Author Archives: Joan Weaver, Kinsley Library Director

Focus on Nellie Maxey and the Sod House Museum

You may have been wondering why I have not been posting on this blog. I’m still among the living, still the director of the library, but my writing time is now being spent on writing a book. Dr. William Wolfgang and I have signed a contract with Arcadia Publishing to write, The Hidden History of Kinsley. It will focus on Kinsley’s fascinating history of being a cultural center for the arts from 1900-1925. Our working title was actually “Wild, Woolly and Well-Read”. It will be published next year.

I also had the opportunity to write an essay for Literary Landscapes in Kansas: From the Ground to the Airwaves . This project, a collaboration between The New Territory Magazine and High Plains Public Radio, was funded by Humanities Kansas. When you visit the site you will find ten short essays written by Kansans about literary sites around the state.

Edwards County Sod House Museum constructed in 1958.

My essay is about Nellie Maxey’s arrival in Edwards County in 1886 and the Edwards County Sod House Museum. I reflect on my own arrival one hundred years later and the enjoyment I get from discovering local history.

Picture taken near Hutchinson in 1886 of the Maxey family on their way to Kinsley in covered wagon.  L to R:  George T. Maxey (father), Rose Penelope “Nellie” Maxey, Lura Belle, Clara (mother) holding son Thomas, Edith, Lydia Jane and Charles Robert.

Starting next week, adbridged versions of the articles, recorded by the authors, will begin airing on HPPR at 6:45am, 8:45am, 4:44pm and 6:44pm CT. If you are outside the coverage area, you will be able to access them at

The Jerry and Joan Weaver move to Edwards County, 1989. Chris Holborn and Lesterina the dog in picture.

I hope this post inspires you to read the essays and perhaps visit the sites highlighte in them. I know you would enjoy a visit to the Sod House Museum in Kinsley or a drive through the sand hills where Nellie and I both made our homes. If you would like to read more about Nellie Maxey Wilson (Sally Frame’s grandmother) visit Blog #75

#108 Kinsleyites Go To Columbian Exposition

Some months ago, I read in Dr. William Wolfgang’s manuscript on Charles Edwards, about the R. E. Edwards and the F. B. Hine families attending the World’s Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair, 130 years ago in October1893. 

In January, 1893 the Kinsley ladies formed the Woman’s Columbian Club.  Their purpose was to aid the Women’s Exhibit at the upcoming fair.  They encouraged all Kansas women to plan on entering their work in the following categories:  Decorative-Art Needlework, House-Furnishing Articles, Fine Arts (painting, pastels wood carving), Domestic (canning, cheese, dairy), Charity & Church Work, Literature, Music, Statistics (history of women & employment), Live Stock (poultry, bees, domestic animals) Patents (granted to women), Taxidermy, and Press.  Just like the men, it was really an honor to have work chosen for world-wide exhibition.

Researching in, I found men were encouraged to participate in the Kansas Building at the fair because it would be a good way to promote Kansas agricultural and other products.  Men exhibited their prize-winning grain, produce, inventions and manufactured items.  An artistic recreation of train routes made from dried corn and grains lined the walls of the upper floor of this building.  One popular exhibit was the University of Kansas’ panorama of 121 specimens of large North American animals.   In the Forestry Building, Kansas provided a 15-foot walnut log, 78 inches in diameter, dating back to 1452. Huge pyramids of Kansas rock salt, lead ore, zinc and other rocks and minerals were arranged in the Mining Building. 

Kansas State Building at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893

Because of the railroad, Chicago was very accessible and affordable for Kinsleyites.  In July, the Santa Fe Railroad lowered its round way ticket to Chicago to $25.25. It advertised: “The Columbian Exposition represents the world in miniature.  You get a European trip without the ocean voyage.”  (Kinsley Mercury, July 6, 1893)

According to the social news in the papers, many of Kinsley’s citizens visited the fair during its six months’ run from May to October. I went to the Edwards County Museum to see if anyone had donated any souvenirs from the fair to their collection.  I found a program from the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, but nothing from Chicago.

Then I remembered that I had inherited souvenir spoons from my grandmother, Bessie Seeley LaRue (1887-1973), and I knew one was from the St. Louis Fair.  I wondered if it were possible that I had one from Chicago.  Opening the silver pouch, I discovered that I did, along with another one from the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo N.Y. in 1901

Top to Bottom: 1893 Comlumbian Exposition in Chicago; 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY; 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis


Mark R. Seeley, July 15, 1929

My grandmother was too young to attend these fairs, but It is an interesting how she acquired the spoons.  Her father, Mark Riley Seeley (1860-1955) raised Holstein-Friesian dairy cattle on his farm in Farmington, Michigan.  He was the first to import this breed to Michigan after making a trip to Holland c. 1883.

A couple stories have been handed down in the family about this trip.  He told my father that he went to a party attended by Prince Edward (later King of England 1901-1910.)  My Grandma Bessie also told my cousin that he was glad that he had to change ships for his return voyage with the cattle as his original ticket was on one that was shipwrecked.

Mark Seeley became a respected breeder and a charter member and officer of the Holstein-Friesian Association of America which was formed in 1885 (and remains the Holstein Assoc. to this day).   He was a judge of Holstein-Friesian cattle at state fairs, the Canadian National Exposition in Toronto, and I believe, the St. Louis and Chicago World Fairs.  He would bring back a souvenir spoon for Bessie from these trips.

The Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building, depicted on this spoon was over 1/3 mile long and 1/6 mile wide and 200’ high.  It covered 30 acres of ground.  If this building were standing today, it would rank second in volume (8,500,000m3) and third in footprint (130,000m2) on list of largest buildings.

I included this personal family history in this article to encourage all of you to document the family artifacts you may have.  I would love to be able to talk to my father or grandmother to get more information about this great grandfather, but that is no longer possible.  I encourage you to take some time to write down the stories that go with your family memorabilia before they are lost. 

Ox Yoke used on matched pair of Holsteins brought by Mark Riley Seeley
from Holland by boat in about 1883 when he brought a boat load to Michigan.

Upcoming Program on Spiritualism Conjures 1883 Entertainment

On Monday evening, October 30 at 7 p.m. the Kinsley Library will host “Beyond the Veil:  A History of Spiritualism” presented by Katie Keckeisen.  Members of the community are invited to attend this free program offered through Humanities Kansas’s Speakers Bureau which features humanities-based presentations designed to share stories that inspire, spark conversations that inform, and generate insights that strengthen civic engagement.

“I strategically planned this event on the night before Halloween, to fit in with the mood of ghosts and things that go tap in the night,” said library director Joan Weaver.  “Little did I know some local research would lead me to a fascinating story.”

It seems one of the eternal questions that has plagued humanity centers around what happens to us when we die. Most modern religions try to tackle this question, but none did so with more fervor than modern Spiritualism. What started in a cabin in New York in 1848 with two young girls quickly spread across the globe. Soon, spiritual mediums who claimed they could communicate with the dead could be found in almost every town in the nation. This presentation examines the emergence of this religious phenomena, its connections to both the Civil War and World War I, and how it led to a battle of words between the creator of Sherlock Holmes and the greatest magician of all time.

            The early Kinsley newspapers have articles both explaining and decrying the practice of spiritualism.  One in particular caught my eye, and led to the discovery of an exciting character.
            If you lived in Kinsley in 1883, you very well might have attended an entertainment at the Gem of the Valley Hall on Wednesday evening, August 14.  This early community hall was on the second floor of an original wood-frame building at 217 E. Sixth St. (today the location of Midway Antiques).

The Gem of the Valley Hall where Prof. Cooke entertained the citizens of Kinsley with his magic.

 An article in the Edwards County Leader announced that “Prof. Cooke, the distinguished opponent of Spiritualism, …. will perform and explain all the celebrated performances of the Davenport Bros., and other celebrated mediums, among which are the ‘Handcuff Test’. “Challenge Rope Test’, Clairvoyance, and the whole will conclude with the startling ‘Spirit Bride Séance’”.

That set me off on a very interesting quest in other towns’ newspapers to find out more about this Prof. Cooke. The Hutchinson Herald of July 27, 1878 reported the following after his performance:

“The revelations by Prof. Cooke have opened the eyes of many who were disposed to give credence to the claims of mediums, who have for years been practicing upon the public…. 

“While disclaiming any supernatural aid, he was bound hand, foot and neck in a dozen ways by a committee selected from the audience, and placed in the cabinet, in every instance releasing himself in a few seconds. 

“The committee occupied fifteen minutes tying him and placed him in the cabinet with his coat on, and in one second his coat was thrown out of the cabinet, and the door being opened he was found tied and sealed as before; in three seconds he replace his coat, and in an instant he released himself without displacing a knot or seal.”

Prof. Horatio (Harry) Cooke, magician (Friends of the Lincoln Collection)

 After discovering his full name to be Horatio (Harry) Green Cooke, a Google search took me to the “Friends of the Lincoln Collection” website.  There I found the most remarkable story written by Jason Silverman, of Winthrop University and I recommend that you read the whole article which I will only highlight here.

Harry enlisted in the 28th Iowa Volunteer Infantry in 1862 at the age of 18.  He had always loved magic and was quite an escape artist.  He would often “escape” from camp just to see if he could do it.  Upon his return, he was confined or tied, as punishment, but was always able to quickly escape. 

Harry had other talents that were valuable including expert marksmanship and beautiful penmanship, the latter of use to Union generals in a time before typewriters.

In 1864, Harry was summoned to the Secretary of War’s office in Washington, D.C. To his astonishment, President Abraham Lincoln was in the room.  Lincoln also had a love of magic and asked for a demonstration of Harry’s skill of escape.  Two generals and one senator tied Harry up with 50’ of rope.  In seconds, he had freed himself, and Lincoln awarded him with a $2 bill which he kept throughout his life.

Before leaving the office, Lincoln penned a letter designating Harry as “Chief of Lincoln’s Scouts”, an intelligence group charged with infiltration of enemy lines. 

The second week of September, Harry and his six other scouts were assigned to General Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley.  They were separated from the unit on October 19and captured by the Confederates.

Again, I hope you read the whole account as it is quite detailed and exciting. For this article, suffice it to say, that Harry bided his time until one night, when he and the six others were tied to trees, he took advantage of a sleeping guard to free himself, untie his fellow scouts, and make their escape. 

At the end of the war, Harry was assigned as a military clerk In Alexandria, Virginia.  When the Confederates had captured him, they had taken away the letter Lincoln had written making him a Lincoln Scout.  Harry hoped he might get an audience with Lincoln and have the letter replaced.  On April 14, 1865, he went to the White House where he was told that the President had left to attend a play at Ford’s Theater.  Harry hurried off to the theater and arrived 20 minutes before he became a witness to Lincoln’s assassination. 

Harry would become a popular magician who enjoyed sharing the tricks of the trade in order to debunk spiritualists.  And that is how he came to Kinsley in 1883. 

#106 The Buffalo Business

Last week you read about the new AT&SF railroad bringing settlers to Kinsley in 1873.  During my research into train-riding at that time, I came across “The Diary of a Dodge City Buffalo Hunter, 1872-1873”  in the 1965 Winter issue of the “Kansas Quarterly”. 

On Nov. 16, 1872, Henry H. Raymond rode the train to Dodge City to hunt buffalo with his brother Theodore.  Six days later the brothers, along with Bat Masterson and Abe Mayhue, were out on the prairie hunting and skinning buffalo. Over the next nine days, by Dec. 1, these men killed 116 buffalo.  The diary continues to describe a year of hunting and living life on the prairie. 

Buffalo skinning knife (Courtesy of the Edwards County Historical Society Museum)

From 1869 to 1884, the bison population went from 30 million animals to only 325.  The government had encouraged the slaughter because “Every buffalo dead is an Indian gone.”  The carcasses were left to rot, with only the tongues and hides harvested.  The transcontinental railroads had made it economically feasible to ship hides for robes and machinery belts.   Goods and settlers came west on the train; then on the return trip, buffalo robes, and later bones, were freighted east.

Buffalo Hide & Tongue Scales. One side weighed hides 20#-350# on large hook; other side weighed 0-40# on smaller hook. (Donated by Darrell Miller, Edwards County Historical Society Museum)

Settlers in Kinsley in 1873 were able to find and hunt buffalo for meat when they first came.  However, that did not last long with the extermination of the herds.  Bison bones were valuable as they were used in refining sugar, making fine bone china, and most importantly, manufacturing fertilizer.  Bones were scattered across the prairie, and a settler could supplement his income by picking them up and selling them in town.

(Courtesy of Edwards County Historical Society Museum)

Kinsley became a place to drop off and ship buffalo bones. In 1877, the Edwards Bros. & Price had a store at 125 E. Sixth St.  (Circle K).  They sold just about everything, and they bought buffalo bones for $5 a ton.  These were brought in from as far away as Coldwater and left in piles by the railroad tracks.  It is estimated that it took 100 animals to make a ton of bones.

That brings us to 1878.  Kinsley had grown but it was not yet a legal city.  Today cities pass laws to control nuisances like loose dogs, junk cars, and weeds.  In 1878 one reason that towns became incorporated cities was to control nuisances.  The following sarcastic remark describes some 1878 nusances.

 “Swine rooting in the highways of business, piles of buffalo bones and decayed carcasses stretched in front of the principal thoroughfare, men tearing through town on horseback, howling like live Comanche Indians, and sometimes making day and night hideous with their discord, to say nothing of danger to citizens from promiscuous shooting of revolvers – oh, no, there is no need of an incorporation.” (The Valley Republican, June 22, 1878)

That summer, several wagon-loads of buffalo bones arrived daily from the range.  The piles of buffalo bones were deemed a health hazard by the citizens and physicians. At a town meeting that September, “Mr. Blanchard stated that scarcely a family in the north part of town was free from sickness, owing to the effluvia from heaps of bones piled along the railroad track….  He hoped that the people who maintained such a nuisance as the piles of bones had become, might be made to feel the weight of public sentiment.”

The owner of the bones, Mr. R. E. Edwards “…did not believe the bones were injurious to health.  They might be a nuisance to be sure, but he didn’t want to stop the bone trade…. He came here to do business and make money.  Lots of things don’t look pretty, but beautifying a town was unprofitable.”

Mr. Edwards did agree to move the pile if the city paid a night watchman to guard them.  Despite his objections to incorporation which he thought would raise taxes, Kinsley did incorporate on November 12, 1878.  

In May, 1879 A. B. Hopkins of St. Louis purchased 300 tons of buffalo bones.  The editor of the Valley Republican wrote, “We are glad to have the old eye-sore, that pile of bones, removed from our side track, and as the council have passed an ordinance prohibiting the unloading of bones within the city limits, except at the stock yards, we will no longer be annoyed by that nuisance.” (Valley Republican, May 24,1879.

The paper reported a year later on Nov. 22, 1879. “some ten cars of buffalo bones are piled up just east of J. Q. Moulton’s residence, waiting shipment.”  Moulton live in the triangle lot between First and Second St. on the northside of Hwy 56.  East of his house, probably got the bones outside of the city.

In March, 1880, between 100 and 200 tons of buffalo bones were piled up just east of town.   And in July 1880, “Loading and shipping buffalo bones has been the chief attraction at the depot this week.”

That seems to have marked the end of bone shipments out of Kinsley.  The ordinance was passed just before it was no longer needed.  The buffalo were gone.

Skull of young buffalo found in Arkansas River bed
(Donated to Edwards County Historical Society Museum by Jason Arensman)

#105 Coming to Kinsley – 1873

I’m back at the computer to write something to commemorate Kinsley’s sesquicentennial which will be celebrated over Labor Day weekend along with the All School Reunion.  I was led to thinking about how people came to Kinsley.  Back in my elementary school days, we learned of the hearty pioneers trekking west in their Conestoga wagons.  Some homesteaders came with their belongings to Edwards County in that manner.  However, the reason for Kinsley to be located where it is was due to the location of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad which reached here on August 1, 1872.  Many more people arrived by train.

            J. A. Walker was one of the original members of the “Massachusetts colony” which decided to settle here. This location was just a station on the newly built railroad known as Petersburg (also Peters, Peters City, Peter’s Point).  He wrote in 1873, “The location is a desirable one; the valley averages about four miles width, all on the north side of the river, the great Arkansas River….”  He goes on to describe the soil and easily accessible “drive wells costing about one dollar per foot inclusive of pump and pipe.”

1878 Lithograph of Kinsley, a town located on the ATSF Railroad

One of the members of the original Massachusetts colony was Captain Nicholas L. Humphrey (1810-1885).  He had been a boat captain and merchant in Maine until he came west seeking relief for his asthma.  Captain Humphrey came to Kinsley on the train in April, 1873.

Early traveling on the ATSF was not comfortable. Steam engines averaged about 20 mph, and they stopped regularly for water.  They belched smoke and stirred up dust. Passengers cars had wooden benches; some travelers rode with their animals in the freight cars.  There was no dining car or set time schedule; it would not be until 1878 when the railroads would establish the time zones to make train scheduling possible.  Except for a quick whistle and the “all Aboard” cry, there was no warning of a train’s departure, resulting in passengers jumping onto moving cars.            

         Picture taken in 1874 at Emporia, Kansas, the hub of the ATSF in 1874 (Santa Fe Magazine, May, 1925)

Humphrey built a clapboard home two miles north of Kinsley (on the west side of 90th, between K and J Roads, farm ground now).  Humphrey “was much better off than many of his neighbors…. his home was one of the best built in Edwards County. The lumber was shipped from Emporia and between the walls was a sheeting of building paper, a protection against the cold…” (A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans

            Once the house was built, Humphrey’s wife joined him, and then they sent for their daughters: Fannie, Harriet, and Alice.  The young ladies traveled by train for six days, coming from Boston to Chicago, to Atchison, Emporia, Newton and west to Kinsley.  They arrived on Friday, November 28, 1873. 

            Fourteen year old daughter, Alice (Alice Loring Humphrey Erwin) remembered the journey later:  “It is thirty odd years since I left my faraway New England home, and it seems but a wave of a hand, so distinctly do I remember when we stepped from the creaking, groaning old cars (for you must bear in mind that the train service on the Santa Fe was quite different in 1873 from that in 1905.”

            She continued: “We made our way to the roughly constructed hotel, unplastered and dimly lighted, the odor of pancakes filling the air.  (Buffalo House, 514 Massachusetts Ave.  was a meal stop for the train.) But we received a cordial welcome from the landlady, as our coming was not unexpected.  My father and mother had proceeded my two older sisters and myself some months….”

            “Never shall I forget that first sunrise, not a tree or a house to obstruct the view or to prevent our seeing the first peep Old Sol took of us as he rose, so far away, over the long stretch of prairies so new to us, and when he burst forth in all his glory there was a feeling of newness and freshness pervading everything. 

            “As we looked out toward the north we saw a speck which was coming nearer and growing larger.  It proved to be our father with the farm wagon.”        

            Her older sister, Hattie Harriet Humphrey (1852-1945), also wrote about the arrival in her diary. “We arrived at our new home this morning before sunrise.  The landlady at the hotel (Mrs. Clute) was very cordial.  We had a cold ride from the cars.  Saw the sun rise; it was a beautiful sight.  Homesick, but not sorry we came.  Our house consists of two very large unfurnished rooms, one upstairs, one downstairs; hope we shall not always live here.  There is not a tree to be seen in the vicinity.  I am very, very thankful that we are all together once more. 

Alice Loring Humphrey Erwin in costume for an Arts and Crafts Exhibition in February, 1907

Mr. Humphrey would prove up his homestead and was elected county treasurer and the county clerk. His asthma forced him to move to the mountain climate of Pueblo, Colorado.
            Alice would marry William Erwin, have 6 childrenand lived at 412 E Seventh St.  She was a poet and very active in the community.  She died at age 85.

#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.


#103 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 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.

#102 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.”

#101 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 for Edwards County only goes through 1923.

                However, in 2008, even before 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.