January 1910 was characterized by heavy snow and bitterly cold weather. The poor suffered from the extremes and the city organized a group of individuals to raise money and collect items to help the poor with extra fuel, coats and blankets, as well as additional food. Sedalia’s young people enjoyed the cold and skated on the frozen Liberty Park Lagoon and sledded on nearby hills.
On Sunday, Jan. 9, a group of seven young men from Sedalia went to Jefferson City. The group, including Francis McGinley, Leo Kipping, Jerome Vitt, Will McCabe, William Hurley, Cornelius Quinn and Charles McEniry, were part of a delegation from Sedalia Council No. 831 of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic religious and fraternal organization. The seven had gone to Jefferson City to participate in a class initiation into and conferring of degrees of the order.
The men attended the classes and ceremonies, then ate the noon meal. After dinner, they wandered onto High Street, one of the hilly streets in Jefferson City near the state government buildings. There they saw young people cruising rapidly down the hilly streets on bobsleds.
None of the men had ever used a bobsled before, Sedalia’s hills not being steep enough. They decided to try bobsledding, and with a young man named Pace to guide the sled, they all piled onto the bobsled.
They started down a hill that ran four blocks before a slight turn to the south and another quarter mile run. They picked up speed as they traveled, and by the time they approached the turn, were going approximately 40 mph. Expert sledders said the heavy snow had actually slowed the sled, which could under optimal conditions reach speeds of close to 60 mph.
Near the turn, Pace lost control of the overloaded sled. The sled overturned. The sledders flew off the sled and into a pile of broken crockery, cans and debris in a ditch 15 feet below the road. Witnesses to the accident were shocked, but relieved the young men were not injured more seriously.
Cornelius Quinn was perhaps the least injured. He suffered bruises over much of his body. Kipping had a cut on his lip and a painful injury to his leg. Hurley had a sprained ankle, a cut above his left knee, and bruises. Vitt’s hip was badly injured and his back was sprained. McCabe had a badly sprained ankle. McEniry had a badly sprained knee and bruises. McGinley received the most serious injuries. His left femur was broken, and he had lacerations and bruises.
The men were taken to St. Mary’s Hospital in Jefferson City where their injuries were treated. McCabe returned to Sedalia late Sunday evening and saw Dr. K.R. Barnum, a local physician. Kipping, Vitt, Hurley and Quinn returned to Sedalia early Monday morning. McEniry was expected to return to Sedalia late Monday evening. McGinley remained in the hospital.
Monday morning Mr. and Mrs. McGinely and Charles MeEniry went to Jefferson City to visit their sons and learned the extent of their injuries.
Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.