Swedish families settled and stayed for decades on this Volker block

Many Swedish immigrants and the children of Swedish immigrants were among the first residents of this Volker block. Several families stayed in their homes for decades, something that was fairly unusual in Midtown during the early 1900s.

It is common to find families moving in and out of Midtown neighborhood blocks in the early 1900s, but this Volker area with many Swedish immigrants was much more stable. Census records from 1910 to 1940 shows several families that stayed on the block the entire time, while others moved in and stayed for two or three decades. For example, widow Martha Frances Bishop moved in at 4207 Bell with four daughters and a son sometime before 1910, and her children still lived there in 1940.

The block was also a center of Swedish culture, centered after 1928 around the Immanuel Lutheran Church at 43rd and Bell. The church had been organized in 1899 and the Rev. Victor Sprong, long-time pastor, lived next to the church at 4240 Genessee after the church moved to this location.

The block also gives insight into changing patterns of education among Kansas City residents. Among these working-class families of railroad men, grocery store owners and city workers, parents had often stopped their educations around the eighth grade. Their children, however, were on their way to completing high school during the 1940s.

When the census was taken in 1910, only seven homes had been built on the block. By 1920, there were 15 structures, and that number had increased to 24 by 1930. Several new bungalows were offered up for sale in the 1920s, advertised as modern and up-to-date with oak finishes and proximity to the Roanoke streetcar line.

This slideshow contains the additional 1940 photos of the block.

As part of our Uncovering History Project, the Midtown KC Post is taking a look at each block in Midtown, including a set of 1940 tax assessment photos which is available for many blocks. (Many people seem confused by the tax assessment photos, which all include a man holding a sign. Here’s the story behind them).   Today, the block between Westport Road and W. 42nd, from Bell Street to Genessee Street.

The census records for the block from 1910 to 1940 show the Swedish connection and the stability of the block.

1910 census

  • 4207 Bell Street: Martha Frances Bishop, a 60-year-old widow, owned this house, where she lived with four daughters and a son ranging in age from 28 to 37 years old. The sons and daughters worked as seamstresses, a stenographer, and a furniture stock keeper.
  • 4209 Bell Street: Noble W. Lay, a furniture company stock keeper, aged 38, owned this home with his wife Sophronia, daughter Eva and son Cecil.
  • 4215 Bell Street: 35-year-old carpenter Carl Johnson owned this home. He lived with his wife Minnie, a son, two daughters, father-in-law, brother-in-law and brother. Both his brother-in-law and brother also worked as carpenters.
  • 4200 Genessee Street: This home was rented by a lumber company teamster, 27-year-old Robert Mosley, who shared it with his wife Hettie, a daughter, a sister-in-law, and a male boarder, John Wilson, who worked as a night watchman.
  • 4202 Genessee Street: 30-year-old grocery clerk Carl Phillips lived here with his mother Sarah.
  • 4206 Genessee Street: Ireland-born Cornelius Shemiers, 36, a brick mason, owned this home. His family included wife Ida, born in Missouri, and two sons.
  • 4208 Genessee Street: Natural gas company foreman James Morgan, 25, rented this home with his wife Stella, a son and a daughter.

1920 census

  • 4201 Bell Street: Firefighter Oscar Nelson owned this home, where he lived with his wife Irene and a son.
  • 4207 Bell Street: (listed by census taker as 4205 Bell Street) Martha Bishop, listed as age 60 and widowed, lived with two daughters in this home that they owned.
  • 4217 Bell Street: Wholesale produce salesman Charles Buchanan, 52, owned this home with his wife Ada, son, and mother-in-law Mary Emery.
  • 4223 Bell Street: This home was rented by Edward Gillespie, a locomotive engineer, and his wife Helen along with a daughter and a son.
  • 4221 Bell Street: Naturalized Swedish citizens Olaf Anderson, a steam railroad repair man, and his wife Ingrid owned this home.
  • 4231 Bell Street: Minister Jacob Olson, a Swedish immigrant, owned this home with his Iowa-born wife Anna and two sons.
  • 4233 Bell Street: Railroad switchman William Kane, born in Pennsylvania to Irish parents, rented this home with his wife Mary.
  •  4222 Genessee Street: August Sjoholm, a grocer, owned this home with his wife. Both were born in the United States to Swedish immigrant parents.
  • 4216 Genessee Street: Henry Soderberg and his wife Ellen were both born in Sweden and became naturalized United States citizens. Soderberg was an iron molder and had one daughter. The household also included a boarder, Birdie Erickson, a nurse born in Kansas to Swedish parents.
  • 4216 Genessee Street:  Packing house foreman George Kunn and his wife Anna owned this home. Both listed their home country as Barvaria, Germany and were naturalized US citizens.
  • 4212 Genessee Street: This home was rented by Paul Bethman, a telephone company supervisor born in Wisconsin to German parents. His wife Florence had Swedish parents and they had one daughter, Emily Virginia.
  • 4208 Genessee Street: A Swedish-born butcher named Emil Johnson rented this home with his wife Emma, who was born in Missouri to Swedish parents. They had three sons and a daughter. Son William, who was 14, worked as a drug store delivery boy.
  • 4206 Genessee Street: House carpenter Joseph Stollenaerk was born in Wisconsin to parents he identified as Prussia, Germany immigrants. His wife Mary was born in Prussia.
  • 4206 Genessee Street: Builder superintendent Squire McKee rented this home with his wife Belle and two daughters.
  • 4202 Genessee Street: Notion-store keeper Sarah Phillips, a 68-year-old widow, owned this home.

1930 Census

  • Immanuel Lutheran Church 1992 photo.

    4201 Bell Street: City electrician George O’Laughlin owned this home, shared with wife Marcella and son George T. O’Laughlin was born in the United States to Irish-born parents.

  • 4207 Bell Street: Bishops still lived at this home as they had since 1910, but now Stella Bishop, 57, a public school stenographer, was listed as head of household. Her sister, Mary, also lived there.
  • 4209 Bell Street: Widower and furniture warehouse stockkeeper Nobel W. Lay owned this home, which he shared with his divorced son Cecil, a paper route collector.
  • 4215 Bell Street: The family that owned this home had all come from Sweden. Charles Sevanson, 35, worked as a park department laborer. Other occupants of the home included his wife Matilda and a boarder named Henry Peterson, also immigrated from Sweden and working as a packing house blacksmith.
  • 4217 Bell Street: Steam railroad investigator Jack G. Nicholson, 55, owned this home along with wife Katie and son Jack, 23, an auto dealer accountant. His mother- and father-in-law Andrew, a dry goods clerk, and Ida Morris also lived in the home.
  • 4223 Bell Street: Steam railroad engineer Edward Gillespie and his wife Josephine owned this home.
  • 4225 Bell Street: This home was rented by street department laborer Henry Anderson and his sister Hilma, both born in the United States to Swedish parents, and their nephew Raymond Huber, a government draftsman.
  • 4227 Bell Street: Pullman car repairman Olaf Anderson, who owned this home, had been born in Sweden, as had his wife Ingrid.
  • 4231 Bell Street: Widow and Swedish immigrant Hulda Larson owned this home, shared with her son Carl Larson, a real estate painter.
  • 4233 Bell Street: Charles Stewart, an adding machine mechanic, rented this home with his wife Lucille and two sons.
  • 4233 Bell Street: A Danish-born widower, Nelse Thompson, rented this home, shared with his widowed daughter Alma Anderson.
  • 4337 Bell Street: Freight car loading agent Eleroy Ward rented this home, shared with wife Georgia, a son and a daughter.
  • 4241 Bell Street: Widow Della Olson, born in the U.S. to Swedish parents, owned this home shared with niece Nada Olson, an insurance stenographer and son Chancey, a radio clerk.
  • 4240 Genessee Street: The minister of the Swedish Church, Victor Spong, a 31-year-old immigrant, owned this home. His wife Agnes had been born in Kansas to Swedish parents and their daughter Ruth was born in Missouri.
  • 4236 Genessee Street: Another Swedish family owned this home. Oscar Magnuson was the proprietor of a hardware store. He lived with his wife Ida, daughter Evelyn, who was a hardware store bookkeeper, and mother-in-law Ingjerd Enarson.
  • 4234 Genessee Street: Rose Guminger (or Tuminger), a widow born in Germany, owned this home, shared with son Patrick, a brake liner, daughter Margarite, a dry goods clerk, and daughter Florence, a coal company secretary.
  • 4232 Genessee Street: Albert Koopersmith, a sheet metal worker born in Missouri to German parents, owned this home, shared with wife Dorothy, two young sons and two young daughters.
  • 4228 Genessee Street: Steam railroad locomotive engineer Walter Salisbury rented this home. Also living there was his wife Louise, a son and a daughter.
  • 4222 Genessee Street: August Sjoholm, a grocery store proprietor born in Kansas to Swedish parents, owned this home with wife Minnie.
  • 4220 Genessee Street: This home was owned by another set of Swedish-born parents, Gustave Granstrom, a door factory foreman, and wife Ella. Their Missouri-born children included two sons, a daughter, and a step-daughter.
  • 4216 Genessee Street: John Renner, a German-born blacksmith, owned this home with wife Magdalena, born in Austria.
  • 4212 Genessee Street: Another steam railroad locomotive engineer, Ruthford Sheers, owned this home with wife Alice.
  • 4208 Genessee Street: Light company inspector Alfred Smith owned this home with wife Anna and a son.
  • 4206 Genessee Street: Five households were listed as renters in this building: furniture truck driver Mayberry Holt, wife Nellie, five daughters and a son; meat salesman Earl C. Gray, wife Georgia, and two daughters; soapmaker John Nance, wife Maude, two sons and brother William Nance, a soap factory worker; steam railroad oiler Joseph Rutler, wife Clara and a daughter; and carpenter Joseph Stollenwert.

1940 census

The census this year listed the highest level of education completed. Most of the residents of the block said they had gotten to the seventh or eighth grade. However, their children were  most often on their way to completing high school.

  • 4201 Bell Street: The O’Laughlin family still lived on this corner property and George still worked as a city electrician. The household included wife Marcella, a son, a daughter and George’s mother Margaret.
  • 4207 Bell Street: Stella Bishop headed this household, along with sister Mary and a cook named Nona Anderson.
  • 4207 Bell Street: Widowed Nobel Lay, still a furniture warehouseman, lived here with son Oecie, a clothing salesman.
  • 4215 Bell Street: Swedish immigrant Matalda Swanson owned this home, shared with brother-in-law Henry Peterson, a blacksmith.
  • 4217Bell Street: Bank bookkeeper James Tobin, who had completed high school, lived here with his wife Helen and a daughter.
  • 4223 Bell Street: Edward Gillespie and wife Josephine owned this home.
  • 4225 Bell Street: Wholesale drug salesman John Douglas rented here with wife Edna.
  • 4231 Bell Street: Hulda C. Larson still lived here with son Carl.
  • 4233 Bell Street: Widow Maria Harteharn rented this home, along with daughter Sara, a stenographer, son Ridgemary, a handbill distributor, and daughter Dorothy, a bookkeeper. Maria had completed the fifth grade; Sarah the eighth grade; Ridgemary the 3rd year of high school; and Dorothy, all of high school.
  • 4235 Bell Street: This home was rented by Philip Kurin, a railway express chauffeur, wife Sarah and son Philip.
  • 4237 Bell Street: Steam railroad mail handler John Wondrely owned this home with two sisters, Cora Stafer and Daisy Wondrely.
  • 4241 Bell Street: Carrie Olson, a widow, rented this home with single daughter Nada and granddaughter Fay Holmes.
  • 4240 Genessee Street: Minister Victor Spong still lived here with his wife Agnes and daughter Grace Marie. Victor had completed college and his wife had completed one year of college.
  • 4236 Genessee Street: The Oscar Magnuson family still lived here, although his mother-in-law was no longer listed as a member of the household.
  • 4234 Genessee: Rosa Tuminger still lived here with three daughters.
  • 4232 Genessee Street: This census takers spelled the name of the family as Koopersmith in 1930 and as Kupersmith in 1940. The household still included Albert, a sheet metal and furniture company owner, as head, along with wife Dorothy, two sons and four daughters. Although Albert had only completed the sixth grade, his children were all in school and the oldest had completed high school.
  • 4228 Genessee Street: Vernon Ahlen, a claims adjuster, rented here with wife Grelen.
  • 4222 Genessee Street: August Sjoholm still lived here with his wife Minnie.
  • 4220 Genessee Street: The Granstron family continued to live in this home.
  • 4216 Genessee Street: Steam railroad yard manager William Kane had purchased this home with his wife Mary.
  • 4212 Genessee Street: Widowed Alice Sheers lived here alone.
  • 4208 Genessee Street: Sub-station inspector Alfred M. Smith had purchased this home, along with wife Anna, a son and a daughter.
  • 4206 Genessee Street: This building again contained a number of households, including: widowed private family housekeeper Mary Raudebush, daughter Mary, a laundry worker and Georgia, a private family cook; cement truck driver Richard Sarli, his wife Lorrene, a stenograpgher and a step-son; hotel chambermaid Ellen Ladish, son and druggiust Edwin, daughter Josephine Brewer and two granddaughters; ice and coal deliverman Jay Seafield, wife Helen, a daughter and a son; retail grocery deliveryman Clarance Hampton, wife Ruth, a daughter and a lodger, Norton Brondes, also a coal and ice deliverman; and tire retreader Russell Reeves, wife Vita, two daughters and a son.

Historic photos courtesy Kansas City Public Library/Missouri Valley Special Collections.

 Do you have memories or more details about this area of Midtown? Please share them with our readers. Would you like us to focus on your block next week? Send us an email.

 Our book, Kansas City’s Historic Midtown Neighborhoods, is available now at local bookstores and on Amazon.com. Let us know if you want us to come to your neighborhood association or organization’s meeting to share what we’ve learned about Midtown neighborhood history and tell your members how they can help preserve Midtown history. 

2 Comments

  1. Cathie Chesen says:

    As always, thank you for this fascinating research you do and provide us! Your services are invaluable in publicizing the history of our homes for those of us that don’t have the patience or foresight to dig up all the records ourselves!
    Cathie

  2. George Niewrzel says:

    Thanks for the information on our block of Bell Street. I live at 4227 Bell. Great article.

    I’d like to compare the census data though to some other sources like the city directory. I notice there were houses that responded to the 1910 census that did not respond to the 1920 census and were not counted. I always thought our row of houses was probably built before 1920 after being platted as lots in 1914 or 1915. They are very similar and appear likely to have been built by the same builder. But several of them don’t show up in the census until 1930 — I wonder if they were here in 1920 but just not in the census.

    I have understood before that the streetcar went south on Bell to 45th and returned north on State Line. One old directory showed a streetcar operator living in my house — sure would have been handy for getting to work!

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