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#29 Roads Provide a Way Through Hard Times – part 3

The vote to change Hwy 50S from 8th St. to 10th St. secured the construction of a railroad overpass in Kinsley.  The state would pay for the rerouting of 50S and a new Arkansas River bridge being constructed east of Kinsley.  The federal government would pay for the overpass.  The city would only be responsible for securing the rights of way along 10th St.

H. J. Taylor Construction Co. of Salina was awarded the contracts for 10th St. and the overpass construction.  The work was begun in June 1936. 

The Hwy 50S bridge over the Arkansas River had been built in 1907 southeast of Kinsley, just east of 110 Ave. and north of M Rd.  It was decided to straightened Hwy 50S and build a new bridge in its present location. The new route and bridge would not be completed until 1943.  Many people in Kinsley still have memories of the old bridge.  Kenny Dupree remembers tearing it down in about 1967 and using it to build three other bridges.

In 1935, 10th St. was unpaved and only went from Clute Ave. on the east side of Kinsley to Massachusetts St. on the west side.  Coon Creek had a north running horseshoe bend at Clute Ave., curving back south at MIlner St.  A straight channel was dug across to keep the creek south of the extended 10th St./Hwy 50S.  A new timber bridge was then built over Briggs Ave.  

            Another place the creek was straightened was at Niles Ave. where the existing bridge was moved 100 feet south to a new channel.  A new steel bridge was built at Colony to replace two big drainage tubes.  These creek and bridge improvements would help prevent flooding.

By the middle of September 1936, the approaches to the overpass and the timber pilings for it were finished.  The west approach rose 3’ for every 100’. The east approach was built shorter and steeper so that as few homes as possible would be hidden by the grade which rose 5’ for every 100’.  A short section of old 10th St. was kept running below and parallel to the overpass to give property owners a way out to Hwy 50S. 

The Santa Fe Railroad overpass under construction in 1936.

The steel work for the overpass was done during December.  The July 27, 2000 issue of the Edwards County Sentinel reported an interview with DeVere McClaren whose first job after graduating from Centerville High School was working mainly as a crane operator on the overpass.  He described another job that would have scared many men to going back on relief.

“…in construction you get to do a little bit of everything from time to time.  I even had to puddle the cement once.  I didn’t like that job at all.  See, each pier has a steel rod frame which we built on the ground.  The frames were lifted up into place and wired in.  Then a wood frame was built around them with a hole in the top big enough for a man to get through.  You went own inside the frame and a 2-foot tube was put in after you.  The cement was poured in through that tube.  It was dark and hot inside there and the only contact you had with the outside was to yell up through the hole.  The man inside had to use a vibrator to keep shaking, or puddle, the cement so it spread out evenly.”

Many spectators were attracted to view the big machinery and construction. The Nov. 26th edition of the Mercury reported, “The tossing of red hot rivets to men perched on the frame work (of the overpass) always attracts a crowd.” I googled “tossing rivets” and found a video that showed men doing exactly that.  One man would pick up a hot rivet from the fire with tongs and lob it up to the riveter who caught it in a bucket before removing it with tongs to use. 

Seventy-two tons of steel, the biggest piece being 5’ across and 40’ long, was used in constructing the 485’ overpass.  The steel work was finished by Christmas and then pouring the bridge flooring and building the side rails proceeded slowly as the 335 yards of concrete had to be poured in sections. 

The overpass was given two coats of paint.  The first coat was blue and the second coat aluminum. The underside of the overpass was painted black as the smoke from the trains would discolor anything else.  A smoke screen was also placed under the steel girder as acid in smoke rusts steel. 

The last thing to be done was constructing the road from the west end of the overpass to meet Hwy 56 (then Hwy 45).  It was slowed by the relief truckers going on strike.  They wanted more money for all the unpaid on-the-job hours they were required to stand by idly waiting for fill to be put in and packed. 

The Mercury reported that the overpass was completed but not opened by April 22.  “A number of cars have been driven over the structure the last few days although the approaches are still blockaded.” Makes me wonder which high school seniors dared to defy the barriers?

The Hwy 50S route and overpass were officially opened to traffic on July 20, 1937.  A formal dedication was held on October 6.  Governor Walter A. Huxman and many highway and government dignitaries attended.  The day included highway tours, speeches and an orchestra concert in the KHS gymnasium, a luncheon with more speeches, and a program downtown by the KHS band and the drill team from St. Joseph College and Military Academy of Hays.

The overpass shortly after completion in 1937.

The Kinsley merchants also offered $125 in prizes to persons who found their telephone number displayed in the window of any of the 71 businesses You read that right – 71 businesses in 1937.

The total work on the three highways and overpass from June, 1936 to April, 1937 came to $213,640.  Unskilled relief workers were paid 30 cents/hour up to skilled workers receiving $1.10/hour.  About 140 to 200 men were employed daily with about 40% being relief workers.  This overpass would remain until a new, wider one was built between 1999 and 2001.

The Kinsley Library summer reading kids walked across the new overpass one month before it opened in August, 2001.

#29 Roads Provide a Way Through Hard Times – part 2

Second, Eighth, Tenth? That was the question.  As you read this article, and with the advantage of hindsight, do you think the right route for Highway 50S was selected?

Gary Jarvis’ comprehensive research notebook on road and overpass construction between 1933-1938 again forms the basis for my article this week.  Over the years, Gary worked for the state and county highway departments.  In 1998 he received an injury while working for the state that required neck surgery.  During the months of recovery, he filled his time with his passion for history.  He spent countless hours at the library reading the Kinsley Mercury on microfilm and then transcribing the articles.  What a valuable historical record it is!

In 1998, Gary Jarvis researched and transcribed articles from the Kinsley Mercury about the highway changes and the overpass project in Kinsley from 1933-1938.  His book is in the Kinsley Library archive. 

The 1930’s depression and drought brought widespread unemployment.  Both the federal and state governments offered relief by hiring men to work on greatly needed infrastructure.  Besides improving roads, highways, and bridges in Edwards County, an overpass over the Santa Fe Railroad was proposed.

By May, 1935, surveyors mapped re-routing Hwy 50S from 8th St. to 2nd St.  The route would run from the hill east of town and come straight west across the Arkansas River where a new bridge would be required.  It would be where L Rd is now, then swing south to Second St. and continue west on 2nd St. past the Fravel House (816 E. 2nd St., now owned by BroKars).  The overpass would go over the tracks and meet Hwy 45 at the old swimming pool corner (by the E-Z Stop).

In November, 1935, a second surveying party came to Kinsley and proposed a different re-routing.  This route would angle 50S southwest to hit 10th St. on the eastern edge of the city. Early 10th St. ended at Briggs Ave.  The overpass would then go over the tracks just west of the city limits. 

Gary Jarvis’ grandfather, Harvey Jarvis, is pictured here moving his tractor which is pulling the threshing machine and then the cookhouse over the old Hwy 50S Arkansas River bridge.  This bridge was located southeast of Kinsley (east of 110 Ave. and north of M Rd).

Change seems to always be met with opposition, and a proposed overpass was no exception.  Some thought the highway should remain on 8th St. because there were two schools and three churches on it.  Others thought that for those very same reasons it should be moved for safety considerations. 

Most people were in favor of the overpass following the Second St. route.  However, by January, it was clear that the federal highway department would only approve the 10th St. route.

The combination of a federal overpass and the rerouting of 50S to 10th St. would bring about $250,000 to town.  The city would only be required to fund purchasing the rights of way along 10th St.  That cost would be offset by providing paying jobs which would lessening the burden of relief checks. 

As the debate carried on and no decision was made, there was a threat of losing the overpass project and maybe the intercontinental Hwy 50 altogether.  If you remember from last week, there was a Highway 50N which could have become an alternative.  Finally, the city commissioners voted on March 19th to go ahead with purchasing the rights of way for the 10th St. route. 

As the city, feds, and state moved ahead on the letting of bids, some citizens mounted a successful petition to put the purchase of the 10th St. rights of way to a public vote.  On May 29th, an election resulted in a vote of 585 to 129 in favor or purchasing the rights of way.  Construction could begin.  The rights of way would end up costing the city $10,350 which brought the quarter of a million-dollar project and much needed employment to the city and county.

To be continued next week with the building of the 1937 overpass.

#28 Roads Provide a Way Through Hard Times

            “In order to alleviate the unemployment condition in western Kansas caused by the dry weather and poor crops this spring and summer, Gov. Alf M. Landon today requested Harry Darby, director of highways, to use the first of the Kansas highway money allocated under the Public Works bill in western Kansas.”  (Kinsley Mercury June 22, 1933).

This announcement began several years of highway planning and rerouting in Edwards County.  Many people do not know that Eighth St. (not Tenth St.) was the original Hwy 50 South route.  The Kinsley Cottage Courts (Quisenberry), old Southside School, the library, high school and three hotels (Sunflower, Grove and American House) were all located along it.

Knowing about this, I wondered what other changes were made and so turned to the library archive to find research done by Gary Jarvis in 1998.  As he says in his preface, “This book was originally dedicated to researching the history of the Overpass, but my research led me to go back further to…. the highway construction that took place in Edwards County for a period between 1933-1938 to understand how the decisions were made to construct the Overpass.”

Relief funds from the Civilian Works Administration were acquired to reroute and hard surface highways and city streets, improve country roads and rebuild bridges in the county.  The December 14, 1933 issue of the Mercury reported that 346 CWP workers, 9 two-horse teams and 72 four-horse teams would be hired to do all of the these projects.

Building and maintaining roads with horses and graders. Unknown date and location. (John Craft collection)

 In order to share the employment as much as possible, a maximum 30-hour work week was enforced.  Hiring preference was given to veterans.  Unskilled men were paid 45₵ per hour, intermediate grade laborers received 65₵ per hour, and skilled men got 80₵ per hour.  Horse teams were paid by the hour at 20₵ for two, 30₵ for three and 40₵ for four.  

Widening or rerouting a road required the acquisition of land.  The rights-of-way were purchased or gotten through condemnation with payments 1 ½ times of assessed valuation.  Buildings were moved or torn down and farmers fences and telephone lines were moved. 

In the 1930s, the county highways had different names.  In 1927, Hwy 50 split in Kansas with the 50 North branch route going through Garden City, Jetmore, Rozel, Larned, Great Bend, Lyons, McPherson and Baldwin City.  Hwy 50 South followed the current Hwy 50 route Dodge City and Kinsley.  In 1932, Hwy 50 was the only hard-surfaced road in the county.

Hwy 56 was originally called Hwy 37, and it ran along the Santa Fe Trail from Larned to Kinsley.  Becoming a federal highway required Hwy 37 to be widened from 50’ to 150’.  As it came through Kinsley, you may remember from a previous article that the Brodbeck swimming pool by the EZ stop had to be made smaller.  Also, an elevator had to be torn down and a gas station moved.  In 1935, Hwy 37 was renamed Hwy 45, and in 1955, it was renamed again becoming Hwy 56.

Today’s Hwy 183 was originally called Hwy 1 in Kansas, and it went from South Dakota to Texas.  In reading though Gary Jarvis’ notebook of Mercury articles, I learned that the route Hwy 1 took south from Kinsley to Greensburg would be changed in two places.  First, after crossing the Arkansas River, it used to be a little west of where it is now before joining back with the existing road at the Parallel.  The Anthony and Northern Railroad line ran just a little west of it.

This six-span camelback bridge was built in 1925 over the Arkansas River, south of Kinsley on Highway 1.

The other place it was changed was two miles south of the Parallel where it makes the 90 degree turn east.  At this time, it went one mile further to the east and then turned south on an existing Cannonball Stage route that went into Greensburg.  The new route made that turn south one mile west of the stage route so it would meet the road to Coldwater at Hwy 54 as it does now. 

Sixty men and 18 four-horse teams began work on Hwy 1 in 1934, and the finished highway was reopened in October, 1938. 

Photographer Lloyd Rumsey took this picture on January 17, 1936 during the construction of Hwy 1 near the Jack Miller Ranch. (Darrel Miller collection)

Old Hwy 183 (now 100th Avenue) also went north out of Kinsley to Rozel which was located on the old Hwy 50 North (now Hwy 156).  Before the hard-surfacing, I read that people preferred to go to Larned on this road as it was in better condition than the old Santa Fe Trail (Hwy 56). 

That brings us back to Gary Jarvis’ original research – the why and how of the Hwy 50 Overpass — and the topic for next week’s article.

#27 Old Time Corn Husking Remembered

They are cutting corn in my neighborhood.  The 12 or 18 row combines are busy going up and down the fields, picking, husking, and shelling the grain off the cob.  Watching the process now, it’s hard to imagine the labor-intensive work, all done by hand, in the early days of Edwards County. 

I read in the old newspapers that once the haying was done, corn harvest took place in November and December. One early harvesting method used a corn binder to cut the corn stalks and bind them into shocks to stand in the field to dry.  The ears could be stripped off by hand at that time, or they could be left in the shocks until the corn was needed that winter.  Then the shocks were hauled into the barn to have the ears removed and the stalks used for feed and bedding.

The hard work of husking corn was made easier on the hands with the use of a metal hook or wooden peg. I paid a visit to the Edwards County Museum to look at their exhibit of these simple tools. 

Edwards County Museum exhibit of corn husking picks, pegs, and leather gauntlets. The gauntlet on the left was worn by A. L. Moe in 1900.

Husking could also be lightened by hosting a husking bee where friends and neighbors gathered to make a social event out of this chore. 

The editor in the September 12, 1889 issue of Kinsley Mercury called for an “old fashioned quilting and corn husking sometime this fall and a dance at night….Have the Jones boys bring their fiddles and play ‘Possum up a gum stump, Cooney up a holler’ and let us dance in our shirt sleeves, with our pants in our boots, and kiss a girl for every red ear of corn we husk, and have a jug of cider and pumpkin pies for supper….”

That same issue, the Mercury passed on the report that the reward of a kiss for every red ear husked had the Sedgwick County boys “thinking of supplying the deficiencies of nature and adding a bucket of red paint to the paraphernalia to the corn husking bee this fall.”

Another method of harvesting was also used where a husker would walk the rows and break the ears loose from the shank.  The husk was left attached while the corn was thrown into a horse-drawn wagon to be stored in the corn crib to dry.

I still had a hard time envisioning this procedure until I found a You Tube video that showed it being done.  I encourage you to Google “Check out the speed of these corn huskers” and watch Illinois famer, Harlan Jacobson, go down a row of corn. The ear is cut with the right hand while the left hand holds the husks which remain on the stalk.  Jacobson’s speed is truly amazing.

This corn harvest at the Hillard Curtis farm was taken by W. O. Durstine of Belpre in an unknown year (between 1900 and 1919).

The early newspapers reveal how men were hired out to various farms to harvest corn.   The November 6, 1902 issue of the Mercury reported that “A good man can make close on to three dollars a day.”   That same week, the Kinsley Graphic broke that down into one half cent to two cents per bushel. 

If you don’t think this is very much, consider this report from northeast Kansas.  “When the pupils of a rural district in Nemaha county went to school the other morning, they found the school house locked and this placard tacked on the door: ‘Quit teaching and gone to husking corn – George Richmond.’ This tells the story of the shortage of school teachers in Kansas at the present time.  Most any employment is more remunerative than school teaching.”   (Mercury, Nov. 20, 1903)

A fast picker could pick 100 bushels a day.  This translates into taking 75 days to harvest an 80-acre field. A simple year’s harvest might take the entire fall and winter.

In 1907, the Mercury reported that “Ovid Woods is the first to finish cornhusking.  He finished last Thursday having employed three huskers for nearly three weeks. (November 15,1907)

Beginning in the 1920s, labor-saving machinery became available, but many farmers still continued to hand-harvest until after WWII.   

By 1922 a nostalgia was already evident for old-fashioned corn husking.  Local and state competitions were started.   In 1924, eight hundred people traveled to Iowa to attend the first National Corn Husking Championship.  By 1936 the national championship had grown until it attracted about 160,000 persons, the second largest sporting event in the country that year.

The contest’s goal was to harvest the most cleanly husked corn by weight in 80 minutes.  Each husker was allotted a specified number of rows. Between each husker’s plot, 10 or more rows were husked out and the stalks were broken down so spectators could follow their favorites.  There were penalties for leaving corn on the stalk and for leaving husks on the corn. 

The average farmer could husk about 300 ears in 80 minutes.  Fred Stanek of Iowa husked 2,000 ears that year and won with 80 pounds more corn than next competitor.  He accumulating 24.3 bushels, and during the last 10 minutes of the contest, he threw 50 ears per minute. 

The next year, Elmer Williams of Illinois husked 35.8 bushels, about 3,000 ears.  His record was never beat.  The onset of World War II ended the contest, and it was never started again. 

Another corn harvest taken by W. O. Durstine of Belpre.  Unknown date and farm.

#26 Lady Coyote Basketball and RBG

Just ten years after Coach James Naismith brought basketball to the University of Kansas, Kinsley High School formed a girls’ basketball team to play their first official game against Spearville High School on November 14, 1908.  It cost ten cents admission to watch the game on the outdoor court.  

Kinsley lost to the more experienced Spearville team, 19-12.  In contrast to the cold weather, however, the game was described as very friendly.  The Spearville’s principal was not only coaching his girls, but also “umpired” the game.   (Graphic, Nov. 12, 1908)

At this time, women were expected to conduct themselves as ladies, and competition was not considered ladylike.  It was also thought that women had frail bodies and weak demeanors which were not up to the boys’ rough style of basketball.  Therefore, very different rules were established for the girls.

Five to ten women made up a team.  The court was divided into 3 equal zones with each player being assigned to one zone as a shooter, a midcourt passer, or a defensive player.  Snatching or batting the ball was prohibited.  If a player held the ball for more than 3 seconds, it was a foul.  Only three dribbles were allowed before the ball had to be shot or passed.

Interestingly, six months earlier, before these rules were adopted, Lewis and Kinsley played an informal game. “The Lewis girls were accustomed to play by boys’ rules, and the Kinsley girls by girls’ rules.  Consequently, the teams didn’t hitch very well.  They compromised by playing half the game by boys’ rules and half by girls’ rules.” (Mercury, May 29, 1908) Kinsley did win by a score of 22 to 8.

1914-1915 KHS girls’ basketball team.   Standing L-R: Kathleen Riley, Coach Miss Sealy, Ruby Baker; Kneeling:  Lola Kerns, Stella Little, Winifred Bell, Marguerite Baxter; Seated: Ethel Whitney and Alice Dixon.

The Kinsley girls continued to have a team each year until their very best year in 1922.  They overwhelmingly won nine of their ten games playing against Rozel, Trousdale, Garfield, Stafford, and Spearville.  According to the 1922 KHS Annual, the one loss was a forfeit because of “not being able to finish it.”  

The yearbook attributed their success for three reasons:  they were an experienced team; Miss Mattingly was a very good coach; and “They had finer suits than those of any team they played against.  They did not want to disgrace their suits and they always played to win.”  The Wichita Eagle even published a picture of the team in those suits that March.

This picture of the 1921-22 KHS girls’ basketball team appears in the annual and was run in the March 19, 1922 Sunday edition of the Wichita Eagle. From left to right, the team members are:  Iva Gatterman, Martha Davis, Claribel Eslinger, Ruth Wilson, Mabel Sims, Luverna Norris, Verle Weage, Sarah Riley

With such success, you would think the Kinsley girls would go on to greater glory. However, that opportunity was taken out of their control.   On January 21, 1922, the Topeka Daily Capital wrote that the Kansas High School Athletics Association had voted to eliminate girls’ basketball from all district and state tournaments.  The elimination of girls’ basketball was at the request of the Association of the Deans of Women in high schools and colleges, but the reason for that request was not offered.   (Kansas Historical Society’s online Kansapedia)

The ensuing years found girls sports relegated to cheerleading and P.E. class. Although the rules had changed some from the early days, the game that I played in my gym class in the 1960s was still not the same game my brothers played in high school and college.  You can imagine my frustration after “scrimmaging” with them at the backyard hoop and now being assigned as either a guard or a forward who was not allowed to cross the center line.  I also could only dribble twice.  It was a slow, boring game only played in P.E. and intramurally.

Then in the 1970s, a lady lawyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, began the fight for civil rights and gender equality in the courts.  She successfully argued cases that insured 14th Amendment protections to women.  Before these wins, a woman could not have a credit card or credit history in her own name.  She couldn’t lease an apartment or buy property in her name.  She didn’t even have control over her own medical treatment.  And girls did not have the opportunity to play sports (or engage in other previously male activities) in school and college.

Justice Ginsburg’s successful fight for equality influenced the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to pass Title IX in 1972.  Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance, something that nearly all schools participate in.

 Title IX is evidenced in the KHS 1973 yearbook.  Where there previously had been no girls’ athletics section, now there are pictures of the girls’ basketball, volleyball, and track teams.  Women’s strength and athletic abilities were also recognized with new rules: a basketball game consisting of five-player on a full-court, free to dribble, and with a 30 second clock. 

With the passage of Title IX, Kinsley girls returned to the basketball court for the 1972-73 season.  Top row:  Kim Kamphaus, Dawn Eikmeier, Marge Habiger, Melissa Heit, Allyson Burr, Lora Danler  Bottom Row:  Miss Martens, Josena Frame, Brenda Carothers, Sue Taylor, Brenda Ackerman, Nancy Scheve, Jerri Arensman.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg knew that men and women could, and should, play by the same rules.  Her whole career, she fought for equal justice under the law in work, education, and society.  Just as we recognize the debt we owe to the early suffragists during this 100-year anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, we also recognize the debt we owe to Ruth Bater Ginsburg as a trailblazer who paved the way for women’s rights and gender equality under the 14th Amendment. 

#25 The Amazing Flying Machines

The Wright brothers achieved the first powered, controlled, sustained airplane flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903. 

Clyde Cessna’s monoplane made its first successful 5-mile flight and landing at the point of departure in Oklahoma on December, 1911. That began the development of several monoplanes by Mr. Cessna between 1912 and 1915. To make money, the “Birdman of Enid” often flew his aircraft at community events including the Old Settlers Picnic in Kinsley in June, 1914.

It must have been thrilling to witness this early flight.  F. H. Lobdell, editor of the Kinsley Mercury, described it this way:

  • “Promptly at three o’clock the air ship was pushed out to its starting point in the right field of the ball ground.  Trundled along the ground it appeared awkward and helpless.  There was a slight delay in getting the crowd out of the danger zone, then the engine was started.  It missed fire occasionally during the first few seconds, but the steady roar soon told that it had struck its stride.  The aviator moved a lever and the bird like form started.  For perhaps 1000 yards it run on the ground, then the plane was shifted and it took the air gracefully and sailed away toward the river.  In a few minutes it was almost lost to sight against the fleecy white clouds in the horizon….

“….The crowd had gotten too far out to permit a landing in safety on the ball ground, so Cessna lit in a corn field about three quarters of a mile east.  It happened to be a listed field and the wheels digging into the soft ridges overturned the machine.  Mr. Cessna was not injured and only a small piece was broken from one of the propeller blades.” (June 11, 1914)

Commercial development of airplanes was delayed by World War I where they proved valuable for both aerial observation and combat in Europe.  Around here, it was a rare and exciting event when a plane was spotted.  The Kinsley Graphic reported that in late October, 1917, the citizens of Jetmore saw a plane with lights plainly visible passing over the city.  “…it is well known that every air machine flying in the vicinity of that city is equipped with Delco farm lighting system, so that accidents in alighting may be avoided.”

One of the dangers of early flying was finding a place to land.  Landing in fields and pastures was hazardous. Newspapers noted incidents including an airplane “that went through Kinsley a short time ago was wrecked in a cottonwood tree in Garden City.”  (Graphic, Sept 4, 1919)

In December, 1918, three government airplanes were sent out to plan an aerial mail route.  Preparations had to be made for a landing field in Kinsley.  Mayor Ben Ely planned to have a large white banner hung to show the location of the field and the direction of the wind.  A bulletin board was placed on main street announcing the chosen location, and giving a warning for everyone to keep outside the track until the planes landed.

One plane was in need of repair and could not leave Dodge City.  The second plane arrived about noon and landed south of town in Harry Rapp’s alfalfa field where it remained for an hour before flying on to Pratt. 

The third plane flew to Garden City before making the flight back east to Kinsley.  It arrived about dark and landed in a listed field east of town.  The home guard was called out upon to guard the plane through the night.

About ten o’clock Sunday morning the pilot took off.  “He came up over the city and put on a show that delighted a large audience and seriously interfered with the attendance at Sunday school, but then we can have Sunday school every day while such an exhibition of fancy flying may never again be seen here.” (Graphic, Jan. 2, 1919). 

“They flew over the town, doing stunts, showing what the planes could do.  They turned over and over, both backwards and forwards and sideways and flew upside down.  They made a spiral spin and landed, after which they took off for Pratt.”  (Mercury, Jan. 2, 1919)

Six months later, the Old Settler’s Picnic arranged for Pratt airplane #1 to be part of their celebration.   Unfortunately, when it took off, the engine failed and the plane came down. “One wing struck a little cottonwood tree, throwing the machine around so that it struck sidewise in the corn field just east of the road and broke the propeller, stripped off the running gears and broke three sections of the wings.  The pilot estimated the damage about $2,500.  Neither of the men with the machine were injured except in their feelings.”  (Graphic, June 26, 1919)

  • I want to relate one more story about an early flight taken from the library’s collection of oral histories.  When I interviewed Lewis resident Jack Wolfe (1916-2017), he surprised me by saying, “I got my first aircraft ride with Charles A. Lindberg.”  His family was homesteading in Colorado, and he told the story this way:  

“It was feed planting time. Dad was out in the field planting feed for the cattle and horses in the fall. It was in the paper that Eddie Brooks was going to be in town. He was a barnstorm pilot. He was going to take rides off of airport hill there in Flagler. Dad says, ‘When I get done drilling, we’re going to unhitch these horses and go up and watch them boys fly.’

“Well, they were flying continually. Everybody wanted a ride. A little before sundown, Dad walked up to old Eddie Brooks and he says, (You know, I was just a little fellow, seven years old. I was small for my age) he walked up to old Eddie, and he said, ‘Would you give Jack and I a ride for one fare?’

“Can’t do it.” 

“So he walked over, there were two pilots and two planes, he walked over to the other guy, a big old tall, slim guy, and they got to visiting. And Dad says, ‘Would you take Jack and I for a ride?’

 “Get in!” he says, “I’ll give you a ride, five dollars.”

“He took us up around and over the city and back down. It wasn’t over five minutes, I suppose.

“But after Charles A. Lindberg flew the Atlantic, it came out in the paper that ‘Charles A Lindberg had been here with Eddie Brooks.’”

            If you’re interested, more local history involving a club of flying farmers and the development of our airport can be discovered in the files at the Kinsley Library.

#24 A Little Coyote Football History

We weren’t sure it would happen, but the 2020 football season has begun and it is giving us some diversion from Covid-19.  It made me curious about Kinsley High School football history.

Coyote football began with the 1912 season.  “The Kinsley boys went to Dodge City Friday for their first game of football, and very naturally suffered defeat at the hands of their more experienced adversaries.” (Kinsley Graphic, Oct. 10, 1912).  Despite losing, 26-0, they looked good in their new uniforms.

The first football game to ever be played in Kinsley was against St. John on October 18, 1912.   It brought a big crowd which supported the team with “…the best songs and yells.  The score was 7 to 0 in favor of St. John, but from the size of the St. John boys when they first appeared on the field, it looked like the score would probably be 70-0 in favor of St. John.  (Graphic, Oct. 24, 1912) Despite losing, 26-0, they looked good in their new uniforms.

Kinsley got their first victory on Saturday, Oct. 26 against Great Bend, winning 7-6, despite having four times the penalties.  “The only ruling especially criticized (by Great Bend), however, was that made by the official in disqualifying Rucker of Great Bend.  This occurred in the fourth down.  Rucker is a colored player and Kinsley had objected before the game to his playing on account of parental objections at home.  In the fourth down, while running interference for Janes he deliberately, or at least so it seemed, planted his elbow three time in the neck of Mathews of Kinsley.  For this he was disqualified, and Great Bend was penalized half the distance to its own goal line.  Bitter complaint was made of this ruling.”  

I think it is easy to imagine how Mr. Rucker felt when some Kinsley players did not want to play against a Black man.   There may have been other provocations, but one way or the other, he took it out on Mr. Mathews. 

By the fall of 1914, the Coyotes had become diverse with Waymond Walker playing on the team.  Perhaps that was not surprising, as I stumbled on an interesting fact in the Class of 1915 history. In kindergarten, little Waymond and 4 other Black children had asked for an education and they joined the class of 1915.  I believe Waymond would be related to Kenny Gaines on his mother’s side.

1914 Kinsley Coyote Team. Uniforms would have been the same in 1912.

In those early years, it appears that teams usually played each other twice, once at home and once away.  The opponents varied over the years and included St. John, Great Bend, Greensburg, Dodge City, Lewis, Spearville, Macksville, Sterling, Haviland, Larned, Jetmore and others.  The last game of the season was usually played on Thanksgiving Day. 

The newly formed Coyotes were not very successful.  Newspaper articles blamed it on insufficient boys willing to play.  One reason for this may be because football was well-known for frequent and often severe injuries. If you look at the uniforms and equipment you can tell why.  Too few boys on the team made it difficult to practice and scrimmage. 

The editor of the Kinsley Mercury seems to have thought poor refereeing was a cause for at least one loss.  “Harry Esch, of Dodge City, who was baselessly charged with being a football referee, has gone so far as to admit that he knew something about the rules after the game was over.  This indeed is most encouraging.” (Nov. 6, 1913)

Kinsley High School did not have a football team in 1918 and 1919 due to World War I.  Chester Bidleman returned from the war and coached the 1920 team.  He had a distinct handicap in that no one on the team had ever played football.    In fact, two of his boys had never seen a football game. 

Coy Parten, captain, and Chester Bidleman, coach, of the 1920 Coyotes.

Jim Taylor made a home movie containing a few minutes of a c1937 football practice. His son Eric made it available for the library archive. Watch it here.

The ensuing years found Kinsley playing seasons hovering on one side or the other of even wins and losses.  The 1953 team had the best year since 1923 with 9 wins and only one loss. The 1960 squad had a 7 win-2 loss record, and they earned Second Place in the Pratt Invitational Tournament, Second Place in the District and Fourth Place in Regionals.

In 1980, the football squad made it to the playoffs with a 7-3 record and received the runner-up trophy in the Central Prairie League. 

In 1990 the Coyotes were Bi District Runners-up in 3-A.

The best year in history was 1992 with Coach Gene Flax.  The Kinsley Coyotes got the furthest in tournaments being District Champions, Bi District Champion, Regional Football Champions, and Sub State Runner Up in 2-1A.  I’m familiar with this year as my son, Chris Holborn, was on the team.

The next year in 1993, they had a better record but did not get quite as far, becoming District Champions – Bi District Champions, and Runner Up in Regionals 2-1A.  Teams in the league then were:  Medicine Lodge, Fairfield, Greensburg, Ness City, Inman, Dighton, St. John, LaCrosse and Meade.

The information in this article was gleaned from (free access for Kansans at ) and the Kinsley High School annuals which are accessible on the Genealogy and Local History page of our website .

Good luck to this year’s team carrying on a proud and determined history of Coyote football.

#23 From Sand Hill Plums to the Big Apple — Part II

I ended up last week’s article with Leah Williams graduating as valedictorian from Kinsley High School in 1918.  WWI was still raging in Europe and the Spanish Flu had struck. 

In August Leah found employment as a relief telephone operator in Lewis.  Then on an ideal evening in late October, she joined some of her friends for what was probably a going-away party at the river with a bonfire and lots of food.  The next week, she and her sister Juanita left for Lawrence Business College.  We might assume that the cash scholarship Leah had received from a local club at graduation was applied to her tuition.

Over the next year, Leah received secretarial training and held down three part-time jobs and a night job in Lawrence. One job was in a large hardware store which sold art supplies.  She enjoyed helping to arrange store displays there.

Maybe she got run down from working too hard, but sometime in 1919 she contracted tuberculosis.  Before antibiotics, the treatment in those days was to go to the state sanatorium in Norton, Kansas for complete rest.   She would be a patient there for over a year, from March 1920 until May 1921.  

I learned something interesting about healthcare for the poor at this time.  The Board of Edwards County Commissioners’ POOR BILLS were published each month in the Kinsley Graphic.  One item regularly listed was “State Sanatorium, care of Leah Williams”.  Each month, an amount of about $1 a day was paid for Leah’s care.

Leah’s only complaint against the hospital was that they would not permit her to do anything which made her days very long.  She enrolled in a correspondence class in lettering to help alleviate her boredom. That would be the beginning of her desire for a career in art.

She finally made a good recovery and moved to Denver, Colorado where she enrolled in a course in poster art.  She began making advertising placards and displays for windows and lobbies in stores and theaters. She also began experimenting in constructing small figures for table favors patterning them after people she saw.These small sculptures had a wire armature covered with cotton and wrapped in crepe paper.  They were very detailed and intricate dolls right down to pin-head sized fingernails, eyes, and lips all cut from crepe paper and glued on.

Leah continued developing this technique, and by 1925, she was working with photographers to use her figures in settings for cartoons and illustrations. The figures were often of actors and displayed in theaters in Denver.  Many actors of the time, including Fanny Brice, gave her commissions to make them.

Leah Williams Nolan picture from Louise Wire’s scrapbook.

According to the 1930 census, Leah had married William J. Nolan, a dry goods salesman in 1924.  I could not discover anything else about their marriage except the 1940 census listed Leah as divorced and living in a boarding house in Chicago.  She had moved to Chicago in 1933. She did keep the Nolan name for her professional career.

One interesting question that the 1930 census asked was if the household had a radio set.  The Nolans indicated they did not. 

In Chicago, Leah made figures for cartoon illustrations photographed for Esquire Magazine, Look Magazine, Saturday Evening Post and Coronet Magazine.  Then she gave up this commercial work to study painting at the School of Design with Hungarian artist Lazio Moholy-Nagy.

Leah Nolan’s crepe paper figures photographed for an illustration in Esquire magazine,
December 1, 1935 with the caption, “I’ll master this ukulele if it takes all night”.
“A Little Trifle I picked up in Egypt, Dear.” Esquire, January 1, 1936

In 1941, in support of the military’s need for draftsmen during WWII, Leah took a 3-month concentrated course in engineering drafting at Illinois Institute of Technology.  Afterwards she taught there for two years before becoming a civilian engineer at the Palm Spring Army Air Force Base.

After the war Leah went to Stratford, Connecticut and then on to New York City in 1950 where she alternated her career in painting and exhibiting with commercial drafting.  In 1967 she retired from drafting and devoted full-time to painting and exhibiting in galleries and museums in Michigan, New York, Connecticut, and other places.  She experimented with new ideas and techniques in her painting, figure construction, and even video.

Leah Williams Nolan returned to Kansas where she died in Wichita on January 6, 1982 at the age of 80.  She is buried in Hillside Cemetery.  Her papers are archived in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library at KU and the Kinsley Library owns one of her paintings. 

Leah Nolan had an artist’s eye for observation.  During our fairy tale summer reading program, we asked the kids to look closely at face cards to see the differences in the jacks, queens, and kings of different suits. You probably know about one-eyed jacks, but there are many other differences.  Leah Nolan and Ross Parmeter noted them in his book, The Awakened Eye.  I have been playing cards all of my life, but if you’re like me, you’ll find that you never really looked at those face cards.  Click here to discover what you have never noticed.

Leah Williams Nolan picture from Louise Wire’s scrapbook.

Leah Nolan’s crepe paper figures photographed for an illustration in Esquire magazine, December 1, 1935 with the caption, “I’ll master this ukulele if it takes all night”.

#22 From Sand Hill Plums to the Big Apple — Part 1

“Flight of Pigeons” by Leah Williams Nolan in Kinsley Library collection

When you come up to the circulation desk of the library, you will notice a large abstract painting above the door to the children’s room.  It was a gift to the library from the artist, Leah Williams Nolan, during the 1973 Edwards County Centennial celebration. 

Leah Nolan shipped the painting from New York City to library director Beverly Craft.  She wrote this description of it. “The painting is the third of a series of five I titled ‘Aggregate No. I’, etc.  If I gave it a sub-title it would be ‘Flight of Pigeons’ because it has the rhythm and some other characteristics of the daily exercise flight of the racing pigeons which must be one of the last remaining flocks in the city.  They fly just a block away from my kitchen window, and I used to see three or four other flocks in the area when I moved here 22 years ago.”

Leah Williams was born in Kinsley on February 3, 1901 to James E. and Isabel Alexander Williams.  Her maternal grandparents, John and Harriet Alexander, had homesteaded northwest of Kinsley on the Dry Route of the Santa Fe Trail.  Her mother, Isabelle, was just 4 years old when they arrived in 1878. Her childhood was filled with the excitement of wagon trains, Indians, and the wild and beautiful prairie. Isabel would become a teacher.

Leah’s father James had come to Kinsley from a family farm in Illinois in 1894 to join his brother Samuel F. who grew watermelons and had political ambitions.  The brothers were related to the Pierce and Malin families in Lewis.  Jim set up a blacksmith shop. 

Isabelle (age 22) and James E. (age 31) were married on May 18, 1896.  They would have three children:  Alfred A. (born 1897), Juanita (born 1898) and Leah.   In September 1906, the Williams moved to one of the last available claims in the sand hills 12 miles southwest of Kinsley and close to the Arkansas River. 

Five-year old Leah remembered, “Coming for the first time to the claim with my family, arriving in the dark at the end of the day.  The howling of coyotes in the distance growing louder as we approached the cabin.”

The family first lived in that one-room cabin until her father built a two-story house.  The cabin then became a temporary classroom that Isabelle taught in and a workshop for James.

A proper school house, Sandhill School, District 50, was built in 1908 at the corner of present day V Road and 60th Avenue.  Isabelle became superintendent and John Wire’s Aunt Pearl, was hired as the first teacher.  By 1912 there were 40 pupils attending.

Sandhill School #50 with Pearl Wire as teacher (Louise Wire album)

I was drawn to Leah Williams Nolan not only because of the painting in the library, but also because I enjoy picturing the early days of living in the sand hills as my home is on the northern edge.  Leah’s niece, Marybelle Bowman, shared Leah’s memories of her childhood in an article in the Spring 1976 issue of the Kansas Quarterly.  Her first memory is:

“Walking on sand, climbing hills and slipping in sand, finding the bald hills south of our place, playing with whole hills of sand, blown out so deeply by the wind that in places, when we dug our fingers a few inches into it, we found water.”

Leah lists memories about stars framed by the hills and “being awakened at three o’clock in the morning – led by the hand to the top of the west hill to look at Halley’s Comet, which filled the sky.” 

She remembers going on long rides to pick sand hill plums and “racing horseback, and day-long rides with friends, stopping at windmills for tin cups of cold water.”

The children of James and Isabel Williams:  Alfred, Leah and Juanita. Photo taken on their sand hill claim about 1908  (Edwards County Centennial book, p. 246)

 She describes listening to her mother and father singing, watching her father making violins and carving gun stocks with intricate designs, and visiting the forge in Kinsley to see him heating iron and shaping it.    

In April, 1910 tragedy struck the family with the sudden death of Isabel from pneumonia at age 36. Her sister, Maud Alexander, was a nurse and was called from Colorado to be with her, but she would not recover.  Leah ends her memories in the Kansas Quarterly article with:

“In the spring of 1910 a trip to our grandparents’ farm was to take our mother, who was ill and needed special care…. A few days later our aunt came into the room where my sister and I were sleeping and told us our mother had died during the night…. Grief, and premonition that this was the end of thinking as a child, from now on I would have to be responsible for myself, so far as possible….  Our father’s silent grief….  The closeness and sympathy of family and friends….  The sadness of our return to the hills…. The months of trying to continue living there….  The final leaving and the beginning of a different life.”

The Williams family moved into Kinsley.  Leah proved to be smart, creative, and popular.  She graduated as valedictorian from Kinsley High School in 1918.  Next week, I’ll tell you about this sand hill girl’s journey to becoming a successful New York artist.

Leah Williams, valedictorian of the Kinsley High School class of 1918. (Edwards County Museum)

You can access the Kansas Quarterly article with all of Leah’s sand hill memories with this link.

#21 New Arrivals

I’ve conducted many oral histories for the library archive over the years.  They are all available in print at the library and on our website if you are interested in reading them.  A quick survey of the transcripts reveals that most of the people I have interviewed were born at home, not in a hospital.  When I interviewed Bill Olsen in his home, he said, “I was born right here in this house in this bedroom….”

It’s hard for me to imagine living my whole life in the house where I was born. I have lived in 10 different places, but it was common for farm families.  When labor began, a relative, friend or the doctor was called to the home.  Hospital births did not become the norm until the 1940s. 

Doctors kept a record from 1911 to 1943 of the births in Edwards County in a ledger which is still located at City Hall. Several years ago, we transcribed it, and it is available online in the Genealogy and Local History section or our website under Birth Records.  There you will see the names of the babies, their parents and the date.  It also records the doctors’ names:  Dargatz, Meckfessel, Pearson, DeTar, Stolenberg, Mosher and several others.

When conducting Fern Myers McBride’s interview, she informed me that she was born in 1915 in my farmhouse located southeast of Kinsley, but she did not tell me why.  It was not the home of her parents, Otto and Pearl Myers.  I decided to investigate and began by looking at my land abstract which records James and Mae Shera Zimmit as the owners at that time. (Ten years later it would be purchased by the Schaller family who lived there until 1989 when Jerry and I bought it.)

Digging in library resources, I discovered that Fern’s mother was Pearl Shera Myers.  Mae and Pearl were sister and probably Pearl had gone there for the birth.   Baby Fern’s birth is not recorded in the above mentioned records, so perhaps there was no doctor in attendance.  I did see that Fern’s cousin, Lelia Opal, was born to the Zimmits four years earlier with Dr. Mosher attending.   It is fun to know this history about my 113-year-old farmhouse.

The whole reason I got started on this topic of babies was because I had asked Ed Carlson, who knows nearly everything about Kinsley’s history, for suggestions for articles.  Ed retired this year and has been purging his files – no small task.  His father Leonard served as chief of police or sheriff for many years.  Ed sent me a file about a birth story that his father was involved with.

It was July 7, 1962.  Gladys and Jack Nelson of Vallejo, California were onboard the train traveling to Chicago for an Elks convention.  Near Syracuse, Kansas, the train hit a weed sprayer injuring the fireman and engineer and damaging the train.  After sitting for 3 ½ hours in over 100 degree temperatures, the unairconditioned train finally got underway again. 

Somewhere between Dodge City and Kinsley, Mrs. Nelson realized that the baby she was carrying was ready to be born prematurely.  The train made an unscheduled midnight stop by the Kansas Power and Light plant, and the good people of Kinsley sprang into action.  Police Chief Carlson responded to the train’s distress whistle and cleared the way for the stretcher to move Mrs. Nelson by flashlight to the ambulance and on to the Edwards County (Lutheran) Hospital (the Fifth Street Apartments).

Dr. Dale Atwood was summoned and he called in Dr. McKim to assist if needed in the premature delivery.  He also had a compatible blood donor and technician standing by.  All went well, and a healthy baby boy was born breech at 2:30 a.m.

Now Mr. Nelson had been through this before.  He went, as was California custom, to the desk to make a deposit on the bill.  He was told that it would not be necessary at that time (and it was never brought up afterwards).  

Meanwhile, Chief Carlson left to arrange for Mr. Nelson’s hotel room, took the luggage there, and then went home and made two big roast beef sandwiches which he delivered to the father in the waiting room.  

Mrs. Nelson would later reveal that the chosen name for the baby had been Richard Kenneth, but due to the place and people where he was born, they changed their minds, and he was named Richard Kinsley Nelson.

The Kinsley Mercury reported that “no fellow bearing the name of Kinsley could go to California in the without (i.e., naked), and several ladies of Kinsley decided to dress Kinsley for his trip home.”  A tea was held in the emergency room at the hospital and Mrs. Nelson was presented with a layette and clothing for her son.

Many other kindnesses and comforts were provided to the Nelsons during the several days they were in Kinsley before flying back to California.  They never forgot the hospitality to strangers that they were shown.   When Richard Kinsley was ten years old, they returned to his birthplace and visit again the people who had been so kind.  

We can be proud of the treatment Kinsley provided these strangers in the past, and I’m certain that kind of generosity is still alive and well here today.