Friday, July 14, 2006

Dan Carpenter, 1825-1920

Ancestor was Major Figure in Early Prosperity of Kansas City Area

A few weeks ago I wrote here about discovering Dan Carpenter of Clay County, Missouri, as my third great-grandfather. As it turns out, Carpenter was a significant figure in Clay and Platte counties for a number of years.

I came across an article entitled Dan Carpenter, Pioneer Merchant and Horticulturist. The article can be found at volume 22, page 285, of the Missouri Historical Review, April 1928. The article is written by David W. May, an agriculture expert originally from Liberty, Missouri. His collaborators included Lucy Simmons, the noted Missouri historian, and Ethel Grant Inman. Thanks to the great folks at the State Historical Society of Missouri for forwarding a copy of the article.

A large portion of the article consists of notes written by Carpenter himself. These describe his genealogy and and his business interests in Missouri. The notes also describe Dan Carpenter's 1850 trip to take advantage as a merchant of the California Gold Rush. He ended up in Placerville, California, a notorious gold rush town sometimes known as "Hangtown." Modern-day Placerville is about a 45 minute drive east of the GeneaBlogie Bloggcast Center. In 1851, Carpenter returned to Missouri. Presumably he had amassed a small fortune from selling goods to gold miners. Unfortunately, his brother Benjamin died on that trip to California.

Carpenter's own notes describe himself as a writer, "both religious and secular," an expert on fruit growing, and a songwriter. He was also an elder of the Cumberland Presbyterian church in Barry Missouri. (I learned from other sources that the actual name of the specific church is the Church of the Cross Cumberland Presbyterian church; "Cumberland Presbyterian" being a sect of the Presbyterian Church, based now in Memphis, Tennessee.) Carpenter was also the Sunday school superintendent for more than 50 years.

The article also describes the area around Barry, Missouri, on the Platte-Clay county line, all of which now is part of Metropolitan Kansas City. As I may have noted before, Carpenter and the family of his wife Pauline Gash, were significant land owners in the area. Much of which is now the city of Gladstone, Missouri, is built on Carpenter/Gash property. Kansas City's Metro North Mall also occupies land once owned by the Carpenter and Gash families.

This was the first time I had read and historical article about one of my ancestors. Although the article is written in a fawning, Victorian style, partly because of David May's great personal affection for Dan Carpenter, the article is of great genealogical and historical value.

I also learned from another source, that Dan Carpenter in later life was a member of a group called the Kansas City Old Men's Association. This organization was described thusly:

The Old Men's Association was a Kansas City area social organization for men age 60 and over. It provided a place for older men to gather and reminiscence about the past and their involvement in it. The organization's meetings started in 1893, just 40 years after Kansas City's second incorporation in 1853. There were many members who could recall the early years of the city's history. As well as Kansas City memories, members could speak about the Mexican War, Civil War, Grand Army of the Republic meetings, travel on the trails West, as well as their world wide travel adventures. Partisan politics was absolutely prohibited from discussion at the meetings. Another purpose for the group was to promote camaraderie among the members. This sometimes involved visiting sick members, preparing tributes when they died, attending funerals, corresponding with each other, and sharing life's stories and experiences. In its height, the membership was around 50-60 members.

The Kansas City Public Library has Dan Carpenter's journals for several years including the year he spent in California. The University of Missouri at Kansas City has in its Western Historical Manuscript Collection the Gash Family papers. I may be going to Kansas City later this summer, and if I go, I'll certainly look up these manuscripts.

Dan Carpenter led an interesting and useful life. The biographical information that is available about him notes that he and Martha Pauline Gash had no children. That he may have had children with another woman not his wife doesn't diminish the usefulness of his life. It is a shame, however, that for so long, his story was hidden from his descendants.

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