#104 Oliphant Block, Part 6 – Charley Turner, Enigmatic onto Death

            I left off last week in 1923 with Charles Turner running the Santa Fe Trail Hotel at 618 S. Colony (where the south end of the Farmer’s Bank and Trust building stands now).  Charley’s future in Kinsley is so intriguing, I can’t resist telling you more about him. I found the following in various newspaper articles and in Myrtle Richardson’s book “Changes Rode the Wind” (pp 333-340).

            Early on, rumors of prostitution, check forgery, and thievery had tainted Charles Turner’s reputation.  After his second wife’s death when he came back to manage his hotel in 1920, it appears that they had not gone away, and rumors continued to disparage him.

            Charles put a lengthy, special notice in the newspaper refuting these rumors.  Within it, he wrote: “I do not drink or sell intoxicating liquor of any kind and for the benefit of busy bodys and back-biters, moral perverts and physical cowards, I want to say that I am more particular about the conduct and character of the people that stop at my place than the officious of the law are of the conduct and character of some of the persons that walk the streets here….” But his public protestations never quelled the gossip of him fencing stolen goods and even people disappearing in his establishment to be buried in his basement.  Nothing was ever charged or proven.

            On the other hand, the Graphic tells a different story about a night in December 1924 when a fire broke out in a room above the Gibbs Lunch Room, which I believe was located just north of the hotel.   Mr. Claud Cravens occupied the room above the restaurant, and he caused a fire when he fell asleep while smoking in bed.  The blaze woke him up, but in the dark and smoke filled room, he was unable to find the door.  In his attempt to get out, he turned over an oil stove.

            Charley Turner heard Craven’s calls for help and rushed up the outside stairs, threw open the door, and pulled him to safety.  Charley then picked up the stove and threw it out.  He returned to his hotel to get fire extinguishers and put out the blaze.  Charley was badly burned on his face and hands, and was treated by Dr. DeTar.  Cravens only suffered from smoke inhalation.

            This act showed another side of the Charley’s character which was further uncovered after his death.  Letters were found amongst his papers which revealed many acts of kindness, including correspondence with men serving time in penitentiaries.

            At some time, Charley began selling merchandise from his building.  In 1930 he had “Dandy Ranges and Heating Stoves to sell for cheap”.  By 1933 he was advertising his establishment as the Kinsley Sales Co., a second-hand store.  

            Charley had a quirky sense of humor.  He always gave his address as 614 or 616 Broadway instead of Colony Ave. He advertised that he had “the largest stock of used goods between Nettleton and Ardell.”

            Today we would probably say Charley became a hoarder.   “The junk is unbelievable….It would seem as if something miserly was in the man who saved everything no matter how valueless.” (Graphic, Dec. 3, 1936) “In his stock were sewing machine bobbins, men’s and women’s coats in styles of a number of years ago, stoves, guns, furniture and even caskets.” (Graphic, Nov. 19. 1936)  There were many watches—pawned? or stolen? He had 160 guns including a box of pistols in a closet with plenty of ammunition.

            Charles Turner died of acute diabetes at the age of 63 on Nov. 14, 1936. He died in a bathing suit which he refused to take off,  He had wrapped black wool yarn around his toes, legs, and body which he believed would ward off gangrene and other diseases.

            Charley left an unwitnessed codicil to a will which was never found.  The codicil indicated his estate, not worth very much, should go to his first wife.  But because it was not witnessed and the will could not be found, it instead went to the school fund.    

            His first wife and her family attended his funeral, perhaps in expectation of the inheritance that did not materialize.  American Legion members served as pall bearers carrying him to an unmarked grave in the veteran plot of Hillside Cemetery.  His forlorn little dog was all left to mourn him.

Ray Wetzel located Charles Turner’s unmarked grave i in 2003and placed a Spanish-American War maker on it.

            If you are interested in other details of Charles Turner’s life and death, the Richardson book cited above is available at the library and for sale at the Edwards County Museum which reopened for the season this week.

The back of the Santa Fe Trail Hotel and Bivouac restaurant buildings. Loren Johnson, Paul Marconet and Kenny Dupree are seen preparing to tear it down in May, 1962 to get ready for the construction of the Kinsley Bank Building, today’s Farmer’s Bank and Trust.


Oliphant Block, Part 5 – Charley Turner and His Hotel

            When Oliphant’s 1923 building was constructed, the Midland Hotel (618 S. Colony) was already there on its north side.  It had been built and opened by Charles T. Turner in March, 1906.  

            Charles Turner was born in 1872 and was left as a baby in a Kentucky orphanage.  During his lifetime, he spent much time trying to find his mother, but never succeeded. 

            He served as a private in Company D of the Missouri Infantry stationed in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War.

             According to Charles, he first came to Kinsley about 1902 with a vaudeville troupe which became stranded.  He would laugh and say that his singing was “pretty terrible”, but he held the job for several months.  If this is the truth or not is not known, but what I have recently discovered using www.newpapers.com is that he failed to mention some nefarious activities.

Charley Turner in front of a cigar store from Myrtle Richardson’s book, “Changes Rode the Winds” p 340.

            In 1903, he and a woman he called his wife showed up in Fort Collins, Colorado where he opened a barber shop in the front of a building while they lived in the back.

            Soon there were rumors that the Turners were running a “joint” (house of prostitution) known as the Casino restaurant.  It took the law some time to get evidence, but when they were caught soliciting a drunken Mexican, they were arrested, fined, and served out their sentences in jail.

             On Nov. 20, 1903, Charles married the woman, Mary Ada Chenoweth, in Lamar, Colorado.  In February, 1904, when Charles was about to be charged again, this time with check forgery, the sheriff let him go with the promise he would leave the country.  Which he did.  I’m not sure what happed to Mary Ada at that time.

            We find Charles in Kinsley in 1904 running a restaurant.  An anonymous letter written to him on August 20, 1905 was found in his effects after his death.  It accused him of having a “Whore House and Joint”.  It gave him until the next day “to leave this town and stay away.  You have run your robber’s roost long enough.”  This was perhaps the beginning of the rumors and mystery that surrounded him even after his death in 1936.

            He was not scared off.  In October, 1905, he bought two lots on South Colony with plans to build the Horseshoe Café and Hotel, a 24’ X 36’, two-story “cement block building for a first class, up-to-date smoke house where lovers of a good smoke can get first-class cigars, tobacco or pipes at all times for a reasonable price.”

            Less than a month later, in November, 1905, he sold out everything and become a traveling cigar salesman.  But by March, 1906 he was back to build and run the Midland Hotel.  

            In the ensuing years, the hotel had several proprietors and managers as Charles would come and go with various enterprises in Oklahoma, Texas, and southeast Kansas. Even when he sold the hotel, it always seemed to come back to him. 

            It does not appear that Mary Ada ever came to Kinsley, and Charles and she were divorced in 1909.  In 1911, he married Nettie Ward in Bartlesville, OK where they lived.  She did come to Kinsley at least once in August, 1915 when he came to check on his property.  Nettie died of the Spanish Flu in 1918.

            In January, 1921 Charles returned to stay and run the hotel which he renamed the Santa Fe Trail Hotel.  He advertised it to be a clean, modern place with reasonable prices, but the fifteen-year-old building appears to have been a little run down and in need of paint, wall paper, and a new porch.

             By April 1922, Charles ran an ad in the Kinsley Mercury: “The Santa Fe Trail Motel is at your service.  Look me up, if you want to sell something.  See me if you want to buy something.  Call me up if you need help.  I will get it for you.  Service is free.  My phone is 43.  Charley Turner”.

Interesting advertisement in the Kinsley Mercury, May 4, 1922.

            Charles also had a cream station the first door north of the hotel.  You could bring your cream in and Charley would “test it and pay for it in one hour …Cash on Delivery’’.  Another ad said, “You do the milking and we’ll do the paying”.  I wondered if the Oliphant creamery which would soon relocate on the south end of the same block affected his business? At any rate, when the new Oliphant was built in 1923, Charles was running the hotel.

            I’m afraid I have to leave Charley Turner’s story there until next week when I’ll tell you what we know of the rest of the mysterious story on the Oliphant block.

Detail from the Oliphant Building postcard
with the “Rooms” sign of the Santa Fe Trail Hotel.

The Oliphant Block – Part 4 – West Side Gift Shop & McKillip Funeral Service

            I’ll begin this article with a little review. H. B. Oliphant’s building in the 600 Block of Colony was built 100 year ago in 1923.  Starting on the south end of the building was the Oliphant brother’s creamery; next to it on the north, was the Vienna Bakery, and next to it was the Gem Restaurant. The north end of the building was originally occupied by Otto A. and Cora Oliphant McKillip.

O.A. and Cora McKillip

            O. A. McKillip came to Kinsley in 1914 to work in Edwards, Noble & Company’s mortuary. He had graduated from Williams Institute of Embalming and Sanitary Sciences.  He met Cora Oliphant, the only daughter of H. B. Oliphant, and they were married on Sept. 27, 1917.  Cora was a 1913 Kinsley High School grduate, attended Kansas State Normal School at Emporia, and was teaching in the Southside School. 

            In July, 1922, O. A. and Cora bought the mortuary business from Noble, and in January 1923, he temporarily moved it to the Cole Furniture Store (623 Marsh Ave., McKillip Funeral Home’s present location). When the new Oliphant building was finished that spring, they relocated on the opposite end of where Cora’s brothers ran their creamery.

            The McKillips realized that the undertaking business was not going to be enough to sustain them.  After much consideration, they decided to open a gift shop on the main floor in the new location. There was not a gift shop in Kinsley or the area.  The funeral parlor was located on the second floor along with H. B. Oliphant’s Real Estate office.  Cora McKillip also became a licensed funeral director. 

            West Side Gift Shop opened on June 30.  The walls were painted a soft pearl-gray and the ceiling was a delicate green.  On the north side there was a fireplace with a fine English hearth rug on the floor with candles and vases on the mantle. 

            The shop carried goods from England, Holland, France, Japan, and cities around the U.S.  “…the vases and bowls are a joy with their lovely color and design, and there are some new and unusually good candles and lamps of all kinds, from those for the mantle to bridge lamps which are so convenient for reading.  Baskets for all purposes, flowers, waste paper, sewing, and others for just ornament, make up a display in themselves.  Costume jewelry in the new novelties, and books end, place cards for all occasions, and fine stationery are part of the stock.  Japanese panels, parasols, napery (linens), and toys are most colorful and interesting.” (Kinsley Graphic, July 5, 1923)

Valentine advertisement in the Feb. 4, 1932 issue of the Mercury.

            McKillip’s second-floor mortuary was equipped for funeral purposes to better meet the needs of Kinsley and outlying areas.  The Mercury described the rooms.

            “A pulpit and choir section occupy the east end of this room, which is arranged at this time to accommodate about 75 people….The display room for caskets and other undertaking supplies are to the west of this main room, while the operating room is a nice light airy space to the north….An elevator at the rear makes it possible for all of Mr. McKillip’s supplies to be placed on the second floor with a minimum of labor.”

            McKillip also maintained an ambulance service. “Very often people become ill and it becomes necessary to take them to a distant city for treatment or an operation.  When such is the case it is very often difficult to provide adequate transportation for the patient.  Mr. McKillip has taken care of this by having a modern ambulance equipped with cot and facilities for making the patient comfortable on long journeys.” (Mercury, March 21, 1929)

Before air conditioning folding fans with adverting on the back were distributed.  This undated one mentions the McKillip ambulance service.

            The gift store and mortuary remained at this location until the spring of 1942 when they remodeled and moved into the Cole Furniture Store which they had purchased. The business has remained at that address ever since and is in its fourth generation of family funeral directors.

            McKillip has maintained their mortuary records through all these years. When I’m doing research, I often call to learn information about people and burials.  It is a very valuable historical resource.

            The July 5, 1923 Mercury article ends in this manner.  “The Oliphant block is truly a bee hive of industry, and affords quarters of commodious proportions, wherein business in each instance may be expanded and there will be sufficient room.  It was one of the good fortunes of the community that this location fell into the hands of these people whose faith in the future of this community was such that they were willing to make a generous investment both for themselves and others to carry on in a business way for bigger and better things.”

The Oliphant Block – Part 3 – The Gem Café

                Reader’s expressed a lot of interest in last week’s article about the Vienna Bakery on Colony Avenue.  One reader asked if I knew how long it stayed in business.  I had not researched that as www.newspapers.com for Edwards County only goes through 1923.

                However, in 2008, even before www.newspapers.com existed, Sally Bidleman, Beverly Craft, Virginia Gleason, Bette Ryan and Nancy Weidenheimer volunteered to read the Kinsley newspapers which we borrowed from the Edwards County Museum.  As they read, they created indexes for births, deaths, marriages, newsworthy events and businesses.  They indexed 31 years getting into the 1940s.

                In that online index, the last entry for the Vienna Bakery was in the Graphic,  March 31, 1932.  I brought it up on the microfilm reader, and Voila, Mr. and Mrs. M. D. Gault’s Vienna Bakery had closed its doors the week before.

                Having the newspapers indexed is about the only way we have time to do research.  If anyone out there would like to volunteer to add to the years we have, it would be greatly appreciated and used.  Those original volunteers really enjoyed immersing themselves into a year in Kinsley

How the 600 Block of South Colony looks today:  Starting on the left is #626 – Ryan’s Storage;  #624 is the Chamber of Commerce; #622, #620, and #618 – currently not occupied; #616 – Farmer’s Bank & Trust

                In 1923 when the 600 S. Colony block’s brick buildings were constructed by the Oliphants, there was the creamery on the south end, the Vienna Bakery next, and then the Gem Café owned by John Ivan Green (1882-1996).

                                  Mr. Green as he is a good example of how convoluted research can be.  He came to Kinsley in 1900 and was a soda jerk for W. C. Keener at 108 Sixth St.  Around 1904, John met Olive Edna Niles (1879-1945), when she was visiting from her home in Washington, D.C.  She was the daughter of Frederick A. Niles who retired to Kinsley at this time. She had graduated from Spencer College and did secretarial work including stenography during her life.  

                They were married in Larned on May 18, 1905.  The editor of the Larned Tiller and Toiler had some fun with their marriage announcement.  He wrote, “In the absence of any other reason for the marriage, we may presume that the bride’s favorite color is olive green, or that the groom has a taste for green olives.”

                John had worked in three restaurants in Hutchinson.  In 1907, he went into partnership in Kinsley with Rex Woods selling men’s clothing (116 E. Sixth St.). In 1909, he bought the Bon-Ton Café (117 E. Sixth St.).

                In November, 1910 Olive was granted a divorce and received alimony and went back to her maiden name of Niles.  She continued to live and work in Kinsley.

                For the next five years John would try many enterprises: another restaurant on Main St. a restaurant in Stafford which burned on June, 1911 so he returned to Kinsley to run a short-order café.  In 1912, he had the Mission Café in the same location the Bon –Ton had been.  He sold it in July 1913 and bought a chili restaurant from A. J. King. 

                At that point, I started reading again about “Mrs. Green” in the papers.  I was surprised to find out that the new Mrs. Green was the old one, Olive. They had remarried on Feb. 26, 1915.

                In 1916, John bought a homestead in Caddon, Colorado.  For several years John would go back and forth to the cattle ranch, while Olive would stay mostly in Kinsley.

                In March, 1921 John opened a restaurant in Pratt. Finally, he settled down in Kinsley and opened the Gem Café at 622 S. Colony on April 9, 2023 which he ran until October, 1945.

Advertisement in the Kinsley Mercury, April 5, 1923

                The Mercury described the new café as having fine oak floors and kellastone finished walls.  Kellastone was an “imperishable stucco”.  I wondered if it was still there and Brad Venters at Farmers Bank & Trust graciously took me into the building.  We found a wall in the back not covered with paneling and under layers of peeling paint, where the kellastone could still be seen.

Under layers of peeling paint, the original Kellastone stucco of the Gem Café can still be found.

                The Gem Café had the most up-to-date restaurant equipment which offered “the tired and hungry patrons a homey place wherein they may refresh themselves.” 

                A lunch counter was along the south side and faced a “finely finished cabinet containing the many delicacies available….” On the north and west side were eight tables for four. 

                The opening weekend the Gem offered “turkey with all the trimmings and fried chicken dinners” at the cost of 50₵.  They were so popular that John was had to install more tables and get more help by the next Sunday.

                On June 7, 1923 the Mercury reported that a Mr. J. C. Cormoely, the hotel inspector, came and “informed John that he did not give a 100% report on any restaurant, but that if he did, there were only three on his territory that he could give 100% for cleanliness.  One was in Oklahoma City, one at Hutchinson and the third was the Gem Café.”

                In June, 1923 John had a confrontation “…when a big, husky bum approached him for a free meal….”  John refused and told him there was “plenty of work obtainable to those who cared to indulge.”   The bum replied that it didn’t pay well enough, and John gave him a “good dressing down” chastising him for preferring to beg rather than work.

                John ran the Gem Café until November 1, 1945 when he sold it to Harry Plush, and it became the Whiteway Café No. 2.  We need indexing newspaper volunteers to keep going with the buildings history.

                Olive Green died on Nov. 23, 1945.   John lived until June 29, 1964. The Greens are buried beside each other in Hillside Cemetery.

EPSON DSC picture

#100 The Oliphant Block – A 1923 Improvement for Kinsley –  Part 2 – Vienna Bakery

            Last week I began writing about the buildings H.B Oliphant and his sons built in 1923 in the 600 block of Colony Avenue for their production of Blue Ribbon Butter, Kinsley Ice Cream and bottling soda. Notice in the picture that the street has not been paved with bricks at this time, but there is a paved sidewalk in front of the new businesses.

600 Block of Colony.  Shown on left is Hatfield’s Carpentry Shop; an alley and then Oliphant Creamery, ice cream, and bottling; Vienna Bakery on its north side; Gem Café; West Side Gift Shop, and Midland Hotel.

            On the north side of the Oliphants’ building at 624 Colony Ave. can be seen a canvas awning advertising the Vienna Bakery.  Mahlon B Gault had had his bakery in this location, but moved out temporarily during the construction of the new building which was built to meet specific bakery requirements.  The new facility had its Grand Opening on February 16-17, 1923. Mr. Gault said the modern, new facility caused the bakery to double its shipping business as well as increase the local retail business. 

            M. B. Gault was often referred to as “Bake” in the paper.  This might have been a leftover nickname from his service as a sergeant in WWI.  He had spent twenty-five months in France teaching others how to bake.  He came to Kinsley when he was hired by J. A. Williamson to work in his bakery in October, 1919.

            In September, 1921, Gault married Mrs. Lora Gilley Buckles.  Lora had been married to Jay Buckles who worked at the Graphic.  Jay died in 1918 of Bright’s disease, a disease of the kidneys.  She was left with two small children.  She married Mahlon Gault in and worked with her husband in the new bakery.

Lora Buckles before he marriage to Mahlon Gault

           According to the July 5, 1923 edition of the Mercury, the new sales room of the bakery was 17’ X 20’.   The 10’ X 20’wrapping room with its new electric wrapper was a “beehive of industry” which was especially busy when the out of town orders were being taken care of.  The new home boasted a new double decker hard coal bakery oven, which could bake 260 loaves at a time.  “This oven is in continuous heat 24 hours per day, hence the output is limited only to the physical endurance of the Vienna Bakery force.”   Shortly after the bakery opened, an order for 2000 buns went out to a city 40 miles away.

Part of the Vienna Bakery Grand Opening full-page ad on Feb. 15, 1923

            A full-page ad in the Feb. 15, 1923 edition of the Mercury, boasted the new oven as “being the largest west of the river towns” and its continuous heat made it “ready to go at any time” which enabled the Gaults to take special orders.

            The advertised promotion for the grand opening announced that coupons were being placed in each loaf of Vienna Bread. When a customer obtained a sufficient number of coupons they were entitled to a free 4’ X 6’ American flag.

            On Saturdays the Vienna Bakery was well known for its specials.  The advertised grand opening special for that Saturday was for “Cream Puffs with Genuine Whipping Cream, 30₵ per dozen.”  I’m sure that whipping cream came from the Oliphant Creamery next door.

Picture collage accompanying July 5, 1923 Kinsley Mercury article.

            The following is part of the description of the Grand Opening.  “When the doors were thrown open Friday morning, the Vienna Bakery always neat and attractive, resembled more of a fairyland than the ordinary bakery one is apt to see in most towns.  Beautiful red and white carnations in cut glass vases adorned the attractive new show cases.  Inside these cases were on display the greatest variety of bread, pies, cakes, in fact, pastries of all kinds ever shown in Kinsley before.  These were finished with an artistic touch only as an artist of Bake Gault’s ability could do….on display were angel food, Waldorf, devil’s food, nut loaf, white layer, English walnut, coffee and diamond cakes, jelly tarts, lemon, cocoanut, apple, mince and berry pies, doughnuts, jelly roll, lady fingers, cream puffs, Bismarks, fruit bar, oatmeal sugar, and cocoanut cookies, cocoanut and almond macaroons, Parker House, French cinnamon, finger, Vienna cinnamon stick and coffee rolls, jelly and plain buns, crimp cream, rye, whole wheat, Pullman and plain bread.”   

            All was sold out by Saturday night, and if that does not make your mouth water and create an ardent desire for a bakery in Kinsley these 100 years later, nothing will.

The Oliphant Block – A 1923 Improvement for Kinsley –  Part 1

                When looking for a topic for this week’s article, I went to the Kinsley newspapers of 100 years ago to see what was happening.  Using www.newspapes.com, which is available to all Kansas residents through the Kansas State Historical Society website, I found that in the spring of 1923 a business area on 600 Colony Ave was being redeveloped and would be called the Oiphant block. 

                The editor of the Kinsley Mercury described this west side of Colony, which extends north of the high school to the railroad tracks, as having old dilapidated frame buildings that “had stood there for more than a third of a century offering neither commodity or beauty.”

                One exception existed.  In 1913 Roy Hatfield had built a brick carpentry shop, north across the ally from the high school.  This building no longer exists and is an empty lot.  According to the 1920 Sanborn Insurance map, going north from Hatfield’s, there were frame buildings housing an electric supply business, an auto radiator repair shop, the Midland Hotel, a carpentry/paint shop, a restaurant and finally ending with a threshing machine warehouse angling next to the railroad tracks.

Advance Threshing, built in 1910 on the Santa Fe right-of-way at Colony Ave. and Sixth St.

                The August 31, 1922 issue of the Kinsley Graphic reported that H. B. Oliphant (Hugh Bartes Oliphant, 1854-1933) and his sons, Hugh, Jr. (1884-1959) and N. D. Oliphant (Norman Dix, 1885-1847) purchased land on the north side of Hatfield’s.   H. B. had built many homes in Kinsley and he was looking to improving the city’s look and future. 

600 Colony, the Oliphant Block c. 1924. Building on left is the Hatfield Carpentry Shop, next brick buildings were built by H. B. Oliphant in 1923.

                The Oliphant brothers wanted to house their Kinsley Ice Cream and bottling works in their own building. They constructed the brick buildings which still stand at 626 and 624 S. Colony Ave.  The creamery was housed in the south building and consisted of an office in front (17’ X 22’) with the creamery, ice cream factory and bottlings works in the rear (22’ X 90’).  The office work was done by Mrs. N. D. Oliphant (Clara) and daughters Ethelyn (KHS 1924) and Velma (KHS 1924).

Ethelyn and Velma Oliphant, Kinsley High School 1924 graduation pictures.

                Norm Oliphant was the general manager and in charge of the creamery which was managed by Luther McAdoo, who was described as ”one of the best butter makers in the game.” The plant’s modern equipment could produce 1000 lbs. of butter a day.  The surrounding towns and every grocery store in Kinsley carried the famous Blue Ribbon brand of butter manufactured by Norm and Hugh Oliphant.

                The foreman of the ice cream business was Don Kerr.  Sufficient sweet cream and milk had to be secured for the large business.  The editor wrote the following description of the plant:

                “Two brine freezers are employed in manufacturing the ice cream which turn out 100 gallons per hour.  When the ice cream began going into the packers, it didn’t take but a moment to see it was but a twinkling until ten gallons of ice cream was ready to be placed in the hardening room.”

                The brine freezers mentioned above worked on the same principle as the old home ice cream makers with salt brine used to lower the temperature.  More than four train cars of crushed rock salt (perhaps from Hutchinson?) were necessary to pack out the ice cream each year.

                The shipping room in the back was arranged so that a large truck could be loaded within the building.  The shipping floor was the same height as the bed of the truck to minimize lifting.

                The second story of the building was used for storing cartons, syrups, and other supplies.

                Hugh Oliphant was in charge of the bottling works part of the business where the ingredients for pop, near beers and ginger ale were mixed, bottled and distributed.  “Near beer” is what we call three-two beer (3.2 % alcohol by weight or 4% by volume).  Near beer was a mild beer compared to the beer before WWI which was strong even by today’s standards.

                During Prohibition, 1920-1933, the sale of beer was banned, but not the ingredients for making it.  Malt syrup was advertised and sold as a baking ingredient, but it was used to make beer.  Near beers with their lower alcohol content could be produced and sold legally during Prohibition. 

                The bottling works department was quite a large business itself.  It took almost 2000 cases to keep this department in operation throughout the season and shipments were “made on almost every train leaving Kinsley daily.”

                (To be continued next week as we progress north up the block.)

Shining a Light on the Past: ‘Lafalot’ with Ila Taylor in the Sandhills – Part 3 of 3

By William F Wolfgang, PhD

Last week, we left Ila Taylor Hann Haun all settled into her life with her second husband, T.S. Haun.  She was the library chairwoman, president of the Kinsley Women’s Club, and an advocate for the women’s vote.  But world events stretched Ila’s personal resolve when her son departed for the muddied and bloodied trenches of France. The first World War raged and Gus left Lafalot for the front lines, starting with the Battle of Cantigny. He wrote home to his mother as often as he could. At times, when appropriate, his notes would be published in the Kinsley papers.  Captain Augustus Hann barely escaped his service on the battlefield after being gassed and suffering several broken ribs.

Perpetually seeking to find light in the dark, Ila wrote patriotic music to honor the service of the American troops who risked everything. Her sheet music, “Our Yankees are on Their Way Home Again,” was published in April 1919 and featured a photo of Gus in uniform; it was a celebration. Storefronts throughout town proudly displayed the work of the town’s first published composer.

The cover of the sheet music composed and published by Ila Taylor Haun in 1919.

At times, when appropriate, his notes would be published in the Kinsley papers, which was previously covered in the library blog (see: #51 “A. P. Hann Writes from the Crossing). Captain Augustus Hann barely escaped his service on the battlefield after being gassed and suffering several broken ribs.

Unfortunately, the merriment was bittersweet. Around the same time the music was published, Ila’s second husband died at sixty-nine. Shortly after that, in early 1921, Ila Taylor Haun married for a third time, this time to businessman Allen Renick of Lawrence. 

Ila Renick said farewell to her loving community and to “Lafalot in the Sandhills.” The couple relocated to Ponca City, Oklahoma.

Irrepressible as always, Ila found a new circle of friends in a writer’s club. There she shared her poems like “Sanctuary,” and “The Voice of the Pioneer Woman.” But perhaps most revealing, she wrote a piece alluding to her lifelong aversion entitled “Fleeting Shadows.”

Ultimately, she was never afraid to do what she needed to do. In 1937, at age seventy-five, she filed for divorce against her third husband, claiming he was habitually drunk. The divorce was granted, and the court also permitted her appeal to “restore” her first name, Ila Carmichael Taylor, discarding the remaining nomenclature of all three husbands. When she passed away four years later, in 1941, she was mourned by her beloved son, the veteran Captain Augustus Hann.

Ila’s postcard and her legendary “Lafalot” parties which I previously wrote about intrigued me, but her life story inspired me. Currently, her file in the Kinsley Library has only one poem, a tiny fraction of what she wrote throughout her life. More so, we still have no attributable photograph of her. By telling her story, someone may recall a folder, notebook, or dusty box, that could shine more light on the life and literary contributions of a talented writer and an incredible woman.

Note:  The library reiterates Dr. Wolfgang’s call for searching old scrapbooks, photo albums, and dusty boxes for items that bring our local history to life.  It is how the library archive was created and how it continues to grow. We also want to thank Dr. Wolfgang for all the research and writing he did for this series of articles.

Shining a Light on the Past: ‘Lafalot’ with Ila Taylor in the Sandhills – Part 2 of 3

By William F Wolfgang, PhD

(Continued from last week)  As Ila Taylor Hann settled in to life in Edwards County and organized her English literature writing projects, her son Gus dove into project after project on the property south of Kinsley, along the river. In early 1908, he built “one of the largest and finest granaries in the county” for Charles F Eslinger in just eleven days. As he erected the granary, he also helped the Kinsley community and Charles Edwards produce the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta H.M.S Pinafore by constructing their set pieces for the stage. Marion Edwards (Shouse) commented that his work was “unusually good.” Gus would go on to produce several shows as Edwards’ scenic designer.

Ila returned after a months-long research trip in the east for a publication, and Gus was as “happy as a lark.” The Kinsley Graphic supported Gus Hann as the model of a perfect son: “It is refreshing in these degenerate days to find a boy who is not afraid to let it be known that he loves his mother.”

While Gus busily assembled the 5,000 catalpa and 2,000 mulberry trees for the family’s land, he sent two “chore boys” on summer vacation to help his mother at home. Ila settled in and became the president of the Country Woman’s Club. She often opened her bungalow, which she and Gus had now joyously dubbed “Lafalot in the Sandhills.” Friends from all over town would regularly make the trek south of Kinsley, on horseback or whatever method pleased them, to “Lafalot.”

Ila dedicated her energy to showering any shadow she found in radiant morning sunlight. At a Women’s Club Federation meeting, Ila took to the stage. She told an assembly of women a cheery story “of a tired woman” who visited a neighbor. The neighbor said, “Oh, dear, come in: my veranda hasn’t been swept this morning.” “Never mind,” replied the other woman, “I was looking at your honeysuckles.” Ila then encouraged her audience “to look at our honeysuckles in Kinsley.” In her mind, something beautiful could always be found if only people could slow down and look. 

The Kinsley Women’s Club. c. 1910. Kinsley Public Library. As a member of this group, Ila likely is in this photo. Photo:  Edwards County Historical Society.

In 1911, after being single for nearly two decades, Ila remarried. Her last name would not change much, though, as the lucky man would be Thompson Sanford Haun (as opposed to her current last name, Hann), a western Kansas pioneer, lawyer, and the founder of Jetmore.

After her second marriage, like her name, her life was not altered significantly. She continued with literary and poetic work. She also became a well-known speaker and received invitations to speak at many events, including an annual appearance at the Edwards County Farmer’s Institute and conferences throughout the state.

Anyone who had a cause desired Ila’s skills as an organizer and advocate. So, her appointment as chairwoman of the Kinsley Library Association in April 1914 surprised no one. By 1916, Ila would preside over the Kinsley Women’s Club meetings in town as progress with women’s causes became more palpable. Yet, life was about to become more complicated. (To be continued next week.)


#96- Shining a Light on the Past: ‘Lafalot’ with Ila Taylor in the Sandhills – Part 1 of 3

by William F. Wolfgang, Phd

For several years, I’ve been searching through long-forgotten scraps of ephemera and old manuscripts for my upcoming book on Charles Edwards, Kinsley’s theatre director and impresario from the early 1900s. Recently, intriguing people and their fascinating stories have lodged themselves in my mind, and, perhaps, there’s no better year to share than Kinsley’s 150th Anniversary.

One example of this is Kinsley’s poet-author-composer-orator, Ila Carmichael Taylor. Despite the shadows of personal tragedy, Ila Taylor raised two children as a single mother while serving as a beacon for other women seeking careers before they even had the right to vote.

            Ila was born in the small village of Washington, New Jersey, amid the Civil War in 1862. The seventh of eight children spread out across twenty-three years, she was always surrounded by family growing up. For the rest of her life, there would be nothing more important to her. Around the time she would have finished schooling at age sixteen, her brother Ed Taylor, eighteen years older than her, took his family west in search of the opportunity that eluded him. His destination was a small five-year-old town called Kinsley.           

The young and creative Ila chose to stay behind in New Jersey, as there was still opportunity for her at home. Soon, she married Louis Hann, the First National Bank of Washington’s head cashier. Her new husband wasn’t just a cashier, however; he was also the son of the bank’s founder and a local judge. Ila had married well, or so she thought. After the birth of her daughter Louise and her son Augustus (“Gus” for short) in ’86 and ’88, respectively, in 1891, the Hanns’ marriage collided with hardship. The tiny village erupted into scandal. Rumor persisted that Mr. Hann had thrown his wife down a flight of stairs during an altercation. The papers further noted that he had “otherwise cruelly treated her.” As a result, Ila fled with her children to New York.

Seeking a divorce, Mr. Hann concocted a plan to frame Ila for infidelity, which would give him custody of their children. As Ila went about her daily business, her estranged husband had her “shadowed” by nefarious “private detectives” who were then to testify against her in court with maliciously fabricated lies.

The September 20, 1892 edition of the Jersey City News sensationalized the trial with articles like “Shadows on Wedlock: More Disgusting Testimony by the Detectives in the Hann Divorce Suit.” During their time on the witness stand, the “private detectives” proceeded to slander Ila’s character. Ultimately, the vindictive Mr. Hann and his cronies failed, and Ila received custody of the children.

After the terribly public divorce proceedings covered in the smallest and largest papers, Ila penned a healing poem, which the popular Munsey’s Magazine published in February of 1894. She named her verse “Morning,” and lyrically described how each “coming of day” vanquishes the shadows, no matter how deep or long they may be. When her father passed away later that year, he had a line similar to this poem inscribed on his gravestone. Ila’s words served as his light even in death.

As the nineteenth century faded into the twentieth, more adversity awaited. Ila had more shadows to conquer. First, her estranged husband died of “softening of the brain.” Later, she lost her sister in a terrible accident and then, a year later, another brother passed away.

In 1900, Ila was living comfortably with her two children, presumably working in an editorial capacity with some of New York’s largest newspapers, as she would later tell her friend, Kinsley’s one-time newspaper editor Charles Edwards. In a few more years, her daughter Louise would be married and off to make her own home. 

When 1906 arrived, Ila’s son Gus was now eighteen and had a keen interest in farming and carpentry. But to explore this, he needed a job and to escape his childhood in the bustling city. Ila’s brother Ed, who moved to Kansas nearly three decades earlier, had the answer: visit Kinsley. Mother and son stayed with their relatives on their homestead south of the Arkansas River and fell in love with the community. Then, they decided to permanently leave behind New Jersey and dark reminders of the past. (Part 2 next week on settling in the Sand Hills.)

Front and back of a Kinsley postcard featuring the M. E. Church from Ila Taylor to her relative Ida Taylor written at her bungalow “Lafalot in the Sand Hills in 1908. (Wolfgang personal collection)

A note on sources for this article in 3 parts: This article was composed based on accounts and documents found in Richardson’s The Great Next Year Country, Ancestry.com, the postcard in my personal collection, Ila Taylor’s file at the Kinsley Public Library, my research file on Charles Edwards, and Newspaper sources from Kansas, New Jersey, and Oklahoma. 

#95 Pilots, Planes and Flying Clubs – Part 3

Some of the members of the Kinsley Flying Club discussed in last week’s article would join the Flying Farmers. This organization began when thirty Oklahoma farmers organized the first state Flying Farmers in 1944 at Oklahoma A&M. Kansas would organize in 1946 and hold their first fly-in in Hutchinson that year. It would soon become both a national and international group.

The main goal of Flying Farmers was to promote the use of aircraft in agriculture and sponsor both education and research in agricultural aviation. The members were people who got at least 51 % of their earnings from agriculture-related work on the one hand, and flew either for business and/or pleasure on the other. Flying Farmers also became useful for viewing aerial soil conservation, and sometimes they would serve in emergency medical flights.

Farmers had adapted to the airplane early on and soon farm women made up about half of the pilots. Clara and Charles Schmitt of Kinsley are a good example of a flying couple who have been member of Flying Farmers since 1970.

They began by taking flying lessons together from Milton (Bud) Pinkston of St. John.

“Charles finished in 1970, a few months before I did in 1971,” said Clara. “It was expensive to rent a plane for flying hours, and I had children to care for which slowed me down a little.”

Their first plane was a 4-seater Cessna. “We used it to check on cattle,” said Clara, “and to just run around in. It didn’t use a lot of gasoline, and I could get it out of the hangar by myself. Sometimes Charles would fly our son Leon and Randy Gray (they worked on the farm) to Dodge City just to get a hamburger for lunch.”

“One year, the cattle were good and the crops were good,” said Charles, “so we traded that plane in for a brand new 4-seater Cessna 172SP Skyhawk XP11 with a variable-speed prop. You could land on roads and it took a shorter runway.”

Charles also used the plane to buy cattle in Nebraska and Arkansas. “We had cattle out at Kalvesta,” he said, “and I could log the flights down and take them off our income tax as a business expense. I think I put 1400 hours on it.”

The Schmitts first stored their plane in a hangar at the Larned airport, but then were able to rent one in Kinsley. Clara commented that the Cessna 172 was bigger and took more gasoline. She could not get it out of the hangar by herself. Another expense was the plane had to be inspected every year.

Clara & Charles Schmitt c. 1980

In 1973 Clara was the Kansas Flying Farmer Queen. Charles served as District 6 director from 1977-1979, second vice president in 1980 and first vice president in 1981. Other members from Kinsley included Jim and Christina Lippoldt and Vincent and Rose Elpers.

Kari, LaVeta, Elmer & Rx Hahn, c. 1980

Elmer and LaVeta Hahn of Belpre were members since 1955.  Elmer served as District 6 Director in 1956 and 1957 and was elected vice president in 1964 and president in 1965.  He organized and hosted a fly-in at his farm and in every area of the state.  LaVeta was also the Kansas Queen in 1961.

Early on, the Flying Farmers had a mission to fly for charity.  In 1954 they sponsored a “Flight of Dimes” to open the March of Dimes campaign.  From the late 1960s through the 1980s they flew “Donation Flights” where passengers donated a penny a pound to the Capper Foundation for Crippled Children.  The Schmitts participated at the Larned airport and the Great Bend airport in these activities.   

“We’d give people rides and they’d give us money.” Said Charles.  “The year I was president, we had a good year. There were six different districts in Kansas.  Each district would set these charity flights on a certain day in October.  We got enough that time that we ended up at $106,000 total.”

Flying Farmers held annual conventions in the states, and the Schmitts would go to Kansas conventions and to neighboring state conventions.  The also went to five international conventions. twice for International conventions.

Charles and Clara agree that they loved every minute of being involved with the Flying farmers. “Those were the best years of our lives,” Charles said.  “I said as a kid that if I could fly an airplane – or farm- I’d be happy, and I got to do both.”

The Flying Farmers donated all of their archive to the Mid-America Air Museum in Liberal, KS.  I hope to make a trip to this museum to find more information and pictures of our local participation in the organization.