Search Results for: "Hidden History"

Hidden History: Burlingame veteran’s fight for honor continued in civilian life

Burlingame Cemetery holds more than 250 veterans of the Civil War. Approximately 10 of those soldiers served in the United States Colored Troops. While that number seems relatively small, the ratio in comparison to other area cemeteries is quite high. Those that served in the Colored Troops fought for their freedom and had to overcome many obstacles including changing perceptions of how people felt about differences in race. One of these Burlingame Colored Troops veterans is Isaac Williams.

Isaac’s origins are uncertain, as is often the case with those formerly enslaved. The first evidence of Isaac is when he enlisted for the war effort at Benton Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri, with the 4th Missouri Colored Troops in December of 1863, which later became the 68th USCT. Some men serving in this regiment are noted to have been from eight central Missouri counties, however St. Louis was also a way station for the fugitive slaves coming in from the South on their way to free territory to the north or west. Isaac was transferred to the 67th USCT and mustered out at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at the end of the war.

After his service, Isaac found work and assistance from abolitionists in Osage and Lyon counties, in Kansas.

In 1865, Isaac was living near Waveland (near Wakarusa) with Charles C. Gardiner. Gardiner was a civil engineer, receiving training at Alfred University in New York, one of the few schools at the time that was integrated. Gardiner came to Kansas in 1859 and settled north of Burlingame. He removed to Missouri just before the war and served with two units of the loyalist Missouri home guards. At the end of the war, Gardiner was stationed at St. Louis, where he likely met Isaac.

While in Missouri, Gardiner married Lydia Buffington, a Quaker woman whose family assisted fugitives on the Underground Railroad. The Gardiners returned to Kansas in 1865, settling at Waveland, where they opened their home to Isaac and at least two other refugees.

From the Gardiner household, Isaac went to work in Lyon County for Nicholas Lockerman, around 1870. Lockerman supported the free state cause and was a wealthy stockman with a ferry that crossed the river on his property.

Isaac’s time in Lyon County was short – in the late 1870s he returned to the area north of Burlingame and rented land from O.H. Sheldon, a businessman who helped shape early Osage County.

Former Kansas governor Charles Robinson said of Sheldon, “When the wave of corruption swept over our young state, more blighting in its effects, if possible, than the curse of human slavery, against which successful war had been waged, no smell of fire was found upon his garments.”

Hidden History: Young doctor’s ‘upward’ attitude brings hospital to Osage City

The Star Block, at 520 Market Street, Osage City, center of photo, was once an early day medical center (or doctor’s office), operated by Dr. Roup for a year or so sometime around the early 1890s. Photo thanks to the Osage County Historical Society.

At one time, Osage County was home to not one but two hospitals. Both were located in Osage City and served the surrounding area. Barnes Hospital was owned by Miles W. Barnes, a young Tennessee doctor who operated his hospital in the 1920s and into the 1930s. His building was located at 110 S. Sixth Street. Brown Hospital was established in 1917 on Main Street and operated by Thomas O. Brown, a former Osage County schoolteacher.

Thomas Brown grew up in Lyndon, the son of farming parents. He excelled in school and after graduation became a local teacher at No. 68 (or Jack Rabbit) and Vassar schools. In 1892, Tom married Jessie Jones, of Arvonia, a sister of his good friend. Those that knew Tom Brown knew him to be “a competent and thorough teacher and his motto was ‘Onward and Upward’.” Not only did Tom encourage his students with those words, he followed them himself. It was in Arvonia that Tom crossed paths with Dr. William R. Roup, town physician, and likely decided upon a new career path.

Dr. Roup, like Tom Brown, had a thirst for knowledge that had led him to the pursuit of the expanding field of medicine. Dr. Roup received his medical degree in 1869 from the University of Iowa at a time when the medical profession was largely unregulated. Doctors during this time were generally classified according to those receiving formal medical training, such as Dr. Roup, and eclectic medicine, which utilized botanical remedies and physical therapy. In the early 1870s, Dr. Roup established a practice in Reading. He also practiced in Osage City for a year in the newly built Star Block, and in 1892-94 moved to Arvonia, where he influenced Tom Brown to follow a career in medicine.

Hidden History: Osage County hospitality served with side of Southern pride

The road to Santa Fe was forged right through the middle of Osage County, and by 1822 the route was secured, opening travel for wagon traffic. Starting in 1825, the route was surveyed and mapped, treaties were made with the Native American tribes to secure safe passage, and modifications along the route such as bridges were constructed for easier travel.

After the establishment of the trail, the land in what would become Osage County became part of a tract land reserved for the Shawnee. The Shawnee favored settlement along waterways and had long been active in trade with Euro-Americans, so trail crossings like those at Switzler and 110 Mile Creek were a natural location for settlement.

The name for 110 Mile Creek, originally called Jones Creek, received its new name indicating its distance along the Santa Fe Trail from Fort Osage, in Missouri. The location was lined with a considerable amount of timber and had a few Shawnee houses with their fields nearby. The grove at 110-Mile Creek was well known to the military and saw regular use as a camping spot.

Aside from those of native blood, no other individuals were supposed to enter reservation lands without ties to the local Indian agency or the military. Some, like a man named Richardson and his compatriot who settled at the 110 Mile crossing, found their way around this by taking wives among the Shawnee. The pair had conducted a toll stop on the trail at that location, built a story and a half tall building and another smaller one near it.

The Richardson claim was sold to a man named Fry P. McGee in the summer of 1854 in anticipation of the land being opened up for general settlement. McGee had spotted the location on a return trip from Oregon where he had previously taken his family. McGee, apparently not content with the land, returned the following year and acquired the property in Kansas Territory. McGee assumed Richardson’s claim but retained the name Richardson for the area. McGee’s arrival was not only one desiring the favorable location, but a move intent on helping secure Kansas’ admittance to the Union as a slave state.

Hidden History: Amid health crises, Osage County towns invested in public sanitation

A promotional graphic details the benefits of public waterworks, Burlingame Enterprise, Oct. 10, 1912.

Burlingame’s water supply started simply with water taken from a natural spring on the territorial claim of John Freele which serviced the local settlers. As the town grew, the main water source shifted to a well in the center of Santa Fe Avenue.

With the arrival of the railroads that eventually brought increasing number of residents, the call for modern conveniences arose. Larger towns built access to utilities prior to the turn of the century, but for small towns like Burlingame utilities came later. The outlay of funds for public projects was problematic for many, since some had spent considerable expense to entice the railroad to stop at their town, causing large debt.

Utilities were not only items of convenience, however; across the country increasing urbanization brought increasing concern for public health. In 1879, the short-lived National Board of Health was created in part to determine the cause of recent yellow fever and cholera outbreaks and to institute preventative measures to combat future occurrences in the country. The outcome of its sanitation programs along with its encouragement of filtration and better distribution of water in larger towns created a new industry market – city waterworks.

Wells and cisterns within city confines were becoming increasingly problematic with urban contaminants. This was countered in part by the use of waterworks, as well as regulations from the Kansas State Board of Health that was created in 1885, a time when many large cities started building public water projects.

Fire prevention was also a major consideration, and towns without a water system would see inflated insurance costs to their citizens. Burlingame had established a fire department in 1876, but would have to hand pump their water until mechanical means came along.

Discussions and votes on the possibility of Burlingame improvements started in 1902, centering around electricity and water. The push for modern conveniences was partially realized in 1903 by the creation of a city light plant. At the celebration of the light plant, J.T. Pringle stated that the lights came at a time “to be in harmony with other improvements and is simply a forecast of the future of our city.”

A water system seemed the next immediate step – for some. The first town in the county, one that at one time had dreams of being the state capital, could get its citizens to see the light for an electrical plant, but not dip a toe into the purchasing of waterworks.

With the lack of support for a water system as a whole, inquiries were made as to the possibility of putting in just a sewer system. This plan was discouraged however when the head of the engineering company Burns and McDonnell, of Kansas City, inspected the city. He stated that sewers without waterworks could only be used to drain cellars and therefore the costs involved were not sufficient enough to warrant the outlay of funds. And the water campaign stalled. The opposition to water was too significant to overcome for the next 10 years.

Town boosters, seeking to boost the town’s attractiveness to settlement voiced their opinions in the newspapers with cries of dismay: “What’s the matter with Burlingame? Is she dead or only sleeping? If she be dead let’s have a funeral and save the expense of embalming. If asleep let’s turn the hose on her and wake her up. But we have no system of waterworks.”

Hidden History: Osage County settlers planted churches, seeds of abolitionism

The making of Osage County’s history was not limited solely to those individuals who maintained permanent residence here. Such is the case of John Rankin, an Ohio resident and the man who established the Presbyterian church in Lyndon, Kansas.

John Rankin was originally from Tennessee. Rankin was influenced by the period called the Second Great Enlightenment, which was a revival of the Christian faith that led many to realize slavery was incompatible with their beliefs.

Rankin became ordained as a pastor in 1814, and soon after joined a local Anti-Slavery Society, a branch of a nationwide group that believed prejudice in any form was offensive and that African Americans were entitled to the same rights and privileges as the white man. Rankin’s involvement in the Anti-Slavery Society was influential to famous abolitionist radicals such as William Lloyd Garrison.

Garrison is quoted as saying, “It was reading the productions of [Rankin’s] pen that awakened my mind to the enormity of the crime of slavery.”

Rankin’s opinions on slavery and his outreach to those that were oppressed caused his neighbors to create an environment that was increasingly dangerous for him and his family. Local mobs beat him and shaved his horse’s tail and mane, in addition to other instances of cruelty. Elders in his church encouraged him to move safely north if he was to continue to preach against slavery.

He moved his family first to Kentucky, where he organized an Anti-Slavery Society, and then across the river into Ripley, Ohio. The house at Ripley sat on a bluff 300 feet above the Ohio River and served as a beacon and refuge for those seeking freedom.

One such freedom seeker, a woman named Eliza, crossed the river one winter, jumping from one block of ice to another with her baby boy on her back. Her pursuers watched amazed at her every leap, expecting her to slip and succumb to the icy current, but Rankin’s awaiting hand reached down on the other side to assist her off the riverbed. Rankin later secured her passage with others to Toronto, Canada, and safety of freedom.

Hidden History: Legislating the dogs of Dogtown

Founded in 1869, Osage City built its foundation on the industry of mining veins of coal that ran under the earth. As the town grew, small communities of people of many nationalities sprang off of the main townsite, such as Craig on the southwest side and Dogtown on the northeast. The name Dogtown has been thought by some to be a derogatory reference to citizens who inhabited that area of town, but instead it referred to the large population of dogs that originated in that neighborhood.

Early in Osage City’s history, Dogtown earned its moniker due to a man named John “Jack” Kidd, who had many dogs. When Jack heard of the gold being found in the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1874, he left coal mining for the potential of more profitable mining. When he left, though, his dogs stayed behind.

As the town increased in size, Jack’s dogs, joined by more brought in by other citizens, also grew in numbers. After many years of a rapidly growing dog population, in 1889 the city hired a “dog policeman” by the name of George Russ. George was a well-liked man of color, who had worked in the local mines.

When George assumed his position, there were an estimated 1,000 dogs within the city limits of Osage City. Dog owners were expected to pay a tax of $1.50 for male dogs or $3 per females. George was given the authority to shoot any dog without taxes paid, no excuses.

By July of his first year, George had killed approximately 120 dogs, and only $62 had been paid from city pet owners. By the middle of his second year, George had dispatched 140 dogs, and only collected $66 in tax. George’s progress on curbing the growing population of rogue dogs was halted, however, when he was found to be violation of prohibition laws against selling “fire water,” which led to his prompt resignation.

Hidden History: Spiritualists reach final earthly destination at Ridgeway Cemetery

Hidden in Ridgeway Cemetery along the backroads of northern Osage County is a queer monument of stone. This grouping of stones is not any ordinary memorial, but rather a remembrance to a belief system held by former resident Hiram K. Reilly and other area individuals.

Hiram K. Reilly was born in 1839, the son of Hiram and Elizabeth Reilly. The entire family moved to the Ridgeway area around 1865. Hiram Sr. suffered from debilitating chronic asthma, which prompted his daughter to eventually reach out in 1871 for assistance from James R. Newton, a well-known spiritualist healer in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Dr. Newton wrote Hiram Sr. a magnetized letter, which Hiram Sr. credited with curing him. Magnetized letters were a method used by Spiritualists in which they would think about the disease and its location within the patient, which they believed infused the letter with spiritual magnetism and connect the healer to the patient. When the patient received this letter, they were instructed to wear it on the part of the body afflicted as long as the paper lasted to maintain a continuous connection between doctor and patient until their healing.

Hiram Sr. died in 1875, but believed that his nearly five years of healing was “a greater miracle than was ever performed by Jesus Christ.” Hiram Sr.’s story influenced nearly a dozen local people with his testimony of healing and promotion of spiritualism. Elizabeth Reilly died in 1891. Her stone in Ridgeway Cemetery reflects the family’s belief in spiritualism, depicting her spirit standing beside her physical body lying on her deathbed.

Hidden History: Mineral Springs gush healing waters at Carbondale-area sanitarium

A painting of the Mineral Springs Hotel, donated by the Jungmann family, hangs in the Osage County Historical Society museum, in Lyndon.

The Carbondale area was once home to Mineral Springs, a health resort that drew the attention of locals and others from far beyond the boundaries of the county that wanted to receive health benefits promoted by its proprietor. The resort, located about a mile north of the town, was founded by a man named Moses “M.D.” Merrill. Merrill’s Mineral Springs would go on to become a refuge for many seeking healing for more than 25 years.

M.D. Merrill purchased his land just north of modern-day Carbondale in 1859, a year after coal was discovered in the area. At the time, however, Merrill was living in Rock Island, Illinois, as a prosperous former land agent, newspaper editor, and railroad man. It wasn’t until 1884 that he moved to the north side of Carbondale and made use of springs located beneath his land. Local lore indicated that Merrill’s springs were located on an Indian camping spot, where they constructed dams across the beautiful stream flowing from the spring, calling this fount, “medicine water”. Merrill did not immediately realize the benefit that these waters held, however.

Within two years of his arrival, Merrill decided to find out the truth of the healing aspects of his springs and sought out the expert opinion of Dr. Albert Merrill, reportedly unrelated, of St. Louis, Missouri. Dr. Merrill analyzed the water and reported that the water contained purgative salts that could be utilized in treating digestive disorders.

M.D. Merrill seized the opportunity to bring the healing waters to the public and started selling his water for curative purposes locally and shipping orders as far as New York. For a time, there were as many as 100 visitors per day to the springs coming in “vehicles of every description, from the barouche and road wagon to the typical Mexican burro, loaded with kegs, cans, big jugs, and little jugs to be filled with those marvelous waters”, as reported by the Carbondalian. The spring water was also sold and delivered at 15 cents a gallon by the Cooke Fuel Company, of Topeka, which also sold Osage County coal.

Hidden History: No memorial for Civil War medic, Burlingame schoolchildren’s caretaker

An undated postcard view of Lincoln School, Burlingame, Kan. From the collection of Gary Lowman.

Christopher Columbus Ragin, or “Crit” as his friends called him, was born into slavery around 1855, near Atlanta, Georgia. His mother died when he was about four years old, his father was not even a memory to him.

In the summer of 1864, Union forces were converging on Atlanta to seize the city. After the battle of Atlanta in July of that year, Crit and nearly 18,000 other slaves left the local plantations and were conscripted into the armed services as contrabands (former slaves freed by Union troops).

A nine-year-old Crit was picked up by the 27th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI), a part of the 17th Army Corps, and given duties around headquarters. He was given a uniform, and quickly proved himself to be a valuable asset. Crit stated that he was eventually earning as much as the regular Army.

His duties to the company included being an assistant to Dr. John L. Chapel, assistant surgeon for the 27th OVI. Dr. Chapel had started studying medicine at the age of 15, and had gained a degree in medicine prior to the war. Dr. Chapel and Crit’s retrieval of the wounded at the front lines of the war was at times a dangerous occupation, and Crit would exclaim, “I won’t get killed if you don’t!”

After the war, the bond of friendship caused Dr. Chapel and Crit to remain close, and the doctor took Crit into his home in Ohio. When Dr. Chapel married and moved to another state, Crit stayed behind, and found a home with Wellington “W.D.” Canfield.

In 1873, Canfield chose to move with his family to Burlingame, Kansas, and convinced Crit to come with him.

Hidden History: Incognito contest winner shines perpetual spotlight on Overbrook

Mindy Allen, Scott City, Kan., recently completed a new painting of the “Don’t Overlook Overbrook” mural.

“Don’t Overlook Overbrook.” More than a hundred years ago, this memorable slogan was created, but even today will spark strangers to recognition when the town’s name is mentioned.

In 1911, the village of Overbrook was joining a nationwide trend of growth across the country during this period. “Boosters” sought to boost their communities by increasing the visibility and appeal, acquiring utilities to improve the living conditions in their towns, and bring commerce and new citizens. Of course, not everyone was happy with prospects for change, folks content with the status quo and speaking out against any change were dubbed “knockers.”

Overbrook’s booster group was called the Overbrook Commercial Club. This club put out a call for a slogan. Topeka had decided on a slogan “Topeka can, Topeka will.” Overbrook was quick to follow the example, and added an incentive of $5 paid to the person who supplied the chosen phrase.

The winning submission was made by Lewis Coffman, a West Virginia resident who had two brothers in Overbrook. He sent the motto to the Commercial Club under the pseudonym “Mary”, since he lived outside of the 20-mile radius required for submissions. However, the club was so pleased with the line that they gave Coffman not only the $5 award, but voted that he receive a lifetime membership to the club.

Coffman accepted, stating it was “impossible to overlook Overbrook anyway. It was too good of a town.”

Hidden History: Osage County monuments ‘perpetuate the memories of fallen heroes’

Burlingame Cemetery soldier’s monument, date unknown, but photo possibly taken the day of the monument’s dedication. Photo thanks to Burlingame Schuyler Museum.

The Civil War was the bloodiest war in United States history, claiming the lives of about 620,000 individuals. After the war, veterans organizations were created to help those who survived the war to band together and honor those who were lost and the battles they fought. Largest among these groups was the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), established in 1866 for those who had fought for the Union army. General John A. Logan of the G.A.R. first proposed a decoration or memorial day in 1868 as a day of remembrance. This day was not one of any particular battle, and one in which the flowers would be in bloom to decorate graves. Observance of this day was determined by individual states, but by 1890 each of the northern states had made Decoration Day a state holiday.

Another group that arose during this time was the Woman’s Relief Corps (W.R.C.). This womens’ group had evolved out of the Christian and Sanitary Commission, whose mission had been to care for wounded soldiers. The W.R.C. was created to aid Union veterans, in particular the dependent ones. This group eventually became the auxiliary of the G.A.R. and was established in Kansas in 1885. Along with aid for veterans, this group aimed to “invoke a spirit of patriotism, respect for the nation’s flag, a love of country and reverence for her defenders in the minds of the youth of the present day, [and erect] monuments to perpetuate the memories of fallen heroes.”

Around the turn of the century the W.R.C. began seeking to memorialize those who served in the Civil War, because those that had remained were quickly disappearing as a present reminder of their service.

In Osage County, Kan., the first major monument to be erected was the soldier memorial at Burlingame, in 1905. The women of Burlingame’s W.R.C., consisting of 70 members under the leadership of president Lucy Jennings, commissioned Nettleton Marble & Granite Works, of Ottawa, Kan., to do the work.

L.H. Nettleton had been creating marble masterpieces for the area for 21 years. In 1904, he bought out his former partner, M. K. Ferguson, and became the sole proprietor of the business. Nettleton’s company had previously created war memorials for Baldwin City, in 1896, Garnett, in 1899, and Peabody, Kan., in 1900, but Burlingame’s monument was to be his greatest achievement yet, working in a grander style than before.

In order to secure the contract and gain the chance to showcase his abilities, Nettleton cut the W.R.C. a significant discount of the original $1,250 cost. The granite monument stands 15 feet, 8 inches tall, with a soldier standing atop keeping watch over the cemetery’s sleeping heroes. The monument was dedicated on Memorial Day in 1905, with exercises starting at Sumner Park including orators and band performances, and a visit by Governor E. W. Hoch.The veterans joined the procession to the cemetery for the dedication, following the local Kansas National Guard company, and only had “to look ahead to be reminded of what they were when they went first to battle for their country in their hour of need.”

Hidden History: Proud chief forever claims home in final resting place

The year 1869 marked the removal of the Sauk (Sac) and Fox tribes from Osage County to Oklahoma, all resigned to their fate except those under the leadership of a man named Mokohoko. This chief among the tribes had come to love this land that he had been forced into and adopted as his own. His fight to preserve his people’s rights to their land became one of the last stands of the American Indian in Kansas against Euro-American expansion.

Mokohoko, whose name means “He who floats visible near the surface of the water”, was the principal chief of the Sauk tribe. He belonged to the Sturgeon Clan, a clan designated for leaders of the Sauk. Mokohoko was a key supporter in the Black Hawk War, a brief conflict in 1832 that took place when the Sauk leader Black Hawk tried to reclaim tribal lands in Illinois that had been ceded in a previous treaty. Mokohoko was stubbornly traditional, holding tight to the culture of his people. This often put him at odds with another Sauk and Fox leader, Keokuk, who tended to be more lenient towards the white man’s ways.

In the winter of 1845-46, the Sauk and Fox tribes were removed to a reservation in Franklin and Osage counties consisting of 435,200 acres located at the upper reaches of the Osage River. The first Sauk and Fox agency was in Franklin County, and later, in 1859, moved near Quenemo.

Mokohoko and his band settled on the banks of the Marais des Cygnes River, stretching for 10 miles upstream and downstream of the area that would become the town of Melvern. This land contained 500 acres of rich farm ground used by the Sauk and Fox for farming. This prime ground produced so much corn that the tribe was able to sell the surplus to the government and early settlers of the area.

Hidden History: Auto polo drives into Osage City as latest commercialized craze

The action of auto polo was guaranteed  to “make spectators’ hearts pump at 60 miles per hour.” Photo thanks to Library of Congress.

By Wendi Bevitt

Have you ever guided an open-framed automobile at the rate of 40 miles an hour through a jungle of pine trees while a wild-eyed passenger riding shotgun accurately lops off the branches of the passing trees with a scythe? If so, then you can appreciate what it was like to be a driver in the most exciting and dangerous spectator sport in the early 20th century – auto polo.

Auto polo arose as the “must see” event after it was first played in Kansas in an event sponsored by Jones Auto Exchange, of Wichita, Kansas, in July 1912. Jones employees Carl Evans and Roltz King had created a new form of auto polo, building on a concept originating in Massachusetts in 1902.

The earlier version utilized a one-seat steam powered car called a “runabout”, with play taking place in an area roughly the size of a football field where participants hit a ball approximately as big as a basketball. This new version was played using Model T cars stripped down to the frame to allow for higher speed and better maneuverability. Each car consisted of a team of driver and mallet man. The mallet man often balanced himself on the edge of the vehicle to take a swing at the ball while the driver maneuvered the vehicle.  Jones Auto Exchange’s business manager, Ralph Hankinson, was the man who would successfully promote this exciting spectator sport in its new form.

Ralph “Pappy” Hankinson was the first child of Euro-American ancestry to be born in Russell, Kansas, in 1879. After his schooling, Ralph traveled and worked at various jobs, and then jumped in on the ground floor of auto sales in 1907. It was during this time that Ford Motor Company was preparing to release the first mass-produced automobile, the Model T, at the end of 1908. Ralph found employment at Jones Auto Exchange, a company that became one of the top sellers of Ford vehicles in the early days. Jones did so well selling Ford vehicles that they built a large warehouse, the largest structure of its kind in the Midwest at the time, from which to sell automobiles and refinish and repair all facets of the automobile.

Ford Motor Company produced more cars than all other manufacturers combined, and part of the reason they were so successful was the durability of their cars. Jones Auto Exchange and the company’s promotion of auto polo was a unique way to demonstrate the durability of the Model T. Auto polo was, however, a highly expensive sport, often requiring cars to be entirely rebuilt after a match (which could be taken care of at Jones’ premier shop). Often salesmen with the auto exchange participated as drivers for the auto polo cars. Players would participate in a year-round training before playing so the game would live up to the anticipated hype of “60 seconds of action in every minute of play.”

On the local front, Theodore Bloom and Fred Anderson were selling Model Ts at their Osage City Garage, at least by 1912, starting at a price of $620. Plans were made for Ralph Hankinson to bring his captivating sport to Osage City in May of 1915. A crowd of five to six thousand was expected for the “rain or shine” display. Local businesses such as Howard Mercantile held special sales in anticipation of the event, enticing shoppers with ads stating “You auto come!” and children mimicked the sport in the street in homemade “polo wagons.”

Hidden History: Melvern doctor breaks restraints of public service

By Wendi Bevitt

In 1885, Osage County elected its first candidate of African descent to a county office. Quintus M. Hutcherson was born into slavery in Tennessee in 1850. He was a newcomer to the county, having escaped the deteriorating conditions in the south after the end of post-Civil War Reconstruction, the time during which political and social transformation of the southern states was being overseen the newly rejoined federal government.

Reconstruction concluded with the Compromise of 1877, which removed federal troops from the south and allowed any gains made during Reconstruction to be undone, particularly leading to deteriorating conditions for those of African descent.

The outspoken, and Republican, Dr. Hutcherson eventually made many enemies in his hometown of Clarksville, Tennessee, and finding that residence there was neither safe nor pleasant, moved his family west.

Quintus and his wife settled in Melvern, Kansas, the only family of color at that time in town. While he settled in the area and took up farming, Quintus had been trained as a doctor. Formal training for African Americans at this time could only be obtained at certain medical universities. Eclectic physicians, a persuasion similar to modern day chiropractors, however, did not necessarily require formal schooling. It is uncertain which category Quintus’s medical experience was in, but it was not requirement for the public office. It would assist him, though, in besting his opposition.

The Republicans of Osage County were eager to back a candidate that would gather the African-American vote. Quintus was agreeable but hesitant, “I am not in any hurry for an office, although if I could get it, I would take it and do the best I could.”

The Republicans knew the potential for a winning African-American candidate was there. In 1871, shortly after people of color were given the right to vote with the 15th Amendment, a much-esteemed man of African descent from Burlingame, Kansas, Moses Turner, had run for the office of county clerk and narrowly missing being elected. So when nominations for county offices were made, the party discarded their previous candidate and heartily threw their backing behind Dr. Hutcherson.

Hidden History: The Kid, The Pimp, and the Osage City lawman

By Wendi Bevitt

Osage County had a crime problem. It was the summer of 1883, and hardly a town in the county was untouched by some sort of criminal activity. The economic and population boom brought by the railroads and the coal mines had also brought a surge of individuals looking to make a profit via unsavory means.

Burglars, also known as “sneak thieves”, frequently broke into residences, and horse thieves were plentiful. Citizens were encouraged to protect themselves, which led to the formation of vigilance committees or posses to protect towns and retrieve stolen goods.

Town streets at night were hazardous for pedestrians. The dark was cover for those who wanted to disappear into its shadow. People of questionable character would gather on both sides of the sidewalk, singing, whistling and swearing at passersby. Street walkers and prostitutes were common. Respectable women, in particular, were afraid to walk on the streets at night for fear of being harassed.

Frequent lawbreakers became infamous in the county papers. Johnson, “The Pimp”, and his one woman employee wandered from town to town searching for clients, frequenting the streets and local establishments to the point of annoyance. He and others of the same profession would also take up residences at vacated properties for seclusion.

When Pimp Johnson set up a tent along Salt Creek as his headquarters, a public outcry went out to push them into the creek, promising the support of the community for the people following through with disposing of the couple.

Another character known as “The Kid” was a gentleman gambler that dressed in the highest style, from his matching clothes to his fine gloves. The Kid, like Pimp Johnson, would patronize the saloons and other establishments that allowed gambling. The Kid’s amiable nature gave him a certain leeway with the authorities, and when he and his friends were locked up, they would sing, dance and cause such a commotion that houses neighboring the jail would be kept awake until the wee hours of the night.

While most of the county’s towns were affected by this crime wave and used their best attempts at law enforcement, Osage City’s law officer stood out as an example of the quintessential lawman of the time. Marshal Jack Williams worked hard to control the undesirable element within the Osage City limits.

Marshal Williams assumed the office of Osage City marshal in 1880. He was fair, just, and a strict enforcer of the law. Williams wasn’t frightened by angry mobs or other men of money and influence that tried to affect his pursuit of enforcing the law and keeping the peace.

Hidden History: Young man in early Bleeding Kansas turmoil finds final rest at Quenemo

By Wendi Bevitt

Civil War veteran Charles Howard Dickson is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery outside of Quenemo. If given a chance, no doubt Charles could tell you many different stories of the experiences in his life. However, the one he’d probably tell you first is the exciting tale of his involvement in the rescue of a man and mark the beginning of what was known as the Wakarusa War in Kansas.

Charles’ family moved to Kansas Territory in March 1855 with an immigrant aid company, intent on making Kansas a state free from slavery. The Dicksons settled on a claim in Douglas County, south of Lawrence.

While Charles and his father worked on making the claim ready for their homestead, they stayed in a tent on the claim. Charles’ mother and three siblings resided in Lawrence until the homestead was suitable. Charles’ father would be gone occasionally overnight, leaving the 16-year-old Charles to watch the claim. Threatening storms were the only thing that would make young Charles leave his post, when he would take refuge at the neighboring home of James Abbott and his family.

It was because of this situation that Charles was one of the few people involved in what was known as the “Branson Rescue” from beginning to end. Jacob Branson was a nearby free-state settler. Branson’s friend, Charles Dow, had been shot in mid-November over a land claim by Franklin Coleman, who was a pro-slavery advocate. Coleman fled to Westport, Missouri, seeking to secure an arrest warrant for Jacob Branson. The reason for the warrant was that Branson sought to kill Coleman for murdering his friend. However, it is more likely that the arrest was to silence Branson, the principal witness for the murder of Dow.

Not long after the murder, the local residents attended the Dow murder investigation, James Abbott among the attendees. While the older men were at the investigation, Charles Dickson was a guest at the Abbott home when a knock was heard at the door. A neighbor had arrived, announcing that Sheriff Jones of Westport was on his way with a group of men under cover of darkness to arrest Jacob Branson for the attempted murder of Franklin Coleman.

Mr. Abbott and some of the men who had attended the Dow murder investigation arrived at the Abbott home not long after and rushed to the Branson house to intercept the sheriff and his posse. They were unsuccessful and found themselves instead in hot pursuit with an attempt to rescue their friend.

The free-state group of about 10 or 11 men eventually met up with the posse and demanded that since Jones could not produce the warrant that he claimed to have, the sheriff release their friend. A long period of threats and “impressive language” was exchanged between the two parties, with the free-state group doubling in number by the end. Branson was reluctantly freed, with Sheriff Jones vowing to return to Kansas Territory with a mass of men in retaliation for this act.

Hidden History: Toe-tappin’ leads Lyndon’s cobbler to his career choice

By Wendi Bevitt

In an era when a favorite pair of shoes was meant to last past the time when they lost their sole, the Royal Shoe Shop served the community of Lyndon. Previously owned by a Mr. Leslie L. Barnes, it was purchased in 1923 by Clyde Morand, a fresh graduate of the Kansas School for the Deaf.

Clyde was the son of Elmer and Gertrude Morand, and was born in Kansas in 1903. Elmer hosted barn dances throughout the summer, entertaining the community with music and laughter. However, after a time, Elmer and Gertrude noticed that Clyde was not able to hear the joyous sounds and share in them.

The Morands heard of Dr. William H. Cook, a recent immigrant to the area who specialized in eyes, ears, nose and throat, and drove to Beloit to see what could be done for their son.

The family shortly thereafter moved south of Topeka, which undoubtedly offered more resources for their deaf son. In 1913, Clyde started attending the Kansas School for the Deaf, in Olathe. This boarding school had been created in 1866 and was the first of its kind in the state. In addition to teaching the students sign language and typical school subjects, they were also taught a trade that would help them after they graduated. Vocational training included baking, sewing, printmaking, and shoemaking – which is the trade that Clyde would learn.

The shoemaking department was established early on in the school’s history, its lead teacher being Charles “C. H.” Hyer. Mr. Hyer moved to Olathe in 1872 and began teaching the students how to make and mend shoes. C. H. opened a cobbling shop on the side and was assisted by his brother Edward. In 1875, a cowboy stomped into Hyer’s boot shop complaining about his boots and petitioning Hyer to create a better boot. C. H. determined that the best style had a pointed toe, higher and sloped heel, and stitching up the leg. The style was a hit and propelled Hyer’s boots to a favorite among cowboys and those keeping the Wild West alive in film. Hyer’s prosperity in boot making did not sever his relationship with the school, however. Hyer boots continued to be involved in vocational education in the industrial department.

Hidden History: Nation reaps rewards of local public service corps

At the Civilian Conservation Corps camp at Burlington, Kan., recruits end their duty day with a retreat ceremony. Photo from Bevitt collection.

By Wendi and Tod Bevitt

The outlook at the start of the 1930s was shrouded in a cloud of economic failure and dust as a result of the stock market crash of 1929, drought, and poor soil conservation practices. Unemployment had risen to 25 percent by 1933, and while that did not affect farmers, the dropping crop and stock prices did. The great clouds of dust that were forming on the horizon were a result of the wartime effort after 1914, during which the amount of acreage devoted to wheat was greatly increased, also known as “The Great Plow Up”.  The combination of drought, overgrazing of pastures and poor conservation practices overall led to a period of massive dust storms led to the region being called the Dust Bowl.

When President Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933, he immediately set in motion work relief programs to deal with the dire financial situation facing the country, one of which was the Civilian Conservation Corps or CCC. The CCC focused on conservation projects, a subject Roosevelt had previously shown favoritism towards during his tenure as governor of New York. The CCC not only put unemployed young men to work, but also increased their employability through education and experience on the many public service projects performed by the various camps.  There were generally three different types of CCC projects in Kansas: soil erosion, lake creation or maintenance, and those focusing on reforestation.

Hidden History: Building Burlingame bridge was just one of Switzler’s adventures

John Switzler’s namesake creek forms a natural city limits in northeast Burlingame, as shown in the foreground on a historical illustration and satellite photo.

By Wendi Bevitt

The Santa Fe Trail crosses a small drainage known as Switzler’s Creek as the trail enters Burlingame from the east. This crossing has been in existence for traffic since the trail was created, if not in the time before history was written. The small drainage known formerly by the name “Bridge Creek” gained its name from John Switzler, a trader who was present at the birthplace of the Santa Fe Trail, and made the crossing at Switzler Creek possible.

When Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, the trading center of Santa Fe could finally become a target of trade with the American frontier. That same year, William Becknell led an expedition from Franklin, Missouri, to Santa Fe to gather furs, as well as find a viable route to that center of commerce.

The route was already known to Native Americans as a series of trails across their plains from the Missouri River Valley to the southwest. Franklin would be the beginning of Santa Fe Trail traffic for several more years and home to notable traders like Kit Carson, and lesser known ones such as John Switzler.

Switzler and his brothers took part in the Santa Fe trade. His brother Michael ran a boarding house and stable, and supplied the westbound traffic.

John was not only active in the trade between Taos, New Mexico, and Franklin, but also provided mules to the traders making the journey. When traders would head out on an expedition, they would normally travel in groups, each man carrying a good rifle, dependable pistol, four pounds of gun powder, eight pounds of lead, and rations for 20 days.

By 1822, Becknell had secured a route to Santa Fe that was accessible to wagon traffic, making travel easier. Starting in 1825, Becknell mapped the route and Colonel George Sibley was put in charge of an expedition to survey the route and secure safe passage for the travelers through treaties with the Native American tribes. Part of Sibley’s responsibilities required him to make the route easier to travel, and in 1826 he paid John Switzler $200, presumably to build the bridge over Bridge Creek, later known as Switzler Creek.

Hidden History: Former Lyndon mayor, fire marshal orders sanity in Fourth celebrations

By Wendi Bevitt

In the early 1910s, commissioners at Kansas City, Kansas, started pushing for a sane Fourth of July celebration. Up to this time regulations were very limited. Fire related deaths had been reported as 4,500 in 1903, but with increasing fire awareness had dropped to 1,500 in 1914. Kansas City’s “Sane Fourth” model proposed limiting usage of fireworks as well as a cleanup day on the eve of the celebrations to remove trash and other fire hazards in urban areas. At this time, most buildings in Kansas were wood frame, and the chance of accidental fires was a real threat.

In 1915, newly appointed fire marshal Lewis T. Hussey adopted the Kansas City plan and started promoting its benefits in time for the July 4th holiday.

Lewis Hussey grew up in Coffey County, Kansas, graduating from Burlington High School in 1888. His family moved to Osage County, where his father, Jerry, became register of deeds and Lewis served as deputy until 1893.

Lewis eventually became city clerk and later mayor of Lyndon. As mayor, he led the way to the installation of a city water and sewer system, which had mixed reviews among the citizens of the town. He was also elected to serve as state representative from Osage County and also served as state oil inspector.

During his civil service, Lewis pursued a career in insurance, establishing the Metropolitan Accident Association. He then joined others in organizing the Osage Fire Insurance Company in 1908. His experiences as a civil servant and in the fire insurance field made Lewis a perfect choice for Governor Arthur Capper to appoint him as state fire marshal in 1915. Capper had already started instituting portions of the safety measures of the Kansas City fire prevention plan, such as a statewide clean-up day in April, but Lewis was the perfect person to enforce what had begun.

In his new job, Lewis took protecting Kansas citizens very seriously. He admonished that a “safe and sane” 4th of July celebration was the most consistent way for Kansas to observe the day and that it might be “too much to expect a complete return to sanity after the free range that has been indulged in the celebration in years past, but an effort needs to be made in most cities and towns for a more moderate and intelligent form of celebration.”

Hidden History: Kansas county named in honor of Civil War private, Osage County native

Rev. Josiah McAfee, inset, as a Kansas legislator, honored the sacrifice of one of his recruits by naming Rooks County after him.

By Wendi Bevitt

Fifty-six Kansas counties honor the names of soldiers from the Civil War. Only two, however, bear the name of men who held the rank of private – Rooks and Osborne. Rooks County, while located in the western half of the state, is forever connected to Osage County as the recipient of the name of Osage County native, John Calvin Rooks.

John Calvin Rooks, familiarly called “Calvin”, was born in Pennsylvania and came with his family to Kansas in 1858. His parents, John and Delilah, set up their farm two miles south of Burlingame when the county was still known as Weller. The family became members of the Burlingame Baptist church and faithfully attended.

In mid-September of 1862, Calvin enlisted in Company I of the 11th Kansas Volunteer Infantry. Many men from both Burlingame and Grasshopper Falls (modern Valley Falls in Jefferson County) were recruited into this company by the Rev. Josiah B. McAfee.

The new recruits were taken to Fort Leavenworth where they received brief military training and then were deployed to the battle fronts in Indian Territory and Arkansas. Company I saw action at Old Fort Wayne, Indian Territory (Oklahoma), on October 22 and then at Cane Hill in Arkansas on November 28.

Each time the company established a camp, a Thursday night prayer meeting would be held in a large Sibley tent, led by the Rev. Josiah McAfee, who served both as 1st Lieutenant of Company I as well as chaplain. Being a Christian man, Calvin attended each meeting. At the prayer meeting on December 4, Rev. McAfee was shaking hands with each of the attendees and asking them to relate his religious experience. Private Rooks told Rev. McAfee that from the age of nine, he had chosen to be a soldier for Christ.

Contact us: Osage County News | P.O. Box 62, Lyndon, KS 66451 | [email protected] | 785-828-4994 | Powered by Osage County, Kansas