Orville Leon and Betty Joy (Zweifel) Pruter – 2016 Inductees

(On this date, November 23, 2016, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present to the world for the first time anywhere the fifth and last members of the OCHF Class of 2016.)

 

Our final two Osborne County Hall of Fame inductees join an exclusive club. This humble husband and wife team has the rare honor of being the 27th and 28th people to be voted into the Hall while still living. Their story reflects the often surprising amount of personal impact that each one of us has in so many ways on so many others in the course of our lives, be it through school, church, government, or community affairs; i.e., in every aspect of living in today’s world. They have been—and are—community leaders in every true sense of the phrase.

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Orville Pruter, senior year photograph, Natoma High School Class of 1953.

Our husband and father, Orville Leon Pruter, was born November 17, 1935 at Natoma, Osborne County, Kansas. He was the eldest son of Alvin and Yvonne (Goad) Pruter, who had two more sons, Ivan and Keith. Orville grew up on the family farm located three miles north of Natoma. He attended all of his schooling in Natoma, except his junior year of high school when he attended Miltonvale High School and Miltonvale Wesleyan College in Miltonvale, Kansas. He came back to Natoma for his senior year and graduated with the class of 1953. After graduating Orville went to work helping area farmers and working in the oil fields surrounding Natoma for several operators, including Oscar Rush, the Brown Brothers, and Bowman’s Well Service.

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Betty Zweifel, senior year photograph, Waldo High School Class of 1955.
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Betty when a junior on the Waldo High School Girls Basketball Team.

Our wife and mother, Betty Joy Zweifel, was born on June 26th on the family farm of Robert and Bernice (Clow) Zweifel during the hot summer of 1936, four miles south of Waldo in Russell County, Kansas. She was the eldest child of the four siblings—Betty, Barbara, Peggy, and Robert Jr. Betty attended Paradise Dell rural school her first four years. When the rural school closed Betty was enrolled in 5th grade at Waldo Elementary School and completed the rest of her early education in the Waldo school system. Betty lettered all of her grade school years and all four years of high school in basketball. She was very active in all of the school activities, be it music, drama, sports, basketball, volleyball, softball and track. Betty graduated as salutatorian of the class of 1954.

Betty was also very involved in 4-H. She was a member of the clothing judging team which placed first in the state in 1950 and was 3rd in the state in clothing judging.

 

State Clothing Judging Champion

“First place in the State 4-H Clothing Judging Contest held during the Kansas State Fair was won by the above Russell county team. They are Louise Robinson, Prospectors 4-H Club; Carl Lindquist, Smoky Valley 4-H Club; and Betty Zweifel, Paradise Dell 4-H Club.

This team had a combined total of 1,020 points out of a possible 1,200. They judged six classes pertaining to clothing design and construction principals and gave reasons for their placing on two of those classes. Individual scores for the girls were given with Betty Zweifel ranking third high in the state, Carol Lindquist was fourth and Louise Robinson ranked 20th. The girls were the three highest individuals in the Russell County judging contest, making them eligible to enter the state contest.”—Natoma Independent, October 19, 1950.

 

Betty’s cherry pie won first in the state baking contest in Manhattan in 1953. She was named a member of the state’s Who’s Who in 4-H Clubs. Betty was the only member of the Paradise Dell 4-H Club to complete her 4-H work whose parents were both charter members of the club.

After high school Betty enrolled in the nursing program at Fort Hays State College the fall of 1954, and at that time she was the only girl in her family to ever go to college. But her plans changed when she met Orville Pruter in the fall of 1954. They were married on June 5, 1955, in the Amherst Evangelical United Brethren Church south of Waldo and made their home on a farm three miles north of Natoma. Orville went to work in the oil fields and also helped his Dad on the farm. They milked cows and had a flock of chickens, and on Saturday nights they could sell the cream and eggs, buy their groceries, fill the car with gas, and go to the show.

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Zweifel – Pruter Wedding Sunday

“In a double ring ceremony Sunday afternoon, June 5th at 2:00 o’clock, Miss Betty Zweifel, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert G. Zweifel, of Waldo, was united in marriage to Orville L. Pruter, son of Mr. and Mrs. Alvin Pruter of Natoma. The wedding took place in the Amherst Evangelical Church near Waldo with the Rev. L. W. Life of Russell officiating before an altar decorated with baskets of yellow and white gladioli and white candles.

Mrs. Kenneth Phillips, pianist, furnished the music and accompanied Miss Jane Trible of Palco who sang “The Lord’s Prayer” and “Through the Years”. Taper lighters were Sharon Zweifel and Marian Clow, cousins of the bride. The bridal gown, fashioned by the bride and her mother, was of white crystalette with full length tiered skirt and portrait neckline. A crown of orange blossoms held the chapel length silk illusion veil in place and a single strand of pearls completed the bride’s ensemble She carried a white Bible and French carnations with orchid and white streamers.

Miss Marilyn Zweifel, who served her cousin as maid of honor, wore a ballerina length gown of yellow crystalette fashioned like the bride’s gown and carried a bouquet of white carnations. Ivan Pruter served his brother as best man. Ushers were Everett Pruter, Jr. and Wayne Zweifel.

For her daughter’s wedding Mrs. Zweifel chose a dress of navy crystalette with a white carnation corsage. The groom’s mother wore a navy and white nylon dress with a white carnation corsage.

A reception was held in the church basement following the ceremony. The wedding cake was served by Mrs. Jack Fink of Paradise and Mrs. Charles Shaffer of Waldo poured punch.

The bride, a graduate of Waldo High school, attended one year at Fort Hays Kansas State College. The groom graduated from Natoma Rural High school with the class of 1953 and has been engaged in farming.

After a honeymoon to the Black Hills the couple will be at home on a farm north of Natoma. For their wedding trip, Mrs. Pruter chose an ensemble of avocado green with white accessories and wore an orchid corsage.”—Natoma-Luray Independent, June 9, 1955.

 

In January 1956 Betty & Orville were blessed with a little boy. Dale was the first of five boys that were born over the next seven years—Dale, Gale, Daryl, Douglas, and Kevin. A little girl was adopted, Susan Lajoy, but she passed away in July of 1965. In between babies Betty went back to college majoring in Education. In the fall of 1957 she started teaching at the Plante School South of Plainville on a 60-hour certificate. In that time they had also moved three times before settling into living north of Codell, Kansas on Medicine Creek on the Bother place. The next few years were spent raising the family and teaching, and going to college weekends and summer. Orville was working in the oil fields and farming. The Pruters moved again in January 1959 into Natoma. In August of 1960 they moved to Plainville, Kansas and Orville went to work for Western Power & Light as a lineman and continued to farm on weekends. Betty was still going to school and teaching. In August of 1963 she graduated from Fort Hays State College with a BS in Education.

Betty and Orville have been active in their church and community all of their married life. When the five boys were growing they were in charge of the youth ministry at The Church of the Nazarene in Plainville, Kansas. Besides youth ministry, they sang in the choir, directed the choir, taught Sunday School, were church treasurers for over 30 years, served on the church board, and played the organ for services. Orville was music director and lead the music for church services.

After working for the power company for fourteen years Orville and the family moved back to the Pruter family farm three miles north of Natoma in the fall of 1974. Their oldest son graduated from the Plainville High School that spring and the other four boys enrolled in the Natoma school system. Betty was hired to teach 5-8 Language Arts in the Paradise Middle School. Orville started driving the activity bus for the Natoma schools, which he did for the next twenty years.

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Orville Pruter drove the activity bus for the Natoma school system for twenty years.
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Betty Pruter was a longtime teacher in the Natoma/Paradise school system.

In the spring of 1998 Betty retired from teaching after 39 years. She had taught in two rural schools, the Plante School in Rooks County and the Blue Hill School in Ellis County, the Plainville Grade School, Kindergarten in Natoma, the Zurich (Kansas) Grade School, and then 24 years in the Natoma / Paradise school system. Betty is a lifetime member of both the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) and the National Teachers Association. She is also a member of the Hays Reading Association and of the Gamma Chapter of Delta Kappa Gama for Osborne and Rooks Counties.

Both Betty and Orville were longtime leaders in the Eager Beaver 4-H Club and the Future Farmers of America (FFA). Orville served as the chairman of the Natoma Medical Board and as a member of the Osborne County Rural Water District #1 board. He ran for District #3 Osborne County Commissioner in 1996, but was unsuccessful.

 

Orville Pruter

3rd District Commissioner

“Wanting to better represent his area of the county, Orville Pruter of Natoma is seeking to represent the third district of Osborne County as a commissioner. Pruter said another reason he was seeking the position was to work on county efficiency.

Born and raised in Natoma, Pruter said he looks forward to working with the public. He also said he prided himself in getting along with others and felt that the position of commissioner would be a challenge. Pruter added he always tries to be cooperative and do what he thinks is right.

A graduate of Natoma High School, Pruter has worked in the oil fields as well as for a utility company in Plainville. Moving back to Natoma in 1974, Pruter has farmed continuously since 1955. He also operated a motor grader for the county and currently drives an activity bus for the Natoma school district, something he has done since 1975.

Pruter and his wife, Betty, are the parents of live sons. He is a member of the Plainville Church of the Nazarene and the Natoma Medical Board.

When asked what he felt was the biggest issue facing the county, Pruter replied the economy was definitely the biggest issue and said that he realized something needed to be done to help the situation.

If county valuation continues to drop, Pruter said he would look at advocating higher taxes as well as cutting budgets and programs He felt reviewing both would be necessary to determine a solution, realizing a certain amount of money is needed to maintain county efficiency.

Pruter said the current landfill situation is also another problem facing the county today.

Feeling qualified to serve as Third District County Commissioner, Pruter said that his area of the county needed more representation and he felt he was in a position to do so.

Pruter described himself as honest, caring and concerned, and that he had ‘feelings for people.’”—Osborne County Farmer, October 31, 1996.

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Orville Pruter ran for the District 3 Osborne County Commissioner position in 1996. 

In the summer of 2000 Betty followed Orville’s lead and ran for Osborne County Commissioner  in District #3.

 

Voters head to the polls Tuesday

Write-in candidate seeks spot on general election ballot

“The only announced write-in candidate to date is Betty Pruter, who has announced her candidacy for County Commissioner, Third District. Pruter hopes to receive enough votes as a write-in to become the Republican candidate for third district commissioner.

Pruter decided to run because she feels incumbent Jack Applegate, Democrat, needs some opposition and because she would like to see someone from Natoma on the board.

‘Sometimes, it feels like Natoma, because we are at the opposite corner of the county, is left out,’ said Pruter. ‘I know, though, that the district extends across the south and on the west to include Alton. I’d want to represent all the people in the district and will listen to all my constituents and do my best to represent everyone.’

Pruter is in favor of better roads and equal law enforcement in parts of the county. Specifically, she would like to see a deputy stationed in Natoma. The current deputy that serves that part of the county lives north of Luray.

She also feels that the health and extension departments need to be expanded. ‘I know that costs money, but ‘where there is a will, there’s a way.’

Pruter is not In favor of cutting the budget, but does think the funds might be better allocated.

“We need to study the budget and find a different way of using our resources.” she said. “I also think women have a different way of looking at things and maybe we need a women’s viewpoint to find the answers to some of these problems.”

Pruter is adamant about the need to pay closer attention to government mandates. She doesn’t think the county can afford to ignore them or lag in coming into compliance.

“Most of the time, they are for the benefit and safety of the public,” she said. “Sometimes it’s good to be on the ground floor, rather than waiting.”

Pruter was born and raised south of Waldo and has lived in the Natoma area most of her married life. She is a retired school teacher who still substitutes and is an active farm partner with her husband, Orville.

She is the mother of five boys and has 14 grandchildren. One son is an educator in Holcomb, Kansas, another runs the At Risk program in Syracuse, Kansas, another teaches Tae Kwan Do in Blue Springs, Missouri; one has just returned to the area to farm; and the fifth is employed by the county.”—Osborne County Farmer, July 27, 2000.

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Betty earned the right to be on the county ballet in November 2000 as a write-in candidate. And she won! In doing so Betty became only the second woman to ever be elected an Osborne County Commissioner. She set another record by being the first woman to ever complete a four-year term as Commissioner, and broke the glass ceiling in 2004 when she was re-elected to a second term—the only woman to achieve this in the 132 years of Osborne County history up to that time.

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Betty Pruter (second from left) was one of the seven duly elected Osborne County officials to take the oath of office in January 2001.

As commissioner Betty was instrumental in getting the official 911 directional signage for roads in rural Osborne County and served on numerous regional committees and boards. She was the county delegate to the Northwest Kansas Planning and Development Commission at Hill City, Kansas, and to the Solomon Valley Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council. The RC&D is a unique program led by local volunteer councils and administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The purpose of an RC&D is to address local concerns and to promote conservation, development, and utilization of natural resources; improve the general level of economic activity; and enhance the environment and standard of living in all communities in the council’s designated region. Betty was a founding member of the Solomon Valley RC&D Council in 2002 and worked tirelessly to help the organization receive authorization with the Natural Recourses Conservation Services (NRCS).

Betty attended the Leadership Academy in Washington, D.C. in February, 2003. She served on the Solomon Valley RC&D Council as Vice-President and was a voting Council member representing the Osborne County Advisory Committee. Her leadership was proven valuable on several RC&D projects, including the Regional Geographic information System (GIS) meeting, Natoma Grade School Playground Renovation, Osborne County Courthouse Celebration, Farm With the Family Workshop and Osborne County Career Fairs. Both Betty and Orville represented the RC&D at many local, regional, and state events. Betty was inducted into the Solomon Valley RC&D Hall Of Fame on February 10, 2009.

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Gary Doane and Orville Pruter getting the beans ready for the public feast at the Osborne County Courthouse Centennial Celebration in the fall of 2007.

“It was a privilege for me to work with Betty while we served together as Osborne County Commissioners. I enjoyed getting acquainted with Orville at that time as well. They have a special place in their hearts for preserving the traditions and historical values of our county, and passing along a great heritage to the next generation. Betty and Orville have served Osborne County and their community in many capacities. They have been and continue to be true servant leaders where God has placed them. Congratulations, Betty and Orville, on your election to the Osborne County Hall of Fame.”—Gary Doane, Osborne County Commissioner, 2004-2008.

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The Osborne County Commission in session in the Osborne County Courthouse, Osborne, Kansas in June 2007. From left to right: Bryan Byrd, Osborne; Gary Doane, Downs; and Betty Pruter, Natoma.

Both Betty and Orville have been members of the Natoma Community Center committee and helped with many Kansas Day annual programs—often baking bread and churning butter, among other activities. In 1990 Betty began working with the Osborne County Literacy Center. In 2002 she was appointed to the Osborne County Advisory Board and in 2003 she served on the board for the Osborne County Coalition. Beginning in 2004 Betty served on the board of directors for Osborne County Growth and Preservation, Inc. and in 2005 on the board for the Kansas Blue Hills Foundation.

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Betty and Orville Pruter worked the Osborne County information booth at a number of Kansas Sampler Festivals over the years.

From 2000 to 2010 Orville and Betty were active members of Osborne County Tourism, Inc. and the Northwest Kansas Tourism Council. They became members of the Kansas Sampler Foundation and attended the annual Kansas Sampler Festivals held across the state, helping to set up and man the Osborne County booth. While at the Sampler Festival they handed out brochures and informed people about the many things to see and do in Osborne County and what a great place it is to live. In 2006 Betty received a Special Service Award for recognition of her longterm efforts to promote tourism to the region.

 

Kansas Bankers Association Conservation Award Winners

Windbreak Awards

Orville and Betty Pruter

Gale and Teresa Pruter

“The first 2004 windbreak award is to be presented to Orville and Betty Pruter and Gale and Teresa Pruter around the farmstead, near Natoma, that is occupied by Gale, Teresa and family. The windbreak is made up of four rows of trees. The inside row contains 196 lilacs, the two inside rows have 245 eastern red cedars, and the outside deciduous row is made up of 65 hackberry [trees].

They also installed 4,000 feet of weed barrier fabric. This windbreak was planted in 1995 and now protects the area around the farmstead and machine shed. Cost share assistance was received by the Pruters through the State Water Resources Cost-share Program.

The Pruters have done an excellent job of maintaining the windbreak and have had a good survival rate of the trees.”—Downs News and Times, January 13, 2005.

In 2009 Betty and Orville were honored by receiving a Century Farm Award for the Pruter family farm located north of Natoma, recognizing their longterm family commitment to farming there for one hundred years. That same year they moved back to live on the farm and are the third generation to do so. The farm’s big barn is notable in itself, as it replaced an earlier barn destroyed by a tornado on May 21, 1918. This new barn was built with the innovative “no-sag roof” concept invented by local architect and fellow Osborne County Hall of Famer Louis Beisner and is an outstanding example of Beisner’s ground-breaking architectural style.

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Two photos of Orville Pruter at work on the Pruter farm, utilizing old and new equipment to earn a living amid the ever-changing farming trends. Above can be seen the historic Pruter Barn in the background. The barn was built in 1918 and is a rare early example of the “no-sag” roof concept, in which the roof is held up by interlocking braces along the inside of the roof rather than by vertical columns down the middle of the hay loft. This architectural breakthrough is now a basic component in all large building architecture everywhere.

In 2011 Betty Pruter and Linda Sharits started working on creating a library for the city of Natoma. With the help many volunteers the library has grown to be the meeting place for the community, and in 2016 it officially became the Natoma Public Library under the administration of the city. Betty and Orville are also active in the Heritage Seekers Organization, a all-volunteer community group that was given the Polhman building in Natoma by the Polhman family (also Osborne County Hall of Famers) and in which they have established the Pohlman Heritage Museum.

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Orville Pruter (second from left) rides on one of the many floats that the Natoma Heritage Seekers organization has entered in the annual Natoma Labor Day Parade over the years. 

On May 29, 2005, Betty and Orville celebrated their golden anniversary of marriage. They remain active in the community and region. They are in charge of the government food commodity program, and both are on the board of the Northwest Kansas Area Agency on Aging. Betty is the clerk of Round Mound Township and is a member of the Silver Haired Legislature, representing Osborne County. They keep busy with community activities, volunteering at the library and museum, and helping their son care for the family farm.

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Betty Pruter demonstrates making homemade bread.
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In January 2016 Betty Pruter helped the kids at Natoma Grade School learn how to make butter and homemade bread. 
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The Orville and Betty Pruter family.

It is our pleasure to welcome such worthy additions into the Osborne County Hall of Fame. Betty and Orville Pruter, enjoy the parade of acclamations. You have earned them.

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County Wide Objectives Chosen

“The Osborne County Chairperson of Osborne County Growth and Preservation, Inc., Betty Pruter, is inviting all interested citizens of Osborne County to a meeting on Friday, June 11, in the Osborne Carnegie Library at 7:30PM to choose two county objectives be accomplished between July and December 2004. At this meeting the two objectives that were to be completed between January and June will also be evaluated.

At this meeting the Osborne County Strategic Plan will be reviewed and revised as needed. We welcome new ideas and cordially invite all citizens interested in the common good of Osborne County to attend this meeting. ‘We in 2003’ has proven that we can make good things happen.

Help us fulfill the ‘More in 2004’ motto by becoming an active participant with us in these endeavors.”—Osborne County Farmer, June 10, 2004.

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Kansas Blue Hills Foundation Comes to County

“Something new has come to Osborne County! Five people have united their hearts and their talents to create the Kansas Blue Hills Foundation. Their mission is to secure the Future of Osborne County for those who live here, for those who are planning to return, and for those who are making Osborne County their new home. It is doable! It can be done!

The Kansas Blue Hills Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, county-wide organization authorized by the IRS to receive tax deductible contributions from individuals, families, businesses, corporations and other foundations. Three of the five foundation organizers attended Dr. Don Udell’s three-day Foundation Workshop and all five attended his nine-day Grant Writing Workshop.

The foundation’s founding five board members believe that there is a pool of human resources in Osborne County which can be shaped into a dynamic force that will reverse the economic and cultural downturn experienced in these past decades. The Foundation will be the vehicle to train and empower local leaders, establish permanent endowment that will endure forever, and generate and achieve a new vision or progress and prosperity for Osborne County.

Over the past twenty years there has been a significant outmigration from rural America to the metropolitan areas of the country. During these same years rural Kansas, Osborne County has seen (1) a massive transfer or wealth out of the county, (2) dramatic cuts in programs funded by the Federal and State governments, and (3) growing percentage or the population becoming sixty-five years of age or older.

These are sobering realities, and unfortunately many residents have come to believe that the county’s decline in population, jobs, economic opportunity, and quality of life is irreversible. This pessimism is destructive to the county in general and to the residents individually. It is our conviction that the people of this county can find the hope, energy, courage and the resources required to reverse this damaging attitude.

Now is not the time to be passive! We must awaken the same pioneering spirit that permitted our ancestors to overcome the obstacles they faced when they settled this county.

The Kansas Blue Hills Foundation governing board members are dedicated to improving the communities in which they live. The board members are: Carolyn Williams, Alton, who is very active in the Bohemian Cultural Center and restaurant enterprise and a former school teacher; Frances Meyers, Downs, who is an IRS agent and eBay entrepreneur; Betty Pruter, Natoma, who is a partner on the family farm, former teacher and currently serves as a County Commissioner; Laura McClure, Osborne, who is a former State Representative, worked as Economic Development Director for the City of Osborne, and is the President of the Kansas Blue Hills Foundation; Dr. Joe Hubbard, the member at-large, is a former Arizona State Director of the Department of Developmental Disabilities, and for twenty years owned/managed a private 501 (c)(3) counseling organization.

Kansas Blue Hills Foundation is currently requesting contributions from individuals, businesses, and other foundations to make securing the future a reality in Osborne County. The Foundation Board is embarking on a three year Capital Campaign Drive. The goal is to raise three million five hundred thousand dollars in the next three yean. Three million will be used to establish a permanent endowment fund for Osborne County, and the remainder will be used as seed money in the foundation’s nine Fields of Interest as well as for administrative costs.

Over the next ten years, billions of dollars will transfer out of Osborne County due to (1) the death of residents whose relatives live outside of the county, (2) businesses closing with no successor, and (3) the out-migration of our youth. A major reason for establishing a County-Wide Endowment Fund is to retain some of this wealth within Osborne County. Donors will have the opportunity to give to this endowment fund through estate planning, memorials, and gifts. Contributions to the foundation are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

As this endowment fund grows, the Kansas Blue Hills Foundation will distribute the earnings in the form of grants to qualified applicants living in or serving Osborne County. Grants will be made in the Foundation’s nine Fields of Interest which are: (1) Community Development, (2) Economic Development, (3) Rural Development. (4) Arts and Culture, (5) Education, (6) Environment, (7) Health, (8) Recreation, and (9) Religion. These Fields of Interest provide donors with a wide variety of program-areas they may wish to sustain.

The mission of the Kansas Blue Hills Foundation is: ‘To be an innovative leader in supporting and promoting activities in Osborne County, that foster economic, social and spiritual growth by empowering individuals, businesses, organizations and government entities.’

We invite you to participate with us in this challenging and rewarding endeavor.”—by Laura McClure, Downs News and Times, March 24, 2005.

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SOURCES:  Betty & Orville Pruter, Natoma, Kansas; Gary Doane, Downs, Kansas; Laura McClure, Osborne, Kansas; Della Richmond, Natoma, Kansas; Von Rothenberger, Lucas, Kansas; Carolyn Schultz, Lucas, Kansas; Natoma Independent, October 19, 1950; Natoma-Luray Independent, June 9, 1955; Natoma-Luray Independent, July 7, 1955; Natoma-Luray Independent, October 17, 1957; Natoma-Luray Independent, January 8, 1959; Natoma-Luray Independent, August 4, 1960; Osborne County Farmer, April 28, 1988; Osborne County Farmer, October 31, 1996; Osborne County Farmer, July 27, 2000; Osborne County Farmer, August 10, 2000; Osborne County Farmer, November 16, 2000; Osborne County Farmer, January 11, 2001; Osborne County Farmer, March 13, 2003; Osborne County Farmer, June 10, 2004; Osborne County Farmer, January 13, 2005; Downs News and Times, January 13, 2005; Downs News and Times, March 24, 2005; Osborne County Farmer, May 26, 2005; Downs News and Times, March 7, 2006; Osborne County Farmer; March 5, 2009; Osborne County Farmer, June 11, 2009.

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Charles Jesse Jones – 1996 Inductee

 “There were three great types in the West:  Buffalo Bill, hunter and scout; Wild Bill Hickock, gunman; and Buffalo Jones, the preserver, who brought living things wherever he went.”  – Zane Grey.

Considered one of the most celebrated characters of his time, Charles Jesse “Buffalo” Jones was born January 31, 1844, in Money Township, McLean County, Illinois.  He was the third of twelve children born to Noah and Jane (Munden) Jones on the family farm, where Abraham Lincoln was a frequent visitor and family friend.  For the first seventeen years of his life Charles helped with the farm work.  In 1862 he entered Illinois Wesleyan University, but typhoid fever forced him to give up his studies after two years.  He thought to try his luck out West and so in 1866 he found himself in Troy, Kansas.

At Troy Charles started a nursery and built a stone house.  On January 20, 1869, he was married at Troy to Martha J. Walton.  Their union produced six children, four of whom are known: Charles, William, Jessie, and Olive.  While living in Troy, Charles took his first trip out to the buffalo range to hunt the American bison.  Intrigued by the great beasts and the money to be earned for their hides, he moved his family west in order to be closer to the range.  On January 1, 1872, the Jones family arrived in Osborne County, Kansas, settling on a homestead in Section 19 of Tilden Township.

 Anybody Know Him?

 “The Kansas City Times of October 7th contained a three-column writeup of Charles J. Jones, known to the world as ‘Buffalo’ Jones.  Jones died in Topeka some two weeks ago.  The articles says . . . Jones came to Kansas in 1866, going first to Doniphan County, but four years later settled on a claim in Osborne County, his home standing on the South Fork of the Solomon River . . . If ‘Buffalo’ Jones ever lived in Osborne County the editor of the Farmer never heard of it . . . If any of the old-timers know anything about ‘Buffalo’ Jones ever having lived here they will help out on a historical question by speaking up right now.  If Osborne County was ever the home of so famous a character as ‘Buffalo’ Jones the county is entitled to the honor and credit of it.” — Osborne County Farmer, October 16, 1919.

Yes, He Lived Here

“The Farmer’s article last week asking if anyone knew ‘Buffalo’ Jones when he lived in Osborne County soon brought forth conclusive proof that he was once a resident of Osborne County . . . C. A. Kalbfleisch, who now lives over at Harlan, writes us as follows regarding the Jones affair:  ‘I noticed your article in the Farmer of even date in regards to ‘Buffalo’ Jones and can tell you exactly where his homestead was.  It is located one mile south and one and a quarter west of Bloomington in TildenTownship.  In 1900 I bought this place from D. A. Rowles and among the papers turned over to me was the original patent from the government, dated, I think, 1874, and signed by U. S. Grant, president, to Charles J. Jones.  I talked at the time with Frank Stafford and he said this was ‘Buffalo’ Jones . . . .

L. F. Storer of BethanyTownship tells us he knew ‘Buffalo’ Jones well.  Jones taught a Sunday School class in Doniphan County and Mr. Storer was one of his pupils.  He says Jones used to visit at the home of his father frequently and they were intimate friends.  Jones was not much of a hunter here, but he did a lot of lassoing of buffalo.  He trained several of them to work as oxen.

J. E. Hahn is another who remembers Jones well.  Ed says his father often told him in later years of one of Jones’ hobbies.  He claimed to have the plans and a marked map of the place where a great fortune was buried in one of the Sandwich Islands [Hawaii].  He wanted J. W. Hahn to go with him and secure the treasure.  Jones, with all of his traveling in later years, evidently had forgotten all about that fortune, as history does not mention that he ever visited the Sandwich Islands.

John J. and Robert R. Hays knew ‘Buffalo’ Jones very well.  John says Jones came here from Troy, Doniphan County, in 1872 and stayed here, he thinks, three or four years.  His family was here that long, but after a year Jones used to be away a great deal on hunting trips or some other line of business.  John says he was a good-natured fellow and very likable, but also very visionary.” — OsborneCounty Farmer, October 23, 1919.

In Osborne County Jones divided his time between hunting and farming.  He started a nursery and served as Tilden Township’s justice of the peace.  In 1874 Jones was appointed Osborne County Undersheriff.  Often he was away on long hunting trips, where he learned by necessity the science and art of scouting.  On the range they began to call him “Buffalo” Jones (though never to his face) to differentiate him from “Dirty-Face” Jones and “Wrong Wheel” Jones, who were both also on the range.  In 1876 Jones had sold the homestead and settled his family in Sterling, Kansas.  Three years later he became one of the four founders of Garden City, Kansas, where Jones started a ranch and proceeded to make his mark on the community.  He was soon referred to as “Colonel” Jones, because, as he later put it in his autobiography, it was “the title awarded in the Old West when a man reached a certain level of popular esteem.”  This may indeed be the case, as it was Jones who convinced the Santa Fe Railroad to establish a station at Garden City, and it was Jones who in 1885 completed a stone courthouse and presented it and the surrounding block to the county as a gift.  He also served as the town’s first mayor and as Finney County’s first representative to the Kansas Legislature, where he worked alongside Hiram Bull, representative for Osborne County.  Jones predicted Bull’s death by an angry tamed elk.

A tame wild animal is the most dangerous of beasts.  My old friend, Dick Rock, a great hunter and guide out of Idaho, laughed at my advice and got killed by one of his three-year-old bulls.  I told him they knew him just well enough to kill him, and they did. 

Same with General Hiram Bull, a member of the Kansas Legislature, and two cowboys who went into a corral to tie up a tame elk at the wrong time . . . They had not studied animals as I had.  That tame elk killed all of them . . . You see, a wild animal must learn to respect a man.” — Buffalo Jones in his autobiography Buffalo Jones: Forty Years of Adventure (1899).

By 1886 Jones had realized that the wholesale slaughter of the buffalo would lead to their eventual extinction and regretted his role in it.  Between 1886 and 1889 he made four trips to the Texas panhandle to capture buffalo calves and turn them loose on his ranch.  Within three years he had assembled a herd of over one hundred and fifty animals; at the time the only other herd left in the continental United States was sheltered in Yellowstone National Park – a herd of only two hundred and fifty head.  In 1901 the two herds were merged, and from this new herd are descended most of the American bison in existence today.  Jones also purchased other private herds, including one from Canada that caused considerable controversy.  His exploits earned him a world-wide reputation and he was hailed everywhere as the Preserver of the American Bison.  In 1890 he started a second ranch near McCook, Nebraska, on which part of his enlarged herd were protected.  While some critics denounced his capturing buffalo as hastening their end forever as wild animals, he always defended himself by pointing out that if he did not do it, then the buffalo hunters would – and they would do all they could not to keep them alive.  In 1891 Jones made a trip to England with ten full grown buffalo.  The animals were not entirely sure about the idea of traveling on ship, but in the end they were delivered to the London Zoological Gardens and Jones became the talk of Europe after he presented the Prince of Wales with a magnificent buffalo robe.

But with all this activity Jones had overextended his dwindling finances and he lost everything in the end, including both ranches.  His family went back to Troy to live with his in-laws while he sought to reestablish himself.  In 1893 Jones made the Cherokee Strip run to Oklahoma Territory and secured land near Perry.  He then became sergeant-at-arms of the Oklahoma Legislature.  After a while he was reported to be on the Gulf Coast of Texas, promoting a railroad from Beaumont to Fort Bolivar on Galveston Bay.  Then he hit on a new scheme that once again brought him national attention – he would lead an expedition into the Arctic Circle that would lasso and capture musk oxen and bring them back alive; something that had never been achieved before.

On June 12, 1897, he set out.  At Fort Smith on the Slave River in Alberta, Canada, he took on a partner, John Shea, a Scotch trapper and trader, and attempted to locate and snare the wild oxen.  But blizzards and other rough weather thwarted his plans; in the end they did manage to capture five calves, but the local Indians slit their throats for a native ritual.  The discouraged partners gave up the whole venture and Jones started on the way back home.  The following year he briefly joined the Alaska Gold Rush.  His partner Shea went on to Dawson in the Yukon Territory while Jones thought it was high time to get back to his family and boarding a steamer set sail for Seattle and the United States.

Jones reunited with his family back in Troy on October 8, 1898, after five years of separation.  With Colonel Henry Inman he penned his autobiography, Buffalo Jones: Forty Years of Adventure, which appeared in print in 1899.  In July 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him game warden of Yellowstone National Park, a position he held until September 1905 when he resigned in a dispute with the U.S. Army, who were then in charge of the Park.  The next year he established a ranch along the northern rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona Territory.  He had once before tried to cross domestic cattle with the buffalo, which he dubbed “the cattalo,” and had failed, and here he tried again.  But the cattalo never became popular.  It was also here that a dentist from New York City, Zane Grey, visited Jones in the spring of 1907 in hopes that his health would improve.  Together they roped and relocated mountain lions and Grey wrote his first book, Last of the Plainsmen, with Jones as the hero.

“Buffalo Jones was great in all those remarkable qualities common to the men who opened up the West.  Courage, endurance, determination, hardihood, were developed in him to the highest degree.  No doubt something of Buffalo Jones crept unconsciously into all the great fiction characters I have created.” — Zane Grey.

In 1910 Jones made his first trip to Africa to rope wild animals.  A silent film and lecture tour on the trip were national sensations and his previous exploits were also given much publicity.  Four years later, at the age of seventy, Jones made a second trip to Africa, this time to rope and capture gorillas.  On this trip Jones contracted jungle fever and suffered a severe heart attack.  His health never recovered and he spent his last years in Topeka, Kansas, where he died October 2, 1919.

Charles “Buffalo” Jones was buried in the family plot in the Valley View Cemetery at Garden City.  He never fitted in with the stereotype of the westerner found in dime novels or in movies and television – he did not gamble or use coffee, tea, tobacco, or liquor – and so his legendary life has faded from the American consciousness.  In 1982 his successful preservation efforts to save the American bison earned him a posthumous induction into the National Buffalo Association’s Buffalo Hall of Fame.  His character, courage, and indomitable spirit as a child of the American West has also earned him a permanent place in the Osborne County Hall of Fame.

Jones with his buffalo herd near Garden City, Kansas.
Jones with his buffalo herd near McCook, Nebraska in the 1890s.
Standing: William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody & Charles J. “Buffalo” Jones. Kneeling: Gordon “Pawnee Bill” Lillie. Photo taken in 1910.
Jones’ House Rock Valley ranch house on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Jones climbing up a tree to secure a mountain lion. Through his efforts dozens of lions were caught and released alive into remote areas of the Grand Canyon.
This statue of Charles Jesse “Buffalo” Jones can be found on the grounds of the Finney County Courthouse, Garden City, Kansas.
Part of the buffalo herd founded by Jones on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake of Utah.
Jones with yoked team of buffalo.
Jones with Zane Gray, 1907.
Cover from modern edition of Zane Gray’s first bestseller, “Roping Lions in the Grand Canyon,” featuring Charles “Buffalo” Jones.
The Charles “Buffalo” Jones exhibit in the Finney County Historical Museum at Garden City, Kansas.
Charles Jesse Jones grave in Valley View Cemetery at Garden City, Kansas.