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Hidden History: Small town girl stands up to small-minded scorn

A family photo of Peter and Kate Peterson and sons, Roy, Clyde and John. Wendi Bevitt collection.

History becomes hidden for many reasons. At times it is because the person or event is surrounded by some shame. Attempts to suppress the shame cuts that part of an individual’s story out of the historical record. Living in a small, rural community amplified any shame a person had because town gossip mills could and still can be devastating.

Emily Kate Bratton, “Kate” for short, was born in 1867 in Pennsylvania, the youngest of eight surviving children born to John and Catherine. Her birth came right before her family and a group of others from the same area moved to Burlingame, Kan.

Kate’s uncle, George Bratton, had been one of the first settlers of Burlingame in 1854, when it was known as Council City. Kate grew up on a farm not far from town. As a girl from a rural middle class family, she would have conformed to the norms of the day – helping her mother with the household chores such as cooking, cleaning, and mending.

However, unlike other girls her age, as the youngest in her family, she did not have the responsibility of helping to look after younger siblings, which gave her a certain amount of freedom. As a student, school attendance was not regulated at this time, and particularly with farming families school was optional compared to farm and home responsibilities. Even though there was a school within a mile of the Bratton home, northwest of Burlingame, by the time Kate was 13, she was not attending school.

Hidden History: Burlingame firemen fight to keep town from extinguishing

Burlingame was the earliest, lasting community within Osage County, Kansas, and was also the site of the first county seat. As the county figured out how to manage growth that nearly doubled the area in the early 1870s, the county seat was shifted to Lyndon, much to the dismay of Burlingame. How could they wrest the title back? What improvements or services could they do that would bring it back? Every community faced the demon of fire, and in 1876, the year after the county seat was taken from them, Burlingame established an organized fire department – something that Lyndon did not have.

Earliest citizens had to rely on their own townspeople to form bucket brigades in case of fire, but that was a slow and intensive process that wasn’t successful against the fiercest of fires. As time passed, some businesses and residences had access to extinguishers, but whether or not they could be afforded, or even easily located in case of a disaster, was another thing entirely.

Organization of two fire companies in 1876 was seemingly progress, but posed its own challenges. Volunteers for the companies were primarily from the Burlingame Guards, the town’s militia, and while the numbers were seemingly impressive, getting those who had promised their service to show up to actually fight fires was problematic. The numbers for the two companies fluctuated wildly. Burlingame would have a at least one company, and then it didn’t have either. People joked that when the volunteers did follow through, the city council would have to offer bribes of payment to the first company to perform their promised duty. And when they did show up, response times were terribly poor, and the losses were great.

Hidden History: Not forgotten, Klan congregated prejudices to fuel flames of hate

A photo of an unnamed Osage County town shows unmasked Klansmen riding horses in a parade. Osage County Historical Society photo.

Sometimes history that is hidden just means it is forgotten. Other times, history is purposefully suppressed because it is much easier to forget than to deal with it. One of those topics that has been intentionally pushed to the side is associations with the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan in Kansas found a foothold in the 1910s.

Increased immigration, along with a surge of nationalism with the first world war, provided a foundation for a resurgence of the KKK. The original Klan emerged in the South in the period following the Civil War called Reconstruction, a plan to alter the skewed social structure that existed in the South caused by slavery. The Klan used political and social terrorism to keep those of African descent in check during this period.

While Klan activities diminished after the early 1870s, memories of the organization did not. The KKK experienced a resurgence when the group was romanticized by author Thomas Dixon in his 1905 novel, The Clansman, which went on to be adapted into a motion picture called The Birth of a Nation in 1915.

The same year the movie came out, the new Klan initiated its first citizens into the “invisible empire” around a fiery cross on top of Stone Mountain in Georgia. The new Klan voiced prejudice against not only African Americans, but also Roman Catholics, Jews, individuals with low morals, or those that showed a lack of patriotism. The new iteration of the organization was much larger than the first one, gaining membership nationwide, and took hold predominantly in the rural states.

Kansas, however, fought hard to keep the Klan out of its borders. Earliest actions included the Kansas censorship bureau banning The Birth of a Nation from being shown in the state.

Hidden History: On a quest for a place to call home, all roads lead to Osage County

The Elmer Duff family at their cabin in Montrose County, Colorado.

In the 1870s, with the expansion of railroad lines, access to Kansas and points in the western part of the United States was made much easier. Individuals in places like Pennsylvania with similarities in climate started looking west for opportunities. Farming in Kansas reportedly involved less labor than points east, and land was cheaper and easier to purchase in large parcels. The Duffs, who had lived in western Pennsylvania, was one of the families that made that trip.

Elmer Duff came to Kansas with his parents, James and Mary, and six siblings in the spring of 1871 on a three-day trip via the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe from Mercer County, Pennsylvania, to Osage City (at that time the ATSF was only completed to Emporia). From Osage City they loaded their household goods on spring wagons and completed the trip to Lyndon. James bought 160 acres outside of town, and built a house with only one small window and two doors until a bigger house could be built.

Elmer married Laura Gill, in 1887. Laura’s family had also made the trek from Pennsylvania to settle at Lyndon. The couple set up a household on the Duff family farm, but after a few years Elmer needed to create a space for his own family. While Osage County was the place their parents settled, the population boom of the 1880s made it a bit crowded. Elmer and Laura started looking elsewhere for greater opportunities, open spaces, and a place of their own.

The territory of Oklahoma was opened for settlement in 1879, and the fourth and largest land rush in Indian Territory was in September 1893, drawing the attention of several Lyndon citizens.

Elmer and Laura took a large wagon and joined a group of others leaving from Lyndon intending to make their race from Arkansas City. The plan was to stick together as much as possible in making any land claims. Other members of the group, Lew Huber and George Fleming, had racehorses in hopes of giving them a leg up on the Sooners, those who entered the newly opened lands before the appointed time.

The Lyndon group joined 100,000 others in a dash across the Cherokee Strip for approximately 40,000 homestead sites. Despite their best efforts, the Duffs weren’t able to acquire a parcel and returned to Lyndon.

Hidden History: Santa Fe Trail charts course for railroads, highways across Kansas

An American family travels using a common mode of transportation during Santa Fe Trail times and later, a covered wagon. Photo source unknown.

The Santa Fe Trail cuts across Osage County, entering the northeast corner and exiting northwest of Osage City. Road markers are visible for travelers on local highways, but what was the Santa Fe Trail, and why was it significant for Osage County?

The route of the Santa Fe Trail, as is commonly the case with historic period trails, was comprised of a series of more ancient routes of travel established and widely used by the original inhabitants of the region far back into prehistory. This trail closely followed a series of indigenous roads.

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 and find a viable route to that center of commerce. By 1822, Becknell had secured a route to Santa Fe that was accessible to wagon traffic, making travel easier. In 1824, the road to Santa Fe was declared an official route by an act of Congress. The following year, representatives of the U.S. government and the Kansa and Osage met at Council Grove, Kansas, where the tribes agreed to relinquish claims to large tracts of the Plains to the United States. The tribes also agreed to provide open access and assistance along the Santa Fe Trail to all travelers. Starting in 1825, Becknell mapped the route, and Colonel George Sibley was put in charge of an expedition to survey 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 to build the bridge over Bridge Creek, later known as Switzler Creek, at modern-day Burlingame.

Early traders along the Santa Fe Trail in Osage County were members of the Shawnee tribe. After a treaty designated a reservation in Kansas for the Shawnee, they were moved to lands south of the Kansas River, which included modern-day Osage County. The Shawnee had long had close associations with Euro-American traders in their recent history, which led them to build a way of life located in close proximity to those they traded with. In Kansas, the Santa Fe road corridor became an ideal location for this because it cut through the Shawnee reservation. Tribe members typically settled in family groups spread out along waterways. Prime locations in what would become Osage County were the Switzler Crossing (at Burlingame) and 110 Mile Creek crossing (near Four Corners).

Hidden History: Working for freedom in Osage County coal mines

Drawing of Kansas Exodusters by Solomon Eytinge, 1833-1905, Harper’s weekly, v. XXIII, No. 1181, August 16, 1879. Source Library of Congress.

After the conclusion of the Civil War there was a period of Reconstruction that attempted to graft the South back into the Union. The transition was disastrous, and at the forefront of other troubles with Reconstruction, individuals of African descent faced racial violence and the creation of the Black Codes (which mirrored previous laws governing slaves). Many chose to leave the south for a chance at a better life in Kansas in what was called the “Black Exodus.”

These migrants were dubbed Exodusters and started to arrive in Kansas as early as 1873. The most widely known Kansas Exoduster settlement at Nicodemus began in 1877, but black migration to Kansas didn’t begin in earnest until 1879.

Multiple Exoduster settlements were made in the state, and while Osage County received many Exodusters, it was not home to an “official” settlement. It was, however, the location of the only business enterprise of its kind in the state, solely owned and operated by Exodusters.

When the Exodusters arrived in Osage County in 1879-1880, many came to Osage City (the town of Burlingame, while welcoming to blacks during the Civil War, did not want the new arrivals).

Most Exoduster men in Kansas found labor positions, predominantly in agriculture. In Osage County, however, the coal resources were just beginning to be tapped in earnest and mining opportunities seemingly abounded. Osage City was an infant town that was booming with the coal industry. Within less than a decade, it boasted 77 new buildings, a great influx of new citizens, and ample opportunities for employment from local stone quarries to five coal shafts. And the coal jobs in the area paid well – double what was offered in the surrounding areas.

Osage City became a very appealing place to settle. But there was a problem. The established coal mines didn’t really want black miners. And so, a group of the earliest members of the Exodus created a mining colony that they called Liberia (named in honor of the colony in Africa established for freed slaves).

This community and mine were the only one of its kind in the state – fully owned and operated by men of African descent. There were two attempts at a Liberia settlement in Osage County. The first Liberia was located just south of the community of Dragoon (south of Burlingame), situated on lands purchased for one of the large coal companies.

The Liberia miners faced multiple hazards. The men were inexperienced and forged their own way with mining. In the over 60-foot-deep shaft, an accidental fall could be disastrous. Also, the community, while relatively close to Burlingame, had no easy access to the town to retrieve supplies. At the time Liberia was established in 1880, there was no safe bridge for regular foot or horse traffic, and crossing Dragoon Creek was accomplished by using the railroad bridge, which could prove deadly.

The first Liberia ended within a few short years and some of its members decided to return to the South, discouraged by lack of opportunities for people of color. When the settlement was disbanded, the buildings were sold and taken to the nearby community of Peterton and repurposed.

For those who remained, working at the Osage City mines was not an option for everyone, as there were only two mines at this time that allowed black men. Determination to make a Liberia mining settlement work led to another attempt in 1885, outside of Barclay, south of Osage City.

Hidden History: Superior townsite fades away with founder’s Kansas dreams

Superior School, Osage County, Kan. Photo by Wendi Bevitt.

The very first attempt at a settlement in what is now Osage County was called Council City. But Council City had a problem. The settlement company that funded and planned it was disorganized, and no one could quite decide where the best location should be – or even if it should be called Council City! After multiple attempts at establishing a location, in an area that covered nearly half a township between Switzler and Dragoon creeks, principal settlement seemed to find a resting place at approximately where Burlingame is today. At the head of the Council City enterprise in the earliest days was James Winchell.

Winchell had been with the settlement company since its arrival in Kansas in the fall of 1854. Shortly after their arrival, the members of the company each selected their preferred tracts of land. Winchell chose a large, wooded parcel located near the confluence of the two creeks. It was not only beautiful but contained significant advantages for building. He was eager to start organizing the town and became its first postmaster.

But when Philip C. Schuyler arrived in Council City in the spring of 1855, he had his own ideas for Council City. Both Winchell and Schuyler were very driven individuals, and it soon became evident that their ambitions would not be able to be combined.

Winchell abandoned Council City at the Switzler location and instead decided to put the resources available on the southern end of the proposed Council City tract for his own town.

His first attempt would be in 1856 with a town named Fremont in honor of General John C. Fremont. In the spring of that year, Winchell served as a delegate to the first national Republican convention. It was at that convention that Fremont was declared the Republican nominee for the presidency. Winchell’s support for Gen. Fremont prompted him to use that name for his town. However, John C. Fremont did not win the presidency, and likewise his namesake town also lost momentum.

Hidden History: Osage County farmer women hated weeds, politics and men

In the 19th century women’s roles in the home and workplace were often limited to household management and family responsibilities. Different factors began to influence a change in expectations. One was the rise in popularity of the women’s suffrage movement, which showed young women they could be considered on equal footing with men in many areas. There was also a shift away from an agrarian society in which young men sought out “easier” jobs in cities. Additionally, technological advances made farm work easier to manage and allowed women to take a larger portions of farming activities. In Osage County, Carrie and Martha James didn’t settle for just that, but became principal farmers on their farm in the northwestern portion of the county.

Carrie and Martha’s parents, Charles and Sarah James, moved to a 200-acre farm northwest of Burlingame in the early 1880s. Charles James started with nothing but his land, his horses, implements, and hard work. When lands in Oklahoma Territory were opened up for white settlers, the family took their chances and participated in the fourth land run, which took place in the north central portion of the state in 1893.

Not every participant was able to obtain a claim, but the James family secured an uncontested one near Alva in Woods County. After the claim was made and improvements began, the land was rented, and the Jameses returned to Osage County. Carrie James eventually took on responsibility for the property, while Martha never went farther than the county seat. Once a year Carrie would go to check on the Oklahoma claim, collect rent, and assure herself that the land was being properly maintained.

Charles died in 1896 and instead of his sons taking over their parents’ farm, Martha, age 30, and Carrie, age 18, immediately jumped in. The sisters began working 100 acres – 40 acres they owned and 60 rented. And they did it with great success.

Advances in farming technology greatly helped women farmers. While cost was prohibitive to small farms, implements like the reaper-binder, improved hay rakes, hay tedders, land roller, and disc harrow made the work go much faster. While the Jameses’ farmhouse may have been plainly furnished, their outbuildings housed all modern machinery with large Clydesdales to pull it.

Hidden History: Early inhabitants wove the fabric of Osage County’s past

Every property has a story, every house has a story, woven by the individuals that make their mark at that specific location. In the southern part of Osage County, Kan., the impact of written human history starts with the Sauk and Fox.

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. This land contained 500 acres of rich farm ground used by the Sauk and Fox for farming until the Treaty of 1868, a deal which would lay the groundwork to remove the tribes to Oklahoma. Despite the signing of the treaty in 1868, the majority of the Sauk and Fox were not moved from the area until 1869. The land was then sold by the government to incoming settlers.

Julius Gandion, early Lyndon  farmer/stockman. Photo Los Angeles Times, Jan. 31, 1906.

One of the first settlers to be granted a land patent (purchase of land from the government) was Julius Gandion. Julius was a native of France who arrived in Osage County in 1871. His farm was located approximately three miles south of Lyndon, a property that now has a large two-story ranch house upon it. That house, while not Gandion’s, would become the center of a larger story.

After only 20 years, Julius Gandion moved on from his property due to personal struggles. Edward H. Perry, an agent for a real estate company in Topeka, heard about the newly available property and jumped at the chance to purchase it in 1892.

Edward constructed a new eight-room house on the property. The ranch became known as one of the most improved farms in the county. It boasted all kinds of fruit and shade trees and a lovely blue grass and tame grass lawn.

Gravestone specialist teaches preservation techniques at Burlingame Cemetery

Participants in cemetery preservation workshop gather at Burlingame Cemetery. Photos by Wendi Bevitt.

Fifty people gathered at Burlingame Cemetery, June 8, 2022,  to learn how to preserve gravestones and monuments. Jonathan Appell, of Atlas Preservation, presented the free cemetery preservation seminar.

Participants reset a Civil War marker using a tripod lift.

For the past 20 years, Appell has worked to preserve gravestones and monuments across the United States, and is the leading preservationist in his field. With his work, Appell has developed simple and effective hands-on techniques and encouraged others to preserve America’s burying grounds. His workshop is part of a cross country tour to complete 48 gravestone preservation workshops in 48 states in 48 days, teaching people how to clean, repair and reset gravestones and monuments in their own backyards.

The Burlingame workshop was attended by individuals of varying backgrounds, representing a majority of the towns in Osage County, and communities from Kansas and Missouri. Several large monuments were leveled, many more cleaned, and one mended.

The event was video documented by Wade Fowler, also known as the Millennial Stone Cleaner, who plans to post the video to his YouTube channel at a future date. Also in attendance were social media personalities, Alicia Williams (aka Lady Taphos) and Amanda Brown (aka Healthy Headstones) who provided additional educational support at the event. The event was sponsored by the Osage County Historical Society and Buried Past Consulting.

Hidden History: Deaf education helps early settlers cope with silence on the prairie

Photo of the printing class from History of the Kansas Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb, 1893.

Perry Barnes and his wife Lizzie, like others anxious to take advantage of the newly opened Sac and Fox reservation lands, moved to Osage County in 1866. However, Perry and Lizzie were unlike other settlers – they were both deaf and non-speaking.

Perry and Lizzie settled south of Osage City. While they were different than other settlers, Perry and Lizzie were also not like many other deaf individuals at that time. Both had been educated at schools for the deaf, and Perry had even taught at one. Because he was given a chance at education, Perry became an avid reader and also a successful farmer and stockman.

Even though Perry and Lizzie left Osage County by 1870, evidence of his time here remains, the name of the creek adjoining their property became known as Mute Creek.

Educational possibilities for the deaf in Kansas started with the Kansas Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb in 1861, which was only a small house school in Baldwin City at that time. While the founders desired to impact area deaf children, it was quite some time before their services would be made more widely available. And so, the deaf of the Kansas interior at the time were left adrift in society and few had the knowledge of how to best meet their needs.

In some cases, deaf individuals were cared for at the county poor farm or floated about. One young Burlingame boy was reported in 1883 to have been given a bottle of whiskey and a cigar as he wandered the neighborhoods.

National Deaf History Month is recognized and celebrated every year from March 13-April 15 to recognize the accomplishments of people who are deaf and hard of hearing. 

The deaf school became established in 1866 at Olathe and reached a period of growth and outreach in the 1880s, when it changed its name to the to Kansas Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb. At this time it and began working on integrating deaf students into society instead of merely separating them from it.

The school in Olathe offered free tuition to students and did not charge for board or clothes washing, which put an education within the grasp of most young deaf or hard of hearing people. Students were accepted as early as age 8, enrolled for a 10-year course of study. The school year ran from September to June, and the students would board at the school during that time. At the end of the term, the students often would be carpooled (for a fee) back to their homes across the state.

Within a decade of growth for the school after its expansion in the 1880s, the school doubled in size. There were 17 teachers in the literary departments, and trades like cabinet making, shoe making, harness making, printing, and baking were taught to the boys, and home skills or the arts to the girls.

Ads ran in Osage County newspapers promoting the school, and many families started to take advantage of the offer. Among the first students from Osage County to attend the deaf school in Olathe were Constance Morell, of Osage City, and Fred Allen, of Burlingame.

Like many at the school, Constance was not born deaf, but due to accident or illness, lost her hearing when she was about six. Her parents first sought out assistance from a doctor in Atchison to no avail. She began attending the institute in Olathe in 1887 and excelled in the art of drawing and painting under the direction of teacher Jessie Zearing, an Osage City native.

Hidden History: Kentuckians seek Kansas townsites to escape bigotry of their homeland

At the time Kansas Territory was opened for settlement in 1854, there were two prime spots on the Santa Fe Trail in what would become Osage County – the crossings at Switzler Creek and 110 Mile Creek. Both locations had been actively used for trade by the Shawnee Tribe until their removal from the area that year. These crossings were quickly snapped up by the earliest settlers in the county to be used for their access to trade.

Switzler’s crossing became the location for Council City, a predecessor to Burlingame, and was established by Northerners intent on making Kansas a state free from slavery. The crossing at 110 Mile Creek would be settled by Southerner Fry McGee. Not long after, other settlements with similar hopes sprung up nearby along the same trail corridor. These towns were established by individuals also with Free State motivations, but seeking freedoms from other discriminations as well.

When the first counties in Kansas Territory received their boundaries in 1855, the northern most part of what would be Osage County was included in Shawnee County (although the county would not be officially organized until 1858), and Burlingame had aspirations to become the county seat or even the capital of the future state. Another developing city that desired to become the county seat for Shawnee County was Prairie City (not to be confused with the Prairie City that was located in Douglas County).

Prairie City was borne out of a desire to live without fear. In August 1855, the city of Louisville, Kentucky, an election day erupted in anti-Catholic violence that became known as Bloody Monday. The riot was led by local Democrats and followers of the Know Nothing Movement, who in their proclaimed patriotism shunned those that were not like them. The Know Nothings were originally known as the Native American Party, a group that sought to organize native-born Protestants and promote traditional values. In Louisville, this manifested itself in anger and discrimination against Catholics and anti-slavery advocates, causing a series of riots and deaths of many German and Irish Catholic immigrants.

Hidden History: Barclay, Osage County’s forgotten Quaker community

A Quaker influence has been in Osage County since the state was opened for settlement in 1854. Even before that time, however, the Quakers were active in Kansas Territory as missionaries to the Native American tribes. Quakers took the belief of “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” literally and believed that all races were equal. At the Kansas Quakers missions, followers sought to bring the Christian faith, as well as education, to the tribes.

Their position in the missions gave them early access to the newly opened lands after the signing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Their early presence here also put them in position to take a role in laying the groundwork for Kansas to be admitted as a free state. Nearly from the time slavery was introduced to the United States, the Quakers had objected to the institution of slavery. Quaker beliefs prohibited them from any force in the matter, so they found another way to take an active role in the fight against slavery – such as the Underground Railroad. In our area, Quaker missionaries were in Osage County early on, but later moved into Wabaunsee County, where they established known stops for the Underground Railroad.

The next major influence of the Quakers in Osage County would not occur until more than a decade later. When a treaty in 1859 shrunk the Sac and Fox reservation, nearly 140,000 acres of the premium parcels of the former reservation lands were snapped up by government officials and land speculators. The largest portion went to Seyfert and McManus Company, acting in conjunction with the Reading Iron Works, of Reading, Pennsylvania. John McManus was also tied to the railroad, and because of his varied interests, sought to open coal mines in the county.

Hidden History: Newspaper ad reunites Uncle Wash with family more than a century later

When he was an octogenarian, “Uncle Wash” was observed as being a “pleasant faced appearing old man, whose gray eyes, hair, and beard [gave] him a venerable appearance, not much unlike the typical Uncle Tom”, as was quoted in the June 9, 1892, Osage County Chronicle. Wash’s story, however, was much different than the Uncle Tom of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

George Washington Irving had been held in slavery near Springfield, Missouri, one of about 20 slaves owned by a Mr. Fulbright. Possibly John Fulbright, who with his family, in 1829, brought 30 slaves with them to Greene County, Missouri. Fulbright was “a very hard master” and Wash and the others enslaved by the Fulbright family were submitted “to the lashings of a cruel and capricious owner.”

When General James Lane led a campaign into southwest Missouri in the fall of 1861 with his Kansas Brigade, Wash’s family was one of the hundreds of others the troops freed during their time in the area. Wash would later recount an attempt by the local slaveholders to dissuade their slaves from leaving with the Army, telling them that if they left, they would be sold by the government to pay the debts of the war. However, Wash and others tired of their bonds figured it was worth the gamble and took the soldiers at their word.

These formerly enslaved families became “contrabands” or recently freed individuals taken under the care of the Army. When the refugees became too numerous for the frontier Army to handle, Lane sent many of the contrabands, dubbed “The Black Brigade” to the safety of Kansas under the care of Army chaplains. The refugees took with them all of their earthly possessions, sometimes using their former master’s livestock to transport the loads. The troop traveled day and night on this journey, with little opportunity to rest and limited protection in this pro-slavery area of Missouri.

Wash and other refugees who formed the Black Brigade first arrived in Kansas at Fort Scott. Many then ventured on to Lawrence by the fall of 1861, where some found livelihoods and settled. Wash worked as a teamster in the free-state town during his time there.

In 1863, he weathered the fury of Quantrill’s raiders when they sacked the town. The following year, Wash and his family moved to Burlingame, Kansas. It was there that he found a job performing labor at the Burlingame Cemetery. During his career, he was said to have dug more than 1,000 graves at the cemetery, earning $2 per excavated grave.

Hidden History: Doodlebug, the little train that touched ‘every person’s life’ in Melvern

Photo of the Doodlebug M.177, in 2011, at Los Angeles, Calif., by Jd from RR Picture Archives.Net.

When Leona Knight Shaffer was a young girl in Melvern, Kan., in the 1930s, her father, Edward, was employed by the Santa Fe Railroad as a section laborer. One of the rewards for her dad’s labors was a pass issued to him, his wife, and minor children.

For a long time whenever Edward or his family wanted to go anywhere on a train, they had to order a pass, but later passes were issued annually with the eligible names on the pass. With the passes, the family had the opportunity to travel wherever the passes were honored.  Most of the time the family rode on the local Doodlebug.

Doodlebug M.177 was a passenger train that was built in 1929 and designated by the number M.177. It ran from Emporia to Lawrence, 1930 to 1933 and  in 1936, Kansas City to Newton, in 1937, and Burlingame to Alma,  1941 to 1943.

The following is Leona’s account of Melvern’s “Doodlebug”, which “touched every person’s life” in Melvern, she said.

The little train, or “doodlebug,” as we called it, made a daily run through Melvern, between Emporia and Lawrence. This train was the only mode of transportation for most of the people in this small town, because of the majority of the men worked on the Santa Fe in some capacity, and most of them didn’t have automobiles.

The little train was pretty small, but we all thought it was “just right.” I can recall the train having an engine, coal car, baggage car, and the passenger car. At the back of the passenger car was a railing where people could stand if they wanted to. There was no need for a larger train. If a person were going anyplace very far, there was always more passenger trains that were available. Most of us were not going anyplace other than the little towns close by.

One thing on the little train that fascinated us smaller children was the fact that there was a real honest to goodness modern toilet at the end of the passenger car. None of us were used to such a modern convenience. All we had was a “path” to the outhouse behind the house. As soon as we got on the train and got our seats, one of us would have to go to the toilet. It was so nice to sit on a nice modern stool seat with some water in the bowl. We were used to just an old hole and it was a smelly place at that. We all took turns going to the restroom.

The wives of the Santa Fe employees got the most use of the doodlebug. On Saturday afternoons after payday, the women rode the little train over to Ottawa to do their shopping. Some bought their groceries, others got clothing or household items, others just went for the ride to get out of town for a while. This was a pretty good form of recreation. The ladies could catch up on all the gossip because most of them didn’t have a telephone. A few had radios, but lots of them did not even have electricity, and of course the wonderful invention of TV was unheard of. For many of the ladies, this was the only time that they met for conversation, and they thoroughly enjoyed it.

Hidden History: Young Kansas invites young Americans to settle as agrarians

As Kansas emerged, first as a territory and then a state, early pioneers sought to create towns to entice additional settlers to desirous locations. The town of Young America, in what was later to become Osage County, was one of these locations. Built on the premise that the everyday farmer could find success in selling the produce from his small estate, Young America attempted to draw in settlers to its remote location in the interior of the United States.

The first settlement of the claim later to be known as Young America was by a middle-aged man named Carter B. Griffin. Griffin came with the flood of Missourians in 1854 intent on settling Kansas to make it a slave state. Griffin chose a plot of land on the edge of the Sac and Fox reservation, on what is now the northwestern part of Pomona Lake, to establish his claim.

Settlement by Euro-Americans within Indian reservations was prohibited for individuals without direct ties to the tribes, but Griffin utilized a nearby trail that led from the Indian agency to the Pottawatomie reservation to the northwest to trade with the tribes. The nearest neighbors, Fry McGee and his family, also pro-slavery Missourians, were north of Griffin’s claim by 10 miles, also along 110 Mile Creek.

Griffin’s location, like McGee’s, was partially wooded and offered a good location for hunting and fishing. To improve his claim, Griffin built a log cabin and dug a well. After a little more than a year, Griffin left his claim and returned to property he still held in Missouri.

In the spring of 1856, the Griffin claim was assumed by a Mississippian by the name of Smith, who built an additional three log cabins at the site for himself and a number of enslaved individuals he had brought with him. Smith used his labor force to break out 45 acres of prairie land. When the tide within the territory began shifting as 1856 wore on, Smith left, selling his human property in Missouri and returning to Mississippi.

Hidden History: Fostoria musician goes to Nashville, becomes a country ‘Starr’

Burlingame area native Kenny Starr, center, sings with Loretta Lynn during a 1970s era performance. Photographer unknown.

Osage County has long been the home to a strong working class responsible for building the industry in the county. These hard workers and small-town life are the inspiration for the themes of many country music songs. Kenny Trebbe, Osage County native, used his blue-collar roots and his love of music to become a shining “Starr” of the Country Western scene.

Kenny Trebbe grew up in what had been the little mining community of Fostoria, two miles east of Burlingame. His father, William, was a coal miner, construction worker, and vegetable farmer before a back injury limited him to cutting wood for his family.

Kenny got his start in music in elementary school, singing 1950s rock and soul at local venues for nickels and dimes. Some of his first bands were Kenny and the Rebels and later Kenny and the Imperials. His songs were so well received that on one New Year’s Day, he made $13.

His parents, fans of Guy Lombardo’s big band style were not as interested in Kenny’s earliest choice of music but appreciated his switch to country music when he reached his teens. By that time, he had chosen the stage name of Kenny Starr – surname borrowed from a Texas cousin – and created the band Kenny Starr and the Country Showmen.

In 1971, a 17-year-old Kenny entered a talent contest sponsored by a Wichita Radio Station. Ninety-eight contestants participated, but Kenny’s rendition of Ray Price’s “I Won’t Mention It Again” stole the show. His performance caught the eye of Harry “Hap” Peebles, a local promoter. Peebles was able to get him an audience with Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty, who were in town for a show. Kenny was then invited to perform with Lynn and Twitty in both Wichita and Kansas City. Loretta Lynn took a personal interest in the young singer and told him to look her up if he ever got to Nashville, and she would help him get started.

As soon as Kenny got home, he and his mother, Kathleen, prepared to leave immediately to pursue his dreams. A neighbor drove them to Nashville because the Trebbe’s car would not have made the trip, and the group arrived two days later, beating Loretta Lynn home.

Loretta Lynn, true to her word, helped establish Kenny in the country music business. Lynn gave him the opportunity to tour with her band the Coal Miners. When they weren’t touring, she let him live in her mansion. After four and a half years of learning his way in country music, Kenny struck out on his own.

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.”

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