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Ted Stillwell: An accusation, and the cops stepped in

Staff Writer
The Examiner
The Examiner

Robert Van Horn arrived in early-day Kansas City from back east and established a newspaper, The Kansas City Journal. In reading some of the stories from those back pages you would never know that they were talking about the same neighborhood that we are familiar with in this day and age.

One of the stories that caught my attention read as follows: The Throne of Peter Yohanowic, King of the Gypsies, is tottering – at least for that particular band of fortune-telling Gypsies who were camped in Wyandotte County. This reality coming so soon after the birth of the heir to the Gypsy throne, as the king’s wife had just given birth to a bouncing baby boy in Leavenworth only two days earlier.

But meanwhile back in Wyandotte County, the present peril in which the house of Yohanowic stands is not due to any revolutionary movement of the parts of the king’s subjects. The gypsies are still loyal to his majesty, the great King Peter, but yesterday two police officers, just ordinary everyday coppers, called upon his highness in the royal 6’x8’ canvas palace (a tent) at Eighteenth Street and Everette Avenue, and served notice upon the king and his followers that they would have to take a “hike” and move on from their present location.

King Peter only smiled when the drilling proclamation was read to him, and without protest, his majesty promised to go. That afternoon the house of Yohanowic pulled up stakes and was moved to a vacant plot of ground in old Kerr’s park, which was just outside of the city limits.

The clash between the police and King Peter was occasioned by numerous complaints filed with the Chief of Police, D.E. Bowden by ladies living in the vicinity of the now former Gypsy camp. Members of the Gypsy band have been working that section of the city with their fortune-telling scheme.

Women claimed they have been annoyed by the fortune tellers in their own houses and in some instances badly frightened. One woman stated that after she had given a gypsy 50 cents for telling her fortune, the gypsy demanded that she be given a pair of lace curtains which adorned one of the windows of the lady’s house. Upon being refused the gypsy declared she would cast a spell over the woman and her children. Several instances of this kind have been reported and Chief Bowden decided to move the king and his subjects outside the city limits.

This comes, of course, as the Gypsy camp was celebrating the birth of King Peter’s son, which as you guessed, was also named Peter. Immediately following the move out of town, all the members of the Gypsy camp made a pilgrimage on to Leavenworth to see the mother and child. They brought along beads, calico, and other things that Gypsies like and deposited these gifts on the doorstep.

Robert Van Horn was not only a newspaperman but was quite a promoter of Kansas City and politician in Missouri. In that capacity he was responsible for securing the first railroad bridge across the Missouri River, which made Kansas City the second largest railroad town in the country. Van Horn High School at the corner of Truman Road and Winner was named in honor of Mr. Van Horn. The location of the high school is also the corner where Van Horn lived. His beautiful rock estate, which sat back off the road on a little hill, had an archway at the entrance to the drive with a sign that read “Honeywood” after his wife – who was indeed named Honey.

Reference: “Vintage Kansas City Stories,” by L.A. Little.

To reach Ted W. Stillwell send an e-mail to Ted@blueandgrey.com or call him at 816-896-3592