Mildred Kittell (Mrs. Sam) Ray (1895-1996) Collection (KC0024)
In 1848, John Taylor, his wife, Sarah Ann Ashworth Taylor, and their infant daughter, Annie, left Oldham, England, for the United States. Their destination was New York City, but storms at sea forced them off course to land in New Orleans. The family then took a steamboat up the Mississippi River to an English colony near Jacksonville, Illinois, where they remained for nine years.
By 1857, John’s family was joined by his brothers, William and James, and James’ wife Mary. The families left Illinois, traveling up the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers to Kansas City. Their intent was to continue by covered wagon to California. However, Milton McGee, a Kansas City real estate speculator and city booster, met them at the boat landing and persuaded them not to travel west, but to buy land and settle in Kansas City.
Brothers James E. and Abel Fisher were born and raised near Chagin Falls, Ohio. In 1858, after returning via Panama from the gold fields of California, they arrived to settle in the growing community of the City of Kansas. The new city needed both lumber and carpenters and the Fishers readily found work. By 1866, they had constructed a sawmill at the foot of 5th street in the West Bottoms. The Taylor brothers established themselves as major brickmaking and construction businessmen who were responsible for the building of most of the larger important brick structures in the 19th century Kansas City.
In 1870, James E. Fisher married Annie Taylor, daughter of John Taylor. The family grew to six children, among whom was the future Mrs. Kate Fisher Kittell, mother of Mildred Kittell, Mrs. Sam Ray.
Mildred Kittell was born in Halstead, Kansas, on September 22, 1895. She attended Westport High in Kansas City, Missouri, and graduated from Canyon City High School in Colorado. After earning a teaching degree from the Kansas State Teacher's College in Emporia, she taught in Kansas City Schools. She married Sam Ray in 1918, and had three children.
At the age of 72, Mrs. Ray began writing a column in the Kansas City Times and Kansas City Star entitled “A Postcard from Old Kansas City” using postcards that she inherited and she collected through the years. Drawing upon her own knowledge, that of her ancestors, and careful research, she authored the popular series for 23 years in a very personal prose. Two books were drawn from the columns. Mrs. Ray died at the age of 100 on April 10, 1996.
Contained within the collection are letters written by John Taylor, Mrs. Ray’s great grandfather, and his brother, James Taylor, to their parents in Oldham, England, about their experiences in Kansas City, 1857-1863, as well as letters from Mrs. Ray’s mother and grandmother. It also includes research notes and writings by Mrs. Ray concerning the Taylor and Fisher families, including notes on diaries kept by Abel Fisher concerning his trip to California and his early days in Kansas City, 1855-1858.
The collection includes photographs of both the Taylor and Fisher families, and a videotape interview with Mrs. Ray concerning her postcard collection of Kansas City. ca.1855-ca.1982.
© State Historical Society of Missouri
Monday, February 07, 2011
State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center-Kansas City
(816) 235-1543 WHMCKC@umkc.edu