Author Archives: Joan Weaver, Kinsley Library Director

#55 The Hot Lunch Room Part 2

Science tell us that our sense of smell is closely linked with memory, probably more so than any other of our senses. The Spudnut article of three weeks ago backed that up, and this week, it is the smell of Mable Schroeter’s cinnamon rolls that everyone remembers.

“What a flashback to the smell of hot rolls and those cinnamon rolls cooked by Mable Schroeter and her crew,” wrote Hyla Winters.  Kim Eslinger Pepperd agreed, “Those ladies served some wonderful meals to a huge number of hungry kids.  I can smell Mable’s hot rolls!”

“All the meals were from scratch and delicious!”  wrote Lisa Cornelius Sparke.  “I especially liked the scalloped potatoes & ham and the chili with cinnamon rolls,”

Lisa and Randy Westfahl both loved to dip their hot rolls in pudding. Lisa admitted that this may have been weird, but Randy agreed, “It was great.”

Becky Rogers couldn’t think of ever eating a bad meal at school.  “We always had salmon loaf on Fridays too!”  Along with the salmon, Michael Boman recalled Friday menus including mac & cheese, peanut butter, and fish sticks.

Randy Westfahl loved the Spanish Rice. Roger Shepherd remembered “The wonderful food especially a turkey, dressing and gravy dish.  I always asked for seconds.  Also if there were peanut butter sandwiches left over, they were often brought to the classrooms of the younger students for snacks.”

“They had freshly fried chicken for lunch,” remembered Mary Kallaus.  “They had a big strainer behind the counter for getting out the chicken gizzards for those that liked them, and I loved them!”

It was not lost to the kids that Mable showed her love for them through her food. Sharon Hearn said the lunches were “…made with love by Aunt Mable.”  Kathy Rishel wrote, “I always loved Mable!  She knew all our names.”  Becky Rogers reported that “The kitchen staff always greeted you with smiles and made you feel welcome.”

Randy Westfahl did disclose that Rock A. Westfahl did not care for some things on the lunch menu.  It appears that he had a seat of honor at one of the back tables for those who didn’t clean their plate.  Kathy Rishel admitted to also owning a spot there. I don’t think kids today are asked to sit at a back table until they clean their plates.

Some students also worked in the school lunch room.  Rosetta Graff helped to serve lunches in exchange for her lunch.  Ron Fisher also remembered washing milk bottles after he ate.

All kids, including St. Nicholas students, ate in the hot lunch room on First Street up until 1964 when the high school cafeteria was built.  Junior and Senior high school students walked, ran, drove or rode with someone to get there.  Harold Jensen said he gave rides on his Allstate motor scooter.

“I usually was able to get a ride with someone.” Bernard Owen told me on the phone.     “It was a real race to see who could get there first.”  

Loren Pepperd voiced a universal them about that four-block race from the high school to the lunchroom.  “I’m surprised that no one got killed or seriously hurt.  However, there were many trips, stumbles, and falls running to get a place in line.” 

“It was so dangerous,” Mary Kallaus told me in the library.  “The young fellows were pretty much racing, and they didn’t slow down. You ran and jumped on the tailgate of a pickup.  And you better be hanging on as you bumped over the railroad tracks.  However, I don’t think anyone ever fell off.”

Dr. Otis LoVette emailed the following:  “When I was 16, I had a 50 model Nash bought from Ford ($125) while I was working as a car washer there.  We drove to the lunch room on a regular basis.  Larry and Wayne Houdeshell often rode with me.  Once, Larry (a big guy) piled in and broke the front seat backward.  Oh well, it had reclining seats and I was able to repair.”

Jeanne Eutace went to St. Nick’s and was bussed to the lunchroom.  “I can still see in my mind’s eye those cars coming down Colony.  There were kids on the hoods, on the trunks.  Kids would be jumping out of the cars before they had stopped.”

“It was the highlight of the noon recess,” wrote Mark Plogger, “for the ones of us in grade school.  We would stop doing what we were doing just to watch the high school kids race to the lunch room.  We always said that we couldn’t wait until we were old enough to do the same thing.  But alas, it ended when we got to 8th grade.”

Quentin Hirsh recalled one incident when he was being bussed there from St. Nicholas.  “It was always fun to watch high school kids dash from the high school to the lunch room.  I remember sitting on the bus watching one day when two cars wrecked right at the stop sign.  One stopped and one ran into the back of them about 50 ft. from the bus I was on.  JayLynn O’Conner was one and I forget who the other driver was.”

Steven Frick remembered that “In 7th grade, on occasion, it was too cold to walk up there so he would go to a little restaurant (Davis Café) that was located south of where the Kinsley Bank is now located.  Many others enjoyed the 5₵ Spudnut or candy from Duckwalls or the grocery store.

The hot lunch room also brought up a memory of Darlene Carlson who wrote, “I came to Kinsley to teach in 1954. I first met Leonard Carlson when he was giving Wayne Herron (Junior High Principal) a warning ticket for parking on the wrong side of the street at the lunchroom at Northside School.” At the time, Leonard was a Kinsley policeman and had been widowed a year earlier. The two were married in August of 1957. I’m sure there are other stories of romance blooming in the lunchroom.

After the high school cafeteria was built in 1964, only the Northside (Lincoln) students ate there.  Southside and St. Nicholas were bussed to the high school.  According to the phone book, the building became the superintendent’s office in 1972 until 2003 when it moved back to the high school.

This “remote” librarian is signing off now for a couple months to devote her time to the children’s summer reading program.  But may I suggest two very different ways you can have fun and support the library during this time.   1) Help with the summer reading program in June, and/or 2) Volunteer to read the Kinsley newspapers of the 1950s and 1960s to create an index.  Call 620-659-3341 or come by the library to sign up for either or both.

#54 The Little Hot Lunch Room (Part 1)

Easter Sunday night, I sat at the laptop and pulled together the many comments people shared on Facebook about the hot lunch room on First Street.  From 1949 to 1964, students from Southside, Northside (Lincoln), St. Nicholas, and the Junior-Senior High School all ate in this little building.  I didn’t grow up here, but I very much enjoyed reading your memories and appreciate you adding to the library archive.

Leslie Zumwalt Golden remembered the lunch room was painted green (weren’t they all?).  Rosetta Graff told me that the seating was at picnic-style tables.  An interesting little detail was offered by Roger Shepherd.  “When they built the lunch room tables, Mable’s son, Verlin (Butch, later Lee) Schroeter and I were taken to the lunch room to see if we could sit high enough to reach the top of the table to eat.  We were in the first grade and some of the little ones.”

Galen Boehme, senior graduation picture from the 1963 Kinsley High School yearbook.  Do you know that most of the KHS yearbooks are digitally available on the Kinsley Library website by following the Genealogy & Local History link, School Records page?

When I arrived at the library this Monday morning with my article pretty much done, I found a typed page of recollections written by Dr. Galen Boehme.  I have decided to hold off on my article of your memories for one week, and instead share what Galen Boehme, Class of 1963, wrote.

 “When the noon bell rang at the high school, we students had one of two choices to move to the lunchroom four blocks north of the high school building – either walk (it was most likely a fast walk) or drive.  Some students had cars but could drive only to and from home and the high school building – not during noon hour.  Thus, these students and many of the freshmen usually bonded with the students who could drive to the lunchroom—and usually the cars were loaded with friends of the driver.

“The primary challenge in reaching the lunchroom was the mail train.  The east-bound mail train came through Kinsley at 12:02 noon – and the train gave a series of long whistles – likely to warn us students of its passing through town.

Lunchroom cooks:  Mrs. Proberts, Mrs. Schroeter, Mrs. Gunkel, and Mrs. Elliot (1963 KHS Annual)

“The cooks knew our names and frequently called us by name as we went through the line.  We entered through the east door and exited through the west door after we dropped off our dirty plates and silver.  We can’t forget head cook Mable Schroeter with her cinnamon rolls and chili.  She identified each on of us by name as we passed her.  Mrs. Lorene Gunkel always had a smile on her face as she would collect and wash the dirty dishes.  Mrs. Elliot and Mrs. Proberts were dependable helpers, working with efficiency.  Seating was never a problem as the movement of the students from the various school buildings throughout Kinsley was orchestrated with precision.

“Lunch period never seemed rushed.  We always seemed to have time to spare before the afternoon classes began.  Some students would on their way back to the high school building drop off to purchase an item at Duckwalls or at Hearn’s Grocery.  Back at the high school building, some students would sit in their cars or meander around the front door, visiting with friends.  At the same time, we knew that we had to be back in class on time or we would face the stern remarks from Mr. Wayne Wingo, the assistant principal in charge of attendance.

“The lunchroom on First Street held precious memories for several KHS students.”

I thank Dr. Boehme for taking the time to record his memories. 

Next week, “Little Hot Lunch Room – Part 2” will appear to remind you (or if you’re like me, you learn about) other aspects of eating school lunch in the 1950s and 1960s.  That gives you senior citizens another opportunity to call, come by the library, or Facebook post your memories.  And if you know the recipe of Mable’s cinnamon rolls, there are a lot of people who would like me to publish her secret.

Galen Boehme, senior graduation picture from the 1963 Kinsley High School yearbook.  Do you know that most of the KHS yearbooks are digitally available on the Kinsley Library website by following the Genealogy & Local History link, School Records page?

#53 Spudnut Memories

Last week’s “Spudnut” article really drew a lot of attention on Facebook.  Many people wrote comments about eating them before and after school, during open-lunch, at sports and play practice.  They remembered how they were always warm and their wonderful smell.  Here’s a few of the comments that were posted.

            Lisa Cornelius-Sparke: “My Great Uncle Ed Troutman owned the Spudnut Shop when it first opened and painted Mr. Spudnut on the building.”

            Sherry Miller: “I remember visiting my grandparents and eating those delicious donuts!  Always loved the painting on the building and the funny name!”

            Bev Byrne: “I had to keep an account of how I spent my allowance in Jr. High.  10 cents, Spudnut; 10 cents, Spudnut; 10 cents, Spudnut; over and over.  Caramel cinnamon was my favorite, bought just after getting off the bus from Offerle.”

            Kim Eslinger Pepperd: “Ed Troutman used to let me have the drops of caramel frosting that dropped off the cinnamon rolls and landed in the pan below.  Just a piece of heaven.”

            Nancy Shreve Craft: “Love this.  We got Spudnuts and ate them on the bus to Offerle when I was in Jr. High.  Soooo good!”

            Tom Barnes: “I remember mom binging them home after bowling in Kinsley…They were always a treat! warm and delicious!”

            Lori Henning Pine Clark: “Every time we would go to the Dr. in Kinsley, we’d stop in and get our bag to go…absolutely delicious!”

            Cathy Rehmert: “They were the best doughnuts in the world.  Have never tasted one as good as they were.”

            Loren J. Pepperd: “I gained a pound every time I ate one!”

            Would you believe that over eight thousand people enjoyed sweet memories of Spudnuts on Facebook, a record for “Remote Librarian” posts.    

            This week marks one year and 52 articles that I have written about our interesting local history.   I began when we had to close for a month because of the pandemic, hence the name of “remote” librarian.  I loved doing the research and making discoveries.  I hope I have opened up the extensive local history resources available to you at the library and on the website. 

            Now with summer just around the corner and vaccines bringing the pandemic a little under control, the library plans to offer an extensive, in person summer reading program.  This has already begun to take over my time, so I will not be writing a weekly article.  I very much appreciate all the assistance you have given me in research and all the kind words of appreciation you have offered me during this past year.

You are requested to share with the library your memories of lunchtime in this building on First St. which served as the hot lunch cafeteria for all Kinsley schools from 1949 to 1964. 

            That being said, I would really like your help with the last topic I had thought about pursuing this week.  When I came to Kinsley, the superintendent’s office was in the little building west of Lincoln (Northside) Elementary School on the corner of Colony Ave. and First St.  It was originally built in 1949 to serve as the hot lunch cafeteria for Kinsley’s two elementary schools, both the junior and senior high school and St. Nicholas Parochial School.  Students were bussed there in shifts, and high school kids jumped in their cars and drove.  It was the lunchroom until 1964 when the existing cafeteria addition was built at the high school. 

            How this small building accommodated so many kids baffles me?  How many kids took advantage of a hot lunch and how long did they have to eat?  Who were the cooks and how was the food?  Did some kids bring their lunch, and if so, where did they eat?  Did some kids go home?  Knowing teens, I imagine there were some adventures or shenanigans (besides buying Spudnuts) going on during that open lunch period. Can they be told?

I hope you will share your lunchtime memories with me on Facebook, by coming by the library, calling 620-659-3341 or emailing director@kinsleylibrary.info.  If I get a good response, I just might have to write Column 53.   And perhaps the “remote” librarian column will reappear next fall as the “research” librarian.

Cafeteria and classroom addition build in 1964.

#51 A Taste from the Past

“Best go-to place in the world for lunch and after school,” Ed Carlson.

“Very good!  Habit forming.  We got out of school for the noon meal, and we’d skip over and get them.” Ted Taylor.

Those are a couple replies I got when I asked people, “What was Spudnuts?” 

Many years ago, Rosetta Graff had brought in a 1964 picture of the Mr. Spudnut shop that her daughter, Miriam, had taken in high school.  Rosetta told me it was located in an old Sinclair Station, on the corner of Colony and 8th St. across from the high school (small, empty lot east of old Sunflower Hotel).  But I still didn’t understand exactly what it was, so when I was looking for a topic this week, I decided to find out. 

Mr. Spudnut shop, 107 E. Eighth St. Photo taken by Miriam Graff in 1964.

Wikipedia told me that Mr. Spudnut was a franchise business begun by brothers Al and Bob Pelton of Salt Lake City in 1940. They perfected a doughnut mix made of wheat flour, dry potatoes, powdered eggs, milk solids and other ingredients.  Their stores popped up all over the Midwest, but I never happened to have had the good fortune of visiting one.

I did quite a bit of sleuthing to find out about Kinsley’s Mr. Spudnut shop which was owned by Edwin and Hazel Troutman and their son, Ed Jr. 

Ed and Hazel Baker had both graduated from Kinsley High School in the Class of 1923.  My imagination tells me they were high school sweethearts as they were married on October 19, 1924 by the probate judge in Dodge City.  Their marriage announcement in the Kinsley Mercury described Ed as “One of the enterprising young business men of Kinsley who is bound to make his mark in the world.” They had their only child, Ed Jr. in 1929.

Ted Taylor told me that Ed was a sign painter.  His brother, James Taylor, had painted the original 1939 Midway USA sign 2 miles west of Kinsley on Highway 50.  But it was Ed Troutman in later years who would go out and repaint that sign. 

Mary Buxton poses with the original 1939 Midway sign, located 2 miles west of Kinsley.  It was painted by James Taylor and kept up by Ed Troutman.

No one seemed to know exactly when the Troutmans started their Mr. Spudnut franchise.  I decided to look in our bound copies of the KHS Breezes for an ad.  The first one appeared in the November, 1954 issue.  That took me to the Mercury on microfilm, and I was lucky.  The Nov. 18, 1954 issue reported that Edwin Troutman, his son, and Bill Josefiak of Rozel were hosting a grand opening with free Spudnuts and coffee for their new business on Saturday from 2-4 p.m..

Spudnuts were described as large, fluffy, airy and never soggy or greasy.  One reason they were so good was they were always fresh, being cooked at 6:30 a.m., 8 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m.  They sold for 68₵ a dozen.  Besides regular doughnuts, they also had an apple turnover.  The shop had a walk-up window where customers ordered and received their bag of Spudnuts.

The Mr. Spudnut shop disappeared from the Kinsley phone book in 1973 which leads me to believe it closed the year before.  Ed died in 1983 and Hazel died in 2003.  They are buried together in Hillside Cemetery.

All of this research left my mouth watering, so I decided to make some potato doughnuts.  Many recipes are available on the internet, and I settled on one from the 1877 Five Roses Cookbook which was widely published in newspapers across the county.  Of course, this recipe uses fresh ingredients, not the dry ones of the Spudnut mix.  Maybe you’d like to make some this weekend. (Note: Other recipes use yeast and eggs. Oil temperature should be 165-175 degrees. This recipe makes about 36 doughnuts and holes.)

For some spring pandemic relief, fry up a plate of potato doughnuts.

Potato Doughnuts (eggless)

2 cups hot mashed potatoes
2 cups sugar
1 cup sweet milk
2 Tablespoons butter
2 level teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
Five Roses Flour to make a soft dough

Mix as usual. Roll out ½” thick. Fry in hot grease.  The potatoes keep the doughnuts soft.  These keep fresh much longer than if made with eggs.

# 50 Sentenced to Hang – But would they?

William Harvey, age 19, and Carl Arnold, age 17, were the two young men who murdered Kinsley’s mayor, John F. Marsh on Monday night, Oct. 22, 1894.  Both boys had grown up in good families in Lane County and were living with their families in the Indian Territory (Oklahoma).      

            Inspired by reports of successful robberies, they went on a week-long crime spree. They stole two horses in Medicine Lodge, and held up a man and robbed a store in Wellsford.  Then in a robbery attempt gone wrong, they shot and killed Marsh as described last week. 

            John Marsh was so respected, that had these men been caught that night, they probably would have been lynched.  But they evaded capture and rode on to Lane County where they robbed a rancher of $40 and kept him tied up all day until they left.

            They arrived in Russell Springs Friday night where they roused the suspicions of the county clerk and deputy sheriff who kept them under surveillance until a mob of eight men from Lane County arrived. Fearing that this mob might lynch them, they surprised the sleeping men and took them into custody.

            On Sunday the prisoners were taken to Garden City.  On Monday morning, a guard made up of Mrs. Marsh’s Bidwell relatives escorted them back to Kinsley on the 6:30 a.m. train.  The Bidwells used “all their influence to prevent further lawlessness and by going upon the streets and asking their friends to see to it that the dignity of the law be maintained and no doubt preventing an attempt at lynching…. It was also the wish of Mrs. Marsh that the law be allowed to take its course.” (Tiller and Toiler, Nov. 9, 1894).

                Justice moved faster in those days.  On Nov. 13, 1894, Judge Vandivert convened district court in Kinsley one hour before the regular time in order to frustrate any would-be lynchers. Harvey and Arnold pled guilty, and Judge Vandivert sentenced them to hang with these words:

William Harvey (left) and Carl Arnold (right) pled guilty and were sentenced to death for the murder of John F. Marsh (Kinsley Graphic, Nov. 16, 1894)

            “I say to you now, candidly too, that so far as I am concerned you need never expect any help from me in the way of procuring executive clemency.  I shall insist that you be executed, and that failing, as long as I live I shall insist that your punishment be continued, because you have murdered my friend and neighbor whom I have loved as a brother, and you have robbed this community of one of its best citizens.” (Graphic, Nov. 16, 1894)

            The two were put on the 9 a.m. train and hurried to the penitentiary at Lansing.

            At this time, Kansas law required that the condemned be kept in prison for one year, and then the governor had to issue a warrant to have the warden carry out the execution.  But no Kansas governor had signed such a warrant under this law.  Consequently, the death penalty had not been carried out, which may have been the intent of the lawmakers who originally passed the law. 

            After one year, Judge Vandivert, accompanied by E. T. Bidwell, visited the governor and formally demanded he carry out the execution.  They presented a petition signed by 600 Edwards County Citizens. The governor agreed that if “any criminals ever needed hanging the Kinsley murderers did, yet as no governor had ever signed a death warrant, he would not establish a precedent for capital punishment.”

            Then Edwards County Attorney A. C. Dyer demanded to have the prisoners returned to Kinsley to have the sentence carried out.  When this was refused, Dyer brought an action in the Kansas Supreme Court which ruled “that no court has the power to fix a time for the execution of a death-sentence before the governor has named a day for carrying it into effect….” Arnold and Harvey now faced life in prison.

            In 1901, Arnold’s lawyers and his mother petitioned Governor Stanley to pardon Carl because he was so young at the time of the crime and had not intended to kill Mayor Marsh.  Without even allowing the Graphic editor, James M. Lewis, to present a protest document signed by nearly everyone in Kinsley, the governor denied the pardon request.

Wood inlaid table made in Lansing Penitentiary by William Payne Harvey and given to Governor Stanley around 1900. (Kansas Historical Society Collection)

            In 1907, the death penalty was abolished in Kansas, and Governor Hoch became aware of a book, “Kansas Inferno,” and a poem that Carl Arnold had written.  After meeting him in prison, he decided to commute both his and Harvey’s life sentences to eighteen years.  They were released in May, 1909.   It is not known what became of them.

            No one was hanged in Kansas from August, 1870 to March, 1940.  The death penalty was reinstated in 1935 when it could be imposed by juries.  Among the fifteen executed from 1944 until it was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972 were Richard Hickock and Perry Smith who murdered the Clutter family in Holcomb.  They were hung on April 14, 1965 in the Lansing facility. Two more famous murderers, George York and James Latham, were hung on June 22, 1965 after their cross-country killing spree.  These were the last executions in Kansas despite Kansas being the last state to reinstate the death penalty in 1994.

#49 John F. Marsh, A Victim of the Wild West

                It was a nice October evening in 1894 in Kinsley when John F. Marsh left his store, Marsh and Bidwell mercantile, at 213 E. Sixth St. (Navanod Treasures) to walk home.  John was a successful business man, but he also was a man who loved his home and family.  Perhaps he was thinking of them as he locked the door at 9:30 p.m.  He would not go 200 feet before two young ruffians with the intent of robbery demanded he throw up his hands.

                 “Marsh grappled the nearest man, receiving a 32 ball though the fleshy part of his left forearm, throwing him partially around, when his second assailant shot him with a pistol of a large caliber in the small of the back, the ball passing through his body and lodging under the skin of the abdomen.  The robbers ran immediately to their horses and made their escape (16 Oct. 1894, Kinsley Graphic).

                When it comes to outlaws and gunslingers, we tend to think of Wyatt Earp and Dodge City, but as this shows, Kinsley also had its share of lawless behavior. 

                Twenty-six-year-old John Marsh had left Ithaca, NY to come to Kinsley in 1878 in the hopes of improving his poor health.  The clean air and climate soon worked its wonders. 

                In November, 1879, the Edwards Brothers of Kinsley sent John to work at the lumberyard they had opened in Leadville, Colorado the previous March.  According to a letter from A.W. Garrison of Kinsley, the silver boom had Leadville going from a population of zero to 20,000 in the past 18 months.  There had been a definite need for lumber.

In 1876, Edwards Bros. & Nobel erected the first brick building downtown on the corner of Sixth St. and Marsh Ave.  It was torn down in 1910-1911 and replaced with the present building (Circle K Auto).

                John returned to Kinsley in December and bought into the firm of Edwards Bros. and Noble.  The Marsh name was added to the store located on the corner of Marsh St. and 6th Ave.  

                In 1882, John had an opportunity to help the law when attorney and county treasurer J. W. Crawford had his pony stolen on May 31.  Crawford offered a $100 reward and a warrant was issued for the arrest of the thief.  Sheriff Billing asked John to aid in tracking the thief, and they took off the next day in a buggy.   “With Indian sagacity they trailed the thief without sleep or rest for about 70 miles.  Then changing teams, they hastily pursued him through the night….”(June 8, 1882, Kinsley Republican-Graphic)

                About midnight they caught up to the thief sleeping under the wagon of an emigrant just two miles west of Wichita.  When he was awakened with two six shooters leveled at him, the thief quickly gave up.  He was returned to the Kinsley jail and the pony was back in Mr. Crawford’s stable. 

                The newspaper report ended with, “He said he is sorry he stole the pony, he means sorry he was caught.  If every man who loses a horse will show the vim, energy, perseverance and determination shown by Crawford, Billings and Marsh in this case, night riders will hunt beasts of burden in other counties.”

                If John got some or all of the reward, it probably came in handy as he married Sue Bidwell on Sept. 14, 1882.  I imagine she discouraged this type of adventure after that.  (You might remember that Sue Bidwell was aunt to the actress Sue written about last week.)  The Bidwell’s would lose a child in August, 1884 and then have baby Mabel in October, 1885.

Marsh and Bidwell General Merchandise was built at 213 E. Sixth St. in 1892 by John Marsh and his brother-in-law, E. T. Bidwell.

                In 1886, John would partner with his brother-in-law, E. T. Bidwell, to open Marsh and Bidwell Mercantile.  In the following years he would become a respected and loved member of the community.  He supported many civic projects, sang in a quartet, became an officer in the Edwards Mercantile Bank, served as a councilman, and became major in 1893.

                Then came the tragic night of Monday, October 22, 1894.  W. J. Potter, a Denver potato salesman, had spent the evening with John.  He had just left him for his office at the Alamo House (217 E. Sixth St, Navanod Treasures) when he heard two shots.  He and other citizens ran immediately to aid John who was able to talk and recount what had happened.  He recognized the men as two he had seen that day loafing around the Alamo Hotel (where they were registered under assumed names). John was carried to his home which was located on two lots on the NE corner of Heath St. and Fifth Ave.  He expressed worry and sadness for his family before dying the next day.

                 Meanwhile, the robbers had fled the scene. They were spotted east of Greensburg on Wednesday evening. From there, they robbed a Mr. Green in Lane County, and finally showed up in Russell Springs on Friday evening.  They put their horses in a livery barn and strolled around town. 

                Two citizens, N. G. Perryman and J. W. Jones, thought the strangers answered the description of the young men who had murdered the Kinsley’s mayor.  After sending someone to get a better description, they watched the men and even invited them to a lyceum at the courthouse.  Perryman and Jones kept an eye on them as they bedded down in the stable haymow.  Shortly before dawn, they cautiously climbed up, pulled the blankets off the sleeping men and took them into custody.  The men had a 32 and a 38 and showed their guilt by asking how Mr. Marsh was doing.

                 Carl Arnold, 17, and William Harvey, 19, were arrested.  Both had lived in Kansas and recently been at the Oklahoma Strip.  They had never been in trouble before that week when they decided to become robbers.  They went to Medicine Lodge, stole two horses and robbed a man in Welsford before getting to Kinsley and murdering John Marsh.  He was buried by his infant daughter in Hillside Cemetery.

                You’ll have to wait until next week to hear the rest of Arnold and Harvey’s story and how their case affected capital punishment in Kansas.

               

               

# 48 From Kinsley Cottage to English Manor

         Last week, I introduced you to Sue Bidwell, a talented local actress who was in cast pictures in the Ely box of photos.  I wondered what happened to her after performing in Charles Edwards’ plays in 1924.  Her life turned out to be very interesting for a Kansas girl.

Sue Bidwell performed Violet in Charles Edwards production of “Clarence”at the Palace Theater in 1924

            The first Bidwell who came to the area was a cattle-ranching uncle, Edward T. Bidwell.  who settled near Coldwater in 1876. 

            In 1878, Ed’s father, George E. Bidwell, brought the rest of the family to a farm north of Kinsley.  One of Ed’s brothers, George H., went into business in Mullinville where he married Matey Harp in 1895.  They would have two sons before having their daughter, Sue Jeannette, on December 26, 1900. 

            Tragically, the next year, George contracted Typhoid fever and died at his father’s home in Kinsley.  He left his widow with three young children to raise. 

            Ed, who suffered a near-fatal fall from a horse in 1884, gave up cattle and went into business with his brother-in-law, John Marsh in 1892 in Kinsley.  He and Matey married on Sept. 12, 1903, making Sue’s uncle also her stepfather.  T would have two daughters, Myra and Avis.

            Throughout high school, Sue performed in the plays, was active in debate and sang in the school and church choirs.   She graduated in 1919 as the class secretary-treasurer and then attended the University of Kansas.  She would be home in Kinsley in the summers to perform in Charles Edwards’ plays.  I could not confirm the rumor that she was Edward’s secret love.  He was 19 years older than she. 

            In 1924, Sue was living in Kansas City and acting with the Chanticleer Players.  A reviewer from the Kansas City Times reported: “Sue Bidwell and Jay Sinnagan had the leading roles in the playlet (‘Where Do We Go from Here’) and handled them very nicely, except that both fumbled their lines occasionally.” (Feb. 27, 1925). 

            I could not easily find any other references as to what Sue did after that.  It would be ten months later that she would learn of Edwards’ suicide in Tulsa on New Year’s Eve.

            It was quite fortuitous that in the summer of 1928 Sue decided to visit her widowed Aunt Sue (Mrs. John Marsh) in Tulsa.  There, she met and quickly fell in love with William Ernest Victor Abraham (known as Weva).  He was an Irish geologist with the large Burma Oil Company and was lecturing in Tulsa on petroleum engineering.

            They married on December 3, 1928 in Los Angeles, and left on a honeymoon spent sailing on a Japanese steamship to Hawaii, the Philippines, Japan, Shanghai, and Bangkok before arriving back at Weva’s home on the Irawaddy (Ayoyarwady) River between Rangoon and Mandalay (Nyaung U) in British Burma (Myanmar).  Here she would have servants and enter into the comfortable life of English society.

            By 1933, they had three children, Susan, Sally, and Tom.  From 1931-1937, Weva was a lieutenant-colonel in the Upper Burma Battalion of the Burma Auxiliary Force.  In 1937, he was promoted, and they returned to Dorsetshire, England. That year, they received an invitation to attend the coronation of George VI. 

            In 1940, Weva rejoined the army as a second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers.  The German blitz drove Sue to return with her children to the safety of Kinsley to stay during the war.  Weva would remain behind to serve in Greece and Egypt.

Matey Bidwell home at 401 S. Heath where Abraham family stayed during the war.

            On August 15, 1943, the Kansas City Star looked back on the refugees stay here during the war. When they arrived the children “spoke with a distinct British Accent…. Now (their) command of American slang is complete and thorough…. Susan has learned to make her own clothes and play the piano.  Sally sings in the Episcopal church and the Congregational church choirs and belongs to all the small girl activities in town.  Tom is an enthusiastic Cub Scout who has just learned to do high dives.  Their mother keeps house, no small chore in a community where groceries are no longer delivered.  She also works in a Victory garden of her own sowing, is Scout Mistress of the Kinsley Cub Scouts and takes them swimming once a week in the town swimming pool….”

            “For more than a year Mrs. Abraham was unable to receive any money from her husband, Great Britain having a stern law against exporting any money.  She helped make up for the embarrassing lack of cash by giving lectures in various towns in Western Kansas on what the war meant to Americans, life in Burma, and similar subjects on which she knew plenty.” 

Article about the Abrahams in the Kansas City Star, August 1, 1943

            In the fall of 1942, Weva flew on a military mission to Washington in the same “sleeping car plane” that had carried Winston Churchill to Moscow a few weeks earlier.  On that trip, he was also able to visit his wife and children in Kinsley.

            Weva rose to the rank of Major General, and in 1942, he became Sir William when he was awarded Officer in the Order of the British Empire because of his actions in Tunisia during the war.

After the war, the Abrahams lived in Kencot Manor House built in 1508 in Gloucestershire.  In 1955, they entertained the Burmese Prime Minister U Nu and his wife there.

The Abraham home after the war at Kencot Manor, Gloucestershire, England

       Sue kept in touch with her family in Kansas until her death on February 19, 1965 at the age of 64.  She is buried in Hillside Cemetery.

             Weva would marry again, and his second wife would see him knighted in 1977 by Queen Elizabeth

# 47 Charles R. Edwards Adds to Culture in Kinsley

Last week I wrote about Ben J. Ely Jr. who became a professional artist even though many thought, at the time, that he would become an actor on Broadway or the screen.   During high school and for eight years after, Ben was very involved in dramatic production under the direction of Charles R. Edwards.  It is hard to estimate the influence Edwards had on him and many other young people and the culture of this whole community.  The box of photos given to the Edwards County Historical Society contained rare cast publicity shots of two plays produced by Edwards in Kinsley in 1924.

Charles Rufus Edwards was born December 6, 1881 in Kinsley.  He was the nephew of W. C. Edwards, the man for whom Edwards County had been named.  He was the son of R. E. Edwards, the biggest rancher, retail merchant, banker, and “richest man in Kinsley as well as Western Kansas,” In 1911, his sister, Marion, would marry Jouett Shouse who became both a Kansas and U.S.  congressman and Washington political appointee.  You may remember from last week that right after graduating from high school in 1916, Ben J. became secretary for Congressman Shouse’ in Washington, D.C. during WWI.

            It was reported in Charles’ obituary in the Kinsley Mercury that he “Gave a play” at age six.  A review of Kinsley’s third Shakespearean festival in the Kansas City Star (6 August 1916) mentions that “as a high school boy (he) wanted to be in and to produce plays” and that “the members of his class supported Mr. Edwards in putting on all the plays he would get up for them.”

            Charles left Kinsley before graduating from high school to study at the Dillenback School of Oratory in Kansas City.  After graduating in May, 1899, he went East.  He reported in 1908, just before his 27th birthday, that he had had the opportunity to be “something of a theatre-goer” – one who had “seen most of the RISQUE plays presented during the past ten years…”

            Charles came back to Kinsley in 1907 to become the editor of Kinsley Mercury until 1910.  He directed high school plays and began working with Gilmor Brown and his community Shakespearean productions.  Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1912), As You Like It (1914) and Twelfth Night (1916) were produced by hundreds of Kinsley citizens and performed outside to audiences of one to two thousand.  Ben J. acted in these and in the high school plays.  After graduating in 1916, he would continue to spend his summers in Kinsley to be in Edwards plays’ and to construct scenery.

            Edwards pursued his career in acting in Kansas City, New York, Dallas, Tulsa, and elsewhere.  He was one of the best-known producers of pageants and amateur plays in the country. He directed the big Shakespeare Festival in Okmulgee Oklahoma 1920 and 1921.

Sue Bidwell (KHS 1919) played Violet with Charles Edwards who played Dinwiddle in a scene from “Clarence”.

            In 1920 he returned to Kinsley to direct a play performed by the Kinsley Collegians, a cast made up of those talented alumni.  In 1923, Edwards again came back to reform the Collegians and produce two WWI plays, Billeted and Three Live Ghosts. Ben J. acted in both.  In the latter, he portrayed “Spoofy who suffers from shell-shock and dons an expression that brings down the house” (Mercury, 31 May 1923).

Ben J. Ely (KHS 1916) and Margaret McKechnie (KHS 1923).  Margaret was an accomplished pianist and played interludes for the production of Billeted (1923) in which Ben acted.  Perhaps this picture was taken that year.

            In the summer of 1924, Edwards would form the Kinsley Players and direct three plays. He engaged Don Cook, a member of the Kansas Community Players, to play the lead role in the second one, Clarence, by Booth Tarkington.

Cook was talented and handsome.  One can only imagine the effect he had on the female population of Kinsley.  He was described in the Graphic as having a voice filled with tones and delightful resonance.

            Cook was enticed to stay on for the September production of Mollusc by Henry Davies.  Edwards would return to the stage and play a major role in this comedy.

            All three plays featured a talented local actress, Sue Bidwell.  It was rumored that she might have been Charles Edwards secret love, but I’m going to save her most interesting story for next week.

            Unfortunately, the next year on New Year’s Eve in 1925, Charles Edwards would give into the demons of loneliness and commit suicide by poison in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  The notes he left are very poignant and tragic.  His mother and sister would bury him in Kansas City.

            On a happier note, Don Cook would go on to have a very successful Broadway and screen career.  He is best known for his roles as Steve in Show Boat(1936), as Mike Powers in The Public Enemy (1931) and as  Stevens in Baby Face (1933).  He acted in 58 movies, 20 Broadway plays, and 10 episodes in television dramas. 

            Cook was married to Princess Gioia Tasca di Cuto in 1937.  They remained married until his death of a heart attack in 1961 at age sixty while rehearsing the lead role in a new play, A Shot in the Dark. Walter Matthau was hired to replace him. 

            Don Cook has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is buried where he grew up in Portland, Oregon.

Sue Bidwell, Charles Edwards, and Ruth Workman in” Mollusc”.

#46 Ben Ely, Jr. Leaves Kinsley for Art Career

           I’ve been working my way through a box of photos given to the Edwards County Museum by the Ely family.  As you recall, my research led me to Robert Kirk who in 1881 started the Kirkfield Post Office (located at County Road 36 and 150 Ave).

 Kirkfield is where Ben Ely, Sr. settled with his wife, children, and mother-in-law in 1901.  The children attended Trotter School and were awarded for perfect attendance in 1907.

In 1909, Ben, Sr. sold his farm and moved his family into Kinsley (814 Colony Ave.).  At that time, Roy was 18 and James was 16.  They would soon marry and have their own households.

Ely children: Manning, Ben, Jr. and Ruth in 1912.

Ben Jr. (age 11), (Mary) Ruth (age 9)), and Manning (age 7) would begin attending school in Kinsley.  Tragedy befell the family in June, 1914 when Manning, who had always been frail, died. Ruth would graduate form KSH in 1919 and become a teacher until she married James Shrauner and settle in Cimarron.

Ben, Jr. was active in high school.  Years ago, I became aware of him from his illustrations in the 1914 thru 1916 KHS annuals, the “Harbinger”. He illustrated many pages with ink drawings in the popular art nouveau style.  I invite you to visit the library or go online to see these wonderful drawings:  https://media.swkls.org/kinsley/hs_yearbooks/

A Ben Ely illustration in the 1916 KHS Harbinger, perhaps a scene from the Verdi’s opera Rigoletto.

The yearbooks also reveal that besides being on the annual staff, Ben, Jr. was a member of the Adelphian Literary Society. “Safety First Club,” Glee Club and Chorus, played tennis and acted in plays.  He was Vice President of his graduating class of 1916.  As a junior, he was “Known by his neckties”.  As a senior, he earned the following limerick in the annual.

“There is a young man we call Ben
Who always makes use of his pen.
If you’ll take time to look,
At the cartoons in this book.
You’ll say he is great among men.”

Ben Ely played tennis for KHS.

            That summer Charles Edwards, produced Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”, and Ben, Jr. worked on the scenery.  He would continue to work with Edwards during the summers after graduation, but that story is for next week.

            In January, 1917, Ben, Jr. left to attend the Art Students League in New York City.  This is where Georgia O’Keeffe and Thomas Hart Benson had studied ten years earlier.

            The United States entered World War I that April, and in September, Ben went to Washington, D.C. to become Congressman Jouett Shouse’ secretary.  He also attended the Corcoran School of Art in D.C. and was in at least one play there.  He would continue to come back to Kinsley during the summers to act and design scenery for plays for Edwards.

In 1927 Ben began working for the Newspaper Enterprise Association at Cleveland.  His illustrations appeared in many papers including the Hutchinson News.  Ben wrote, “My first story was for the weekly issue, a Wild West Thriller, called “The Aztec Mystery” –full of big guns, heroic cowboys and villainous Mexicans.  I have been doing illustrations for the daily issues.”

By 1935, Ben Jr. was living and working as an illustrator in New York City with his wife, Elizabeth (Betty) L. Martin.  She was the daughter of a dentist and had been raised in Lander, Wyoming.  I could find no information about how they met or their wedding.  Betty was ten years younger than Ben, college educated, and worked as a food technician.

In 1936-7, Ben was illustrating a regular children’s column in “The Country Home Magazine” called “Agri and the Magic Corn Silk”.

The Elys were still living in NY in 1940.  I was not able to discover when they left. But they were in Wheatbbridge, Colorado in 1954 and in Lander and Denver in the 1970s and 1980s.  He was exhibitng watercolors and portraits and judging art competitions.

While researching, I noticed that Jerry Wilson (Sally Frame’s father) was also in Edwards’ plays.  When I called her, she recalled Ben and Betty coming to Kinsley and visiting her parents.  Ben gave her a watercolor which did not appeal to her and she has never framed it.

Ben died on April 7, 1988 in Seattle, just two months after Betty died.  They are buried in Lander, Wyoming with their daughter, Martha E. Ely (1950-1994).

Next week I’ll share how the Ely photo box led me to connect Kinsley to one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

#45 Ely Family Comes to Edwards County

            Last week, I began exploring a box of photos and memorabilia given by the Ely family to the Edwards County Historical Society.  It led to finding out about the Kirkfield Post Office established by Robert O. Kirk in 1881.  Kirkfield was where Benjamin J. Ely, Sr. would choose to settle his family.

            Benjamin was born on December 30, 1858 in Kirksville, Missouri one of 14 siblings.  His father, Judge David A. Ely, had established a large slave-holding plantation there in 1835.  I could find no connection between Robert O. Kirk, a Union soldier from Massachusetts, and the Confederate founders of Kirksville, MO.

            After finishing his education in the Missouri State Normal, Ben studied law at Quincy Business College. About 1880, he went with his father and brothers to Maryville, California, where they established an extensive wheat ranch that failed.  When his father died in 1887, Ben returned to Missouri to care for his mother, Mary. 

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Left: Early picture of Benjamin
Above: Benjamin & Martha with Roy and James.

Ben married Martha Alice Crow on Feb. 13, 1890.  They had four children (Roy, James, Benjamin Jr., and Mary Ruth) before moving with Mary to Kirkfield in November, 1901. Ben bought a large acreage where he would farm and raise cattle and horses. Three months after arriving, Martha gave birth to twins boys, but only one, Manning, survived.

Like his father, Ben had an interest in politics.  In 1904 he ran for Edwards County Commissioner of the Second District as a Fusion Candidate.  I was not familiar with that term “fusion”, and found it to be when both political parties back the same candidate.  Despite that double endorsement, he lost the election.

In 1905, the Lewis Press ran a weekly Kirkfield column which gives a glimpse into prairie life.  The year began with visits by the neighbors to the Ely home on January 2 where, “Everyone ate a hearty supper, visited to a late hour and returned home happy.”

The January 20 issue reported, “A good visit by the fire has been enjoyed by our farmers this week while the cold weather lasted.  12 degrees below zero has been the mark.  Our farmers are pleased with the heavy snow on the wheat fields.”

Everyone in the neighborhood was busy throughout January.  D.E. Bear, M.C. Trotter, and L. J. Rumsey were butchering hogs.  Ben was building fence.  Ed Sultz with the assistance of his neighbors was husking corn. 

Pat Sweeny, Jr was marketing Ben Ely’s wheat in Kinsley.  He was also busy hauling telephone poles and wire from Kinsley for the Watson Telephone Co.  Ben and his neighbors were installing new telephones. 

Mr. Wills was looking forward to ordering a steam plow for sod and old ground plowing.  He had nearly 500 acres engaged, the largest contracts being 160 acres in one field for Ben Ely, and another 100 acres for Geo. L. Vedder and 120 Acres for Peter Lancaster.

The end of the January also brought the end to the Kirkfield post office. Wendell took over that service.

With the beginning of February “A general cayoute chase is reported to take place in our vicinity soon.  Mr. Vedder and Mr. Ely ran cayoutes last week but the animals were so numerous, they could not all chase the same wolf long enough at one time to catch a single one.”

February got colder and a revival meeting at nearby Trotter school was postponed because it was 25 degrees below zero.  Ben was sick in February, and his children had whooping cough in April.

In a snow storm on Friday, April 14, S. E. Bear and his steam plow and a factory expert arrived in Kinsley.  On Monday, the 20-horse engine was hitched with 8 plows and working successfully in Kirkfield. Nearly 50 people visited the scene to see the machine that could replace six 3-horse teams and cost one-third less. 

Geiser Peerless steam ploy like the one Bear bought for $2,500 and charges $1.50 per acre to plow.

In 1909, Ben decided to sell his farm and stock and move into Kinsley to give the advantages of education and city life to his children. He bought the house which still stands at 814 Colony Ave.  His mother died the next year, and 12-year old Manning, who had never been well, died in 1914.

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814 Colony Ave. then and now.

Benjamin J. Ely, Sr. was active in civic life.  He was president of the Board of Education for seven years, mayor of Kinsley for two terms, and the chairman of the Democratic County Committees. He was a member of the Masonic Order and a Knight Templar.

Ben Ely driving his new Hupmobile in October, 1914.

At the time of his sudden death on August 27, 1926, he was applying for a patent for an automobile awning. He is buried in Hillside Cemetery.

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