In “The Three Garridebs,” Sherlock Holmes is shown to have knowledge of Kansas that suggests he may have visited the state. Is that true, or did he merely make a correct deduction? Two Sherlockians (or, one Sherlockian and one Garrideb) explore the question in letters to the Baker Street Pages.
From Baker Street Pages, July 1965
I have been told by my American agents that many students of Mr. Sherlock Holmes are wondering about some problems in the small narrative in which Dr. Watson was so good as to include me. Scholars say that Moorville, Kansas, where John Garrideb came from, never existed. This is not quite the case. In fact, no town ever existed by that name, but Morrowville, in Washington County, Kansas, is the town. You know yourself that the good doctor was never very accurate about names and places.
They complain that Dr. Starr, who was supposed to have been mayor of Topeka in 1890, did not exist. Of course, Mr. Holmes knew that; he explained as much to his companion. However, researches have now been completed by my American friends, which show that at least two families of Starrs lived in Topeka at that time.
A city directory indicates that in 1890 Fred J. Starr, a travelling salesman, resided at the corner of Stephens and Linden, Auburndale. At 1800 Clay are listed William and Jennie H. Starr -- separately, so we may infer that they were brother and sister.
As you no doubt know, the mayor in 1890 was Roswell L. Cofran. Dr. Starr was simply an invention to trap John Garrideb, which we know it did. However this research indicates that Mr. Holmes was well enough acquainted with Topeka to realise that Starr was a plausible name for that area, and that Garrideb likewise knew this and would be tricked by it.
This thus proves that Garrideb was acquainted with eastern Kansas. More important, it shows that Holmes was; and we may reasonably ask, how? When did he visit? That, my dear boy, is a question I cannot not answer.
Birmingham, Warwick, England
From Baker Street Pages, September 1965
Mr. Howard Garrideb's information was quite interesting, yet quite meaningless. In my own town, which has a population of about 35,000, there are five Starr families. It is not such an unusual name.
In fact, I quite doubt that Sherlock Holmes ever bothered to make a study of the residents of Topeka, Kansas. And as for Killer Evans, knowing about this, if he really was acquainted with the families of Topeka, he certainly would have known who the mayor was or was not.
Westfield, New Jersey