• JoomlaWorks Simple Image Rotator
  • JoomlaWorks Simple Image Rotator
  • JoomlaWorks Simple Image Rotator
Col. Thomas H. Swope, 1827-1909, Swope Park PDF  | Print |  E-mail

Here Lies Kansas City by Wilda Sandy, Published by Bennett Schneider Inc., 1984

Thomas H. Swope

In 1896 seventy year old Col. Thomas Hunton Swope, an earl opponent of “all this park foolishness”, gave Kansas City one of the largest municipal parks in America. Swope Park, 1350 rolling wooded acres lying four miles southeast of town, made his name famous. But for a time after his death, Swope’s name was more famous for the mysterious circumstances surrounding his sudden illness and demise than for his incredible gift.

A Kentuckian born October 21, 1827, Swope was a Yale graduate with money to invest who came west in 1855 as the Kansas Territory opened. At 28 he was one of our decision-makers. At 30, Colonel Swope was a wealthy man, due largely to his early downtown real state investments.

Exceptionally mild-mannered and self-conscious, Swope was a lifelong bachelor. He lived alone until later in life when he moved into the grand turreted red brick castle of his late brother in Independence. From his sister-in-law’s household (redolent of seven nieces and nephews), the frugal millionaire commuted daily by streetcar to his downtown Kansas Cit office in the New England building until the month before his death.

Swope’s last days were preoccupied with how best to bestow his wealth. His real estate alone was worth three and a half million dollars. A sickly solitary soul given to self-doctoring, Swope fell under the spell of a middle-aged doctor who had married one of his young nieces, a suspected “gold-digger” named B. Clark Hyde.

On October 3, 1909, just 18 days short of his 82nd birthday, Col. Swope died suddenly in his sister-in-law’s home with Dr. Hyde in attendance, the aftermath of a perplexing, brief and violent illness. The great philanthropist’s body lay in state at the Public Library where thousands of mourners paid their respects. Until a tomb could be prepared in Swope Park where he had requested burial, he lay in a holding vault.

Thomas Swope

Three months after his death, Swope’s doctor/nephew-in-law, B. Clark Hyde, came under suspicion and was charged with murder by strychnine poisoning in “a plot for money.” Swope’s body was exhumed and an autopsy performed. Three trials, seven years and a quarter of a million dollars later, Hyde went scot-free, his suspected guilt never proven.

Eight and a half years after his death, Col. Thomas B. Swope was at last laid to rest in Swope Park. On April 8, 1918 he was buried high on a hill amid a forest of trees, overlooking his gift to Kansas City. There he lies beneath a Greek temple of white granite, guarded by a pair of stone lions, solitary in death as in life.