Emmett was born September 14, 1889, on a farm in the Twelve Mile community in southern Smith County. One of three children born to James and Mary (Sutton) Kissell, Emmett’s education began in the Stone School in Lincoln Township. He later attended grade and high school in Portis, graduating as the county valedictorian. He then studied at Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina, Kansas, where he lettered in five sports.
On June 14, 1911, Emmett married Ina Spencer at Soldier, Kansas. The couple had two children, Helen and Max. In 1913 Kissell joined the Portis Independent as a co-editor with C. N. Akens. He bought the newspaper in October 1913, and served as editor and publisher until the paper’s last issue on July 22, 1943. He was a highly successful and respected newspaperman who in 1932 earned national recognition when the Independent was cited as one of the seven best small weeklies in the United States.
Kissell was an active community and business leader in Portis. He was a member of several organizations: the Portis Board of Education; Order of the Eastern Star; Modern Woodmen of America; Portis Methodist Church; Masonic Lodge; Portis Community Band (he played trumpet); and sang baritone for a barbershop quartet. He served as city clerk for nearly forty years and was secretary of the Kansas U.S. 281 Highway and Kansas State Reclamation Associations. He also served on the National Reclamation Resolutions Committee and was a captain of the Kansas State Guards during World War I. From 1918 through the 1930s he was manager of the renowned town basketball team the Portis Dynamos.
Kissell was president and director of the Portis State Bank for twelve years until his death. He was listed in the 1933 edition of Who’s Who in the Midwest, and that same year Emmett was given life membership in the Kansas Illustriana Society. He passed away May 23, 1959, in Portis and was buried in the Twelve Mile Cemetery in southern Smith County.
REMEMBRANCES OF JOHN EMMETT KISSELL
“I remember J. E., or ‘Emmett’ as he was called by family, as a ‘go and get it done’ type of person. Once he took on a cause there was no slowing down or stopping him.
My uncle, John Emmett Kissell, visited our home in Topeka [Kansas] quite often as my mother was his only sister. In the 1930s on his way to Lawrence to visit his daughter, Helen, at Kansas University, he would call ahead and Mom would have a meal on the table when he arrived. It was not unusual for him to return to our home for the next meal of the day and then go back to Lawrence. Apparently he loved Mom’s cooking. Many times I would ride with him to Lawrence in his Model A Ford with everything wide open. It was usually a wild ride.
J. E. Kissell was a teetotaler and disliked tobacco, but otherwise was an intemperate man in most things. With a passion he loved good food, politics (Republican), quartet singing, the Portis Dynamos basketball team, KU basketball, the Portis Methodist Episcopal Church, family, and any cause that he could be involved to better his community he pursued with great fervor. In the 1940s and 1950s he was active in promoting U.S. Highway 281 improvements and also the Kirwin Dam to furnish water for irrigation.
J. E. Kissell was the owner and editor of the Portis Independent newspaper for a number of years. After it was no longer published he wrote weekly descriptive letters about where he went for meetings, what happened, who was there and what they had to eat. Copies of these “travelogue letters” were sent to all members of the family. The letters also included news about relatives, friends and church. Even though my parents, Roy and Goldie Bell, left Portis in 1918 to live in Topeka, the letters were a great way to get news after Emmett stopped publishing the Portis Independent and we could still know what was going on in the community until the late 1950s.
J. E. served on many boards and committees. He was opinionated and stubborn, but you knew where you stood with him as he could be very outspoken. J. E. had a chance to work other places as a newspaperman. Whether it was a fear of the unknown or whether he just wanted to stay in Kansas, he chose to stay in Osborne County to write and work for the good of the community. It is a shame we do not have more J. E. Kissells to stand up for a cause and go to no end to get a change made – ’go and get it done’ type of people.
Our family is proud of his induction to the Osborne County Kansas Hall of Fame.” — Rex K. Bell, January 1996.
Karl Henry Kertz was born on September 1, 1921, the only child born to Louis and Emilie Kertz. Ten years later he moved with his parents to Oakley, Kansas, where he attended school until he transferred to Natoma High School in Natoma, Osborne County, Kansas, in 1937, shortly after the death of his parents, making his home with his aunt, Mrs. Wilhelm Kertz. In 1939 he graduated from Natoma High School and entered Fort Hays State University. On July 15, 1942, he enlisted as an apprentice seaman in the U.S. Naval Reserve, serving in the South Atlantic and in various Pacific campaigns. He remained on inactive duty until February 10, 1955, when he resigned his commission as Lieutenant (JG) from the Supply Corps of the U.S.N.R.
On June 1, 1947, he married Louise C. Moore of Hays at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Hays. They had three children, David, Deborah, and Dorothea. Shortly after returning home from the service Karl was approached by John Dukewits, who operated the Ford dealership in Natoma with his brother Paul. Karl and another returning veteran, Ernest John, were offered jobs in the company. In August of 1946 the four men formed a partnership known as Dukewits Motor Co. It consisted of the Ford Agency, sales and service, Phillips 66 Service Station and Gleaner Combine sales and service.
In July, 1959, a totally unexpected position of postmaster for the Natoma Post Office was offered to Karl. He served in this position until his retirement on November 1, 1985. Karl served two terms on the Natoma School Board (1951-57) and when school laws demanded a separate school district treasurer, he very capably held that position for twenty years.
Karl was a faithful and active member of the Natoma Lions Club since October 1961, serving as president in 1966 and 1967, and as secretary-treasurer from 1978 until 1996. He also held various other offices (First Vice-President, Second Vice-President, Director, and Tail-Twister). When he joined the Lions Club, his sponsor was Phillip Thomas; Karl subsequently sponsored 19 members. He was 100% secretary six times (this means all his reports, etc. were in) and he had thirty-four 100% attendance pins; and at the time of his death he was just short of eligibility for his 35-year Monarch pin. This surely tells us he hardly ever missed a meeting!
In October of 1984 a group of interested citizens met to see if it would be feasible to remodel the vacant Welling Theater and use it for a community center. Karl and Louise were at the first meeting and each one thereafter. Karl willingly took on the “sometimes frustrating” task of scheduling all events and reservations for the center, and also served on the board from that first meeting. The Kertz family were members of Peace Lutheran Church in Natoma. Gathering information from the church secretary, it was no surprise to learn that from 1948 until his death, Karl held some kind of office in the church – he spent many years as elder, treasurer and secretary, Sunday School Superintendent, and also on the Board of Missions. He was also active with the Natoma Senior Center.
Karl Kertz died at his home in Natoma on June 30, 1996, of cancer, and was laid to rest in the Peace Lutheran Cemetery at Natoma.
“Potter West Kenyon was born in Athol, Warren County, New York, April 3, 1835. He was the son of Avery and Polly Kenyon. His early life was spent in the wilds of northern New York. He spent some years lumbering and river driving, often working with his clothes wet and frozen on him. When quite young he wanted to come west, and started to come by way of Canada, but while crossing a big lake a terrible storm arose in which he lost his trunk and all his belongings. He then went to work for Alvin Williams, who owned a boat on the Erie Canal. It was there he met his first wife, Miss Martha E. Woodcock, to whom he was married October 15, 1856, in the city of Buffalo, New York. To this union was born three children: Miss Harriet Wiltse of Manhattan; Mrs. Anna Bancroft and Martin Kenyon, of Corinth Township [Osborne County, Kansas]. About a year after his marriage Potter was living in Greenfield, Saratoga County, New York, and his father, who had not seen or heard from him since he had left home, learned of his whereaboutsand came to see him. He induced Potter to move to his home at Schroon Lake, Erie County, New York, where he and his family lived until the Civil War broke out, when Potter enlisted and served three years fighting for his country with Company E of the New York Volunteer Infantry, attaining the rank of sergeant.
After his return from the war he lived on his farm in Greenfield for a while. He then moved to Palmer Falls, New York, where he was employed in the big pulp and paper mills until the fall of 1870, when with his family he moved to Waterville, Kansas. In 1871 he moved to Osborne County, homesteading his present place in Corinth Township, and moved on to it. At that time all of the western half of Kansas was a trackless waste of prairie, covered with a coating of buffalo grass, and inhabited principally by roving herds of buffalo, and while Indians had been removed from the land by the government, the county was still subject to occasional visits by roving bands and for many years was in danger of raids from tribes on the war path. A number of times after his arrival here the entire population was thrown into a panic by the announcement that the Indians were coming. On one occasion as Mr. Kenyon with some neighbors were engaged in making sorghum, they noticed a number of wagons and horseback riders, coming at good speed from the west. They soon discovered that they were settlers from the regions farther on who were fleeing with such of their belongings as they could hastily gather together before the approach of a marauding band of murdering Sioux, who were reported to be only a few miles behind, and it was said in all earnestness and with great excitement by those refugees that the Indians were killing the settlers and burning their belongings as fast as they came to them. They urged Mr. Kenyon to get his family and a few necessities into a wagon and join in the retreat, but Mr. Kenyon was a man of unflinching courage and he decided at once that he would not budge an inch. He was fairly well armed, and made up his mind that if the Indians appeared he would give them the warmest reception they had met with on that trip, and he went quietly on about his work of making sorghum. The Indians did not appear, and it was afterwards learned that the settlers had been threatened by a false alarm. [In reality the Indians were a small band of Cheyenne, who in October 1878 were passing over a hundred miles to the west and were headed north to their former home in the Dakota Territory after fleeing their reservation to the south in present-day Oklahoma].
A few years ago when Mr. Kenyon’s mind was active and his hand steady enough to write he indited numerous interesting articles for The Downs News, telling many of his experiences in detail. Some of the articles were copied by the Topeka Capital and the Kansas City Star, and gained wide publicity. The articles told in a very interesting way of his dealings with Indians and on the buffalo hunts and freighting expeditions that occupied the time of the early pioneers. He was possessed of rare descriptive powers, and could, had he so desired, have written a book that would have been full of interest to the present generation.
During his long residence in Corinth Township Mr. Kenyon was always active in the politics of his township and the county and state, and was a man of powerful influence. He never seemed to care for office holding himself, but he was aways vitally interested in pushing the claims of men who were clean and capable for office. He was outspoken and uncompromising in his beliefs and preferences, and if a man failed to come up to his standard of right living and capability, Mr. Kenyon did not fear nor fail to tell him so in unmistakable terms. He loved the right with all the force of his being, and hated the wrong with equal intenseness. No man of questionable character and no measure of doubtful purport could enlist his support for an instant. He was straightforward, honest, conscientious and fearless in his daily life, and his influence was always on the side of what he believed to be the right. These characteristics naturally placed him in a position of prominence in political affairs, not only in his own immediate community, but in the entire county.
In religious and social affairs he was always a leader, and no movement for the betterment of his community ever lagged because of his inactivity and lack of support. If it was to accomplish good he gave his influence and his money freely toward it, and his support was never half hearted, but earnest and whole souled. Mr. Kenyon was a great lover of music, and in his younger days was a fine singer. For many years he led the singing at all the religious gatherings of his community. Of late years he had not taken such an active part, leaving that to the younger generation, but the Sunday just prior to his death he attended services at the Corinth schoolhouse, and it was remarked by many of his relatives and friends that he joined in singing all of the hymns with more of his old time spirit than he had done in many years. Several times after returning to his home he mentioned to his wife the services of the afternoon and how he had enjoyed them. He was taken with his final illness that same night, and that Sunday proved to be his last on earth. He died early the following Wednesday morning, September 2, 1914.
Mr. Kenyon’s wife died April 5, 1902, and on October 31st of that year he was united in marriage to Mrs. Sarah J. Earls, of Erie, New York, the latter being a sister of his first wife. Besides his wife and three children, Mr. Kenyon leaves one brother, N. W. Kenyon, of Tonganoxie, Kansas, who is now the sole survivor of the family. He formerly lived in Corinth Township, being a resident there for twenty-three years before moving to Tonganoxie. He arrived last Wednesday too late to see his brother alive, but was privileged to attend the funeral services. With these Mr. Kenyon leaves three stepchildren, J. H. Earls, Mrs. A. W. Murphy and Mrs. F. E. Heath.
Funeral services were held at the home in Corinth Township, Friday morning at 10:00 o’clock; conducted by Reverend Charles M. Good of the Congregational Church, who spoke touchingly of the useful life and powerful influence for good of the deceased. The body was laid to rest in the Corinth Cemetery, which he helped to plot and lay out, and which through his influence and that of other progressive citizens of that community, has been improved and beautified from year to year. The services at the grave were in charge of the Grand Army of the Republic, the beautiful ritualistic service being read by Commander Jackson and Captain Robert Maxwell. The pall bearers were from the ranks of the G.A.R. and were as follows: H. C. Lockridge, Robert Maxwell, A. Jackson, R. A. Henderson, John A. Garey and Harlow Judson. The services were attended by an immense throng of old neighbors and friends, people coming from Osborne, Downs, Cawker City, and from all parts of the surrounding country to pay their last tribute of respect to their departed friend. The remains were laid to rest in the family lot in Corinth Cemetery.” — The Downs (KS) News, September 10, 1914.
Pioneer Stories of Indians and Buffalo
The year before I came to my present home there were many roving bands of the blood thirsty Cheyenne Indians here. A party of eight neighbors of my father, who lived near Waterville in Marshall County, went on a buffalo hunt west of White Rock. My father was to make one of the party, but was taken suddenly very sick with a bilious attack. The party waited over one day for him, out as he got no better they left him. The game was very plentiful and they soon loaded their wagons with meat and started for home. The party camped the first night on White Rock Creek, eight miles above Scandia. Some of the party were in favor of driving on to Scandia that night, but their teams being well fagged out it was decided to camp out at the mouth of the creek until morning. They had observed during the day at different times, horsemen away off on the hills; some of the party thought they were Indians, but as they only saw one at a time and they themselves being armed and fearless, they felt no uneasiness in going into camp so near a considerable town. They were careless and didn’t have a guard to give alarm in case of an attack. Just as daylight began to dawn they were awakened by a bloodcurdling yell of a large band of the red devils on ponies and firing at everyone t hat showed his head. One of the party, a Mr. McChesney, had wakened just before the dash was made and being thirsty had gone to a little spring of water to get a drink, and when the dash was made dropped down in a little bunch of weeds and was not observed by the redskins, but could see from where he lay the murder of his party by the blood thirsty devils, and Mr. McChesney was the only one of the party that escaped. The horses and things that the redskins wanted were taken away and the wagons were burned with their contents. Mr. McChesney states that one of the Indians came to the spring to drink and was so near him that he could have laid his hand on him, and he thought his time had come, but to his surprise be went away without noticing him. Mr. McChesney had no signs of gray about his hair when he left home, and when he returned his hair was as white as the snow. He died two years ago where he was residing at Waldo, Russell County.
Now this was the kind of civilization that existed when we cast our lot in the midst of the great American desert. We had many hair raising scares, but we managed to hold our hair all almost by a miracle. In the summer of 1871 my brother and his wife and daughter lived in a little shack about 40 rods west of us. One evening about 5 o’clock one of those black storms that were so frequent that summer, were so frequent that summer, came up suddenly from the northwest and became so dark that we could hardly distinguish objects ten rods away. My brother had gone about five miles away to get a load of rock, and had not returned yet. In looking out at the storm I saw an object coming toward me. It was his wife half stooping forward with a gun in each hand and the little girl in front of her and coming as fast as she could get the little girl along, and she was crying. She said there were more than 300 Indians just west of her house in the ravine and some of them were on horses and some on foot coming as fast as they could run and that Dr. Dillon had seen them and had hid in the tall grass. I took the guns and told her and my wife to run to the river as fast as they could and hide, and I would stay and fight. I got my guns out by the corner of the house and took my stand with a resolve that some of the red devils were very near death’s door. I only had to wait two or three minutes, when I saw some object coming on a run and I drew a bead on the foremost one with my seven shooter and was only waiting until he was near enough to make a sure death hit, when I discovered the object wore a boiled shirt and that caused me to hesitate a little, when I discovered it was a white man and there were two others with him. When they saw my stack of guns out there they wanted to ‘know what it meant. I asked them where the Indians were. They said that they had not seen any Indians. I asked them what they were running for. They said to find a place of shelter from the storm. I gave a loud whistle as a signal to the folks to come back; so you see how fear will transform three white men that were out land hunting into 300 Indians.
A short time after the above episode, along about noon a nice herd of buffalo came close by our shack, but we were not prepared to take any of them in as they were on a stampede, and got out of reach before we could get our gun. My brother and Simon Heath got their guns and followed after them on foot thinking the herd would slow up or stop to feed when they got over their fright, but I hitched the team to the lumber wagon and took my gun and followed the trail. I soon ran into a pair of old bulls and they charged me before I got near enough to shoot, so I was compelled to beat a hasty retreat as I could not bring one down when his head was toward me; I must get at the side to have any show of bringing one down, and then I didn’t dare stop to shoot when the two of them were chasing me, for if I should be fortunate enough to get one the other would get me, for it was all the team could do to keep clear of them when the brutes would turn and charge us. I finally got them separated and soon after brought one of them down. Simon Heath heard shooting and came to me and we had a time trying to cut the old fellow’s throat, as we had only our pocket knives and we could not cut a hole through the thick skin with them, so we shot a ball into his throat, and in that way could get a pocket knife into the hole and cut a big vein. I had a stone rack on the wagon and as the buffalo lay on a steep hillside with his back downward we ran the wagon up on the other side and took the wheels off and thought we could roll him over into the rack. We got hold of his legs and lifted until we could see stars and could not turn the old fellow off his back so we had to go find help and before we could get back it had got dark, and as there were no roads it was hard to tell where you were at, but we found the game and proceeded with our hunting knives to cut the meat off the bones. The skins were worthless at that time of the year (July) so we did not care to save the hide. We had lanterns. The place where we were did not look to me like the spot where my animal was so I told the others to stay where they were while I looked around to satisfy myself that we were all right. I had not gone far until I found another buffalo – the one that I had killed – but a few rods from where we had dissected one, so we stripped the meat from that one which gave us a pretty good load of meat. The next day I was in Cawker City when some men came in from the west where they had gone to cut the meat from a buffalo that one of them had killed the day before, but the meat was gone.
While we were out on that hunt our families had an exciting time. Shortly after we had gone, a large herd of about 500 buffaloes appeared coming over the hills south directly toward our settlement and were mistaken for Indians, and there was but one man left in the settlement and no guns but a shot gun that this old man owned. He lived in a dugout about a mile away, so the folks took the children and ran for the old man’s dugout as fast as they could go, but as the buffalo came nearer so they could discern what they were they all breathed easier. The worst scare was in September 1876, when the Indians broke from the reservation in the Indian Territory and came through Kansas on their raid north. A messenger was sent over this way to warn the people to be on their guard as they were murdering and destroying everything in their track. I had a half dozen hired hands engaged in making molasses at that time and the first we heard of the raid, a woman living seven miles west of us came down the road on a run, her clothes dripping with perspiration, covered with dust and was crying. When she came into the house she dropped down from exhaustion and for a time unable to speak, but soon told a hair lifting story. She said there were three million Indians just west of Osborne and they were murdering everybody that they could find and burning everything, that all the men in Osborne had gone out with their guns to try and keep them back until the women and children could get away and they were all making for Beloit. She wanted the folks to have us hitch up our teams and get out for there was not one minute to spare.
My wife came out to where I was at work to tell me about it and wanted to know what I thought about it, I told her that I had two or three dozen barrels of molasses and I would stay and fight for it, and if they came around me I would douse them with hot molasses. She told the woman that I didn’t seem to be much scared.
“Well,” she said, “you had better go, and if he is fool enough to stay and get scalped let him go.” She said it was time enough for her to go when her husband got ready. At that the woman struck out on the run again for safety.
In a few minutes we saw up the road a cloud of dust rising in the air and soon heard the rumble of wagons that sounded like bedlam let loose and soon they began to come in sight, all kinds of vehicles filled with frightened humanity covered with dirt and dust, their horses on a run, covered with foam and dirt. Some were nearly ready to drop from exhaustion. The road was full of them all of that day and night. I confess that I did feel a little shaky at times, but kept right on making sorghum. It gives me the creeps now to think about it. I could tell more about buffalo and Indians, but I guess I had better stop. – P. W. Kenyon, Osborne County Farmer, March 22, 1906.
“There were three great types in the West: Buffalo Bill, hunter and scout; Wild Bill Hickock, gunman; and Buffalo Jones, the preserver, who brought living things wherever he went.” – Zane Grey.
Considered one of the most celebrated characters of his time, Charles Jesse “Buffalo” Jones was born January 31, 1844, in Money Township, McLean County, Illinois. He was the third of twelve children born to Noah and Jane (Munden) Jones on the family farm, where Abraham Lincoln was a frequent visitor and family friend. For the first seventeen years of his life Charles helped with the farm work. In 1862 he entered Illinois Wesleyan University, but typhoid fever forced him to give up his studies after two years. He thought to try his luck out West and so in 1866 he found himself in Troy, Kansas.
At Troy Charles started a nursery and built a stone house. On January 20, 1869, he was married at Troy to Martha J. Walton. Their union produced six children, four of whom are known: Charles, William, Jessie, and Olive. While living in Troy, Charles took his first trip out to the buffalo range to hunt the American bison. Intrigued by the great beasts and the money to be earned for their hides, he moved his family west in order to be closer to the range. On January 1, 1872, the Jones family arrived in Osborne County, Kansas, settling on a homestead in Section 19 of Tilden Township.
Anybody Know Him?
“The Kansas City Times of October 7th contained a three-column writeup of Charles J. Jones, known to the world as ‘Buffalo’ Jones. Jones died in Topeka some two weeks ago. The articles says . . . Jones came to Kansas in 1866, going first to Doniphan County, but four years later settled on a claim in Osborne County, his home standing on the South Fork of the Solomon River . . . If ‘Buffalo’ Jones ever lived in Osborne County the editor of the Farmer never heard of it . . . If any of the old-timers know anything about ‘Buffalo’ Jones ever having lived here they will help out on a historical question by speaking up right now. If Osborne County was ever the home of so famous a character as ‘Buffalo’ Jones the county is entitled to the honor and credit of it.” — Osborne County Farmer, October 16, 1919.
Yes, He Lived Here
“The Farmer’s article last week asking if anyone knew ‘Buffalo’ Jones when he lived in Osborne County soon brought forth conclusive proof that he was once a resident of Osborne County . . . C. A. Kalbfleisch, who now lives over at Harlan, writes us as follows regarding the Jones affair: ‘I noticed your article in the Farmer of even date in regards to ‘Buffalo’ Jones and can tell you exactly where his homestead was. It is located one mile south and one and a quarter west of Bloomington in TildenTownship. In 1900 I bought this place from D. A. Rowles and among the papers turned over to me was the original patent from the government, dated, I think, 1874, and signed by U. S. Grant, president, to Charles J. Jones. I talked at the time with Frank Stafford and he said this was ‘Buffalo’ Jones . . . .’
L. F. Storer of BethanyTownship tells us he knew ‘Buffalo’ Jones well. Jones taught a Sunday School class in Doniphan County and Mr. Storer was one of his pupils. He says Jones used to visit at the home of his father frequently and they were intimate friends. Jones was not much of a hunter here, but he did a lot of lassoing of buffalo. He trained several of them to work as oxen.
J. E. Hahn is another who remembers Jones well. Ed says his father often told him in later years of one of Jones’ hobbies. He claimed to have the plans and a marked map of the place where a great fortune was buried in one of the Sandwich Islands [Hawaii]. He wanted J. W. Hahn to go with him and secure the treasure. Jones, with all of his traveling in later years, evidently had forgotten all about that fortune, as history does not mention that he ever visited the Sandwich Islands.
John J. and Robert R. Hays knew ‘Buffalo’ Jones very well. John says Jones came here from Troy, Doniphan County, in 1872 and stayed here, he thinks, three or four years. His family was here that long, but after a year Jones used to be away a great deal on hunting trips or some other line of business. John says he was a good-natured fellow and very likable, but also very visionary.” — OsborneCounty Farmer, October 23, 1919.
In Osborne County Jones divided his time between hunting and farming. He started a nursery and served as Tilden Township’s justice of the peace. In 1874 Jones was appointed Osborne County Undersheriff. Often he was away on long hunting trips, where he learned by necessity the science and art of scouting. On the range they began to call him “Buffalo” Jones (though never to his face) to differentiate him from “Dirty-Face” Jones and “Wrong Wheel” Jones, who were both also on the range. In 1876 Jones had sold the homestead and settled his family in Sterling, Kansas. Three years later he became one of the four founders of Garden City, Kansas, where Jones started a ranch and proceeded to make his mark on the community. He was soon referred to as “Colonel” Jones, because, as he later put it in his autobiography, it was “the title awarded in the Old West when a man reached a certain level of popular esteem.” This may indeed be the case, as it was Jones who convinced the Santa Fe Railroad to establish a station at Garden City, and it was Jones who in 1885 completed a stone courthouse and presented it and the surrounding block to the county as a gift. He also served as the town’s first mayor and as Finney County’s first representative to the Kansas Legislature, where he worked alongside Hiram Bull, representative for Osborne County. Jones predicted Bull’s death by an angry tamed elk.
“A tame wild animal is the most dangerous of beasts. My old friend, Dick Rock, a great hunter and guide out of Idaho, laughed at my advice and got killed by one of his three-year-old bulls. I told him they knew him just well enough to kill him, and they did.
Same with General Hiram Bull, a member of the Kansas Legislature, and two cowboys who went into a corral to tie up a tame elk at the wrong time . . . They had not studied animals as I had. That tame elk killed all of them . . . You see, a wild animal must learn to respect a man.” — Buffalo Jones in his autobiography Buffalo Jones: Forty Years of Adventure (1899).
By 1886 Jones had realized that the wholesale slaughter of the buffalo would lead to their eventual extinction and regretted his role in it. Between 1886 and 1889 he made four trips to the Texas panhandle to capture buffalo calves and turn them loose on his ranch. Within three years he had assembled a herd of over one hundred and fifty animals; at the time the only other herd left in the continental United States was sheltered in Yellowstone National Park – a herd of only two hundred and fifty head. In 1901 the two herds were merged, and from this new herd are descended most of the American bison in existence today. Jones also purchased other private herds, including one from Canada that caused considerable controversy. His exploits earned him a world-wide reputation and he was hailed everywhere as the Preserver of the American Bison. In 1890 he started a second ranch near McCook, Nebraska, on which part of his enlarged herd were protected. While some critics denounced his capturing buffalo as hastening their end forever as wild animals, he always defended himself by pointing out that if he did not do it, then the buffalo hunters would – and they would do all they could not to keep them alive. In 1891 Jones made a trip to England with ten full grown buffalo. The animals were not entirely sure about the idea of traveling on ship, but in the end they were delivered to the London Zoological Gardens and Jones became the talk of Europe after he presented the Prince of Wales with a magnificent buffalo robe.
But with all this activity Jones had overextended his dwindling finances and he lost everything in the end, including both ranches. His family went back to Troy to live with his in-laws while he sought to reestablish himself. In 1893 Jones made the Cherokee Strip run to Oklahoma Territory and secured land near Perry. He then became sergeant-at-arms of the Oklahoma Legislature. After a while he was reported to be on the Gulf Coast of Texas, promoting a railroad from Beaumont to Fort Bolivar on Galveston Bay. Then he hit on a new scheme that once again brought him national attention – he would lead an expedition into the Arctic Circle that would lasso and capture musk oxen and bring them back alive; something that had never been achieved before.
On June 12, 1897, he set out. At Fort Smith on the Slave River in Alberta, Canada, he took on a partner, John Shea, a Scotch trapper and trader, and attempted to locate and snare the wild oxen. But blizzards and other rough weather thwarted his plans; in the end they did manage to capture five calves, but the local Indians slit their throats for a native ritual. The discouraged partners gave up the whole venture and Jones started on the way back home. The following year he briefly joined the Alaska Gold Rush. His partner Shea went on to Dawson in the Yukon Territory while Jones thought it was high time to get back to his family and boarding a steamer set sail for Seattle and the United States.
Jones reunited with his family back in Troy on October 8, 1898, after five years of separation. With Colonel Henry Inman he penned his autobiography, Buffalo Jones: Forty Years of Adventure, which appeared in print in 1899. In July 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him game warden of Yellowstone National Park, a position he held until September 1905 when he resigned in a dispute with the U.S. Army, who were then in charge of the Park. The next year he established a ranch along the northern rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona Territory. He had once before tried to cross domestic cattle with the buffalo, which he dubbed “the cattalo,” and had failed, and here he tried again. But the cattalo never became popular. It was also here that a dentist from New York City, Zane Grey, visited Jones in the spring of 1907 in hopes that his health would improve. Together they roped and relocated mountain lions and Grey wrote his first book, Last of the Plainsmen, with Jones as the hero.
“Buffalo Jones was great in all those remarkable qualities common to the men who opened up the West. Courage, endurance, determination, hardihood, were developed in him to the highest degree. No doubt something of Buffalo Jones crept unconsciously into all the great fiction characters I have created.” — Zane Grey.
In 1910 Jones made his first trip to Africa to rope wild animals. A silent film and lecture tour on the trip were national sensations and his previous exploits were also given much publicity. Four years later, at the age of seventy, Jones made a second trip to Africa, this time to rope and capture gorillas. On this trip Jones contracted jungle fever and suffered a severe heart attack. His health never recovered and he spent his last years in Topeka, Kansas, where he died October 2, 1919.
Charles “Buffalo” Jones was buried in the family plot in the Valley View Cemetery at Garden City. He never fitted in with the stereotype of the westerner found in dime novels or in movies and television – he did not gamble or use coffee, tea, tobacco, or liquor – and so his legendary life has faded from the American consciousness. In 1982 his successful preservation efforts to save the American bison earned him a posthumous induction into the National Buffalo Association’s Buffalo Hall of Fame. His character, courage, and indomitable spirit as a child of the American West has also earned him a permanent place in the Osborne County Hall of Fame.
Though naturally shy and reserved, a winning attitude and no-nonsense approach to teaching the basics enabled David Gray Johnson to not only become one of the winningest high school football coaches in Kansas history but also earn the respect and admiration of his peers and players throughout a forty-year teaching career. The eighth of nine children born to Herbert F. and Sara Belle (Goldthwaite) Johnson, Dave, or “Big Dave” as he came to be affectionately known, was born May 20, 1927, in the New England town of Biddeford, York County, Maine. In early 1945 he graduated from high school at Ipswich, Massachusetts, where in the fall of his senior year the football coach was drafted into the army, leaving the school without any coaches on the staff. The school board decided to drop football, but Dave and another senior went before the board and convinced them to let Johnson coach the team, under the supervision of the math teacher. They won three games and lost two in a season that was shortened due to gas rationing during the war then going on.
After high school Dave served his military obligation in the Navy training to be a pilot. While serving he attended classes at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. On August 31, 1948, he married Betty Jean Slaight in Long Beach, California. They had two children: Lucinda, born February 25, 1952, in Seward, Alaska, and Stephen, born January 16, 1954, in Nevada, Missouri. After the military Dave entered the University of Kansas in Lawrence, where he graduated with honors in 1952. For his graduate work he attended Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Dave’s first teaching position began in 1951 at Sheldon, Missouri, where he was also the assistant coach for basketball and baseball. In 1955 he taught for a year at Moran, Kansas, and was the assistant coach for football and basketball. He then moved to Frankfort, Kansas, where he took over as the high school football coach. By stressing the football fundamentals of tackling, practice, blocking, practice, execution of plays, and more practice, his teams were an immediate and enduring success. “His practices were harder than those we had at the University of Kansas,” one player recalled afterwards. In his seven years at Frankfort the football team compiled a record of 48 wins, 14 losses, and four ties.
In 1963 Dave was named the new head football coach at Osborne, Kansas. That summer he became the baseball coach and drove the nearly three-hour round trip from his farm near Kanopolis, Kansas, to Osborne several days a week for 7:30 a.m. practice, at his own expense, in order to get to know the boys better. At Osborne he installed the Delaware wing offense he used throughout his coaching career and quickly turned the football team into a statewide power. From 1964 through 1968 Osborne enjoyed a 35-game winning streak and were named the Class B state champions in 1967. Another state championship was claimed in 1983, when the team won all thirteen of its games. Off the football field Dave coached several other sports and taught science, math, social science, and physical education. “Big Dave” never used headphones and called his own plays while pacing up and down the sidelines, clipboard in hand – a legendary sight to Osborne high school alumni. After twenty-eight years at Osborne High School he retired with a coaching record of 154 wins, 85 losses, and three ties, his teams making the state football playoffs three times. When he retired his 213 overall wins at the time placed him fifth in all-time wins among Kansas high school football coaches.
In 1969 Dave served on the Kansas State High School Activities Association Ad Hoc Committee that studied and recommended the implementation of a football playoff system for all high schools in Kansas. In 1983 he was named All-Area Coach of the Year and was chosen as one of the coaches for the West team at the Kansas Shrine Bowl. In 1989 Dave was named Teacher of the Year at Osborne and was a nominee for Teacher of the Year at the state level. That same year an appreciation dinner was held in his honor in Osborne after the last game of the season. Nearly two hundred former football players, former assistant coaches, family, and friends gathered to pay tribute to the coach who had influenced so many people on and off the field. The capstone of his career came in February 1993 when he was inducted into the Kansas State High School Activities Association Hall of Fame.
In nominating Dave for the Kansas State High School Activities Association Hall of Fame, fellow football coach Steve Miller noted that the stories told of Johnson over the years were not only of winning football but also stories of getting athletes “to make commitments, demanding them to be positive role models, possess work ethics, and be punctual. He taught them respect for adults, school, family, and country.” Dave led his players by example; he did not smoke, drink, or use profanity, and often became a parent to them. “He kept me and about three other kids in my class out of jail,” remembered one player. The words used by other players go a long way in describing their former coach: tough; perfectionist; dedicated; intimidating; prepared. Johnson himself described his philosophy of coaching this way: “I never worried so much about winning or losing as I did about helping those boys grow up to be men. That’s why I was so hard on them.”
After his retirement in 1991 Dave and his wife Betty moved permanently back to the family farm near Kanopolis, where he enjoyed a settled life in the country. The days of “Big Dave” pacing the sidelines are over, but he will always hold a much-deserved place in the Osborne County Hall of Fame.
David Johnson died on December 15, 2014, at his home. His final resting place was in the Kanopolis Cemetery at Kanopolis, Ellsworth County, Kansas.
One of the foremost Kansas educators of the twentieth century was born June 5, 1885, in western Ross Township of Osborne County. Named after his maternal grandfather, John Christopher Ise was the seventh of twelve children born to Henry and Rosena (Haag) Ise on the homestead Henry had claimed in June 1871. As an infant John was stricken with polio, which caused his right leg to become withered and nearly useless. His parents decided early that his best chance at success in life was for him to become a scholar.
John attended the nearby one-room Ise School and learned to play the guitar and the violin. With the latter he occasionally gave recitals in the area. In 1902 he taught a term at the Prairie Bell School in Bethany Township, receiving thirty dollars a month in pay. Later he also taught at the Rose Valley School in Ross Township. In 1903 his damaged leg was amputated and he was fitted with an artificial one, after which he could walk almost normally.
Ise entered the University of Kansas (KU) and graduated with a degree in music in 1908. He followed this with Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Law degrees. In 1911 he was admitted to the Kansas bar. The next year he received his master’s degree from Harvard University, where in 1914 John also became a Doctor of Philosophy. He was an assistant professor of economics at Harvard and Iowa State College before joining the faculty at the University of Kansas in 19l6. He became a full professor there in 1920.
Dr. Ise’s interest in natural resources economics made him internationally known and internationally debated. “As crusty as the Kansas sod, Ise had the self-imposed mission of shocking both students and the public from their intellectual lethargy,” wrote Clifford Griffin in his The University of Kansas: A History (1983). Then-radical ideas such as conserving national oil reserves against future shortages and restricting drilling and mining in national parks and other federal lands caused Ise to be branded a Communist by some. But as time went on his ideas and writings earned him lasting respect both as a resource conservationist and a prophet of the energy crisis of the 1970s.
On August 4, 1921, John married Lillie Bernhard in Lawrence, Kansas. They had two sons, John Jr. and Charles. John was an independent in politics and a charter member of the League for Independent Political Action. He also served as president of the American Economics Association, the Mid-West Economic Association and on the editorial board of the American Economic Review. He was given life membership in the Kansas Illustriana Society in 1933 and later was named to Who’s Who in America.
John was a member of several local organizations in the Lawrence area. He and his wife gave $25,000 in 1955 to the Lawrence Humane Society for an animal shelter in memory of their son Charles, who had died in a plane crash, and spent much more time with this cause. Dr. Ise’s efforts in this area were recognized in 1968 by the American Humane Association.
John’s eight books ranged in subject matter from a comprehensive test on economics to a collection of humorous comments on current condition, interspersed with the classic story of his pioneer family in Osborne County. The United States Forest Policy (1920), The United States Oil Policy (1926), and Our National Park Policy: A Critical History (1961) all reflected his economic views on the nation’s natural resources. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, better known as OPEC, was formed in 1961 based on Ise’s conclusions in his Oil Policy book. Economics (1940) was a classroom textbook by Ise that was used at KU and several other colleges and universities from 1940 to 1965. Sod and Stubble (1936), a look at his parents’ life on the Kansas prairie in nineteenth century Osborne County, is still in print over 75 years after its initial publication. Ise also edited Howard Ruede’s critically-acclaimed Sod-House Days: Letters from a Kansas Homesteader (1937). These latter two books are considered to be the finest literature ever written about homesteading life on the Great Plains of North America, and have made Osborne County a focal point for scholarly study of the region. Ise’s final book, The American Way, was actually a present to him by his colleagues at KU upon his retirement in 1955 and is a collection of his finest speeches and letters.
Ise kept in touch with his boyhood home in Downs, whether giving the commencement address at the high school graduation or just visiting old friends. It was also customary for him to hold in Lawrence a yearly dinner for all Osborne County students attending KU.
John retired in 1955 with more earned degrees than any other KU faculty member. Up to fifteen thousand students had passed through his classes in thirty-nine years of teaching. He retired a world-renowned economist and is considered one of the three greatest professors in University of Kansas history. Currently the John Ise Award is given annually to recognize the student with the most outstanding achievement by the University of Kansas Department of Economics. John continued in the post of professor emeritus and also taught as a visiting professor of economics at Amherst College in Massachusetts, Groucher University in Baltimore, Maryland, Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and at Harvard University.
John Ise passed away March 26, 1969, at Lawrence and was buried there in the Oak Hill Cemetery. His legacy of teaching and his writings will continue to shape and inspire the world we live in for many years to come.
MEMORIES OF MY FATHER
“I was asked to write a brief summary of my father’s life as it pertained to Osborne County. Of his early life I know little beyond his own story of his parents’ life as set forth in his book Sod and Stubble. This book, which I understand is being reissued in 1996, delineates the hardships, sorrows, and joys experienced by Rosa and Henry Ise (nee Eisenmanger) as early settlers near Downs. It ends with the selling of the Ise farm and the move of the family to Lawrence following Henry’s death.
It became abundantly clear to me how much my father’s early farm life had affected him, since for as far back as I can remember (I was born in 1923, in Lawrence, Kansas) he always owned a couple of farms. These were both quarter-sections, one near Richland and the other near Doniphan. He let neighbors farm these in exchange for half the wheat crop, which I remember as yielding (at least during the 1930s) a modest negative return. And just after my brother was born, in March 1926, he moved our family from the rented house on Louisiana Street to a farmhouse a few miles west of Lawrence on Highway 40. His nostalgia for the farm had apparently overweighed my mother’s misgivings, but after about a year she prevailed and they moved back to 1208 Mississippi Street, where he spent the rest of his life.
He had extremely broad interests in life. Thus at KU he earned bachelor’s degrees from three schools – the School of Fine Arts in 1908 (in music), the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1910, and the School of Law in 1911. He subsequently earned Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard in economics, which became his consuming interest from then on, particularly the study of conservation and farm economics. He wrote several books on these subjects, U.S. Oil Policy, U.S. Forest Policy, and U.S. National Park Policy, in addition to Sod and Stubble.
His early life on a Kansas farm had imbued him with several traits that I always found very admirable. He was scrupulously honest – I can remember once when he found that a sales clerk at the old Woolworth’s store on Massachusetts had given him a nickel too much change, whereupon he walked a block and a half in a light snowfall to return the nickel. This was not an easy task for a man who had to drag along a heavy artificial leg (prosthetics have come a long way since he had his withered leg cut off in 1903).
He loved animals with an unqualified love. He had worked his way through college by serving as a mounted officer for the Lawrence SPCA. His stories of how he had rescued dogs and horses from what seemed to my brother and me as incredible brutality and cruelty made a deep impression on both of us. After losing the use of his leg at the age of two to polio he had to get to school (half a mile) in a little wagon pulled by his faithful dog, Coalie. When my brother was killed in a light plane crash in 1955 my father donated money for the Charles Ise Animal Shelter in Lawrence.
And he seemed to have an uncanny way with animals. During the months that we spent on the farm west of Lawrence a neighboring farmer gave him a large and savage Airedale that had so badly bitten several of the farmer’s hired hands that he had to get rid of the dog. I can still remember Dad taking me and the dog by the scruff of the neck and saying, ‘Pal, this is Johnboy – you two are going to be friends.’ Not a growl from the fierce-looking dog, who did indeed become my fast friend, twice saving my life ( as I still believe), once from a huge sow who had broken down her pen – this pig had actually eaten two of her own piglets – and once when I got stuck in quicksand in a wash near the farmhouse. These incidents may have hastened our move back to Lawrence!
My father was also a firm believer in the Biblical injunction ‘By the sweat of thy brow shalt thou earn thy daily bread’ and he worked harder than anyone I knew. He would teach all morning ‘up on the Hill,’ come home for lunch and then immure himself in his office, or ‘Library,’ as we called it. This was the downstairs room in our three story house, which contained many hundreds of books, mostly in his own field. All the rooms of the house, except for the kitchen, had bookcases, all full and almost all read. Dad worked, grading papers, preparing lectures, or writing some book or other, all afternoon and for three or four hours after dinner. This was a daily routine, except on Saturday afternoon when the Metropolitan Opera was playing, or when my parents either went out to dinner at friend’s homes or entertained friends themselves. My mother was an excellent cook; once being written up in Clementine Paddleford’s Sunday column for her Black Walnut Cake, but no wine or liquor was ever served in her house. Her father had been a Methodist minister and she and her nine brothers and sisters had been raised quite strictly. Dad’s parents had actually drunk beer and wine on rare occasions, to the considerable embarrassment of all their eleven children, most of whom remained strict teetotalers.
There were many things Dad could not teach me and my brother, because of his artificial leg. Thus there was no ball throwing or family bicycling trips. But he showed us things that to me were more important. As a child in Kansas he had had to be very inventive in the matter of playtime activities. He had learned to whittle with his jackknife–I still have a little box in which he carried his flute, carefully crafted from about a dozen types of wood native to Kansas. He showed Charlie and me how to crack a long bullwhip, and how to make shingle darts, launched with a stick with a knotted piece of string which fit into a notch in the body of the dart. He was incredibly precise with those things, and could hit targets at fifty yards as well as my brother and I could with our BB guns. Because of his missing leg he had had to compensate by using his arms more and had such strength in his arms and hands that he could chin himself with one hand, holding onto the exposed ceiling joists, a feat that his athletic older brothers could not duplicate. But the most important things he could and did teach us were attitudes and beliefs. We learned to love the outdoors, what is now called ‘the environment.’ Summer vacations were always spent camping in the western national parks. We picked up a love of great art, good music and great literature. His favorite author was always Mark Twain. He was fiercely loyal to Kansas and to the United States, which belies his frequently controversial views about many things. He was widely considered to be a Communist sympathizer for many years and the chancellor and even the governor received occasional letters from Kansas businessmen complaining about “that radical John Ise, infecting the young minds in our University.” This amused Dad greatly, but infuriated me and my brother. And thanks to a tolerant administration he remained at KU for thirty-nine years and I believe he taught at least a few thousand students how to think for themselves.
During my postdoctoral Fulbright fellowship to France in 1950 I was working with Jean Daudin, then a leading physicist in the field of cosmic rays. He also happened to be one of the leaders of the Communist Party in southern France and we worked together at the Pic du Midi, on the Spanish border, where he frequently entertained Spanish Loyalists hostile to Franco. Dad was teaching that summer at a seminar in Salzburg, sponsored by Harvard University, and I can remember the bitter argument he had with Daudin about communism, when the two of them met in Paris, for by 1950 the grim reality of Stalin’s dictatorship was obvious to all. I had to translate for the two of them for Dad spoke no French and Daudin no English and it was difficult for me to translate Dad’s cusswords into the kind of French I had learned from Mademoiselle Crumrine at KU!
He was a very good economist, serving as president of the American Economic Association, and an excellent teacher. His textbook on economics was for a time used by the majority of state universities, and I am glad that I was able to take his course in Economics 90, although I was too shy to ever open my mouth in class. When he retired from the KU faculty in 1955 his colleagues expressed their admiration by publishing a collection of his essays in a book, The American Way. In 1963 he was very proud to receive KU’s highest honor, the Citation for Distinguished Service, awarded at Commencement exercises. He remained a true son of Kansas all his life, which was inexorably shaped by his early upbringing in Downs. In one short essay reproduced in The American Way, entitled ‘No Time To Live’, he recalled one episode of his college days, when the family was still living in Downs, in the following manner:
‘When we went to Lawrence to college we did not expect to make the trip in four hours but rode the unhurried Central Branch, changed trains a time or two, making connections if we were lucky – if not, lounging around the depot for some hours or perhaps all night. I remember well the evening my sister and I missed connections at Beloit and sat out behind the depot most of the night, reciting poetry and talking of our plans and ambitions and theories of the good life. It was full moon, and there was a mist on the field of ripening wheat across the fence, and the frogs were croaking from the creek nearby. Sister has been gone these many years, but I can still close my eyes and see that lovely, peaceful scene as if I had been there only yesterday. An interruption of our long journey which I, no doubt, cursed with vigor, had enriched my life with an unforgettable experience. It was enforced leisure, but how rich and enduring.’
One final remark he made about the early settlers among whom he was raised is still relevant: ‘They had what it took, and it took a lot.’ That about sums it up.” – John Ise, Jr., November 1995.
In Germany the seat of the Eisenmanger family for centuries was the Kingdom of Wuertemberg, where they had been members of the noble classes dating back to the fourteenth century. One member of the family was the hero of the book known as The Man of the Iron Hand. Christopher Eisenmanger in the 1840s was considered the richest citizen of the Kingdom of Wuertemberg, owning controlling interests in every brick and tile manufacturing establishment in that country. He participated in all the wars of Germany in his time, and it is said that his father was slain in the battle of Waterloo.
Christopher and Johanna Eisenmanger had seven children. One, Christoph Heinrich Eisenmanger, was born on April 29, 1841 in Sindringen, Wűrttemberg, Germany.
Christopher Eisenmanger Sr. was a very progressive man who advocated – and to some degree brought about – reform far in advance of his time. Partly for this and for religious reasons he fell out of favor with the ruling house of Hohenzollern. Eventually all his property was confiscated and he was left practically bankrupt when his son Christoph Heinrich was sixteen years of age.
After the family became bankrupt the sons became eligible for subscription into the German army. To avoid this, the family decided to emigrate from Germany to either America or Australia. The three Eisenmanger children who traveled to America were Christoph Heinrich, then eighteen years old; Johann, later called John, a Baptist minister who died at Williamsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1915 at the age of eighty-two; and Katerina, or Kate, who married farmer Chris Reamenschneider and lived outside of State Center, Iowa.
For a time Christoph Heinrich Eisenmanger lived at Springfield, Illinois. In 1861 at the age of twenty he enlisted in Company H of the Tenth Illinois Infantry, Union Army, and served his adopted country throughout the Civil War with the rank of private. At the time of his enlistment his name was changed to Henry Christopher Ise by his captain, as this was a name easier for the captain to both spell and remember. Henry fought in the battle of Chickamauga, where he had an arm broken. Although wounded at one time and sick at other times he never spent a day in the hospital.
After the war Henry Ise moved to State Center, Iowa, where he worked as a farm hand. Then in 1871 he moved to Osborne County, Kansas, where he claimed a homestead in Ross Township in the northeast corner of the county.
Rosena “Rosa” Christina Haag was born October 7, 1855 in Kleinbottwar, Wűrttemberg, Germany, just twenty miles from Henry’s birthplace of Sindringen. She was the daughter of John and Rosena (Friehoffer) Haag. In July 1852 her family emigrated to America, where they settled on a thirty-acre farm near Theresa, Wisconsin. Eight years later the Haag family moved to a farm six miles outside of Holton in Jackson County, Kansas.
In 1871 Rosa’s brother Christopher Haag claimed a homestead in Ross Township of Osborne County. That winter he brought his neighbor Henry Ise back east with him to find work and for Henry to meet Christopher’s sister. Rosa married Henry C. Ise on May 19, 1873 in Holton, Kansas. Together they raised eleven children (a twelfth died at age six months) on the Ise homestead in Ross Township. From 1872 to 1879 Henry served as postmaster of the New Arcadia Post Office, which was located in the Ise farm home. Over the years the family grew prosperous. The homestead of 160 acres was enlarged and eventually included three quarter sections of land. Nine of their eleven children would go on to graduate from college.
Thirty years after arriving in Kansas Henry Ise became ill and died of cancer on November 21, 1900. Rosa continued to live on the farm for another decade before selling it and moving to Lawrence to be nearer her children. She passed away there on August 2, 1947 and was brought back to Downs, where she was laid to rest next to Henry in the Downs City Cemetery.
The Ises’ story became internationally famous after their son John Ise published a book, Sod & Stubble, based on their life experiences on the homestead from 1873 through 1910. Sod & Stubble was first published in 1936 and is considered one of the finest works ever published on the subject of homesteading the Great Plains of North America. Sod & Stubble remains in print seventy-five years after its initial publication.
The story of Henry and Rosa Ise has come to be celebrated not for their uniqueness, but rather for their being the symbol of what all homesteaders everywhere have had to endure simply to survive, let alone prosper. In 2003 grandson John Ise, Jr. made his first visit back to Osborne County in 60 years to induct his grandparents into the Osborne County Hall of Fame at that year’s Hall’s Induction Banquet in Alton. Along with becoming the first person to ever use the phrase “quantum physics” in a speech in Osborne County history, Ise thanked Henry and Rosa for passing on to their children and grandchildren “the grit and determination to challenge and overcome any obstacle, however imposing it might be.”
The history of Osborne County would be sadly lacking if tribute was not paid to one of the truly original characters to ever set ink to paper on the Kansas prairie. Frederick J. Hulaniski, writer, author, judge, newspaper publisher, and mining engineer, was born January 30, 1860, in Sandusky, Lee County, Iowa. Fred’s father, Julian Hulanicki, was an officer in the 1830 Polish uprising for which he was banished from Poland to America in 1833. In 1838 Julian married Marcia Tuttle and the couple had six children, of whom Fred was the youngest.
Fred was educated in the military academy at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and at Omaha (Nebraska) College. While in Omaha he learned the printer’s trade, at which he served an apprenticeship with the Omaha Herald. In 1875 he moved to Kansas and became connected with the Leavenworth Times and later was with the Topeka Capital. At the age of twenty-one Fred was employed in Cawker City, Kansas, as a printer in the offices of the Cawker City Journal. In the fall of 1880 his courtship of and consequent marriage to Miss Ruth Kerr became a local matter of great interest.
“MARRIED. – In this city, Tuesday afternoon [October 12th] by the Rev. C. I. Shackleford, Mr. Fred Hulaniski and Miss Ruth Kerr. Fred is the ‘boss’ manipulator of metal in the Journal office. He has for some time placed his affections where they would do the most good, and has laid the treasures of his heart and hand at the feet of the beautiful Ruth. Ruth has not scorned or repelled the advances of her amorous young lover, but on the contrary, seeing in him the embodiment of all that is good and noble and believing to be the only person on God’s green earth who could make the little song birds sing notes of joy in her heart. Her young affections have gone wholly out to him and not withstanding the objections of her misguided parents, she promised Fred to be his and his alone, at the drop of the hat. Tuesday Fred, armed with a marriage license, proceeded to the house of the bride’s parents, and invited her to go and ride with him to one of the neighbors. They started and stopped not until they arrived in this city, where they were duly united in the holy bonds of wedlock, as per above notice. In the evening the stern parent came to town and finding the young people, he suggested to Mrs. Hulaniski that she take a seat in his carryall and go home with him and sleep with her mother. Fred considered this to be about the proper time to interpose the authority which the statutes of the state of Kansas in such cases made and provided have guaranteed unto the husband, and so consequently informed the old gentleman in very emphatic language that Mrs. Hulaniski should do no such d—-d thing. Mr. Kerr saw through the millstone and left the house of Hulaniski to work out its own destruction, and sought relief in cursing the minister of the Gospel who had robbed him of a daughter. Brace up children, and bear in mind that the course of true love never did run smoothly.” – Cawker City Free Press, October 14, 1880.
Fred and Ruth later became the proud parents of four children – Paul, Opal, Ruth, and Marcia. In January 1883 Fred moved his family to Bull City (Alton) in Osborne County, Kansas, and there began publishing the Western Empire, his first newspaper.
“Fred Hulaniski has bought the Bull City Key and will convert it into a six column folio, all home print, and will tack to it the name of The Western Empire. Rather a big name for such a little paper in such a little town.” – Downs Times, January 4, 1883.
“TO THE MORTALS NOW EXISTING UPON THIS EARTH, GREETINGS” ran the headline of Fred’s first editorial. He served as both editor and publisher and readily accommodated himself to Bull City, its customs and people. They, in turn, got over the initial shock of the style of their combative, flamboyant, and humorous editor and he became one of the town’s proud attractions.
“It was the last day of the year 1883, just forty years ago, that I, a lass of thirteen, first saw Hulaniski . . . There was to be a dance in the old Nethercutt building and the hotel [the Mitchell House in Bull City] was to furnish the supper. This particular hotel was my home, and being ‘in the way’ around the kitchen, my mother ordered me to go to another part of the house and practice the piano or read a book. I obeyed – most people obeyed my mother – and upon opening the sitting room door, there in an old hair-cloth armchair, one with walnut frame and white castors, sat the object of this communication.
He was a young man as cleanly cut in line and contour as any of Booth Tarkington’s heroes of the Indiana ‘80s. He wore a black Prince Albert coat and at his wrists three or four inches of white cuff – his hands, which hung listlessly over the arms of the chair, were slender, thin, white, aristocratic. His hair was almost blonde and hung in ringlets to his shoulders. I said, ‘Good evening,’ and while he answered me, he did not continue, so I took from under a pile of music – where it was hidden – my first novel, Tempest and Sunshine, and read quietly until my father and mother came in to speak to the stranger. I did not understand the trend of their conversation but it was about some newspaper rumpus in which the stranger had participated in some town – Cawker [City], Beloit, or Downs, I know not, but with a wave of his hand he used the word ‘illegitimate.’ I did not know what the word meant but it sounded big and I stored it away to use when I should next indulge myself in ‘showing off’ to the hotel guests, a stunt that frequently precipitated me into tears and an evening’s isolation in my room.
At one time ‘Huly’ had his office in a wee small place directly across the street from the Mitchell House just a shack between Gilchrist’s grocery store. About this time someone – probably Mrs. Hulaniski and some lady relatives who were visiting – presented the scribe with a tan colored cashmere smoking garment. It had a red velvet collar and red velvet facings down the front and huge, velvet pockets; to wear with this were black velvet embroidered slippers, and sometimes he came to his office thusly attired. I can see him – the picture is as clear as if the camera had focused it yesterday – rushing through the door of his small home, pens behind each ear, his long hair waving in the always blowing wind, as he headed up the street to interview an occupant of a farm wagon . . . .” – Lena Mitchell in the Alton Empire, January 11, 1923.
“Fred Hulaniski moved his family to Bull City yesterday morning. Mr. Kerr and daughter of Jewell County, father and sister of Mrs. F. J. Hulaniski, were visiting in town . . . The Western Empire of Bull City claims to be the only reliable paper on earth. The Kansas Herald, of Hiawatha, makes the same claim. One of the two men must be lying about the matter.” – Downs Times, February 1, 1883.
Thoroughly fearless in expressing his opinions, Fred used his brilliance of mind and distinctive personality to extoll his readers into discussions on the events of the day. Not everyone was happy with Hulaniski’s stories on local affairs; three times disgruntled citizens tried to set fire to his printing plant. He received more death threats during his first year of publication than perhaps any other newspaperman in the annals of Kansas history. He deterred these potential perils to his person by openly wearing revolvers and secreting one or more knives in his clothing.
In the beginning Fred seldom failed to voice what he thought of his fellow newspapermen if they disagreed with him, and often they responded in kind. “Czarevitch Hulaniski” was his name when mentioned in the Stockton, Kansas, newspaper; in Downs and Osborne he was “Count Hulaniski;” and after a personal spat with the editor of the Portis Patriot he was ever after referred to as “Hole-in-the-sky.” Hulaniski’s propensity for igniting wars of words made still other newspapers wary. “We had been told that the Empire quill pusher wore horns, a brace of revolvers, and pawed the ground like a mad cow in a Bull City,” reported the editor of the Salem (KS) Argus in 1885. “We interviewed him at a distance and must say he looked every inch a gentleman – a perfect gentleman, sir.”
In the fall of 1883 Fred sought to influence the upcoming county election by starting another paper in Downs on the eastern edge of Osborne County. The Saturday Evening Lamp made its debut in October 1883, with Hulaniski again as both editor and publisher, while continuing to publish the Empire in Bull City; the only time in the history of the county any newspaperman has ever tried such a gamble. Fred soon discovered that two papers meant twice as many people came “looking for him” over his articles and he frequently had to stop off in between the two towns in Osborne in order get away from his angry detractors. The Lamp ceased publication after only five weeks; the experiment was over, but, as one contemporary author noted, the Lamp “packed more controversy and discussion into those five weeks than most publishers do in an entire career.”
Yet for all his dramatics and sometimes caustic language Hulaniski forced other newspapers to improve their quality and depth of writing and news coverage with the emphasis on more detail. His own Western Empire was widely read and remained a financial success throughout his three years of ownership. In those years Fred made himself available for amateur theatricals, recitals, and other events that helped to maintain town spirit and pride, and served for a time as city clerk. During the spring of 1885 scarlet fever swept through Bull City, and through those terrible weeks Hulaniski used the pages of the Empire to grieve with and to console every family who lost a loved one. His words came even more from the heart when his only son, Paul, died of the fever and was laid to rest in the town’s Sumner Cemetery.
The Western Empire of November 28, 1885, contained an editorial featuring the whit, irrelevance, and bluntness so typical of Fred’s editorial style: “The last issue of the Empire contained an account of a snipe hunt, wherein a lot of young bloods had considerable sport at the expense of some young dupe whose name we did not learn. On Tuesday we received a letter from some fellow who signed “W.S.R,” and who evidently has tried on the shoe and found a perfect fit. The letter reads as follows: ‘f. J. hulaniskyee— Want you To under stand that i Aint such A Blasted tool as you take me Too Bee And if you Ever stick Any Moore of your Slang in youre papper i Will Make It Moste Interesting for yu but i Think the Bigest fool Printed It. W.S.R.’ Now, we have not the remotest idea who “W.S.R.” is, nor do we care, but he is evidently a much greater ass than we first supposed, or he would never flare up and take unto himself a piece in a newspaper that contained no names whatever nor alluded to no one in particular. If Mr. “W.S.R.” had kept still, no one outside of a few would have known it was him who gave himself so everlastingly dead away by holding the bag for Snipe, and we trust that in the future when he bites at old gags like this he will have common horse sense enough to button up his lip and keep mum. However, if Mr. “W.S.R.” wishes to “Make it Moste Interesting” for the editor of this paper, we hope he will not deny himself that pleasure any longer than necessary, for if there is one thing above another we like, it is to be “interested.”
Shortly afterwards Fred sold the Empire and left Bull City, which had been renamed Alton the year prior. “F. J. Hulaniski, late of the Alton Empire, passed through the city Wednesday on his way to Leavenworth, where he takes a position on the daily Times.” – Downs Chief, July 1886.
“Vol. 1, No. 1 of the Kansas City Sun, F. J. Hulaniski, editor, is before us. It is a neat five column, eight page paper published in the interests of agriculture, religion and Hulaniski.” – Downs Chief, March 14, 1889. Later that year Fred sold the Sun and headed west, moving to Ouray, Colorado.
“F. J. Hulaniski, the versatile ex-editor and founder of the Western Empire, is now assisting in the publication of the Plaindealer at Ouray, Colorado, and is dealing some telling blows against the third party movement for which he labored last fall until his stomach revolted at the task and he found it imperative to seek a cleaner field. His work on the Plaindealer is easily recognized by old acquaintances.” – Downs Times, October 8, 1891.
Soon Fred was the sole editor and publisher of the Ouray Plaindealer and in November 1895 he was elected elected county judge of Ouray County on the Populist ticket. Fred’s taking over of the Plaindealer ignited “continuous warfare” between the Ouray Herald and the Plaindealer, starting in 1891 and lasting for over 20 years. Fred referred to his rival as “the little red-headed woodpecker down in the Fourth Ward” – a district that included the red-light district of the time. The Herald editor, E.G. Bacon, called his counterpart “Mr. Hell on Whiskey.”
In April of 1899 Fred joined with some of the best-known men of the state of Colorado in the incorporation of a large publishing company in Denver. During this period Fred was also engaged in mining enterprises in Colorado. These profited him greatly and he had offices at one time in New York.
“Count Hulaniski, who used to run a sort of a Sunday Sun paper in the cellar of Chris Knapp’s meat market, called the Saturday Evening Lamp, was in Concordia recently and the Kansan says: ‘F. J. Hulaniski, an old-time newspaperman of this part of the state, now Ouray, Colorado, was in the city last Wednesday and made the Kansan office a call. Count Hulaniski, as he was usually called, was one of the warmest propositions as a newspaper skinner there was in the state when he was in action. He had a paper in Bull City, now called Alton . . . He went to Colorado about ten years ago and landed at Ouray with the magnificent amount of 25 cents in his pocket, which he spent as soon as he could find the opportunity for a drink of whiskey and a package of smoking tobacco. He owns a newspaper out there and has become rich as a mining promoter. He is now on his way to New Orleans to spend the winter, in company with his daughter.’” – Downs Times, January 24, 1901.
“Ouray, Colorado, September 29th – The suit for divorce by Mrs. Hulaniski, wife of former County Judge F. J. Hulaniski, one of the best known newspaper men on the western slope, will never come to trial. The attorneys for Mrs. Hulaniski last night announced that a settlement had been reached and that an order will be entered this afternoon in the county court withdrawing the suit. The grounds of settlement will not be made public.” – Downs Times, October 6, 1904.
By 1906 Fred had moved on to California, where he published a newspaper in Mountain View. Five years later he purchased the plant of a labor paper and started the Richmond Morning News, and later wrote editorials for the Richmond Record-Herald, both located in Richmond, California. Fred also published a book entitled the Thinkograph, which then became the title of a monthly magazine he published from San Francisco. Fred became well known throughout the state via his writings and activities and he took an active part in the development of Richmond and Contra Costa County. In 1917 Fred published the book The History of Contra Costa County, which was well-received. Among his many business interests at the time was the Wonder Gold Mine at Allegheny in the Grass Valley area of Nevada County, California.
On February 15, 1928, Frederick J. Hulaniski died in Richmond of a heart attack following a case of influenza. He was interred in the Sunset View Cemetery at El Cerrito, California.
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The following is a classic story by Frederick J. Hulaniski, related as only he could.
Looking Backward into Kansas Through Thirty Long Years
“Another Northwest Kansas newspaper blew into this editorial den this week and nestled down upon the littered roll-top among communications, complaints and bills payable, which sent me on a long hike into the past. It is the Osborne County Farmer, Bert Walker, editor; and I borrowed white paper and ink of it thirty years ago, and, maybe, paid most of it back.
I was young then, and Western Kansas was young, and all of us possessed less wisdom than Solomon, although the Solomon River ran nearby and turned the wheel that ground the corn that brought eight cents a bushel in the cribs that Jack built. As we get older we are all prone to look back into the past in reminiscent mood instead of looking ahead, for the reasons that the period ahead is short and, as a rule, we haven’t much to look forward to.
The present editor of the Osborne Farmer worked for me when he was a kid boy, at Peabody, Kansas . . . Now he has a fine newspaper and business and is rich enough to eat pie for breakfast if he wants to, which he does if he is anything like he was in knee breeches. I ran two newspapers in Osborne County at one time, one at Downs and the other at Alton, and often took refuge at Osborne, halfway between, to escape general results continuously erupting at both ends. Osborne was not always a haven of safety, either being the county seat and inhabited by land pirates, highbinders, blackhand conspirators and plutocratic oppressors of the plain people, who held the county offices which others wanted. When one set of men hold the offices which another set want, the ins are always land pirates, highbinders, blackhand conspirators, and plutocratic oppressors of the plain people, which fact can be proven by the outs. It became my duty, in the interest of the horny-handed son of toil, as most everybody was in those days, to help ‘turn the rascals out,’ and as fast as I got one rascal turned out another got in, and then both of them put in part time gunning for me.
One particular instance I remember will doubtless be recalled by most any of the old-timers there now, as the town was much excited and amused when the circus was going on and bets were about even as to whether I or the sheriff of the county would furnish the corpse for a first-class funeral. The sheriff’s name was Al Anderson, and he weighed over 200 and struck a ton. I knew he struck a ton because I got the whole ton right between the eyes, and saw a million dollars worth of fireworks and maybe it was two millions.
The principal crime the sheriff was guilty of was holding an office which somebody else wanted, and of that he certainly was guilty. He drove up to Alton one day with a pocketful of tax warrants, or something of the sort, and collected mileage, about sixteen miles each way, on each paper served, and I figured up from his bill to the county that he had driven his team of horses over a thousand miles in one day, and called loudly in my papers for the humane society to prosecute him for cruelty to animals. In the interest of that noble animal, the horse, I held that a thousand miles was too far for him to be driven in a single day, and I contend that to this day, thirty years later, that the position was well taken and true. Any man will drive a team of horses a thousand miles in one day is no lady. Now, you wouldn’t suppose that sheriff would get mad at my printing only what was true, but he did. He was real provoked. Probably he didn’t love horses as much as I did. In this instance I was the villain and Sheriff Al Anderson the fair maid. He didn’t look much like a fair maid, but we’ll let that pass so we can hurry along in this narrative and catch up with the blood-curdling details.
The sun rose over the Solomon River. I don’t just remember after half a lifetime whether it rose over the river or not; but never mind, it rose around there somewhere and grinned red and hot like any other blithering idiot as the sheriff and I sought each other’s gore at the Central Branch Missouri Pacific depot at Osborne and all the way up the street into town for half a mile. He had greeted me cheerily as I stepped off the train and put out his hand to shake hands. I didn’t notice that it was his left hand that was proffered, which was there where I was foolish. He yanked me up to him with his left hand and delivered that ‘ton’ with his right, which was as big as a ham and the ‘ton’ was a full 2000 pounds weight. I went down between the railroad tracks and plowed up the right of way with my classic features, leaving various and sundry particles of the features among the dust and cinders along the track, coming up finally bleeding like a stuck hog. My hair was long in those days, and it got into my eyes, and with the dirt and cinders in my face and the blood streaming from many cuts and bruises I must have been a sight for gods and men. Also I was as mad and crazy as any asylum inmate within a padded cell, and as dangerous as any other lunatic. I had no gun, but tore the buttons off a Prince Albert coat to get at a knife big enough to make a buffalo stop and think twice, and made a lunge at the sheriff.
For a wonder, he had no gun on him, either, an unusual occurrence in those days, as most everybody went armed. So Mr. Sheriff was right square up against it. No coward, he, by any means; but there was but one choice. It was either run or get hacked into hamburger; and so as I reached for him with that snickersnee he jumped about ten feet toward town and kept it up, making time like a scared jackrabbit would out on the adjacent prairie. I followed, bleeding, crazed, wild and murder in my heart, and the sheriff did a sprinting stunt never before or since equaled in that vicinity, and the crowd at the station followed, yelling like wild Indians, while hundreds rushed out of the houses or stuck their heads out from doors and windows and shouted encouragement to one or the other, or both. It must have been about a half mile up town to the main business street, but we made it in record time and turned to the right and down among the business houses, scattering people right and left like tenpins, and not ten feet apart. One fellow sought to stop the sheriff and got knocked into the middle of the street for his pains. Another sought to stop me and I reached for him with the knife, and if he is not going yet I have never heard anything to the contrary.
Finally Anderson dodged into a hardware store diagonally across from the old Lipton House hotel, slammed the door and turned the key, which happened to be on the inside, while I danced a Highland fling out on the sidewalk. Then mutual friends butted in and took me over to the hotel and washed some of the dirt and blood off, and the sheriff sent an ambassador over with a flag of truce and a suggestion that we declare an armistice, or submit our war to arbitration, and my recollection of it now is that the arbitration was at a drugstore soda fountain where the prohibition elixir of those days was dispensed and caused lions and lambs to lie down together, and anybody else to lie down that got three or four shots of it.
The next chapter of this drama was pulled off at Alton, in the west end of Osborne County. Eight men were arguing with me one evening in front of Hop Rinehart’s drugstore, after the usual manner of political arguments in those lively old days, and as there was eight to one I stood a good chance of getting all that was coming to me. I was as busy as a toad in a tar barrel, doing the best I could, when Sheriff Al Anderson showed up across the street, coming fast in our direction and shedding coat and vest as he came. He grabbed one little fellow by the neck and one leg and threw him bodily though the store window, and then he and I had a picnic with the rest. And after they were disposed of the sheriff and I clasped hands across the bloody chasm and bloody sidewalk and were good friends forever after.
All that sort of thing has passed away now, in the place of sod houses and straw stables are beautiful and prosperous homes. That section of Kansas is one of the richest and best in the world, and doubtless when Editor Walker has occasion to go over to the court house to interview the sheriff or anybody else he does not feel called upon to carry along any implements of war such as are now being used over in Europe. But thirty years is a long time, and people, customs and countries change. The court house when I was there was right on the edge of a trackless plain. I have shot jackrabbits from the steps of that court house, and was fined for contempt of court by Judge Clark A. Smith for trying to shoot one out of the windows while court was in session, as was one Pete Mitchell, who kept a hotel at Alton and put in most of his time coursing rabbits with a pack of hounds.
I courted and married the best woman in the world in that section, and have got her yet, thank God. Two children were born to us in Osborne County, and our little boy sleeps the long sleep there now. The country and the people are associated with pleasant memories, love and good fellowship in my mind and heart, and thousands of happy things happened, altogether different than political wars, guns and knives and black eyes and prohibition booze and gory battles, and now after all these years as I look back and see it all again; I am willing to admit that not all of the county officers were land pirates, high binders, black hand conspirators and plutocratic oppressors of the plain people, and as far as Sheriff Anderson is concerned I will go so far now as to own up that he was a good and brave man, and I don’t care a dern if he did drive that team a thousand miles in one day. Probably it was a rattling good team.” – Osborne County Farmer, November 11, 1915.
The first of the legendary Downs “lumber barons” of yesteryear, George W. Howell proved to be the very model of resilience amid the highs and lows of an amazing business career. He made at least three fortunes and lost them. In his later years he was still ambitious to succeed and had it not been for his advanced years and the depressed business condition prior to the occasion of his death, there can be no doubt that he once again would have regained a prominent place in the business world.
George Howell was born November 19, 1857 in Chicago, Illinois. He came to Downs in the fall of the year 1879 to engage in the lumber business. At that time the country was new and the town had just been established that July, and his business grew with leaps and bounds through demands for lumber throughout the surrounding region. George soon established a string of lumber yards across Kansas and Nebraska, having in his possession at one time as high as 60 yards. He built the first hotel in the city, then known as the Howell House, which was operated by James and Lucy Lipton. Later it was renamed the Lipton Hotel.
George married Miss Lydia “Lida” Lipton, daughter of James and Lucy, on December 19, 1882. Their second residence that they built in Downs that was at that time one of the most beautiful and costly residences in Central Kansas. Two children were born to them there – a son, Moffatt, and a daughter, Maude.
The Howell Lumber Yard in Downs was located east of the hotel. During his business career in Downs George accumulated much property and owned at one time 60 quarter sections of land in Osborne County.
George left Downs about the year 1884, moving to Atchison where with his brothers he established the Howell-Jewett Lumber Company, a large wholesale concern, which he successfully operated for several years. He later acquired large lumber milling interests in the South and established offices in Kansas City, where he continued to prosper.
The Atchison Champion newspaper edition of January 1, 1888 reported that “the most extensive wholesale business in Atchison is the lumber trade. There are two mammoth yards located here – those of Howell, Jewett and Co. and Chicago L-C, the former largest yard in the world. In addition the Howell Brothers do an office business here. They supervise 116 yards in Kansas and Nebraska with Atchison as the distributing point.”
In 1887-1888 a new home was built for the Howells in Atchison. The plans were drawn by a local architect, W. F. Wood, and are said to have reflected the wishes of Mrs. Howell. The brick work was done by C. W. Benning and George W. Houghton served as general construction foreman. Since George Howell’s business was lumber, he was in a position to examine and collect choice pieces for several years ahead to be used in the construction of his home. Construction costs were estimated at $16,000 for the house and an additional $3,000 for the carriage house. Upon completion of the 14-room, three-story brick Victorian mansion the Atchison Daily Champion newspaper stated, “The new residence of George W. Howell, in this city, is probably the largest and finest residence in Kansas.”
Of special magnificence in the home is the ornately carved stairway. The newels on the staircase in the downstairs hall can be found the carved faces of four children, two parent-age adults, and two grandparent-age adults. Two of the carvings of children have angel wings at the children’s shoulders.
The Howell family only lived in their beautiful new home for a few years. According to the Atchison Globe of July 29, 1891, George suffered a business collapse and had thirteen suits filed against his company in the amount of some $225,000. He and his brother were indicted by the government for fraud and warrants for their arrest were issued in November 1891. By this time George was living fulltime in Kansas City. It was also around this time that Lydia filed for divorce from George. She later married William Owens on April 15, 1908. Lydia died in Creston, Iowa, in 1943 and buried in the Downs Cemetery.
By 1892 the ownership of the Howell house passed to Don Carlos Newcomb, an established dry goods dealer and long time Atchison resident. The house was then acquired in 1922 for $9,000 by Harry E. Muchnic, an extremely successful Atchison industrialist and founder of the Locomotive Finished Material Company, which later became a subsidiary of North American Rockwell. In 1970 the home was granted by the Muchnic Charitable Foundation of Atchison to the Atchison Art Association for use as an art gallery. On July 12, 1974 the home was added to both the National and Kansas Registers of Historic Places.
In late 1891 George had avoided arrest but lost everything. After a few years of living in Kansas City he relocated in St. Louis, Missouri, and became heavily interested in the Ozan Lumber Company. That business eventually failed, but before it went on the rocks George had amassed a fortune of over a million dollars.
For several years following the failure of the Ozan Lumber Company George operated a lumber mill in the South and was able to return to St. Louis and pay off every cent of his indebtedness. In that city he again made another fortune in the lumber business, but this he eventually lost. Following this period in his career, misfortune seemed to haunt George’s every move. During the years that followed he is known to have lost three lumber mills, which were destroyed by fire with heavy financial losses. His last misfortune was the loss of a lumber mill in Oregon, entailing a financial loss of $50,000, with no insurance. This occurred just a few years prior to his death. After that setback George represented Oregon interests as a traveling lumber salesman.
Around the first of March in 1934 George came to Downs in the capacity of lumber salesman and stayed for two weeks at the Lipton Hotel, the business he had started 55 years before. George registered at the hotel as being from Portland Oregon, and appeared to be in excellent health. He was found in the wash room of the Lipton Hotel at 10 o’clock in the morning on Tuesday, March 13, 1934. Physicians were hurriedly called and they pronounced his death due to a brain hemorrhage. Just a few minutes before his death George had appeared at the local lumber office to conduct his business. It seems that fate dealt kindly with him in sending him back to the scenes of his early business career and death overtaking him in the hotel that he built.
Funeral services were conducted at the Domoney Mortuary by Reverend Archie Toothaker of the Congregational Church with interment in the Downs Cemetery. The pall bearers were all childhood friends of George’s son Moffatt. In 1951 Moffat himself passed away and was laid to rest alongside his father.
Katherine Chapin, better known as “Katie,” was born near Monmouth, Illinois, on December 13, 1870. She came with her parents, Samuel and Lydia (Van Fleet) Chapin, to Osborne County in 1874, settling in Ross Township. Katie attended country school and later enrolled in the Salina Normal Institute in Salina, Kansas.
For two years beginning in 1890, Katie taught in the Green Ridge School, District Number 13. In 1892, due to the persistence of Katie and others, the Downs High School came into being. A two-year curriculum of Latin and English was offered to the initial student body of six. Katie served as the first female teacher in the high school and as the assistant principal from September 1892 to May 1897.
In 1897 Katie married Ross H. House, who in 1901 became principal at the high school. They had one daughter, Eleanor. Katie’s interest in education and in the community led her in 1905 to work closely with Mrs. Chattie Allen and Mrs. Alma Duden to begin the first public library in Downs. She instilled in her students a desire for knowledge that stayed with them the rest of their lives. “I never see an unusual stone, or enjoy Nature in any way, that I don’t think of her in Geology class,” commented one former pupil.
The Houses moved to Denver, Colorado, in 1915 when Ross was appointed head of the YMCA. In 1926 they moved to Washington, D.C., where Katie became a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and other community and church organizations. When her husband’s health began to fail the Houses returned to Colorado and settled in Aurora. Katie became active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. From 1933 through 1940 she served as the director of the WCTU Department of International Relations for Peace and Freedom. She was also involved in the WCTU’s Scientific Temperance Instruction and Alcohol Education. Her work enabled her to lecture and present educational programs in every corner of Colorado. Katie organized the Aurora, (Colorado) Women’s Club, and in 1940 she was elected justice of the peace of Aurora, a position she held until her death on June 29, 1944. She was laid to rest in the Fair Mount Cemetery in Aurora.