Hidden History: Early inhabitants wove the fabric of Osage County’s past – Osage County Online | Osage County News

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.

Edward Perry; photo from The Perrys of Rhode Island.

Lawn maintenance had become popular at the end of the 19th century, and the first mass produced lawnmowers made a manicured lawn more easily accessible.

As the property grew in its land holdings, it encompassed what was known as the Williams Ranch, owned by members of the D.B. Williams family. The Williams’ property extended south along what is now Chicken Creek (formerly Williams Creek).

There were various buildings on Williams Ranch, which included structures such as a log house and log barn. With the access to water on those parts of the property, the Williams family opened portions up for fishing to locals. The farm lands were fully irrigated and offered a wide variety of produce.

In 1906, Col. Myron “My” Gillmore, a former Civil War veteran, purchased the Williams Ranch, which had grown to more than 1,100 acres. Col. Gillmore spent the next three years making improvements to the ranch, seeking to develop it into what he called the “Ideal Ranch.”

The Ideal Ranch contained two eight-room houses and a four-room house, plenty of good barns and outbuildings for his cattle, as well as diversified crops for his stock and farm enterprise.

Gillmore raised Angus cattle and sold them in the Kansas City market. Kansas City at the time was the second largest market in the United States, and catered to all aspects of the cattle trade including the stockyards, meat processing, and the Royal Stock Show. Gillmore was such a frequent visitor to Kansas City for business that he purchased an apartment there to have easy access to the city. His Angus were award winners, winning the grand champion prize one year at the Royal show.

Molly Lantry, owner of Ideal Ranch in 1913; passport photo.

As he entered his late 60s, Gillmore desired to retire and sought to sell his Ideal Ranch but its ideal buyer would be long in coming. Gillmore finally rented the property and moved to Topeka to manage the ranch from there.

When Mollie (Jordan) Lantry purchased the ranch in 1913, she was newly widowed. Her husband, Henry Lantry, had been a successful businessman, son of Barney Lantry, who established the impressive Deer Park Place (or Spring Hill Ranch) near Strong City. Mollie had been a close counselor of her husband in his business dealings for many years, showing herself to be a shrewd businesswoman. After her husband’s passing, she was also able to fall back on the assistance of the trusted advisors of the Lantry family.

Mollie planned major remodeling at the ranch. For the ranch house, she planned to tear off the existing porches, raise the main building, and construct a large addition. For the ranch itself, she sought to install heat and water plants throughout and improve the roads crossing through it. But Mollie was not one to stay close to home; she and her daughter loved to travel extensively. Mollie hired naval academy graduate, H. A. Osmun, to manage affairs of the ranch and rent parcels of acres to area farmers.

The centerpiece of the ranch became the residence that sits along U.S. Highway 75. Among those that have lived at the Ranch House were Ervin and Freda Steel. The Steels moved to the Ranch House in the 1960s, after their farm was taken by the lands utilized for Perry Lake in Jefferson County.

Ervin was a large former Navy Seal and Freda a schoolteacher. The couple had married later in life and used the house as a residence, but also as a restaurant for a few years. They served homemade foods, which included club sandwiches among other things, on square dining room tables.

The Steels were an unconventional family. The children freely ran through the house even when customers were there to dine. Ervin had a unique way of heating the large house. He would bring a large log into the living room (sometimes as long as 12 feet) and put one end in the fireplace supported in the middle by a child’s wagon. Ervin would then settle himself into his easy chair and slowly feed the log into the fireplace by pushing on it with his foot.

Other residents at the Ranch House included Cyrus “Roy” and Lelia Allemang and their family. The Allemangs made a profitable business establishing clothing factories. Locally these were in Osage City, and later Burlingame, and were known as the Burlingame Manufacturing Company. Their shops made suits, pants, and shirts, namely the Panhandle Slim Western Wear brand. Roy headed the enterprise, and Lelia was the secretary. Despite their distance from their place of business, the Allemangs were respected businesspeople and frequented the nearby town of Lyndon often.

One owner, though, that didn’t quite fit in was Orville K. Sweet. Sweet purchased the ranch in the 1970s, and ran it from off site. Sweet’s son and nephew would come to town to check on the enterprise, and would often been seen strolling side by side down the sidewalks of Lyndon, decked out in cowboy attire.

Orville Sweet was influential in the livestock industry. During his ownership of the ranch, he served as president of the American Polled Hereford Association, and executive vice president of the National Pork Producers Council. Sweet spearheaded the creation of the successful “Pork. The Other White Meat” campaign in the 1990s.

All these individuals helped build the story of this ranch, whether it be known as the Williams Ranch, Lantry Ranch, the Sweet Ranch, or the Ideal Ranch.

The latter, however, probably best describes the hopes of each of the owners – to build their own ideal version of a ranch on the Kansas plains.

wendibevitt2016bWendi Bevitt is owner of Buried Past Consulting LLC. She lived in Osage County for 20 years and her research interests include Osage County Civil War veterans and Osage County history.

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