Hidden History: Circus entertainer chose Osage City for zoological garden, castle

By Wendi Bevitt

Just after 1900, Osage City was the home to its own zoological garden complete with its own castle for a headquarters. In this garden, however, the lions didn’t roar, there were no trumpets from the elephants or growls from the bears. They were all as still as a statue – literally.

The garden was the creation of a man named Clyde Hogan. Clyde was the son of Thomas and Nancy (Crowder) Hogan.  Thomas had served his country in the Civil War in the 51st Illinois Infantry for 3 1/2 years. The family had come to Osage County in 1877.  According to the 1887 Osage City directory, the family lived at 1141 Murray Street.  This location is in the northeast portion of present day Osage City around the Flint Hills Nature Trail.

Clyde Hogan was born in 1886 prior to the move to the Murray Street address.  It is unknown whether they stayed at this address or stayed in the “northeast part of town”, but by the early 1900s they were living in a castle that served as a backdrop for the emerging zoological gardens. Clyde had taken an interest in amusement parks and had started touring with an amusement group. By early 1906 construction was nearly completed on Clyde’s re-creation of what surrounded him during his circus life. The house strongly resembled a “Katzenjammer castle” used most commonly as a fun house. Plaster animals dotted the front yard, posing for guests who came to gaze at the spectacle and a magnificent gate beckoned them in.

Clyde’s circus life didn’t stop there.

In August of 1906 he married a young girl he had met on the amusement circuit. This was not just any ordinary ceremony, it was held on the grounds where the C. W. Parker Amusement company was entertaining. A justice of the peace presided over the ceremony within the lions’ cage, with “an ugly wild cat as a bridesmaid and a lion for the best man”. The ferocious felines were held in check by Dolly Dimple “Lady of the Lions” who started her career as a lion tamer around 1895 and had joined with the Parker company the year before.

The marriage lasted only four short weeks.  Clyde presumably continued on the entertainment circuit because the house he had worked on so hard closed its grounds in 1909 due to his lack of attention and his parents’ advancing years.

Clyde’s adventures took him far and wide and he died in California in 1965.  His body was brought back from his wanderings to be buried near his family in the Osage City Cemetery.

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The zoological garden and castle at Osage City are featured in this old postcard archived at the Osage County Historical Society.

Photo thanks to the Osage County Historical Society.


wendibevitt2016bWendi Bevitt is owner of Buried Past Consulting LLC. She has lived in Osage County for 18 years and her research interests include Osage County Civil War veterans and Osage County history.



6 Responses to Hidden History: Circus entertainer chose Osage City for zoological garden, castle

  1. Pam says:

    Thanks you for this story!

  2. Marilyn Wallace says:

    Very interesting…too bad the castle is not still standing!

  3. Ralph swanson says:

    I have the cement bear. 1988 or so, from the back yard of a house being torn down. The zoo was located where Bill Decock’s is now. Or should I say where Bill lived years ago.

  4. Neva Smith says:

    I had heard about this but thought someone told me it was on a street south of Main Street a ways, on the north side of an east-west street and not in the NE part of town? Anyone?

  5. Cathryn says:

    I have known about this zoological wonder & seen picture before. BUT, certainly enjoyed reading this article and learning so much more about the man who built it. Too bad it went by the wayside.

  6. AWBW says:

    Great story!

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