Gold! There’s gold in them thar’ hills! That’s the cry that went out across the nation in 1849 when the mother lode was discovered in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. People scrambled from all across the country heading out to strike their fortune. Many were Eastern Jackson County boys, and many more came through Jackson County on their way to California. Independence became a rip-roaring wide-open town.
One of those 49’ers was a young 19-year-old Andrew Drumm from Ohio. Drumm spent 20 years panning for gold and apparently made a little money. He parlayed that money into a multi-million dollar livestock industry. He became the largest hog raiser in California. Then, went on to own or lease cattle ranches in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.
Following the Civil War, the cattle industry in this country was decimated; the only cattle herds of any size were the wild Texas Longhorns of the Southwest. Somehow, they had to get those cattle back east where the majority of the population was. Drumm pioneered the idea of driving herds out of the southwest to the nearest railhead at Abilene, Kan. - thus started the long cattle drives that cowboy folklore is built around.
Drumm moved to Kansas City and set up a livestock commission business with the intent of selling his own cattle directly to the packing houses. However, that turned into one of the largest business’ of its kind as he bargained other rancher’s cattle as well. At one time, Andrew Drumm was the largest payer of personal taxes in Kansas City.
Drumm also became very active in the banking industry, serving as president of the American Bank in Kansas City. He also loaned money out of his own pocket to ranchers on no more than a handshake. He had great faith in mankind and reportedly loaned as much as 8 to 12 million dollars over the course of his lifetime. That was a different time - when a handshake sealed a deal. It would never work in our society today, but there is no record he ever lost any money on a handshake.
But, what he was best known for in these parts was the establishment of the Andrew Drumm Institute for Boys on Lee’s Summit Road in Independence. During his days in Kansas City he could hardly bear to see the many homeless boys sleeping in doorways and alleys. He was determined to do something about it. So, he purchased a 370-acre farm and set up a trust to establish a home for the maintenance, care, education and the protection of orphan and indigent boys of Jackson County.
Drumm Farm became an actual working farm. The boys began by cleaning chicken roosts for their chores, hoeing the 40 acre garden, picking strawberries and planting potatoes. They filled up on heavy country food, learned to plow and disc and mow; to feed cattle and clean the barn; to cook for 40 people and clean the dormitories. They learned to speak in public and conduct a parliamentary meeting; to drive a school bus and a farm truck; to show a steer and butcher a steer; they learned to call hogs and terrace a field; to deliver calves and dock a lamb’s tail.
They played football, baseball and basketball, and studied geometry, algebra, world history and vocational agriculture; they learned the anatomy of farm animals, their diseases, their breeding, seeds, crops, fertilizers, woodworking, electricity, plumbing, engines and farm machinery.
Hundreds of boys have called Drumm Farm home throughout the years and most of them grew up to lead productive lives. Today, that same facility has changed somewhat, but is still in the business of creating and educating better children for the future.
Reference: “Andrew Drumm Institute, The First 50 Years,” Bill Richards
Ted W. Stillwell is available to speak before any club, church, civic, senior, or school groups.
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