President Obama: From Kansas to the Capitol

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Many of us know about President-elect Obama's ties to Butler County, but he also has extensive ties to Wichita in part I of a new series.

Obama's ancestors first appear in Wichita in the 1908 city directory. His great-great grandfather is listed as a travel agent in a building for the SVClark Coal Company.

Harry and Gabrielle Armour settled in west Wichita. In fact, Obama's great-grandmother Ruth Armour attended Wichita schools, including the old Wichita High School.

A Wichita Eagle article stated Ruth Armour dropped out when she was a junior to get married to Obama's great-grandfather.

"At that time, she had to leave school," said Michello Enke with the Wichita Public Library. "So, she left school a week before she got married."

Ralph and Ruth Dunham were married in a home on S. St. Francis. They then opened The Travelers' Cafe on William Street in downtown Wichita. The business was sandwiched right between the old firehouse and the old Wichita City Hall.

"The area around City Hall was the hub of Wichita," said Wichita State University historian Jay Price. "This was the place to get your business done. Douglas and Main was the main shopping area."

During that time, Ruth Dunham gave birth to the grandfather who raised Obama. Speculation exists that Stanley Dunham was either born at the old Wichita hospital or at a home in the 200 Blk. of N. Charles.

A few years later, tragedy struck. Obama wrote in his book that Stanley's mother committed suicide. But an obituary in the Wichita newspaper then said his great-grandmother died of ptomaine poisoning the day after Thanksgiving in 1926. Ruth Dunham was buried in an El Dorado cemetery.

Ruth Dunham's parents stayed. Gabrielle Armour and her old daughter were long-time members of Wichita's Westside Baptist Church.

Gabrielle Armour died in 1966. Obama's great-great grandparents were buried in Wichita Park Cemetery.

The death of Obama's other great-great grandparents are a mystery. They both died in Wichita on August 13, 1936. It was a hot dusty time on the plains, and the Dunhams were elderly then.

Obama's great-grandfather, the one who owned The Travelers Cafe, lived in Wichita until his death in 1970. He's buried at Resthaven Cemetery in west Wichita.

Stay with KAKE News and kake.com for another part in this series on "KAKE News at Ten."


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