#GUMPTIOUS
Wyeth Mansion and Huston Wyeth

July 31, 2018

Written by Christel Gollnick

CHARACTER TRAIT: GUMPTIOUS

DEFINITION:  Takes initiative with attention, common sense, spunk and resourcefulness.

One of St. Joseph public schools earliest and most successful students, Huston Wyeth, built in 1918-1922 what was considered a very large country estate located northeast of central downtown. It was called Wyethwood.

The three-story, 35-room, 22,000-square-foot Italian Renaissance Revival house on the estate was designed by Eckel & Aldrich, one of St. Joseph’s most prominent architecture firms. Its classical symmetric facade and unpredictable use of space with the main entrance at the west instead of the front (south) side is as polished and unique as its original family. Wyethwood was sited on 40 acres of land with extensive vegetable gardens and orchards, a man-made pond, and a stage. A modest gatekeeper’s house was built on the property along with a three-story brick carriage house that had a dairy barn on the ground level, a stable and carriage storage on the main floor, and an apartment and hay bins on the top floor.  

The wooded pastureland has since been developed into several residential neighborhoods and commercial properties distinctive for their red clay-tiled rooftops. The estate’s main home, known today simply as as the Wyeth Mansion, is now owned by American Business and Technology University [ABTU], on St. Maartens Drive just off Frederick Avenue. ABTU occupies a majority of the building’s two upper floors leaving the beautiful terrarium, ballroom and several other office areas available for rent by the public.

HUSTON WYETH, THE MAN BEHIND WYETHWOOD

Wyeth was born on July 8, 1863, in St. Joseph, Mo. as the only son of William Maxwell Wyeth and Eliza Renick Wyeth, and was in the eighth generation from the founder of the Wyeth name in America. His only sibling was his older sister, Maud.

He attended St. Paul’s Academy and Racine Business College in Racine, Wisc. At the age of 17, he engaged in the cattle business, afterwards working in the offices, factories and warehouses of the retail hardware trade. In 1880, in recognition of his interest and ability, Wyeth was elected a director and vice president of the company his father founded, Wyeth Hardware & Manufacturing Co. in St. Joseph.

In addition to this post, he organized the St. Joseph Artesian Ice and Cold Storage Co. in 1892 and became its president and active head. In addition to these two companies, records show he was a businessman officially connected with a number of other corporations such as Blue Valley Creamery Co., Wyeth Realty and Investment Co., Leavenworth Terminal Railway and Bridge Co., National Bank of St. Joseph, Mo., Lyon & Judson Hardware Co., St. Joseph Gas Co., St. Joseph & Grand Island R.R. Co., and St. Joseph Water Co.

Following his father’s passing, Wyeth was elected president of his family’s hardware and manufacturing company, serving alongside longtime associates he was always quick to recognize as having contributed to the success of the business.

Wyeth married Leila Ballinger on April 4, 1883. She was also a St. Joseph native, a daughter of Isaac and Elizabeth Kuechle Ballinger. Their first born was William Maxwell on May 12, 1884. They had three more children who grew to adulthood and marry: Maud, Alison, and John.

Wyeth was a globetrotter traveling extensively in both the United States and Europe. In addition to work and family, he served his country and the community in many ways. He organized United States Company C, Fourth Regiment of Missouri Volunteers, known as the Wyeth Guards, in the 1898 Spanish-American War.

His duty to country was lifelong as a Navy League life member, National Rifle Association life member, American Defense Society Life Member, and Sons of the Revolution and the Sons of 1812 War member.

Wyeth was a conservationist and had a sense for animals. He served as president of the Humane Society of St. Joseph and was involved in Waterways League of America, the American Museum of Natural History, St. Joseph Duck Club, Audubon Society, Amman Kennel Club and American Shepherd Dog Club.  

In Masonry, Wyeth was a noble of the Ancient Order, St. Joseph Lodge Perfection, No. 6 Scottish Rite; Moila Temple of the Mystic Shrine; St. Joseph Lodge and others. He also socialized, sailed and golfed as a member of the St. Joseph Country Club, Highlands Golf Club, Benton Club, Rotary Club, Larchment Yacht Club, and more. For a western businessman immersed in St. Joseph’s late 19th century and early 20th century economic growth, he was also well established as a eastern seaboard yachtsman and enjoyed a winter home in Florida.

His sense of camaraderie and intuition about people and animals alike throughout his life contributed to his success, which in turn, gave him the financial freedom to enjoy the rare privilege of being involved in so many businesses and organizations. This full-circle character trait seemed to make him a leader at work, in all of his civic and social organizations, his military service, and in his race horse breeding stables and dog breeding kennels at home.

Huston Wyeth died on January 25, 1925, at the age of 61 at his winter home in Miami, Fla. He is buried in Mount Mora Cemetery, St. Joseph next to his wife, Leila, who lived another 30 years until the age of 89.

St. Joseph’s famous Wyeth-Tootle Mansion near downtown is the home of Huston and Leila’s son, William and his wife, Eliza. Much of the family’s history can be found in the home that is now open to the public as part of St. Joseph Museums.

REFERENCES:

Houses of Missouri 1870-1940 by Cydney Millstein and Carol Grove, Acanthus Press, New York, 2008.

Men of the South: A Work for the Newspaper Reference Library, by Daniel Decatur Moore, Souther Biographical Association, New Orleans, La., 1922.

The Book of Missourians: The Achievements and Personnel of Notable Living Men and Women of Missouri in the Opening Decade of the Twentieth Century, edited by M.L. Van Nada, T. J. Steele & Co., Chicago and St. Louis, 1906.

A History of Northwest Missouri, Volume 2, edited by Walter Williams, The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York, 1915.

#STEADFAST

Unswerving loyalty.

#ANCHORED

To keep hold or be firmly fixed; can be relied on for support, stability, or security; mainstay.

#GUMPTIOUS

Takes initiative with attention, common sense, spunk and resourcefulness.

#ADOPTIVE

Accepting responsibility for; including in a larger whole.

#Exuberant

Filled with or characterized by a lively energy and excitement.