By Diane Euston
In the last issue of the Telegraph, we explored the inspiration for the Waldo neighborhood’s name. Dr. David Waldo (1802-1878) built a fortune in freighting on the Santa Fe Trail and purchasing land that he held onto for decades. In truth, Dr. Waldo, a resident of Independence, never lived in the community with his surname, but his 2,400 acres – much of which was in southern Jackson County – was left to his children.
With wife, Eliza (1822-1880), Dr. Waldo raised five children: William, (b. 1850), Olive (b. 1851), David, Jr. (b. 1853), Minnie (b. 1856) and Lula (b. 1860). Dr. Waldo didn’t have much confidence in his children’s futures. Historian James W. Goodrich surmised, “[Dr. Waldo] constantly worried about [his children’s] outlooks on life and he seemed to have little hope for any of them amounting to anything, except his youngest daughter.”
The Waldo surname is stamped on an eclectic community today, and the reason it was chosen was really due to his son, David, Jr.
Let’s take a look at what happened to the thousands of acres of land left to these children and how one son in particular- David – dove into risky real estate deals and the fast life of horse racing.
Settling on the Waldo Land
In the 1880s just a few years after his children inherited Dr. Waldo’s property, speculation and a boom in population drove land prices high in both Kansas City and Westport. Farmland was platted out into subdivisions, and builders quickly threw up housing to sell. Real estate sales hit $88 million dollars in 1887!
It’s likely that this craving for land drove the Waldo children to take a good look at their landholdings.
Dr. David Waldo’s oldest daughter, Olive Waldo Hinkle (1851-1921), moved in 1884 from a farm north of Independence to the old farm originally settled by her uncle, Lawrence Waldo, at 63rd and Walnut. Lawrence purchased this land for $1.25 an acre extending from 59th to 63rd St from Wornall to Oak St. in 1843 where he built a five-room log cabin near the northeast corner of 63rd and Walnut.
A large walnut grove was a landmark for miles and survived until the 1920s. Stories claim that during the Battle of Westport, the walnut grove was full of Confederate soldiers and guerrilla fighters would often hide deep within its cover.
At the time the Hinkles lived there, the farm was well south of the southern boundary of Kansas City; in 1885, the city only extended to 31st St.
William and David, Jr. both were educated through college and were expected by their father to continue his legacy as a successful businessman. William tried his hand at working at the library in Independence after college, but he was drawn to the southwest. In 1875, he picked up his few belongings, including a “small library” in his backpack, and moved to New Mexico and entered mining – much to his father’s dismay.
Sadly, William Waldo’s story took a dark turn. He disappeared in 1893 while traveling from New Mexico to Silverton, Colo. He was declared dead in 1901.
In 1882, David, Jr. married Jessie Baker and began to have a family. They welcomed three children: Isabel (b. 1884), Jed (b. 1885) and Willie (b. 1887). David built an impressive home on a section of his father’s old landholdings on the west side of Troost Ave. at 68th St. in 1884.
Despite his education and his father’s hopes that he would inherit his keen business sense, David had other plans in mind. Armed with multiple land titles, David decided to take some risks in order to build his dream: a racehorse track.
The Waldo Park Racetrack
A whopping 570 acres of Dr. Waldo’s land remained intact six miles south of Kansas City’s boundary and was in the control of his son, David. In 1886, the Kansas City Cable Railway worked on a plan with David to help foster growth of the suburbs south. If David would “throw open a large part of his property for a park,” the company would build a dummy line connecting their track at 27th and Troost to this new park.
The “park” wouldn’t be full of amusements for children. This park would be the first racetrack in the area, and in order for it to be a draw, there had to be transportation.
David’s sister, Minnie had some financial interest in the land, so her husband, Eugene F. Hill became David’s partner in this new business venture. They would soon be joined by David’s brother-in-law, William M. Sloan.
The Waldo Park Racetrack was to be located on 100 acres of land between current-day 71st (Gregory Blvd.) and 75th St. from Holmes to Oak St. Breaking ground in December 1886, David Waldo began building a one-mile track 66 feet wide. In the spring, they planned to build a grandstand “and a handsome club house.” Fencing of the acreage along with stables for 150 horses was promised. At the time, 71st St. was named “Waldo Lane.”
The Waldo Park Dummy Line was the most important part in ensuring the track could be a success, and the establishment of a railway that far south had Kansas Citians familiar with the name “Waldo.”
In November 1887, Waldo Park had its first Derby Day. The Kansas City Star reported, “During these racing days, David Waldo was at the height of his glory. It was his custom to stand at the gates and watch the crowds coming down from the Waldo dummy line, which he also partly owned.”
The Waldo family gambled on the success of the city moving south and began subdividing portions of Dr. Waldo’s land. In 1887, Eugene Hill and his wife, Minnie Waldo Hill, platted Astor Place, an addition between Troost Ave. and Waldo Park between 61st and 63rd St. Situated on the new Waldo Park dummy line, the Hills divided 242 lots and offered free rides on the dummy line for one year if a $600 house was built on a lot.
By June 1888, the Waldo Park dummy line was connected to a line on Grand Ave. and offered a train every 20 minutes to the race track. And, the line, run by the Kansas City and Westport Railway, stretched south to the little community of Dodson at 85th and Prospect. There, a station connected passengers to the Missouri Pacific Railroad.
Unfortunately, the fantastic speculation of land all across the area led to a large crash of the market in 1888. Development halted indefinitely. “The collapse of the real estate boom caused the failure of the Waldo track as a money-making investment and it became entangled in mortgages,” the Kansas City Star wrote.
This, along with the creation of another track in Clay County, destroyed business for good.
Despite the failure, David Waldo wasn’t finished with his horse racing ambitions. He spent a great deal of time away from his family in Chicago. In 1890, he was secretary of the West Side Track in the Windy City.
Marriage on the Rocks
In March 1891, David Waldo filed for divorce from his wife, Jessie. He claimed “habitual drunkenness and the constant use of profane language and with making his home a resort for abandoned and dissolute women, where bacchanalian feasts and drunken orgies were the order of the day.” He asked for custody of his children, Isabel, Jed and Willie.
The divorce proceedings carried on for over a year because no judge in the city wanted to get involved in “the racy testimony which is sure to come out.”
Judge Edward Scarritt finally agreed to hear the case, and in April 1893, 50 witnesses were called to testify as a part of the case. Jessie asked for $5,000 in alimony and charged David with “extreme cruelty and infidelity.”
David Waldo was granted full custody of his children and alimony was denied.
Just 10 days after the divorce was finalized, the unhappy couple made headlines again when an incident occurred at the Hotel Walnut. David had agreed to pay for her stay “with the exception of whiskey bills.”
When David arrived to pay Mrs. Stark, the proprietor of the hotel, Jessie and Mrs. Stark got into a fight over whether she had been faithful to David. They began to throw punches, and Mrs. Stark’s father jumped in the fight to defend his daughter.
David, for unknown reasons, opted to defend his ex-wife. In the scuffle, David “ran a dagger” through Mrs. Stark’s father’s hand.
Police were called, and no one would talk and no one demanded charges be pressed. David was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and was released.
Unfortunately, Jessie Waldo did not seem to get her act together. She disappeared; Jessie’s father died years later unaware of her fate.
The Birth of a Waldo Neighborhood: The Second Waldo Park
In March 1894, David Waldo and his sister, Olive Hinkle sold lands to the Waldo Land and Investment Company; the sale included 600 acres of land between 47th and 76th Streets along Oak. David was paid a whopping $158,000, and Olive walked away with $61,600 in the deal.
Part of the plan of these investors, which included George F. Winter, was to build an electric line that would better connect the southern outskirts to Kansas City. If development was to happen, it had to have a reliable transportation system. With the help of capitalists in Cincinnati, $300,000 was promised to the cause.
The plan was to connect this new electric line with a line at 29th and Summit. The electric line would run south to Main on 47th, east to Oak St. then south to the old Waldo Park Race Track lands, then west to Broadway (now Wornall Rd.) on 75th St. which was planned to be the main terminus.
The Kansas City Star wrote, “At the terminus of the line is to be laid out a small town to be called Waldo, where is to be established a post office, stores, schools, churches, public hall and a cyclist’s rest.”
The town of Waldo never happened, but this certainly marked the birth of a little community. In 1902, George F. Winter and his brother, Robert platted the subdivision “Waldo Park” which stretched from Broadway (Wornall) to Oak and from 71st(Gregory) to 75th. Plans to formally incorporate this area into a town were abandoned, but some enterprising people could see the area’s hopeful future. The Kansas City Star wrote in April 1902, “This tract that a few years ago was ‘away out in the country’ is now skirted by a railway line that will soon be changed to a trolley line. A paved boulevard, the Wornall Road, skirts its western edge. . . The city is fast growing out to it.”
In 1904, a lot was purchased by George G. Croner who opened a grocery store. Six houses sprinkled around that main terminus of a railway line.
Their lifeline was the Waldo station at 75th and Wornall, and by 1907, the new trolley was electrified with a nearby power station.
This small community, nicknamed Waldo, now had access to electricity for the first time. In 1909, Kansas City’s boundaries were expanded all the way to 75th St.
The Demise of David Waldo, Jr. and His Sons
David Waldo and his sisters made quite a bit of money in real estate, but by the turn of the century, he was low on money due to his profession as a “turf man.”
David and his two boys, Jed and Willie, split their time between Chicago and Kansas City while his daughter was sent to a St. Louis convent for her education. Education for his boys stopped around 4th grade, because David saw their growing talent as jockeys. The boys were raised at Waldo Park where they learned how to exercise horses and ride them fast.
In 1901, 16-year-old Jed and 14-year-old Willie were sent to England to horse race. Willie emerged as the stronger jockey, earning about $4,000 a year. David continued in the breeding business but found himself often broke due to misplaced bets on races.
By 1902, his two sons were “practically supporting their father, who lost quite a bit of money on the turf.” David sold off a small portion of his father’s lands that he had left in 1904 south of 67th St. between Oak and Holmes. The $12,000 only lasted so long.
In Willie’s last year as a jockey in 1905, he was earning an annual salary of $8,500 with bonuses that doubled his yearly earnings.
Tragedy struck on March 7, 1908 when 55-year-old David Waldo, Jr. was in a horse buggy accident a half-mile east of Independence. After losing control of the buggy for unknown reasons, David wrecked it into a telegraph pole. He was thrown and killed when his head struck the pole. The horse ran away.
The man who gambled his entire fortune on horseracing was ironically killed in a horse buggy accident.
Needless to state, Jed and Willie were never taught by their father on how to save the money. Jed developed an addiction to morphine – the narcotic which resulted in his own grandfather, Dr. Waldo’s decline and death. Jed traveled to various cities, addicted to drugs and making money here and there playing pool. Jed and Willie returned to Kansas City, and in 1920, both were charged with “possessing large quantities of narcotics.” Charges against Willie were dropped, but Jed served some time. Willie admitted he’d never worked a day in his life and had “been a child of chance.”
Once a worldwide-famous jockey, Willie Waldo was left paralyzed from the waist-down “as a result of spinal trouble.” After several marriages resulting in no children, Willie died in Chicago in 1956.
Unfortunately, Jed’s successes as a child jockey didn’t translate in his adult life. He continued abusing morphine, and in 1926, he was arrested on federal charges for trafficking narcotics and was sent to Leavenworth for five years; he served half of his time.
Jed moved up to live with his brother, Willie in Chicago and was arrested multiple times on narcotics charges. He never married and passed away in 1945.
Memorializing our Waldo Neighborhoods
Dr. David Waldo’s landholdings in south Kansas City made his children wealthy in their lifetimes. Some were more successful than others in maintaining their fortunes. Daughters Minnie, Lula and Olive married and were successful in several real estate deals.
Olive Waldo Hinkle continued to live on her father’s landholdings at 63rd and Walnut. After their home burned in 1911, Olive built a large home, completed in 1913, on the old homestead. The house still stands today at 100 E. 63rd St, despite a fire in 1980 that deemed it “a total loss.” The land surrounding it was platted as “Hinkle Place” in 1921 by Olive’s daughter.
Dr. Waldo was unsure of how successful his children would be, and in some ways, his sons were a disappointment to him. But David, Jr.’s dreams of making his own mark in horse racing was full of highs and lows- as a life in gambling is. His vision of transforming a parcel of land into Waldo Park has forever marked the land with the name “Waldo.” The first Waldo Park was a horse racing track, sold in 1925 to make into lots for houses. The second Waldo Park, platted in 1902, makes up the heart of Waldo’s quirky “downtown” area today.
In 1925, the Waldo community had 88 different businesses and a suburban population of 30,000.
Interestingly, the boundaries of the coveted Waldo neighborhood today are restrictive – but the real boundaries of the Waldo name are vast.
The landholdings of the Waldo family stretch well past the “Welcome to Waldo” sign at 85th and Wornall; they cover a large portion of the Brookside neighborhood. In 1924, land originally owned by Dr. Waldo sold to J.C. Nichols for $1600 an acre. And, the Waldo name lives on in Independence where Dr. Waldo made his home and a street is named in his honor.
So, where is Waldo? Waldo is, in some ways, everywhere.
Diane writes a blog on the history of the area. To read more of the stories, go to www.newsantafetrailer.blogspot.com.