#65 Pearl Harbor – And an Aftermath Story

This article contains information written by my father’s cousin, DeLos A. Seeley, who was in Waikiki, Hawaii before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  At that time, DeLos was the civilian assistant city planning engineer, but he would be put in charge of coordinating the burial of the dead immediately after the attack.  The following is part of the letter he wrote to one of my high school students on January 30, 1986.

“There was much concern here in Honolulu about a possible Japanese attack in the weeks prior to Dec. 7th, 1941.  I had been asked to be a block warden – just in case – so on the night of the 7th, I went around my block being sure that everyone had their house lights off or concealed (autos had to drive without headlights until special headlight covers were issued).  The Red Cross and civilian hospitals had prepared extra bandages.   But somehow, the military wasn’t as ready.

I was living at Waikiki Beach (about 10 miles from Pearl Harbor) – having come to the Islands four years before to take my first job right out of college (University of Michigan).  At the hotel where I was living there were some military officers living there also.  The attack took place just before 8:00 a.m. (Hawaiian time).  There was considerable noise and for a while we thought the whole thing was just a continuation of some war games that had been held during the previous few days.  But someone noted that the gun fire from over Pearl Harbor was black (the real thing) and not white smoke used in the games.  Also, the officers soon got phone calls and quickly left.  Another fellow at the hotel had his own small plane and had gone to his airport (located next to the harbor) for an early morning flight (it was a beautiful Sunday morning).  He returned to the hotel about ten o’clock to report that the airport (military as well as civilian) and the planes had been strafed by the many small planes with the “red sun” emblem on their wings (the Japanese aircraft planes).

Our local radio stations began reporting what was happening, what everyone should (and should not) do, etc.  Once they asked that all the able-bodied men report to the beaches and waterfront to help set up barriers since it was thought that we would soon be invaded (but, of course, we never were).  The call for help was cancelled almost immediately when huge traffic jams resulted.

Some of our planes had left California that Sunday morning on a routine flight to Hawaii – it took all day then for the 2300 miles.  There was some confusion when they tried to land that evening at Pearl Harbor airbase – at least until everyone learned what the situation was….”

Included with the letter DeLos sent was a Dec. 6, 1984 article by A. A. Smyser, a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.  Smyser wrote about DeLos’ report to the Navy and his recollections on the week after the Pearl Harbor attack.  This is a little-known story of what the attack left behind.

In the Navy report, DeLos wrote that at 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 7, only a few hours after the attack ended, the cemetery in Nu’uanu Valley received a request to open 25 graves in an area called Navy Plot.  Within a few minutes the Navy Hospital at Pearl Harbor called for 35 more.  Forty men were assigned to dig the graves and worked until night.  The following days found sixty sailors and other Navy work crews added.  DeLos assisted in coordinating this work.  By Friday, Dec. 12, the number of burials reached 341, including 13 Japanese aviators.

It was not in the official report, but DeLos recalled that the inclusion of the Japanese precipitated a work stoppage among the grave diggers until there was assurance that the Japanese would be interred separately from the other dead.

Speed in burial was considered essential because of sanitation and health problems but some body bags were racked up in stacks until adequate wood caskets arrived, and foul smells developed. Some of the first caskets were hurriedly built and were too small to handle some of the bloated remains from Pearl Harbor.

Extreme care was taken in retaining proper identification of the bodies and in marking the graves.  Identification numbers were stenciled on all caskets and stakes bearing the same numbers were placed above the graves.  The bodies of the 13 Japanese were identified alphabetically – J-A, J-B, J-C, etc.

Delos also said he did not include in the report that the Navy did not have sufficient flags to cover the caskets and Cmdr. Houston reluctantly used flags from a department store.  There still were not enough to have one for each burial.

All of the remains buried by the Navy described in this report were later relocated to graves elsewhere on the U.S. mainland, in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific located at Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu, Hawaii and in Japan. 

DeLos would go on to serve during the war as a staff sergeant in G-2, Army intelligence.  He worked as a design engineer for the Army in the creation of the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Honolulu.  During his career he was instrumental in overseeing development of many of Oahu’s parks and scenic attractions and retired as the deputy director of the Honolulu Parks and Recreation Department.  He died in 1999 at the age of 84. 

#64 Turkey Tales

Turkey was only one of the meats at the first Thanksgiving celebration held 400 years ago this year.  However, it was not the mainstay until after President Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1868 that this American bird became the tradition. 

            I found the earliest mention of “turkeys” in Edwards County in the January 4, 1889 issue of the Kinsley Graphic.  The article related how “On Saturday evening, before Christmas, George Clement was on his way home (south of Lewis) with a large (live) turkey that he had won at a shooting match.”  

            When George was passing Squire Polings’ house, he heard music, and decided to stop in.  He did not think it would be polite to take his turkey into the house, so he found a large wooden box and turned in upside down over the bird.  An hour later, when he came out, he discovered that a stray dog had found his turkey, dug under the box, and eaten about half.  “The other half was still alive, (turkeys are very tenacious of life), and the Squire was called upon to act as chief decapitator and put an end to its suffering.” 

            The turkey shooting match mentioned above had been a popular event since early 1800 when it did involve live birds.  But by this time, participants did not actually shoot turkeys.  They received frozen turkeys as prizes for their luck at landing one BB shot in a small circle on a target. Turkey shoots are still held today.

            Another turkey shoot mentioned was held at U. G. Leslie’s in Wendell in 1894 where a lucky Dave Heath won 4 turkeys before he was barred from further competition.  In 1914, Everett Nichols provided 45 turkeys and 10 geese for prizes at his shoot.  The L. J. Runsey farm advertised that 70 turkeys would be given away at their shoot in 1916.

            By the early 1900s, area farmers were raising turkeys for market.  The turkeys were “…brought to the produce house, where one man does all the killing.  He has specialized in that and can stick them so that they will be easily picked…. The ‘picking corps’ consists of a number of men, who, after a little practice, can literally ‘make the feathers fly’.  With a very few minutes work, they can make a turkey look ‘as if it had been born that way’.  After picking, the turkeys are taken to the ice house where they are cooled to about thirty-five degrees before they are packed in wooden barrels and shipped to eastern points.”  (Kinsley Mercury, November 16, 1922)

            On November 30, 1922, the editor of the Graphic reported the importance of the turkey market to the local economy.  “Last week we called attention to the fact that the Lee Produce company (located opposite Kinsley High School) had shipped three carloads of dressed turkeys from this station in one week …. The poultry raisers who made these shipments were possibly paid more than $20,000 in cash; that much money was put in circulation here in one week just by this one firm.  Another thought.  It would take about twenty loaded wheat cars to represent the same amount of money, more carloads of wheat than have been shipped from this station in the past three months.  If you take into consideration the money paid out by this firm for other poultry and eggs, also add the amounts put in circulation by other buyers, the sum paid out for poultry and eggs reaches an astonish total, more than equals the wheat crop of Kansas.  Yet we rarely see a word in print regarding the great movement of poultry and eggs, while the clamor regarding wheat is heard all over the country.”

George Hetzel, Sr. pictured here with turkeys he raised to generate income on the farm NE of Kinsley.

            Turkeys proved to be a good crop during the Dust Bowl, Depression and WWII.  Clair Bidleman was winning prizes with his turkeys in national shows in the early 1930s.  In 1936, Glen Bidleman started a turkey marketing pool called the Southwest Kansas Market association.  Turkey raisers in Edwards, Ford, Hodgeman, Kiowa, Rush, Stafford, and Pawnee counties banded together to process their turkeys here.  They combined with a larger cooperative in Hutchinson which paid 50% of the NYC market price.  A second payment, adjusted for the fluctuating market, was made at the end of the season.

            This co-op rented a building north of the Schnatterly Grocery store (422 Colony, currently Brown Auction) for $1 a day, and rented refrigeration space at the nearby Home Ice Company for 2 cents/100 lbs.  

            The Kinsley Mercury described the operation. “The noise made by pickers pulling the feathers from the scalded turkeys goes on throughout the day until all birds for the day’s kill have been ‘pinned’…. Rubber boots and rubber aprons are used in the workshop since the wet turkeys keep the floor and those who work in the building, damp.”  (Nov. 12, 1936)

            That year, county agent George Sidwell reported that four car loads of approximately 7,800 turkeys shipped from Kinsley in November, and he expected the same would be shipped in December.

            Raising turkeys during World War II not only offered a financial incentive, but also a patriotic one in support of the “Food for Freedom” campaign.  In 1941, the co-op, or turkey pool as it was sometimes called, became the Arkansas Valley Turkey Co-op and it had 430 members.

The Arkansas Valley Turkey Cooperative was located at 319 E. Sixth St in 1941.This picture was taken in 1985.

            The co-op bought the building at 319 E. Sixth St. and installed a new scalding machine and automatic picker.  Charles Schmitt described the picker as having “little rubber fingers on it – little knobs on it.  We’d just hold the turkey up, and it would pull the feathers right off.  Maybe the wings or the tail you had to pull out, but they looked pretty nice when we boxed them up and loaded them in the freight car.”

             “Once in a while,” he continued, “when the steam engines came in, they’d bump the car and it would knock (the boxes) over, and we was asked to go back out for time-and-a-half (pay) and a case of beer!  Us boys would just throw them clear back up there.  We made a lot of fun out of it.”

            Glen Bidleman reported in a magazine article that in 1941 they sold more than 400,000 pounds of dressed turkeys and expected to double that in 1942.  Many people, including teenagers, worked for two weeks in November and again in December.    

Julius Carlson raised turkeys on Carlson farm, north of Kinsley, c. 1944

            Fred Strate was the Secretary/Treasurer of the turkey co-op.  In 1943, he and his wife Gladys earned more than $1300 for the turkeys that their children Delphi, Lionel, Roma and Kay raised.

            I’m not sure when the turkey cooperative ended, but they did sell the building in April, 1952.  Perhaps the fall of 1951 was the last year, but If anyone can pin point their last season, the library would like to know so can be added to the archive. 

            The Kinsley Library Board and staff wish everyone a perfectly roasted turkey and a Happy Thanksgiving. 

#63 “If you learn to read, you can do anything”

                “Just because you grow up in a small town like Kinsley, doesn’t mean you can’t follow your dreams.  Kinsley gave me good preparation for what I wanted to do in life.”  

            This is what Dr. David Kastner said during a recent phone conversation.  He was born and grew up in Kinsley and graduated from KHS in 1971.  He went on to become a medical doctor and the author of nine fiction books.

David Kastner donates his six books to the Kinsley Library.

            “As a kid, I checked out my first books at the Kinsley Library,” he continued.  “There were cards in the back of the book which you signed to check the book out.  I liked science fiction and remember the science fiction spine labels on library books by favorite authors like Ray Bradbury and Asimov.”

            Asimov is a classic science fiction writer, so when I looked on our shelf today, I found we still had books which were checked out when David was a patron.  Some of those date due stamps probably represent times he borrowed them.

            When Dr. Kastner attended the All-School Reunion last September, he came by the library and donated copies of his eight books to the collection.  He describes his book as “mystery-suspense, written clean with no bad language. They promote Christian beliefs and values.”

            He wrote his first book, The Palace Connection in 2004.  He followed the writing rule to “write what you know about” when he chose Kinsley for the inspiration for the book’s setting and some of its characters. 

            I enjoyed reading this fictional story about Rick, a high school junior boy, who went from “loser” to the winning quarterback and an all-A student through the powers of an Indian amulet he dug up in a field outside of Kinsley.  The amulet connected with its powers when he wore it into the Palace Theater, which in this book had been built on the location of a sacred Indian burial ground.

            “I helped out at the Palace Theater when my Uncle John Wire was running it in about 1968 or 1969,” Dr. Kastner explained. Uncle John gave the character Rick a job and plays a prominent role in the novel.

            The book portrays a snapshot of teen life in 1970 in Kinsley with mentions to cruising town, Spudnuts, parties at the river, black and white sundaes at Hamm and Pool drugstore, game bonfires, shooting pool at Young’s, and all the songs of the era played on the radio of Rick’s 1962 candy apple red Chevy Impala.         

            Some characters have the names of real people, like history teacher Mr. Ross, Coach Martin, Mr. Kingry and his “Marching 100”, and others.  People who grew up in this era can judge how well Dr. Kastner captured KHS student life.


David Kastner, 1971 Kinsley High School graduation picture.

            Kastner went on to write The Amulet and The Return of the Amulet as two more parts of this trilogy set in Kinsley. 

            David Kastner is the son of Hermann and Rita Kastner.  Herman was the County Executive Director for the ASCS (Agricultural Stabilization Conservation Service, now the FSA).  They lived in town on 120 Wichita Street but also farmed north of Kinsley.  David worked on the farm in high school and while attending college at Fort Hays Kansas State College where he earned a degree in biology in 1975. 


120 Wichita St. is the house David Kastner grew up in and chose for the home of Rick, the main character in “The Palace Connection.” 

            Kastner then attended the Hutchinson School of Medical Technology and worked 15 years as a medical technician before receiving his medical degree from Ross University in California.  He then worked as a family physician in Ellinwood from 2000-2003 and finished his career working for the Veterans Administration for fifteen years before retiring in 2019.

            Living in Ellinwood gave him the setting for his second trilogy:  Changing Seasons, The Amber Wave Project and The Deadwood Diary.  The last involves a hidden diary which is uncovered in the long- forgotten tunnels beneath the fictitious town of Deadwood, patterned after underground Ellinwood.

            The other three books that Dr. Kastner has written are collections of short stories which explore life decisions and the spiritual, often with a nod to the Twilight Zone.

             “I always loved reading,” concluded Dr. Kastner.  “I started out as a kid reading books from the Kinsley Library.  Now I have books that I have written on the shelf in the library. 

#62 American Soldiers – A Threat and a Promise

            When Dr. William Wolfgang was recently in town continuing his research into community theater and Charles Edwards, he mentioned that Charles was also a poet. We had none of his poems in our files, so Dr. Wolfgang offered to send some, one of which is printed below in commemoration of Armistice Day, which we now call Veterans Day.

            On May 28, 1918 the American 1st Division led an assault on the town of Cantigny, France, making it the first divisional attack by the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I.   When they forced the Germans to withdraw from Cantigny, the UP reported that the message to Headquarters was, “Hello! This is Cantigny!”  The success of this first attack proved that American forces had the training, tools and leadership necessary to be a major threat to the Germans.

“A Threat and a Promise”
By Charles R. Edwards

“At headquarters officers waited anxiously for news of the American attack.  After forty-five minutes a voice came over the field telephone: “Hello! This is Cantigny!” A British officer said: ‘It is both a threat and a promise.’”

Boys of our land, oh boys of our land,
Would to dear God we could have seen ye!
You crossed the May fields, the mist-hung grey fields,
Like flying film reels, you sped the Hun Heels;
And then you phoned back above a red track,
“Hello!  This is Cantigny!”

Lads of our land, good lads of our land,
it is our proud day we call you kin!
For comes a starday—though near or far day—
Maybe in May day, yet gold if grey day—
When you will phone back, above a world’s track:
“Hello!  This is Berlin!”

Boys of our land, clean sports of our land,
Oh, would to high God we would have seen ye!
“Hello! This is Cantigny!”

            On Jun 1, 1918, the editor of the Hutchinson Gazette wrote: “We knew these Americans had ‘the goods’, they have done their first job with swift precision.  Cantigny will one day be repeated a thousand-fold.  That day the Kaiser’s crown will go into an allied museum.”

            I could not discover that any Edwards County men fought at Cantigny.  Chester Bidleman was stationed about 60 miles northwest of Cantigny.  He was hauling water for the troops and wrote in his diary that he could hear bombing at Abbeville on May 27.   On June 28, he had his first night maneuvers which he commented on, “I can’t say much in favor of it.”

Chester Bidleman

            Edwards County men did arrive in France shortly after.  John Pixley wrote in a letter on June 20, 1918: “Our first greeting from France was rain, which continued on and off throughout the day but let up long enough for us to land and get to camp.  On our trip to camp we had ample time to observe the effects of war in this country, and while I must say it is very beautiful, particularly the farming districts, yet the appearance of the people readily causes one to understand the burden they have been bearing for four years.  Of course, the most conspicuous thing is the absence of able-bodied men, no one being on the streets except women, children, the aged and crippled.”

John Pixley

            August Kurth wrote home from France on July 7, 1918: “German aviators fly over nearly every day.  The French have brought down two of them near here, one just the other day, and (the other) about two months ago.  We are in no danger here as we are at least 35 miles back of the lines…. You probably think because we are so near the scene of action we hear all the latest, but such is not the case, as the papers print one thing and the boys that come back from the front tell us different, but all believe the war will soon be over.  I still have hopes of being home for Christmas dinner, but no one can tell.”

August Kurth

            Not quite six months later, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 the armistice ending World War I was signed just 25 miles southeast of Cantigny in Compiegne, France. 

            The next year, Armistice Day was set aside for national observance for the sacrifices of the soldiers in the United States, Great Britain, and France.  Since then, it has become the day when we remember all the nation’s veterans and their sacrifices throughout the years to protect democracy and freedom from kings, dictators, and autocrats.

#61 A Late Halloween Trick in Belpre

In researching for last week’s Halloween article, a ran across the following Kinsley Graphic article of a prank that took place in Belpre in 1905.  Halloween had been on Tuesday night that year, and this apparently took place on the following Monday night, November 6.  Because J. M. Lewis, the editor of the Graphic, was such a good storyteller, I am simply reprinting his article as it appeared in the Nov. 9, 1905 issue in its entirety.

“The boys at Belpre were a little slow in celebrating Halloween this year, but when they got started they did a pretty good job.  A young man from Tennessee lately arrived and took position of night operator for the Santa Fe at that station.  It was his first trip in the west and his evident curiosity about the bad men he had heard of suggested to the town boys that they could have a little fun at his expense, so Monday night they gathered at the station and began telling tales of trouble.  The talk ran on ghosts, cowboys, train-robbers and other kindred topics until the tenderfoot had been worked up to the proper pitch of nervousness. When suddenly, as he sat at his desk, a masked face appeared at the window.  This disturbed him a little but not enough to suit the boys.  In a few moments the mask was passed to another and again a masked face appeared, and then a revolver shot was heard.  The crowd inside immediately stampeded and that finished the operator.  He gathered his belonging and was for leaving on the instant.  It was then up to the boys to keep him at his, so they assured him that the trouble was over, and he went back to work. 


This photo taken by Belpre photographer W. O. Durstine, c. 1915, may have been what the tenderfoot depot operator imagined Kansas cowboys or train robbers to look like.  If you know who these hombres are, please inform the library.

Two torpedoes (firecrackers) were placed on the track in front of the station, and when late in the night, a local freight exploded them, the operator thought sure his time had come and reported to the dispatcher that shooting was going on around the depot and asked what he should do; and then the boys up and down the (railroad) line ‘tumbled’ and proceeded to make it pleasant.  The young man gathered up his shattered nerves and stuck to his post till morning, although feeling sure that No. 9 was to be held up.  In the morning he announced his intention of throwing up his job, which put the joke on the jokers, and they were compelled to tell him the whole story.

“We want to say right here that had we been in the place of the young stranger we don’t believe that daylight would have found us in that town.  Any man would have been frightened and most men would have run.  The young man showed courage and a strong sense of duty in sticking to his post under trying circumstances and should be commended for it and congratulated on his nerve.”


The Belpre depot where the trick was played.  Picture taken c. 1915 by W.O. Durstine.
If you recognize any of the men in this Santa Fe Railroad crew, please inform the library.

            I chose two photographs taken by W.O. Durstine of Belpre to accompany this article.  They were probably taken about 10 years after the incident and are part of a collection of images digitalized from glass plates by the Kansas State Historical Society. Unfortunately, we are unable to identify most of the people in the slides. If your ancestors were in Belpre from 1907 through the 1920, come in the library and see if you can find them in the photos.

#60 Halloween Parties and Pranks

When I learned this week that Trick-or-Treating did not really take hold of the Halloween holiday until the 1930s, I wondered how people celebrated here before that?  By reading the old newspapers, I discovered there were plenty of parties and pranks.

Parties were held in private homes, churches, at the high school, the opera house, and in club rooms.  Decorations were much like today, except the Ketelson home did use one particularly spooky effect.  “The rooms were lighted with candles set in half pumpkins… while the electric light bulbs were shrouded in Jack-o-Lantern faces.  When the witches’ dance occurred, these lights were lowered and ghostly figures pranced around a table from which a bowl of blue-flaming alcohol cast a lugubrious light. (Kinsley Mercury, 11-1-1907)

Parties had traditional refreshments of popcorn balls, apples, pumpkin pie, roasted marshmallows, and cider.  One different tradition was not unlike the Christmas King cake.  “In the Hallowe’en cake, Miss Pearl Wire found a silver dime, Master Hugh McCanse a gold ring, and Miss Edith Colver a thimble. (Kinsley Graphic, 11-2-1900)

Costumes were simpler as most donned a ghostly sheet or only wore a mask.

We would recognize the games of bobbing for apples, apples tied to a string, and seeing how many words can be made from the letters in “Halloween”.   But every party seemed to require an old witch, a gypsy or some mysterious fairies telling fortunes by examining tea leaves or coffee grounds in a saucer, by blowing out candles, or by interpreting acorns floating in a pan of water.

Young ladies at the party could find out who they would marry by walking down the cellar stairs backwards at midnight while holding a candle and mirror.  Each would strain to see her future husband’s face reflected in the glass. 

Or a young woman could go to the center of the most remote room in the house and eat an apple just as the clock was striking twelve.  As she timidly waited in the dark, someone would appear and give her a kiss.  According to The Valley Republican, “Both these experiments were reliable and satisfactory.” (11-28-1878)

Adults had their own entertainments including dinners, dancing and card playing. At a party hosted by Judge and Mrs. Vandervert, “A number of amateur poets were developed who had no license but wrote poetry just the same.  There were various styles of poetry, the judicial, editorial, pharmaceutical, transportation, banking, and last but not least the sentimental written of course by the ladies.”  (Graphic, 11-8-1895)

The Knights of Pythias ladies used a unique fund raiser at their Halloween dinner ball which I do not think would go over very well today.  “Each lady was given a number, likewise the gentleman, and those having corresponding ones were partners for the supper.  Each gentleman was then requested to escort his partner up to a pair of scales standing by the doorway leading into the dining hall, and be weighed, the gentleman paying the difference between their weights at the rate of two cents a pound for their suppers.   It was noticed one of the heaviest men present was unfortunate in getting the very tiniest lady there and one of the very light weight gentleman got one of the very heaviest ladies.” (Graphic, Oct. 28, 1920)

I hesitate to discuss Halloween pranks for fear of putting ideas into younger heads, but then, I am sure some readers can remember engaging in similar less harmful antics. 

In 1889 the editor of the Graphic warned, “We have heard several bands of youngsters laying out plans for Halloween.  Citizens had better take everything moveable in the house and then tie the house down.”

According to the Graphic, inclement weather cut down on the pranks in 1903. “A few people missed their gates, found their outbuildings overturned and buggies in the creek, but the actual cash damage was comparatively slight.”

Weather must have been better in 1905 as the Graphic paints a vivid picture of a more typical dawn on November 1.  “The main street of the town looked like the display of machinery at the county fair, all kinds and descriptions of machinery being scattered about the street. A hay derrick was in the street in front of Gonder’s; a windmill tower on the sidewalk in front of the post office, etc.  The principal trouble with this sort of amusement is that the parties who destroy property are never made to pay for the damage.”

On Halloween in 1905, a hay derrick was in the street in front of Gonder Implements
at 220 E. Sixth St. Currently it is a vacant lot.
A windmill tower was put on the sidewalk in front of the post office in the Demain Building at 124 E. Sixth St. Currently it is the location of Twice Is Nice.

An article appearing in the Mercury that same week ended with “However, the town still stands and we ought to be thankful.

”I think the sheriffs did their best to curtail destructive activity and sometime entered into more innocent fun.

“About eleven ghosts were serenading on Main street when they ran into the night sheriff, Will Pierce, and decided they would have some fun. They took possession of the sheriff and took him to the confectionery where he had to treat the bunch.  Although he seemed somewhat excited, the ghosts succeeded in calming his fears and left him a little nervous after his trying experience with so many ghosts.” (Graphic, 11-7-1912)

In 1920 the Graphic reported, “The boys around town decided to make an implement display at the high school in celebration of All Saints evening.  They say you could find every agricultural implement known to man on the grounds when school opened Monday morning, arranged in what might be called “a hit-and-miss effect.”  No particular damage was done….”

I want to encourage all of you to spend some time reminiscing about Halloween when you were a child.  Tell your memories to your kids and grandkids; better yet, write them down for posterity.  Have a safe Halloween, filled with spooky fun and please, only harmless tricks.

#59 Living with Coyotes

One of my favorite childhood memories is of coyotes yipping and howling in the distance as I fished on summer evenings in Michigan.  Today, I still like to listen to their night songs on my hill.

D. J. Martin, formerly of Lewis, gave the library this picture of a group of men after a coyote hunt in Garden City on July 4, 1911.  It aroused my curiosity about coyote hunting.


Picture of John Miller (1878-1957) in the driver’s seat. He was Darrel Miller’s great uncle and had a car dealership in Garden City.  William Lohman (1870-1934) standing, Donald J. Martin (1907-1996) seated on the hood with two of Miller’s mechanics at the rear.

            Over the years, people have either loved or hated the prairie “wolf”. To the Crow tribe, Old Man Coyote was the supreme creator of the earth and all living animals.  The Nez Perce believed that humans sprang from Coyote’s blood.  Tribes in the southwest thought the coyote was the Creator’s dog, and other tribes portrayed him as a cunning trickster.

            Kinsley High School athletes look to the coyote mascot to imbue them with its attributes of adaptability, cunningness, patience, relentless persistence, speed, invincibility, and a reliance on a pack for success.

            But when the first farmers and ranchers arrived here 150 years ago, they fought the coyote as a hated enemy to be eradicated.  Coyotes raided their chicken houses and turkey pens and killed sheep and calves.            

            In 1872, just two years before Edwards County was formed, Mark Twain described the coyote in his book, Roughing It.

            “The coyote of the farther deserts is a long slim, sick and sorry looking skeleton with a gray wolf skin stretched over it, a tolerably bushy tail that forever sags down with a despairing expression of forsakenness and misery, a furtive and evil eye, and a long sharp face, with slightly lifted lip and exposed teeth.”

            In 1882, the county commissioners first passed a resolution offering a bounty for killing wolves, coyotes and wild cats.  People were to bring in the scalps with both ears to receive a $1 bounty.

            Early on, coyote hunts were organized to both eliminate the predator and to provide for a social gathering.  Citizens would band together for “circle hunts” like ones used to flush out and kill rabbits.  These hunts were held on horseback with dogs.  Firearms were not always allowed. 

            The Dec. 22, 1893 issue of the Kinsley Graphic described a coyote drive that captured “three coyotes, the dogs killed two and M. DeTar and C. L. Fuiton shot the other two.” 

            The next week, the largest coyote drive of that season was held. The lines of hunters were organized as follows: “East, Lewis; South, south line of sand hills; North, Jonas Miller’s farm; West, Offerle with the drive ending 3 miles east of Kinsley.

            The bounty on coyotes was removed in Edwards County in 1894 but reinstated in 1899. In July of that year, the county paid out “over $600 in bounties for coyote scalps at $1.00 per head.  “This is at the rate of 2,400 coyotes a year, killed in this county.  Possibly these coyotes were all killed in Edwards county but we doubt it.  Past experience has shown that it is not profitable to offer bounty for coyote scalps unless the neighboring counties do the same.  The opportunity for fraud and the temptation is too strong.  It is altogether improbable that 2400 coyotes a year can be killed in as small a county as this.” (Graphic, July 28, 1899)

            The old newspapers report many coyote hunting stories.  Out where I live in the spring of 1911, A. G. Eggleston (1860-1927) and John Denton killed 11 coyotes, and Nathan Cunningham (1876- 1947) and David Bear (1846-1917) got “20 coyotes, several badgers, skunks, and opossums.”

            In 1915, John Demain, Jr. (1892-1968) and three friends in a Mitchell Six automobile chased and ran down a coyote on the road this side of Garfield.  “In the excitement of the chase one member of the party jumped out of the car before it had come to a full stop and got rolled almost as badly as the coyote, but was not hurt.”

            I was surprised to read that sometimes a coyote hunt took on aspects of an English fox hunt. “One half mile west of Offerle, on Mat Stegman farm, 15 coyotes will be turned out singly, in the open, to be caught. Three prizes will be given to the fastest dogs.  (Graphic, Nov. 17, 1921)

            Another method of hunting was described in the Graphic on Feb. 8, 1923: “Pratt is staging the newest stunt in coyote hunting, doing it in an airplane.  It remains to be seen whether the wily coyote can fool the airplane raiders or not.”

            Coyote hunting included eliminating dens. That same spring, John C. Soice was “still at the head of the class in regard to coyote scalps.  Mr. Soice brought in six more puppies yesterday, making 24 young coyotes in less than a week.” (Mercury May 10, 1923)
            “Rev. Paul Brockhausen driver of one of the Lewis school busses, stated on Tuesday he saw a pack of eleven in a pasture just west of the Floyd Delay farm.   Six coyotes were driven from a field of maize at the LeRoy Ary farm Monday afternoon.  Chas. Milhon killed one of the animals and Ary dogs destroyed another.  On Sunday John and Joe Bratcher, south of Lewis killed two.   (Belpre Bulletin, Nov 23, 1944)

            Coyote hunting has not been without controversy.  One citizen wrote to Gov. Docking in 1972: “It appears to me that the only folks having problems with predators are those who do not properly care for their livestock.”  Landowners have also complained that coyote hunters do more damage in destroying fences and equipment than the coyotes. 

            From the beginning, coyotes were not legally classified as furbearers in Kansas, and so they could be hunted all year long.  The coyote hunting laws are set by the legislature.  Bounty payments were stopped in 1970 and poisons were outlawed in 1983.

            Because coyotes are mostly active at night, in 2020, Kansas law allowed for hunting from vehicles using lights, night vision and thermal imaging from Jan. 1 to March 31.  Special fur harvester licenses are required to trap or hunt and sell the pelts.

            I talked to Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Research Biologist Matt Peek.  Peek said that while many people hunt coyote to protect their livelihood, today most people hunt them for recreational purposes as part of an outdoors lifestyle.  As a native species the department supports protection, population management and harvesting.  He explained that the coyote is ecologically important to maintain a balance in the mice and rabbit population.  At the same time livestock and pets need to be protected from their increasing population.

# 58 100 Years Ago, Smallpox Virus is the Concern

               If you are of a certain age, you probably have a small scar on your upper arm.  It is barely noticeable, but if you are like me, you remember how you got it.  I was five years old and had to get a smallpox vaccination in order to go to school. 

            My vaccination came to mind when I was reading the Dec. 8, 1921 issue of the Kinsley Graphic.  It reported an outbreak of smallpox exactly one hundred years ago in the fall of 1921 in Kansas City.

            Smallpox was a terrible disease. About 3 out of every 10 people who got it died. People who survived often had severe scarring.  Smallpox was spread through coughing and sneezing or sometimes through contaminated clothing or bedding.

            By 1921, smallpox was not as common because in 1796, the English doctor Edward Jenner developed a vaccine from cowpox that protected a person from smallpox.  At the time, he dreamed of the day that “the annihilation of the smallpox, the most dreadful scourge of the human species, would be the final result of this practice.”

            The smallpox vaccine was given using a special two-prong (later 5-prong) needle and instead of puncturing the skin once, multiple punctures delivered the vaccine just below the epidermis, usually leaving a small round scar.

            It does not appear that Kinsley ever had a severe outbreak of smallpox, but occasional cases did occur.  Ray Wetzel told me that some of those buried in Kinsley’s first cemetery (1878-1886) died of smallpox.  

This 1883 advertisement from the Graphic for Darby’s disinfectant fluid claimed to cure just about everything including smallpox and the pox marks it caused.

            The Dec. 1, 1893 issue of the Graphic wondered why smallpox cases still existed when the vaccine was available.  The paradoxical answer given was because the vaccination was so successful. 

            “So nearly has it banished small-pox that no one now fears that disease, and a general carelessness prevails regarding it.”  Simply put, people had forgotten how deadly it could be and were not getting vaccinated.

             From 1899 to 1904, there were 164,283 confirmed cases in the U.S, and some thought the number was five times that high.  Vaccinations were then mandated and a certificate was required to go to work, attend school, ride on trains, and go to the theater.  To thwart those who forged a certificate, they were required to show their vaccination scar. 

            In March, 1905. Dr. Charles Mosher suspected two cases in Kinsley and asked Dr. Samuel J. Crumbine to come to Kinsley to confirm.  Dr. Crumbine was the Kansas Secretary of the State Board of Health and is well-known for his “Don’t Spit on the Sidewalk” bricks to help curb tuberculosis.  Dr. Crumbine arrived and determined that Frank Heath and Powell Class did have a mild form of small pox.

Pharmacist Hattie Mosher and husband Dr. Charles Mosher are pictured here in
Mosher Drug Store, 124 E. Sixth St. (currently Twice is Nice)

            Dr. I. M. DeTar. Edwards County Health officer at the time, ordered a strict quarantine.  He wrote in the Graphic that, “while the disease is here in a modified form, yet none of us want it, and the way to insure it not spreading is to observe the quarantine direction closely.”

            With the vaccine readily available, there was no reason to have had the 1921 Kansas City outbreak which caused 271 cases and 96 deaths.  By December it had spread to Topeka, Wichita, Hutchinson, Dodge City and other Kansas towns. 

            Dr. DeTar approached the school board and “In order to protect our community from an epidemic of this disease, it was decided to commence next Monday the vaccination of school children. The Board of Education will furnish the vaccine, and the doctors of the city will give their services free, so there will be no expense to the children.” (Graphic, Dec. 8, 1921)

In 1921, Dr. DeTar led the school board in providing smallpox vaccinations to all Kinsley school children. To learn more about Dr. DeTar, you can visit the beautiful memorial Lisa Sparke recently had placed in South Park.

            A world-wide effort to eradicate smallpox was undertaken after World War II.  Through widespread administration of the smallpox vaccine, Dr. Jenner’s dream was finally realized when the smallpox virus was declared “extinct” in the U.S. in 1952.  Routine vaccination for smallpox was stopped in 1972 and the scar no longer appeared on children’s arms.

            The World Health Assembly declared the world free of smallpox in 1980. Many people consider smallpox eradication to be the biggest achievement in international public health.

#57 Larned Tired Iron Show will Display Tractorcade Exhibit

                Recently, Seth McFarland, director of the Santa Fe Trail Center in Larned, called to talk to me about some of the events and displays we have had at the library.  In the course of the conversation, he told me that they would be hosting a Tired Iron Show on October 9 and 10.  When I first came here, I enjoyed the Tired Iron Shows at the Edwards County Fair.  It was both fun and interesting to see the antique tractors and equipment in action. 

                While we were talking, I thought about the Tractorcade exhibit the library mounted in 2013. The tractors that drove to Washington, D.C. in 1979 were modern compared to those in the Tired Iron parades, but they also represented another generation of farming history. McFarland asked to borrow that exhibit for their Tired Iron Show this weekend.  This will give people an opportunity to learn some more agricultural history.

                The local Tired Iron Club started thirty years ago, in 1991, when Joe Heinz and Raymond Wetzel, Sr. were talking about their growing collections of restored old tractors sitting in sheds.  At the time, Joe had about 20 antique tractors, of which 6 or 7 had been completely restored.

                The two men decided it would be fun to show them off at the Edwards County Fair, so they proposed the idea to five other men:  Charles Schmitt, Dale Wetzel, Wayne Ploger, Curtis Kallaus, and Harold Schinstock.  Soon Pete Heinz, Tom Stejskal, Paul Wetzel, Ray Wetzel Jr., Jimmy Wolfe, and Jack Wolfe joined in, and these 13 men formed the Tired Iron Club.  Joe Heinz was elected the first president.


Original 13 members of the Tired Iron Club. Left to right are Paul Wetzel, Raymond Wetzel, Dale Wetzel, Wayne Ploger, Curtis Kallaus, Harold Schinstock, Tom Stejskal, Pete Heinz, Joe Heinz, Charles Schmitt, Jimmy Wolfe, Jack Wolfe and Ray Wetzel, Jr.  (Photo:  Edwards County Sentinel, March 5, 1998)

                The first show was held as a one-day event during the Edwards County Fair in July, 1991.  The twenty-eight tractors and twenty stationary engines displayed just west of the grandstand brought back memories of harvests and threshing machines.       

                By the second year, the Tired Iron Club had grown to fifty members from seven counties.  Joe Heinz remarked in the Sentinel, that it was not uncommon to see fathers and sons working together, handing down the skills of the past, at this two-day show.  Charlie Schmitt became the president.

Joe Heinz stand beside his 1927 John Deere D Tractor (Photo: KInsley Mercury, April2, 1992)

                The show kept getting bigger and it was moved to the area around the pink building and expanded east of there.  One special attraction of the 1995 show was a 3/8 scale Case tractor that was completely built by hand by Dennis Franz of Newton.  It took over 2,500 hours to make this remote controlled miniature, right down to a little man steering and nodding to the crowd.   

                Tractor pulls were popular features of all the shows.  According to Ray Wetzel, Jr., the first tractor pulls used a step-on sled, where onlookers would just step on to add weight. “It was the most fun, but the insurance company did not want to cover the liability so it ended.” Later it made use of a sled with regulated weight.  In 1997, the Kinsley Graphic reported that winners came from Kinsley, Mayfield, Hutchinson, Bucklin, Pratt, Olmitz, Macksville, Otis, Haviland, Larned and Johnson, Kansas.

Galen Graff competes in the 1997 Tractor Pull. (Kinsley Graphic, July 15, 1998)

                By 1998, the club had grown to over 185 members. That year the club hosted the Regional Early-Day Gas Engine and Tractor Show shortly after the Edwards County Fair.  This regional show drew people from and even greater area.  Jack Wolfe’s 1890 sawmill and Homer Delaney’s thrashing machine were crowd pleasers. 

                After 1998 coverage of the Tired Iron Show in the local paper seems to be limited to the tractor pulls.  Joe Heinz passed away in 2001, and surviving members said that the 2002 show was carried out in his memory.   Over the years, club presidents also included Gerald Piepmeier, Barbara Delaney, Jeff Mead, Ray Wetzel, Jr. and finally Jack Kersting was the last president.

                After 1998, Pete Heinz and Ray Wezel, Jr. both told me that it was hard to keep the club going.  There were just not enough people for all the work involved.  Members were getting older, and there were not younger people stepping up to take their place.  The cost of event insurance also became prohibitive. 

                At the same time, a similar club had started in Larned.  They approached the Kinsley club to combine the two clubs.  According to Pete Heinz, “Larry Carr was instrumental in carrying on the Tired Iron Club in Larned.”

                Antique tractors are history, but so is the story of the Tired Iron Club.  The library would like to expand the information about this club in our archive.  We will be digitizing four VHS tapes of shows in the 1990s to make them accessible in today’s technology.  We’re asking people who have additional information, memories, and pictures about the club to share them with us.  We especially would like to know more about the transition from here to the Larned club. 

                Seth McFarland invites all of us to attend the show at the Santa Fe Trail Center this weekend.  “If you were part of the Tired Iron Club or the Tractocade,” McFarland said, “I would really like to meet and talk to you.” 

                You’ll find him among the old tractors and the myriad of activities which include demonstrations of wheat threshing, corn shelling, both horse and steam traction engine plowing, wood carving, blacksmithing, sawmilling, the amazing anvil shoot and more.  Take the kids and grandkids for a fun day.

#56 Shakespeare Scholar Makes Return Trip to Kinsley

We were happy to welcome William Wolfgang, Ph.D., back for a return visit to Kinsley last week.  Two years ago, he came to the library to do research for his doctoral dissertation which discusses community-based Shakespeare festivals.  He has now earned his degree and is teaching at a university in Maryland. 

 “I came back to continue exploring the Kinsley festival (and early community theaters in the US),” he said.  “My intent is to prove that Kinsley was indeed the ‘first modern Shakespeare festival’ in the United States.”

Edwards County Historical Society Museum director, Julie Miller, looks on as Dr. William Wolfgang consults his database to identify the cast pictures of “Caprice” and “The Ballad Monger”

He is continuing to do research in theatre history with the goal of publishing a book.  He assures me, that Kinsley will definitely be covered as it was “at the center of what was at the time a developing movement which eventually blossomed into the ‘Little Theater’ and ‘Community Theater’ movements all over the United States and still exists today.”

Dr. Wolfgang spent several hours researching in our library files for more information about Charles Edwards and the role he played providing theatrical production here, in Kansas City, Oklahoma and other places.  Charles never seemed to stay long in one place, but he always returned to Kinsley to direct and act in plays.

Charles (1881-1926) was the son of R. E. Edwards, a wealthy cattleman, banker, and businessman in Kinsley.  The family lived at “Trail’s End”, the large house which still stands at 324 E. 4th St.

R. e. edwards home, “Trails End”, 324 E. 4th St.

Dr. Wolfgang told me that Charles aided in designing that family home with an emphasis towards entertaining. We both recognize the porch design as being very like the Elizabethan stage that Shakespeare performed on.

Meadow Brook outdoor theater, where the Shakespearean plays were produced in Kinsley, was east of 721 E 8th St.  At that time, Coon Creek ran through that area north of Tenth St.  Later it would be straightened to stay south of Hwy 50.

 The audience sat on the south side of the creek, and the performers were on the north side.  Dr. Wolfgang shared the only image he has found of that outdoor stage as it appeared in the Kansas City Star Sun.  It depicts the production of “Twelfth Night” in 1916.

Stage for “Twelfth Night” at Meadow Brook, from Kansas City Star, August 6. 1916

Charles Edwards often returned to Kinsley to produce plays using the local talent.  The Edwards County Historical Society Museum had photographs of two unknown local productions in their collection.

Charles Edwards directs and acts (center figure) in the Kinsley High School Production of “The Ballad Monger” in 1912.

 It was was exciting to watch him solve the mysteries by identifying the productions using his very detailed database of the plays Charles Edwards directed and/or acted in.  It’s always good to put names to artifacts in a collection.

Publicity pictures for “Caprice” (1914) were taken in the entry of the Edwards home, 324 E. 4th St.  Seen here are Lee Drake, Charles Edwards, Juanita Johnson, and Chester Mairs.  The servants on the stairs are Tom Mairs, Jerome Wilson (Sally Frame’s father) and Grace Drake.

Dr. Wolfgang left Kinsley last Wednesday for Topeka where he spent time reading the diaries of Charles’ sister, Marion and going through other papers and images.  He tells me that he will be sharing these recent discoveries with us.