Search Results for: "Hidden History"

Hidden History: The quack of Quenemo

By Wendi Bevitt

At the turn of the 20th century, Quenemo was on the rise. The Missouri Pacific and Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroads were constructed through town not long before, and the population and businesses started growing. And then someone arrived in town that propelled this little town’s fame throughout the Midwest – Orrin Robertson.

Orrin Robertson, along with his twin sister, Ann, was born in Missouri in 1858 to parents Jefferson and Martha. The family moved to Texas where he became a local newspaper editor. His sister died in 1885 of tuberculosis and this no doubt influenced the turn that his life took shortly thereafter.


Orrin pursued healing through medicine, but not just mainstream medical practices. He supposedly collected more than 31 diplomas from institutions in America and Europe in subjects such as psychic therapeutics, personal magnetism, psychology, metaphysics, oriental mystics, spiritual science and philosophy. He became the self-proclaimed “old reliable specialist, discoverer, originator and founder of Anthropology, the Pneumo (respiration)-Psycho(spirit)-Manas (mind)-Soma (body) System”.

Using these credentials, Orrin began setting up health-oriented institutions known as “Anthropological Non-Surgical Sanitariums” in Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas. He established his sanitarium at Quenemo in 1901. This campus consisted of three main buildings, with the primary building being constructed for a cost of $10,000.

During the patient’s stay at the sanitarium, qualified staff would cater to their needs, free from worries of home. The patients would benefit from state of the art technology and techniques and healthy meals. The sanitarium’s buildings could provide services for up to 300 patients.

Hidden History: The poor, the undesirable and the forgotten

Now a private residence, the Osage County Poor Farm once housed the county’s less fortunate.

By Wendi Bevitt

In 1973, Osage County closed an era on how it cared for those unable to provide for themselves, whether they be poor, orphaned, or lacking the physical or mental capabilities to live independently. This institution was known as the Osage County Poor Farm.

Prior to its establishment, there was no set system or institution for this kind of service and so it was left to the communities to care for those facing difficulty.

For its part, the city of Burlingame handled this by reimbursing its citizens who lent out goods and services or provided board in their homes to those in need. This sufficed for a time, but as population grew, there arose a cry for the county to take a more active part in caring for the needy.

In January 1876, more than 150 acres of land was purchased central to the population center of the time. The land chosen was Rice’s Grove near Burlingame, adjacent to the Dragoon Creek, where the first 4th of July celebration was held in 1855. By March, the property was ready to take in homeless residents and by April the separate quarters for those declared insane was prepared.

Hidden History: Stilled by strychnine, stone girl watches over Overbrook Cemetery

By Wendi Bevitt

Standing silent watch, a young girl fixes her gaze over the Overbrook Cemetery. The girl of stone is Vivian Butel, the daughter of Arthur “A.J.” and Maud (Phillips) Butel. Vivian was born in 1914 near Overbrook. Arthur and Maude had two other children: Gerald, born 1909, and Arden, born 1920. People come and leave their tokens in memoriam to this young girl, some not knowing the tragic story of her death.

Vivian’s father, Arthur, was a dentist. At the time of her birth only around 60 percent of dentists were dental school graduates of the country’s approximately 57 dental schools. Many who chose this profession were apprenticed because of the cost of going away to a trade school. Arthur practiced dentistry in Eudora, Topeka, and Kansas City.

Dentistry at this time was rough to say the least. The first dental drills had been invented in the 1870s, but high speed drills were not available until the 1950s. The first X-ray machine used on a living person within the United States was in 1896, performed by Dr. Edmund Kells. The danger of using X-rays at this early time is seen with Dr. Kells himself; he developed lesions and cancer from exposure to the radiation.

When World War I affected the homefront, many dentists were called on to assist the effort. A.J. Butel joined the Preparedness League of American Dentists, which attended to those enlisted as soldiers prior to the soldiers’ deployment overseas. These dentists filled cavities and extracted diseased teeth so that the limited dentists available on the war front would be able to focus on emergency medicine. This was an important cause since many who could afford dental care were only those among the upper classes.

By 1915, Arthur moved his family back to the Overbrook area, where he continued his dental practice. In November 1918, while Arthur was away in Colorado, 4-year-old Vivian came upon a box of pills and ate some. The pills contained strychnine. Strychnine, while a poison and generally discouraged in the medical community, was at one time prescribed in low doses as a remedy for heart and respiratory ailments or as a stimulant. Within four hours the child had died.

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

By Wendi Bevitt

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

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

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

Clyde’s circus life didn’t stop there.

Hidden History: Burlingame always open to friends of freedom

By Wendi Bevitt

Burlingame began as a town in support of a “Free State” Kansas. The community was of such concern to the pro-slavery movement that in 1862 they built a fort in the middle of town to protect the city well against a feared attack by William “Bloody Bill” Anderson, an associate of William C. Quantrill. So it is no surprise that members of the community were involved in raids into Missouri to liberate slaves from bondage during this turbulent time.

One such incident involved the family of John Dennis and their savior Thomas Russell. The Osage County Chronicle carried a news snippet in May 1890 about the Dennis family, which stated they had been “brought to Burlingame by Mr. Thomas Russell in 1860, from Missouri where they had been slaves”. In those days however, people of color didn’t travel from a slave state to a free one without contention. And this was no exception.

According to the Burlingame Enterprise “Thomas Russell was an active participant in the heroic struggle which was then at its height, and brought many a border ruffian to justice … his home was always open to the friends of freedom and was frequently a resting place of Osawatomie (John) Brown, General (James) Lane and many others whose name adorn historic pages.” These acquaintances were not of merely a casual nature. All of these men, including Russell, belonged to a secret society known as the Danites. This society upheld its abolitionism through the promotion of free-state politics to the more radical actions of leading raids into slave holding areas of Missouri and Kansas, and even assassination attempts. The probability of the Dennis family being freed during a Danite raid is fairly likely.

The citizens of Burlingame were not just involved in the freeing of slaves, though, they started these refugees off with a firm foundation under their feet. People such as Marmaduke Rambo donated land for those brought to new freedom and built them homes. The extent of the community’s abolitionist beliefs did not stop merely at freeing the slaves, or through monetary means, but also in the treatment of their fellow man. Moses Turner, brother-in-law of freed slave John Dennis, was able to participate in a jury in 1872. Nationally African-Americans were not allowed to serve on juries until the Civil Rights Act of 1875.

Osage County Places: Vassar schoolhouse, still serving as center of its community

In 1913, the town of Vassar 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.

Serving as a school until 1977 with its last class of 12 students, the schoolhouse is now Vassar’s community center.

Franklin County’s Civil Conservation Corps topic of historical society annual meeting

Four enrollees at a C.C.C. camp northwest of Ottawa. Photo thanks to Franklin County Historical Society.

OTTAWA, Kan. – From 1933 until 1942, the Civilian Conservation Corps employed millions of young, unmarried men in jobs related to conservation and natural resource development as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Tod Bevitt, of Oskaloosa and formerly of Overbrook, will explore how the C.C.C. impacted Kansas and Franklin County during a presentation at the 83rd annual meeting of the members of the Franklin County Historical Society, at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, at Neosho County Community College, at Ottawa, Kansas.

The Civilian Conservation Corps was arguably one of Roosevelt’s most successful New Deal programs. The C.C.C. was a program of conservation and construction that changed the lives of more than three million men and their families by offering employment opportunities during the Great Depression. For the past 10 years, Bevitt has been studying the C.C.C. in Kansas, researching the men, their camps and the projects they completed. In 2018, he and his wife, Wendi, contracted with the Kansas Historical Society to document what remains of the C.C.C. camps in Kansas. His presentation will give an overview of the C.C.C. and specifically its impact in the Ottawa area.

Tod Bevitt is the owner and principal investigator for Buried Past Consulting LLC, performing cultural resource investigations throughout the state of Kansas and the Great Plains. Wendi Bevitt has more than 20 years of experience conducting historical research and genealogy and is the author of “Hidden History of Osage County,” a monthly column in the Osage County News.

The Jan. 26 program will begin at 2 p.m. with a review of 2019 FCHS activities. Tod Bevitt’s presentation will begin at approximately 2:45 p.m. This program is free and open to the public. In the event of inclement weather, this event will be held at 2 p.m. Feb. 2. The Old Depot Museum will be closed on Jan. 26 so that all staff members and volunteers can participate in the annual meeting.

For more information, contact the Franklin County Historical Society, 785-242-1250.

Overbrook Overlook: School begins, watch out for kids

Slow down for the school kids – whether walking, riding a bike, driving or on a bus. Photo thanks to city of Overbrook.

The Overbrook community is recovering after hosting the final Osage County fair of the season just as school began this week. The first official day of school for the city was Aug. 20, and Overbrook Police Chief Terry Hollingsworth is warning everyone to watch out for students going to and from school – walking, riding bikes, or driving cars. The chief is also urging bicycle riders to use caution.

“I have seen a lot more bicycle traffic recently and I cringe at some of the ways some kids ride their bikes around town,” Hollingsworth said.

He advises these safety tips for bike riders of all ages:

  • Wear a helmet, and fasten it. This may help prevent a serious injury.
  • Put reflectors on the bike and helmet and wear light colored clothing when riding at night.
  • Look both ways at intersections and driveways. Most bike crashes happen in these places. Walk your bike across busy intersections.
  • Ride with traffic, not against it.
  • Lock your bike up to help prevent theft.

Farmers market

A farmers market has begun for the produce season, and will be open 4-6:30 p.m. Mondays through Sept. 9. You can find the market in downtown Overbook on Market Street just west of Maple Street. Produce, handcrafted soaps, farm eggs, honey, and other goods will be offered.

Swimming pool season ends

Overbrook Swimming Pool has reported it was a wonderful summer at the pool and the city is grateful to pool director Ann Fawl, the managers, and lifeguards. The last day the pool was open was Aug. 18 with a free swim day.

New city mural

Nobody’s going to overlook Overbrook as they drive down U.S. Highway 56 and see the beautiful mural painted by artist Mindy Kahl Allen. The city offers thanks to Allen for sharing her talent, and a thank you to the Overbrook Betterment Committee and its supporters for spearheading and completing this project for our community.

(See related story: Hidden History: Incognito contest winner shines perpetual spotlight on Overbrook)

Contact us: Osage County News | P.O. Box 62, Lyndon, KS 66451 | [email protected] | 785-828-4994 | Powered by Osage County, Kansas