David Waldo came to Missouri in the 1820′s, joining his brothers, John and Daniel, in Gasconade County. With profits from a logging venture, he went to Lexington, Kentucky, where he attended medical lectures at Transylvania College. Returning to Missouri, he practiced in Gasconade County, and became a county assessor, county treasurer, clerk of the circuit court, justice of the peace and postmaster. Local residents called him the “Governor of Gasconade” and hoped he would stay in the area, but he chose to come to Jackson County.
In the 1830′s Dr. Waldo turned his endeavors into overland freighting and trading with Mexico and the western territories. Independence was the big outfitting center for the push to Santa Fe. The contractor firm of which he was a member was Waldo, Hall & Co, with Jacob Hall and William McCoy.
In June 1846, Dr. Waldo helped organize Company A, First Regiment Missouri Mounted Volunteers to fight in the Mexican War under Col. Alexander Doniphan and was made captain.
At the commencement of hostilities with Mexico, Captain Waldo had already amassed a large fortune in business. For 16 years he had again and again traveled the old trail and knew all of the people of New Mexico of consequence, socially and in a business way.
To him was largely due the appointment of Charles Bent as governor of New Mexico by General S. W. Kearney. It was well known that General Kearney consulted Captain Waldo in the making of all civil appointments prior to his departure for California.
Captain Waldo was a master of the Spanish language and to quote his grand-son, Waldo Douglas Sloan, “a man of pronounced scholarly attainment.”
Old diaries and records show him to have been identified with the business life of the Territory for years prior to as well as after the conquest. He assisted in the preperation of the code of law promulgated by General Kearney and translated the code into Spanish.
Captain Waldo and his troops took part in the great parade in St. Louis on July 2, 1847, after the return from the war.
On March 27, 1849 at Independence, he married Miss Eliza Jane Norris of Culpeper Courthouse, Virginia. An attractive dark-eyed and dark-haired woman, 20 years his junior, Eliza Jane was the daughter of Edward and Margaret Norris, originally from Virginia. She was born in Mt. Sterlin, Kentucky, June 25, 1822, and before emigrating to Missouri with her parents, had become active in the Christian Church in that Kentucky community. She retained her allegiance to the denomination in her new home in Independence. When she met David Waldo is now known but the local theory has it that she probably witnessed that parade of Mexican War veterans and became acquainted with him soon after.
David an Eliza Waldo had five children: William Waldo, Oliva Waldo Hinkle, David Waldo, Minnie Waldo Hill, and Lulu Waldo Sloan.
A record in the Governor’s Palace in Santa Fe gives this bit of information about Dr. Waldo’s business Enterprises:
“In 1844, Dr. Waldo, after having sold a tremendous amount of merchandise in Santa Fe and Chihuahua, Mexico, returned to Independence with a fortune in gold and silver. He invested it in more real estate in Jackson County and a bank in Independence.”
In 1860, the census taker estimated his holdings in Jackson County alone at $150,000 and his personal property at $75,000.
A tract of Dr. Waldo’s land, 2 1/2 acres, was purchased by John B. Wornall and Jimmie White to build a schoolhouse. It is now known as Border Star School.
Waldo Douglas Sloan, Dr. Waldo’s grandson, states in an article he wrote about his grandfather: “My aunt, Mrs. Minnie Waldo Hill who died in 1940, told me years ago that Dr. Waldo went into the banking business with Benjamin Wallace who was Mrs. Harry Truman’s grandfather, and that Mrs. Truman’s father, David W. Wallace, was named for Dr. Waldo.”
When the Civil War was on, Dr. Waldo worried about the money in the bank. So, as a safeguard, he put all the money in sacks and dressed like a woman, hung the sacks under his clothing, drove out to his numerous farms and hung the money in wells for safekeeping. After the war he got all the money and returned it to the bank, thereby saving all of it for his depositors.
This tribute to Dr. Waldo was written by his daughter Lulu Waldo Sloan: “His mental faculties were marked by great strength, breadth, and quickness; his heart, like his intellect, was large, vivid, and keenly sensitive; his imagination for reaching and brilliant. Over these splendid powers there reigned a will so strong that he could command his strongest emotions to remain unseen in the secret recesses of his soul and allow himself to execute his business enterprises without their interferences. He was a constant reader, genial and social, and of sunny nature – a grand noble man, an earnest Christian.”
Dr. Waldo built a handsome three-gabled house with gingerbread trim for his family at 1018 West Waldo in Independence. The house was razed in 1941 and today the First Christian Church occupies the site.
Dr. Waldo died at the age of 78. Kansas City papers depicted him as as one of the oldest, weathiest, and most respected men of Jackson County.