Newspaper headlines can sometimes be deceiving. For example, the March 9, 1910, Sedalia Democrat reported “’Germo’ Kidd the Instigator” in a dance stopped by Sheriffs Henderson and Card, giving the impression that Kidd was, like the notorious Honey Grove Kid, a criminal. The reality was quite different.
James K. Kidd and his wife Cora, according to the Sedalia City Directory, lived at 503 W. Third St. Mr. Kidd was in charge of the Germo Company, a manufacturing firm then located at 204 E. Third St.
The Germo Co. manufactured Cholerine, a vegetable- and herb-based product developed by Dr. Donco in 1878. The company had been organized in 1902 by R.C. Combs and J.D. Donnohue, and within a year employed 10 traveling salesmen marketing its products throughout the country. Cholerine apparently was something of a miracle product, advertised to “prevent and cure all diseases in poultry” as well as kill lice and mites, thus increasing food and egg production.
In addition to managing the Germo Co., Kidd served as a rental agent for Mr. Wilson, who owned the houses in Wilson’s Addition, a subdivision located between Broadway Boulevard and 10th Street and between Monroe Avenue and Marshall Avenue. The subdivision, platted in 1905, was located south of the large Missouri Pacific Railroad Shops that had come to Sedalia in 1904, and provided small homes for many shop workers.
W.C. Cain, a shop employee, approached Kidd and arranged to rent a cottage for what he claimed were some men from out of town who planned to invest in Sedalia.
Kidd later learned Cain had rented the property so he could throw what the Democrat called a “free-for-all dance.” The phrase did not mean that admittance would be free, but suggested that attendees’ behavior would be free from the strictures of the laws concerning the sale of alcoholic beverages and the level of noise, as well as from moral restraints observed by proper, pious folks.
Sedalia ordinances considered the possession of more than two gallons of whiskey an indication that an individual intended to sell alcoholic beverages without a license to do so. Sedalia ordinances also forbid disturbing the peace of individuals with loud or boisterous behavior. Many church members believed dancing to be wrong and thought it encouraged sexual immorality.
Kidd went to Cain, notifying him the rental had been arranged under false pretenses and that he could not rent the house or host the dance. Cain replied he would have the dance whether Kidd objected or not.
Kidd then instigated a plot to stop the dance, enlisting the help of Sheriff M.T. Henderson and Deputy James Card. The three men went to the house where the dance was to be hosted. They found the house “elegantly prepared” for what the newspaper called a “swell” dance. Chairs had been brought in to provide seating for guests and a dance floor had been cleared.
Everything was ready, but no one appeared. Henderson, Card and Kidd waited patiently for the guests, but no one arrived. The Democrat speculated Cain had learned of the sheriff’s involvement and had warned people to stay away.
Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.