Critics called the man a con artist and adulterer who swindled Indians out of their land. Followers called the Baptist minister a God-loving visionary, brilliant orator and antislavery crusader.
But most historical records are in agreement: Isaac Smith Kalloch was the most influential and colorful Founding Father of Ottawa.
The Herald is taking a look back at Kalloch’s life as part of a continuing series of stories about people who helped shape the community as Ottawa prepares to mark its sesquicentennial — or 150th birthday — this fall.
Kalloch not only helped establish the town of Ottawa and a college that would become Ottawa University, he also brought a railroad to Ottawa, started a newspaper and other enterprises, which he ran from his building on the northwest corner of Second and Main streets where the Finch, Covington & Boyd, Chtd. law firm is today.
Born in 1832 into a family of preachers in Maine, Kalloch became an ordained Baptist minister at 18 and married the same year, according to documents at the Franklin County Historical Society’s Records and Research Center, 1124 W. Seventh St. Terrace, Ottawa.
He soon developed a reputation as a brilliant orator who could hold parishioners spellbound with his sermons, Deb Barker, Franklin County Historical Society director, said.
“The church was overflowing every week,” Barker said.
A 1980 piece in the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle about Kalloch, who would go on to be mayor of San Francisco after leaving Kansas, described the man as an “oratorical marvel who could sway crowds of listeners at will.”
Kalloch, who stood well over 6 feet tall, weighing 240 pounds with broad shoulders and a shock of flaming red hair and beard, was an imposing figure and in his early 20s became pastor of Baptist Tremont Temple in Boston.
“It was originally built as a theater, so it was a huge place,” Barker said.
Historical documents indicate that Kalloch’s sermons filled the church every Sunday.
The charismatic evangelist was thought by many parishioners to be at least equal to famous Brooklyn preacher Henry Ward Beecher, according to historical documents.
One observer was quoted in archives as saying Kalloch was “flowery in his style, highly gifted in the act of pleasing his audiences, whether he instructs them or not.”
Kalloch enjoyed success raising donations for his abolitionist flock to supply pioneers in Kansas with shipments of “Beecher Bibles,” which turned out to be Sharps rifles for the antislavery faction in Kansas, according to historical archives.
But his career hit a bumpy stretch after he was brought to trial on a charge of committing adultery with the wife of a friend at a Cambridge, Mass., hotel. Kalloch, who argued his own defense, claimed he had gone to the hotel to review his notes for a lecture.
The transcript of the trial’s testimony sold more than 300,000 copies and at times surpassed the sales of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” the best seller of that era, according to historical archives.
The trial resulted in a hung jury, and prosecutors opted not to retry the case.
Kalloch’s congregation passed a resolution that he had “come out of the fire like pure gold, doubly refined,” according to historic archives.
Perhaps because of his developing reputation as a ladies’ man, though married, Kalloch, 26, longed to head west, archives indicate. The pro-abolitionist Kalloch made three trips to Kansas, before settling in 1864 on a site along the Marais des Cygnes River in the middle of the Ottawa Indian reservation.
Members of a town company — formed and led by Kalloch — negotiated an agreement with the Ottawas, which were led at the time by John Tecumseh Jones, an educated half-blood Chippewa who joined the Ottawa tribe and later was adopted by them, according to an article co-written by Barker on the Franklin County History Portal website, www.franklincoks.org
“[Jones] became [the Ottawas’] leader, their minister and their storekeeper, besides operating the only hotel in the county, on this site,” Barker wrote in the article. “Jones became known as ‘Ottaway’ or ‘Tauy’ Jones because of his central role in tribal affairs. The creek’s nickname of Tauy also refers to the Ottawas.”
Much of Kalloch’s life is documented in “The Golden Voice, a Biography of a Lusty American,” by M.M. Marberry. According to the book, others helped found the town — including Indian Agent C.C. Hutchinson, who later founded Hutchinson, Kan. — but Kalloch was the leader.
Kalloch had six goals: give Ottawa platted status so shares of town stock could be sold, find something to make the town unique, start a school, build a church, open a newspaper and build a railroad, according to archives.
“Negotiations started between the Ottawas and the town company, and it was going to be a win-win situation,” Barker said. “If the Indians would give them the acreage for the town site, the [town company] agreed to build a school for the Indians, which would become Ottawa University.”
By fall 1864, the paperwork was completed and the town company started to mark off the town site and lay out the streets. The original town boundaries were Logan, Cherry, Seventh and Ash streets, according to an article written by John Mark Lambertson, former director of the Franklin County Historical Society.
The town company negotiated with the tribe for the transfer of deed for 20,000 acres of the reserve, according to Lambertson’s article. The agreement allowed the area around present-day Ottawa to be opened for settlement, Barker said, which grew after the Civil War ended the following year in 1865 and settlers and soldiers looked for new opportunities.
The town company gave some land to the county for a courthouse and provided incentives to businessmen as an enticement to locate in Ottawa. They also gave or sold lots for pennies to most of the churches, Barker said.
Kalloch, who started and edited the Western Home Journal, in part to help promote the new town, Barker said, also helped found the Second Baptist Church in Ottawa, where he became the pastor for a short time.
“We are not sure why he called it Second Baptist Church, maybe because there was already a church at the [Ottawa Indian] Mission, or perhaps ‘Second’ made the town sound bigger to potential Eastern investors,” Barker said.
Kalloch also was instrumental in getting an election held to move the county seat to Ottawa, Barker said.
A NEW RAILROAD
Kalloch also served as the first president of the board of directors of what would become Ottawa University and was instrumental in bringing a railroad to Ottawa, becoming one of its investors. The railway was named the Leavenworth, Lawrence and Galveston Railroad.
“The locals called it the Lazy, Lousy and Greasy,” Barker said.
One of Kalloch’s biggest achievements while in Kansas, some historians said, was talking Anderson, Franklin and Douglas counties out of $675,000 — which would equal millions in today’s dollars — to build the railroad to Ottawa.
The railroad arrived in Ottawa on New Year’s Day 1868, Barker said, firmly entrenching the early success of the town as a county seat, railway stop and agriculture center.
The city of Ottawa, which incorporated as a municipality in 1866, would not have been established on the Ottawa reserve without the relationship developed between the town company and the Ottawas and the fact Tauy Jones wanted a school, Barker said in a recent interview.
“The Indians were excited to have a school, and the town company was excited to have a town,” she said.
Kalloch, during the five years he “ran the town,” was credited by some with starting the first ferry across the Marais des Cygnes River, founding Hope Cemetery, building the first suspension bridge, building a jail and putting in sidewalks and other enhancements, according to historic records.
But, as Barker pointed out, some interpretations of Kalloch’s time in Kansas do not cast the town founder in a favorable glow.
An excerpt from a Time Life series about towns in the West described Kalloch this way: “To the dismay of moralists, one of the most successful promoters was probably the most unscrupulous rogue in his trade. He was a Baptist minister named Isaac Smith Kalloch, and for all the wrong motives, he crowded into his outrageous career the full range of work performed by the best of the honest town boomers. In his flamboyant heyday in Kansas, Kalloch created the important town of Ottawa, left an indelible mark on the more important town of Lawrence, founded one newspaper and edited several others, started dozens of substantial businesses, built a railroad, invented a college and was elected to the Kansas Legislature [in 1873].”
BOUND FOR WEST
Kalloch, who some had nicknamed “The Sorrel Stallion of the Marais des Cygnes,” had set his sites on the West Coast and soon would leave Kansas.
He was elected mayor of San Francisco in 1879. A few months after his election, he was shot by Charles de Young, editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and a bitter political foe.
During the mayoral campaign, de Young printed scathing attacks against Kalloch, often citing incidents in his past from the East Coast and Kansas. In retaliation, Kalloch used the pulpit at the Baptist church where he preached in San Francisco to level a verbal assault at the de Young family, which included rumors about de Young’s mother, who was in her 70s, as being a former prostitute, according to archives.
On the night of the shooting, de Young waited in a closed carriage for Kalloch to leave the church. He sent a messenger to tell Kalloch a lady wished to seem him in the carriage. When Kalloch approached the carriage, de Young fired his revolver, striking Kalloch in the chest and thigh. Kalloch survived the attack, and he was avenged by his son, Milton Kalloch, who went into the Chronicle office in 1880 and fired four shots at de Young. Though three missed their mark, one bullet severed de Young’s jugular and the newspaperman fell dead on the floor, according to historic accounts.
A jury found Milton Kalloch not guilty of murder, while his father recovered from his wounds and finished his term as mayor.
After finishing his term in 1881, Kalloch next moved to Washington state where he died at 55 of diabetes in 1887.
The Time Life excerpt on the town founder concluded: “Kalloch was a whirlwind of energy, a fountainhead of scandal, a god to thousands and a devil to thousands more.”