By Wendi Bevitt
In 1912, some eligible bachelors of Olivet found themselves frustrated. They were too long single and growing weary of their status. These men decided to join their efforts in association with their local YMCA group and created a bachelor’s club in hopes of finding a significant other.
The Topeka Daily Capitol noted the following officers and members of the Olivet Bachelor’s Club in March 1912: President, E. S. Mann, vice president, Berton Yeager, recording secretary, Benton McCauley, treasurer, J. P. Wilson, corresponding secretary, E. A. Thomas, and other members, E. A. Thomas, Ivan Calkins, L.L. Johnson, Jess Lovell, Clarence Lytle, William Elo, Oscar Schidlin, H. Mossburger, Frank George and W.W. Kitchen. The men ranged in age from 22 to 50 years old, and varied in status and description.
Ads were posted in local newspapers describing the matrimonial club members: their age, physical description, and admirable qualities. The newspaper ads encouraged interested young ladies to submit letters for their favored gentleman. A cookstove was promised to the first bachelor to secure a bride.
Within a few years, a group of similar minded Melvern men created their own group with the same aim. Locals shook their heads at why these men were seeking out-of-town girls while the hometown women were just as pretty and capable. This prompted some to theorize that something must be wrong with these men who couldn’t find wives at home.
The response to these groups was promising. The Melvern club attracted more than 400 letters. One quarter of the amount was for a man named Arley Meek. C. W. Ireley, Ed Stephen and Lester McNabb received half as many, and the other members averaged about eight letters each.
Arley Meek was a prosperous farmer, recently divorced of about 30 years in age. Arley found an attraction with a Kansas City, Kan., respondent named Jane Crew. The pair corresponded for a period before Arley journeyed to meet his love match at her given address: 803 N. Sixth St. When he arrived at the address however, he found that it was not a residence, but city hall, where no Jane Crews could be found.
The police presumed the young woman to be an employee of city hall and pledged to help track down the elusive lady. Arley had to go home without finding his pen pal, but not without first offering $50 to the first officer that would aid in finding her.
Benton McCauley, the 27 year old recording secretary of the Olivet club finally found love – though not with the aid of the bachelor’s club, but through the telephone lines. In his job as a bank cashier, he made frequent phone calls to the telephone exchange at Waverly. These calls provided him with the connection to the enchanting voice of 19-year-old Ruby Littrell. Eventually the pair arranged to meet on one of Benton’s business trips to Waverly. The pair met secretly on and off for 18 months and eloped during a rendezvous in Kansas City.
As in present times, it seems these past Osage County bachelors did whatever they could to help Cupid’s arrow find its mark.
Photo by Ferdinand. The above is a cut of the Olivet Bachelor’s Club, with about 3 or 4 missing, of whom there has been a great deal of talk recently, due to their matrimonial inclinations. They are a handsome bunch. Girls, look them over and sharpen your hooks. This is the first picture the boys have had taken together. Osage City Free Press, March 21, 1912.
Wendi 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.