Running Out of Footprints


Running Out of Footprints

What is it about?

Running out of Footprints (2013) is the true story of three generations of the Neff family, who arrived on the scene in Kansas City in the late 1800s full of energy and potential, contributed as political, business, religious and medical leaders in the city, and then gradually disappeared into obituaries and census data. The author, a fourth generation Neff herself, came into possession of a metal box full of old letters, documents and photographs after her father’s death. The questions she asked about these keepsakes and the answers she sought and found, led to writing this collection of biographies. Starting with an imaginary day spent hiking with her grandfather in Jackson County, Missouri, in 1892, the author blends her life and century with his. Along the way, she meets interesting people, takes some great field trips, solves some family mysteries, and reflects on her place in the scheme of things.

In Running out of Footprints, you will meet,

Andrew Jackson Neff: farmer, legislator, brevetted Civil War General, newspaper publisher, boot and shoe salesman, father of seven…

Of all the battles fought during the course of the Civil War, the Battle of Chickamauga is of special significance to the Neff story because Andrew Jackson Neff fought in it. He was just one of 125,000 brave soldiers present those three days, one lower-ranking officer among hundreds, even thousands. His regiment was small and nearly invisible, swallowed up in battalions, brigades, divisions, and corps. References to him by name are few and far between in regards to the particular role he played. Nevertheless, battles and wars are won by the contributions of countless nearly invisible acts of bravery by ordinary soldiers.


Jay Holcomb Neff: lawyer, newspaper publisher, mayor of Kansas City…

“I have no higher ambition than to be mayor of Kansas City. If I am elected, I shall turn over my private business to my brothers and shall be at my office 9 or 10 hours each day, more if necessary.” There were many front page newspaper articles in the weeks leading up to the election, and most of the had to do with the padding of registration rosters, and the arrest of some people who had been paid to register more than once.


William Thorne Neff: Methodist minister…

My own father described him once as “wandering around eating nuts and berries.” Whether or not that was true is hard to say, as William left few clues as to who he was. He wasn’t a collector of things, he wasn’t a joiner, he wasn’t a criminal or a philanthropist. He didn’t own land, sit on any boards as a director, or do anything that left a paper trail, which was pretty amazing given a lifespan of nearly 100 years.


Frank Chaffee Neff, M.D.: Pediatrician, first Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Kansas University Medical Center…

In the opinion of one of his colleagues, Dr. Ralph Major, Dr. Neff was “a man of sterling character, an excellent teacher and universally liked. He had very strong convictions, particularly about unethical medical practices, and his obvious kindness of heart, sympathy and sincerity made him a great favorite”

…and others.


“Her writing is clean as a whistle and wonderfully edited, and her voice is consistent and very easy on the ear. Her selection and presentation of photographs is well done and, again, crisp and clean. In short, a pleasure to read; and, yes, informative.”

John M. Belmont, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus

Department of Pediatrics

Kansas University Medical Center

This book is available on Amazon, at The Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kansas, and at Ellen Plumb’s City Book Store in Emporia, Kansas, for $15. It is also available at many libraries and can be borrowed free by using interlibrary loan. In addition, it can be found in several historical society collections.

Lawrence Kansas Public Library, Lawrence KS

Spencer Research Library, Lawrence KS

Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, Topeka KS

Kansas Historical Society, Topeka KS

Clendening Archival Library, Kansas University Medical Center, Kansas City KS

Missouri Valley Room, Kansas City Missouri Public Library, Kansas City MO

Jackson County Historical Society, Independence MO

Journalism Library, University of Missouri, Columbia MO

National Genealogical Society Circulating Collection, St. Louis County MO

Genealogy Center, Allen County Public Library, Ft. Wayne IN

Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis IN

Cunningham Memorial Library, Indiana State University, Terre Haute IN

Preble County Historical Society, Eaton OH

Maryville College, Maryville TN Library

Lancaster Historical Society, Lancaster PA

Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles CA

Library of Congress, Washington D.C.


book-shelf(On the shelf at the Allen County Public Library, Ft. Wayne IN)

“…a gorgeous printing…” —Don Pady, Archivist, Kansas Authors Club, Author, Poetry of William Allen White

“I thought it was very well written, historic, and informative. I also thought it was very introspective and surprisingly critical , which made me think of [her] more as a writer and novelist, and less of a genealogist and historian…” —Paul Erckman, M.D.

“I enjoyed reading it and I’m not even a Neff!” —Liz Black, Author, Buffalo Spirits

More Information About Running Out of Footprints




Table of Contents