Career diplomats are a scarce commodity in the annals of Osborne County. Bartley Francis Yost, a local farmer and teacher born in Switzerland, entered government service in 1909 and spent the next quarter of a century representing the United States around the world. Bartley was born September 20, 1877, in the Swiss town of Seewiss. He lived there with his parents, George and Elizabeth (Fluetsch) Yost, until 1887, when the family emigrated to America. They settled on a farm three miles west of Downs in Ross Township.
Young Bartley’s education, begun in Switzerland, continued at the rural Ise School, District Number 37. Incidents from his adolescent years are immortalized in the 1936 John Ise book Sod and Stubble. Upon graduation he worked on the family farm, and then from in October 1896 he embarked on a teaching career at the one-room Greenwood School while tending to his own farm as well. He attended Downs High School for a year in 1898 and then studied for two semesters at Washburn College in Topeka, Kansas.
He then returned to teaching at several rural one-room schools in Osborne County: Scott School in Delhi Township; Prizer School near Alton; Bethany Center School in Bethany Township; and at Rose Valley in Ross Township. He then took a year off with a trip to California and Washington before returning in 1906, when he became co-publisher of the Osborne County News. That same year he was elected to the first of two terms as Osborne County Clerk of the District Court. On October 7, 1908, he married Irma Blau at Kirkland, Washington. The couple had two children, Robert and Bartley, Jr.
While serving as Clerk of the District Court Bartley was visited by a government representative, who was so impressed with the young man’s abilities (Bartley had mastered five languages) that he suggested Yost fill out an application for the U.S. Consular Service, that branch of government which serves the needs of American citizens either living in or visiting a foreign country. He was accepted and entered the consular service in 1909.
Yost’s consular work kept him traveling abroad from 1909 to 1935. He served as deputy consul at Paris, France, and Almeria, Spain, and as vice consul at Genoa, Italy. As chief consul he oversaw consulates in Santa Rosalia, Gnaymas, and Torrean, Mexico; at Sault Ste. Marie, Canada; at Nogales, Mexico; and finally at Cologne, Germany, where he was one of the last senior diplomats to deal with Adolph Hitler’s Nazi government before the United States broke off diplomatic relations. After 1935 Bartley retired from the service and settled into quiet retirement in California. In 1933 he had been given life membership in the Kansas Illustriana Society, and a further honor was bestowed upon him when he was named to Who’s Who in America. In 1955 he published his autobiography, Memoirs of a Consul.
Irma Yost passed away in 1952. Bartley married his second wife, Elfrieda, in July 1953. Their happiness was short-lived, however, as Bartley died September 8, 1963, in California of a heart attack. He was laid to rest beside his first wife in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.
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(Excerpts from Bartley’s book “Memoirs of a Consul”)
On his family leaving home of Seewis, Switzerland, 1887:
Uncle Nicloaus lost no time in sowing propaganda among such people as desired to leave. He also urged Father to dispose of his extensive holdings and to take his family to the New World, where there were opportunities unbounded especially for us children. He also insisted that Grandfather accompany him to Kansas and make his home with him (Nicolaus).
I know that Father and Mother deliberated long and seriously over this momentous question, for it was no small undertaking with a large family. The interminable railway journeys and the long ocean voyage had to be faced. There was also the matter of disposing of the properties. But the gravest question of all was Mothers condition. She was expecting to give birth to another child in January 1887, and course, she would hardly be able to travel for several weeks. The momentous decision was finally made. We were to immigrate to America. And with us were several other families and young men of the village. There were protests and regrets on the part of relatives and friends, and even the city authorities, at the loss of such good and useful families. The thought of our departure filled our minds with emotion and with speculation as to what we should see and experience in our new home. It was the greatest event that ever happened in our lives.
With little delay Father disposed of his properties, and set March 17, 1887, as the day of our departure. It was a red-letter day in our lives. We were driven in horse carriages down the mountainside to the station at Landquart, where we boarded the train. The great journey and adventure had begun.
For the first few hours we swept through beautiful Swiss scenery along the banks of the historic River Rhine, with the snow-capped mountains always in full view. Sometime during the night we left Swiss territory, arriving at Strasburg, early in the morning. I can still remember Mr. John Monstien calling attention to the great German fortifications there, known as the Schanz. From Antwerp where our steamer, the Westernland, was awaiting us. I shall make the description of this our first ocean voyage as short as possible, for it is not a pleasant subject. Our ship was an old tub, about ready for the scrap heap; it was dirty and the service in our class left much to be desired. Being early in the year, we encountered much bad weather, which caused the old ship to toss like an empty eggshell. Nearly everybody was seasick. The food was plentiful, but it did not appeal to us. Poor mother, with her baby boy, two months old, suffered most of all. She was not only sea sick, but also homesick throughout the voyage and unable to come up on dick to get some fresh air. After three weeks of this torture we finally arrived at the Fort of New York.
Although this was decidedly before the days of skyscrapers, yet the skyline of New York from an approaching vessel was a fascinating study even then. Some acquaintances came to meet us at Castle Garden, which was then the immigration station now replaced by Ellis Island, to meet us and to welcome us to the Land of Opportunity. The usual immigration formalities over, we were ferried across the Hudson River to Jersey City to entrain for the Far West. I should not fail to mention here that before leaving New York, father took us for a walk across the world famous Brooklyn Bridge, Mr. Roebling’s dream come true [boarded a train headed west and] I think of this the more I realize what great courage and pioneering spirit it required to carry through this adventure. After a week or so on the slow-moving immigrant train, we arrived toward to end of April at Downs, Kansas, our destination, a wide-open prairie, with few inhabitants, few building, and few roads.
Schooling in Switzerland:
As to the place of my birth, I may be permitted to repeat a part of the introductory sketch to my “Memoirs of A Consul,” that I first saw the light of day in that picturesque village of Seewis, nestled away up in the mountains of Switzerland, where the rest of the Yost children were born. That was on September 20, 1877. Obviously, I would rather have been born in the good old U.S.A., but this was a matter beyond my control, and I am glad that my place of birth was Seewis, and not China or Africa. Even as a baby I made my parents much work and worry, and often showed my temper and willfulness. My father often told me that I was the lustiest howler in the whole bunch, and that nigh after night he had to rock my cradle, even in his sleep, while I would continue to howl.
When I had reached the proper age I was bundled off to school in the Schloss, my first teacher being Prof Yenni. He always kept a fine selection of witches on top of the brick heater, and I remember that at times he would try them out on me. The first year my desk was in the far corner of the room. To the delight of my schoolmates, when the teacher’s back was turned, I would stand up in the corner and make faces. But I did it once too often, and got caught. You may guess the rest, keeping in mind these witches on the heater. I learned to write laboriously on the grooved lines of my slate, to read and to figure. I was a chubby lad, with a bountiful crop of freckles, which I inherited from my mother. To this day they cling to me closer than a brother. About the first thing that I can remember of my “kidhood” was that one day while running down the steep hilt in front of our house, I fell and bumped my head against a sharp corner stone of the house steps, cracking my skull just over my left eye. The scar is quite visible and becomes more so as advancing age thins my locks.
I was no shirker when it came to work. I recall having a lariat and hay cap all my own to carry hay from the meadows into the barn. No doubt, I also tried yodeling, probably in the manner of a young rooster trying to crow. I also recall that once while helping my Uncle Henry to thresh they tried to make me sit up to the dinner table with the real men, but I refused, and heaven and earth could not move me. I even hid under the table until they fished me out.
But to hasten on, long before I had become rooted to the mountain slopes of Grison I was taken with the rest of the flock to the Promised Land Beyond the Seas; and I do not know how to thank Father and Mother enough for this momentous decision. I-lad it not been for this I would today probably be following in the footsteps of my ancestors, climbing goatlike up and down the mountains, keeping a few cows, haying on those hanging meadows where a misstep sends a man to eternity, carrying manure to fertilize the arid, rock slopes, bringing up a numerous family, and finally without having built me “more stately mansions, “have joined my fathers in the silent city of the dead, in the little churchyard overlooking the Landquart.
The long trip to America was full of thrills for me. I was just reaching the impressionable age when everything one sees registers in the mind. I remember distinctly the conditions under which we lived on the old Weternland for three weeks in coming from Antwerp to New York. I can still see my poor mother, seasick, taking care of baby John, eight weeks old. Our arrival at New York was for me like entering a fairyland. We walked the streets in the region of Castle Garden, which was formerly the immigration station, now replaced by Ellis Island. Castle Garden is now the Battery. We walked across the famous Brooklyn Bridge, Roebling’s great monument.
Once we had complied with the immigration regulations, and they were light then as compared with today, we were loaded into special immigrant cars at Hoboken, and the long tiresome journey to Kansas began. It was probably a week before we arrived at Downs.
Like any child of my age, I was not long in adapting myself to the new conditions and surroundings, and in learning the language. I reveled in everything that I saw, for everything was new, different, thrilling, full of interest. In the fall of 1887 I was sent to school in the little schoolhouse located on the Ise farm, and known as District 37. Because of my unfamiliarity with the language I was put into classes with primary kiddies younger than I. Miss Anne Carson was my first teacher, a kind, patient, sympathetic and competent teacher. The Carson family lived just across the river from our home. The Schoolmates and play fellows that I now recall most vividly were Albert Heiser, Clark Boomer, Frank Boomer, Ed, Charley and Walter Ise, Nate Winters, Nathan, Eddie and Wits Jones, Marian and Ed Worley, Elmer Richardson, Floyd Wagner, Dave McCormick, and others whose names have slipped my mind. The school term in those early days was for only six months. This meant long summer vacations, but they were not all play. On the contrary, we had to work hard most of the time, as soon as we were able to drive a team, or to handle farm tools or machinery.
Schooling in District #37, Ise School:
The little white schoolhouse where I received my rudimentary education would comfortable hold about twenty pupils, although I have seen as many as forty packed into it. There were a number of big families in the district in those days. There were fourteen children in the Jones family, of whom as many as eight were in school at one time; of the eleven Ise children there were as many as seven in school at a time; of the eight Yost children there were sometimes four of r five in school. I usually sat with Albert Heiser. During one of two winters I sat with Charley Ise. Charley had a quick mind and could learn his lessons in half the time that I could. This left him too much time for play and mischief He was daily getting into all kinds of deviltry, and was punished repeatedly in the old-fashioned way, with green sticks or rubber hose. Sometimes he would come prepared for it, by putting on about three shirts and three pairs of pants, or by sticking shingles into the seat of his pants. One evening he was ordered to remain in after school. This happened quite frequently. But, on this occasion, in a hurried conference be between us it was agreed that while the rest of the school was marching out, Charley was to jump out of the back window where I was to meet him with his wraps. Everything passed off according to progamme, and before the teacher realized our design, Charley was cutting across the pasture on his way home. Miss Anne Jones, the teacher, then locked the school house door and followed Charley across the pasture to his home. AS to the concrete results of the conference between Miss Jones and Mr. Ise, I an unable to say.
Once the teacher ordered Charley and me to get some switches from the nearby hedge fence; with which to punished us for some misconduct. We cut the switches full of notches, so that at the first blow the teacher struck, the switches fell all to pieces. One day just before recitation time Charley took off my shoes, of course I was not exactly asleep when he did it. When our class was called for an explanation. Charley then spoke up with’ “I throwed Yost’s shoes out the window.” The teacher then ordered him to go out after them, and the recitation went on. We were both kept in after school that night for the usual intimate talk.
My great joy was to be able to sit beside Minnie (Doll) Ise during the recitation periods. I hardly think that she experienced the same thrill.
First Year As A Schoolteacher:
That first term of school put me to the test. With more preparation than what the country school afforded, together with a month’s normal training, I struggled through my pedagogical duties. Some of my pupils were older than I, and probably knew almost as much. The teacher preceding me had had trouble over a triangular love affair, of which she was on e angle. I recall that we were nearly frozen out that winter. Gumbo Christ, the district treasurer, was delegated to provide dry wood for our stove, but he only began cutting the wood when school began, and we therefore had green wood during most of the winter, wholly in keeping with the name of our school. Greenwood. Once a month I would call at the Christ home, a combination of shack, stable and granary under one roof, to get my salary voucher for $25. He was a jovial and interesting man, an old bachelor. Usually he had a pie tin on the stove, filled with cuds of chewing tobacco, which he would dry and smoke in his pipe. About the year 1897 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the office of Probate Judge of Osborne County. But more about our green wood which merely sizzled and would not burn. The stove was also too small for the new, spacious schoolroom. It was so cold that I had to let the children keep on their wraps during school hours.
My prize pupil was Felix Gygax who later attended the Downs High School from which he graduated. After teaching school for two years he was admitted to the United States Naval Academy, at Annapolis, on competitive examination, and graduated in 1906, in time to take that memorable cruise around the world of our navy, under the administration of Pres. Theodore Roosevelt. His advancement in the navy has been consistent and rapid, his outstanding achievements many. Today he holds the rank of commander in the navy.
At a joint entertainment given in my school house by my pupils and those of the Columbia district, a serious fire broke out in the hall way, due to some one knocking over a coal oil lamp on the Felix was burning cork to blacken his face, preparatory to taking his part in “Jumbo Jum,” a Negro play. For a time consternation prevailed among the large number of people present. Everywhere I could see people breaking the windows and jumping through them for safety. There was screaming and shouting. I tried to calm the excitement, but with little effect. As the fire was in the hallway, it shut off escape. We finally got the fire under control and went on with the play, but the interest had been lost. Just fifteen years later, while I was home from Paris on a vacation and to attend to business in court, I was called upon one night for an address at an entertainment in the Rose Valley church; and strange as this coincident my seem, while they were giving the same play, “Jumbo Jum,” just before I was scheduled to speak, a fire broke out in the hallway. Crowd behavior is apparently the same under similar circumstances. People shouted and screamed, fought each other, broke the windows, and jumped through them for safety. We soon got the fire under control, and went on with the entertainment. It was a strange coincident, to say the least.
Being Elected Osborne County Clerk of the District Court:
In the spring of 1906, the political bee began to buzz in my bonnet; I aspired to the office of Clerk of the District Court of Osborne County, and made and active campaign. My opponents were Bev Ayers, the incumbent of the office, and Adolph Brown, a lawyer from Alton. The Republican nominating convention, the last one on record, was held in the old Cunningham hail at Osborne in July 1906. Below is given an account of the convention by the Osborne County Farmer, July, 1928:
“The last Republican convention held for the purpose of nominating candidates for county offices was held in the old auditorium in Osborne in the summer of 1906, nearly 21 years ago. John Ford, now of Plainville, but at that time editor of the Alton Empire, was chairman, and Chas. E. Mann, then editor of the Downs New, secretary. The fight between the “Progressives and the “Standpatters” was just beginning to warm up, although practically all Republicans favored the nomination of Taft for President, as he was the choice of Roosevelt. According to the old custom, a few of the leaders met in Osborne the night before the convention selected the organization and tentatively agreed upon the county ticket. It was composed of J.B. Taylor for representative; John Doane for county clerk; L.F. Storer for treasurer; J.M. Smith for sheriff, A.P. Brown for Clerk of Court. There was no opposition to V.K.N. Groesbeck, Probate Judge; D.H. Lockridge, register of deeds; and N.C. Else, county attorney. The last two were serving their first terms, and with Groesbeck were endorsed by both factions. When the convention met it was known that there was strong opposition to the slate prepared the night before, and the fight grew warm as the afternoon session opened up. The opposition to the slate had not been able to get together on a candidate for representative, and was not real sure of their strength anyway. When nominations were in order, J.B. Taylor was placed in nomination. There was no other name mentioned, so the nomination was made by acclamation. This gave the impression that the opposition had given up its fight, but leaders were soon to know different, for when the next name was placed before the convention the fight was on. John Doane and George F. Schultz were placed in nomination for county clerk. The latter was sponsored by the Progressives of Boss Busters, as they were then known. The ballot resulted in the nomination of Schultz by a few votes. The atmosphere was now clear. The Boss Busters were now sure of themselves and they proceeded with reckless abandonment to nominate the entire remaining members the ticket, which was their own slate. They nominated Geo. H. Rogers for county treasurer; E.L.Curl for Sheriff, and Bartley F. Yost for Clerk of the Court. Groesbeck, Lockridge and Else were nominated by acclamation. The Boss Busters were jubilant and quite cocky after the convention was over, and they kicked themselves because they had not also picked a candidate for representative.
However, after the convention was over the factional trouble settled right down and everybody went to work for the ticket, and it was elected in its entirety. Two of the county officers elected on that ticket resigned without filling out their terms of office; George F. Schultz resigned to return to his business at Natoma, and John Doane filled out his unexpired term, Bartley F. Yost, Clerk of Court, Federal Government, in which he is still engaged, being now United States Consul at Sault St. Marie, Canada. He was succeeded by the late John A. Fouts.”
I was then new in politics and not aware of the trickeries practiced. When the first ballot for Clerk of the Court was announced, I had only about 40 votes, Ayers 25, and Brown 48. My heart sank within me. Some of my supporters seeing my distress, came to me, patted me on the shoulders and whispered into my ears not to worry, that the second ballot would show a different result; that Ayers was releasing his delegates and had instructed them to vote for me; also that a number of delegates had cast only complimentary votes for Brown and would come to me on the second ballot. All this came true and I was nominated with a rousing majority, It was a great day for me, I had announced from Bethany Township where I had lived for two years, but L.F.Storer, who aspired to the office of county treasurer, also from Bethany, fought me hard and claimed that I belonged to Ross Township. As a matter of fact, since April 11 had not actually lived in Bethany but all my interests were still there. Storer saw that it meant either him or me. He lost. He was elected to the office four years later.
That fall, after a strenuous campaign, I was elected by a good majority. After the election I made my home with sister Burga, 2 miles west of Osborne, Before taking up my office in January, I husked most of Ed Zimmerman’s corn crop. I began my first term on the first Monday in January 1907, in the old tumbledown courthouse. My term was for two years. During the summer of 1908 I announced my candidacy for a second term under the new primary election law which had been enacted by the Stubs administration, and which had just gone into effect.
How He Entered the Consular Service:
Senator Charles Curtis, while looking after his political fences in Osborne County, stepped into my office in the court house one day, and after a pleasant chat, he remarked to me; “Yost, do you speak any other language than English?” I replied that I also spoke German. He continued: “Well, this is very interesting; have you ever thought of trying for the United States consular service? If you are interested I am in position to assure you a designation for the next consular examinations to be held in the City of Washington this fall. Let me know definitely before I leave town” The Senator’s momentous proposition put me to thinking. It was no easy matter to break all the ties that bound me to the homeland and to launch out into uncharted waters. I had a county office; I was half owner of the Osborne County News; I owned a good farm; surely I could make a fair living without wandering off into foreign lands, away from Kith and kin. It was a momentous problem for me, and I had but little time for reflection. At noon I went home to confer with sister Burga. We arrived at a decision that such a step might be for my best interests. The dye was cast. That afternoon I called on the Senator at his hotel and told him of my decision. He looked me over with those keen, eagle-like eyes of his, slapped me on the shoulders and said “Bully for you, Yost; I shall write to President Roosevelt tonight and ask him to designate you for the next consular examinations”
Three weeks later I received a formal and courteous communication from the Department of State in Washington, advising me that I had been designated for the examinations to be held in November. I also received a number of pamphlets and suggestions with regard to the textbooks I should study. There were no library facilities then in the little town of Osborne, and I was unable to find the books I needed, and to send for them meant considerable loss of time. I borrowed and bought books whereever I could, and for the next two months I studied every spare moment, but I realized that it was an up-hill undertaking, and that there was but little chance of my passing the difficult test. At the suggestion of Mr. Fred Slater, a Topeka attorney, who had also been designated, being a distant relative of the Senator by marriage, we went to Washington together, three weeks before the examinations. There we had the advantage of the Library of Congress, the State Department Library and other sources of information
The examinations were given in the old Pension Building. Sam Reat looked the questions over, and suddenly developed some sort of a bowel complaint. The 36 men present struggled like Trojans over questions in international law, maritime law, commercial law, history of the world political science, commercial and industrial resources, accounting, bookkeeping, foreign languages, etc. etc. The third day at the Department of State we had to run the gauntlet of a scrutinizing commission of State Department officials and Civil Service Commission officials, who sized us up for our general appearance, personality, general address, manners, expression of thought, knowledge of current events, etc. I was ushered in with Fred Slater and a gentleman from Mankato, Kansas. “Please discuss the Balkan situation” was the question fired at the first man. He flunked, and it was passed on to Fred, and later to me. I was also called upon to discuss the Reclamation Policy of the United States Government. Fred Slater had failed in the previous examinations and was allowed to take it with me in November. In these examinations he failed also; so did the man from Mankato. In fact, out of 36 applicants, only 9 passed. I happened to be one of them, The first intimation I had of it was an article appearing in the New York World, shown me by Bert Lockridge, about three weeks after I had returned home.
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List of Consular Service through 1927 (retired in 1935):
It may be of interest to make a list of the several government commissions that I have been granted in connection with appointments and promotions in the consular service during the past twenty years; they are as follows:
1. June 24, 1908, Commission as Consular Assistant signed by President Theodore Roosevelt and Alvey A. Ade, Acting Secretary of State.
2. April 20, 1909, Commission as Deputy Consul General at Paris, signed by Huntington Wilson, Acting Secretary of State.
3. March 3, 1913; commission as Consular Agent at Almeria, Spain, signed by Philander C. Know, Secretary of State.
4. August 21, 1917, commission as Vice Consul at Genoa, Italy, signed by President W. Wilson.
5. June 15, 1918, Commission as Vice Consul at Santa Rosalia, Lower California, signed by Robert Lansing, Secretary of State. (On my way there I was appointed a full Consul; my work at S.R. was that of a Lookout Officer.)
6. July 6, 1918, commission as Consul Class Eight, Signed by President Wilson and Secretary of State Frank L. Polk.
7. November 22, 1918, Commission as Consul at Guaymas, Mexico, signed by President Woodrow Wilson and Secretary of State Frank L. Polk.
8. September 5, 1919, commission as Consul Class Seven, signed by President Woodrow Wilson and Acting Secretary of State Win, Phillips.
9. October 15,1919, Exequator to act as consul at Guaymas, Mexico, signed by President V. Carranza of Mexico.
10. June 4, 1920, Commission as consul Class Six, signed by President Woodrow Wilson and Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby.
11. December 17, 1923, Commission as Consul Class Six at Torreon, Mexico, signed by President Calvin Coolidge and Secretary of State Chas. F. Hughes.
12. July 1, 1924, Commission as Foreign Service Officer Class Seven, signed by President Calvin Coolidge and Secretary of State Chas. E. Hughes.
13. Dec. 20, 1924, commission as Foreign Service Officer Class Seven, signed by President Calvin Coolidge and Secretary of State Chas. F. Hughes. (After confirmation by U.S. Senate).
14. June 18, 1924, Exequator, to act as consul at Torreon, Mexico, signed by President Alvaro Obregon, of Mexico.
15. October 13, 1926, commission as consul at Sault Ste. Marie, signed by President Calvin Coolidge and Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg.
16. January 3, 1927, Exequator, authorizing Bartley F. Yost to act as Consul at Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, signed by King George V. of Great Britain and by Mackenzie King, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Canada.
17. December 7, 1927, Commission as Foreign Service Officer Class Six, signed by President Calvin Coolidge and Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg (After confirmation by U.S. Senate.)