(On this date, August 25, 2019, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present for the first time anywhere the first of the five members of the OCHF Class of 2019.)
The latest inductee into the Osborne County Hall of Fame is perhaps the one member that we know the least about. His is the oldest known Euro-American burial within the confines of Osborne County and he is the oldest military veteran buried in the county as well, far from his native home.
Edward R. Roche was born in County Tipperary, Ireland in 1845/1846, the exact date unknown. That was the period of the Great Potato Famine in Ireland, and over the next five years there was great suffering and hardship on the Emerald Ise. When only six years old, and any known family, the young Edward joined 273 other passengers in sailing for the United States aboard the clipper ship “Fidelia”. Launched in 1845 and owned by the Black Ball Line, the “Fidelia” left Liverpool, England, and after a voyage of 45 days arrived in New York City, New York, on August 5, 1851.
What is next known about Edward is his enlistment as a private at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on March 16, 1866, for a period of three years in Company I of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry. Roche’s enlistment record described him as being 20 years old with a height of 5 foot, 7.5 inches tall, having gray eyes and a fair complexion, and his birthplace given as County Tipperary, Ireland.
Nearly five years earlier U.S. Deputy Surveyors D. E. Ballard and E. C. Manning were given the task to ascertain and officially set the boundaries for what was later named Osborne County, Kansas. The pair had commenced the survey the county on September 8, 1862, but all surveying activity was halted in 1863 due to Indian incursions in the area. It was not until 1866 when the pair were allowed to take up their work again. According to the official records at Fort Riley, Kansas, Private Roche and others of Company I were assigned to escort duty for the surveyors in the summer of 1866. The surveying party are believed to have been somewhere in the lower Twin Creek valley, near the South Fork Solomon River, when they were attacked by Indians on July 21, 1866. Private Edward Roche was the lone soldier killed in action during the fray. The surveying party buried Private Roche atop a prominent nearby knoll near where the four corners of today’s Penn, Hancock, Corinth, and Bloom Townships meet in east-central Osborne County. A stone was placed there to mark Roche’s remains and afterwards his grave became a well-known landmark to the area’s early Euro-American settlers. On May 15, 1868, the survey of Osborne County was officially completed.
In 1879 the Osborne City Cemetery was opened and Roche’s remains was reinterred in Section D, Lot 37 of the cemetery, an area commonly referred to as the “soldier’s lot” and specifically set aside for military veterans. A government military marker was ordered for his grave and unfortunately arrived with his name incorrectly engraved as Edmund Roach. It has marked his grave for over 140 years.
Though over fourteen decades have passed, the memory and sacrifice of this young Irishman will not be forgotten by those living where he has lain in peace for so long. We salute Edward R. Roche and accord him a hallowed place among the honored in the Osborne County Hall of Fame.
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“Black Ball Clipper Fidelia leaving New York, 1852”, painting by Henry Scott (1911-2005).
“The Packet Fidelia,” painting by Antonio Nicolo Gasparo Jacobsen (1850-1921).
Enlistment Records, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Company I, 2nd U.S. Cavalry, March 16, 1866.
Famine Irish Entry Project, 1846-1851, Washington, D.C., National Archives and Records Administration.
(On this date, November 16, 2018, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present for the first time anywhere the second of the three members of the OCHF Class of 2018.)
Eugene was born to 1996 Osborne County Hall of Fame inductee Bliss Albro and Pearl Josephine (Nelson) Van Gundy at Osborne, Kansas on November 18, 1921. He graduated from high school in Osborne, Kansas in 1939. Eugene then attended John Brown University for two years and transferred to Oklahoma State University, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. Eugene registered for the draft on February 16, 1942, and was described as being six feet in height, weighing 175 pounds, with eyes and hair color being brown. He then enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in May 1942 and entered World War II as an aviator.
By July 1943 Eugene was assigned to the Marine Scout Bombing Squadron and had earned the rank of First Lieutenant. In April 1944 First Lieutenant Van Gundy was assigned to Air Regulating Squadron 3, Personnel Group, Marfair, West Coast, Mcad, at Miramar Air Force Base in San Diego, California. By April 1946 he had attained the rank of Captain. In July 1950 Captain Van Gundy was assigned to Marine Fighter Squadron 236, Marine Air Squadron Training Command, at the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, North Carolina. He was soon after sent to Korea.
Eugene flew in both World War II and in the Korean War, completing over 180 missions. For his valor as a pilot Eugene earned four Air Medals, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, and numerous other awards and honors.
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“It was not until September 23, 1951, that an F7F achieved the type’s second – and last – aerial victory. Major Eugene Van Gundy and Master Sergeant Thomas Ullom picked up a PO-2 coming into Kempo [Air Base], but too late to get anything airborne in time for an intercept . . . Lowering his flaps to the maximum setting, Van Gundy eased up behind the Mule, which was not expecting any pursuit. A few miles north of Seoul, a fusillade of 20mm rounds converged on the frail machine resulting in its immediate disintegration. It was an outstanding kill for VMF(N)-513 and a portent of things to come when the unit received its Douglas F3D Skyknights later in the war.” – “F7F Tigercat”, Flypast Magazine, June 2018.
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On September 23, 1951, an F7F-3N Tigercat of the “Flying Nightmares,” VMF(N)-513, flown by Major Eugene A. Van Gundy and Master Sergeant Thomas H. Ullom, was aloft searching for a “Bedcheck Charlie” Polikarpov PO-2 biplane and made radar contact. The Tigercat pilot purposely went down to minimum speed to avoid overshooting the slower biplane. At a range of about 500 feet, Van Gundy made visual contact and fired about 100 rounds of 20mm ammunition at it. The Polikarpov burst into flames instantly and was seen burning on the ground as the F7F-3N returned to base.” – Robert F. Dorr, “The Lore of the Corps: F7F Tigercat was terror of night skies in Korea”, in the Marine Corps Times of April 26, 2004.
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“Major Eugene A Van Gundy, U. S. Marines, is reported among the wounded in the Korean War. His wife lives in Osborne.” – Salina Journal, January 20, 1952.
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“Major Eugene A. Van Gundy, Osborne, has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the Marine Corps in Korea. He received the decoration for shooting down an enemy plane at night, an unusual accomplishment of the Korean War. This marks the fifth time Major Van Gundy has been decorated. He previously had been awarded four Air Medals. His wife Betty, son Rodney, and parents Mr. and Mrs. Bliss A. Van Gundy, all reside in Osborne.” – Osborne County Farmer, July 3, 1952.
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Eugene was first married to Betty Rae Fallis in 1944. They had three sons, Rodney, Martin, and Thomas. He then married Geneva Marie Stiner on March 5, 1965 in Elk City, Oklahoma. With Geneva Eugene had three daughters, Billie, Sherri, and Doryce.
At the end of the 1950s Eugene left the Marine Corps and took a job with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), spending a great deal of time in Europe. While there he spent nine years working with the development of the Concorde supersonic aircraft and was one of the first Americans to pilot it.
After retirement from the FAA Eugene and his family settled in Ardmore, Oklahoma. He was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Ardmore and of the Military Officers Association of America. Eugene’s hobbies were camping, cabinet making, wood working, traveling, eating (especially ice cream and M&M’s) and numerous family activities. He loved animals, especially horses and birds, and was known for his infectious humor.
Retired USMC Colonel Eugene Alleyn Van Gundy passed away on Sunday, August 26, 2012 at Ardmore, Oklahoma. He was laid to rest in Hillcrest Memorial Park, Ardmore, Oklahoma, with full military honors. Eugene joins his father Bliss Van Gundy with an honored place in the Osborne County Hall of Fame.
(On this date, November 15, 2018, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present for the first time anywhere the first of the three members of the OCHF Class of 2018.)
When we consider the stereotypical negative reception that a female medical doctor practicing her profession endured from most patients – and, sadly, yes, her fellow colleagues as well – in Kansas during the latter 19th Century, one generally pauses to admire the courage and resolve of such trained professionals whenever we come across them in our history. We more than paused when we discovered that not one, but two such doctors – sisters – who were active medical practitioners and who lived and worked in Osborne County during the homesteading period of 1870-1910. It is with great pleasure that Arabelia and Lucy (Cowell) Thompson, the sisters who married brothers, take their special place in the Osborne County Hall of Fame.
In the year 1846 22-year old Christopher Columbus Cowell joyously married Rebecca Harmon in Pennsylvania. The couple would raise four children: son Madison and daughters Arabelia, Lucy, and Mary. Arabelia Anna Cowell was born January 3, 1850 in Tunkhannock Township, Monroe County, Pennsylvania. The next year the family moved to Rock Creek Township, Carroll County, Illinois, where Lucy Arabella Cowell was born November 11, 1851.
By 1870 the Cowell family was living in Elkhorn Grove Township, Carroll County, Illinois. Both Arabelia and Lucy attended Mount Carroll Seminary (later called Shimer College) in nearly Mount Carroll, Illinois and in 1872 graduated from Hahnemann Medical College at Chicago, Illinois, with degrees in homeopathic medicine.
The Hahnemann Medical College opened in 1860 and became coeducational in 1871. During this time period in our national history there were perfectly legal medical institutions who trained practitioners in alternative medical practices to what was taught in what we would label the “regular” medical colleges. Homeopathy was the most popular alternative, especially among well-educated segments of society. The homeopathic theory of medicine held that drugs should be tested to determine their effects, that a drug which causes specific symptoms in a well person should be used in diluted form to treat those same symptoms in an unwell person, and that by utilizing these methods over time the body can be trained to heal itself. Except for the emphasis upon homeopathic therapeutics, instruction at Hahnemann resembled that found in Chicago’s “regular” medical schools.
Immediately after graduation Arabelia and Lucy Cowell settled in Sterling, Whiteside County, Illinois, where they opened a joint medical practice.
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“We would call the attention of the public of Sterling and vicinity, to the advertisement of the Misses Drs. Cowell, in another column of this paper. These young ladies have prepared themselves for the practice of their profession by an extensive and thorough course of study, graduating at the last annual commencement of the Hahnemann Medical College, of Chicago, with the highest honors of their class. We would recommend those in need of medical advice or treatment, to give the Drs. Cowell a call. Special attention is given by them to diseases incident to those of their own sex, though they are prepared to treat all classes of disease. Office over Machamer & Gable’s Confectionery store, on Mulberry Street.” – Sterling Standard, Sterling, Illinois, May 16, 1872, Page 1.
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On November 17, 1873 Lucy Arabella Cowell married Mayo Clare Thompson in Elkhorn Grove Township, Carroll County, Illinois. Mayo was born October 10, 1850 in Cornish, Maine. He lived in Dane County, Wisconsin in 1860, and by 1870 in Black Hawk Township, Grundy County, Iowa. After their marriage Mayo and Lucy moved to Reinbeck, Black Hawk Township, Grundy County, Iowa. There they had two children, Mary Rebecca and Sydney Roy.
Meanwhile, Mayo’s older brother Curtis Austin Thompson was getting to know Lucy’s older sister Arabelia. Curtis was born April 7, 1846 in Cornish, Maine. He met Arabelia Anna Cowell in 1873 at his brother’s wedding. From 1873 to 1876 Curtis had a government position at Washington, D.C. Finally on August 18, 1876 he married Arabelia in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The next year they moved to Fairfield County, Grundy County, Iowa, where they had two children, Lewis William and Sarah Pauline. In 1879 they moved to Reinbeck, Black Hawk Township, Grundy County, Iowa, where Arabelia opened a practice and Curtis operated a creamery. While there the couple’s third child was born, Ray Harmon.
1879 was the year that Mayo and Lucy bought a partially-proved up homestead claim located in Section 35 of Independence Township, Osborne County, Kansas, some eleven miles southwest of the county seat of Osborne City, and moved west from Reinbeck. Their first home was a log house. Later Mayo built two frame houses and a large barn. On the homestead Mayo hunted deer, antelope and, buffalo. In later years he hunted prairie chickens, quail, ducks, and geese. Some of these were salted, packed in barrels and shipped east. Lucy opened her medical practice and often watched over the patients of other physicians in the area whenever they were away. In September 1881 Mayo finished “proving up” the claim and used it as the foundation of what would become the 1,182-acre Thompson Ranch.
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In 1882 Curtis and Arabelia Thompson moved their family to Independence Township, Osborne County, Kansas, onto an adjoining farm next to Mayo and Lucy. The brothers pooled their land to form the growing ranch as the wives resumed their medical practice via horse and buggy, both being referred to as “Dr. Mrs. Thompson”. Things were fine until August 1883, when Lucy contracted pneumonia from a patient she was caring for.
“Mrs. Dr. Thompson of Covert is reported as seriously ill. Dr. VanScoyoc has been in attendance.” – Osborne County News, August 16, 1883.
“Mrs. Dr. Thompson of Bristow, the lady who had charge of Dr. VanScoyoc’s practice during his absence in Colorado, died very suddenly on Sunday morning.” – Osborne County Farmer, August 23, 1883.
Lucy Arabella Thompson died on August 19, 1883. The mother of two was buried in the nearby Bristow Cemetery.
Curtis and Arabelia lived on the ranch for another ten years. Curtis devoted his time to raising livestock and was one of the first people to introduce alfalfa to Kansas. Their fourth child, Lee Austin, was born on the ranch in October 1883. Then came three more children, Phoebe, Edward Wayne, and Prentice Madison. In the spring of 1892 Curtis and Arabelia moved to the town of Osborne, Kansas, both to give their children better school advantages and Arabelia the chance to practice her profession in an urban setting. Their final child, a son, was born the next year but lived only a short time. They continued to operate the ranch until 1905, when it was sold.
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Dr. Arabelia Anna Thompson’s advertisement in the Osborne County Farmer newspaper of May 24, 1894.
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Osborne County Doctors Meet.
“The Osborne County Medical Society met in Osborne on January 9, Dr. T. O. Felix, vice-president, presiding. The minutes of the previous meeting were read and approved. Drs. Armstrong, Dillon, Chilcott, T. O. and T. B. Felix, Walker, Thompson and Henshall present. The advisability of erecting and maintaining a hospital in Osborne to be known as the Osborne County Hospital, to be incorporated and open to all patients, physicians and surgeons was introduced and discussed. A committee was appointed to investigate its feasibility and report its findings to the next regular meeting of the society. The secretary was instructed to send the record of this meeting to each newspaper in the county. A paper “Quacks and Their Ways”, was read by Dr. Armstrong and discussed by the society. Dr. B. F. Chilcott was elected president of the society for 1906; Dr. T. O. Felix, vice-president; Dr. E. O. Henshall, secretary; Dr. A. A. Thompson, treasurer; and Dr. J. H. Walker, member of board of censors for three years. No further business appearing the society was adjourned to meet in Osborne on the 2nd Tuesday in February, 1906. E. O. Henshall, secretary.” – Downs Times, January 18, 1906.
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In 1901 Curtis Thompson and his son Lewis bought a machine and blacksmith shop in Osborne. They operated it until February 8, 1908, when it was destroyed by fire, and they did not rebuild.
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MACHINE SHOP BURNED
Fire Causes Loss of Three Thousand Dollars.
“Thursday evening shortly before 11 o’clock the fire alarm bell summoned the department to the machine shops of C. A. Thompson & Son, on South Street, which had been discovered to be ablaze. That is hardly the right term. The whole interior of the building was a roaring mass of flames, which had not then broken through the roof. A fiercer fire has not occurred in this city in several years, but fortunately the damage was confined to the building in which it started. Surrounding buildings were very damp, having been crusted with ice the previous day, and the roofs were wet with melting snow, or there would have been a different story to tell. The fiercest fire was located near the business office, where a quantity of mixed paint and lubricating oil was stored, adding to the difficulty of extinguishing the fire. The alarm was not turned in until the fire had gained considerable headway, the shops being so located that even nearby residents would hardly notice it, and the time of night being when most of our people had gone to bed. The fire department responded promptly to the call, as did also a big crowd of spectators. A breeze from the northwest prevented the alarm bell from being heard in the western arid northern parts of the city and many of our people did not learn till next morning that there had been a fire. It was about 4 a.m. Friday before the firemen thought it safe to leave the ruins. The, contents of the shop, including a buggy belonging to C. H. Nicholas, a gasoline engine owned by B. P. Walker, and a separator and all necessary machinery for making repairs, were either consumed by the fire or so badly warped and twisted as to be practically worthless. The loss is estimated to be something like $3,000, with no insurance. We understand that the shops will not be rebuilt.” – Osborne County Farmer, February 20, 1908.
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In 1910 Curtis and Arabelia moved to West Arvada in Jefferson County, Colorado to live with their son Lee. In July 1910 Arabelia made a trip to Waterloo, Iowa to deliver her grandson, Frederick Yoxall Thompson, son of Ray. The next year Curtis and Arabelia went to live with their son Lewis in Ontario, San Bernardino County, California, and in 1914 they moved to Orange, Orange County, California. It was there that Arabelia Anna (Cowell) Thompson died on November 22, 1915. She was laid to rest in Fairhaven Memorial Park at Santa Ana, Orange County, California.
Judy Thompson, Telluride, Colorado.
Downs Times, January 18, 1906.
Osborne County Farmer, September 15, 1881; August 23, 1883; May 24, 1894; February 20, 1908.
Osborne County News, August 16, 1883.
Sterling Standard, May 16, 1872.
Osborne County Genealogical & Historical Society, The People Came (1977), ppgs. 186-188.
Thompson Family Genealogy, prepared by Curtis Austin Thompson and Ray Harmon Thompson. Unpublished.
1860 U.S. census, population schedule. NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d., Year: 1860; Census Place: Rock Creek, Carroll, Illinois; Roll: M653_159; Page: 918.
1870 U.S. census, population schedules. NARA microfilm publication M593, 1,761 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d., Year: 1870; Census Place: Elkhorn Grove, Carroll, Illinois; Roll: M593_191; Page: 108B.
(On this date, August 8, 2017, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present for the first time anywhere the fourth of five members of the OCHF Class of 2017.)
The seventh and latest Valley Township resident to be named a member of the Osborne County Hall of Fame was born September 9, 1923, the third child of Albert and Clara (Russum) Paschal in the Vincent community in Osborne County, north of Luray, Kansas. Willis Albert “Bill” Paschal was welcomed by older siblings Inez (Breeden) and Wallace. From a very young age, Bill was helping his father with chores around the farm. He helped to work the horse-drawn plows, tended to cattle and horses, and weeded gardens, among many other tasks. At the tender age of seven Bill’s mother died, and the young boy became a very independent thinker and doer. By the age of nine he was riding his pony the seven miles to Luray and on another four miles east to spend the week at a farmer’s home, herding his cattle along the road for pennies a day.
His father married Hazel Cooper a few years later. The family soon welcomed the addition of Robert and later Maurita (Cederberg). Bill’s grade school years were in the rural one-room Vincent School. He would usually ride his pony there. When it was too cold to ride, his father, Albert, would put him in an old milk wagon, point the horse towards the school, and slap the horse on the rump. This was reversed for the trip home. Bill had many cousins in the surrounding Vincent community with whom he enjoyed spending time. Because of their love of baseball, Albert and Wallace constructed a baseball field out of the corner of a pasture. The cousins enjoyed many games played on Paschal Field.
Bill attended and graduated from Luray High School with the class of 1941. During high school he participated in basketball and football (lettering multiple times), and was part of the undefeated football team of 1940. Another cherished memory was of beating Russell High School in basketball (Bob Dole was on Russell’s team). At the age of 15 Bill was one of the workers who dug out the floor (by hand) of the Hickman Theater to turn it from a theater to a gymnasium, which was used by Luray High School and is now known as the Luray Legion Hall.
After graduation Bill enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942. By the age of 19 he had become an instructor for ground and aerial gunnery (50mm machine gun) at Tyndall Field in Florida. After ten missions over northern Europe as a nose gunner on a B-24, his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire over Austria, the day after his 21st birthday. Bill parachuted, landing in the Danube River, where he was discovered by a farmer’s dog and captured. The next eight months were spent in POW camp Stalag IV-B, in northern Germany. To combat both boredom and the extreme cold, Bill fashioned a crochet hook from a piece of wood he pulled loose from a floorboard. He would unravel the sleeves of sweaters sent by the Red Cross and, recalling how he used to watch his grandmother crochet, he invented a crochet stitch and proceeded to crochet hats and gloves for himself and other soldiers. In the last months of the war, Bill was forced to endure the hardships of three months of the “Black March”. Starvation and freezing temperatures were a constant threat. He was eventually liberated by Scottish Highlander soldiers, and proceeded to walk to Holland in order to find a ship home. Bill was honorably discharged in October 1945.
Bill returned to his parents’ home in the Vincent community, and enrolled at Kansas State University (KSU). While in college he started his farming operation, renting 160 acres in Osborne County and soon buying a farm one mile east of Luray. In order to keep farming while attending college, Bill would hitchhike from Manhattan back to Luray on the weekends. During this time he married his high school sweetheart, Joyce Johnson, on New Year’s Day 1947. After they both graduated from KSU, Bill with a degree in agricultural economics and Joyce with an education degree, they made their home in the Luray area where Bill was a successful farmer/stockman and Joyce taught school. Over the years he was featured in several farming publications for his progressive farming techniques and soil conservation efforts. Bill and Joyce were named Kansas Master Farmer and Master Farm Homemaker for the year 1981. Their farming operation increased to include almost 6,000 acres (including the Osborne County farm he grew up on) growing crops of wheat, milo, and alfalfa and running a cattle and hog operation.
Bill has served his community by involving himself in area activities. During his 20s he played on the Luray community baseball team, usually as the catcher. Bill also umpired many baseball games in the area. When he was a little older, on most Friday nights he could be found working the score clock at a Luray basketball game or the chains at numerous high school football games. The stands at these football games were filled with people wearing hats bearing the orange and black of Luray High School. Bill crocheted all those hats using the crochet hook and the crochet stitch he invented while he was held prisoner in the POW camp. If there was any event in town, Bill could usually be found helping to set up for it and cleaning up afterward.
In the past Bill has served on the board of directors for Midway Co-op, served many years on the Russell County Free Fair board, the Russell County 4-H Development Fund board, and over 30 years as a 4-H club leader of the Wolf Creek Valley 4-H Club. He is a charter member of the Luray Lion’s Club (over 65 years), a member of American Legion Post 309, and of Luray United Methodist Church where he has served on the Board of Trustees, Administrative Board, and on the Building Committee when they built the new church in 1968. He also sang in the church choir on a weekly basis. Bill served at the first Luray Methodist Men’s Fish Fry in 1939 and volunteered again at the 80th annual event in 2018, missing volunteering for this event only while in captivity during World War II.
Bill retired from farming, with his son Mark taking over the farm. He and Joyce (deceased November 2012) had three children – Mark Paschal, Martha Powell, and Meredith Mense. He loved spending time with his grandchildren – Nicole (Paschal) Webber, Dr. Caitlin Powell, Garrett Powell, Brennan Mense, and Michaela Mense. Bill was thrilled by the addition of his first great-grandson, Landyn Webber, and made his home at Luray until his passing in the early morning hours of April 12, 1998. Bill will always be an honored member of the Osborne County Hall of Fame.
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World War II veteran recalls experiences as a German POW
Friday, November 11, 2016
By Gary Demuth
LURAY — Until he was held as a prisoner of war in Germany during World War II, Bill Paschal never thought the time he spent watching his grandmother crochet would come in handy.
Paschal, a nose gunner on a B-24 bomber, parachuted into the Danube River after his plane was shot down over Vienna, Austria, on Sept. 10, 1944 — the day after his 21st birthday.
Now he was in Stalag IV-B, a German POW camp in the far northern city of Stettin, Germany. During his nine months at the camp, much of it during a fiercely cold winter, Paschal and his fellow prisoners experienced frigid temperatures in uninsulated cabins with nothing but a small heating stove for warmth.
The Red Cross had supplied the prisoners with sweaters to help keep them warm, but that didn’t help their half-frozen hands and bare heads. That’s when Paschal had an idea. They would rip the sleeves off their sweaters, unravel them into strings of yarn, and Paschal would crochet them into gloves and caps.
“Me and another prisoner, Rex, a kid from Missouri, remembered watching our grandmothers crochet while we were growing up,” said Paschal, now 93. “We made some crochet needles from tree branches and fiddled around until we made gloves and caps that looked like little hunter hats with flaps.”
Paschal was happy to do this service for his fellow prisoners, crocheting nearly 50 hats and gloves during his nine months at the camp.
“It was something to do in the camp,” he said.
On the eve of Veterans Day, Paschal recalled his service during World War II, where he not only flew 10 missions on a B-24 and spent months in a German POW camp but was part of a German “Black March,” where thousands of POWs marched countless miles in northern Europe to avoid the advancing American and Allied forces from the west and Russia from the east.
The Germans wanted to keep the prisoners to use as bargaining tools as the war came to an end, but the arduous march cost the lives of 6,000 of their starved and exhausted captives.
“I was one of the lucky ones,” Paschal said.
It was a situation Paschal never envisioned for himself while growing up the middle child of five on a Luray farm family. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and the U.S. entered World War II, Paschal and a few of his buddies went to Kansas City to enlist in October 1942. Paschal was just 18 at the time, a recent graduate of Luray High School.
“I signed up for the Army Air Corps and went off that day because I didn’t want to have to come back later,” he said.
Paschal went through basic training at Tyndall Field, Florida, near Panama City and became an instructor for ground and aerial gunnery beginning at age 19. In 1944, he was deployed to Europe, eventually ending up at an air base in southern Italy.
Paschal became a nose gunner on a B-24, operating a .50 caliber machine gun and manning a gun turret. He flew 10 missions over northern Europe before the September day when his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire during a bombing raid into Austria and began spiraling into a crash dive.
“The captain held onto the controls as the plane spun around, and he jumped out just before it crashed into the Danube River,” Paschal said. “I parachuted into the river and crawled up the bank. We were being hunted by local farmers who had a police dog, and the dog found me. They turned me in.”
At home in Luray, Paschal’s sister Maurita, then just 7, remembered her parents receiving a telegram saying their son was “missing in action.”
“My brother Robert and I were walking home from school, and we saw our parents coming down the road towards us,” she said. “We knew something was wrong from the looks on their faces. They told us Bill had been shot down and they didn’t know where he was.”
It took another two months before the Paschal family was informed that Bill was in a POW camp in Germany.
“Dad would sit with his ear against the radio every night to hear the war news and find out anything he could about the POWs,” she said.
At the stalag, or prison camp, about 26 prisoners were crammed into rooms of about 15-by-15 feet. They slept on triple-deck bunk beds and ate rutabaga, kohlrabi and boiled potatoes, with the occasional luxury of horse meat.
Cigarettes also were a luxury at the camp. Paschal, who didn’t smoke, traded the crocheted caps and gloves he had made for cigarettes, then traded the cigarettes for food to nicotine-addicted prisoners who would rather smoke than eat.
Paschal said he wasn’t the only crafty operator in the camp. There were prisoners who made radios out of wires ripped out of their insulated air uniforms. With these wires and other scrap items, they were able to fashion a crystal radio set to receive war news coming over the airwaves.
“Every night, there was a guy who would sneak around to different cabins and give us news reports of war activities,” he said. “The Germans never knew.”
After the American and Allied armies began pushing into Europe, the Germans decided to move their POWs to another stalag. They marched to different locations in northern Europe for three months in what became known as the “Black March.”
“They were losing the war, so they just started marching us in circles,” Paschal said. “We slept on the ground and were not fed well. It was constantly moving, moving.”
Paschal estimated the march covered about 800 miles before they were liberated by Scottish Highlander troops.
“We were marching north with the Americans coming one way and the Russians coming the other,” Paschal said. “After awhile, we noticed there weren’t any guards around anymore. They knew the war was coming to an end, so they disappeared one day. We continued to march and ended up in Holland.”
After being liberated, Paschal was sent back to the U.S. He took a train to Kansas, stopping in Russell, where he was met by his father and brother Wallace.
“He weighed about 100 pounds by the time he got home,” sister Maurita said. “His eyes were so sunken, it didn’t look like him at all.”
Paschal was honorably discharged from the Army and went to college, earning a agricultural economics degree from Kansas State University. On New Year’s Day 1947, he married Joyce Johnson, his childhood sweetheart in Luray, who had worked as a secretary for the Department of the Navy in Washington, D.C.
Paschal spent his life farming in the Luray and Russell County areas. Joyce became a teacher and had three children, Mark, Martha and Meredith.
For years, Paschal didn’t talk about his war experiences and kept all of his war memorabilia in a trunk, including uniforms, his POW dog tag, a German backpack with a wooden block reading “Destination Home” and his medals, which include a POW medal and two Purple Hearts.
What people in his hometown did discover about Paschal’s war years was his crocheting ability, which led to many requests for caps and gloves.
“After I got home, everybody wanted caps and gloves,” he said. “But they had to be orange and black. Those were our school colors.”
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Luray Farm Couple Honored
March 11, 1982, Page One
MANHATTAN – A Russell County farmer, who was once a prisoner of war, and his wife, who has taught school for 25 years to help make ends meet, have been named 1981 Kansas Master Farmer and Master Farm Homemaker for Northwest Kansas.
They are Mr. and Mrs. Bill Paschal, Luray.
Six couples will be honored March 19th at the annual Kansas Master Farmer-Master Farm Homemaker recognition banquet on the Kansas State University campus in Manhattan.
The other honorees are Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Colle, Sterling; Mr. and Mrs. Dean Hamilton, Dodge City; Mr. and Mrs. William Beezley, Girard; Mr. and Mrs. Detman Gooderl, Hoyt; and Mr. and Mrs. Ewald Meier, Palmer.
Kansas Master Farmer and Master Farm Homemaker competition is sponsored by the KSU Cooperative Extension Service and the Kansas Association of Commerce and Industry to honor outstanding farm couples.
Nominees are submitted by county extension councils. A five-member judging panel at Kansas State selects the recipients on the basis of excellence in farming, homemaking, farm living and rural citizenship.
The Paschals, both 58, purchased their first land – 240 acres just east of Luray – in 1951. Their operation now includes 1, 600 acres (160 acres in Wyoming) and another 280 rented acres.
About 950 acres are in cultivation and the remainder are pasture.
Strong believers in diversity, the Paschals grow wheat, milo, and alfalfa, feed about 150 steers a year and run a 100-head cow herd.
“If something happens to the profitability of one enterprise, hopefully the others will carry us through,” Paschal says.
The beef cattle operation starts with the purchase of 45-pound crossbred steers in the fall. Steers are wintered on sorghum silage that includes ground grain. Cattle are moved to bromegrass pasture for the summer.
If plenty of milo is available in the fall, steers are finished on milo, ensilage alfalfa, then sold at 1,100 to 1,200 pounds in the spring. Otherwise, they are sold as 800 to 900-pound feeders in the fall.
They also had a farrow-to-finish hog operation for a number of years, but have now turned that operation over to their son, Mark.
The cropping operation is built around a wheat, milo and summer fallow rotation. Herbicide is sprayed and bladed in immediately after wheat harvest, and the land is planted to milo in the spring.
Last year, Paschal had 330 acres of wheat, 225 acres of milo cut for grain, 53 acres of forage sorghum cut for silage and 24 acres of alfalfa. About 270 acres are fallowed each year.
Soil conservation get top billing on the Paschal farm. About 600 acres of cropland have been terraced and a number of ponds have been built in pastures.
The Paschal farmstead has undergone a number of improvements over the years. An old concrete cattle shed with an open front was closed in and used as a farrowing house. A number of new structures were added, including a metal garage and shop, a pole-type building for machinery storage, a 40-by-80-foot steel building for grain and machinery storage, a hay shed and five steel grain bins.
Original wooden corrals have been replaced with steel and are served with automatic waterers. Many of the electric lines, as well as the water and natural gas lines, are underground.
The Paschals are active off the farm. They are members of the United Methodist Church in Luray where Bill has served as chairman of the church board, sung in the choir and is on the pastor-parish and pension fund committees.
Joyce has been an extension homemaker unit member for many years, and both have been 4-H community leaders for 18 years.
Bill has served as county Farm Bureau president, Farm Management Association director, county fair board president and director of the Midway Co-op board. He also served on the county extension council and has been a member of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and the Kansas Livestock Association. He was a charter member of the Luray Lions Club, commander of the American Legion and a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Joyce is a member of the National, Kansas and Russell County Education Associations, and Delta Kappa Gamma International educational sorority.
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SOURCES: Maurita Cederberg, Luray, Kansas; Meredith Mense, Kansas City, Kansas; Mark Paschal, Luray, Kansas; Willis “Bill” Paschal, Luray, Kansas; Martha Powell, Spring Hill, Kansas; Salina Journal, March 11, 1982; Salina Journal, December 31, 2006; Salina Journal, November 11, 2016; Salina Journal, December 31, 2006.
(On this date, August 7, 2017, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present for the first time anywhere the third of the five members of the OCHF Class of 2017.)
Harold’s Early Years
by Shirley (Mischler) Davis, sister
Harold Louis Mischler was born January 9, 1946 to Louis and Elsie Mischler, at the Beloit Hospital, known now as the Mitchell County Hospital, in Beloit, Kansas. He was their younger child, having two sisters, Carolyne (Mischler) Sage and Shirley (Mischler) Davis. He grew up on a farm 12 miles southwest of Osborne, Kansas, in the Kill Creek Community. He attended the one-room, eight-grade Mayview Elementary School for eight years. The school year was in session from September 1st until April 30th. The kids in country schools only went eight months so they could help with the spring farming. He then attended Osborne High School, graduating in 1963.
While in high school, Harold played both football and basketball. He played the trombone in the school band. He was a member of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and several other organizations. He started college at Kansas Wesleyan University (KWU) in Salina, Kansas, completing his freshman year. He played football while at KWU. From there, he transferred to Kansas University (KU) at Lawrence, Kansas, and graduated in 1968 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business. Before graduation at KU, he was selected to attend Officers Candidate School and was assigned to Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas. Upon his graduation, June 28, 1968, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U. S. Air Force and assigned to Vance Air Force Base, in Enid, Oklahoma for one year of pilot training.
Harold was a member of the Kill Creek Evangelical United Brethren Church, which later became the Kill Creek United Methodist Church, and the Osborne Masonic Lodge.
All through his school years Harold was an avid reader. He would read whatever was available. When he didn’t have library books, he would read the World Book Encyclopedia. He would much rather do that than go out to do the farming and other chores that needed to be done!
As a child, Harold especially enjoyed playing with his dogs. He spent most of his summers fishing with his sister on the creek where he lived. On Sundays, his dad would take them to fish in one of the area ponds. In the fall and winter he enjoyed hunting rabbits, squirrel, pheasants, and quail.
Harold was a people person that greatly enjoyed spending time with his family and friends. He especially enjoyed children and spending time with his nieces and nephews.
In the summers while he was on break from college, Harold helped in the construction of the Glen Elder Dam and Reservoir. The summer between his junior and senior years in college, he worked in Iceland, for Icelandic Airlines, working with their cost accountants and cost analysts.
Lieutenant Mischler was awarded his United States Air Force silver pilot wings at Vance Air Force Base on August 1, 1969, and was assigned to fly a Military Airlift Command C-141 Cargo plane out of Charleston Air Force Base, Charleston, South Carolina. During this two-year period he had the rare experience of traveling extensively and visiting many distant places most people only hear about. He was promoted to First Lieutenant December 1, 1969. In February 1971 he was upgraded from Co-pilot to First Pilot or Aircraft Commander.
On June 27, 1971, he was promoted to Captain. The following August he was assigned to duty in Southeast Asia and reported to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, for specialized training on the OV-10. He left San Francisco February 28, 1972, to begin his overseas duty, being sent to NKP (Nakhom Phanom) Thailand.
Hal, as he came to be known by friends, had compassion for people and their well-being was one of his great characteristics. This was evident in his relationship to those around him during all of his experiences in life.
He made many, many close friends during his formal education and military training. He took great interest in visiting and learning of the culture and history of the people as he flew the C-141. During his tour of duty in Southeast Asia he participated with his squadron in teaching a class of Thai children. Harold volunteered for many rescue missions to help fellow pilots who were downed. His devotion to others won him many friends who loved and admired him.
Most of the fighting over Laos on December 23, 1972, took place in an area known as the Plain of Jars. While directing his squadron in air strikes, Harold’s plane was shot down by ground fire and he lost his life. He was 26 years old and had served 225 days in combat.
The day before Hal was shot down, he had called his cousin, Senior Master Sergeant Elmo “Mitch” Mischler, who was stationed in Laos at the same time, and they had made arrangements to spend Christmas Day together. A French chef was going to prepare their dinner for them. This would have been the day after he lost his life. Mitch accompanied Harold’s body back home to Kansas from Laos. A public memorial service for Harold was held at Osborne High School, after which he was laid to rest in the Osborne City Cemetery with full military honors.
If you are ever in Washington, D.C., be sure to find Harold Mischler’s name on the Vietnam Memorial, located at 01W 104 – a fitting and lasting tribute to the promise and sacrifice of this honored member of the Osborne County Hall of Fame.
Star Pilot Volunteered For Dangerous, Secret Flights
Written by Raelean Finch
May 25, 2014
It was late in 1972. President Richard Nixon was on the verge of being re-elected. He had cut troop levels in Vietnam by 70,000. Rumors of peace talks entered a pool of speculation already churning with rumors of a secret war being waged by the CIA in Laos, a “neutral” country neighboring Vietnam.
Shirley Mischler-Davis had no idea her brother Hal had just signed up to fight in it.
“We didn’t even know where he was at the time,” Mischler-Davis said of her brother’s involvement in the secret war. “One day he just sent everything home and said that as far as we were concerned, he was no longer connected with the Air Force.”
After Hal Mischler joined the Ravens, he shipped all his possessions home to his parents. Officially, he was no longer in the Air Force but one of 22 pilots fighting the CIA’s secret war in Laos.
Hal Mischler was a good pilot — one of the best. After graduating from Kansas University in 1968, he got a commission in the Air Force and commenced crisscrossing the globe flying cargo planes. In February 1972, Mischler shipped off to Thailand to pilot high-flying reconnaissance planes called OV-10’s over Vietnam as a forward air controller. He’d find enemy positions, then guide bombers in so they could drop their cargo.
Then, as Mischler’s tour was coming to an end, he made a fateful decision: to join the Ravens.
Only the best and the brightest, the craziest and the bravest Americans served in Laos during the Vietnam War. Officially assigned to the Ambassador to Laos as civilians, the Ravens were a group of elite pilots of no more than 22 men at any one time, who flew the Cessna O-1 Bird Dogs during the Southeast Asian Conflict as forward air controllers for the CIA’s covert operation in Laos. They flew in support of the Royal Laotian Army against contingents of the North Vietnamese Army that had infiltrated Laos. They went to war in blue jeans, T-shirts, and sometimes cowboy hats. It was a symbol of their disdain for the conventional, “bureaucratic” military. They were the Ravens, fighting a secret air war in the jungles of Laos, almost forgotten by everyone . . . They suffered the highest casualty rate in the Indochina war – over 30%. Their deeds were the stuff of whispered legends.
Instead of relatively safe OV-10’s, the Ravens flew low over the Laotian countryside in single engine, two-seater, Cessna-like planes. They searched for North Vietnamese positions that ground troops couldn’t see, sometimes goading well-camouflaged gunners into firing at them to reveal their locations. To guide bombers to the enemy locations they found, the Ravens would sometimes use smoke grenades, other times landmarks. Ideally, the Ravens provided pinpoint grid coordinates. Sometimes, when bombers weren’t available, the Ravens strapped high explosive bombs to their wings and dropped them on the targets themselves, an extraordinarily risky technique.
“We were 25. We were immortal,” said Jack Shaw, former Raven and longtime friend of Mischler’s.
Mischler’s reputation and rank earned him a position as a senior Raven immediately upon his entry into his program. He landed in a tough spot. The war in Laos was getting hotter, but pilots and planes were in short supply.
Lew Hatch, whom Mischler had replaced as senior Raven, said the two of them frequently flew upwards of 180 hours each month, nearly double the flying time allowed by Air Force regulation.
On December 23, 1972, Mischler and his Laotian co-pilot were shot down over Saravene, a hotly contested piece of terrain in southern Laos tenuously held by out-numbered and out-gunned Thai soldiers. It was a mission Hatch had been slated to fly. But Mischler was tired of flying training flights and yearned to get back in the fight. And it was quite a fight in Saravene.
“In that one 24-hour period, the 23rd and 24th of December , we lost 40 percent of the Ravens that were in country. For years after the war — after we came back — I was really depressed over Christmas,” Hatch said. “It took me until about 10 years ago before I really got over that.
A few weeks after Mischler-Davis’ parents received her brother’s trunks packed with uniforms and Thai souvenirs that he couldn’t take with him to Laos, they received Hal Mischler’s body. Among his effects was the camera he’d taken with him to his secret mission in Laos. There was no film in it.
McCook, Nebraska – Friday, November 21, 2008
Letter to the Editor
I read Dick Trail’s article (My Gomer, Tuesday, November 18th) with great interest.
I grew up on a farm in rural Osborne County, Kansas. In our church community was a young man named Harold Mischler; his parents and mine were neighbors and friends for many years. Harold’s mother was my third-grade teacher.
Harold was 10 years older than me. I remember him as one of the “big kids,” kind and decent but worshiped from afar, if you know what I mean. I have two older brothers, and they knew him better than I did.
Harold was one of the Ravens that Dick speaks of in his article. I will always remember getting out of school to attend his funeral when they brought his body home from Vietnam, a few short weeks before the peace treaty was signed with North Vietnam in 1973
I really didn’t know much about the Ravens until recently, when I found some information about them on the internet. I knew that Harold flew small single-engine planes, and I knew he died in Laos.
I have been to the Wall in Washington, D.C., twice to see his name. It’s very close to the last of those who lost their lives in Vietnam.
I found the following remarks posted on a website by a David Preston, a contemporary of his:
A True Hero: Hal Mischler
“Hal Mischler was my best friend. His SEA [Southeast Asia] tour commenced about 7 months after mine. He was my roommate at both OTS and in pilot training. We both attended the University of Kansas and traveled to OTS together. From those early beginnings in 1968 until his extraordinarily unfortunate death in 1972 over Saravan, Laos, Hal was my friend and one of my heroes. As a search-and-rescue airborne mission commander, I monitored some of his strike missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail as a OV-10 Forward Air Controller (FAC, Nail 81). Hal was a great pilot and FAC. His deep baritone voice came over the airways and his hearty chuckle touched everyone that knew him. Hal worked as a FAC on several aircrew rescue missions that I coordinated and his efforts contributed greatly to the success of those missions. He volunteered for the Raven FAC program during the last months of his scheduled tour in SEA. This perilous duty involved flying in support of the “secret war in Laos” and supported directly the anti-communist forces fighting in Laos. On December 23, 1972, just weeks before the peace treaty signing in Paris that ended our war against North Vietnam, Hal was shot down while piloting his small 0-1 Cessna over Saravane.”
Hence, his name is listed on the last panel of the Vietnam Wall along with the other final casualties of the war.
(On this date, August 6, 2017, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present for the first time anywhere the second of the five members of the OCHF Class of 2017.)
In Memoriam: William Layton
Translation and adaptation of the article published by Paz Mediavilla in Babab magazine (babab.com/no00/william_layton.htm) by Von Rothenberger
In November 1993 I had the opportunity to speak with the teacher William Layton in what would be his last interview. A few months later he ended his life at his home in Madrid, Spain on June 15, 1995. He was 82 years old.
During the interview Layton informed me without, of course, letting me share in his decisions on the latest efforts to keep all his affairs in order and under control. For example, Layton was finalizing details with Yale University to which he would donate his correspondence with the writer Thornton Wilder – 150 letters from 1942 to 1973 (two years before the death of Wilder). He was also was finishing writing a play, “Don Quixote of Denmark Hill”, whose protagonist is the writer John Ruskin.
And, moreover, one of the cornerstones of his life, he was teaching drama at the Theatre Lab that he founded. During that interview I was informed that he was going to start to study “Uncle Vanya.” With this work, he said, he would close a circle, since it was the work with which he got his first big break.
Because of his personality, devoid of any desire for fame, his work has not had the widespread it should have had. So this article will serve to remind all the people who are not aware of his work and the high regard that he has earned for his contribution to the development of theater in Spain, which is evident in the good work of the professionals who are his students.
William Layton was an author, actor, theater director and teacher of the best Spanish actors and directors of the moment. Fondly named are the numerous actors and directors who trained with him and are successfully performing different functions and receiving recognition on the world stage, such as Juanjo Puigcorbé, José Pedro Carrion, Chema Muñoz, Ana Belén, San Segundo, Juan Margallo, José Carlos Plaza, Nuria Garcia, Alfredo Simon, Carlos Hipolito, Enriqueta Carballeira, Juan Pastor, Amparo Pascual, Antonio Valero, Carmen Elias, Julieta Serrano, Ana Marzoa, Berta Riaza, etc. He also encouraged people who have contributed to the development of theater in this country as Vicuña or Juliá, and who continue to work for it, such as the master choreographer and stage movement, Arnold Taraborrelli.
American by birth, living in Spain since the sixties, Layton received numerous awards for his work, including Best Director of the Year (1979) by Spectator and Critic for the Radio Spain production of “Youth Radio of Spain” (1979) and the 1990 Daedalus Award. In February 1989 he received the prestigious Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts from the King of Spain, Don Juan Carlos de Borbón.
A life devoted to theater predates that time. What follows is a sketch of what he told me was roughly his life and career development.
William Hardesty Layton was born on December 23, 1913 in Osborne, Osborne County, Kansas, United States. His parents were Walter and Helen Olivia (Amos) Layton. William, together with his siblings (brothers Harold and Robert and sister Helen), was raised first in Osborne and later in Salina, Kansas, where his father served as mayor, and then in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He graduated from the University of Colorado in 1936 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Layton traveled to New York where he began his training as an actor and made his first works. On a trip to London with his friend, writer Thornton Wilder, he was introduced to the European theater and there starred in a production of Wilder’s play “Our Town”. He took a break during World War II, where for four years he joined the Marine Corps of the United States, enlisting on October 19, 1942, later storming the beaches at Iwo Jima, and finally being discharged on March 15, 1946. The explosion of a grenade near him produced deafness with which he lived the rest of his life.
Returning to New York Layton resumed his work as a professor at the American Academy of Dramatic Art and at the American Theatre Wing, and was a member of both the Alfred Dixon Speech Institute and the Neighborhood Playhouse. He worked as an actor in various theater productions such as “American Way” (1939), “Mr. Big” (1941), “The Duchess of Malfi” (1946), “Command Decision” (1947), “Summer and Smoke” (1948), “The Man Who Came to Dinner” and “The Glass Menagerie”. After the war Layton could not readjust to life in America, and it was fortunate that during this time in New York Layton met Agustin Penón. This meeting changed Layton’s life, as he was introduced to the person who gave birth to his interest in Spanish culture.
William and Agustin collaborated in performing a radio drama for the Quaker Oats cereal company which was called “Don Quaker”. For a time they toured South America, and Penón had the opportunity to share his fascination with Layton for the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca. At this time Layton starred in the Brazilian television series Pancho and the Man. In 1955 Agustin Penón went to Spain and began research on Lorca and the mysterious circumstances surrounding the poet’s death. He convinced Layton to visit Granada and, from that moment, Layton began his interest in Spain to where it ended in transferring his residence to there.
Upon Agustin Penon’s death in 1976 Layton received Penon’s personal archives, including all of his research regarding Federico García Lorca. Layton took this material and together with fellow writer Ian Gibson compiled the book “Agustin Penon: Diaries Lorquiana Search”, which was published in 1990.
Layton studied with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York in 1956. For a time he alternated his stays in Madrid and New York, until he permanently settled in Spain. In October 1960 Layton founded the Studio Theater of Madrid (TEM), where he taught along with fellow actor Miguel Narros. Layton was also present at the founding of the Independent Studio Theatre (TEI), the Little Theatre and Theatre Stable Castilian (TEC). He became known at that stage to Germán Bonin, the then-director of the Royal School of Dramatic Arts (ESSN), who invited him to work with him in Barcelona at the Institute of Theatre, where he met Puigcerver Fabia, a man of great prestige in the Catalan scene. From 1968 to 1984 Layton worked as a teacher for the National Film School in both Madrid and Barcelona, Spain.
The most successful of Layton’s work in Madrid was the production of “Uncle Vanya” by Anton Chekhov with Castilian Stable Theatre Company (TEC). Also celebrated was his production of Edward Albee’s “Zoo Story,” which ran three times in his lifetime – 1963, 1971 and finally in 1991, starring José Pedro Carrion and Chema Muñoz, at the National Theatre Maria Guerrero.
In 1989, a month before receiving the Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts, Layton opened at the Spanish Theatre directing the play “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” It was a great success, as was his next play, “Zero transparent” by Alfonso Vallejo, an author for whom he felt a special admiration.
These plays were followed by a series of collaborations, including “Hamlet”, “The Oresteia” and “The Merchant of Venice”, with his onetime student, José Carlos Plaza, during the period when Layton led the National Drama Centre.
In Madrid Layton founded the William Layton Theatre Lab, where, as I said, were trained many of the best actors and directors Spain currently has. Through the success of the Lab and his many other efforts Layton is now considered to be the father of the modern Spanish theater.
In 1990 Layton published his book “Why? Trampoline Actor: A Way of Life on the Stage”. “For me, theater is experimentation, collaboration, reading, concept search,” Layton once explained. “No ‘test’ but play, experiment, try things in terms of what artistic reality is being created. I attend several times the first week to give notes to the actors, then I go less often. The best feature has to be the last.”
Let this article serve to remind the world that the teacher Layton is still alive in the memory and the work of many of us.
William H. Layton Movie and Television Roles:
1961 Siempre es domingo Spain (uncredited)
1963 Confidencias de un marido Spain
1966 Lola, espejo oscuro [Lola – dark mirror] Spain
1967 Las que tienen que servir Spain
1968 Los que tocan el piano Spain
1969 Esa mujer Spain
1969 La vida sigue igualSpain
1970 La Cólera del Viento [The Wind’s Fierce; also known as Wrath of the Wind] Spain, Italy
1970 Transplant USA
1971 A Town Called Hell [A Town Called Bastard] UK, Spain (uncredited)
1971 Man in the Wilderness USA
1972 La Casa sin fronteras [The House Without Frontiers] Spain
1972 Travels with My Aunt USA (uncredited)
1973 La Campana del infierno [Bell from Hell] Spain, France
1973 Los camioneros(TV series) Spain
1973 Der Scharlachrote Buchstabe [The Scarlet Letter] Germany, Spain
1974 Apuntes para una tesis doctoral Spain
1974 Cuentos y leyendas (TV series) Spain
1974 Los pintores del Prado(TV series) Spain
1974 Open Season Spain, Switzerland, UK, USA
1974 The New Spaniards Spain
1975 La adúltera Spain
1975 Los pájaros de Baden-Baden Spain
1977 Curro Jiménez (TV series) Spain
1977 Hasta que el matrimonio nos separe Spain
1977 La Gioconda está triste Spain, Italy
1977 La saga de los Rius (TV series) Spain
1977 Las locuras de Jane Spain
1977 Hasta que el matrimonio nos separe [We did not separate . . . to divorce] Spain
1979 El juglar y la reina(TV series) Spain
1979 Los mitos(TV series) Spain
1980 F.E.N. Spain
1983 Bearn o la sala de las muñecas [Beam or a room of dolls] Spain
1984 La conquista de Albania Spain
1989 Autumn Rain Spain
2008 Heaven on Earth Canada
(Nominated by the Directors Guild of Canada for 2009 DGC Team Award)
Mr. Layton (a conversation with Carlos Hipólito)
by Marcos Ordóñez
March 20, 2014
(Reprinted from the website: blogs.elpais.com/bulevares-perifericos/2014/03/)
I’m re-reading Why? Trampoline of the actor, the compilation of texts and theatrical exercises that William Layton published in 1990, and I realize that last December was the centenary of his birth. Professor, actor, stage director, translator and playwright, American, Kansas. He studied in New York, at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the Neighborhood Playhouse, where he trained in the teachings of Stanislavsky under the tutelage of Sanford Meisner, one of the heterodox of the Actors Studio. He arrived in Spain in the mid-fifties, with the help of his friend Agustín Penón, the first great Lorca researcher. In Mérida, he was dazzled by the way of listening to the scene by Mary Carrillo, who starred in La Alameda, by Anouilh. In that festival he discovered “that the Spanish actors were capable of titanic efforts but they got bored with the continued work”. In 1959 he settled in Madrid and created the first “laboratory of actors” of this country, along with Miguel Narros and Betsy Berkley. Forty years later, several generations of actors and actresses had deepened (and even revolutionized) their way of interpreting thanks to him. In 1995, suffering from an almost absolute deafness and with mobility difficulties, Layton committed suicide so as “not to be a burden,” as he wrote in his farewell note.
I want to know more about the American teacher. So I call Carlos Hipólito, who was his disciple from a very young age. He responds with his usual passion and cordiality.
“I love talking about Mr. Layton! There are still people who do not know how important it has been for the theater of this country. I had the great luck that I was formed when I began to take my first steps as an actor, at eighteen, that is, at the best moment and with the best educator imaginable. Starting with him was a gift. I feel privileged, and I believe that everyone who has learned from him will tell you the same thing. You know that Layton, Narros and Betsy Berkley created the TEM (Teatro Estudio de Madrid), whose first promotion was presented in 1964 with Process by the shadow of a donkey, Dürrenmatt, directed by a very young José Carlos Plaza.
What comes now seems like a soup of letters. I began to receive classes ten years later in the TEI (Independent Experimental Theater), which was born in 1968 as a split of the TEM, and in turn would become the TEC (Spanish Stable Theater). These classes were somewhat itinerant. They began in the TEI room, the Little Theater of Magallanes Street, which had a capacity of seventy people, but the seats could be removed and thus expanded space. From there we went to the dance studio of Karen Taft, in Libertad 15, where she also taught movement with Arnold Taraborelli, American as Layton, of Philadelphia, and tried the functions of TEI. Later Layton Laboratory was created, which started, if I remember correctly, in the Spanish test rooms and then in Carretas 14, which was when I disengaged a little, for work reasons, but whenever I could go back to continue learning.
My professional debut was in So Five Five Years, directed by Miguel Narros, in 1978. Doing two daily functions seemed to me something extraordinary. At that time they were already the TEC, with a management team formed by Narros, Jose Carlos Plaza, Layton and Taraborrelli. Narros and Plaza used to sign the montages, and Layton and Taraborrelli always collaborated in directing. They were all great, but Mr. Layton, as we all called him, was extraordinary. He was a teacher and a sower. Now anyone is called a teacher, but there are very few who are really teachers.
The first thing that caught my eye was his appearance. Very elegant, with great authority. Eyes piercing, [like a] hawk. And a grave, precious, persuasive voice. Not only did it revolutionize the art of acting in Spain, but it made us see very clearly the links, the legacies. He showed us where we were coming from. He told us that there were a number of actors who were our elders: they had never stepped into a class, but they were the best teachers we could have. And that is not usual. The usual thing is to try to erase all of the above, especially if the person who says it is a foreigner. There are many schools that despise what others do, as if they were the only possessors of theatrical truth. And he was just the opposite, a man of immense generosity, constant. He would get excited and tell us, “You have to run to see what Berta Riaza does in that role. He is doing exactly what I ask you to do.” He adored Mary Carrillo, Berta Riaza, and Gutierrez Caba.
Mr. Layton taught me what I call the “fundamental principles”, beginning with the approach to the text. It made you discover, line by line, what the character was silent. He said: “If a text is well written, you will detect not only what the character says but what he decides not to say, which is much more important, because it is what defines him and makes him really interesting. But it’s not always easy to see.”
Another day he told us: “Many actors have the tendency to want to tell the whole character, to “illustrate” it, and then the interpretation becomes redundant. Do not “explain”, nor forget that the public also thinks. They not only have to listen to you but they have to be moved: they have to think with you, and wonder what you are thinking”. It combined in an incredible way to delve into the psychology of the character with an absolute practical sense of how to handle an actor on stage.
He had the pride of one who knows he knows, but deep down he was very humble: “There are many people who say that I am the one who has brought the Method to Spain,” he said. “They are wrong, because the Method does not exist. What is the Method? It’s naming common sense. The Method does not exist because there are so many methods as actors. Each of you will find your own method through what you learn here with me, what you learn in another school and, above all, on stage. Note that two actors who have studied in the same school never work in the same way. Even the same actor, by his vital circumstances, never prepares the characters in the same way: it depends on whether he does it in the spring or in the winter, if he has had an illness or is healthy . . . there are always a thousand variables.” He always taught to relativize everything, not to put big caps on things.
There was another startling thing about Mr. Layton. He had spent many years in our country and was fluent in written Castilian, because he did a lot of translations, but he still spoke a very American Castilian, a Spanglish that was not always easy to decipher. To finish it off, a grenade left him deaf in Iwo Jima. Many people asked me: “This man, how can he teach and direct?” They did not believe me when I told them that he had a capacity for observation and listening that touched the paranormal. He listened with his eyes. He studied the placement of the body and always knew if you were in the right tone. And what he said coincided fully with what the other directors of the team had warned.
As teacher and director he had an infinite patience. When an actor did not understand something, he went to the basics to help him get to where he wanted to take him. If the actor had not done the initial work on his own, he’d done the whole process with him from the beginning. Being patient is a way of being respectful. And he knew how to lead each one in a different way: that is one of the greatest qualities of a director.
There were two eras in my relationship with him. The first was in the classes; the second, on stage. In the TEC I did The Tartar Lady, of Nieva, the Don Carlos of Schiller and Long Trip to the Night, of O’Neill. They were directing Narros or Plaza but, as I said before, Layton was always there, and helping you to break down each scene. In the second stage a friendship was formed, because in the rehearsals there are many dead times and I was fortunate to be able to talk much with him about life and the trade.
He could be laconic, very cowboy. And hard; he had been a Marine and that marked him. Respectful always, but hard. He hated the sensibility. Under that initial layer of roughness was an emotional man and close.
He taught me to value discipline, respect for work, for the stage, for the public. To never yield to the easy, to demand of you. To overcome you always, but without comparing yourself with anyone. He said: “Never try to be more than another. That is absurd, it leads nowhere. You have to compare yourself with your previous work. If you try to be better than another you are bound to fail, because there will always be someone who says that the other is better than you, and that will sink you. You do not have to compete.”
He put me on guard against the facility: “There are actors to whom everything is very simple. The director tells them something, they catch him on the fly and they act for him. That’s great, but they run the risk of believing that resolving what the director asks them is worth it. You always have to be vigilant, because the search never ends”.
After a rehearsal of Long Trip to the Night he said something that I tried to follow strictly: “Carlitos, the best job is the one that is not noticed. I hope that the public that sees you acting never thinks “what a good actor he is”. You have to try that the stage does not leave the actor, but that the public always sees the personage and that they create it to him. When they finish, if they want, they think about how good the actor is, but not during the scene. Do not go out and make a show of faculties. You never have to “show” the job. The viewer has to think “how simple it is, how easy it seems to be,” however much it has cost you. If they tell you that, you have done well. On stage we play to be others, and when you play, even if you get tired, you get tired at ease. “
Many years have passed but I still think about him. He did not give me crutches to walk on stage: he gave me legs. Thank you, Mr. Layton.
In March 2017 a new book on William Layton and his work in the Spanish theater was released.
William Layton:The Implementation of the Method in Spain
by Javier Carazo Aquilera (Editorial Fundamentos, Madrid, Spain, 2017)
The history of interpretation in Spain and, hence, the formation of actors, changed radically when in 1958 an American named William Layton decided to settle in these lands to teach a technique that until then was only known by actors and films American: the famous Method. But not the Actor’s Studio Method commanded by Lee Strasberg, but the one learned with Sanford Meisner. And with it Spanish theater resumed that modernizing current that had been cut off with the outbreak of civil war in the 1930s and the subsequent dictatorship, drowning the efforts of Cipriano de Rivas Cherif, Margarita Xirgu or Maria Teresa Leon.
From the first trip to Spain in 1955, Layton perceived the shortcomings of Spanish actors and the need for a long overdue renovation in the technique of interpretation. Beginning in 1960, with the successive founding of his own schools-theater groups, plus his teaching experience in public places and the adhesion of Miguel Narros and José Carlos Plaza, two key names in his career and in the Spanish scene, he managed to implant and develop a methodology for actors who today stand as a majority in dramatic art studies.
Among his contributions are the creation of one of the first private theater academies, the application of the Method in the stage montages and a dignification of the actor – a profession quite badly beaten in Spain. In adapting to the idiosyncrasy of the interpreter here, this teaching eventually drifted into the Layton Method – an own formula that has jumped to the dramaturgy (in the curricula, in the texts or in the scripts) and to the direction of scene, with the indispensable analysis of text and the table work. – by Editorial Fundementos.
Because of his limitations with language, deafness
and humility, he was a team man
27 April 2017
Among the great theatrical shocks of my adolescence was Edward Albee’s play Historia del zoo, in January 1974, in charge of the TEI (Independent Experimental Theater), directed by William Layton, with Antonio Llopis and José Carlos Plaza, in The Poliorama in Barcelona. I had not seen anything so intense as that, so full of truth. And Antonio Llopis seemed to me a unique actor, out of series. That is why I have fallen on the new book William Layton, the Implantation of the Method in Spain, by Javier Carazo (Editorial Fundamentos), perhaps the most complete text on the American master, and all those who by his side carried out one of the most exciting adventures of our Theater. I fear it is unknown to the younger generations.
To speak of the great Cowboy of Kansas is also to speak of the group formed by Miguel Narros, Jose Carlos Plaza, Arnold Taraborrelli, French Pillar, Paca Ojea, Begoña Valley, Francisco Vidal and a very long list of professors and interpreters who continue learning or spreading their teachings in The Layton Laboratory. Because of his limitations with Castilian, his deafness (because of a grenade in Iwo Jima) and his essential humility, Layton was, therefore, a team man. He always said: ‘I am a good director, though not very good; a regular actor and a great teacher.”
Javier Carazo’s book tells the story of “Mr. Layton”, his theatrical passion, and also shows the essence of his “fundamental principles”: how to bring truth to the stage, how to preserve the freshness of a text after a hundred or two hundred representations. In this book I have learned, for example, that the “table work” of History of the Zoo lasted two months.
(On this date, August 5, 2017, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present for the first time anywhere the first of the five members of the OCHF Class of 2017.)
Our next inductee has been a dynamic and effective leader since childhood and continues to be an advocate for quality of life in the community and county that she has called home for the past eight decades.
Wilda Juanita (Stockbridge) Carswell was born May 4, 1935 on the farm of her parents, Edgar & Ruth (Glodfelty) Stockbridge, in Hawkeye Township, northeast of Alton, Kansas. Their farm was the 1871 homestead of Edgar’s grandparents, Ira and Abbie Stockbridge. Wilda attended the old rock Alton Grade School and later Alton Rural High School, where she was a cheerleader and active in the school band and in school plays. Wilda served as an officer and district president of the Future Homemakers of America (FHA) and was awarded the State FHA Homemaker Degree in 1952.
* * * * *
“Little Wilda Stockbridge spent Wednesday at the Jamie Boland home while her mother attended community circle.” – Wilda’s first public mention, in the Grant Center social column of the Osborne County Farmer newspaper of October 13, 1938, Page 6.
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“Hobbies are nice and everyone should have a hobby. Miss Wilda Stockbridge of Alton has a hobby of collecting paper napkins. They make a nice collection. She had about 125 and would be glad to receive any from friends. Remember her when you are on your vacation. Write the store, place or town on them.” – Osborne Farmer-Journal, June 26, 1947, Page 6.
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Wilda graduated from Alton Rural High in May 1953 and on June 7, 1953, she married Deryl Carswell at the Alton First United Methodist Church. Deryl’s grandfather, John Thomas Paynter, had homesteaded in Osborne County’s Grant Township in 1894. The farm’s original sod house was replaced by a new frame house in 1900. Deryl’s parents moved here in 1919 and stayed until 1953, when they moved into Alton. Deryl and Wilda then took over the farm and raised their four children – Donita, Janel, Darwin, and Jay – there. At present Wilda’s growing family includes twelve grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
* * * * *
October 14, 1956
OSBORNE – At the last Rural Life meeting, officers elected were: President, Max LaRosh; Vice-President, Wilda Carswell; Secretary, Joyce Hays; treasurer, Phyllis Lund; reporter, Don Peterson; and recreation chairman, Deryl Carswell.
The Rural Lifers will hold their annual Halloween party on October 26th at the Legion Hall in Osborne. There will be a professional square dance caller. There will be social dances also.
* * * * *
In 2000 Deryl & Wilda were the recipients of the Goodyear Co-Operator of the Year Award by the Osborne County Conservation District/Natural Resources Conservation Service. In 2002 they were given the Century Farm Award from the Kansas Farm Bureau in recognition of their farm being owned for over 100 years by the same family. After 50 years of farm life Deryl and Wilda retired in 2003 and moved to a new home in Alton.
When she was 11-12 years old Wilda became a member of the Sumner 4-H Club and remained a member for seven years. Her four children followed in her footsteps and became members in their turn. Wilda and Deryl became 4-H leaders for a short time after they were married, and over the next several years Wilda continued as either a project or community leader. Eventually she earned her 35-year 4-H leadership pin, a rare and amazing accomplishment. Wilda considers her love of working with youth to be the highlight of her 4-H leadership years. Sumner 4-H celebrated their 50-year anniversary while she was a leader. The club has received many awards and contributed much back to the community over the years and remains active in the Alton area in the present day.
The Osborne County Fair is always a highlight of the 4-H year. Wilda exhibited at the fair when she was a young 4-H member and has continued to do so every year since then. She still works the Fair annually by helping with the Open Class Culinary Department. Wilda has entered exhibits in the Kansas State Fair through the years as well, winning a ribbon for her jelly collection.
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Osborne County Farmer
July 16, 2015
Carswell named Grand Marshal of Fair Parade
The Osborne County Fair Board has named Wilda Carswell this year’s grand marshal for the 2015 parade that will take place at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 24.
Wilda, a lifelong resident of the Alton area, takes great pride in her community. She herself was a 4-Her with the Sumner 4-H Club growing up, which her four children later became members of themselves and two of her granddaughters are members of now.
Wilda has hardly missed an Osborne County Fair since it began and still helps each year with the open class entries. She is also a civic leader, having participated in numerous organizations and boards and still finds time each Wednesday morning to have coffee with the residents and staff at Progressive Care.
Most recently Wilda celebrated her 80th birthday in early May with an open house hosted by her four children and their spouses, Donita (Rod) Shike, Janel (Alan) Burch, Darwin (Denise) and Jay (Paula) Carswell along with most of her 12 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
An avid supporter of many organizations, Wilda can also be found attending many of her grandchildren’s activities. As this year’s grand marshal, the roles will be reversed as they show their support for her and encourage everyone to come to the Osborne County fair and parade, July 22-27.
* * * * *
For many years Wilda has been a supporter of the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service – or K-State Research and Extension for short. She was a member of the Willow Dale Extension Homemakers Unit and has served on the Osborne County Extension Council both as a director and as council president.
Since 1970 the Kansas PRIDE program, a volunteer grassroots effort to improve the quality of life in local communities, has been a partnership between the Kansas Department of Commerce, K-State Research and Extension, the Kansas Masons, and private sector companies and associations which operate in Kansas. The Alton PRIDE Committee was formed in 1985 and has long been a vital part of the community. Wilda was a charter member of Alton PRIDE and in 2017 is serving her 23rd year as its president. She has also served on the State PRIDE Board of Directors.
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Alton to Celebrate its Summer Jubilee
by Joy Leiker
Hays Daily News, Hays, Kansas
August 22, 2002 – Page One
ALTON – When a group of Alton residents worked to form the community’s PRIDE organization 17 years ago, they pledged to keep their rural community alive with events and celebrations.
This weekend the group will host its annual Summer Jubilee, an event that Wilda Carswell, the organization’s president, says is an occasion for more than just those in the small Osborne County community to celebrate.
“People are pretty excited about it anymore,” she said. “We get good support from the area around us.”
Their tactics to attract regional attention apparently work, as Carswell estimates as many as 1,500 people come through the community during some point of the festivities.
For a community that numbers 117 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, welcoming a crowd more than 10 times its size definitely is a big deal, Carswell said. The Jubilee’s entertainment events are scheduled throughout the day Saturday. Each year the Jubilee is focused on a daylong theme, and this year organizers centered their attention on “Family Pride.” As a result, the local community hall will be transformed into a family pride gallery of photos and collectibles that showcase the history of families. The collection Includes mostly photos, but also items “that people are proud of,” she said. But organizers prefer to change more than just the theme of the event each year. As a result, every Jubilee includes at least one new attraction or event on the schedule “so it keeps interest going.”
This year residents submitted photos for the community’s first photography contest. Winning entries will be labeled and on display this weekend. Another new event, organized specifically for the youngest Jubilee participants, is Kiddyland, an area full of carnival games and other child-friendly events. Kiddyland will open at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the northeast corner of Alton City Park.
Pending no emergency calls, the new Eagle Med helicopter plans to land at the Alton-Osborne Junior High School football field, and the Osborne County Rural Rescue and Ambulance Services will execute a Jaws of Life demonstration.
Carswell said there are some events organizers wouldn’t dream of changing. Hundreds of visitors line Mill Street in Alton for the 10:30 a.m. parade Saturday, a regular event for the annual Jubilee. The parade – the official kickoff to the annual Jubilee – typically includes 130 entries. Although reservations for the parade don’t number 100 yet, Carswell said there are many regular participants who are notorious for showing up even without a reservation.
Immediately after the parade, Alton alumnus Ray Kurtz, a retired Kansas State University instructor, will talk about his family pride and boyhood in Osborne County. His presentation will precede the announcement of the parade’s winning entries.
This year a silent auction will replace the regular oral auction, and Carswell said organizers hope the new format not only allows more people to participate but also raises more funds for the community. All proceeds from the auction “go back into community improvement.” The silent auction features both handmade and donated items and runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.
Events are scheduled throughout the day. Local musicians will perform half-hour shows in the park during the afternoon, and other organizations will sponsor activities as well. The Bull City Roughriders, a local saddle club, will coordinate horse games for riders, and the Osborne County Rural Fire District sponsors a lunch stand as well as a 9 p.m. Saturday street dance.
The Bull City Opry group will present its annual entertainment at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on the tennis court. This year, it’s entitled “Family Feud Weddin.” There is no charge for the event, but Carswell said the group will accept contributions.
A community church service at 10:30 a.m. Sunday under the tent in the park officially closes the celebration weekend. The Reverend Richard Taylor, a retired United Methodist minister from Topeka, will be the featured speaker during the non-denominational service. Taylor was instrumental in preserving a Woodston area barn that later was destroyed by fire caused by lightning.
While the daylong event is sponsored by the PRIDE group, Carswell said its annual success is dependent on the work of other local entities.
“We sponsor it, but there are other groups that do a lot of these things too,” she said.
A complete schedule for the Alton Summer Jubilee is available online at: skyways.lib.ks.us/towns/Alton/ Jubilee2002.html.
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Russell Stover Cousin finds History in Alton
by Jeremy Shapiro
Hays Daily News, Hays, Kansas
December 8, 2002, Page 3
ALTON – The seventh cousin twice removed of Russell Stover looked right at home digging his fork into a big piece of chocolate pie. After all, Don Harless was practically family at the second annual Chocolate Festival here Saturday.
The town of 117 residents decided to throw a little bash for its most famous native son, Russell Stover. A long table full of brownies, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate fudge cake and chocolate muffins were among the goodies to choose from. Chocolate lovers had a hard time picking what to chose. In the end, many bought more than they intended to.
“The table was just covered with chocolate at the beginning,” said Sally Bradley, a PRIDE member helping out. “It was a sight. We didn’t have enough room.”
The festival seemed a little more official with the presence of Harless. A friend of Harless in Ness City gave him an article on the festival published in the Kansas Governor’s Journal, and they decided to make the trip. Harless, 65 wasn’t aware of the link to Stover until his wife started researching family history a few years ago. Further research revealed that he also happens to be a distant cousin of Daniel Boone.
“When you really start getting looking into the history, you realize we all are brothers, sisters and cousins,” Harless said.
Harless was given a tour of the property his kin lived in the first two years of his life. Although the house is no longer there, a sign commemorates the birthplace.
“It was nice to walk the same ground as him,” Harless said. “This is family history.”
Russell Stover was born May 6, 1888, in a sod farmhouse approximately 10 miles south of Alton. Stover’s father, John, moved to Alton from Iowa in search of fortune. He purchased some farmland in Osborne County for $1,500. Devastating drought forced John to move back to Iowa three years later.
While the Stover candy empire started in a small shop in Denver, Alton residents are proud to call their town his birthplace.
Wilda Carswell, PRIDE president, said that for many years they had the idea of creating a chocolate festival, but they never set it into motion until last year. Once the idea became a reality, the town came together to support it, Carswell said.
Many of the baked goods for sale also were entered in a cookie contest. This year 39 adults and nine kids turned in entries, hoping to win a $25 first prize.
Nadine Sigle, the Osborne County Home Economics Extension agent, and Marion Gier, a home economics teacher in Downs, had the job of judging best cookie.
Sigle and Gier took their duties seriously. They looked at the attractiveness, flavor, texture and ingredients. Gier said fresh ingredients will gain better marks. Sigle said they don’t overlook the size of the cookie either. Super rich cookies should be in smaller portions, they said.
Contestants must provide the recipe along with the cookie. Sigle and Gier carefully examined a recipe before dividing up what appeared to be oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.
Each took a bite and they then huddled to discuss it.
Meanwhile, about the only non-chocolate lover in the room was musician Leland Baxa. Baxa serenaded the crowd with Christmas tunes on his keyboard. When asked if he had any chocolate related music, Baxa said he was wondering what kind of music goes well with chocolate.
“Actually though, I’m not a big chocolate fan, but I know I can’t say that too loud,” he said softly, Carswell said she heard a couple of other towns holding chocolate festivals close to Valentine’s Day, but as far as she knew there wasn’t another one tied in with the Christmas season.
The Alton gift basket store was also open, with handcrafted items made by area crafters.
State Representative Dan Johnson, Republican-Hays, took the opportunity to buy a few Christmas presents. He said he was impressed with all the local talent who made the crafts and baked goods.
Russell Stover Candles of Kansas City sent 192 small boxes of chocolates in Santa tins to distribute at the festival.
“Maybe next year we can get a representative to come out,” Carswell said. “I don’t think they knew what we were doing.”
Inevitably the conversation eventually turned toward Stover himself.
Carswell said one thing she liked about Stover is he would continually try to find new products.
“Yes he was rich and famous, but he didn’t rest,” she said. “Not many people know he was the founder of Eskimo Pies. He later sold it off, but he was always looking for new products.”
* * * * *
Wilda joined the United Methodist Church when a young girl and has attended regularly ever since. In the past she has served as Sunday School teacher, Sunday School Superintendent, Director of Bible School, Trustee, and President of Administrative Council. Wilda currently serves on the Pastor Parish Relations Committee, works with the annual Christmas program and the quilting group, and serves as a lay leader. She has been very involved in the United Methodist Women (UMW), having served on various committees and as treasurer, vice-president, and currently as president. Wilda served as the secretary of the Concordia District of UMW for four years and the Kansas West UMW Conference Membership, Nurture & Outreach Co-ordinator for three years. Her favorite Bible verse is I Corinthians 13:13:
There are three things that
remain – faith, hope, and love,
and the greatest of these is love.
From 1979 to 1987 Wilda served on the USD #392 School Board, serving one year as its president. After her move to Alton in 2003 Wilda was elected to the Alton City Council and served there for over ten years. In 2006 she was honored with the Homer E. Smuck Cultural Award for her lifetime of community service. A decade later Wilda was awarded the first Faye Minium Spirit Award by the Solomon Valley/Highway 24 Heritage Alliance.
Wilda has lived her entire life in the three adjoining townships of northwest Osborne County – Hawkeye, Grant, and Sumner. She is known for her cooking, canning, sewing, and yard/gardening. Wilda’s hobbies include quilting, reading, sports events, and traveling. She especially likes tour groups for travel and in her journeys has seen most of the United States. And Wilda is of course a proud supporter of her grandchildren’s many activities.
Wilda continues to give of her time, talents, and service to the Alton community and to Osborne County. In 2017 the Deryl Carswell Family was one of the 28 founders of the Osborne County Community Foundation, a vehicle for charitable giving capable of benefiting the entire county. It is our pleasure to honor her and her example with this well-deserved induction into the Osborne County Hall of Fame.
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History of Alton PRIDE
(compiled by Deanna Roach, May 2017)
In 1925 a group of local Alton ladies saw the need for a city park and through their initiative volunteers came forward to clear donated lots in the center of town. Thus, the Alton City Park was born.
The successful park ladies of 1925 had their mothers to look to for inspiration, for it was the generation of women before them that formed the Alton Library Association in 1898. From their efforts, a library building was voluntarily staffed from 1900 until 1966.
In 1983, a new generation of Alton women took a look at the City Park and didn’t like what they saw: overgrown weeds and stickers, dead trees and broken down playground equipment. After nearly 60 years of wear and tear, the park was clearly showing its age.
These women formed a group and came up with what they called an “idea” to improve the park, which was carried out by volunteers. The group stayed focused on the park and before long they were encouraged by the Osborne County Home Economist to join the Kansas PRIDE Program.
In 1983 and 1984 this unofficial group of women hosted an annual community wide “play day” that took place in the newly renovated park.
In 1985 the initial group of nine women officially organized into “Alton PRIDE” and held their first annual Alton Summer Jubilee. Of those nine women, three have remained active PRIDE members, three are still involved on a part-time basis, and three have moved away. Several other women and men in the community have also been PRIDE members for many, many years.
In 1986, Alton PRIDE joined the Central Kansas Library System and created a space for books to be brought into the community on a rotational basis. The library space changed over the years until it was finally permanently housed in the Alton Community Room Annex. Since 2009, the Alton Library has had an “official” volunteer librarian, Dorothy Mitchell, who was recognized as a 2013 Kansas PRIDE Community Partner. The library is open every Wednesday afternoon from 1 to 4 p.m. and has “regulars” that come in every week.
Alton PRIDE’s State Award Trophies:
Community of Excellence: 1986, 1987, 1991, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009.
Star Awards (for special projects): 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007
[Awards listed above always came with a monetary prize. The state PRIDE program changed their awards program after 2009 and did not give out community awards until 2013.]
Community of Excellence: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
Cultural Star Capital Award: 2013, 2014
Built Capital Award: PRIDE has won three of these. One is for 2012 and another trophy is undated, while the third award was earned in 2017.
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Osborne County Farmer, January 20, 2000
Working with the System
by Sandra Trail
Deryl and Wilda Carswell can’t imagine doing anything but what they are doing – farming. Not only can Deryl not imagine doing anything else, he can’t imagine doing it any other place. In fact, he’s never lived any other place.
“Grandpa bought this place and built this house in 1900,” Deryl explains. “When Wilda and I got married in 1953, my folks moved to town and we moved in.
“It’s just never entered my mind to do anything else. I like the challenges and trying new things. And, you are your own decision maker – sometimes with the government.”
It’s just this cooperative attitude towards government programs that earned Carswell this year’s Goodyear Co-Operator of the Year Award, which is awarded by the Osborne County Conservation District/Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The Carswells have a diversified operation. They have livestock and feed their own grain – wheat, corn and milo. Most of the corn they raise is irrigated, but they have put out some dryland recently.
At the same time, the Carswells have stopped raising hogs and now concentrate on cattle in their livestock operation.
To help get the most out of each area of their operation, the Carswells have used a variety of programs to accomplish beneficial conservation efforts.
In recent years, much of the work has been taken over by the Carswells’ sons, Darwin and Jay.
“That means Dad gets to help out whenever they need him,” explained Deryl.
It also means he and Wilda will get to travel a little more. They’ve taken trips in the past with Pioneer Seed groups and may do more of that now. Deryl has been a Pioneer Seed dealer for 38 years.
Deryl and Wilda have also been active in their community. Deryl currently serves on the Grant Township board and has served on the church board, Farm Bureau board and as a leader for Sumner 4-H. He never served on the Alton Fire District board, but was active in the organizational effort and is a supporter of the district.
Wilda also served 35 years as a Sumner 4-H Community Leader, has been on the Osborne County Extension Council and served on the PRIDE board.
Both feel community service is important and hope it is an ideal they have passed on to the young people they have been around.
In addition to their sons, the Carswells have two daughters: Donita Berkley and her husband farm at Tescott and Janet Burch, Hays, is a CPA. They also have 11 grandchildren.
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HANDKERCHIEF QUILT CRAZE
by Carolyn Williams
September 24, 2008
“You won the door prize, Dorothy!” The other Dorothy (Dibble) exclaimed as Dorothy Mitchell’s name was drawn at the Crossroads Quitter’s Guild Quilt Show in Stockton last year. Her prize? A Free Machine Quilting on a quilt of her choice within the next year. What a gift!
Although Dorothy Mitchell was new to the Alton community, having come from Granite City, Illinois just the year before to live closer to her niece, Mary Hartzler, she was not new to quilting. She had been involved in quilting bees and helped organize shows since she retired from teaching Physical Education in the Granite City area some 30 years previous. This was a real challenge to her. When she moved to Alton she had cleaned out many unnecessary items in her home, but she had kept the handkerchiefs her mother had passed on to her, thinking to make something as a memorial to Josephine Sharleiville Mitchell, her mother.
With the help of the other Dorothy, Dorothy Dibble, from the Quilting Bee held every Monday afternoon at the Alton United Methodist Church Dorothy’s quilt came together beautifully. Dorothy M chose the fabrics, and Dorothy D sewed the handkerchiefs exactly where they would be showcased the best. Dorothy Dibble “got the bug” to make her own quilt. Quilting is not new to her either. When her husband Everett was serving in WWII, she began a quilt, getting only so far as making quilt blocks. When he returned from the service and their children began arriving, sewing garments for the family took precedence. It was only much later when Dorothy found those early quilt blocks that she decided to do something with them. However, time and temperature had made the fabric weak. When she washed them in preparation to finish the project, they fell apart!
That really peaked her interest in making her own. She too, had many handkerchiefs from her mother’s and her own drawers to choose from. Instead of using only one handkerchief per square, she used two at diagonals from each other – thus a Double Handkerchief Quilt. She exhibited that quilt at the Rooks County Fair this year.
Not to be outdone, Wilda Carswell decided to compose two quilts – she has two daughters! The first quilt she exhibited at the Osborne County Fair, July 22-25. She was awarded the quilt with the best use of color by the Solomon Valley Quilt Guild which meets in Downs every month. She, too, made a double handkerchief quilt since she had so many from both her “stash” and from her mother Ruth Stockbridge’s “stash” as well.
Many of her handkerchiefs came as a result of a near tragic accident. In 1943 the young mother Ruth was riding with her daughter Wilda on her boy’s bicycle when a truck hit them. Ruth was badly injured with broken bones. To comfort the young mother, many in the community sent her Get Well cards with a handkerchief enclosed. Many of those handkerchiefs found their way into the two quilts Wilda made last winter. The quilt she exhibited at the fair is now hanging in her 100-year-old mother Ruth’s room at Progressive Care in Alton. The second quilt is made with the same color sashing and backing using the remainder of the handkerchiefs from that unfortunate period in the lives of her and her mother.
When we quilt together at the Alton UMC, new and exciting ideas seem to come bouncing into our fingers and into our brains. Maybe more Handkerchief Quilts will result from that first quilting prize!
Church ladies and Quilting seem to just go together, don’t they? It’s certainly been that way in Alton for the last 60-70 years. I visited with some of the quitters lately as we worked on a quilt for Zane Alan Poor, the latest baby in the area. Doris Holloway gave me some information that seems to validate the above statement.
She told me that every church in Alton at one time or another had a ladies quilt group that met in the church basement. The former Evangelical United Brethren, previously the Congregational Church had an active group of 12 or 13. When that church merged in 1967 with the Alton Methodist Church to become the United Methodist Church of Alton, the groups continued as one, with some continuing and others going on to other ventures. The UMC ladies continue to meet and quilt as they have quilts scheduled.
The names of the quitters have changed over the years. One of the ladies, Ruth Guttery, has moved away, so Dorothy Dibble keeps us organized and quilting. Others have not continued due to health, arthritis being one of the culprits that keeps us from quilting like we’d like to; other ladies have passed on their abilities to daughters, daughters-in-law, granddaughters. Others have simply passed on and we remember them with little short stories about their “quilting quirks”, such as, “So-and-so always sits there, you need to sit somewhere else.” One day as I was threading a needle directly from the spool, the thread suddenly disappeared! Another person had picked up the spool to cut her length before she threaded it! We laughed and vowed to remember the “quirks.
The UMC ladies have completed some of the local PRIDE quilts. New ladies in town such as Dorothy Mitchell, a new resident, are welcomed to the quilt frame. Others join when they retire and begin their own quilting adventures. A break time about two hours into the session always brings out something new, either homemade or purchased snack with tea or coffee.
My first adventure with the Alton UMC quitters was helping to set up the first quilt I made as a wedding present for a granddaughter, whoever married first. I found out that I had not measured correctly, so had to add material to the backing to fit the top. Luckily, Ruth Guttery had come prepared for this novice with her sewing machine and iron. I was able to sew right there, press it, and help to set it up on the quilting frame. Now, I think I know a bit more as I prepare to help set in the next granddaughter’s wedding present. I say laughingly that the unmarried ones will be old maids if they wait for me to complete one for each of them!
Nowadays, the quilt guilds have begun to take over the quilting bees that the church ladies of not-so-long-ago held. Even the quilting is different! The advent of machine quilting has begun to eliminate the camaraderie of the many Monday afternoons quilting in the church basement.
Regardless, one of the missions of the church basement is always to have room for the quilt frame and the ladies who stitch the history of Alton.
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SOURCES: Wilda Carswell, Alton, Kansas; Deanna Roach, Alton, Kansas; Carolyn Williams, Alton, Kansas; Hays Daily News, August 22, 2002; Hays Daily News, December 8, 2002; Osborne County Farmer, October 13, 1938, Page 6; Osborne County Farmer, June 26, 1947, Page 6; Osborne County Farmer, January 20, 2000; Osborne County Farmer, July 16, 2015; Salina Journal, October 14, 1956.