#90 What’s in a Name?

D.D. Morse Lithograph depicting Kinsley in 1878.

The Kinsley Library often gets queries to satisfy a patron’s curiosity or to settle a bet.  Last week I was intrigued by a phone call with a question I had never thought about before.  I soon found out I was not alone in not knowing the answer when I asked several people, including those attending the PCA After Hours at Good Company if they knew the answer.  The question was: “What do the people of Kinsley call themselves?”

I know that people are called New Yorkers, Chicagoans, Milwaukeeans, Topekans, Wichitans, Detroiters, Los Angelenos, Denverites, Buffalonians and my personal favorite, Michiganders.  But what do we call ourselves? 

            All I could think of to tell the caller was we are “people of Kinsley”.  I could not recall ever hearing any demonymic for the inhabitants of Kinsley.  Demonymic is my new word for the day.  A demonymic denotes the people or inhabitants of a city or area.

            Where could I find out if we ever had a demonymic?  The answer might be in one of my favorite resources, newspapers.com.  When I searched the database, I was not disappointed.  I found the first reference in The Edwards County Leader, April 5, 1877, just four years after the city was founded.  It appeared in an article which asserted that Martin and Edwards had a better price for lumber than what could be found in Larned.  It stated “…bear in mind, that we Kinsleyites have special rates.  Just pin that in your hat for future use, it may do you good.”

            The editors of every paper in those early years used Kinsleyite.  Many times, it appeared in the phrase, “an old Kinsleyite” when it referenced a person who had been here in the early days of the city. 

            In the Valley Republican (May 10, 1879), the editor wrote, “Some twenty-five or thirty Kinsleyites went to Dodge City, Thursday to see the circus.  Those that went up on the afternoon train expecting to see the show at night, were disappointed.  The show had gone.” 

            In 1880, after the town burned, I found this reference.  “The Kinsleyites never do anything by halves.  When they have a fire, they make it as large as the town will admit of, and sometimes stretch the blanket.” (Edwards County Leader, June 17, 1880)

            In 1889, there appeared to be exploration for salt. “Larned is still boring for ‘salt’.  Why don’t the Kinsleyites bore some for salt?  It will never do to let a little town like Larned get the bulge on Kinsley.” (Kinsley Graphic, Feb. 22, 1889)

            Kinsleyite seems to have been used often when there was a rivalry.  The editor of the Greensburg Rustler was offended when a Kinsleyite remarked that Kinsley was to soon have six roads (i.e. railroads) in Kinsley.  Lon Beard, editor of the Kinsley Mercury (March 26, 1887) responded.  “We are sorry our sister city, “little sister” city so to speak, should allow so trifling a circumstance to ruffle her feelings.  What she needs is a good sound spanking, but we’ll be lenient with her this time.  Run out, now, and play that you are a great big city, with every-so-many railroads, and if anybody says anything naughty to you, don’t ‘sass back’ again, and some day, when you grow up and get ‘big’ like Kinsley, you will thank us for having given you good advice.”

            Maybe this sesquicentennial year would be a good time to recognize and revive the demonymic of Kinsleyite as we celebrate 150 years of people calling Kinsley home.

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