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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.”

Historical reenactment at Overbrook to celebrate Santa Fe Trail bicentennial

As part of the bicentennial celebration of the establishment of the Santa Fe Trail, the Osage County Historical Society will host Gary Hicks in a reenactment presentation on Alexander Majors, 2 p.m. March 6, 2021, at the community room of Overbrook Public Library.

Alexander Majors is best remembered as the co-founder of the famed Pony Express with William H. Russell and William B. Waddell, but prior to that he was transporting freight along the Santa Fe Trail by 1848.

Hicks will address the life of Majors and the numerous contributions he made to the western expansion movement of our nation in the 1800s. Drawing from his in-depth research of the life and times of Alexander Majors, Hicks will also present a close look at Majors’ partners Russell and Waddell, and the time preceding the Civil War.

As Alexander Majors, Hicks will explore the nation’s desire in the 1850s for a faster overland mail service to California on the west coast. Hicks will offer his personal perspective (through Majors) how pre-Civil War politics may have influenced the creation of the Pony Express.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hidden History: Burlingame veteran’s fight for honor continued in civilian life

Burlingame Cemetery holds more than 250 veterans of the Civil War. Approximately 10 of those soldiers served in the United States Colored Troops. While that number seems relatively small, the ratio in comparison to other area cemeteries is quite high. Those that served in the Colored Troops fought for their freedom and had to overcome many obstacles including changing perceptions of how people felt about differences in race. One of these Burlingame Colored Troops veterans is Isaac Williams.

Isaac’s origins are uncertain, as is often the case with those formerly enslaved. The first evidence of Isaac is when he enlisted for the war effort at Benton Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri, with the 4th Missouri Colored Troops in December of 1863, which later became the 68th USCT. Some men serving in this regiment are noted to have been from eight central Missouri counties, however St. Louis was also a way station for the fugitive slaves coming in from the South on their way to free territory to the north or west. Isaac was transferred to the 67th USCT and mustered out at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at the end of the war.

After his service, Isaac found work and assistance from abolitionists in Osage and Lyon counties, in Kansas.

In 1865, Isaac was living near Waveland (near Wakarusa) with Charles C. Gardiner. Gardiner was a civil engineer, receiving training at Alfred University in New York, one of the few schools at the time that was integrated. Gardiner came to Kansas in 1859 and settled north of Burlingame. He removed to Missouri just before the war and served with two units of the loyalist Missouri home guards. At the end of the war, Gardiner was stationed at St. Louis, where he likely met Isaac.

While in Missouri, Gardiner married Lydia Buffington, a Quaker woman whose family assisted fugitives on the Underground Railroad. The Gardiners returned to Kansas in 1865, settling at Waveland, where they opened their home to Isaac and at least two other refugees.

From the Gardiner household, Isaac went to work in Lyon County for Nicholas Lockerman, around 1870. Lockerman supported the free state cause and was a wealthy stockman with a ferry that crossed the river on his property.

Isaac’s time in Lyon County was short – in the late 1870s he returned to the area north of Burlingame and rented land from O.H. Sheldon, a businessman who helped shape early Osage County.

Former Kansas governor Charles Robinson said of Sheldon, “When the wave of corruption swept over our young state, more blighting in its effects, if possible, than the curse of human slavery, against which successful war had been waged, no smell of fire was found upon his garments.”

Hidden History: Young doctor’s ‘upward’ attitude brings hospital to Osage City

The Star Block, at 520 Market Street, Osage City, center of photo, was once an early day medical center (or doctor’s office), operated by Dr. Roup for a year or so sometime around the early 1890s. Photo thanks to the Osage County Historical Society.

At one time, Osage County was home to not one but two hospitals. Both were located in Osage City and served the surrounding area. Barnes Hospital was owned by Miles W. Barnes, a young Tennessee doctor who operated his hospital in the 1920s and into the 1930s. His building was located at 110 S. Sixth Street. Brown Hospital was established in 1917 on Main Street and operated by Thomas O. Brown, a former Osage County schoolteacher.

Thomas Brown grew up in Lyndon, the son of farming parents. He excelled in school and after graduation became a local teacher at No. 68 (or Jack Rabbit) and Vassar schools. In 1892, Tom married Jessie Jones, of Arvonia, a sister of his good friend. Those that knew Tom Brown knew him to be “a competent and thorough teacher and his motto was ‘Onward and Upward’.” Not only did Tom encourage his students with those words, he followed them himself. It was in Arvonia that Tom crossed paths with Dr. William R. Roup, town physician, and likely decided upon a new career path.

Dr. Roup, like Tom Brown, had a thirst for knowledge that had led him to the pursuit of the expanding field of medicine. Dr. Roup received his medical degree in 1869 from the University of Iowa at a time when the medical profession was largely unregulated. Doctors during this time were generally classified according to those receiving formal medical training, such as Dr. Roup, and eclectic medicine, which utilized botanical remedies and physical therapy. In the early 1870s, Dr. Roup established a practice in Reading. He also practiced in Osage City for a year in the newly built Star Block, and in 1892-94 moved to Arvonia, where he influenced Tom Brown to follow a career in medicine.

Hidden History: Osage County hospitality served with side of Southern pride

The road to Santa Fe was forged right through the middle of Osage County, and by 1822 the route was secured, opening travel for wagon traffic. Starting in 1825, the route was surveyed and mapped, treaties were made with the Native American tribes to secure safe passage, and modifications along the route such as bridges were constructed for easier travel.

After the establishment of the trail, the land in what would become Osage County became part of a tract land reserved for the Shawnee. The Shawnee favored settlement along waterways and had long been active in trade with Euro-Americans, so trail crossings like those at Switzler and 110 Mile Creek were a natural location for settlement.

The name for 110 Mile Creek, originally called Jones Creek, received its new name indicating its distance along the Santa Fe Trail from Fort Osage, in Missouri. The location was lined with a considerable amount of timber and had a few Shawnee houses with their fields nearby. The grove at 110-Mile Creek was well known to the military and saw regular use as a camping spot.

Aside from those of native blood, no other individuals were supposed to enter reservation lands without ties to the local Indian agency or the military. Some, like a man named Richardson and his compatriot who settled at the 110 Mile crossing, found their way around this by taking wives among the Shawnee. The pair had conducted a toll stop on the trail at that location, built a story and a half tall building and another smaller one near it.

The Richardson claim was sold to a man named Fry P. McGee in the summer of 1854 in anticipation of the land being opened up for general settlement. McGee had spotted the location on a return trip from Oregon where he had previously taken his family. McGee, apparently not content with the land, returned the following year and acquired the property in Kansas Territory. McGee assumed Richardson’s claim but retained the name Richardson for the area. McGee’s arrival was not only one desiring the favorable location, but a move intent on helping secure Kansas’ admittance to the Union as a slave state.

Hidden History: Amid health crises, Osage County towns invested in public sanitation

A promotional graphic details the benefits of public waterworks, Burlingame Enterprise, Oct. 10, 1912.

Burlingame’s water supply started simply with water taken from a natural spring on the territorial claim of John Freele which serviced the local settlers. As the town grew, the main water source shifted to a well in the center of Santa Fe Avenue.

With the arrival of the railroads that eventually brought increasing number of residents, the call for modern conveniences arose. Larger towns built access to utilities prior to the turn of the century, but for small towns like Burlingame utilities came later. The outlay of funds for public projects was problematic for many, since some had spent considerable expense to entice the railroad to stop at their town, causing large debt.

Utilities were not only items of convenience, however; across the country increasing urbanization brought increasing concern for public health. In 1879, the short-lived National Board of Health was created in part to determine the cause of recent yellow fever and cholera outbreaks and to institute preventative measures to combat future occurrences in the country. The outcome of its sanitation programs along with its encouragement of filtration and better distribution of water in larger towns created a new industry market – city waterworks.

Wells and cisterns within city confines were becoming increasingly problematic with urban contaminants. This was countered in part by the use of waterworks, as well as regulations from the Kansas State Board of Health that was created in 1885, a time when many large cities started building public water projects.

Fire prevention was also a major consideration, and towns without a water system would see inflated insurance costs to their citizens. Burlingame had established a fire department in 1876, but would have to hand pump their water until mechanical means came along.

Discussions and votes on the possibility of Burlingame improvements started in 1902, centering around electricity and water. The push for modern conveniences was partially realized in 1903 by the creation of a city light plant. At the celebration of the light plant, J.T. Pringle stated that the lights came at a time “to be in harmony with other improvements and is simply a forecast of the future of our city.”

A water system seemed the next immediate step – for some. The first town in the county, one that at one time had dreams of being the state capital, could get its citizens to see the light for an electrical plant, but not dip a toe into the purchasing of waterworks.

With the lack of support for a water system as a whole, inquiries were made as to the possibility of putting in just a sewer system. This plan was discouraged however when the head of the engineering company Burns and McDonnell, of Kansas City, inspected the city. He stated that sewers without waterworks could only be used to drain cellars and therefore the costs involved were not sufficient enough to warrant the outlay of funds. And the water campaign stalled. The opposition to water was too significant to overcome for the next 10 years.

Town boosters, seeking to boost the town’s attractiveness to settlement voiced their opinions in the newspapers with cries of dismay: “What’s the matter with Burlingame? Is she dead or only sleeping? If she be dead let’s have a funeral and save the expense of embalming. If asleep let’s turn the hose on her and wake her up. But we have no system of waterworks.”

Hidden History: Osage County settlers planted churches, seeds of abolitionism

The making of Osage County’s history was not limited solely to those individuals who maintained permanent residence here. Such is the case of John Rankin, an Ohio resident and the man who established the Presbyterian church in Lyndon, Kansas.

John Rankin was originally from Tennessee. Rankin was influenced by the period called the Second Great Enlightenment, which was a revival of the Christian faith that led many to realize slavery was incompatible with their beliefs.

Rankin became ordained as a pastor in 1814, and soon after joined a local Anti-Slavery Society, a branch of a nationwide group that believed prejudice in any form was offensive and that African Americans were entitled to the same rights and privileges as the white man. Rankin’s involvement in the Anti-Slavery Society was influential to famous abolitionist radicals such as William Lloyd Garrison.

Garrison is quoted as saying, “It was reading the productions of [Rankin’s] pen that awakened my mind to the enormity of the crime of slavery.”

Rankin’s opinions on slavery and his outreach to those that were oppressed caused his neighbors to create an environment that was increasingly dangerous for him and his family. Local mobs beat him and shaved his horse’s tail and mane, in addition to other instances of cruelty. Elders in his church encouraged him to move safely north if he was to continue to preach against slavery.

He moved his family first to Kentucky, where he organized an Anti-Slavery Society, and then across the river into Ripley, Ohio. The house at Ripley sat on a bluff 300 feet above the Ohio River and served as a beacon and refuge for those seeking freedom.

One such freedom seeker, a woman named Eliza, crossed the river one winter, jumping from one block of ice to another with her baby boy on her back. Her pursuers watched amazed at her every leap, expecting her to slip and succumb to the icy current, but Rankin’s awaiting hand reached down on the other side to assist her off the riverbed. Rankin later secured her passage with others to Toronto, Canada, and safety of freedom.

Hidden History: Legislating the dogs of Dogtown

Founded in 1869, Osage City built its foundation on the industry of mining veins of coal that ran under the earth. As the town grew, small communities of people of many nationalities sprang off of the main townsite, such as Craig on the southwest side and Dogtown on the northeast. The name Dogtown has been thought by some to be a derogatory reference to citizens who inhabited that area of town, but instead it referred to the large population of dogs that originated in that neighborhood.

Early in Osage City’s history, Dogtown earned its moniker due to a man named John “Jack” Kidd, who had many dogs. When Jack heard of the gold being found in the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1874, he left coal mining for the potential of more profitable mining. When he left, though, his dogs stayed behind.

As the town increased in size, Jack’s dogs, joined by more brought in by other citizens, also grew in numbers. After many years of a rapidly growing dog population, in 1889 the city hired a “dog policeman” by the name of George Russ. George was a well-liked man of color, who had worked in the local mines.

When George assumed his position, there were an estimated 1,000 dogs within the city limits of Osage City. Dog owners were expected to pay a tax of $1.50 for male dogs or $3 per females. George was given the authority to shoot any dog without taxes paid, no excuses.

By July of his first year, George had killed approximately 120 dogs, and only $62 had been paid from city pet owners. By the middle of his second year, George had dispatched 140 dogs, and only collected $66 in tax. George’s progress on curbing the growing population of rogue dogs was halted, however, when he was found to be violation of prohibition laws against selling “fire water,” which led to his prompt resignation.

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