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 Edward Williams – 1997 Inductee

Charles Edward Williams was born March 17, 1867, in Fairmount, Indiana, to Paul and Catharine (Stanfield) Williams. His father was a Civil War veteran. His motherwas the daughter of one of Fairmount’s co-founders. During the first year of his life Charles was so frail of body that he was laid out for dead three different times. At the recommendation  of  his  doctor,  his  parents  moved  farther west  to  Guthrie  County, Iowa, in 1868. In the fall of 1873 his parents moved to Jewell County, Kansas, near Mankato. When the grasshopper s took all of the crops in 1874 theWilliams family, along with many others, moved back to Iowa.  The lure of the West still called, and the family returned to Kansas in 1878. After trying many locations they settled in Mount Ayr Township, Osborne County, in 1893.  Catharine’s father had settled his family there earlier in 1876.

Charles married Laura Mendenhall on October 22, 1893,in the Mount Ayr Post Office, which at that time was in her parents’ home.  The Joseph and Angelina (Gregory) Mendenhall family had come by covered wagon from Iowa to Mount Ayr Township in the fall of 1873, when Laura was only six months old.  The next spring, the Mendenhall family homesteaded at “The Cedars,” where they eventually built the first frame home in the northern part of Mount Ayr Township.

Charles and Laura were the parents of thirteen children: Verdun Ray; Lola; Luther; Ernest; Herald; Bessie; Walter; Chester; George; Lelia Almina; Ethyl; Virgil; and DuWayne. Charles and Laura’s first home, where five of their children were born, was located approximately two miles west of The Cedars.  Later on, they traded homes with Laura’s father, a move that gave them a bigger house, plus put the Williams children in walking distance of the Mount Ayr School then located one mile to the south.  Shaded by stately cedar trees, some of which are still standing, Charles and Laura appropriately named their new home “The Cedars.”  On the night of May 20, 1918, they and nine of their children still living at home  were  in  their  beds when  a tornado  completely  leveled  their  farm.  They and many others in Mount Ayr, Round Mound, Kill Creek, and Tilden Townships miraculously survived this devastating storm. The Williams family lived in a makeshift dwelling for severalmonths after. Their last child, born two months later in July1918, died in November when the entire family was stricken with the worldwide flu epidemic.

“The Cedars.”

In the early 1900s Charles became the Mount Ayr news correspondent for both the Alton  and  Osborne  newspaper. For over twenty-five years he wrote weekly news items and historical articles for both papers. His history subjects were the Osborne County settlers of the 1870s era and he recorded everything from their trips to Kansas in a coveredwagon to their existence on the harsh prairie.

Decoration Day in Alton was always a big event, and this was especially so in 1930 when the monument to Hiram C.Bull, the co-founder of Alton, was unveiled in the Sumner Cemetery. As chairman of the Old Settlers meeting held that year, Charles was instrumental in having the elk horns that killed Bull in a famous incident in 1879 shipped back to Osborne County. The horns, plus the bill of lading, arecurrently on exhibit in Osborne.

A View of Alton, in limerick form, was written by Charles in 1930. This poem described the 50 businesses,professions, churches, and schools in Alton at that time and earned much acclaim. In 1936 Charles, Laura, and the three remaining children at home moved to Hotchkiss, Colorado, where Charles passed away on November 15, 1937.  Laura, the final surviving charter member of the Mount Ayr Friends Church, lived until February 26, 1960. Both are buried in the Riverside Cemetery at Hotchkiss, Colorado. Charles was named to the Osborne County Hall of Fame in 1996. – Deanna Roach, descendant.

The legacy of Charles Williams is continued today among his descendants as four generations of Williams family members receive a monthly family newsletter, an integral part of which is the shared contributions of the history and pictures of the Williams family.  Their efforts are a fitting tribute to Charles Williams, historian and writer.

Frank E. Wheeler – 1997 Inductee

Frank E. Wheeler was born April 4, 1906, in Hancock Township, Osborne County, Kansas, on the farm of his parents, Frederick and Ariadne (Holmes Hodson) Wheeler.  He got his early education at the one-room Social Hill School, District Number 31, and at the age of twelve he began collecting, trading, buying, selling, and writing about firearms, ammunition, and cartridges – a hobby that became his lifetime obsession.

Frank worked as the janitor at the Osborne Carnegie Library while attending high school in nearby Osborne.  When he was 17 he became the regular librarian and broke in his replacement in time to graduate from high school in 1924.  Then Frank clerked at the Babcock Variety Store in Osborne for nine dollars a week.  He decided to travel a bit, and 1926 worked as a cook’s helper in a restaurant at Tulsa, Oklahoma.

In the spring of 1927 Frank’s knowledge of weaponry got him a job as a powder monkey in Yellowstone National Park, where he blasted loose frozen packs of snow with explosives to clear the roads.  That summer he headed west to Hollywood, California, and spent the next five years cooking and managing restaurants.  There he married Anna Egerer and started a family.  In 1932 the Depression cost him his job and Frank decided to bring his family back to Osborne.

Frank then worked for the federal Work Projects Administration (WPA), earning $9.80 a week.  In 1936 he worked at the Holmes Bakery and the next year he and fellow Osborne citizen Frank McDaneld began a publication of a listing of cartridges for collectors, which they published for the next 31 years.

Wheeler took over management of Vern Lemley’s antique store in 1940 and began seriously building an extensive library of weapons technology.  By 1941 he had acquired over 800 pistols and rifles and continued amassing a large cartridge collection.  In September 1943 he began work at the Osborne Post Office.  Twelve years later he sent a story in to The Gun Report, an internationally-circulated monthly.  He later became an associate editor and had his own column, The Cartridge Collector, which he wrote for 22 years.

In 1956 Frank organized the first Solomon Valley Gun Collectors Show in Osborne.  This became an annual event that attracted gun, coin, and stamp collectors from across the nation for 20 years.

The Solomon Valley Gun Collectors Show was held in Osborne and was one of the largest such events in the Central United States for several years.

Frank held life memberships in the Kansas State Historical Society, National Rifle Association and the National Muzzle Loading Association, and was a member of over 60 other groups concerning weaponry.  Frank was elected charter president of the Kansas Cartridge Collectors Association when it was formed January 18, 1969, and also served two terms as president of the International Cartridge Collectors Association.

Frank retired to his legendary two-room “shanty” on the east edge of Osborne and received still more awards and recognitions, including the International Cartridge Collectors’ Association’s inaugural B. R. L. Lewis Memorial Award for personal contribution to cartridge collecting in 1972, and the Kansas Cartridge Collectors’ Association Man of the Year in 1976.  By 1973 his cartridge collection had grown to over 12,000 specimens, and his library held 2,000 old cartridge catalogs and 1,200 volumes on weaponry, ranging from an Italian book on guns printed in 1561 through to the 1970s.

Frank was an acknowledged world-wide expert on weaponry and was named to both Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who International under Who Knows–And What Among American Experts and the Specially Informed.  The shanty regularly entertained visitors from around the world who enjoyed anonymity in Osborne they would never have received in a larger city.  Frank treated all who came to see him equally with a smile and a story culled from a lifetime of remembrances.

Frank died on February 27, 1977, in Osborne and was laid to rest in the Osborne Cemetery.  After his death a three-day auction was held to disperse his personal collection of guns and cartridges.  The softbound auction booklet sent out to prospective bidders ran 59 pages long.

Zachary Taylor Walrond – 1996 Inductee

“Zachary Taylor Walrond was born in Hart County, Kentucky, April 3rd, 1847.  His birthplace is about six miles from Glen Lily, the birthplace and home, when not in public life, of [former Vice-President] General Simon Bolivar Buckner of Confederate fame and about twenty miles south of the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln.  Conrad Walrond, the father of Z. T. Walrond, was a prosperous farmer of a genial happy disposition.  It was always a joy to the young people to visit the home of ‘Uncle Conrad.’  It meant a season of sunshine and good fellowship.  The Walrond family are thought to be of English descent.  Emily Mitchell, the mother of Z. T. Walrond, was of a Scotch-Irish family, her mother, Rachel Crawford, was of the old Virginia family, bearing the name, which has produced so many men distinguished in Church and State, Art and Literature.

Z. T. Walrond was known in early boyhood as ‘Taylor’ Walrond, in compliment to his namesake, the twelfth president of the United States.  As he grew older he seemed to dislike the name and he was called by his abbreviated first name, ‘Zac,’ with the unanimous consent of those most directly interested, who soon learned to use the new name by which he was ever afterwards familiarly known among his relatives and friends.  His early education was in the common schools of his native county.  Later during the Civil War he entered the Male and Female High School at Columbia, Kentucky; at that time this town was one of the centers of learning for the Green River Country in Kentucky.  After a time at this school he returned to his father’s farm and engaged at this occupation until  the fall of 1867 when he again entered the Academy at Columbia.  While in school he united with the Presbyterian church and being of exceptional promise as a student and with rare social qualities he was solicited to become a candidate for the Presbyterian ministry, to which he consented and was taken under care of the Presbytery with this calling in view.  His zeal in study overtaxed his powers and he suffered a physical breakdown and left the school in the spring of 1868.  After this he engaged for some time in active outdoor life to regain his health, teaching school in the winter until the spring of 1870, when he decided to seek his fortune in the West, coming to Kansas in the spring of 1870.  He has left on record April 3, 1870, as the exact date of his settlement in Kansas, this being his twenty-third birthday.  At that time the Arapaho and Buffalo roamed at will over the hills, valleys and plains of Western Kansas.  In company with two brothers of the name of Crosby he selected a preemption on the North Solomon River in Osborne County.

Z. T. Walrond was one of the first, if not the first to obtain full legal title to land in this county [Osborne] from the United States.  His patent is dated January 20, 1872, and bears the name of [Ulysses] S. Grant, then president.  Albert Wells and J. J. Wiltrout, now a banker at Logan, Kansas, were among his comrades and neighbors at that time.  They were all then young men, fond of adventure, and with high hopes for the future.  They lived in a stockade in what became extreme northwestern Bethany Township as a defense against Indian raids, enduring the privation of frontier life for the purpose of a home and independence in a material way.  He gave the name of Bethany to the township and post office [later known as Portis], being appointed the second postmaster and first justice of the peace in that vicinity.  After paying out on his preemption he homesteaded adjoining land and remained on his homestead until the fall of 1873.

Z. T. Walrond was elected register of deeds, November 4, 1873, and took the office in January 1874, making his home in the city of Osborne after that time.  Later in the year 1874 he had built the residence in Osborne which still stands at the corner of First and East Streets.  In December 1874 he was united in marriage to Mary Duncan Smith of Horse Cave, Hart County, Kentucky, immediately bringing his bride to Osborne to occupy the new home.  During all those early years Z. T. Walrond took an active part in laying the foundations of organized society.  He was in the forefront of every movement for the public kind, generous and hospitable.  He had a warm place in the hearts of the people.  He himself has said he never had better friends anywhere than the early settlers in Osborne County.  He loved them and was loved by them in return.  He held the office of register of deeds two terms, retiring in January, 1878.  During these early years he studied law and was admitted to the bar.  After retiring from the office of register of deeds, he formed a partnership with the late [Robert] G. Hays (who died a few years ago at Oklahoma City) for the practice of law; later this partnership was dissolved.  On January, 1879, he entered into partnership with J. K. Mitchell, and this partnership continued four about four years under the firm name of Walrond & Mitchell; later Cyrus Heren came into the firm and the business was conducted under the firm name of Walrond, Mitchell & Heren.  This partnership was dissolved January 1, 1890.

Z. T. Walrond had a retentive memory and kept a record of current events, from which between 1880 and 1882 he compiled a history of Osborne County and Northwest Kansas known as the Annals of Osborne County, a history of the decade of the 1870s that is a mine of information for all later historians.  He was elected county attorney of Osborne County in fall of 1880 and held this position for two terms, from January 1881 until January 1885.  He was elected county representative to the Kansas Legislature November 2, 1886, re-elected November 6, 1888, and was a member of the Legislature when appointed United States District Attorney for the Indian Territory by President Harrison in the spring of 1889.  During his second term in the legislature he was a candidate for Speaker of the House, but was defeated because he would not pledge himself in advance in the matter of appointments under control of the Speaker, deeming it of more importance to be free to use his best judgment in such matters and preferring defeat to being fettered.  His action in this probably aided in calling attention to the character of the man and in securing his selection as United States Attorney on the recommendation of the United States Senator, Preston B. Plumb, who was particularly anxious for a man with unquestioned integrity and firmness to be chosen as United States Attorney for the Indian country.  Mr. Walrond held the position of U. S. Attorney for four years, until  the spring of 1893, when he was relieved by the incoming Cleveland administration, being succeeded by a Democrat.

After his retirement from public office he continued to reside at Muskogee, Oklahoma, engaging in the practice of law, being called into the public position again as Referee in Bankruptcy and afterwards chosen police judge of Muskogee.  He discharged his duties in every public trust with honor to himself and to the satisfaction of his fellow citizens.  He was frequently attorney for the Indians and enjoyed their unbounded confidence.

He leaves to mourn his loss his wife and one daughter, Lucile, three children–Virgil, Warren, and Annie–having died in infancy and whose remains rest in the Osborne Cemetery.  He has a sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Hutcherson, residing at Portis, Kansas, a brother Madison in Nebraska, another sister, Mrs. Martha Hatcher and one unmarried sister, Alice, still living on the old Walrond homestead in Kentucky.  An older brother, Thomas, was a Federal soldier in the Civil War and died before the war closed from disease contracted in the service  The circle of his friends is only limited by the extent of his acquaintances which is not confined to state lines.  He had been in failing health for several months and spent some time at Sulphur Springs, Arkansas, during the last summer in the hope of regaining his health but gradually became weaker.  He suddenly became worse on Monday, November 2nd, and was taken to the hospital in Muskogee, where he had a specially trained nurse and the best of medical skill, but nothing could prolong his life and he peacefully and without a sigh breathed his last on one o’clock on Friday morning, November 6, 1914.  While he lay in the hospital his friends made his room a bower of roses.  Flowers beautiful beyond description covered his grave.

As before stated he connected himself with the Presbyterian Church in Kentucky, there being no church of that faith when he came to Osborne, he united with the Congregational Church and remained with that body until his removal to Muskogee, where he reunited with the Presbyterian Church, was chosen an Elder and at one time represented his Presbytery in the General Assembly as a Commissioner.  He became a member of the Masonic fraternity in Kentucky and remained a member all his life.  His pastor, Reverend J. K. Thompson, conducted the funeral service and his body was escorted to the grave in the Greenhill Cemetery by the entire local membership of the Masonic Lodge.  The Bar Association of Muskogee was present in a body.  Hundreds were unable to enter the outer portals of the church.  At the conclusion of the church service the body was placed in care of the Knights Templar and their brother Masons.  The active pallbearers were uniformed Knights Templar, while the honorary pallbearers were deacons of the church of which Judge Walrond had been a member for the last twenty-five years of his life.  He was the oldest lawyer in the state of Oklahoma in rank of admission to the bar in that state.  Few men have gained and held so high a place in the esteem of all classes of people through a long period of years.  He was always kind, gentle and considerate of the feelings of others, rarely wounded anyone or made an enemy; at the same time he was always firm for the right as he saw the right.

One of nature’s noblemen such as we do not look upon every day but whose lives leave the world richer for all time by reason of their sojourn here.  Requiescat in peace.”

— John Knox Mitchell, cousin, in the Osborne (KS) County Farmer, November 19, 1914.

Bertine Pinckney Walker – 1996 Inductee

The man who made the Osborne  County Farmer one of the most powerful small-town newspapers in Kansas was born January  29, 1872, at Winneconne, Wisconsin.

Bertine Pinckney Walker was the second of three children born to newspaperman William H. Walker and Melissa (Phelps) Walker.  Known as “Bert” (perhaps with good reason), he was five years old when his father bought the Peabody Gazette and moved the family to Peabody, Kansas.  Though he died only three years later, William Walker was a major influence on young Bert, who grew up determined to follow in his father’s footsteps.  He attended school in Peabody and worked on the Gazette until 1897, when he came to Downs, Kansas.

“A young man will go from this city tomorrow to take charge of the Logan Republican.  In the young man who is going to Logan we feel more than a passing interest.  He has been in our employ for only about a month, but in this brief time we have leaned to admire his manly qualities, his industrious habits and his proficiency as a printer and a writer.  This man is Bert Walker.  – Downs News, February 18, 1897.

Bert arrived in Logan, Kansas, with only 25 cents in his pocket.  By that October the newspaper was sold and Walker was out of a job.  He went to Osborne on a freight train and got work with the Farmer.

In 1901 Bert applied for the position of paragrapher at the Topeka (KS) Capital, beating out 32 other applicants for the job.  He also started a widely-read column entitled Kansas Men and Matters.  This lasted until 1904, when he went back to Osborne and bought the Farmer for $5,000 dollars from Charles Landis, who was anxious to sell the paper.  Working as both editor and publisher, over the next 14 years Walker  built the Farmer into a financial success whose views on Republican politics and state affairs began to receive considerable notice in other parts of Kansas.

Bert was a gifted writer of editorial comment.   His style was simple, graphic, sometimes whimsical and always dramatic.  He received his greatest fame for a column he began when he took over the Farmer.  “Musings of the Village Deacon” was soon being reprinted across the state, and by 1942 some newspapers nationally were publishing the weekly antics of such fictitious characters as Old Bill Shiftless and Jasper Tightwad, along with wry observations set down by Bert’s silver-tipped pen.  Reprints of the column continued into the 1960s.

On June 17, 1913, Bert married Althea Closon in Kansas City, Missouri.  In time the Walkers had enough money that Bert hired Charles E. Mann to be the new editor and the family took a two-year sabbatical on the West Coast, settling down in San Diego, California.

In 1921 Walker was appointed to the office of Kansas State Printer and he moved his family to Topeka.  He was elected to five consecutive terms before giving up the post in 1932.  Bert also served for a time on the State Board of Irrigation.

Under Walker and Mann the Osborne County Farmer maintained a presence of prestige and influence unequaled by any small-town weekly before or since in Kansas.  Walker was further instrumental in preserving and publishing much of the early history of Osborne County that otherwise would have been lost forever.  Special editions of the Farmer in 1921, 1926, 1936, and 1941 contained articles and photographs of prominent Osborne County citizens and businesses covering the first 75 years of the county’s history.  But all great things must end, and in 1942 Bert sold the Farmer and retired from the newspaper business altogether.

Walker continued to live in Topeka and work in the Scottish Rites of Masonic faith, of which he was a member for over 50 years.  The man forever known as “The Village Deacon” died in Topeka on September 11, 1946, and was buried there in the Mount Hope Cemetery.

*  *  *  *  *

(The following article originally ran in the May 14, 1936, issue of the Osborne County Farmer.  In it Bert Walker described several of the fictitious characters who had regularly appeared in his Village Deacon column during the previous thirty-one years.)

THE VILLAGE DEACON RECALLS A FEW OLD SETTLERS

Bert Walker in later years.

Old Bill Shiftless was one of the earliest settlers in Osborne County.  He preceded the Pennsylvania Colony by a couple of years.  Old Bill didn’t get to going good until some ten or fifteen years had passed.  There were few newspapers, inhabitants were scarce and busy and no great state issues had reached out this far on the prairies.  As soon as a few stores started up Old Bill began to get busy.  In a few months he owed all of them and never paid a cent.  He was a prominent figure at the first big religious revival in town.  He was converted the third night and posed as the town’s hero.  Bill proceeded at once to practice his new found light.  He went around to all the places he owed and promised to “take care” of his account in short order.  He wound up by asking for more credit.  He didn’t get it and. he began to grow suspicious of religion as a salvation for troubles.  He finally tackled Deacon Elam Philander, who was connected with a new bank, for a loan.  “Bill,” said Philander, “ready cash is too scarce to risk.  I can’t do it.”  Bill was sore under the collar by this time and blurted out:  “The trouble with you, Philander, is that the holy ghost never touched you.”  “Maybe not,” replied Philander, “and you ain’t going to touch me either.”  Bill backslid as soon as the revival was over.  “I was disappointed in religion,” said Old Bill, “It didn’t help me a bit any place.”  As the years went by Old Bill’s conversions became traditional.

Another of Old Bill’s rare traits was his loyalty and help in times of distress.  One day one of his cronies imbibed more shotgun whisky than he could carry and fell under the load alongside of a livery stable.  Old Bill happened along and stopped.  The stricken crony said, thickly, “Bill, help me up and get me home.” “No,” replied Bill, “I can’t do that, but I will lay down beside you if there is anything left in your bottle.”  Old Bill has the distinction of’ having belonged to every political party that ever existed in Osborne County. He was a perpetual candidate and never got three votes in his whole life.  “I got disgusted with politics,” said Bill, “and quit the crooked game long ago.”

Deacon Elam Philander came out with the Pennsylvania Colony.  The deacon was shrewd, thrifty and not a bad fellow.  He believed in doing good and practiced it religiously.  But he took about ninety per cent of his good for himself and distributed the other around the community as he saw fit.  He was so practical with his religion and his prayers that he just about ran the church.  I recall one time our preacher, a sad faced disciple who believed in prayer for all material things, had called a meeting in the church to raise some money for a stricken community in a distant state.  The preacher opened the meeting by saying, “We must look to the Lord for help in this sad hour.  I will ask Deacon Philander to offer a prayer.”  Philander arose and said very directly, “The best prayer we can offer at this hour and in this case is through the pocketbook.  I will give ten dollars and hope there are others here who will pray in the same way.”  The preacher was shocked, but the required amount was soon raised.  Then the preacher returned thanks for the answer to Philander’s prayer.

Another time the church board was going to meet at my house.  I said to Philander, very confidentially, “Brother Philander, you know I always keep a small vial of liquor at home in case of snake bite or hydrophobia.  Now the church board will be there tonight.  What do you think I had better do about it.”  “Well,” replied Philander, with one of his sharp looks into my eyes, “if I were you I would find a new hiding place for the jug in the barn.”  I didn’t like Philander’s attitude on the matter any too well, but I followed his advice and came out all right.  We had a very successful meeting.

Old Bill Shiftless is always knocking Philander and trying to get the best of him with his cute remarks.  One day Old Bill was sitting on the bench beside the old Exchange National Bank with a bunch of statesmen who were trying to save the country.  Philander sauntered up and Old Bill shouted, “Deacon, I’ll bet if I ask you to lend me two dollars right before the boys here, you won’t do it.”  “You win,” replied Philander, as he wandered on.

Portia Jason, the noted worker for the emancipation of women, was an early settler of Osborne County.  Of course, the first few years of the pioneer days didn’t afford her much opportunity for the exercise of her talents.  The women were too scarce or generally too busy to organize clubs and the idea of voting like the men never entered their heads.  But with the coming of better days and modern improvements Portia Jason came into her own. Her first master stroke was in marrying Henry Jason, a little, inoffensive, dried up sort of a “me too” chap.  When they were married Henry weighed 115 pounds and Portia 114.  Now Portia has added an even hundred by her method of diet, while Henry has lost five pounds and tips the scales at 110.  Henry can now wear his wife’s shoes, but that is about all.  The funniest thing the neighbors ever saw was the day Henry was in the back yard hanging out the clothes of the weekly wash wearing a sunbonnet.  Portia organized the Advanced Thought Club and was its first president.  She has been president ever since, too.  One day she dropped into the Farmer office with a club announcement and the results of the election.  “I note, Mrs. Jason,” said I, “that you are always named president.  Who elects you?”  “I always elect myself,” replied Portia.  “The members might make a mistake if it were left to them.”  Portia is intensely jealous of her husband.  There isn’t a woman in town who would give him a pleasant look.

But Portia knew a thing or two.  One day a dear soul who was fast approaching the final years of the thirties sought her out for advice.  “I am so lonely,” she moaned.  “I have no company and people stare at me in pity. What shall I do?”  “Simple,” replied Portia.  “Practice looking resigned and at the proper time say, ‘Things might have been different if he hadn’t been at Chateau Thierry.  He made the supreme sacrifice there.  I haven’t cared about anything since.’”  The lady brightened up and in six months everybody was talking about how her life had been ruined because her lover fell in the World War.  In a year she was married.  She didn’t make much of a catch, but it enabled her to  put “Mrs “ before her name and refer to “my husband” in company.  She is one of Portia Jason’s strongest supporters.

Portia Jason and Mrs. Deacon Philander make quite a bluff at being friends, but below the surface there is a deep enmity between them.  On the sly neither loses an opportunity to give the other a deep dig.  The real break came quite a good many years ago.  Portia and Mrs. Philander always exchanged Christmas presents.  But one Yuletime day Mrs. Jason, rushed to death with her emancipation work and club president duties, became careless.  Her Christmas gift to Mrs. Philander was the very same present Mrs. Philander had sent to her (Portia) the previous Christmas.  The next time Mrs. Philander met Portia she remarked:  “My dear Portia, I am crazy about your dear gift to me.  I loved it when I sent it to you last year, and now that you have returned it to me I love it more than ever on account of your sacrifice.”  For once Portia was put down for the count.

Jasper Tightwad is another pioneer settler who has attained more than passing prominence.  No citizen of the country has contributed more to the levity and humor of the passing years than Jasper.  Stories of his peculiarities are legion.  Jasper’s thrift has been phenomenal.  He has attended more “free” entertainments than any other person on the townsite, particularly where there was something to eat or souvenirs to be given away.  Jasper went into [Chan] Baldwin’s drug store one day to buy a sheet of sandpaper.  The mild mannered Chan waited on him and threw on the counter a stack of sandpaper.  Jasper picked up a sheet and looked at it carefully.  He turned it this way and that way to get the best view possible.  Finally he said, “It kinder looks to me like it’s imitation.”  Chan looked at him and said very meekly, “Well, Jasper, if you can tell me of anything that is cheaper than sand you can have the whole pile for nothing.”  Jasper said he would think the thing over and come back the next day and report.

During the World War Jasper did all he could in the cause of patriotism.  He bought two fifty-cent thrift stamps.  He held them until he got a little advance and then sold them.  He has confidentially told a number that he hopes some day to get a pension from Uncle Sam for what he did to help out in the dark days.  Jasper visited a dentist one day to see about a set of plates for his wife.  He wanted to know if a set could not be made so that he could use them, too.  “Wife and I have lots of time and we don’t need to both eat at the same time,” he said.

Simeon Sly is another old timer who has made more than a passing record during his sojourn in the valley.  Simeon has never been known to refuse any candidate his vote when approached on the subject.  His hearty congratulations to the winner are noted among the boys.  Always he says, “I sure did all I could for you.”

Sly is a great church goer.  He often tells about how he gives one-tenth cause.  I once asked Deacon Philander, who is church treasurer, about Sly’s giving.  “Yes,” replied Philander, “I know Sly talks about giving one-tenth, but I notice that Sly always selects the dates on which he gives the tenth.  He overlooks the days on which he makes money.  He just talks about his tenth, that’s all.”  But Simeon Sly has gotten along pretty well and is always able to fool a certain class of people.

A review of famous characters who have made history in Osborne would not be complete without reference to Old Man Blowloud, who is one of the real old timers.  Blowloud always knew everything, but generally after it happened.  He was a great man “back east,” before he came west for his health.  He could have anything back in the old home and was personally acquainted with most of the governors and United States senators and other famous men.  One day a man from Blowloud’s old home town back east dropped in and some of the boys asked him about Blowloud’s prominence back there and the big positions he had held.  “I believe he did hold a job there in the court house,” said the visitor. “I am sure he was a fourth assistant janitor for a few weeks, but he talked so much and worked so little that the commissioners let him out.”  But Blowloud’s voice still rings out on every occasion.

Time and space does not permit a very extensive writeup of these famous old settlers.  They deserve much more than they are getting.  But what is given will get results.  Old Bill Shiftless will come around with some advice on the financial situation.  Deacon Philander will deliver a wise crack and subscribe for a relative back east.  Portia Jason will tell us she is proud of the Farmer and that it always stood for the best.  Blowloud will tell us of a few mistakes, while Sim Sly will tap us on the shoulder and say, “You sure hit that fellow right where it hurt.”  All are woven into the yarn of the passing years and the town wouldn’t have been the same without them and their peculiar traits.

Bliss Albro VanGundy – 1997 Inductee

Bliss Albro VanGundy, born October 14, 1885, on a farm near Milton, Atchison County, Missouri, was the son of John and Serilda (Jones) VanGundy.  In 1888, the family moved to Tarkio, the largest town in the county, where Bliss attended and graduated from grade school.  In 1902 the family moved to a farm in Winfield Township, Osborne County, Kansas.  Bliss entered Osborne High School that autumn and graduated with the class of 1906 as valedictorian.  For a few years following graduation, Bliss worked on the family farm, intending to make farming his life occupation.  In 1910, however, he managed several business stations for the Farmers Union, including positions as assistant manager at the Farmers Union wholesale produce house in Kansas City and as manager of the Osborne general store.

In May of 1918 the postmaster suggested to Bliss that he enter the Osborne post office as a replacement for a clerk who was called to military service.  Bliss did so, and this “replacement situation” became his life’s work for the next thirty-six years.  During these years, Bliss served as Clerk, Civil Service Secretary, Assistant Postmaster, and for the last sixteen months as Acting Postmaster, finally retiring on April 30, 1954.  Bliss also participated actively in the United Methodist Church, serving for forty-two years on the official board and taking a keen interest in helping care for the financial records of the Sunday School and the church.  On October 18, 1918, Bliss and Pearl J. Nelson of Bloomington were married in Osborne County.  To this union four children were born:  Dorothy Josephine; Eugene Alleyn; Arthur Leroy; and Virginia Frances.  The extended family included eleven grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren.  Following a second stroke, Pearl passed away on February 22, 1962.

Following retirement, Bliss did considerable work on the VanGundy family tree.  Becoming interested in early day residents of Osborne County, Bliss wrote three hundred articles about such residents during the 1960s and 1970s which were published in the Osborne County Farmer under the title “Osborne County Pioneers.”  In conjunction with this, Bliss compiled a “ready reference file,” as he called it, on Osborne County citizens and special events that had occurred in Osborne County history between the years 1910 and 1980, together with some earlier references.  At the time of his death the card file had grown to over three thousand index cards.  He gave the file to the Osborne Public Library, where it is consulted on a daily basis by historians, genealogists and others curious about the events that shaped local affairs for nearly a century.

Bliss had three brothers:  Phil, who died in 1967; Harry, who died in 1979; and Frank, who died on December 9, 1982.  In July of 1971, Bliss moved from Osborne, his home for sixty-nine years, to El Cajon, California, where he made his home with his daughter, Dorothy, and her husband, Wesley, for nearly nine years.  He passed away in El Cajon on June 25, 1980, just four months short of his ninety-fifth birthday, and was laid to rest in the Osborne Cemetery.

Howard Herman Ruede – 1996 Inductee

What can we set down in cold print about Howard H. Ruede that will do the man justice?” – Bliss VanGundy, Osborne County historian.

H. H. Ruede Dead
End Came to Local Editor of the Farmer Thursday Night after an Illness of Two Weeks

“Howard Herman Ruede was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, June 25, 1854. He was the eldest child of Herman and Marie (Smith) Ruede. He was educated in the Moravian Parochial Schools in the town of his birth. He afterwards learned the printing trade, with which he was connected until coming to Osborne County in March 1877. He settled in Kill Creek Township where he resided on a homestead until June 1901 when he removed to Osborne, Kansas, where he has since lived, and has been connected with the Osborne County Farmer practically all that time. On April 10, 1870, he united with the Moravian Church of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, of which he remained a faithful member until he united with the Presbyterian Church in Osborne in 1901. He passed away at his home in this city on Thursday evening, April 9th, aged seventy years, nine months and fifteen days. He leaves to mourn his passing his sister, Miss Ruth Ruede, his brother George F. Ruede of Wichita, Kansas, and his nephew, Eugene Ruede of Omaha, Nebraska.

“Howard H. Ruede, who has been connected with the Osborne County Farmer more or less intimately for nearly half a century and who was personally known by more people in Osborne County than any other man, passed away at his home in this city on Thursday evening, April 9, 1925, at 11:30 p.m. He had been in poor health for several weeks, but in spite of it he remained at his work in this office until Saturday night, March 28th, attending to his duties as usual. He had been suffering from the effects of a severe cold which bothered him for two or three weeks, but he was a man who never complained nor shirked a duty, and while those of us who worked with him every day noticed and remarked a hoarseness and cough that was unusual, none of us suspicioned that he was approaching his fatal illness. On Monday morning, March 30th, he was unable to come to the office. He was feeling badly and had a high temperature. He thought if he would lay up a few days he would be able to come about the middle of the week. This was what we all hoped for, but while the fever subsided somewhat and there were now then hopeful symptoms, he seemed to gradually lose strength, and all hope was abandoned by relatives and friends by the beginning of the second week. He was conscious much of the time, but whether he was rational or wandering in his mind, his thoughts were with his work at the Farmer office, where he was happiest in his life work.

“Howard Ruede was not what is known as a ‘mixer.’ He knew himself hundreds of people, and could call most of them by their first name, but unless one worked at his side for years it was impossible to know his true worth. He was the most conscientious man this writer ever knew. He was absolutely dependable and trustworthy in all that those terms imply. Those who met him daily liked and respected him for his unfailing courtesy and his proverbial good humor. Those who worked by his side and came in daily contact with him, loved him for his tireless devotion to duty, his loyalty to his friends and his convictions and his unwavering fidelity and integrity. He was a man of absolute clean mind and clean life. He was possessed of a fine education and had added largely to his stock of knowledge by wide reading and by observation. Had he been obsessed with a desire for wealth he could have turned his shrewd mind in that direction and amassed a fortune, but he cared nothing for money except as it ministered to his simple needs. Financially he could not be called a successful man, but measured in good deeds and in character he towered like a giant, and his life in this community was one of its most valuable assets and one worthy of emulation. He will live in the memory of those who knew him best long after the names of many so-called successful men have been forgotten.

“Dozens of people have asked us in the past few days, ‘Who will take Howard’s place on the Farmer?’ To all we have been obliged to give the same answer: No one can take Howard’s place. Someone can perhaps come in and take up the daily routine of visible duties that were his, but his wise counsel, his intimate knowledge of Osborne County men and Osborne history, and his daily example of fidelity to duty, are things that passed out with him, and can never be replaced. He was like eighteen-carat gold; the more one came in contact with him, the more one applied the acid test, the more one valued his actual worth. Truly it can be said of him in the words of Marc Anthony:

‘His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world:
This was a man!’”

– Charles E. Mann in the Osborne County Farmer, April 16, 1925.

 

In March 1877 Howard Ruede stepped off the train at Russell, Kansas, hitched a ride to Osborne, and filed a claim on land in Kill Creek Township amid other settlers from the Bethlehem area. That same year he began working as a printer for the Osborne County Farmer, walking the fourteen miles between Osborne and his homestead in the Kill Creek community. Over the next two years Ruede kept his family back in Pennsylvania informed of his activities on the prairie through a long series of letters, until his parents and siblings also came west and joined him on the homestead. In 1879 he donated land along the west edge of his homestead for the establishment of the Zion Mennonite Cemetery, now called the Kill Creek Presbyterian Cemetery.  A bachelor his entire life, Howard Ruede worked for the Osborne County Farmer for nearly fifty years, frequently writing articles of historical interest that displayed a sense of humor and attention to detail.

 

Howard H. Ruede

“The passing of Howard Ruede removes the last connecting link between the Farmer of the pioneer days and the present Farmer of modern times. The Farmer was a pretty puny infant when Howard first stepped into the little shack that housed it way back in the summer of 1877. The office then stood about where the Olds grocery store now stands. He was but twenty-three years of age and had learned to set type back in Pennsylvania. He worked on the paper in 1877-1878 a good deal of the time. He told me only last February that he made his living off the Farmer the first two years he was in Osborne County.

Then he decided to try farming and went out into Kill Creek Township to break the virgin sod. He stuck to it with his usual faithfulness and for twenty-five years he worked early and late and went against all the privations and hardships so prevalent among the pioneers of those days. Then he removed to Osborne and ever since has been connected with the paper. In fact, he was really connected with the Farmer during his stay in Kill Creek, for he was the Kill Creek correspondent all those years and his items were sent in regularly and if pasted in one string would reach a goodly distance. So Howard’s connection with the Farmer outranks all others, approaching almost fifty years – forty-eight, to be exact.

But the Farmer boasts of long service from those who have been connected with it. Frank H. Barnhart, the founder, stayed with it about sixteen years. Charles Landis was with it for nineteen years and owned it about sixteen years. Tom Skinner had the longest consecutive years of service. Unless I am badly mistaken, Tom was with the paper from 1882 until 1921. I started on the Farmer in October 1897 and have been owner since August 1, 1904. But Howard Ruede was the historian of the paper. He remembered everything that happened during the babyhood days and on down through all the years up to the very hour he left the office the last time to return no more. He was the most reliable and accurate person with whom I ever associated. He was always right on hand when you wanted him and when told to do anything he never forgot the errand. You could set your watch by his daily routine. Day after day and year after year everything left to him was done at the appointed time. He kept all his work right up to the minute, and he did it so quietly and systematically that he was never in a hurry. He could remember every advertisement and paid local in the paper and its price; he knew whether his local event or that one had appeared in the columns and just about when. He knew nothing about politics or baseball or football, but he knew so much else that those trivials were never missed. Of late years he never appeared to be busy, but when he was absent for a few days the little things he always looked after piled up until they became a mountain and very seriously affected the usual routine of work.

The thing that made Howard so reliable and dependable was that he never tackled anything he didn’t know. He always stayed with the duties and work he could handle and experiment was something he knew nothing about. He either did it or he did not. Consequently he made few mistakes. Howard was so regular on his beat and in his haunts that he will be sorely missed. The arriving and departing trains will miss him, the post office lobby will miss him and the business houses will miss him on the first of every month. His soul was as clean and spotless as the morning sun and no dishonest thought or sinister feeling ever entered his mind and he has entered upon his reward with all the glory and honors of the greatest that ever trod the earth.” – Bert Walker in the Osborne County Farmer, April 16, 1925.

The sod house built by Howard Ruede on his homestead as it appeared in 1895. From left to right are: George “Bub” Ruede, Howard Ruede, and Ruth Ruede.

In 1928, three years after Howard’s death, University of Kansas economist John Ise was in Osborne conducting research for his forthcoming book Sod and Stubble.  He spoke with Ruth Ruede, Howard’s sister, who showed Ise the letters Howard had written to the family in Pennsylvania those many years before.  Ise took the letters and, by combining them with some of Howard’s newspaper articles, had them published as the book Sod-House Days: Letters from a Kansas Homesteader 1877-1878 in 1937.

Still in print over 75 years later, both Sod-House Days and Ise’s own Sod and Stubble are together considered to be two of the finest literary works on the homesteading life of the Great Plains ever written in either the United States or Canada.  It is for this reason that Osborne County is known as The Homestead Literature Capital of Kansas.

In 2006 the Rediscovering Sod-House Days Self-Guided Driving Tour was established in the Kill Creek community for readers around the world to discover the actual sites of people, places, and events made famous by Howard Ruede and his writings.  It was designated an Osborne County Heritage Backway in 2012.