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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.

Melvern Jr. Highline 4-H Club: Members prepare for sausage sales, virtual club days

By Bella Reeser, Club Reporter

On Feb. 7, 2021, the Melvern Jr. Highline 4-H Club held its monthly meeting at the Melvern Community Center, called to order at 3:07 p.m. by President Braelyn McNally. The club began the meeting with The Pledge of Allegiance and 4-H Pledge, led by Braelyn.

Melvern Jr. Highline 4-H Club meets monthly at Melvern Community Center. Bella Reeser photo.

Secretary Amelia Arb called roll; members and parents were to answer with their favorite cereal; there were nine members and four adults present. Amelia read the minutes from the last meeting; they were approved as read.

Treasurer’s report was read by Treasurer Harper Melton; it was approved as read. Reporter Bella Reeser stated she submitted two articles to the newspaper.

In historian report, Historian Allie Reeser shared 4-H memories from Raylen Phelon and Sharon (Combes) Thelon, both former MJH members.

In council report, Council Representative Justin Brinkley reported on Virtual District Club Days videos need to be submitted by noon March 1, and Blue & Gold orders are due March 1, as well.

In leader’s report, Lisa Reeser reminded members to read over the meeting notes sheet; gave congratulations to Justin Brinkley for being selected as a 4-H Ambassador; noted Virtual District Club Days is quickly approaching; and Blue & Gold orders are due soon. Janae McNally presented the club with samples of Blue & Gold sausage and bacon.

Osage County’s top orthographers ‘dignify’ Burlingame in annual bee

Osage County’s spelling competitors for 2021 included, front from left, Kynlee Ard, Lucas Gantenbein, Carter Gibson, Jaselynn Tyson, Haley Burkdoll; back, Alexa Heder, Braden Bowin, Evelyn Stephens, Kathleen Patterson, Morgyn Young. Photos thanks to Burlingame Schools.

A sixth-grader from Carbondale Attendance Center has claimed the countywide spelling championship for 2021.

Kynlee Ard, County Spelling Champion 2021

Competing in the annual Osage County Spelling Bee, Feb. 2, 2021, at Burlingame High School, CAC’s Kynlee Ard claimed the championship title by spelling the word “dignify” in the 11th round of the bee. Kynlee faced a final tough competitor, Lucas Gantenbein, seventh-grader from Osage City Middle School, who took the county’s runner up spot.

Kynlee will compete and Lucas will serve as alternate in the statewide Sunflower State Spelling Bee, scheduled to be held virtually on March 27, 2021, at Newman University, Wichita, Kan. Both were presented plaques for their accomplishments.

MdCV spellers vie for spot at countywide competition

On Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, Marais des Cygnes Valley Middle School held its annual local spelling bee. Each class from grades fourth through eighth was represented by four of their best spellers.

It was a hard battle, but after eleven rounds, it was down to three final spellers, Evie Stephens, eigth grade, Kate Patterson, seventh grade, and Emily Criqui, fourth grade.

After eight additional rounds of head to head competition of these three remarkable spellers, Evie Stephens ended victorious by spelling the word “ventured” correctly. Evie and Kate will represent MdCV, with Emily as the alternate at the Osage County Spelling Bee, which will be 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2, at Burlingame school.

MdCV spelling bee participant were, front from left, Greyson Stephens, Jeremy Huffman, Mels Rogers, and Carolyn Penner; middle, Landon Traver, Landon Reed, Braelyn McNally, Mady Rose, Bella Anderson, Harper Melton, Emily Criqui, and Amelia Arb; back, Evie Stephens, champion, Kate Patterson, runner-up, Ryleigh Ludwig, Destiny Moore, Colten Woodson, Catayah Thompson, Akyra Traver, and Lexi Hockett.

Photo and information thanks to Lisa Reeser.

Osage City spellers hone skills for county bee

On Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, students in grades fourth through eighth grade competed in the Osage City District Spelling Bee. Congratulations were offered to Lucas Gantenbein and Braden Bowin as winners of the bee; both are Osage City Middle School seventh graders. They will represent Osage City at the Osage County Spelling Bee at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2, in Burlingame. Seventh grader Caroline White will serve as OCMS’s alternate speller.

Participants in the Osage City spelling bee were, front from left, Lucas Gantenbein, Braden Bowin, and Carolina White; second row, Sawyer Serna, Jack Moulin, Chyanne Wiley, Trinity Godfrey, Kaylee Theel, Grady Bellinger, Hunter Senft, Jaxson Bolyard, Matthew Leonard; third row, Kaelyn Boss, Olivia Sage, Wyatt Pope, Dylan Theel, Tyson Mullins, Leah Riemann, Liam Vaughn, Tatum Little, Anthony Barnes, and Daniel Shoemate; back, Aurora Pritchard, Skylar Dunbar, Keaira Davidson, Luke Orender, Noah Martinez, Mason Wurdeman, Kasen Parsons, and Sawyer Dorsey.

Information and photo thanks to Dena Paul and Tim Riemann.

Young Farmer Award: Young farm family learns from experts – parents, grandpas, uncles

Lori Kuykendall
Osage County Conservation District Manager

Young farm family, the Wiscombes: Amber, Justin, Jaycee, Kayden, Lorren. Courtesy photo.

Each year, the Osage County Conservation District honors a young farmer, and this year’s award recipient is Justin Wiscombe, of Overbrook, Kan.

Justin had many teachers in his farming endeavor.  His mom and dad, Diane and Kirk, both grew up on farms and now have their own operation in northeast Osage County. Both of his grandfathers, Jim Wiscombe and Fred Ullery, are farmers. His uncle Kelly Wiscombe also farms in the northeast part of the county.

The first big job Justin remembers doing on the farm was picking up rock and building fence with his dad, grandpa and uncle when he was about 12 or so. About six years ago, Justin’s dad let him plant some double crop beans after his wheat. The beans made 40 bushels to the acre and Justin was hooked.

He now farms around 260 acres in Osage and Douglas counties.  He is working toward applying no-till farming on all his farm ground.  He also has 63 head of cow-calf pairs.  Justin also has a full-time job with Douglas County public works.  He works on the asphalt crew as a paver screen operator.

Justin helps with his dad’s operation and his dad helps him out when he needs it.

“I have had some good teachers,” Justin said. “My dad, grandpas and uncle have been farming in this area since the late 50s and early 60s.”

Justin’s goals for the future include remaining healthy and able to work, paying a few things off, and growing his operation. Justin farms because he likes it.

Justin said his Grandpa Jim told him, “If you’re going to farm and have cows, you’d better like it or it’s not any fun!”

Justin also gets help from his wife, Amber, and their three daughters, Lorren, 11, Jaycee, 9, and Kayden, 6.

“If it wasn’t for their help and support, I couldn’t farm,” Justin said.

Justin, a deserving recipient of the Young Farmer Award, will be honored at the Osage County Conservation District annual meeting 10:30-11:30 a.m. Jan. 25, 2021, at the Osage City Community Building. The meeting will be come and go; and all are invited.

Kansas Bankers Conservation Award: Shoups continue family tradition in caring land

Shoup Farms: Doug and Lara Shoup and their children Garrett, Cade, Charlotte and Leanne. Courtesy photo.

By Lori Kuykendall
Osage County Conservation District Manager

This year’s Kansas Banker Award for soil conservation goes to Shoup Farms. Shoup Farms is located north of Lyndon, and operated by Doug Shoup and his wife Lara and their four children. Doug received his BS, MS and PhD in agronomy from Kansas State University, and was an agronomist for 20 years before returning to Osage County to farm full time in 2012.

Doug and Lara both grew up on farms. Lara grew up in southern Osage County, where her parents still farm. Doug grew up on the farm they now care for.

Doug said, “Like most who farm, I grew up around it and have a passion for the challenge of raising a successful crop, and trying to make improvements to the operation every year.”

Doug and Lara met at Kansas State University and were married in 2005.

Shoup Farm’s crop rotation consists of soybean, corn and wheat. Doug believes soybeans are the most profitable crop in their rotation, so they try to implement a crop rotation to help improve their soybean yield. Corn can be profitable, but they mainly use it as an option to help break up their rotation keep from continuously growing soybeans. Wheat is valuable in reducing soil erosion, because it is a growing crop for eight months in a year and produces additional crop residue for added erosion reduction.

“We nearly always plant a double crop behind the wheat,” Doug said. “We do plant double crop soybeans but look to plant other crops to continue to help break up the rotation.”

Shoup Farms just completed their ninth growing season since Doug’s dad retirement. Doug’s dad cared for the soil enough to adopt soil reducing practices like terracing and reduced and no-till.

“I feel very fortunate to take over a farm that has been well cared for over the last 50 years,” Doug said.

Shoup Farms has seen a lot of changes in the last 10 years. They sold all their livestock in 2014, and have increased their crop rotation, and improved the monitoring of soil fertility levels. One way to monitor soil fertility is to grid sample, which reveals how nutrients are distributed across a field. By using the results of the grid sample, fertilizer can be applied where it is needed the most.

Doug feels that they essentially missed most of the “golden years” of agriculture between 2007 and 2013. “I’m hoping we experience future positive opportunities ahead for all of agriculture,” he said.

When asked what was next for Shoup Farms, Doug said, “I want to continue to adopt technology that will offer the greatest return on investment.”

For their conservation practices, Shoup Farms will be honored with the Kansas Banker Soil Conservation Award at the Osage County Conservation District annual meeting 10:30-11:30 a.m. Jan. 25, 2021, at the Osage City Community Building. The meeting will be an informal come and go meeting; all are welcome.

Melvern Jr. Highline forgoes December meeting but sends off holiday care packages

Members of Melvern Jr. Highline 4-H Club show their pile of care packages before they were mailed. Bella Reeser photo.

By Bella Reeser, Club Reporter

Due to Marais des Cygnes Valley USD 456 being in remote learning, the Melvern Jr. Highline 4-H Club opted to forgo their December meeting, yet at the same time the members still wanted to follow through with the care packages they annually send to service men and women who will be unable to come home for the holiday season.

Dec. 6, 2020, club members dropped off their care packages supplies. From those supplies, eight very full care packages were sent off to deserving men and women as a small thank you for everything they do.

Sustainable agriculture company awards sponsorships to 2 Osage County 4-Hers

Sustainable Environmental Consultants has announced two Osage County 4-Hers as the recipients of its first 4-H and National FFA Organization Sponsorship. The 2020 recipients are brother and sister, Ethan Kneisler and Allie Kneisler, of rural Lyndon, Kan. Each will receive a $250 sponsorship that recognizes individuals who are actively involved in their local 4-H club or FFA chapter, demonstrate a passion for agriculture, and exhibit a desire to grow in personal and professional development.

Ethan and Allie Kneisler

Ethan Kneisler is a member of the Lyndon Leaders 4-H Club and Lyndon FFA Chapter. Currently a sophomore, Ethan has been involved in 4-H for nine years and FFA for two years. Presently, he serves as the treasurer of his 4-H club and was recently re-elected as president of the Osage County 4-H Council. This year Ethan was also chosen as an Osage County 4-H Ambassador and was awarded the I Dare You Award for his leadership skills. Apart from 4-H and FFA, Ethan has been involved in numerous sports, is a member of Future Business Leaders of America, and can be found mowing lawns and throwing hay for extra income. Upon graduation, Ethan plans to attend Kansas State and pursue a degree in agronomy.

Allie Kneisler has been a member of the Lyndon Leaders 4-H Club for six years. The seventh-grader currently serves as president of her 4-H club and treasurer of the Osage County 4-H Council. In 4-H she has both livestock and non-livestock projects. She shows cattle and goats, and participates in woodworking, quilting, visual arts, photography, and buymanship projects. Allie attributes her most proud achievement to winning grand champion overall with her market goat. She plans to use the SEC sponsorship to buy quilting blocks and purchase supplies and feed for her goat herd. While she still has a few years before graduation, Allie plans to remain involved with the livestock industry and continue her involvement with the 4-H community.

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.

Osage City Golf Course announces Moore as clubhouse manager

Osage City Golf Course has announced that a familiar and talented golfer has been hired as clubhouse manager. Clinton Moore, who is also the current 2020 Osage City club champion, has been named to the manager position after working at the clubhouse since last summer.

Clinton Moore, Osage City clubhouse manager

Moore grew up in Ottawa but spent many hours playing golf in Osage City. He has been playing golf since he was four years old, and he graduated as a multi-sport athlete in 2011, including four years of golf. He went on to play four years of golf in college at Allen Community College and Kansas Wesleyan – he graduated in 2015 with a degree in business. He won club championships during his college play, winning in 2012, 2014 and 2015.

Moore came back to Kansas this past June after working four years in Arizona as an assistant golf professional. He gave lessons and worked on golf clubs at Torreon Show Low, Troon Country Club, and The Phoenician Golf Club, all in Arizona.

Since he has worked at the Osage City club since summer, many who play golf there have already met him. He will offer lessons and work on clubs at Osage City.

For more information, call Moore at 785-214-9093.

Help House News: Osage County ministry welcomes new director

Pam Bilyeu hands over the reins of Help House to Scott Perkins, who has been named as Help House’s new director.

Scott Perkins has become the new director of the Help House Inc. Perkins follows Pam Bilyeu, who faithfully served in that position for the past six and a half years.

Perkins is pastor of Heritage Country Cowboy Church, and is also known as The Country Parson, currently heard on Sunday mornings on The Bull, 92.9. Perkins will lead the Help House ministry that has been effective in serving the Osage county population for nearly 20 years.

New website

Help House has a new website www.helphouse.online. You will find a lot of new content there – the ability to email us for an appointment time and eventually be able to set an appointment, fill out an application for assistance, to become a volunteer or make a cash donation. So check out the new site and let us know what you think and share your suggestions for any additional information you would like to see or other suggestions.

Volunteers needed

Help House is looking for new volunteers. If you have been thinking that you would like to be a part of the Help House family and would like more information, please give us a call.

Thanksgiving baskets

Help House will be distributing 94 Thanksgiving food baskets this year, with each receiving either a chicken or turkey determined by family size, along with all the makings of a full Thanksgiving dinner.

Sheriff’s office announces promotions, honors employees for longevity

Recognized for promotions and length of service by Osage County Sheriff Chris Wells and undersheriff Scott Brenner were from left, Brett Lewis, Robert Brenner, John Knapp, Brenner, Wells, Derrick Feliciano, and Gerry Nitcher, and not pictured, Jeff Johnson. Osage County News photo.

Osage County Sheriff Chris Wells announced the promotion of several longtime employees and also recognized two employees for their years of service, last Thursday at the sheriff’s office, in Lyndon.

The following were promoted or recognized:

Bret Lewis has been promoted to the rank of communications director. Lewis will oversee the Osage County Sheriff’s Office communications center. He has been employed with the Osage County Sheriff’s Office since 1998 and has held the rank of communications officer.

Robert Brenner has been promoted to investigator and will be assigned to the criminal investigations unit and will oversee the registered offender unit. Brenner has been employed by the Osage County Sheriff’s Office since 2006 and has served as correctional officer and patrol deputy.

John Knapp has been promoted to the rank of sergeant and will oversee the patrol division of the sheriff’s office. Knapp has been employed with the Osage County Sheriff’s Office since 2005 and has held the ranks of lake patrol deputy and patrol deputy.

Derrick Feliciano has been promoted to sergeant and will oversee the patrol division and the school resource officer program of the sheriff’s office. Feliciano has been employed with the Osage County Sheriff’s Office since 2001 and has served as patrol deputy, school resource officer and investigator. Prior to joining the sheriff’s office, he was employed by the Mulvane Police Department and Metropolitan Topeka Airport Authority, and is a U.S. Air Force veteran.

Former undersheriff Jeff Johnson has been promoted to the rank of sergeant and will oversee the criminal and narcotic investigation units. Having been employed with the Osage County Sheriff’s Office since 1995, in addition to undersheriff, Johnson has served as patrol deputy, patrol sergeant and investigator. Johnson is also a U.S. Air Force Veteran. He was also recognized for his 25 years of service to the Osage County Sheriff’s Office.

Sergeant Gerry Nitcher was recognized for 30 years of service to the Osage County Sheriff’s Office. Nitcher currently oversees the Osage County Jail operations.

Sheriff Wells wished the promotees the best in their new positions.

“These employees show a great amount of confidence and leadership to assist in leading the sheriff’s office into a new era of respect, integrity, and professionalism,” Wells said.

Wells also congratulated Johnson and Nitcher on the milestones in their service careers.

“We applaud the determination and effort that you both have demonstrated during your time with the sheriff’s office,” Wells said. “We look forward to seeing all the great things we know you both will accomplish in the upcoming years.”

Osage City’s Market Street enjoys a ‘Holly Jolly Celebration’

Happy raffle winners gathered for a group photo in front of Osage County Senior Center Saturday. Not pictured, other raffle winners who didn’t need to be present to win in this year’s raffle. Courtesy photo.

Osage City didn’t let the COVID-19 pandemic dampen its holiday spirit, as the town celebrated in “holly jolly” style to open the holiday season Saturday during Christmas on Market Street 2020.

Santa rode into town on a fire truck for his annual visit, and kids were able to have virtual visits with him to share their Christmas wishes. The downtown decorations and lights were switched on and the nighttime parade featured some “holly jolly” decked floats.

Organized by the Osage City Chamber of Commerce, the Christmas on Market Street was deemed a success, despite cancellation of some of the annual event’s popular activities due to COVID-19. Everyone hopes next year’s event will be back with normalcy.

The 2020 Christmas on Market Street parade winners, retail poker run, window decorating, and gun raffle are listed below, along with individual placings in the annual Jingle Bell 5K Run/Walk.

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