Search Results for: wendi bevitt

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.

Franklin County’s Civil Conservation Corps topic of historical society annual meeting

Four enrollees at a C.C.C. camp northwest of Ottawa. Photo thanks to Franklin County Historical Society.

OTTAWA, Kan. – From 1933 until 1942, the Civilian Conservation Corps employed millions of young, unmarried men in jobs related to conservation and natural resource development as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Tod Bevitt, of Oskaloosa and formerly of Overbrook, will explore how the C.C.C. impacted Kansas and Franklin County during a presentation at the 83rd annual meeting of the members of the Franklin County Historical Society, at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, at Neosho County Community College, at Ottawa, Kansas.

The Civilian Conservation Corps was arguably one of Roosevelt’s most successful New Deal programs. The C.C.C. was a program of conservation and construction that changed the lives of more than three million men and their families by offering employment opportunities during the Great Depression. For the past 10 years, Bevitt has been studying the C.C.C. in Kansas, researching the men, their camps and the projects they completed. In 2018, he and his wife, Wendi, contracted with the Kansas Historical Society to document what remains of the C.C.C. camps in Kansas. His presentation will give an overview of the C.C.C. and specifically its impact in the Ottawa area.

Tod Bevitt is the owner and principal investigator for Buried Past Consulting LLC, performing cultural resource investigations throughout the state of Kansas and the Great Plains. Wendi Bevitt has more than 20 years of experience conducting historical research and genealogy and is the author of “Hidden History of Osage County,” a monthly column in the Osage County News.

The Jan. 26 program will begin at 2 p.m. with a review of 2019 FCHS activities. Tod Bevitt’s presentation will begin at approximately 2:45 p.m. This program is free and open to the public. In the event of inclement weather, this event will be held at 2 p.m. Feb. 2. The Old Depot Museum will be closed on Jan. 26 so that all staff members and volunteers can participate in the annual meeting.

For more information, contact the Franklin County Historical Society, 785-242-1250.

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.

Hidden History: Osage County boy’s curiosity unearths enormous discoveries

Barum Brown, left, and Henry Osborn at Como-Bluff during the American Museum of Natural History expedition of 1897. At front, limb bone of Diplodocus. AMNH photo.

By Wendi Bevitt

The fossil record in Osage County might be relegated to small marine specimens, but one young man’s fascination with them led to prehistoric finds of gigantic proportions, and the title of “Father of the Dinosaurs”.

In 2017, an Osage County native named Barnum Brown was memorialized by signage on U.S. Highway 75 through the work of Washburn Rural Junior High School students. Barnum Brown, a paleontologist also known as “Mr. Bones”, gained national notoriety for his discovery of the first identifiable Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in southeastern Montana.

Barnum grew up just outside of Carbondale, Kan., the son of William and Clarissa Brown. William Brown was known for his profitable business of outfitting wagons heading westward, providing land for the town of Carbondale, and being a successful coal mine operator.

Barnum Brown, Mr. Bones, as a student.

Barnum, the youngest of the Brown children, was named for Phineas Barnum of circus fame, reportedly because the circus arrived in town on the day of his birth in 1873. From a young age Barnum began collecting fossils, and his collection eventually overflowed from the family home and was relegated to the family laundry building nearby.

Referring to his childhood collections, Barnum once said, “I followed the plows and scrapers, and obtained such a large collection that it filled all of the bureau drawers and boxes until one could scarcely move.”

Hidden History: Burlingame’s ‘Aunt Emily’ endeared for her strength and virtue

By Wendi Bevitt

You probably haven’t heard of her, but Aunt Emily Ford was one of the most beloved citizens of Burlingame, Kansas. At a time when prejudice and segregation ran rampant throughout most of the country, the color line however did not exist for Aunt Emily in her adopted community, and she held a special place of honor and respect there.

Aunt Emily Ford was a spry little figure, with toil-scarred hands and a kindly face. “To know her [was] to love her” and later in her life, the local newspapers would run lengthy articles on the occasion of her birthday celebrating her many years, or an interview inquiring about her past.

“I shouldn’t think anyone would want to hear about slaves and slavery,” she said, but the reply was, “Yes, but everyone especially those of the younger generation know little of slavery and such an article would be of interest to the readers.”

This is her story.

Emily was born in North Carolina in 1813. Her family was owned by a family named White. The Whites treated their slaves harshly and used them for hard manual labor clearing trees and grubbing out shrubs when they moved to Tennessee.

As was the custom for slave owners, when Mr. White’s daughter was married to a man by the name of Farmer, she was given Emily as part of her dowry. Emily was two years older than her new mistress, and the two had shared a childhood together. Because of this familiarity, Emily found herself in a much more hospitable environment in her new home. Emily served as a cook in the Farmer household. The family moved to the Springfield, Missouri, area in 1837. It was there that she was allowed to marry another local slave, Daniel Ford.

When the area was invaded by Union soldiers in 1861, the Union forces freed slaves on the farms they encountered. Daniel Haney, of Burlingame, was with the 1st Kansas regiment when their company came upon Daniel Ford hauling potatoes in from the fields with his master’s wagon.

“Come with us to freedom!” was the call. Daniel Haney helped the Fords load all their children, earthly possessions, and even the feather mattress from the big house into the master’s wagon and the family followed the soldiers to a new life.

Their eventual arrival in Burlingame found the family without much means to start their new life. Instead of letting them remain relegated to their poor status, the people of Burlingame gave them a fair shot at success in their new life.

Hidden History: Early trekkers cross Kansas, pulling cart, pushing for better U.S. roads

Smith and Miller were photographed with their cart, the “Fordlet”, and featured in the Hoisington Distpatch, Nov. 25, 1915.

By Wendi Bevitt

With the invention of the automobile, America needed roads, good roads – which created a push for the creation of highways, namely a highway that would cross the entire country east to west. To draw attention to this need, and following a movement created by the government to See America First, people started taking up the challenge of traveling the completed and proposed parts of this highway. Two men that took up this challenge were Edward J. Smith, age 20, and Carl A. Miller, age 19, both of New York state.

The pair left New York City in July of 1915 and headed for California with $5 in their pockets, 250 pounds of gear, and a mandolin in their cart, which they called a “Fordlet”. America was to be their school, nature their books, and the people they met along the way their teachers. Their goal was to make the trip from NYC to California in seven months. By comparison, a motorist would expect to make the journey in 30 days, which would be at a rate of 18 miles per hour and six hours per day, costing $5 per day per person.

Smith and Miller as pictured in the Palladium Item, Richmond, Ind., Sept. 13, 1915.

Ed and Carl made up for their lack of funds for the trip by lecturing about their travels and selling photographs of themselves along the route, all while promoting their hope for a book on their travels. They kept an extensive scrapbook, tucking away the letters of recommendation from various government officials or people they encountered, as well as mementos of sights along the way. They stayed at local YMCAs, gracious individuals’ houses, or just slept under the stars.

In Ohio, they befriended a dog that joined the caravan and whom they named Frisco. It was also in this area of the country that the roads became less travel worthy. Ruts and mud were a foot deep. Ed Miller commented that “you could not take a step without lifting an abnormal portion of the county with you.”

Once the pair finally reached Kansas City, they shifted their travel from the proposed route of the Lincoln Highway to that of following the Santa Fe Trail. The old Santa Fe Trail closely follows modern day Highway 56 in Osage County. Some of the points that would have been seen at that time and can still be viewed today are Simmons Point Station in extreme western Douglas County, and McGee-Harris Station near Scranton.

Ed and Carl arrived in northeast Kansas right after Arthur Capper had declared Good Road Days for Kansas, so he was glad to meet with them when they made a detour from their Santa Fe Trail route to visit the capital city.

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