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Hidden History: Osage County exiles populist publisher back to plow pushing

Gritty Kansas newspaper editor Sylvester Fowler made Osage County his temporary home in the late 1800s. His passion in politics and writing rubbed many the wrong way, causing his stays to be cut short, but he remained determined to return to this place he felt held his same ideals.

Fowler was born in 1853 in Ohio, and came to Kansas when he was three years old. He entered the newspaper business in Pottawatomie County in the mid-1870s, pledging that a paper under his supervision would not publish anything “unsound in morals, or unhealthy in religion … and parents need not be afraid of its bringing an evil influence into their homes.”

It didn’t take long however, for the young, ambitious and outspoken newspaper man to stir controversy. In 1879, he was accused of plagiarizing and stealing from another paper.

He continued to push the limits of what was considered acceptable in society when he published a book called Sex and other Poems in 1890, which included what was considered erotic poetry but also poems of a more general nature. While tame by today’s standards, the mere utterances of anything of a sexual nature were taboo during the Victorian period, and Fowler’s poetry caused breathless readings among its fans.

“In spite of creeds that mislead us
And doubts that vex and perplex
I hold that the highest religion
Is the proper worship of sex.”-Sex 1890

Despite some approval the poet gained, others were not so impressed. The Nortonville News stated that Fowler’s poem dedicated to recently deceased newspaperman Milton W. Reynolds was so terrible, “It seems a great pity … that Reynolds could not rise from his grave and drop the man who would write such trash and dedicate it to him.”

At the time Sex and other Poems was published, the People’s Party (or Populist Party) arose on the political scene and caught the eye of Fowler. The Populists sought to restore the government to the hands of “plain people”, distancing itself from corporate and financial interests, a concept appealing to both farmers and under-represented minorities. Fowler, who maintained a farm in addition to running a newspaper, took up the Populist cause and started papers that were considered “organs” for the Populist Party.

In 1893, Fowler made the move to Osage County, considering it a place with down-home values and anticipating a good reception for a Populist paper. He purchased the former Burlingame Herald and turned it into the Burlingame Blade, a Populist promoting periodical. His success and ambition encouraged him to purchase the Lyndon Herald, also. He would consolidate those papers under one title, The People’s Herald, and move the offices to Lyndon, reasoning that he often got turned around in Burlingame.

His People’s Herald went head-to-head with the Osage City Free Press, calling it and any others out on any anti-populism rhetoric. It did not take Fowler long in his reporting to stir up controversy.

In the previous election, in an attempt to revitalize the lackluster response to enforcement of prohibition around the state, the Populists promoted an all-temperance ticket in Osage County. Problems arose when the Populists’ winning choice for county attorney, Ellis Lewis, was found to be all but temperate, and would not enforce the laws. Rumors began that the Populists had agreed that there was to be no enforcement of the laws if their ticket was elected. Both of these were too much for the ardent Populist Fowler to bear and he lashed out at Lewis in his People’s Herald, calling him a “miserable ingrate, malicious, ungrateful, and wretchedly debauched and depraved. He is a traitor to the party that honored him and to the friends who furnished him money … He is the most hopelessly confirmed drunkard today in Osage County. He is without self-control and without hope. Let him be removed.”

Hidden History: Cheese depression ends success of Burlingame’s Western Reserve

In the 1860s and beyond, Osage County was one of the most prolific cheese manufacturing areas in Kansas. Cheese production increased in the county when under the guidance of W.D. Canfield, a cheese factory was established at Burlingame, making the town an important cheese producer in the state.

When Canfield and Harvey Parker came to Kansas in 1873, they likely had every intention to establish a cheese factory the moment they settled in the town. Both men were natives of northeast Ohio known as the Western Reserve, Geuga and Portage counties, respectively.

The Western Reserve had long been one of the leading cheese producing locations in the United States, exporting so much cheese that it became known as “Cheesedom.” In 1860, Portage and Geuga counties had produced about 8.5 million pounds of cheese, selling at about 13 cents per pound in eastern and southern markets.

H.W. Parker in particular had gained extensive experience in the cheese industry and was ready to put it to use in Burlingame. A publication in 1872 promoting the success of a cheese factory system, coupled with a depression of the cheese economy in the Western Reserve, sent Canfield and Parker to Kansas, where they could produce a large quantity of cheese at a lesser price.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Burlingame and Osage County were already established as the leading producer of cheese in the state – Osage was the first county to give a thought to its production. John S. Bush and Gamaliel Kent, also from the cheese districts of New York and Ohio, were among the first dairy men in the county. Bush and Kent’s cows produced enough milk to make nearly 70 pounds of cheese (primarily American) per day. The pair sold large loads of what was considered the finest quality cheese to both Leavenworth and Lawrence, earning 10 cents per pound, wholesale.

At that time, three dairies were located around Burlingame and they gained a reputation for superior cheeses, winning state fair premiums for the best cheese for most of a decade. Merchants were willing to pay a premium for Osage County cheese because of its quality.

In the early days, cheese was cured at the homes of local farmers, but due to the benefits of the factory system and increase in demand for cheese from the Civil War, factories began to be established. In 1866, Superior (a now extinct town south of Burlingame) created a factory within its former hotel.

For their cheese factory in Burlingame, W.D. Canfield and Harvey Parker joined with Homer Rogers, of Lyndon, and purchased a former furniture factory with hopes to convert it for cheese production. A steam mill and boiler were attached for use in pumping and heating the water for the cheese process. The men invested less than $5,000 in the property, buildings, and machinery, and named their venture the Western Reserve Cheese Factory in honor of their place of nativity. By May 1873, they were ready for production, reportedly one of five small factories in the state. The Western Reserve Cheese factory projected that they could manufacture 1,000 pounds of 40-pound cheeses per day, contracting with local farmers for 400 cows.

Burlingame, while the center of Osage County at that time, was not the only area town that was considering the marketability of cheese. Carbondale began looking into a flour and cheese mill pairing. The booming town of Lyndon and Valley Brook Township also marginally passed $3,000 in bonds to build a steam mill and cheese factory within a half mile of the disputed county seat.

Hidden History: Bailey’s hopefulness gives Lyndon its successful beginning

One hundred and fifty years ago, the town of Lyndon was born, and as it turned out, was the only child of Judge Lawrence D. Bailey.

After land within the Sac and Fox reserve had been opened up for white settlement in 1869, a first attempt was made to locate a town in the center of Osage County, with the apt name of Osage Center. The creators of Osage Center lacked the funds to give it a proper start, however.

In 1870, another push was made for a town, this time employing the help of Judge Bailey, of Douglas County. It was Bailey that would be the boost that gave the eventual town of Lyndon its successful beginning.

Judge Bailey was born in 1819, in Vermont. A progressive man, he took a stance against slavery in 1837. While pursuing a degree in law, he apprenticed with the Tappans, who were prominent abolitionists. Because of his strong beliefs on slavery, Bailey headed west to Kansas in 1857 to help secure its entrance to the Union as a free state. He settled near Clinton in Douglas County.

He immediately put his politics to work, serving as one of the first supreme court justices in the new state. Judge Bailey was also instrumental in creating the first statewide board of agriculture, as well as establishing the State Normal School at Emporia, where he had maintained a law office for a short time.

His involvement in the early government of Kansas had him at the Eldridge Hotel, in Lawrence, in August 1863, when Quantrill’s raiders attacked the town. During the raid, Judge Bailey came face to face with Quantrill himself when the hotel was being evacuated. Not considered a threat, he was only asked to surrender his wallet, although the raiders left him with pocket change for breakfast. Bailey then swam the Kansas River to escape the violence.

Called the “wheel horse of Kansas farmers” for his hardworking approach to pretty much everything, Bailey also pursued building cities. With his work in politics and the State Board of Agriculture, he had traveled to nearly every county in the state, which gave him a good knowledge of Kansas and the needs of successful industry. He was appointed postmaster (a crucial position for any prospective town) of Belvoir, a town adjoining his sizeable estate in Douglas County.

Judge Bailey was involved in what was initially called the Wakarusa Valley Railroad, a jerkwater line that cut a path to Carbondale and then Emporia, and which traveled through Belvoir after it was relocated to a position nearer to the line. Jerkwater lines were so named for the tanks that hung at stops along this type of line – to start the water the engineer would jerk a chain to refill the train’s water tank for steam power.

“And they soon resolved to start a town,
To be the central gem and crown –
‘The Hub’ of Osage presently.
‘Twas done and Lyndon was the name,
From brook and hill the compound came!
She soon acquired some local fame,
And grew for months quite rapidly.”

Because of his “go get them” attitude, Bailey was employed to boom Lyndon and make it a desirable location to lure away the county seat from Burlingame. Bailey named the town Lyndon after a pleasant community in Vermont.

Hidden History: Vassar schoolhouse stands as monument to one-room education

Student photo of Vassar School 1939-40. Wendi Bevitt collection.

Throughout the countryside, remnants of schools of a bygone era dot the landscape. The one-room schoolhouse was the core of not only its surrounding community’s education but also a social center supported by its citizens. Sometimes the only public building in the area was the town’s school. On the edge of Vassar, Kansas, the town’s one-room schoolhouse still serves as a center of the community.

The first schoolhouse for Vassar, District 68, was located on a farm northwest of the modern day town site. A second school was built in 1884 closer to the center of the school district, a half mile northeast of what would become the town in 1887. When Pete Peterson gave land to the community in 1912 to be used for stockyards and a depot, part of it was set aside for a new school.

In 1913, the town moved ahead with its plans for a new school and requests for bids were sent out to the surrounding area. Merchant and aspiring architect Clarence Silven, of Osage City, submitted the plans chosen for the school, competing against firms from Ottawa and Topeka. Clarence also created successful plans for Osage City’s Swedish Lutheran church and the high school at Reading.

Frank Cargey, of Baldwin, was selected for the carpentry work and A. M. Duty, of Melvern, was chosen to do the concrete and brick work. As bricks emerged as a building material for schoolhouses, the sturdy material made it the style of choice. Vassar’s second school was torn down and much of the material was reused for the new building. Total cost for the new Vassar school was $3,299.

The year the Vassar school was completed, 54 percent of teachers and 42 percent of pupils in the state were in one-room schoolhouses. One-room schools typically had two teachers that split the responsibilities of teaching the different age levels. Back then, schoolteachers’ professional lives only lasted on average about four years, but they were at the core of social improvements in their communities.

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.”

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