Robert Thompson Van Horn (1824-1916) Family Papers (KC0297)
Native Sons Archives (NSA)
R.T. Van Horn was born in Indiana County, Pennsylvania, to Henry and Elizabeth (Thompson) Van Horn. He apprenticed as a printer and became a journeyman printer from 1843-1855. He also taught school briefly, worked on the Erie Canal, studied law, and operated a steamboat. On December 2, 1848, he married Adela Honeywood Cooley (born January 18, 1826) in Pomeroy, Ohio. They had four sons, only one of whom survived them.
Van Horn came to Kansas City in 1855 and purchased a weekly newspaper called The Enterprise. It was later called the Western Journal of Commerce, and then became the daily Kansas City Journal. Van Horn served as Postmaster of Kansas City from 1857-1861 and was then elected mayor as a Union candidate. During the Civil War, he commanded his own battalion until it merged with another to form the 25th Regiment of the Missouri volunteer infantry. He fought in several battles, including Shiloh, and he was wounded in the Battle of Lexington. Van Horn was elected to the Missouri Senate in 1862 and then once again as mayor of Kansas City in 1864. After holding office locally, he was elected to the U.S. Congress, where he served two terms. While in Congress, he obtained legislation that brought the Hannibal Bridge and crucial railroad service through Kansas City. Upon his return to this area, President U.S. Grant appointed Van Horn a regional tax collector, a post he held until 1881, when the voters returned him to Washington, D.C. for two more terms in Congress. R.T. Van Horn was a city builder who promoted the expansion and improvement of Kansas City. He was a member of many business and civic organizations. His wife, Adela, died July 24, 1910, and he died January 3, 1916.
R.T. and Adela Van Horn's son, Dick, and his wife, Frances McClure Van Horn, had two children--a daughter, Adela Cooley, and a son, Henry Kirkwood. Adela was born October 3, 1876. She attended the University of Chicago and was named a Phi Beta Kappa scholar. In 1919, she served as a Red Cross worker in Europe, and was later a member of the Women's Overseas Service League. Adela was also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She traveled extensively throughout the world. In the late 1950s, she moved to Tucson, Arizona, where she lived in the Coronado Hotel.
The R.T. Van Horn materials were placed in scrapbook form by the Native Sons. WHMC-KC has removed the materials from that format. R.T. Van Horn's papers include correspondence, Civil War service records, business and property records, and some artifacts and ephemera. Much of the correspondence has been transcribed. Adela Cooley Van Horn, his granddaughter, traveled extensively, and the bulk of her materials consists of correspondence, passports, narratives, and photographs. She retained many genealogical records, as well. 1832-1965.
See also related papers are held by WHMC-Columbia as the Robert Thompson Van Horn (1824-1916), Papers, 1855-1907, (C1032).
© WHMC-KC, University of Missouri
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Kansas City
(816) 235-1543 WHMCKC@umkc.edu