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Marion County soldier turned horse trainer lead colorful life

“Palmyra Boy” was owned by Capt. R.L. Bowles of Marion County, Mo., until February 1899. The June 4, 1899 edition of the Inter Ocean of Chicago described the gelding’s new environment: “The black pacing gelding Palmyra Boy, 2:07 ¼, is being trained by Levi Turner, who raced his sire, Grattan, 2:13. Turner, who is a clever driver and as good a judge as any of them, is very partial to the Grattan family, as he has always found in them the race winning quality of great speed, combined with bulldog courage, and soundness. Palmyra Boy went lame last year, and some of the wise ones predicted that his racing days were over, but Turner has got him going sound again this spring, and he certainly looks as promising as any 2:08 pacer in the country at present.


In mid February, 1899, Capt. R.L. Bowles owned two prime show horses he wished to sell: full siblings “Palmyra Boy,” and “Bob Maceo.” He believed the best prospects for selling these horses for top dollar would be at the Splan and Newgass horse sale, at the Union Stockyards in Chicago. More than 300 track and road horses were expected to be offered on consignment over the course of the four-day event.

“Palmyra Boy” held the world’s champion 4-year-old gelding pacing record of 2:07 ¼. The Quincy Daily Herald, in reporting the pending sale, predicted, “he ought to bring a fancy price.”

Who could Capt. Bowles entrust with the task of accompanying the valuable horses via rail from Palmyra to Chicago?

The answer was obvious: He chose Jack Kinney, a well-respected horse trainer and former jockey, then living near Palmyra.

“Palmyra Boy” sold for $800, purchased by Leon Turner of Chicago. “Bob Maceo,” full brother of “Palmyra Boy” full brother, was bought by another Chicago man for $275.

The horses sold, the story behind the trainer lingers in Palmyra. Jack (John R.) Kinney, born in Kentucky and reared in Hannibal, led a colorful and respectable life doing what he loved to do: Train and ride horses.

Confederate soldier

Before he was a horse trainer, this son of Hannibal, born circa 1834, developed Southern sympathies, and when it came time to choose sides for battle during the Civil War, he eagerly enlisted for Confederate service, and was among the recruits who served in Company C, Porters regiment.

The Hannibal Post conducted an interview with Jack Kinney, which was subsequently republished by the Palmyra Spectator on Dec. 17, 1886.

While he was living with his mother in Hannibal’s West End, Kinney told the newspaper reporter he was spotted by Col. Glover, who was camped with his regiment at Palmyra. The newspaper told Kinney’s story:

“He was taken prisoner by 12 of Glover’s men, who were on horseback, and they placed him on one of their horses behind a soldier and started off to Palmyra. On the way Kinney knocked the soldier off the horse and escaped in the woods. He was afterwards captured and placed in Palmyra jail and closely guarded. But one day while the jail doors were unlocked he crowded by the guards and made good his escape by leaping over the back fence and running for his life. A short time after this he was recaptured by Col. Bain’s men, who were stationed in the bottom near the old show ground. He was placed under heavy guard and remained there some time.”

He was ordered to be killed, he told the newspaper reporter, but the night before his execution, he managed to escape again. He told the newspaper that six guards shot at him, but all missed.

Presuming he was no longer safe in Marion County, he went first to Illinois, then to Kentucky where he signed up to fight with Morgan’s “gorilla band” and reportedly remained with them until the close of the war.


At the time of the newspaper interview, he was awaiting a surgical procedure that could put an end to nearly constant pain in his groin. He was just 44, and had tried many remedies to relieve his suffering. Finally, Dr. J.C. Hearne (who would several years later be accused and acquitted in Amos Stillwell’s murder) made a diagnosis of a tumor, and agreed to perform surgery on Kinney. Even though Jack Kinney was without means to pay Dr. Hearne, the surgeon agreed to perform the necessary surgery. He told his patient to “get a room and a nurse” and he would take out the tumor.

The Dec. 17, 1886 Palmyra Spectator carried the details:

“Dr. Hearne, assisted by Dr. Byrd of Quincy, proceeded to perform one of the most difficult surgical operations ever attempted in this city. Mr. Kinney was suffering excruciating pain and it was doubtful if he could stand the operation, and even if he did, the chances were greatly against his final recovery. Finally the physicians began their work by making an incision extending from the groin around and upward nearly to the spinal cord, a distance of at least 17 inches, and laying back the flesh, cut out the tumor, which weighed nearly four pounds. The tumor was removed in pieces and somewhat resembled the brains. At least two gallons of blood and pus flowed from the wound and presented a sickening appearance. After the tumor was removed and the incision sewed up a silver tube was inserted near the spinal cord and the patient restored to consciousness.”

Within three weeks, he was able to stand and walk across the room, and soon there after, he was back to work.

On the move

Jack Kinney’s lifestyle presented some research obstacles. He moved around a lot.

In the Hannibal city directory of 1888, Kinney is listed as a horse trainer living at 226 Broadway in Hannibal.

In 1897, Kinney moved to a farm near Shelbina that he rented from Mr. Smith.

Prior to 1897, he purchased a 100-acre farm about six miles northeast of Shelbina and four miles west of Oak Dale.

In 1898, he was living at Woodland, Mo., in Marion County. His brother, James M. Kinney, also lived at Woodland.

In January 1900, while living at Palmyra, Kinney severed the leader in his leg while cutting wood. Shortly thereafter, he suffered from a stroke of paralysis, affecting his left side. He recovered completely from the stroke, but the injury to his leg left him on crutches for a time.

Brother’s death

John R. (Jack) Kinney is believed to be the son of John and Catherine Kinney. In 1870, Catherine, who was born in Ireland, was a widow and lived in Hannibal with two daughters, Magga, 17, who had been born in Tennessee, and Ellen, 12, who was born in Iowa. The family lived in South Hannibal from 1872 until 1903 when Ellen and Catherine Kinney were living at 130 Third Street, South Side. The 1900 census recorded that Catherine Kinney had 13 children.

Two of Jack Kinney’s known brothers are James M. Kinney, of Woodland, Marion County, Mo., and Nathanial B. (Baker) Kinney, of Ely Station, Marion County.

The later brother was killed by a freight train in March 1887, while walking on the tracks two miles east of Monroe City. He was deaf, according to a Palmyra Spectator article, and couldn’t hear the train whistle. Freight engine No. 49 was driven by Richard Ash, engineer. Baker Kinney was killed instantly.

James M. Kinney died in 1908, and is buried in Marion County, Mo.

It is unclear when other family members, including Jack, died, or where they are buried.

Fell from a horse

In June 1899, a young horse that Jack Kinney was training reared up and plunged forward, throwing him to the ground near the W.J. Gash farm south of Palmyra. The impact left him unconscious. Mr. Gash, while en route to town, discovered Kinney, who was beginning to regain consciousness. Gash helped Kinney into his buggy. William Taylor was nearby and led the horse that Kinney had been training, and the three men headed toward Palmyra.

Just as the buggy neared the residence of Dr. Coons, something startled the young horse, and it jumped onto the buggy, throwing all three men to the ground.

They weren’t seriously injured, but the buggy was destroyed. Another buggy was acquired to take Jack back to his home, which was at the north end of Palmyra.

County fairs


Jack Kinney took several horses to the Louisiana fair in July.


Jack Kinney’s three-year-old mare took second place at the Marion County Fair in September.


Jack Kinney of Shelbina captured 21 first premiums and 3 seconds on his harness horses at the Palmyra Fair.


Jack Kinney drove “Palmyra Boy” to a rubber tired sulky at the Palmyra fair grounds in September.


A double team, owned by Jack Kinney and driven by Miss Daisy Hatcher, won first premium as the best lady driver at the Shelby County Fair.


Jack Kinney’s mare, “Georgia B,” took first premium in the best harness mare ring at the Shelby County Fair.


“New Mac,” owned by Jack Kinney of Shelbina, took first place in the half-mile dash, according to the Monroe City Democrat.


Jack Kinney of Shelbina took second for light horse, mare or gelding, according to the Monroe City Democrat.


The Jack Kinney sorrel, “King Grattan,” harness horse was a sight to see, according to the Monroe City Democrat.

Dr. J.C. Hearne of Hannibal removed a 4-pound tumor from Jack Kinney’s groin in 1886. At the time it was considered to be one of the most difficult surgical operations ever attempted in Hannibal. St. Louis Post Dispatch, Aug. 18, 1895.

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