The Sedalia Katy Depot

Sedalia Missouri's  Visitor Center and Year-Round Historic Railroad Destination

People Who Shaped Sedalia, Missouri

George R. Smith

Founder of Sedalia, Missouri

Sedalia is a product of the railroad. Railroads brought prosperity and urban industrial climate.  For more than a century, Sedalia’s history & fortunes were tied to the railroads.
In 1857 and under the leadership of General Smith, ‘Sedville’ was born to attract the Pacific Railroad which was being constructed from St. Louis to Kansas City.  In 1860 the city’s name was changed to Sedalia.  Construction of the railroad halted at Sedalia during much of the Civil War thus positioning Sedalia as an early regional market center.

Sedalia’s economy was dependent upon the railroad for jobs, for support industries such as telegraph schools, and for the businesses providing 99% of products needed by the railroads. Shortline branches ran northwest to Lexington and southwest to Warsaw. The east/west Pacific Railroad arrived in 1861.

In 1904 Mo Pac shops were constructed for the manufacture and rebuild of steam locomotives.  In the late 1980’s the shops were closed following a decline in employment since the arrival of the diesel locomotive. The MoPac Mainline is now operated by the Union Pacific Railroad providing Amtrak passenger service and UP freight service.

Robert S. Stevens

Thunderbolt from a Clear Sky

Attica NY Banker, businessman, land speculator, lawyer and railroad promoter, teacher and politician.  As General Manager he spearheaded development of and oversaw construction of day to day operations during the formative years of the MKT.

Arriving in Sedalia in 1870, the Missouri Kansas Texas Railroad was not the first to arrive, nor did it employ as many employees as the MoPac but Sedalia held a more significant place in the Katy Railroad’s history.The Katy Railroad secured Sedalia’s success and prosperity.  It made Sedalia a junction point between east / west and north / south lines.  The Katy’s repair and maintenance yards, roundhouse, administrative offices, stockyard and employee hospital made Sedalia - already one of the larger towns on the railroad - a major point in the Katy system.

The KATY was the connection to emerging markets of the southwest.  It provided service from Hannibal through southwest Missouri, southeast Kansas, Oklahoma and Eastern Texas through Dallas, Houston and eventually to the Gulf Coast.

In 1909 - 34 trains were reported to travel daily in and out of Sedalia. It is estimated that more than 7,000,000 pounds of freight was received here and more than 25,000 tickets were sold to Katy passengers in that year.

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Bradford Gilbert


Nationally active architect based in NY with extensive work for multiple railroads across the US

All across America, depots were places of human drama, commerce and communication.

The Katy Depot was a major addition to Sedalia’s built environment.  The depot’s architecture and construction made a statement about Sedalia’s importance to the MKT Railroad.  Its engineering and use of space made it a proper second generation depot.  It spoke of modernity, planning, and the latest trends in systems engineering.

The Katy Depot is both a symbol and an artifact of this story.

The first floor was dedicated to the primary function of the depot in serving the needs of passengers:  ticket office, mens & women’s waiting room; kitchen & restaurant; and baggage room.  The second floor housed offices for those who controlled train traffic and for division point offices of resident engineer, dispatchers, telegraphers who maintained 100 miles of right of way.

Built in 1896 at a cost of $40,000, the Depot was located not only in the center of the Katy Complex but in the center of Sedalia (east Sedalia stop at 3rd & Engineer and west Sedalia stop at Pacific & Ohio).  The depot served as passenger station for 58 years until the Katy ceased passenger service in Missouri in 1958.

George C. Duffield


Drover from Iowa whose dairy depicted the hardships of his 1866 cattle drive from San Antonio to Sedalia that became the basis of the 1960’s TV Series “Rawhide.”

In 1860 Texas, there were an estimated 3 million head of longhorns.  Longhorns are huge, half wild animals that could weigh
up to 1600 pounds with horns that stretched four to six feet from tip to tip. The Texans quickly realized that if they were going to make money from cattle, they would have to be rounded up, branded, and transported on a large scale to the distant northern markets. An experienced crew could brand 100 calves an hour.

On a 1875 trail drive, the trail boss signed for 4,737 cattle and 137 horses.  Four months later, he sold the cattle for $18 a head.  His share of the profits was $5,366.  The owner collected $61,886 of which more than $50,000 was profit.  The work of the cowboy demanded exceptional skills.  To manage three thousand cattle and sixty horses required the work of no less than a dozen cowhands. Driving cattle was a hard way to make a hundred dollars. They had to be an expert roper and rider, know how to calm a restless herd in the middle of the night, and how to head off a stampede.  A typical cattle drive took three to four months.  By the time the cowboys reached the town at trail’s end, their boots were worn out.  Their hats were shapeless and caked with dust. Once clean and shaven, they would buy new clothing, try their luck at gambling and enjoy the offerings of the saloons.

In 1866 alone, the Missouri Pacific and MKT Railroad Stockyards handled an estimated 168,000 head of longhorn cattle. It was an unglamorous job but cowboys left a trail of glamour.  Such was the life of Gil Favor & Rowdy Yates as the “Rawhide” drovers headed for Sedalia in the popular 1960’s TV series.

Lizzie Cook

Brothel Owner

Lizzie Cook owned and operated 2 of Sedalia, Missouri's most successful brothels.

SOILED DOVES The presence of a large population of young, transient single men in a frontier community provided an obvious, but simplistic, explanation for the presence of large number of prostitutes. A typical brothel was on the second floor of a legitimate business – a saloon, a store or a restaurant.  A series of small rooms opened off a long hallway with back stairways opening on to alleys. The soiled doves entered the market place as business women and were consumers who borrowed money at local banks, spent money in local shops, paid taxes on any real estate they owned and contributed regularly to the city treasury.

Sedalia’s Infamous RED LIGHT DISTRICT  Sedalia had “one of the midland’s most notorious red-light districts.” That prostitution thrived should not have been surprising, since Sedalia was a rail head, a federal military post during the Civil War, the end of the cattle drives out of Texas in the mid 1860’s, and a rapidly growing industrial and mercantile center in the 1870’s and 1880’s.  As Sedalia developed from a frontier boomtown to become a prosperous, settled city, however, prostitution would have been expected either to decrease or to be hidden. Neither happened. A partial review identified by name, more than 500 soiled doves who worked in Sedalia between 1868 and 1900 at brothels scattered through out the city.

Nelle Stark

Daughter of Music Publisher John Stark

Daughter of John Stark, she was a major influence in his decision to publish many of Scott Joplin’s early compositions.

Ragtime, (1896 – 1920) that foot tapping rhythmic impulse, rattling good fun and inherent irrestible charm is considered the first original American music.  In 1899 Joplin contracted with Sedalia music store owner and publisher John Stark (after strong influence of his daughter Nellie) to publish The Maple Leaf Rag, which was to become the greatest and most famous of piano rags.  Thus establishing Sedalia as the Cradle of Ragtime.  The contract specified that Joplin would receive a one-cent royalty on each sale, a condition that rendered Joplin a small, but steady income for the rest of his life.

Scott Joplin

The King of Ragtime Music

Scott Joplin is recognized as one of the most influential figures in the formation of American 20th century music as well as the King of Ragtime.  In his 48 years, Scott Joplin composed 34 rags, two operas, and 22 other songs, marches, waltzes and other pieces.  His Maple Leaf Rag was the first piece of popular music to sell a million copies and has continued to exercise its magic on successive generations of musicians and music lovers.

Scott Joplin was the most sophisticated and tasteful ragtime composer of the era.  But he aspired to more. His goal was to be a successful composer for the lyric stage and he continually worked toward this end.  

As a person, he was intelligent, well-mannered and well-spoken.  He was extremely quiet, serious and modest.  He had few interests other than music.  He was generous with his time and was willing to assist and instruct younger musicians.  He had a profound belief in the importance of education.

Louis Monsees

Mule Breeder

Native of Smithton, Missouri
Legendary breeder of jacks and jennets

Mules became the working livestock of choice because of their strength, stamina and intelligence. The famous jack “Imported Mammoth” arrived  from Europe mid 1840.  His blood line is what began the notoriety of the American jack.  Kentucky farmers were leaders in the settlement of Missouri bringing with them the superior jack and jennet stock.  Following a showcase of magnificent mules at the 1904 St. Louis Worlds Fair - nationally, and more impressively, globally people began talking about “Missouri Mules” and thus the term was coined.  In 1917, Missouri led the nation in number of breeders and registered jacks & jennets.  Missourians  owned 38% of all jack stock ever registered.  A major contributor to Missouri’s success was Louis Monsees who had more registered jacks & jennets than any other breeder in the nation. Col. Monsees  (1858-1947) is considered by some to have single handedly made famous the “Missouri Mule”. His jacks and jennets collectively won 14 gold medals alone at the 1904 Worlds Fair. He was by far the top jack breeder in Missouri and he still holds the title as paramount jack stock breeder in the country.     

At a very young age he told his father that he was going to raise the best stud of show jacks & jennets in the world and to prove that, he would sell them for more money “under the hammer” than any other ever sold. The highest priced being “Bell Boy” for $3,750.  Annual sales were held on his farm Limestone Valley where people would arrive by special train to Smithton and from there be taken to the farm in mule-drawn wagons.

William Gentry

Pettis County Stockman

Outstanding Pettis County stockman
President of the Agricultural and Mechanic
al Assoc
Son named 1st superintendent of the Missouri State Fair

Fairs were designed to advance a rural society.  They served as a way to communicate to massive amounts of people in bringing information to farmers.  They were a primary venue for businesses to conduct marketing research and further develop their products. So important were fairs to America’s agricultural history that they are credited with serving as the catalyst of two agricultural revolutions.  The first occurring between 1862 and 1875 with the evolution of hand power to horse power and the second occurring in the 1940’s was the evolution from horse power to machine power.   County fairs were hosted as early as 1857 on the farm of William Gentry.  In 1872, the Fair Association purchased 50 acres of land in west Sedalia for the purpose of a county fairgrounds that featured a racetrack and amphitheater.

The first Missouri State Fair was held Sept 1901. As a showcase of Missouri agriculture, it is at the State Fair that many families have shown livestock for generations.  Families gather.  Parents and grand- parents come to offer assistance as their children and grandchildren prepare for competition.   These families bond with other families and create a camaraderie that lasts a lifetime. The fair for these families is like a family reunion, a community.
The fairgrounds has further evolved into a year-round facility for camping rallies, livestock show, sporting events, trade shows, and private venues thus providing a multi million dollar annual local economic impact.

Lt. George Whiteman


Mother of Sedalia Native George Whiteman - namesake of  Whiteman Air Force Base

Whiteman Air Force Base has always played an integral role in the Air Force playing host to a succession of America?s most important weapons systems.  From the quiet soaring of the World War II era gliders (Sedalia Glider Base - Sedalia Army Air Field) to the thundering roar of the B-47s and KC-97s (Sedalia Air Force Base) to the silent vigil of the Minute-man II (Whiteman Air Force Base) and most recently to the B-2 Advanced Technology Bomber. Approximately 5000 people are stationed at the Base, with 2500 civilian jobs generating an annual economic impact resulting from WAFB is over $400 million.  George Whiteman left behind his parents and nine siblings to live his dream of becoming a pilot. He was the first air casualty of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Upon learning of her sons death, Mrs. Whiteman remarked that, "It could have happened anywhere, anytime."   The base adopted his mothers words as their motto: "Anywhere, Anytime."  At once a young, bright aviator Lt. Whiteman had faith that our nation's actions would carry on America's legacy of democracy and freedom.  A legacy sharpened by his sacrifice along with many others that led to victory over fascism and oppression.

To commemorate the George Whiteman Legacy Artist Jesse Small created "SHADOW" a sculpture to demonstrate the co-existence of force and diplomacy.  The sculpture is located on the campus of State Fair Community College.

Edward D. "Ted" Jones

Benefactor of the Katy Trail

The Katy Trail is a recreation rail trail that runs 225 miles on the right-of-way of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad.  One of the longest Rails-to-Trails in the United States.  Sections of the Katy are part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and the American Discovery Trail.

Conversion of the corridor from a railroad to a trail was made possible by the National Trails System Act of 1968 and as a result of a donation from Edward D. "Ted" Jones of St. Louis. Without Ted Jones, the Katy Trail would not have become a reality.

Plans are underway to expand the trail to the suburbs of Kansas City and downtown St. Louis.  Ameren UE will allow the use of its unused Rock Island Corridor rail line. This will compliment an effort to create a four-state trail system using several trails already in existence including the Katy. This "quad state" trail will connect Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska.

The Katy Lady

Famous Advertising Symbol

"The image of Miss Katy began over 100 years ago.  Railroads competed for passenger traffic and it is believed that the portrayal of an elegant lady traveling alone would show the public the safety and cleanliness of rail travel on the MK&T.  The concept was popular and Miss Katy became a famous symbol of the railroad.
For the most part, the Miss Katy image had ceased to be used by the 1920's.  When John Barriger took over the reigns of the M-K-T in 1965, he sought to improve the railroad and its image.  Barriger was an excellent public relations specialist and he chose to revive the historic Miss Katy. 

Jane Kairuz was chosen for her "girl next door" image and soon became a popular and easily recognizable figure on Katy advertising and tours with President Barriger.  Her part in the promotional campaign was considered an effective part of the new image sought by the railroad.

Information provided by Chris Cruz