Last updated: June 10. 2014 1:14PM - 811 Views
By Rhonda Chalfant Contributing Columnist

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Sedalia came into being because in the 1850s Absalom McVey and George R. Smith saw the potential of the proposed Pacific Railroad. As Sedalia grew, the railroads became the source of Sedalia’s wealth. The intersection of the Missouri Pacific Railroad, the Lexington and St. Louis Branch of the Mo Pac, the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad (Katy), and the Sedalia, Warsaw, and Southern Railroads made Sedalia a wholesale, retail, manufacturing, and agricultural shipping center.

The Mo Pac and Katy Railroads were the largest employers in Sedalia, with 557 employees in 1881. Despite problems with paying their employees and a major railroad strike in 1875, the railroads remained important employers.

The 1882 History of Pettis County covers the lives of only a few of the railroad men who were stationed in Sedalia. Two of these are typical of the railroad men who worked for a variety of companies before settling in Sedalia. They also were characterized by exceptional and creative mechanical skill.

John W. Raynor was a freight conductor for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. His father had come from England to Vermont in 1838. John was born in Vermont in 1840. He attended school in Vermont and Ohio, where his family moved when John was a boy.

As a young man, Raynor worked as a carriage painter for four years. He became a brakeman for the Chicago and Alton Railroad and six years later accepted a job as a conductor for the St. Louis and Southeastern Railroad. In 1878, Raynor took a job as a conductor for the Missouri Pacific Railroad.

While working for the Chicago and Alton Railroad, Raynor married Mary Gorman. The couple had six children.

Raynor was different from the ordinary railroad man; he was an inventor who had several patents. One was for a car mover and another was for a street car starter. His inventions, while useful devices, did not make Raynor rich. He remained a railroad man, “one of the most popular freight conductors” in the Sedalia freight office.

George W. Walshe’s parents came from Ireland and settled in New York. George was born and educated in Schenectady, N.Y. After completing school he became an apprentice as a machinist and engineer. He worked for the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad, then for the Boston and Maine Railroad, and later for the New York and Erie Railroad.

Walshe differed from the typical railroad man in his ability to move into supervisory roles within the railroad. Using his training as a machinist, he was foreman for the Dunkirk shops, and then he used his training as an engineer while supervising the laying of track between Joliet and Bloomington, Ill.

He moved to Washington, Mo., where he was living when the Civil War started. During the War he served as Assistant General of the United States Railroad in Nashville, Tenn. After the war, he returned to Washington and opened a barytes factory.

In 1870, Walshe took a job with the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad, the Frisco, which was being built. He resigned that job, and began to work in Sedalia for the Missouri Pacific Shops. In 1877, he was named master mechanic at the shops here.

He was a “mechanical genius,” as well as an excellent businessman and a warm-hearted and generous friend.

The Missouri Pacific Railroad in Sedalia was fortunate to have such skilled and intelligent workers among its crew.

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