Transcribed from History of Wyandotte County Kansas and its people ed. and comp. by Perl W. Morgan. Chicago, The Lewis publishing company, 1911. 2 v. front., illus., plates, ports., fold. map. 28 cm. [Vol. 2 contains biographical data. Paged continuously.] p. 1027-1028 transcribed on July 19, 2001.


Thomas Jefferson Misenhelter

THOMAS JEFFERSON MISENHELTER, vice president of the Switchmen's Union of North America, has been connected with various kinds of work since he was thrown on his own resources to fight the battle of life. He has changed localities and associates many times, as it was his principle that if his surroundings cramped him he would change his surroundings; if his shoe pinched he would get a new footing. Every now and then a man is bound to strike the wrong track, but he is not bound to follow it; indeed ambition frequently provides an inaccurate map, and Mr. Misenhelter is only one of thousands of men who have found it necessary to alter their plans. A little thing will often cause a young man just entering active work to select a certain line, and something just as small may cause him to change his career. The wise man will make the change as soon as he realizes that he has not made the best choice, while the foolish one will continue in the course in which he started from sheer obstinacy. Mr. Misenhelter belongs to the former class, and he no sooner realized that the work for which he was fitted is the adjustment of labor difficulties than he switched into such work and has thrown himself into it with heart and soul. It is one of the laws of nature that men, as well as water, find their level; if a man is qualified he cannot be kept down and if deficient he cannot by hook or crook be boosted up. Mr. Misenhelter is fitted to be a leader among men and neither hard luck, opposition or adversity would be able to keep him in a small place.

Thomas Jefferson Misenhelter is a native of Caldwell county, Missouri, born there in 1873. He is a son of John Henry Misenhelter, who was born in 1842, at Decatur, Illinois, and there he was educated and followed the occupation of a farmer. Soon after attaining his majority, John Henry Misenhelter married Miss Mary Burdett, a young woman who was born in Gainesville, Kentucky, in 1842, and came to Decatur, Illinois, when she was a child. Not long after their marriage Mr. and Mrs. John Henry Misenhelter removed to Caldwell county, Missouri, where they settled on a farm, and where their ten children were all born; there too the little mother died at the age of forty-six, and her husband survived her by fifteen years; he was summoned to life eternal in 1903. Three of the children born to this couple died in infancy, and the names of the seven who are living now are as follows: William H., Jennie, Thomas Jefferson, Eunice, Susie, Catherine, James A.

Thomas Jefferson Misenhelter passed the first few years of his life on his father's farm, where he was born, and there he learned those habits of industry and responsibility which have stood him in such good stead throughout his varied career. He received his preliminary educational discipline at the district school in his neighborhood, but when he had reached the age of thirteen he left home to launch upon the sea of life in the great world. He gained employment in the mines and worked successively in the mining districts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma. While he was putting in his days in the fulfillment[sic] of his mining duties, his evenings were spent in study, both in the privacy of his room and at the night school which he attended. He realized very early in life that if a man is to succeed it is necessary for him to obtain an education, and with his spirit of determination be set about the acquisition of learning. He is possessed of an unusually active mind, which readily grasps the important features of a question so that today, as the result of his private study and his wide experiences, Mr. Misenhelter is a remarkably well informed man. In 1896 he decided that he would abandon the mining life and he accepted an engagement with the government to serve on a survey boat, which touched at many important ports of the world. In this manner Mr. Misenhelter visited Australia, New Zealand, Japan and many other foreign countries. After five years of this nomadic life, he returned to the United States and took up his residence at Rosedale, Kansas, where he became foreman of a crew of five switchmen in the service of the M. K. & T. Railroad. Ever since he first began to work in the mines, Mr. Misenhelter has been studying the labor question; his sympathies are naturally with the workmen, but his mind is capable of such fairness that he can act and think in an unbiased manner. In recognition of his unusual abilities, his fellow citizens elected him to the office of city councilman in Rosedale, in which capacity he is now serving. As a matter of course, he joined the Switchmen's Union, and was one of the prominent members of this organization. On the 1st of January, 1811, Mr. Misenhelter engaged as switchman with the Rock Island Railroad Company in Kansas City, Kansas, but six months later he resigned this position to respond to the clamorous request that he should become the vice president of the Switchmen's Union of North America. At the present time he is busily occupied in helping to adjust labor troubles and grievances, and his attitude is so fair and just that switchmen and employers alike appreciate his sound judgment.

On June 23, 1903, Mr. Misenhelter married Emma Pickell, a schoolmate of his and a native of Rockville, Indiana. She was a widow, who had been unfortunate in her first marriage. When she was little more than a school girl she had been united in matrimony, and two children were born to her, Felix Adam and Harry Glenn, and everything went smoothly in their married life until the year 1888, when she came to Kansas to visit friends. On her return home such conditions confronted her as made it impossible for her to continue her life with her husband, and a separation took place, which ultimately terminated in a divorce. Mr. Misenhelter had always felt attracted towards the young woman, in their previous acquaintance, and now that she was free he won her as his wife. Both of her sons are living with her and they are receiving the best of educational training and the kindest of treatment at the hands of Mr. Misenhelter, who is a real father to them.

Mr. Misenhelter is affiliated with the Masonic fraternity, having been initiated into the order in Rosedale and he has received Scottish Rites at Kansas City. He is connected with the Deep Water Seamen, and organized a lodge of this order. He is a strong supporter of Socialist principles and he works hard for the ultimate triumph of the cause which he believes to be just and right. Although not a member of any church, Mr. Misenhelter is of Protestant faith and is a strong believer in the value of church work, and whenever he can assist in any worthy enterprise he is glad to do it, no matter what church is its originator. He has not had the opportunity to show just what he can do in connection with the labor organization with which he is connected, but from the manner in which he has started out there is small doubt that he will prove to be indispensible in the work of the Union.



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