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More than 5, people lived in St. Joseph in the s, a comparatively large number for a wilderness outpost. During the California gold rush, some 17, forty-niners had outfitted for their trek in St. The city gained fame as the eastern terminal of the colorful, uneconomical, and short-lived Pony Express. The Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad that ran across northern Missouri reached St. Unfortunately, the city lost a temporary advantage as a frontier railhead when the Civil War disrupted service.

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Following hostilities, a decision by the owners of the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad dashed hopes that St. Joseph would grow into a great railroad center. Rather than build tracks west from St. Joseph, they decided to divert the main line fifty miles to the south through Kansas City and on into the Southwest, planning to exploit the Texas cattle trade.

Even though the leaders of St. Joseph scaled down their aspirations, the city remained a thriving and expanding place, albeit increasingly secondary to Kansas City. Mike and Mary settled permanently and raised their rapidly growing family in St. As employment was plentiful, Mike quickly found work as a drayman. He may have worked for Russell, Majors, and Waddell, a large western freighting firm that, prior to declaring bankruptcy during the Civil War, had a regional headquarters in St.

At times, Mike, as did many haulers, freelanced as an independent contractor. Usually, however, he labored for others, and not always as a teamster; in he worked as a farmer and in he worked at the W. Whitaker Starch Factory.

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In his prime, his oxlike strength enabled him to singlehandedly lift very heavy loads. A large dry goods store employed him as a teamster on a regular basis. Although he never became wealthy, he made a steady living, providing enough money to support his family in reasonably adequate circumstances. Mike drank only in moderation, which was highly unusual for someone engaged in an occupation that frequently attracted hard-living and unreliable transients.

Mike Pendergast, in the style of a typical Irish patriarch, ruled his children with stern yet good-natured discipline. Mary provided the home with loving stability. Tom, in later years, called his home life normal and family relations congenial.

He characterized his father as "responsible" and his mother as "devoted. The family residence, which Mike Pendergast owned, was a substantial two-story frame house at Frederick Avenue. That location, when the Pendergasts arrived, was on the east side of St. As the city extended farther east, Frederick Avenue became the main thoroughfare into downtown. A horse railroad line ran down Frederick in the s; it was electrified by , with an electric power plant at 20th Street. Saloons, eating places, groceries, medical clinics, dental offices, and meat markets, plus residential dwellings, lined Frederick.

Pendergast! (MISSOURI BIOGRAPHY SERIES) by Lawrence H. Larsen, Nancy J. Hulston

Many shopkeepers lived in the rear or on the second floors of their businesses. The Pendergast neighborhood included an ethnically diverse mix of Irish, German, English, and some black people. In , a coal, wood, and feedlot was on one side of the Pendergast residence, a barber shop on the other.

The Pendergast home had only seven rooms, so it was fairly cramped for such a large family.

Thomas Joseph Pendergast

All the rooms were comfortably furnished and had rugs and curtains, a mark of prosperity. A small barnyard surrounded the property. In following years, after all the Pendergasts had died or moved away, the condition of the house, still in family hands in , gradually deteriorated. Following World War II, a cemetery monument concern acquired the residence, tore it down, and used the lot for a display yard.

Maurice Milligan, the United States Attorney who played a major role in sending Pendergast to prison, said that it was fitting that the house had not been turned into a shrine. Questioned in prison about his school days, Pendergast recalled nothing out of the ordinary.

He remembered playing hooky, but the rolls of the public Webster School, which he attended from first through sixth grades, indicate consistently excellent attendance records, so he must have started playing hooky after grade school. He avoided organized extracurricular activities, but played sandlot baseball.

He got along well with his schoolmates, and he kept tabs on them through the years. A streetcar conductor remembered, "Tom often rode my trolley car. He was a friendly and good-natured boy. I liked him. Larsen and Nancy J. Hulston have successfully provided—through extensive research, including use of recently released prison records More than a half-century after the death of Kansas City's notorious political boss, Thomas J.

Hulston have successfully provided—through extensive research, including use of recently released prison records and previously unavailable family records—a clear look at the life of Thomas J. Born in St. In , Pendergast became head of the Goats, and over the next fifteen years he created a powerful political machine that used illegal voting and criminal enforcers to gain power. Following a change in the city charter in , Pendergast took control of Kansas City and ran it as his own personal business. Truman on the road to the presidency. In this well-balanced biography, the authors examine Pendergast's rise to power, his successes as a political leader, his compassion for the destitute, and his reputation for keeping his word.

They also examine Pendergast's character development and how his methods became more and more ruthless. Pendergast had no use for ideology in his "invisible government"—only votes counted. In and the federal government broke the back of Pendergast's machine, convicting of his campaign aides for vote fraud.

In Pendergast, who was believed to be the largest bettor on horse racing in the United States, was jailed for income tax evasion, and he died in disgrace in An insightful and comprehensive biography, Pendergast! Get A Copy. Hardcover , pages. Published December 31st by University of Missouri first published December More Details Original Title.

Missouri Biography. Tom Pendergast. Other Editions 2. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Pendergast! Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Jun 16, Austin rated it really liked it. As far as I can tell there are only four types of men that hail from St. Joseph, Missouri. We are either criminals, crazy, crank addicts, or Christians and sometimes we float betwixt them all.

So I should not have been surprised to learn that the entire Pendergast clan came from little old St. Joe, MO.

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Pendergast was a true, original gangster who ran everything in Kansas City from the water department and police up to electing a few Presidents with his fabricated ballots and political savvy. My As far as I can tell there are only four types of men that hail from St. The Goat faction was larger but Shannon was the shrewder strategist and often got the better deal in political maneuverings. Jim Pendergast feared the rivalry between the Goats and the Rabbits would help Republicans win back political power so he negotiated an arrangement with Joe Shannon to share equally the spoils of political control of Kansas City.

When Jim Pendergast died in , his brother Tom took over the machine. Thomas J. Pendergast came to Kansas City from St. Jim retired in and named Tom his successor. From his Democratic club headquarters, Tom Pendergast promoted a wide-open town where every form of vice was well organized and easily obtained. However, Big Tom himself was not exactly a barrel of fun.

He was an ambitious, intimidating figure who drank little, went home to his wife and three children early and attended Mass religiously. He did have one, all-consuming vice, which was gambling. A sense of the power wielded by the Pendergast machine is contained in a personal letter written by a prominent social worker: Jacob Billlikopf , one of the founders of the Kansas City Department of Public Welfare. To such an extent did we have public opinion back of us that the politicians left us serenely alone with the result that missions from various parts of the country came to Kansas City to study our activities; above all how we managed to operate without interference from either or both most powerful factions of the Democratic Party….

In the election of Thomas J. Pendergast was able to name the governor, Guy B. Park; and in his machine was primarily responsible for the election of United States Senator Harry S. A short time later, after the Kansas City election of , the Kansas City Star published detailed evidence of illegal registration of voters; and Federal Judge Albert L. Reeves charged a grand jury to investigate election procedures. The U. District Attorney Milligan began prosecution of machine workers charged with election frauds.

In a series of 19 trials, persons were convicted in Federal court without a single acquittal. Governor Stark thereupon appointed a non-political election board for the city, which succeeded in removing some 60, illegal registrations from the poll-lists. The fatal break in the power of the Pendergast machine came early in Federal Judge Reeves had instructed the grand jury called to investigate the election to extend their investigation to those higher up and in February a county grand jury under Judge Southern returned 93 indictments of county officials and other machine workers, including the presiding officer of the county administration, Judge David E.

Long, and the county prosecutor, W.

Introduction

In the meantime the United States Treasury Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had been looking into income tax evasions. After serving 15 months in prison he lived quietly at his home until his death in Roosevelt as President, Truman attended the Pendergast funeral. Truman was reportedly the only elected official who attended the funeral.


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Truman, January 10, Pendergast Tom. He became a powerful political boss in Missouri after I told him I would. I had been road overseer in Washington Township where the family farm is located and Postmaster of Grandview before World War I came along. There were four other candidates…I was nominated and elected Presiding Judge of the County Court in the fall election and took office Jan. Tom Pendergast and Joseph B. They were interested in county patronage and also in county purchases. The Court appointed the purchasing agent, a county welfare officer, a county auditor, heads of homes, approved the budgets of elected officials of the county, such as Treasurer, County Clerk, Circuit Clerk, County Collector, County Assessor, County Highway Engineer.

The Court also appointed road overseers and various other officials. There were about nine hundred patronage jobs and they could be the foundation of a political organization. I always followed that policy and I never had a cross word with him…. On no other occasion did T. Pendergast ever talk to me about my actions in the Senate.