Homer Reed said that when notified that he was expected to tell of the good A. E. Stilwell had done for Kansas City, he was told he would be allowed three minutes to speak.  "I replied, 'It can't be done.' Then I was given five minutes and I said I could just begin in five minutes and that's what I'm going to do now."  Mr. Reed told of the tight times in 1892 and how Mr. Stilwell appeared when all others were losing courage and he alone seemed buoyant and confident.  Mr. Reed read a list of the main projects Mr. Stilwell had promoted.  "It was at this time, in 1893," he said, "that Kansas City had an exodus to Chicago and we had 3,000 empty houses and 4,000 empty business houses.  It was at that time Mr. Stilwell brought money to Kansas City when she needed it."  Mr. Reed's final eulogy of Mr. Stilwell's achievement was repeatedly cheered.


   President Epperson of the Commercial club,  the next speaker, said:

   "Mr. Toastmaster and Gentlemen: --It is, I assure you, a great pleasure and a privilege to add my indorsement to all to all that has been so eloquently said regarding the wondrous achievements of our distinguished guest of the evening.  Only the keenest of visions, the clearest mentality and the most lion-hearted of men could have conceived the possibilities and so successfully achieved the results in the midst of the almost insuperable difficulties encountered by this daring man in his undertakings.  He early discerned the handwriting on the wall that the products of the great Middle West must eventually reach the world through the shortest avenue to the sea.  This great artery of commerce is now an accomplished fact.  The combined efforts of other great railway corporations have been directed against it in the form of boycotts.  It has been a menace to the great East and West trunk lines.  Great interests sought to dismember it, and it finally, like most new railroads, was forced into the courts.  But the tracks are down and are there to stay -- an influence restraining unjust rate discrimination against this section.  It is possible that this road may for a time be prevented by capital from performing its natural functions and from fulfilling the predictions of its founder.  But its manifest destiny is to ultimately raise the value of every are of land, every bushel of grain in this great agricultural section, improve the business of stock raising and develop and foster manufacturing interests of various kinds.  The Pittsburg & Gulf railroad and the Suburban Belt railroad, no matter by what names they may hereafter be known, will both stand through all time as monuments to the tireless energy and enterprise of Mr. A. E. Stilwell.."

   Judge Scarritt then read several telegrams that had come while the dinner was in progress from mayors of the towns along the line of the Pittsburg & Gulf.


   Frank A. Faxon siad he had been called out of a sick bed to be at the dinner.  "I can say nothing new because I am following other speakers and my thoughts coincide with theirs.  I believe in saying good of men while they are still alive.  There are men who carry hods of brick to the top of the building who are worth more to a city than some men of great wealth.

   "This man Stilwell went to Rotterdam, Amsterdam and secured more from the Dutch than England has with her great army and navy.  I do not wish to say anything against England for I am with her.  This man has brought the great ocean hundreds of miles nearer to Kansas City than ever before.  What better monument could a man deserve?"

   The Rev. Father W. J. Dalton received the ovation of all the speakers who responded to toasts when he arose.  Guests stood as they cheered and waved their napkins.

   "I am not surprised," said Father Dalton, "to see so large a gathering of representative citizens to do honor to this man.  I was not surprised when I realized that this was Saturday night and that the next day was Sunday, a day of work for me.  But I did not hesitate, for I realized that I could best serve my God and Master by praising Mr. Stilwell to-night.

   "The religion that teaches me to praise my God on Sunday also teaches me that Saturday night is well spent in praising a good Christian citizen."

   W. C. Edwards of Larned, Kas., formerly secretary of state of Kansas, made a few humorous remarks and told of the great benefit the Pittsburg & Gulf had been to certain parts of Kansas.  He spoke of the products of Kansas and paid a high tribute to Mr. Stilwell.


   The last speaker of the evening was the guest of honor --Mr. Stilwell.  As he arose Judge Scarritt presented him a large loving cup, with this engraved on the face:

Presented to
Arthur E. Stilwell
By the Citizens of Kansas City
February 10, 1900

   As Mr. Stilwell arose every one of the 200 diners stood and cheered.

Coming Soon:  Part Two
Arthur Stilwell's Big Announcement

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