268 – 1931, and a Death

1931 was arguably one of the worst years of the Great Depression.

2,294 banks failed during 1931. 28,285 businesses failed.

Unemployment rose to 16%. The economy shrank by 8.5%. Prices fell 9.3%.

By 1931, most American had been impacted by the Depression, and realized that it wasn’t going away soon.

A “Hooverville” in the old Central Park, New York – c 1931


The effects of the Depression were insinuating themselves into the fabric of daily life. Bank failures and bank runs were not unique to New York and Chicago.

Citizens National Bank

Citizens National Bank was one of the oldest and most prestigious in Sedalia. Early in 1931, W.H. Powell, bank president, had written an op-ed stating that business prospects for the new year were brighter.

The Depression had other plans. By November, Citizens National was closed, and Bank President Powell had shot himself. Business leaders pledged support for Citizens, including the Cole Brothers and Tom Gallagher. But the bank was put into receivership, and bank customers would have to submit written legal claims to try to recover their money.

Waldman’s Department Store

The Sedalia Democrat – November 24, 1931

The bank failure precipitated other failures. People and businesses couldn’t access their funds.

Waldman’s, Sedalia’s oldest and largest department store, was forced into bankruptcy.

Cole’s Women’s Shop

From all appearances, Cole’s Women’s Shop seemed to defy the trends. Sales continued to be good. Tom Gallagher continued to attend New York market, along with managers from other Cole’s stores.

Good management? Niche customer market? Deep pockets? Whatever…

Cole’s summer picnic

Tom Gallagher and Cole’s sponsored an annual employee picnic. In 1931, the picnic was hosted by Tom’s sister Nell Donahoe at her farm at Spring Fork, just a few miles south of Sedalia.

Will Riley, insurance agent

It had been eleven years since Prohibition began and Will Riley had lost his beer and liquor distributorship. Will Riley continued to sell insurance, but was not as financially successful as his earlier career.

A foreclosure

The Sedalia Capital – August 9, 1931

The Rileys had moved out of the family home at 1406 West Broadway in 1930. Their loan on the property was delinquent.

The bank was in no position to offer charity. On August 31, 1931, the property was sold on the courthouse steps to satisfy the loan.

1406 West Broadway

Another move

In 1930, the Rileys and Gallaghers had rented a house on Dal-Whi-Mo Court. Now, a year later, they moved again, this time to a rental house at 1303 West Fourth Street.

1303 West Fourth Street – Sedalia, Missouri
The Sedalia Democrat – September 4, 1931

Junction City

Junction City, too, was feeling the effects of the Depression. The Home State Bank closed, as did several downtown businesses.

Cole’s Dry Goods Store remained open, with Henry Gallagher as manager.

Tom and Mary Agnes Gallagher and children visited Junction City often. Tom had lived in Junction for several years before opening the Sedalia store, and still had many friends and acquaintances there in addition to his parents and brother.

The Junction City Union – June 6, 1931

Just as Tom was Cole’s manager in Sedalia, Henry Gallagher was the Cole’s manager in Junction City. Henry had been a loyal and dedicated employee of Cole’s since 1912.

Henry traveled to the New York markets, often with his brother Tom and other Cole’s managers. He reported back on the fashions of the day.

A Lawrence store

Junction City Union – August 1, 1931

Henry had been Cole’s “sharpshooter.” When a Cole’s store needed help or improvement, Henry was sent. When Cole’s needed to open a store in a new town, they tapped Henry. Henry was unmarried and had no children, so he could pick up and move to another store on short notice.

But by 1931, Henry had been settled into his Cole’s position in Junction City. He’d been there for eight years. He had moved his parents to Junction City, and he managed their care and financial affairs. So it may have been unwelcome news that Jess Wood was to become the Junction City manager, and Henry would open a new store in Lawrence, Kansas.

The Cole family was five brothers and one sister. Except for Jesse Cole, the president, each sibling family managed or worked in a store. Now, in the 1930s, there was a new generation of Coles available to staff stores. Jess Wood was son of Jesse Cole’s sister. The Woods were in Manhattan, Kansas, just a few miles from Junction City. So when Jess Wood was ready for a store to manage, Junction City was a logical choice.

How did Henry feel about this? Family lore recalls that there were more Cole family members getting into the business, and perhaps they claimed some positions from old-time employees.

Henry took the assignment. He moved to Lawrence and rented an apartment at 1900-1/2 Louisiana Street above a dairy store. He opened Cole’s Ready To Wear at 815 Massachusetts Street.

But Henry was back in Junction City most every weekend to look after his parents. His father Mike’s health was deteriorating even more.

Mike and Ellen Gallagher lived at 223 West 6th Street. Ellen Gallagher was in good health at age 65, but Michael, age 68, had suffered poor health for many years.

A Death

Michael L Gallagher died at 9 pm Saturday, October 10, 1931, at age 68. He was buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Junction City.

Michael L. (Large) Gallagher was born February 17, 1863, in Eckley, Pennsylvania. His father Patrick, an immigrant from Donegal, Ireland worked in the coal mines in northeast Pennsylvania. Michael’s mother, Ellen Large, was also an immigrant, having traveled from Kilkenny, Ireland with her family around 1844.

In 1870, at age 7, Mike moved with his father, mother, and sister Hannah to Plattsburg, Missouri. His father had moved the family to get a job with the westward expansion of the railroads. Patrick was one of many Irish immigrants to labor on the railroads.

In 1872, at age 9, Mike moved with his family to a farm near Lamar in Barton County, Missouri. Mike worked on the family farm. In 1885, Mike married Ellen Dugan, from Donegal, Ireland. Ellen had immigrated to Lamar on an indenture contract.

Mike and Ellen moved from the Gallagher farm into the town of Lamar, and lived there for many years. They raised a family of four children.

Mike’s health had deteriorated for many years. He and Ellen moved several times to wherever their son Henry was working. Henry looked after them and handled their finances.



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