The Origin of the Andrew Drumm
Institute
By Mr. George C. Berkemeier

Andrew Drumm was born in 1828 in a farming community of the State of Ohio.
He was a “forty finer” during the gold rush days to California. Later became a
rancher in the Tulare Valley of that state, and operated slaughter houses and
sold meat on the streets of San Francisco. About 1870 Drumm began collecting
cattle in Texas and drove the cattle up the trails to railheads in Kansas. On one
of these drives he found an area in northeast Oklahoma Territory where three
rivers joined and provided excellent areas for grazing cattle. This became the
location of his famous “U-Ranch”. Land was leased from the Cherokee Indian
Nation and the Ranch marketed as many as 4,500 head of “grass fat” cattle at
one time. Then in the 1880’s as the government claimed the land and opened it
for one of five “Oklahoma runs” the adventurer closed Out his operations and
came to Kansas City and began operating a livestock commission company on
the Kansas City Livestock Yards. Also, while operating the U-Ranch Drumm
helped organize two towns and several banks in the area.

When Drumm was 58 years old and got married, he confessed to friends-- “I’ve
slept out under the stars more nights than a bed”. Having a keen mind, always
one to take a chance on a new adventure, and willing to work hard Drumm
accumulated an estate valued at 1.8 million dollars (1920 dollar value). He
never had children of his own, but was always interesed in those less fortunate
than himself. He had helped young men get a start in ranching and provided job
opportunities for them in ranching, banking and land ownerships. During his
later years in Kansas City he helped the Street urchins living in alleys.

Upon his death in 1919 his will provided for the establishment of the Andrew
Drumm Institute- “a home, school and farm for orphaned or indigent boys.” He
had drawn up the will in 1912 outlining his wishes. A codicil was added a
short time later saying that a farm of 372 acres had been purchased on the Lee’s
Summit Road, south and east of Independence, Missouri. This location was to
be the site of the Institute. Soon after the Civil War the farm had been owned by
Shannon Knox who was interested in raising livestock, breeding and training
fine saddle and harness horses. In the early 1880’s the farm was sold to the
Milton Welsh family. Two huge barns with lofts for hay, four wood silos, and
ice house, smoke house, carriage barn, water tower and a residence for hired
help were built. Also a stately three story brick home, with 11 rooms, nine
fireplaces (with a room for the driver and caretaker of the harness horses on the
third floor) was constructed during this period of ownership. The will outlined
the purpose of the Andrew Drumm Institute- “A home, school and farm for
orphaned and indegent boys”. The will named seven men and his wife to serve
as a Board of Directors to open and manage the institute. These seven men
were to serve as long as they were able and when there was a vacancy the
remaining men presented a name to the Circuit Court of Jackson County and the
Attorney General of Missouri for approval of the successor. Upon the death of
Mrs. Drumm, the number of members would be seven.

Andrew Drumm died in April 1919 but the opening was delayed for some nine
years. Some of the relatives contested the will. Mr. Drumm in his will left his
widow their home on Armour and $150,000. However, the widow could also
demand one half of the value of the estate according to law. Mrs. Drumm had
two nieces that Drumm had been giving money to for years (even sending them
to Europe to buy their wardrobes). These nieces demanded more and kept
settlement of the estate in court. However when it was ruled “no contest” the
will was settled in 1928 and plans were put in operation for the opening. Upon
Mrs. Drumm’s death in 1937 she left her money and assets to the home and the
legacy remained in tact.

On March 1st, 1928 Mr. Harry R. Nelson, of Walker, Missouri, a successful
dairy farmer and manager of the Springfield, Missouri Fair, was chosen as
Superintendent. A two story home to house 24 boys, was built. A Poultry house,
dairy barn and fences had to be built. The former carriage house was converted
to a shop for teaching vocational courses. The former residence of the owners
was converted into class rooms on the first floor, bed rooms for help on the
second floor and laundry area in the basement.

The Board of Directors also made arrangements with the Kansas City schools
for the High School age boys to attend classes at Northeast High School in the
mornings and then return to the Institute grounds for agriculture classes in the
afternoons. Grade School boys stayed on the grounds of the Institute for class
work. The Kansas City School System paid half of the salary of the teachers
and the Institute paid the other half. This arrangement was made because so
many of the boys came from the Kansas City Schools they felt responsible for
their education. A bus was purchased and one of the older, more responsible
boys became the bus driver. (This policy was in practice until the 1950’s when
Kansas City passed an ordinance stating all bus drivers had to be over 21 years
old to have a license). Drumm’s wishes stated, “training shall be given for the
raising of fruit, vegetables, flowers, dry cereals, poultry, cattle, swine and such
other products that can be cultivated, manufactured, or raised for profit and the
education of the youth”. The will also stated that after the fifty thousand dollars
was spent to ready the home for opening-only the interest money from the
endowment could be used for operation. The principle was to remain in tact,
thus assuring continued operation.  In 1929 as boys were enrolled Mr. John
Wilson was employed to teach the Vocational classes. The first two boys came
on May 5th, 1929 and by Sept. 1st some twenty boys lived in the Dormatory
when schools opened on Labor Day. The residence for Mr. Nelson his wife and
three daughters was complete. The former huge residence was converted to
class rooms, the laundry machinery was in place, and help had housing on the
second floor.

The wishes of the adventurer was a reality and for more than fifty years helped
raise more than 400 boys. More than half stayed and completed high school.
Some remained living on the grounds and received their college education.
These boys contributed by helping take care of younger boys, taking boys to the
Doctor, running errands and supervising work activities.

It seems time brings change and today the “New Drumm” is in operation. Many
of us are proud to have been a part of the legacy of the founder and to have
been a part of helping boys grow into men.

(Written in April 1997)