I decided to go down another turkey trail this week. After Marcus Coover read last week’s article, he brought in a Kansas Turkey Champion trophy that Glen and Mildred Bidleman won in 1939 from the Kansas Poultry improvement Association. A little polish and elbow grease brought out the inscription and shine of the silver plate. The trophy had been passed down to Marcus by his step-father, DeLos Bidleman, Glen’s son. This trophy is just one of many trophies and plaques that the Bidlemans won for their turkeys during the 1930’s and early 1940s. It will be at the library this month if you would like to see it.
In the course of conversation, Marcus also recalled a more modern turkey farm which was located on the southern edge of the football field in the early 1960s. I had to laugh when he said that during football practice, those big white birds would run up and down on the other side of the fence chasing the plays. That would have been fun to watch.
My curiosity was aroused to know the dates of this turkey farm. I decided to inquire at the local coffee group that meets every morning at Kinsley Drug. As usual, the guys were a font of information. Harold Burkhart and Jerry Froetschner remembered the 20-acre turkey farm being owned by a Don Fourier. When he sold the land, the two families had bought it from him.
Harold knew his family owned the land sometime before the June, 1965 flood. His dad was running a few cattle there at the time. The flood took out the shed, and when the water remained about a foot deep for a couple of days, three cows sought higher ground on Mrs. Hargadine’s porch. He remembered having to go and chase them off and herd them over to the old sale barn by the overpass.
In order to better pin point the dates of the turkey farm, I visited Cheryl Proffitt and Melinda Habiger at the Edwards County Register of Deeds office. The ladies researched in the big volumes and were soon able to tell me that Fourier had purchased the land in 1961 and sold it in April, 1965.
I then quarried my go-to local history guru, Ed Carlson, and he came up with a November 22, 1964 article in the Great Bend Tribune which told about the Fourier enterprise.
Don Fourier was hired as the Kinsley Co-operative Exchange farm field man in June, 1961. He purchased the land and was began raising one-day-old birds under 20 brooder stoves. A maximum of 400 baby turkeys were able to be kept under each stove. In 1964 he raised 5,000 turkeys for the fall market.
Kinsley no longer had the turkey processing co-op Glen Bidleman had started in 1936., so Fourier’s birds were transported and processed by poultry packing plants in Fairview, OK and Gibson NE.
Fourier, like the Bidleman’s before him, entered his birds in competitions. In the 1964 State Turkey Show in Wichita, he took a sixth and a third place. The later 30-pound winner was sold at auction for $68, considerably more than the $8.70 it would have brought at the time in the grocery store at 29₵/lb.
I have described this research “trail” to show how “it takes a village” to preserve our community’s history. When Marcus Coover brought the trophy to the library, it helped me uncover and preserve a little more history. If one of my articles brings to mind a memory, a picture in your family album, or some vintage object, share the story with the library. Both myself and the readers will enjoy any tidbit you can add to the Edwards County story.