Thomas H. Swope

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Photograph of Thomas H. Swope published in a history book about Kansas City, Missouri in 1908.

Thomas Hunton Swope (October 21, 1827 – October 3, 1909) was a real estate magnate and philanthropist in Kansas City, Missouri, His death in 1909 became the focus of one of the most publicized murder trials in the early 20th century.[citation needed]



Born in Lincoln County, Kentucky, Swope was a Yale graduate with money to invest. After living in several states, he eventually made his way to Missouri when he moved to St. Louis and began working in real estate.[1] He came west in 1855 as the Kansas Territory opened and settled in Kansas City in 1857. Swope began purchasing property here and would later go on to become the largest individual land owner in Kansas City. Mr. Swope was called "Colonel" Swope, but the title was honorary and not from military service.[1]

Swope Park[edit]

In 1896, the seventy-year-old Swope donated 1,334 acres (5.40 km2) of land to be used as a public park.[1] The land lay four miles (6.4 km) southeast of town and was used to create Swope Park.


Swope's sudden illness and demise happened under mysterious circumstances. Swope was known to be mild-mannered and self-conscious,[citation needed] and was a lifelong bachelor. He lived alone until later in life when he moved into the turreted red brick mansion of his late brother Logan Swope, home of his sister-in-law Margaret "Maggie" Chrisman Swope as well as seven nieces and nephews. The frugal millionaire commuted daily by streetcar to his downtown Kansas City office in the New England Life Building until the month before his death.

Swope's last days were preoccupied with how best to bestow his wealth.[citation needed] His real estate alone was worth three and a half million dollars. Usually given to self-doctoring, in his last days Swope allowed himself to be treated by Dr. Bennett Clark Hyde, who had married one of his nieces (Logan and Margaret Swope's daughter, Frances).[2] 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. Swope's body lay in state at the Kansas City Public Library where thousands of mourners paid their respects.[citation needed] Until a tomb could be prepared in Swope Park where he had requested burial, he lay in a holding vault.

Three months after Swope's death, Dr. Hyde came under suspicion and was charged with murder by strychnine poisoning in "a plot for money."[3] Swope's body was exhumed and an autopsy performed. Three trials, seven years and a quarter of a million dollars later, Hyde was freed, his suspected guilt never proven.[citation needed]

Eight and a half years after his death, Col. Thomas Swope was 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. His remains lie beneath a Greek temple of white granite, guarded by a pair of stone lions.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Swope Park". City of Kansas City, MO. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  2. ^ Wife of Dr. Hyde Seeks Divorce" Pittsburgh Press, October 3, 1920
  3. ^ Dr. Hyde Arrested As Swope's Slayer; Accused of First Degree Murder, He Has Hearing and Is Released on Bail New York Times, Friday, February 11, 1910, page 1A.

External links[edit]