According to Al Spink, "The Empire Club was organized in 1860 at a meeting held in the office of Justice Hequemberg on the south side of Vine, between Second and Third streets." Present at the meeting was B.J. Higgins, J.W. O'Connell, John F. Walton, Daniel Coyle, P.J. Cooney, H.G.D. Barklage, J.C. Adams, James Utley, P.H. Tobin, Jacob Ruppenthal, J. Schenck, James Fitzgerald, Thomas Cappell, Jacob Hollenbeck, Joseph Kinwiddy, and William Henley.
At the meeting, a constitution and set of by-laws, patterned after those of the Knickerbocker Club, was adopted and officers were elected. Kinwiddy was chosen as president, Hollenback was named secretary, and Barklage was selected as treasurer-a post he would hold for ten years.
"Under their administration," wrote Spink, "the club was gotten into good working order and played with varying fortunes against the other clubs of that day and among their opponents were the Morning Star, the Laclede, the Cyclone, the Commercial, and the Union clubs. At first the games were played at Lafayette Park, but the superior advantage of the Gamble street lawn ground soon became apparent, and the club played there for several years."