History Works Fruitville Obituary of Colonel Torrey


St. Louis Post Dispatch
Monday Evening, December 6, 1920

Body of Col. Jay L. Torrey to Arrive Here Tomorrow

Former St. Louisan, Nationally Known as Rough Rider, Rancher and Politician, to Be Buried in Pittsfield, Ill.

The body of Col. Jay L. Torrey, rough rider, politician and founder of Fruitville, Mo., who died Saturday night on his ranch at Fruitville, near West Plains, aged 67, will reach St. Louis about 8 o’clock tomorrow morning over the Frisco, and will be taken to Pittsfield, Ill., his birthplace, for burial. It will be accompanied by the widow, formerly Mrs. Frances Rielet of West Plains, to whom he was married Oct. 27, and from St. Louis by the Rev. C. N. Clark, pastor of the Lafayette Park M.E. Church, who performed the marriage ceremony.

Although his early life was spent in St. Louis and he practiced law here for years, and his later years were identified with the development of the fruit-bearing Ozarks, it was as a citizen of the wider spaces "beyond the Missouri" that he attained national prominence and was seriously considered as a candidate for the Republican nomination for Vice President at the Philadelphia convention which renominated President McKinley.

Torrey a Self-Made Man

Torrey was born in humble circumstances and was a self-made man. In his youth, in St. Louis, he carried newspapers. He worked his way through Washington University and was graduated in law in 1876. His practice was to a considerable extent in commercial law. He became impressed with the need of a new bankruptcy law. He prepared such a law and pressed it upon the attention of Congress for several years and finally obtained its passage.

In the meantime he had moved to Wyoming and had become a rancher in the Big Horn Basin. He became one of the leaders of the Republican party in Wyoming and was sent as a delegate to the Philadelphia convention. He was one of the probabilities for the vice presidential nomination, but the Roosevelt wave bowled them all over.

Months before the Spanish-American War Torrey thought it would come and he was developing his plans. It was evident that operations in Cuba would require cavalry. Men would be needed who could swing into the saddle, take care of themselves and their horses, capable of endurance, and expert marksmen. These men were to be found in Wyoming and the adjoining sections and some were scattered over other parts of the country.

Organized Regiment of Cavalry

When war was declared Torrey laid his plans before the officials at Washington and they were approved and he was commissioned to organize a regiment of rough riders. In two weeks he had recruited a thousand men. They were not needed in Cuba and spent their period of training and drilling in Florida, but railroad accidents and fever killed 30 of them.

After the war he returned to Missouri and acquired 10,000 acres of fruit lands in Howell County and established the Fruitville ranch and community, in which a patriotic ritual was observed, including a flag-raising ceremony on designated mornings.

He was an unsuccessful candidate for United States Senator in 1918.

Second Cousin of Taft

Torrey was a second cousin of former President Taft. He was at one time president of the Mercantile Club. He was at one time Speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Fruit Experimental Station and a member of the Board of Visitors at the University of Missouri.

At his Fruitville farm he entertained extensively and on a large scale. In 1913 the annual reunion of Spanish-American War Veterans was held there. He was tireless in his work for the development of the Ozarks.

He was a member of the Masonic order and the funeral will be under Masonic auspices.



An excerpt from The Life of Colonel Jay Lynn Torrey

return to Fruitville main page