Shalor Winchell Eldridge (1816-1899) Letters (KC217)
Shalor Winchell Eldridge was born at West Springfield, Massachusetts, the son of Lyman Eldridge, a mechanic, and Phoebe Winchell Eldridge. In 1855, the New England Emigrant Aid Company hired Eldridge to came to Kansas City and operate the American Hotel (Gillis House) as the headquarters for emigrants brought to the Kansas Territory. As tensions heightened within the city over the slavery question and opposition to the Emigrant Aid Company developed, Eldridge bought the hotel and was able, for a time, to maintain better relations with the community. Soon after, in 1856, Eldridge leased the newly constructed Free State Hotel in Lawrence, Kansas, from the Emigrant Aid Company, and also established the first stage lines from Kansas City to Lawrence, Topeka, Leavenworth and other towns in Kansas.
The conflict over the slavery issue erupted in May, 1856, and the Free State Hotel, along with the offices of several newspapers and the home of Governor Charles Robinson, were burned by a mob. When the Emigrant Aid Company decided not to rebuild the hotel, Eldridge bought the site and constructed the Eldridge House (sometimes still called the Free State Hotel). At the outbreak of war, Eldridge enlisted in the 2nd Kansas Volunteers. He was not present when William Clark Quantrill and his men attacked and burned Lawrence on August 21, 1863. Again the Free State Hotel was destroyed, and Eldridge sought reparations from the city, state, and federal governments to assist him in rebuilding. There is no indication he received any federal or state moneys. However, the city of Lawrence raised $15,000 to help replace the structure.
After the war, Eldridge returned to Lawrence and became a building contractor. He rebuilt his Eldridge Hotel, along with hotels and buildings in other cities. During his last years he co-authored the book, Recollections of Early Days in Kansas, with the former editor of the Kansas Free State, R.G. Elliott.
These letters relate to Eldridge's petitions for aid to rebuild his hotel after it burned during Quantrill's raid of Lawrence in 1863. They record support from a number of prominent Kansas men. 1863
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updated: Tuesday, November 01, 2005
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