Milbrue Mae (Paget) Heitschmidt – 1996 Inductee

Milbrue Mae (Paget) Heitschmidt was born to Albert and Pearl (Clow) Paget on November 27, 1905, in Valley Township, Osborne County, Kansas, and grew up in Covert, Kansas, where she graduated from the Covert Rural High School in 1924.  Milbrue went on to Fort Hays State College in Hays, Kansas, where she received a teaching certificate, and then taught school for many years.  She later became a graduate of Fort Hays State College.

Milbrue married Ernest Heitschmidt in her parents’ home in Covert at high noon on July 28, 1929.  That occasion also marked the beginning of another hobby/career.  She made and decorated her own wedding cake and probably never dreamed of becoming so well known in quite a wide area as the one to seek out if you needed a special cake for a special occasion!  She quit decorating cakes professionally in 1986 after fifty-seven years, but that didn’t stop her from making them for many get-togethers.  For her ninetieth birthday, she insisted on making and decorating the cakes for her own party.

Following their marriage, the Heitschmidts farmed for several years in the Waldo and Codell, Kansas, areas before moving to Natoma, Kansas, in 1952.  After moving to Natoma, they operated the Natoma Implement Company besides continuing to farm.

Milbrue was always very interested in working with youth.  Being an excellent cook and seamstress, she was a 4-H leader for a total of fifteen years.  She also worked with Future Homemakers of America (FHA) chapters.  She was also very proud of her involvement with the Rainbow Girls and was always there for them.

Milbrue was also always very interested in education.  After retiring from regular teaching, she continued to substitute until she was sixty-eight years old.

A highlight of Milbrue and Ernest’s lives was their 50th anniversary celebration in 1979.  It was held at the elegant Das Koelling Haus Restaurant in Natoma and was attended by over 300 relatives and friends.

Ernest passed away on January 29, 1980.  Milbrue kept the business going at her home for another six years, then sold the business and her home, moving to Manhattan, Kansas, to be near her daughter Dorine.  Never content to be idle, she quickly became active in the Welcome Wagon Club, Senior Citizens Club, Quilters Club, Christian Women’s’ Club, and the Order of the Eastern Star in Manhattan.

At the age of eighty her brother-in-law coaxed Milbrue to go to Topeka and compete in the Kansas Senior Olympics.  She entered the javelin, shotput, and discus, and won two gold medals and the trophy for being the oldest female participant.  Then she went on to national games in St. Louis; Syracuse, New York; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana – winning still more medals.  After the Syracuse games she was invited to carry the torch to open the Missouri Senior Olympics in Kansas City.

Milbrue attended the Kansas state competition every year and four national events from 1987 through 1998, bringing home gold, silver, and bronze medals.  In 1995 she competed in the U.S. National Senior Sports Classic V held in San Antonio, Texas.  Held every two years, the competition drew 8,500 participants.  Milbrue was the oldest in the 85-90 age group and earned the gold medal in the javelin and bronze medals in both the discus and shotput events.

Milbrue passed away on in Manhattan on October 28, 2001, and was laid to rest in the Natoma Cemetery at Natoma, Kansas.  Her spirit and example of seizing the opportunities that life offers continues to define the best in the past and future of Osborne County history.


Robert Roy Hays – 1996 Inductee

Modest and unassuming, Robert Roy Hays rarely pushed himself forward. But in spite of his quiet demeanor the citizens of Osborne County looked to him for council and leadership during the first sixty years of the county’s history. A friend and confidant to governors, senators, and vice-presidents, Hays makes a worthy addition to the Osborne County Hall of Fame.

Hays was born August 29, 1845, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The son of Scotch-Irish immigrants John and Eliza (Kernahan) Hays and brother of John J. Hays, Jr., Robert headed west with his family to Muscatine, Iowa, in 1852. The next year it was on to Omaha, Nebraska, and then to a farm eight miles south of Nebraska City, where the young Robert spent the rest of his boyhood. During the Civil War Hays served as a private in Company F of the Nebraska Cavalry.  When the war ended he became a jeweler in Brownsville, Nebraska. In the spring of 1872 he came to Osborne and entered the hardware business. From 1874 to 1877 Hays served as Osborne County Treasurer. In 1879 he made a tour of California and then returned to Osborne, where he was appointed postmaster in 1880, serving two years.

In 1882 Hays was named by President Chester Arthur as the new Receiver of the U.S. Land Office in Kirwin, Kansas, the same position that his brother John J. Hays Jr. was in charge of only a few years before.  The busiest such office in the state, Hays collected more than a million dollars in homestead claim fees in his four years and five months as Receiver.  At the end of that time a federal audit in Washington, D.C., went over his account books and found that they were correct to the cent, as had been his brothers’ earlier.  The Hays brothers were famous for their integrity.

Hays was a Republican when it came to political affairs. He was an active participant in every district, county, and state convention held in Kansas during his lifetime, working closely with such contemporaries as John J. Ingalls, Preston Plumb, Charles Curtis, and Alfred Landon. In 1888 he was elected to his only state office, serving two terms as state senator. Hays was the first person ever elected to that office from Osborne County.

Hays became a charter member in the Osborne Congregational Church in 1872. He was a lay delegate to the International Council of Congregational churches meeting at Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1908. Hays was also a longtime member of the Masonic Lodge and the G.A.R., and aided E. O. Henshall in securing the Osborne Carnegie Library building for the community.

Concerns over his perennial bachelorhood were dispelled when on November 8, 1916, he entered into marriage with Minnie (McHenry) Rhodes at the Congregational Church in Osborne. Their years together were spent traveling across the United States and Europe between work with civic and county organizations back home. In 1933 they were both given life membership in the Kansas Illustriana Society.

Robert Hays died June 18, 1934, at the age of eighty-nine years at his home in Osborne. Tributes lamenting his passing poured in from across the state as he was laid to rest in the Osborne Cemetery.

John James Hays, Jr. – 2008 inductee

John James Hays, Jr. was born August 26, 1842, in Newburgh, New York. The son of Scotch-Irish immigrants John and Eliza (Kernahan) Hays and brother of Robert R. Hays, John headed west with his family to Muscatine, Iowa, in 1852.  The next year it was on to Omaha, Nebraska, and then to a farm eight miles south of Nebraska City, where John spent the rest of his boyhood.

During the Civil War John served as a private in Company F of the 2nd Nebraska Cavalry.  In 1871 he moved to Osborne County, Kansas, and that fall he was elected as one of the first three Osborne County Commissioners.  In March 1872 John and his brother Robert were dealers in agricultural implements.   Later John was appointed receiver at the U.S. Land Office in Kirwin, Kansas, a position of national importance in which he handled over a million a dollars a year in business during the 1870s. When he resigned the position an audit found his bookkeeping to be accurate to the exact cent.

For his entire life John one of the most influential men in civic and business affairs across the county and region.  He was Worshipful Master of the local Masonic Lodge numerous times and was a member of several fraternal organizations in the area.  In 1878 he helped the Osborne Congregational Church raise the money to erect the first church structure in the city.  By the late 1880s John was a cashier with the State Bank of Osborne.  He continued to be a “mover and shaker” until his death on June 21, 1932 in Osborne.  He was buried in the family lot at the Osborne Cemetery.

Martha Bates Hatfield – 1996 Inductee

Martha Bates Hatfield was born February 22, 1888, in Osborne, Kansas.  She was one of the four children of Jerome and Mable (Smith) Hatfield.  Martha attended the Osborne schools and was known for her exceptional singing.  Upon graduation she toured on the Chautauqua circuit and with concert companies.  In 1909 she began dividing her time between teaching music in the Osborne schools and touring.  Her fame as a singer continued to grow and in 1911 she was accepted into the Kansas City Conservatory.  Martha studied at Kansas City for a year in operatic training under Ottley and Louie Collier Cranston.  On April 16, 1912, she made her debut in Kansas City singing the lead role of, appropriately enough, the comic opera “Martha.”  Her debut was a great success. “NEW SOPRANO MAKES A HIT;” “MISS HATFIELD SCORES;” ran the newspaper headlines.

“The inspiration that is inseparable from the debut of a talented singer was felt on both sides of the footlights,” wrote the Kansas City Star, “and Miss Martha Bates Hatfield, until last night wholly unknown to the public in Kansas City, won well-deserved applause.”

Now a full-fledged member of the Kansas City Grand Opera Company, Martha joined the company on tour and repeated her triumph in Chicago and Washington, D.C.  After a year with the company Martha then joined the faculty at the State Normal College in Emporia, Kansas.  From 1913 on she continued performing on the summer Chautauqua circuit, interrupting her schedule for special events such as performing at the dedication of the Osborne Carnegie Library in July 1913.  Martha always made herself available to her hometown, whether singing at weddings or at teaching music at the local schools.  In return for her generosity the ladies of the town organized a concert for Martha at the Militorium in Osborne.

Martha Hatfield as a child.

“The Militorium was crowded last night at a complimentary concert given for Miss Martha Hatfield.  The concert was hurriedly gotten up by the ladies of the town as an expression of appreciation for the untiring and generous assistance Miss Hatfield has always accorded musical circles in Osborne.  Very little time could be spent in preparation for the event, as Miss Hatfield leaves for Kansas City Sunday night to pursue further musical studies.  She has always been very generous with her talents and it is not recorded anywhere that she ever refused to assist at any public or private entertainment.  The crowded house was a testimonial of the esteem in which she is held in Osborne.  The program was charmingly given.  Of course, the events of the evening were the musical numbers by the lady of honor.  ‘The Garland of Old Fashioned Roses,’ by Miss Hatfield and chorus, from the ‘County Fair,’ given here a year ago, was very beautifully rendered.  The musical numbers consisted of a selection by the Citizens’ Orchestra, piano solos by Misses Rochford and Ballou, solos by Mrs. W. A. Layton and Mr. Arthur Bell; a violin solo by Miss Mary Lough, an impersonation by Miss Marie Kelley, a duet by Miss Hatfield and Miss Powers, and a quartette composed of Mesdames W A. and W. H. Layton and Misses Hatfield and Powers.  Aside from the other pieces in which Miss Hatfield assisted, she sang four solos in her artistic manner.  There was a short sketch, “Dinner for One,” given by Mrs. W. H. Layton, Miss Irene Henshall and Messrs. Roy Hays and Allen Clark.  Miss Henshall cleverly sang a couple of specialties accompanied by Mr. Clark on the piano.” — Osborne County Farmer, July 2, 1914.

Martha continued in lead roles of grand opera until 1918, when she gave up her operatic career to become a nurse during World War I.  She was stationed in Kansas City to help with the influenza epidemic, awaiting the call to sail overseas with a Red Cross contingent, when she was herself stricken.  She recovered but by then the war was over.  In September 1920 Martha was again engaged at the State Normal School in Emporia as an instructor of voice, a position she held until 1926 when she was diagnosed with cancer.  Martha returned to Osborne to rest at her parents’ home, where she died on October 12, 1926, at the age of thirty-eight.  She was buried in the Osborne Cemetery.

Frank Newell Hatch – 2001 Inductee

The son of Dennis and Olive Hatch, Frank Newell Hatch was born in Sanford, Maine, on June 25, 1845.  At age 16 he volunteered for the Civil War as a private in Company A of the 5th Maine Infantry.  After two years of action pneumonia forced him to take a medical discharge and return to working at his father’s blacksmith shop in Maine.

In 1867 a desire to see the West caused him to move to Waterloo, Iowa.  There he married Miss Emmagene Rice on July 26, 1868.  The couple went on to raise five children.

In 1872 the family began a journey to California.  They stopped for a year in Blue Rapids, Kansas, and the following year intended to do the same in Osborne.  But when the townsfolk found out that Frank was a blacksmith they begged him to stay a while longer.

So over the next 18 years Hatch went into business with a drive and vigor that was impressive even then in the rapidly-growing frontier town.  He cut and dressed the limestone and erected four of the most imposing structures in Osborne up to that time – an eight-sided stone flour mill, then located where the Sunflower Hotel now stands in 2012; a two-story stone building to house his blacksmith shop; another two-story stone building for the hardware store he operated with his partner, Emanuel Smith, and a three-story stone building next to those, which served as the location for two other businesses and as the Hatch family home.

By 1883 Hatch had rebuilt the two 2-story buildings, combining them into one structure, and made the second floor into the Osborne Opera House.  In between the traveling companies that entertained at the Opera House the second floor was used as a roller skating rink.

Hatch’s first invention of note was an improvement on the popular Grasshopper plow.  Used specifically for the plowing of virgin sod for houses, his plow would cut the ground 3 inches deep by a foot wide.  Frank sold a large number of these during the 1870s and 1880s.

His second invention of note made him even more popular and gave him an indelible footmark inKansashistory.  In the summer of 1887 he glanced around his blacksmith shop and taking a small vapor engine, a flatbed wagon, some parts of a still, and other items, created the first self-propelled vehicle ever built in Kansas.

“In 1887 there lived in Osborne a man by the name of Frank Hatch, a genius of the first water, and among his inventions was the automobile, as every Osborneite can inform you . . . He ran it through the streets of Osborne and also made several excursions into the country.  I don’t see any use of letting some Frenchman with a name like a Chinese puzzle have the honor of inventing this machine when it belongs to the short grass country out in Western Kansas.” – Charlie Scott, writing to the newspaper the Concordia Kansan in April 1900.

“The steam wagon so successfully manufactured and run by Frank Hatch still draws it’s fair share of attention when he chooses to sail around the streets without a team.  The steering gear is peculiarly simple and effective, Frank being able to run the engine and guide the chariot without overexerting himself in the least.” – Osborne County Farmer,June 2, 1887.

The first self-driving vehicle ever built in Kansas, by Frank Hatch, seen standing on the vehicle second from left. It “terrorized” the streets of Osborne in the summer of 1887.

In 1891 Frank made his third invention when, on a dare, he and two assistants cast their own cannon.  It was used at celebrations in Osborne until 1901 and then was given to the courthouse museum.  In 1910 the cannon disappeared from the courthouse and was rumored to be residing in a barn in Russell County.

In 1901 Frank at last moved his family to the West Coast, settling in Washington State.  There he ran a lumber mill and two shingle mills.  Frank died on March 14, 1906 at Fir, Washington, and was buried in the Anderson Cemetery at East Stanwood, Snohomish County, Washington.

A blacksmith, a stonemason, a miller, a lumberman, and an inventor, Frank Newell Hatch is a striking example of the self-reliant frontier settler of 19th Century America.

Wayne E. Hartzler – 2006 Inductee

Longtime Alton, Kansas businessman Wayne E. Hartzler was born October 6, 1916, to Peter and Alma  (Funk) Hartzler.  Wayne operated a dairy when he decided to try something new.  With his two brothers the Hartzler Bros. hardware store was opened in Alton in the spring of 1946.  Later the name was changed to Hartzler’s Store.  In 1975 son Eldon joined the family business, which in 2012 celebrates 66 years of serving the Alton area.


The following was written by Wayne Hartzler, with help from his lifelong partner and wife, Asa.

“After operating a dairy in Osborne for several years, I decided I didn’t want to milk cows the rest of my life. In the fall of 1945 I sold the dairy and spent the winter looking for a farm to move on.  My brothers, Harold and Wilbur, operated a hardware in Woodston, and a number of people from theAltoncommunity wanted them to open a store in Alton. They asked me if I wanted to join them to open a store in Alton, which I did.

In the early part of 1946 we purchased the building where the store is at now [the 1874 native stone Smith Building, then located in the southwest corner of the intersection of Mill & Nicholas; the building burned down in the late 2000’s]. Mrs. Elsie Johnston had a cafe in the north part of the building. We told her she could use it as long as she operated the cafe.

It took several months to get the south part ready.  The rock wall on the back had crumbled and the roof was on the ground.

Opening day was in the spring of 1946. It was shortly after the war and a number of things were scarce. Our suppliers furnished us with small appliances, teakettles, and hard to find things.

On opening day we let people sign up for articles they wanted. Then we had a drawing to see who would get to buy them. For the next year or so people signed up for washers, dryers and refrigerators. We would sell from the top of the list.

A and B Battery Packs were big business as there was very little electricity in the country. When REA started coming to the rural areas, people started trading their gasoline irons for electric. Some of the first things people wanted were electric pumps and running water for the house. Next were bathrooms.

We put up a large light fixture display from the ceiling.  One switch would turn on the display at one time.  One lady came in to pick out a fixture for her house, so I turned the display on. She just looked at it for awhile and finally said, “It’s nice, but I don’t know where I’d put it.”

Wayne Hartzler in his store in 1967.

Alvin Welker clerked in the store when we first opened. When we started doing more service work, Vein Eaton was hired. In 1950 Forrest Stanfield started working. He worked until he retired, over 30 years. Lucille Stanfield worked a number of years also.

From the beginning we sold Skelgas butane and propane. For advertising Hartzler’s and Skelgas furnished the Little League Baseball team with advertising uniforms.

Raymond Sprick drove our transport truck many years.  He passed awayMarch 17, 1975, while on the job.

The Boland’s, Carl, Jerry and Elmer, all worked as delivery men. Elmer started working in 1952 and is still with us.

Eldon came home from college in 1975 to take Raymond’s place.  Wayne sold out to Eldon January 1, 1982.

It was a short time after Wilbur’s death that the name was changed from Hartzler Brothers to Hartzler’s Store.”


Although Wayne“retired” when he sold the store to his son, he often afterwards could still be found working there, an Alton inspiration for all.

Wayne E. Hartzler died on Sunday, March 25, 2012, and was laid to rest in the Sumner Cemetery at Alton next to his wife Alsa, who passed away in 2006.

Dan Bogue Harrison – 1997 Inductee

Dan Bogue Harrison, son of William Oric and Augusta Jane (Garfield) Harrison, was born January 29, 1865, on the family farm in Chittendon County, Vermont.  One of a family of six boys and three girls, his boyhood days were spent among the hills and valleys of the beautiful Green Mountains.  At the age of sixteen years he moved with his family to Holley, New York.

After school Dan headed west and in December 1885 located at Concordia, Kansas, where he was employed as assistant cashier at the Cloud County Bank. He then spent a short time at the State Bank of Ellis, Kansas, and in a bank at Jamestown, Kansas, before arriving in Downs, Kansas, with his brother, Dwight, in 1872 to help their father establish the State Bank of Downs.

On October 7, 1894, Dan married Artie T. Dillon in Downs.  To this union three children were born, Catherine, William, and Dan, Jr.   The family settled into a comfortable and prosperous existence as Dan busied himself with several business ventures.  He served as a director of the Downs Artificial Ice and Storage Company, the Downs Electric Light and Power Company, the Rice and Johntz Lumber Company, and the Glen Elder State Bank.  He was also a charter member and director of the Kansas Banker’s Surety Company.

Dan was a member of numerous fraternal organization, including the Order of the Eastern Star, Isis Shrine Temple, Elks Lodge, Modern Woodmen of America, the Royal Arch Masons, the Knights Templers, and the Downs Masonic Lodge of which he was a Past Master.  He was involved in civic improvements and government, serving on the Downs city council and school board, as city treasurer, and two terms as mayor.  His name appears on the cornerstone of the Downs Carnegie Library and the Congregational Church, of which he was a member for fifty-three years.  In 1919 he was honored with inclusion in the book series Kansas and Kansans.

In 1904 Dan was elected to the Kansas State Senate for the first of two terms.  While he was in the Senate he was a strong voice in financial affairs and served on the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.  A great lover of outdoor life, for many years he made annual trips to Colorado to fish and hunt.  He also made several trips to Minnesota, but in his later years he spent all his leisure hours working among his flowers and in the garden.  After a long and fruitful life, Dan Harrison passed away December 20, 1945, in Downs.  A large crowd of mourners attended his burial in the Downs Cemetery.