John M. Galer – 2016 Inductee

(On this date, October 6, 2016, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present to the world for the first time anywhere the second member of the OCHF Class of 2016)

Farmer, soldier, teacher, pastor, politician, and businessman. John M. Galer had done it all in his long life – a useful life that has more than earned a spot in the Osborne County Hall of Fame.

John M. Galer was born on March 22, 1840, near what is now Penn State University in Center County, Pennsylvania.  His father David Galer was second generation American-born and his mother Jane was fourth generation American-born. They both had German heritage and were part of what was known as the Pennsylvania Dutch community. His mother’s father and uncle had served in the Revolutionary War. John was the eldest of a family of seven children. When he was 14 years of age his parents moved to Bridgeport, Wisconsin, later moving to the Cox Creek area near the town of Littleport in Clayton County, Iowa. Here he grew to manhood and helped with the family farm.

In September 1861 John volunteered for Civil War duty and joined an all-Iowa cavalry unit. His enlistment records show that he was 5 feet 7 inches in height and weighed 140 pounds, with blue eyes, a sandy complexion, and flaxen hair.  John was made a private – later being promoted to the rank of corporal – and assigned as a bugler. That unit was the 11th Pennsylvania Independent Cavalry, the 108th Volunteers also known as “Harlan’s Light Calvary”, under authority of the Secretary of War. John was in Company A. The 11th was mainly from Pennsylvania but Company A was from Iowa, Company M was from Ohio, and parts of Companies E and F were from New York and New Jersey.

On October 14, 1861 the 11th Pennsylvania was sent to Washington, D.C. On November 17th it was sent to Annapolis, Maryland, to be transported to the Fortress Monroe Virginia area where it was assigned to Camp Hamilton. This was part of the build up for Union Army General McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign. John personally witnessed the legendary sea battle between the ironclads USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimac) that took place in Hampton Roads on March 8th and 9th, 1862.

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The Battle of The Monitor and the Merrimac

By John Galer [written in 1918]

In the spring of 1862, our regiment, [the] 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry, were camped on the North Shore of Hampton Roads. Company A, our company, lay within 7 or 8 rods of the water line and had an unobstructed view of the whole of Hampton Roads, We had learned through scouts and spies that the enemy were building an ironclad war vessel near Norfolk on the Elizabeth River, 12 or 15 miles south of Hampton Roads.

In the afternoon of March 8, we saw a heavy smoke coming from Norfolk and soon the Merrimac made her appearance and with her the Yorktown, Jamestown and other smaller Confederate vessels. Union vessels in the Hampton Roads consisted of the Cumberland, Congress, Minnesota, (all 84 gunships) and other smaller Union craft.

The Merrimac steamed directly toward the Cumberland and Congress near Newport News and made the attack on them. Soon nearly all the vessels in the Hampton Roads were mixed up to some extent, in the fighting, which lasted several hours. The Merrimac put the Cumberland in a sinking condition and called on the captain to surrender, but the captain answered, “No sir, we will go to the bottom first,” and they kept on fighting and firing until the muzzles of their guns were near the water.

A part of the crew swam ashore and were saved, but the greater part, among whom was a brother of Uncle Jimmie McIntire of Alton [Kansas], went down with the vessel.

The Congress kept up the fight until the Merrimac set her on fire by firing red hot shot into her and caused her to surrender, and she was burned to the water’s edge. But a few of her crew were taken prisoners as the guns from Newport News made it too hot for the enemy to venture out to take them. Most of the crew were rescued by small boats from Newport News. The smoke from the vessels and firing obscured the fighting to such an extent that we could not see all of it.

The Minnesota in the maneuvering ran aground, where she remained till in the night. The enemy vessels went back to Norfolk in the evening.

We were an anxious bunch for the reason that there were only about 5,000 of us, while only 2 or 3 miles behind us was General [John B.] Magruder with 35,000 ready to attack us as soon as the Merrimac made it safe to do so, which she expected to do on the morrow.

In the morning of the next day (March 9), the enemy vessels made their appearance, the Merrimac steaming directly toward the Minnesota and firing a challenge at long range. Just then a queer looking craft, the Monitor, which had arrived during the night and had taken position behind the Minnesota, moved out toward the Merrimac, placed a solid 11-inch shot on the side of the iron monster and waked her up to the fact that she had something different from wooden vessels to contend with, and they were soon engaged in heavy fighting to see which should prove victorious.

They kept up a very hot battle, being on the move all the time as ships in action always are, sometimes very close together, pouring the solid shot on each other’s iron sides with little or no effect. This continued till 3 or 4 p.m. when the Monitor succeeded in placing a shot in the stern of the Merrimac and put her in a leaking condition and caused her to give up the fight and start for Norfolk and never engaged in another fight.

The battle with the Merrimac is too grand for pen to describe though partly hidden by a smoke screen caused by the continuous cannonading.

On the morning of the second day, several rebel steamers decked with flags and carrying finely dressed passengers arrived expecting to see the whole Union fleet wiped off the map. When the Merrimac started to retreat, the finely-decorated steamers with the fashionably dressed sightseers went away in a hurry.

At the end of the first day, death or prison seemed certain and we felt very despondent, but when victory came on the evening of the second day, we sure had a time of great rejoicing.

 

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 John Galer, Osborne, Kansas

Company A, 11th PA Cavalry.

 

P.S. – Hampton Roads is a body of water extending west from the Atlantic Ocean, nearly circular and about 14 miles across.

 

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John Galer’s handsketch of the Hampton Roads, Virginia area, where the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac took place. North is at the bottom of the sketch. John created the sketch on his son-in-law Ray Tindal’s business stationery in 1918.

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John served in the Union Army as a volunteer in Company A, 13th Pennsylvania Cavalry for nearly four years. Most of this time was spent in the Portsmouth, Norfolk, Suffolk, Williamsburg, Richmond and Petersburg Virginia areas as well as expeditions in the Camden, South Mills, Edenton, and other parts of North Carolina. He was honorably discharged in 1864 – “sent home to die”, as he said – suffering a serious relapse of measles which had taken the lives of many men in his Company.

John soon recovered and went to Clayton County, Iowa, where he taught school for ten years. Esther Gifford was one of his seventeen-year-old pupils. They were married on April 19, 1866. When she earned her teaching certificate in 1869 Esther also taught for three years until the birth of their first child.

In 1877 John and his brother-in-law, Sylvester Palmer, rode by horseback to Osborne County, Kansas, where they looked over the land and, liking what they saw, filed on two homestead claims. They then returned for their families and in late spring 1878 started the long trek to their new land in three or four covered wagons. The two families lived in tents while building their new homes. John promised his wife that their home would be of stone, as she was deathly afraid of snakes. The house was at first only sixteen by eighteen feet in size. As the family grew rooms were added, and the family also enjoyed having the first windmill in the area. John had faithfully kept diaries of his early life and Civil War experiences, but they were destroyed in a flood soon after the family’s arrival in Osborne County.

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The stone farmhome that the Galer family moved into in 1878 on their homestead. This photo was taken in 1916 just prior to the home being torn down.

They built a sod schoolhouse where all community gatherings were held. John taught school for two years, without pay, until the district was organized. He became a lay-preacher and often conducted church services there when the minister could not come.

In October 1889 John Galer was voted in as the Osborne County Republican Party’s nominee for Osborne County Clerk in the 1890 general election. Those plans were laid aside when Zachary T. Walrond resigned his position as the Kansas House of Representatives member from Osborne County, having been appointed Attorney General for the Indian Territory. After considerable debate John Galer was appointed to fill out Walrond’s unexpired term, which ran until December 1890. John served in the House with distinction and then declined to run for re-election, choosing instead to return home to his Mount Ayr Township farm.

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John Galer when he represented Osborne County in the Kansas House of Representatives, minus the beard and now sporting a moustache.

Esther Galer was only 49 years old when she died of a heart attack in November 1898.

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Mrs. John Galer Dead.

An unusually sad occurrence was the death of Mrs. John Galer of Mt. Ayr Township, on Saturday evening. Mrs. Galer, her two daughters, and two of her sons were in Alton Saturday afternoon making Christmas purchases, and providing numerous things necessary for a grand time to be had at the Pleasant Plain school house Christmas Eve.

They started homeward at about five o’clock in the evening, and when about three miles south of town, just beyond Ed. Ives’ place, Mrs. Galer was suddenly stricken by an attack of neuralgia of the heart, to which she had been subject, and fell from the wagon. She was picked up in great pain and made as comfortable as possible in the vehicle and all haste was made toward home. Mrs. Galer’s condition became rapidly worse, and she asked to be taken to the nearest house. The party drove as rapidly as possible to Clate Gregory’s and she was carried into the house, where she expired almost immediately

A most heartrending scene here presented itself. A loving mother surrounded by her beloved ones in the midst of preparation for a joyful commemoration, was called hence by Him whose birth-time she loved to honor.

The sad announcement was hurried on to the husband who awaited her coming in the home her presence had brightened for so many years.

Mrs. Galer was a refined and well educated woman, and the twenty years or her life spent in Osborne County has always been exemplary of the best that culture and a true conception of the responsibilities of life can offer. She was a member of the M. E. church and the leading spirit in the church work of that community. For the past seventeen years the infant class in Sunday school had been her especial care, and many a young man and young woman has carried with them into the world the influence of her teachings and motherly counsel.

She was born in Iowa, September 1, 1849. She leaves a husband and eight children to mourn. Her remains were laid to rest in the Pleasant Plain Cemetery on Monday. The funeral services were conducted by Rev. Dugger of Natoma. – Alton Empire, December 22, 1898, Page One.

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John, at age 59, was left alone to raise the five children still living at home after his wife’s death.

galer-john-children-front-left-earl-olive-smith-ella-beisner-charles-back-left-john-jr-george-esther-peach-clarinda-tindal
The eight children of John and Esther Galer. Front row, from left: Earl Galer; Olive (Galer) Smith; Ella (Galer) Beisner; Charles Morrell Galer. Back row, from left: John Galer, Jr.; George Galer; Esther (Galer) Peach; Clarinda (Galer) Tindal. Photo taken in 1907.

In November 1903 John moved to Alton, Kansas and went into business for the International Harvester Company in partnerships first with John Hadley and later with Charles Thomas.

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John Galer’s hardware and implement store in Alton, Kansas.
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Charles Thomas and John Galer in front of their store in Alton, Kansas.

“John Galer, while working in his store last Saturday, just before noon, was stricken with an attack of heart trouble, and fell unconscious, remaining so for perhaps ten minutes. He revived, however, and was about the store the rest of the day.” – Alton Empire, May 13, 1909.

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John Galer in his last years with three of his children – Clarinda, Earl, and Charles.

John retired in 1910 and for the rest of his life lived with family members in Alton, Osborne, and Downs. He enjoyed always being the oldest veteran in all the area parades, and often made presentations in schools, usually being requested to retell his story of the battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack. John died at the home of his son in Downs, Kansas on November 29, 1929.

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J. M. Galer Passes Away

Civil War Veteran and Early Osborne County Settler Answers Final Call

John M. Galer, well known and loved Osborne County man, passed to his reward Friday morning. Mr. Galer had been bedfast for only a few weeks previous to his death and until that time retained his faculties in a remarkable way for one of his age. He went to Kansas City a few weeks ago for an operation and since has not been able to be out much. Tuesday of last week he became decidedly worse and death came early Friday morning.

Mr. Galer came to Osborne County at an early day and reared his family here. He was loved by all who knew him for his jovial disposition and kindly ways and will be missed by all who knew him. He homesteaded south of Alton and for a number of years made his home in Alton. He was one of the few remaining veterans of the Civil War and was a member of the G.A.R. Funeral services were held from the Methodist Church in Osborne Sunday afternoon in charge of Reverend Leroy F. Arend, pastor of the church, and assisted by Rev. Ludwig Thomsen of the Congregational Church. The Masonic Lodge, of which the deceased was a member, had charge of the services at the grave. Masons from Alton, Downs and Osborne lodges were present and the oration was given by H. A. Meibergen, of Downs. Three of his comrades, Selah B. Farwell, Benjamin F. Hilton, and Robert R. Hays, attended the funeral. Burial was made in the Osborne Cemetery by the side of his wife who had recently been removed from the Pleasant Plain Cemetery to the Osborne Cemetery.

The following is [taken from] the obituary that was read at the funeral services:

The eldest son, Earl F., died at Lambert, Oklahoma six years ago. Those left to mourn his passing are: Mrs. L. C. Beisner, Natoma Kansas; Mr. W. E. Smith, Hays, Kansas; George G. or Skidmore, Missouri; Charles M. of Downs; John F. of Burr Oak, Kansas; Mrs. C. A. Peach of Grand Junction, Colorado, and Mrs. Ray Tindal of Osborne with whom he has made his home for the last ten years. All were present with their father during his last illness except George, who was unable to come. He also leaves 31 grand children and 13 great-grandchildren.

In 1880 he was converted and joined the Methodist Church of which he has since been an active member, transferring his membership to the Osborne M. E. Church several years ago. On 1886 Mr. Galer was ordained as a local pastor, and often filled the pulpit for other ministers when necessary.

Mr. Galer has been a Mason for over 60 years, having joined the lodge in Iowa, later transferring to the Alton lodge where he was a charter member, and at the age of 70 was conferred the honor of a life membership in that order. He was also a member of the Eastern Star and served several terms as Worthy Patron.

He was a charter member of the General Bull Post No. 106 G. A. R. at Alton, Kansas until it disbanded, after which he joined the O. M. Mitchell Post No. 69 at Osborne, Kansas.

In 1903 with his three younger children, he moved to Alton, Kansas, where he made his home until the marriage or his youngest daughter in 1910, since that time making his home with his son, Charles and daughter, Mrs. Ray Tindal.” – Alton Empire, December 5, 1929, Page One.

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 “John Galer is no more. He was one of the finest men to settle in Mount Ayr [Township] in the early days, although he was not one of the earliest settlers. Yet 1878 is considered early . . . Mr. Galer was a progressive farmer. He was always experimenting with grains and grasses, trying to find out the kind best adapted to this part of the country. We remember way back in 1900 when we were the trustee of Mount Ayr Township. Mr. Galer came to us with the idea of purchasing a road grader for the township. We studied the situation over with him and the result was we purchased the first road grader and were derided for so doing, but time has proven it was a good move. Mr. Galer was one of the first township officers, having been appointed to office when the township was organized . . . He was always held in respect by all who know him. After he left the farm he engaged in business with J. M. Hadley for a while. Mrs. Hadley sold out to Charles Thomas and the firm name was then Galer and Thomas for some time. They were in the pump and windmill business and the name of Galer and Thomas may yet be seen on many windmills . . . He is gone and the least that can be said of him is that he was a good man. We heard him say once that a man that didn’t care for children or flowers was no man at all. He was a lover of both; also, he could always be heard whistling – a sure sign of a cheerful disposition. He was a deep thinker and in an argument was always willing to believe his opponent had as much right to his way of thinking as he had, but like Henry Clay, he would rather be right than president. John Galer will be sadly missed by his many friends, but his ending at an old age is the culmination of a long and useful life.” – Charles E. Williams, 1996 Osborne County Hall of Fame inductee, in the Mount Ayr Department column of the Alton Empire newspaper, December 5, 1929, Page Four.

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SOURCES:  Chris Beisner, Surprise, Arizona; Richard Smith, Manhattan, Kansas ; “John Galer”, The People Came, Osborne County Genealogical & Historical Society, Osborne Publishing Company, Osborne, Kansas (1977), page 313; Alton Empire, December 22, 1898; Alton Empire, November 12, 1903; Alton Empire, May 13, 1909; Alton Empire, December 5, 1929.

Samuel Willis Chatfield – 2016 Inductee

 

(On this date, October 4, 2016, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present to the world for the first time anywhere the first member of the OCHF Class of 2016.)

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The gravestone for Samuel Chatfield. Photograph courtesy of Lorna Puleo.

A community leader in his home county for decades, Samuel Willis Chatfield then became one of the first homesteaders of Osborne County, Kansas. There he was soon called upon to help organize and establish the first county government. 145 years later his contributions to the county’s founding are being rewarded with an induction into the Osborne County Hall of Fame.

Samuel was the third of five children born to Abraham and Jerusha (Cotton) Chatfield. He was born August 31, 1829, in the small New York town of Prattsville, in Greene County. There both the Chatfield and Cotton families were noted families, and young Samuel grew up well versed in hard work, having learned the trades of the barber and carpentry, as well as studying to be a medical doctor, though he never earned his medical degree. He was 21 years old when he was elected a City of Prattsville Town Supervisor in 1850 and began serving his first term in the Town Hall.

In 1853 Samuel met and married Charlotte Bligh, with whom he raised six children – Willis, Charles, Eben, Eliza, Elizabeth, and Mary. Shortly after Mary’s delivery in 1863 Charlotte passed away, and it would be two years before Samuel took a second wife, Elizabeth Newcomb, who became a second mother to the six children. In 1873 a seventh child, Austin, joined the family.

For reasons not entirely clear, sometime after his second marriage in 1865 Samuel devised the idea of going west and proving up a homestead claim. In the late 1860s he set off for Branch County, Michigan with other Chatfield family members. From there he moved to Kansas in the latter half of 1870, settling on a 153-acre homestead in northern Osborne County. His family remained behind when he set out west, and it would be nearly fifteen years before they came west themselves to join him.

When Samuel settled on a homestead in the northeast quarter of Section 6, Township 6 South, Range 12 West, he was one of the first one hundred settlers in Osborne County. At this time the county had not yet politically organized – the boundaries having been surveyed and defined just three years prior – and therefore was legally attached to neighboring Mitchell County as “Manning Township”. But as more and more settlers poured into the newly-settled region over the next year they soon desired their own government, and on June 2, 1871 a great meeting was held at (1996 Osborne County Hall of Famer) Calvin Reasoner’s general store in the town of Arlington. At this meeting the first set of preferred county officials was agreed upon and forwarded to the governor for approval, along with a petition to officially organize Osborne County.

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The homestead record of Samuel Chatfield for his Osborne County claim, dated March 1, 1879.

Over the previous year Samuel’s skills as a carpenter, frontier doctor, and natural leader had shown him to be a notable asset to the region, and also being the first and only professional barber in the county did not hurt. His stock among his fellow men was such that at the Arlington meeting he was chosen to be one of the first county commissioners, along with (1996 Osborne County Hall of Famer) Frank Stafford and Charles Cunningham. This appointment was confirmed by the Governor of Kansas in September 1871, who designated the three as “special commissioners” to govern the county until the first official county commissioners could be elected in the November 1871 general election and take their places in January 1872. Samuel was designated chairman of the board of special commissioners.

One of the first duties of the special commissioners was to divide the county into townships that in turn would be grouped into three commissioner districts. Samuel designated the township that included his homestead Bethany Township, and the township to its east he named Ross Township. These two townships comprised the First Commissioner District. In 1872 the western portion of Bethany Township organized itself into a new township, Lawrence, so designated by Samuel and included in the First District.

At the time there was a prolonged fight being waged to determine which town would be declared the permanent county seat. To bolster their claim the town government of Osborne City offered the special commissioners their choice of any block within the city limits, to be given to the county upon which to build the county courthouse and other buildings. On November 22, 1871, commissioner board chairman Samuel Chatfield selected the square on West Penn Street (today’s Main Street) still being used for the county’s purposes.

Also at the time of the Arlington meeting a local government was being organized on Samuel Chatfield’s own farm. The Bethany Post Office was established just to the south of his farm on June 2, 1871, and the southeast portion of his farm became part of the community of Bethany, also established at this time. In 1872 Samuel stepped down as a special commissioner. He proved up his homestead claim and continued to work as a barber and carpenter, even taking on building construction as a line of work.

“The Cawker City Sentinel says that Cawker City has voted bonds for $5,000 to build a school house. On Saturday last the contract was let to Mr. Samuel Chatfield, of the town of Bethany, contractor and builder. The house is to be of magnesian limestone, put up in the most substantial manner, and provided with the latest improved school furniture. Work is to commence immediately, and the house will be completed by the first of August.” – Atchison Daily Champion newspaper, 19 March 1872, Page 5.

Over the next few years Samuel opened a wagon shop in Bethany and frequently visited his family in New York. In 1879 the Union Pacific Railroad built a line through the area that bypassed Bethany on the north. To secure a railroad depot at that site Samuel Chatfield and Philander Judson laid out the new townsite of Portis, which included the eastern half of Chatfield’s land and the western half of Judson’s farm. The plat of the new town was finalized and dated October 11, 1879.

Samuel Chatfield continued to prosper, even being named Bethany Township Justice of the Peace on August 16, 1883. Four years later he felt the need to return to his former home in Bronson, Michigan, where he then lived for the next 16 years. While there he could not quite escape the public eye, though for a rather unusual reason:

“Samuel Chatfield, of Bronson, Michigan, has in his possession one of the first copper coins ever made in the United States. On one side are thirteen links representing the thirteen States of the Union; the words, ‘United States’, and on a small ring, ‘We are one.’ On the other side are the words ‘Engio,’ ‘1777,’ a ‘rising sun,’ and ‘Mind your own business.’” – Democrat and Chronicle newspaper, Rochester, New York, October 3, 1888, Page 5.

In 1903 Samuel moved back to Portis and for a time enjoyed a quiet retirement among his old friends there. Sometime after his 80th birthday in 1908 he moved back to his birthplace in Greene County, New York. Samuel died in Maplecrest, New York, on January 4, 1918, and was buried in the Big Hollow (now called Maplecrest) Cemetery at Windham, New York.

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Big Hollow Cemetery, now called Maplecrest, in Windham, New York. Photograph courtesy Lorna Puleo.

SOURCES: Lorna Puleo, Durham, New York; ancestry.com/localities.northam.usa.states.northcarolina.counties.forsyth/; U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records; The Essentials of the of the Early History of Osborne County, Kansas, unpublished manuscript, compiled by Von Rothenberger (2011); Cawker City Historical Society, Cawker City, Kansas; Atchison Daily Champion, March 19, 1872; Downs Times, August 5, 1880; Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, New York, October 3, 1888; Osborne County Farmer, July 19, 1906; Portis Independent, May 16, 1908.

New Osborne County Kansas Hall of Fame Book Now Available!!!

The new book The Osborne County Kansas Hall of Fame: Expanded Edition 1996-2015 is at last available for purchase! The 572-page softbound book showcases the 169 members of the OCHF through 158 stories and over 200 black and white photographs, including (for the first time and only in this book!) the stories of the Class of 2015, the three newest members of the Hall of Fame – Meryl Garey, Gary Hulett, and Sarah (Donley) Woolley!

The cost for the book is $30.00 plus $7.00 postage and handling. Copies may now be purchased through the Osborne County Genealogical & Historical Society at the Carnegie Research Library, 307 West Main Street, in Osborne, Kansas. To order the book send cash or check (sorry – NO credit/debit cards) to: OCHF Book, OCGHS, 307 West Main Street, Osborne KS 67473. To call and reserve a book for later pickup, contact the Carnegie’s land line at (785) 346-9437.

All proceeds from this book benefit the Osborne County Genealogical & Historical Society and the Carnegie Research Library!

So, please, share this news with all those you know will be interested!!!

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Francis Albert Schmidt – 2014 Inductee

On this date, August 24, 2014, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present to the world the fifth and last of the members of the OCHF Class of 2014:

 

Francis Schmidt with his trademark bowtie.
Francis Schmidt with his trademark bowtie.

He has been called one of the greatest college football coaches of all time.  He forever changed both college and professional football with his invention of the I-Formation and sowing the seeds for the West Coast Offense.  And, he was born in Downs, Osborne County, Kansas.  We welcome Francis Albert Schmidt to the Osborne County Hall of Fame.

Francis was indeed born in Downs on December 3, 1885.  His father, Francis W. Schmidt, was an itinerant studio photographer.  His mother, Emma K. Mohrbacher, a native Kansan.  Francis and Emma would have one other child, a daughter, Katherine.

Francis as part of the University of Nebraska football team in 1905.
Francis as part of the University of Nebraska football team in 1905.

As a photographer the elder Francis stayed in a particular location for only a few years before moving on.   After stops in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, and Kansas, the family was living in Fairbury, Nebraska, when young Francis graduated from Fairbury High School in May 1903.  A year later he enrolled in the University of Nebraska.

Francis participated in football, baseball, basketball, track and the cadet band at the University of Nebraska while earning a law degree in just three years, graduating in 1907.  Due to his mother having a serious illness Francis put aside his law career and helped his father with the photography studio in Arkansas City, Kansas, and taking care of his mother, who died later that summer.  He helped the local high school football team that fall, as they had no coach, and even coached the boys and girls high school basketball teams that winter, leading the girls (with his sister Katherine as the center) to an undefeated season and the Kansas state championship.

For the 1908-1909 school year Francis was offered the position of high school athletic director.  He held it until the spring of 1916 and continued to coach both football and basketball with amazing success.  Then Henry Kendall College in Tulsa Oklahoma, hired him to be their football, basketball, and baseball head coach.  His time there was interrupted by World War I, through which he served as a military instructor in bayonet, rising to the rank of captain. After the war he returned to Henry Kendall College (later renamed the University of Tulsa) and his 1919 football team roared its way to a record of 8-0-1.  In the 1919 season Kendall defeated the vaunted Oklahoma Sooners, but a 7-7 tie with Oklahoma A&M that year prevented a perfect season.   Francis became known as “Close the Gates of Mercy” Schmidt because of his team’s tendency to run up the score on inferior teams. During Schmidt’s three years at Kendall the football team won two conference championships as they defeated Oklahoma Baptist 152-0, St. Gregory 121-0, and Northeast Oklahoma 151-0, as well as a 92-0 defeat of East Central Oklahoma  and 10 other victories by more than 60 points each time.

Francis and his team at Henry Kendall College in 1920.
Francis and his team at Henry Kendall College in 1920.

It was around this time that Francis married Evelyn Keesee.  The couple would have no children.

Francis was then hired to be the head football, basketball, and baseball coach at the University of Arkansas , where he compiled a 42-20-3 record in football for the Razorbacks from 1922-1928 and a 113-22 record in basketball – winning four Southwest Conference Championships in basketball in 1926, 1927, 1928, and 1929 – as the school’s first-ever such coach.

From Arkansas Francis went on to become the head football coach at Texas Christian University (TCU) where he won nearly 85% of his games. Schmidt did everything to extremes, including recruiting. He refereed high-school football games, but spent much of his time telling select players why they should commit to TCU in the days before athletic scholarships.  In five years at Texas Christian, 1929-1934, Francis compiled a 46-6-5 record and won two Southwest Conference championships.

At this time Ohio State University was a backwater in terms of major college football.  Desperate to build a winning program, they took a chance on Schmidt, their third choice for the head coaching job.   At 6 feet 2 and 200 pounds, Schmidt was a large man with a prominent nose and distinctive drawl.  Schmidt used his World War One bayonet drill instructor experience in running his practices.  This, together with a loud, raucous and colorful approach to the English language, created an imposing character the likes of which had never been heard on the serene and conservative Ohio State campus. “He was Foghorn Leghorn in a three-piece suit and bow tie”, recalled one former player.

Schmidt arrived in Columbus on February 28, 1934. Within hours, the coach had distinguished alumni, faculty members and reporters on their hands and knees combing the carpets of a hotel conference room. Asked for his offensive strategies, the Downs, Kansas native dropped to the floor, pulled nickels and dimes from his pockets and diagramed his innovative visions for the Buckeyes. The Columbus Dispatch columnist Ed Penisten depicted the bizarre scene:  “He was a zealot, full of excitement, confidence and quirks. Converts began to join him on the floor including OSU assistant football coaches.  He moved the nickels and dimes around like a kaleidoscope.”

Francis soon proved his genius for offensive football.  In his first year at Ohio State he stunned the opposition by displaying – in the same game – the single wing, double wing, short punt and, for the first time ever, his own invention: the I-formation.  He used reverses, double reverses and spinners, and his Buckeyes of the mid-nineteen thirties were the most lateral-pass conscience team anyone had ever witnessed.  He threw laterals, and then laterals off of laterals downfield, and it was not unusual for three men to handle the ball behind the line of scrimmage.   In his first two years he got touchdowns in such bunches that Ohio State immediately was dubbed “The Scarlet Scourge.” He was a bow-tied, tobacco-chewing, hawk-faced, white-haired, profane practitioner of the football arts – modern football’s first roaring madman on the practice field and the sidelines, and so completely zonked out on football that legend ties him to the greatest football story of the twentieth century:

So caught up was Francis in his diagrams and charts that there was hardly a waking moment when he wasn’t furiously scratching away at them.  He took his car into a filling station for an oil change but stayed right in the car while the mechanics hoisted it high above the subterranean oil pit to do their work.  Francis Schmidt, immersed in his X’s and O’s, simply forgot where he was.  For some reason he decided to get out of the car, still concentrating on his diagram.  He opened the door on the driver’s side and stepped out into the void, which ended eight feet south of him in the pit.  He refused to explain the limp which he carried with him to practice that day.

At Francis’ first football banquet after a sensational first season capped by a glorious 34-0 shellacking of Michigan, Schmidt bawled forth two classic and historic comments.  “Let’s not always be called Buckeyes,” he brayed.  “After all, that’s just some kind of nut, and we ain’t nuts here. It would be nice if you guys in the press out there would call us “Bucks” once in a while.  That’s a helluva fine animal, you know.” Ringing applause. And then:

As for Michigan – Well, shucks, I guess you’ve all discovered they put their pants on one leg at a time just like everybody else.” Bedlam.  It was the apparently the first time the homely Texas line had ever been uttered in public and it swept the nation.  It also launched a “Pants Club” at Ohio State; ever since 1934 each player and a key booster who is part of a victory over Michigan is awarded a tiny little golden replica of a pair of football pants.

The Schmidt Gold Pants Charm given to every member of an Ohio State team that defeats Michigan.
The Schmidt Gold Pants Charm is given to every member of an Ohio State team that defeats Michigan.

The Ohio State Buckeyes became a national sensation in 1935. They won their first four games, setting up an undefeated showdown against Notre Dame. The game attracted a capacity crowd of 81,018 and has been often called “The Game of the Century.”  The Buckeyes surged to a 13-0 lead, but their advantage vanished in the fourth quarter. The Irish scored twice in the final two minutes to beat the Buckeyes 18-13. The Buckeyes regrouped and won their final three games, including a 38-0 pasting of Michigan, to win a share of the Big Ten title – their first in 15 years.

Schmidt, however, was haunted by the Notre Dame loss. It was the first in a string of big-game losses, and critics started to question whether his reliance on laterals, shovel passes and trick plays worked against top-quality opponents. Schmidt never worried about “getting back to basics,” because he didn’t stress them. His long practices were light on fundamentals such as blocking and tackling. Perhaps fueled by paranoia, Schmidt didn’t delegate authority, which often reduced his assistants to spectators at practice. He kept the master playbook locked away; players’ copies contained only their specific assignments and no hint at what their 10 teammates were doing. Among his shortcomings, Schmidt never understood the importance of mentorship and discipline. In Schmidt’s last seasons, key players became academically ineligible; others showed up late to practices. Team morale suffered. After the 1940 season in which the Buckeyes won four games and lost four, Schmidt resigned amidst heavy criticism from both fans and the administration.  His total win-loss-tie record with the Buckeyes was 39-16-1 with two Big Ten championships.

The only position that Francis could then find as a head coach was at the University of Idaho.  In 1941 his team posted a 4-5 record, and in 1942 they finished 3-6-1.  Then the school suspended football because of World War II.

Francis never coached again, ending with a college coaching record of 158-57-11.  He stayed on campus to help condition service trainees, but barely a year later he fell into a long illness and died at St. Luke’s Hospital in Spokane, Washington, on September 19, 1944, at the age of 58. Francis was laid to rest beside his parents in the Riverview Cemetery at Arkansas City, Cowley County, Kansas.

The legacy of Schmidt has endured thanks to Sid Gillman, a Pro Football Hall of Fame coach who was a Buckeye end in the early 1930s and an assistant under Schmidt.  Gillman is considered the father of the modern passing offense, and specifically the West Coast Offense which he used as a head coach.  He always gave credit to Francis Schmidt that the principles of that offense were based on what he was taught by Schmidt.  Gillman’s teachings had significant impact on the careers of later National Football League icons such as Al Davis and Bill Walsh.

Francis Schmidt’s imprint on the collegiate game remains well into the modern era as well. In the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, Boise State used three trick plays – a hook and lateral, Statue of Liberty, and wide-receiver pass – to stun Oklahoma 43-42.  Schmidt had made all three plays famous while using them at Ohio State.

75 years after Schmidt coached his first game at Ohio State, a new book profiling his life was published. Frantic Francis, written by Brett Perkins (University of Nebraska Press, 2009) examines not only his career but also his effect on the modern game

Francis Albert Schmidt was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1971.  He is also a member of the Halls of Fame at Nebraska, Tulsa, Arkansas, Texas Christian, and Ohio State. And now he is the newest member of the Osborne County Hall of Fame.

Francis when he was head coach at Ohio State University.
Francis when he was head coach at Ohio State University.
Evelyn Keesee Schmidt, wife of Francis.  Photo courtesy of Caroline Cain.
Evelyn Keesee Schmidt, wife of Francis. Photo courtesy of Caroline Cain.
News story about Francis and Evelyn Schmidt while he was coach at Ohio State University.  Courtesy Caroline Cain.
News story about Francis and Evelyn Schmidt while he was coach at Ohio State University. Courtesy Caroline Cain.
The official 1971 letter announcing Francis Schmidt's induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.  Courtesy of Caroline Cain.
The official 1971 letter announcing Francis Schmidt’s induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. Courtesy of Caroline Cain.
Cover of the book Frantic Francis, published in 2009.
Cover of the book Frantic Francis, published in 2009.

 

Schmidt Francis Albert tombstone
The grave of Francis Schmidt in Arkansas City, Kansas.

SOURCES: Barbara Wyche; Frantic Francis, written by Brett Perkins, (University of Nebraska Press, 2009); Columbus Dispatch, Thursday, September 3, 2009;  Topeka Daily Capital, May 16, 2012; The Spokesman-Review, November 6, 2009; University of Arkansas Athletics Hall of Fame; University of Tulsa Athletics Hall of Fame; College Football Hall of Fame.

Lila Marie Leaver – 2014 Inductee

On this date, August 20, 2014, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present to the world the fourth of the five members of the new OCHF Class of 2014:

 

 

(The following was taken from the Osborne County Farmer, May 31, 1973, Page One)

 Lila Leaver Thinks Teaching is the Greatest Profession

By Dave Magruder

Leaver Lila Marie portrait photo    Lighting and enlightening the way for Osborne County folks for almost 70 years best describes the activities of the Lila Leaver family.

She retired in 1972 as a long-time Osborne school teacher and her mother was also an early county rural instructor. Her dad brought electricity to the area when he Introduced Delco light plants in 1914 and later displayed the first commercial radio set in Osborne about 1922.

At age 64, she says 57 of those years have been spent in a classroom either as a teacher or student and 52 of them were experienced in Osborne. And, she thinks teaching is the greatest profession there is. Pointing out that the Lord sent his son, Jesus, to teach Religion and the Methodist faith have played almost as important roles in her life as schools and education. She was baptized when a few weeks old and starting as a sixth grader she has a continuous span of 52 years holding Sunday School classes.

“I guess it was taken for granted I was going to become a schoolteacher. I was always a great admirer and worshiper of teachers while I attended school and, of course, my mother taught and she was a good influence. It has always been my life,” she explained.

When Lila was born February 9, 1909 – the first of two daughters – her father, Martin, was farming east of Osborne in Penn Township. The Leavers moved to town in 1914 when the dad acquired the Delco sales and service territory that included Osborne, Smith, Mitchell and Rooks Counties. Along with setting up the gasoline powered energy producing plants with their rows of storage batteries, he would also wire homes and buildings.

For rural folks in most of the region, this was the only electric power available until REA energy came along in the 1930s.

His unveiling of the first radio in the county was a howling success, so to speak. It was an Atwood-Kent set that oldtimers will recall came with a large attached speaker. The wireless was displayed at the county courthouse for one and all to hear. Hooked up to a storage battery, the great moment came for the set to be switched on to the then only radio broadcasting station in America, KDKA in Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania.

Lila laughs in recalling the sum total of the reception was squawks and squeaks and the only thing that saved the day came when an announcer’s voice [on November 2, 1920] rose above the din to say: “This Is KDKA, the Westinghouse station in Pittsburgh.” That was a thrill to hear a voice transmitted from so far away as perhaps seeing the first spaceman step on the moon.

Her dad was also in the plumbing and heating business prior to his death in 1929.

The mother, the former Ethel Woodward, was a Glasco girl, who after graduating from high school there came to the Osborne area to teach after taking tests for a certificate. Two of her brothers and a sister went to her as students and they were given to understand at the Woodward household, they would give their sister no static in the classroom.

All of Lila’s preparatory studies were in Osborne schools, graduating from high school in 1927. She went on to the University of Chicago to win a Ph B degree, bachelor of philosophy. In 1931 the sun was shining pretty bright for the young educator as she came home and signed a contract to teach history and government at Plainville High School for $14 a month that fall.

It is interesting to note that her college education was worth about $100 a month, since other teachers around the county without benefit of higher learning were being paid about $40 a month at the time.

However, not all was well even with teachers who were college educated. What with the depression and drouth conditions. She was not offered a new contract the following term as the Rooks County system decided to get along with less staff members in order to cut the budget. In fact, she found that teachers with degrees and only one year of experience were not in much demand, so she was among the horde of unemployed until the fall of 1933 when she became a fifth grade instructor in the Osborne elementary school, starting at $70 a month.

She held that position nine years before being elevated to the high school level once again, instructing history and government studies as well as a class in the junior high 15 years. Her high school tenure was to last 30 years and she ended her career with a salary of around $700 a month, which tells the story of the drastic changes in economics of one career. Lila’s association with Osborne schools has been liberally spiced with the sort of service that is a part of the industry out of the classroom that is assumed goes along with teaching.

All nine years of the grade school stint saw her act as a Girl Scouts leader. She has sponsored all of the high school classes along with coaching class plays. In addition to the latter activity she wrote and produced pageants and programs for the grades and high school, relating to special events, holidays and local history.

She remembers the eight years she was sponsor of the junior class and carried the added responsibility of arranging for the junior-senior prom. There was no dance, with the emphasis on a dinner banquet and program entertainment. The meal was prepared by home economics girls and teachers and all of this wasn’t as near the problem as it was to raise the necessary $75 to $100 to pay expenses during the hard times

For several years she assisted with the Girl’s Reserve, the prep arm of the Y.W.C.A. and later headed the program when it became Y-Teens for 10 years. She also was sponsor 12 years for the Kansas State Activities Association youth agenda in Osborne. Another one was supervising the Alpha Club, a scholastic honorary.

It may seem strange what with teachers getting con­tracts out of high schools and even grade schools, but when Lila got her bachelor sheepskin from the University of Chicago, she couldn’t teach in Kansas without a summer of work in the state and she took this at the University of Kansas.

She attended summer school at the University of Colorado in 1942 and three years later began work on a master’s degree first at the University of Michigan and then at Fort Hays State College to be close to home as her mother was ailing. The advanced degree was awarded in 1952.

Being near her widowed mother was one of the com­pelling reasons she remained in Osborne so long as a teacher. However, she said the [Great] Depression setback at the start of her career taught her a lesson of staying where one had a job and after the hard period was past, she had grown to like what she was doing among her own people.

After the mother passed away in 1959, she bought a smaller home to better suit her needs.

There have been many highlights along the way such as the summer she taught at the Girl’s Industrial School at Beloit in remedial reading. “I learned a lot myself, especially the eye opener that all the girls didn’t come from big cities.” she said “It gave me, too, understanding what the school was trying to do for the girls.”

Other learning experiences have come through world travel along with jaunts in the U.S.A. On one tour she visited ten European nations and another was an around-the-world affair that touched 11 countries, affording the opportunity to visit in diplomatic circles and with foreign government leaders.

Last fall, she took an 8,000-mile bus trip through Canada in 35 days and in the future hopes to visit the Holy Land and Mid-East, a trip she had planned during the time war broke out there years back.

A side benefit from her travels has come from her photography hobby, showing slides in educational programs at school and to civic and social groups.

In 1946 Lila participated in a workshop at the University of Kansas and studied effects of the atomic bomb on society.  She wrote a resource unit called “Citizenship in the Atomic Age” for use in the Kansas high schools.  Lila was asked to address the 178th District Rotary International Conference at Abilene on the atomic bomb in 1955.

In 1962 she received the Freedom Foundation Valley Forge Teacher’s Medal for promotion of citizenship and patriotism. She was recom­mended for the honor by the Osborne VFW Auxiliary.

 

 

(Osborne County Farmer, October 4, 1962, Page One)

Teacher Medal to Lila Leaver

“Miss Lila Leaver, local big school instructor, has been recognized to receive the Valley Forge Classroom Teacher Medal, according to Stanley Abel, high school superintendent.

“There are 266 American teachers named to receive this national recognition and only three of them from Kansas. Osborne is most fortunate and honored in having a recipient in Miss Leaver.

The award is given for exceptional service in furthering the cause of responsible citizenship, Patriotism, and a greater understanding and appreciation of the American Way of Life.

“All recipients of Freedoms Foundation awards are designated by a distinguished jury composed of state Supreme Court justice and the national heads of patriotic veterans and club organizations.  Nominations are submitted by the general public. Here in Osborne the VFW Auxiliary is responsible for entering the names for nomination.

“Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge was founded in March 1949. It is a non-profit, non-political and non-sectarian organization created to bring about a better understanding of the basic principles underlying our Republic with its democratic methods.

“Miss Leaver has taught social science in the Osborne school system for the past 29 years and is beginning her 30th year this fall. Prior to Osborne, she taught one year at Plainville.

“The presentation of the medal will be made at a later date, according to Mr. Abel. On behalf of Osborne County we extend our thanks to this outstanding teacher for her significant work.”

Lila said it was a thrill to be honored at an open house by Osborne teachers when she retired a year ago and she related that letters from former students, some from many years ago, are always welcomed to make her days brighter.

Asked if she knows how many pupils she has taught in Osborne, Lila said she regrets now that she never kept track. In addition to the professional teaching organizations she has been affiliated, she began a new experience last year as a member of the city library board. She is proud of her work as county chairman of the 1973 cancer crusade that has exceeded its goal.

Other activity includes being treasurer of the American Field Service committee for foreign ex­change students, with the American Red Cross and P.E.O. Sisterhood. Now an adult church teacher, she serves on the Methodist board.

Lila has been such an unselfish volunteer as to keep her from some of the personal enjoyment she has an eye on in the future, such as doing ceramics with the Golden Years Club. She figures there is still plenty of time left to reach unfinished goals.

 

*  *  *  *  *

Lila Marie Leaver either went to school or taught a total of 57 years.  Fifty-two years were in the Osborne public schools, 13 years as a pupil and 39 years as a teacher.­

Lila said her biggest thrill in teaching was to have former students return to say “I became a teacher because of you and hope to teach like you did.”  She still received mail from many former pupils.  Lila believes her students thought her a strict disciplinarian but was told from her pupils that they appreciated it and learned from it.

Lila was quoted as saying, “School has been my life. I guess I never thought of anything but being a teacher. Just took it for granted. I think teaching is the greatest profession there is. When God sent his Son to earth he sent him as a teacher. I am thankful it was my privilege to be a teacher for 40 years.”

Lila was a member of the United Methodist Church. Her faith and her church were an important part of her life She had taught in Sunday school most of the time since she was in the sixth grade. She held every office ex­cept superintendent of cradle roll and home department. Lila held many offices in the church organization. She taught Vacation Bible School many different years as well as being the superintendent of Bible school. Lila taught the New Day Adult Bible study class for 16 years. She was also the official photographer for the church from 1978 to 1981.

Lila was a lifetime member of the Kansas State Teachers Association (KNEA) and a retired member of the National Education Association and National Retired Teacher Association. On June 9, 1978, Lila was elected to the Kansas Teachers’ Hall of Fame at Dodge City, Kansas. This was the highlight of her teaching career and her life.

 

*  *  *  *  *

 

(The following was taken from the Osborne County Farmer, April 27, 1978, Page One:)

OSBORNE: Lila Leaver likes kids; a short talk with her revealed that, while not a startling, unprecedented, or even uncommon trait for a teacher, it may just be the one which got her elected to the 1978 Kansas Teacher’s Hall of Fame in Dodge City.

Leaver, a life-time resident of Osborne, retired in l974 after 40 years of teaching, is still able to philosophize.

“I think my idea of youngsters . . . that the vast majority of them are good and want to do what’s right. I don’t understand them always, but have faith in young people. Maybe they’ll do a better job of straightening out the world than we did . . . I’ve had some mighty fine ones through the years.”

On June 9th she will be inducted into the Hall. She contributes the honor to many people, whom she named and thanked, plus many career events.

“Leaver said her biggest thrill in teaching was to have former students return to say “I became a teacher because of you – and hope to teach like you did.” She said she still receives mail from “quite a few” former pupils and enjoyed teaching them. The fact that “Osborne backs their schools 100 percent’’ added to her pleasure, she said.

Studying for her master’s degree in summers and finishing it at Fort Hays State University, Leaver used it to land a job as a social studies teacher in Osborne High School, where she taught for 30 more years. While there she served as assistant principal two years and principal two years. For years she sponsored Girl Scouts, Kayettes, and the junior class without pay, in the days when that was part of the job.

“I really got to know the youngster through extra-curricular activities,” said Leaver, “some of them turn out to have some ability you don’t realize in the classroom.”

“Current History”, an elective in 1950, proved to be her favorite class. “We had a lot of fun, but they did an awful lot of work too . . . really, I enjoyed all my classes,” Leaver said.

Leaver believes her students thought her a strict disciplinarian. “But I think children and young people appreciate it,” she added, “at least that’s what many of them told me later.”

With her career a thing of the past, Leaver now lives alone, traveling and taking pictures as hobbies. Probably her activity, though retired, led to the remark on one of her Hall of Fame recommendations which read, “she brought a unique philosophy of life to her tasks at all times – humility was the hallmark of her life – the second mile was its measure.”

Lila Leaver became an honorary member of the Phi Beta Kappa in 1931 while at the University of Chicago. Lila was initiated in 1936 into the Chapter CR of PEO Sisterhood. She held many offices in PEO and remained an active member.

In the summer of 1955, Lila taught remedial reading at the Girls Industrial School in Beloit.   Lila was a member of the Kansas Heading Circle Commission of the State Department of Education to select library books for Kansas Junior High Schools from 1965 to 1967.  She received hundreds of books from publishers to build her own library and she gave the books to the Osborne Public Library and Osborne School Library. She also gave books to many friends and relatives.  She also was a member of the Osborne Public Library Board of Directors.

In 1972, Lila was honored at a retirement open house. She was especially honored to have her sister and nephew play a melody of her favorite songs on the piano and organ. In 1983, Lila was elected the first Beta Sigma Phi Woman of the Year based on her contributions to the community

Lila was chairman of the Osborne County Cancer Crusade and served as treasurer of the American Field Service.

Travel and photography were Lila’s main hobbies.  She had the privilege to travel over much of the United States and tour around the world and to meet many famous leaders in­cluding Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, Mr. Zakir Hussain and Mr. V. V. Giri.  She took many pictures in all parts of the world and gave many travel illustrated talks with slides to many groups in Osborne and surrounding towns. Of all the places Lila visited, the Holy Land was the most memorable to her.

*  *  *  *  *

Lila Marie Leaver died at her home in Osborne on February 23, 1985, at the age of 76.  She was laid to rest in the Osborne Cemetery.

 

*  *  *  *  *

 

 

(The following was taken from the Osborne County Farmer, May 10, 1990, Page 10-A)

 My Other Mother

By John Henshall

The assignment written on the blackboard was frightening. At first glance, it looked impossible.

It read, “Pick a subject, write a two thousand-word theme on it and be prepared to deliver at least a 15-minute speech on your chosen subject.”

It was May of 1945 in Lila Leaver’s American History class at Osborne High School. There were only a few more weeks of school left and it looked like Miss Leaver was saving the “worst” to the very end.

I was a senior in her class that year, very glad World War II was coming to an end and elated I would not have to put up with school assignments much longer. Grade school, Junior High, now high school had all gone by so quickly. Much of the time, I had managed to slip and slide through most of my school work. This laxity was quickly pointed out to me when I first met Miss Leaver when she taught in fifth grade.After getting into a fight with Dick Glenn during recess one day, Miss Leaver pulled me aside and said, “Johnny, why is it you are always getting into trouble? Why is it is always YOU that causes me so much grief. And your school work could be much better if you’d only try.

I didn’t answer her, but had plenty of thoughts to myself: “Who does she think she is? Why is she always picking on me? Doesn’t she know who I am? Doesn’t she know I’m the tallest kid on the basketball team? I’ll be glad to get out of this grade.”

I was only 11 years old when I was Miss Leaver’s “main pain.” Then, in 1945, I was again one of her pupils as she was now teaching in high school. Aside from being older, a little taller and a little skinnier, I was doing my best to refrain from overworking the gray matter of my ever-shrinking brain.

I raised my hand to inquire, “Miss Leaver, does that mean two thousand words or two hundred? She replied, “I didn’t make any mistake. It means two thousand. Why don’t you surprise me this time? Do some hard work and turn in something good. Why don’t you just make this your ‘farewell address’ to Osborne High School?”

The 22 other students in the class roared with laughter. I even laughed. Why not? I had laughed at almost everything else during my school years.

After classes that day, while restocking shelves at Ora Taylor’s Meat Market, I got to thinking about what had happened. I started to realize, whether I liked it or not, I was about to become a graduate of the Osborne school system. Though I was now 18 and a senior, I didn’t feel that old. In a way, I didn’t want to graduate I was frightened by the fact that, for the first time in years, I would not he going to school m Osborne next year. World War II was drawing to a close. Germany had been defeated. Great man Franklin Roosevelt had just died. Bad man Adolph Hitler had committed suicide in his underground bunker in Berlin. And 18-year-old boys were still being drafted to help in ‘the final assault on Japan.’ It seemed appropriate to do a theme on the war.

I thought of the many changes in our lives and the advances in technology that had occurred since the start of the war in 1941. Radar, jet-powered airplanes, synthetic rubber, newer, improved medicines and all progressed during the conflict and contributed to our final victory. I would call my theme “Victory through Progress.”

I constructed a notebook made up of pictures clipped from Life and Look magazines. I scoured through old newspapers and looked up some facts in The Book of Knowledge. I tied it all together with a few corny jokes lifted from The Readers Digest and prepared a speech fit for a college professor.

In about two weeks, I was called on to give my report. Miss Leaver sat in the back of the class, her grading pencil in hand. I gave the class about a 20-minute talk (about 15 minutes without the jokes). Several days later, Miss Leaver posted the grades on her bulletin board. I had received an “A,” one of the few “A’s” I ever received in school. It meant a lot to me, but not as much as the note I later found taped inside the front page of my project. It read, “You have a very fine notebook. It is neat, complete and well organized. Doesn’t it give you a lot of satisfaction to do a task well? (signed) L. Leaver, 1945.”

The notebook and theme I prepared nearly half a century ago has long since vanished, but I still have her hand-written message posted in my high school scrapbook.

The long struggle Miss Leaver had been having with her “problem child” was finally over. She had found the key that unlocked the door for me to that wonderful world of learning.

The “key” was a simple four-letter word called WORK.

Lila Leaver was a teacher for four decades. She taught 38 of those years in the Osborne school system. She was once quoted as saying, “School has been my life. I never thought of anything but being a teacher. I just took it for granted. I think teaching is the greatest profession.”

Miss Leaver and I became good friends as the years passed. I would often stop by and visit with her at her home. I remember how anxious I was to introduce her to my wife in 1956.

A few years before her death in 1985, I told her again that I appreciated her interest in my school work and that I was grateful she never gave up on me. She was always so happy to know one of her “bad boys” had turned out okay.

Mother’s Day is Sunday. Everyone thinks their mother was the greatest in the world and this is as it should be. I will think of my mother often on Sunday. And I’ll wish I could talk to her one more time, one more precious moment, to tell her how much I loved her.

I will also be thinking of “my other mother.” The patience, attention and guidance given to me by Miss Leaver during those formative years of my life have etched a deep and lasting memory.

 

*  *  *  *  *

 

OTHER SOURCES:  Carol Conway, Beloit, Kansas; Phillip Schweitzer, Osborne, Kansas.

John A. Dillon – 2014 Inductee

On this date, August 19, 2014, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present to the world the third of the five members of the new OCHF Class of 2014:

 

Dr. John A. DillonThe son of 1996 Osborne County Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Alfred C. Dillon and Mary (Shafer) Dillon, John A. Dillon was born December 24, 1872, on the family homestead in Corinth Township of Osborne County, Kansas.   He graduated Osborne, Kansas High School in 1889. After teaching rural school for a year he entered Kansas Medical College, from which he graduated in 1893.

That fall John decided to join the thousands of boomers who wanted to try for homesteads when the Cherokee Strip of northwest Oklahoma was opened to settlement.  The great land rush began at noon on September 16, 1893, with more than 100,000 participants dashing across the southern Kansas state line, hoping to claim land.

“Dr. John Dillon and Frank Leebrick leave today for the [Cherokee] Strip. They are unsettled in their minds as to whether they will stay there.” – Osborne County Farmer newspaper, September 7, 1893.

“Word comes back to Osborne that John Dillon succeeded in establishing his person on a fine quarter section of land in the Strip, Saturday last, and that Frank Leebrick made a good thing by taking a load of provisions into the new country. The rumor circulated on our streets the first of the week to the effect that John Dillon had both legs broken in the mad rush for new homes, was set afloat by some sensational crank. It was a canard.” – Osborne County Farmer newspaper, September 21, 1893.

“John Dillon and Frank Leebrick are on their way home from the Strip, and are expected to reach Osborne today.”  –  Osborne County Farmer newspaper, September 28, 1893.

After his adventure John then served a year as house physician in Christ Hospital at Topeka before becoming a practicing physician together with his father in Osborne.  After three years of this training he entered the Kansas City Dental College and 1900 became an accredited dentist.

In 1901 John moved to Washburn, North Dakota where he served as county health officer while he ran a medical practice.  On May 29, 1901 John returned to Osborne, where he married Margaret Ogden. Together they raised three sons, Ogden, John Jr., and David.

In 1905 John took the opportunity to travel to Europe, where he spent more than a year in post-graduate work in both the London Hospital at London, England, and in Berlin, Germany.  Two years later John returned to the United States and located at Larned, Pawnee County, Kansas, where he opened a medical practice.

In Larned John became a valued member of the community.  He served on the Pawnee County Board of Health, the Larned Library Board of Directors, the Larned City Council, and on committees for the Larned Commercial Club.  John was a stockholder in the First State Bank of Larned and served as a trustee for the Larned Presbyterian Church.  He was affiliated with the Lodge, Chapter, Knight Templar Commandery, and the Wichita Temple of the Mystic Shrine.  John was also a member of the Subordinate Lodge of Odd Fellows, the Great Bend Lodge of Elks, and the Knights of Pythias.

In 1912 John was elected to the first of two two-year terms as Pawnee County Coroner.  Then in 1927 he was appointed chief administrator for the Larned State Mental Hospital, a position that he held until 1944.  The Dillon Building at the hospital bears his name.

The Dillon Building at the Larned State Hospital near Larned, Kansas.
The Dillon Building at the Larned State Hospital near Larned, Kansas.

In 1934 John was given the prestigious honor of being elected a Fellow in the College of American Surgeons.

For years John had been submitting medical stories and anecdotes to the Kansas Medical Journal.  These were gathered together and published as two books, Foibles For the Kansas Doctor (1920) and Doc: Facts, Fables and Foibles (1926).

The following is from the Journal of the American Medical Association, July 30, 1927, Volume 89, No. 5, Page 396:  “Doc: Facts, Fables and Foibles.  By John A. Dillon, M.D. Cloth, Price, $2.  Pp. 168.  Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1926.

“Under the non de plume “RenigAde”, Dr. John A. Dillon for several years has published sketches in the Kansas Medical Journal.  These have been outstanding in their philosophy and in their humor.  Some of them have been republished in part in the Tonic and Sedatives column.  Any physician who wishes to while away a few hours in thorough enjoyment of a revelation of medical foibles will find his money for the purchase of this book exceedingly well spent.  Examples of the humor and epigram of this volume are the following:

“The American College of Surgeons has practically done away with fee-splitting, as it is called.  The result has been that most physicians have felt themselves  called upon to do their own operating and new surgeons are almost as common as filling stations.

“The swell girls you have met through the medium of your friend, the fizz mixer, are also fairly well known around the soft drink palaces and can usually be found running in droves about dish washing time.  They are mostly good girls who quit school in the seventh grade on account of headache.

“The practice of medicine is a jealous mistress and will not tolerate intrigues with golf, baseball nor anything else that tends to divorce affection from the legally adopted spouse.

“No patient with a symptom complex sufficiently grave to call the doctor will accept the services of one whose breath smells like something the cat found under the granary.

“To ask a badly bow-legged man to point the knees toward each other and pivot on his metatarsal would, of course be useless instructions for the reason that we have never known a bow-legged man who knew what pivot was.

“The average golf player can make about the same score with a boat oar and a potato masher as he can with a gunny-sack full of niblicks and stances.”

 

 

After his retirement John lived quietly in Larned until his death on December 3, 1951.  A funeral attended by a large gathering followed as John A. Dillon was laid to rest in the Larned Cemetery.

 

John A. Dillon's tombstone in the Larned Cemetery.
John A. Dillon’s simple tombstone in the Larned Cemetery.

 

Upon his death the Larned paper had the following to say of John’s passing:

“In the passing of Dr. John A. Dillon Larned has lost one of its foremost citizens, a man who attained full measure of success in his profession, in public service as head of a great institution, and as a citizen or his community, county and state.

“Of Larned’s newer citizens and its younger generation, many were denied the privilege of knowing Dr. Dillon. Since his retirement from the state hospital post nearly six years ago, failing health prevented him from taking his accustomed place in community life.

“But although the youth of the community did not know Dr. Dillon, he never lost touch with the activities and achievements of youth on the athletic field, and in the school room. An ardent devotee of competitive athletics, he followed the progress of the high school teams long after he was unable to attend the games. He always spoke of the high school teams as ‘our boys.’

“The doctor’s associates remember him best for his sense of humor and. his talent for human relationships. He had other talents, which he shared liberally. He loved to sing, his favorite songs were those made famous by the late Harry Lauder. He wrote a book about his experiences as a country doctor that was published long before

Dr. [Arthur] Hertzler developed the same theme. He was a frequent contributor to medical journals, wrote a humorous column for his home town newspaper, and was an active member of church and club.

“A successful man himself, he derived vicarious pleasure and satisfaction in the successes and achievements of others after he was forced to give up active participation.”

SOURCES: Osborne County Farmer newspaper, September 7, 1893, September 21, 1893, September 28, 1893, & June 14, 1934; “Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. …”, Standard Publishing Company, Chicago (1912, pages 359-360); Kansas Department For Aging & Disability Services; Fort Larned Historical Society; Santa Fe Trail Center; Larned State Hospital.

William Henry Coop – 2014 Inductee

(On this date, August 18, 2014, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present to the world the second of the five members of the new OCHF Class of 2014)

The grave of William and Nora Coop, Fern Prairie Cemetery, Camas, Washington.
The graves of William and Nora Coop, Fern Prairie Cemetery, Camas, Washington. Photo courtesy of findagrave.com.

William Henry Coop was born in Portis, Osborne County, Kansas on May 22, 1935.  The son of Henry and Dorothy (Hoel) Coop, William moved around quite a lot in his life, living in Oregon, Washington, California, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas in addition to Kansas.

He spent the majority of his career in several prestigious aerospace industry leadership roles before co-founding the Entronics Corp of Dallas, Texas in 1984 with his wife, Nora (Adams) Coop.  The couple were also certified commercial pilots who raised two children, William and Kathryn.

William’s aerospace achievements peaked in the 1970s when he led the team of engineers responsible for the design and deployment of the soil sampling equipment for NASA’s two Viking Explorer spacecraft that successfully landed on Mars in 1975.  William’s name is engraved on plaques attached to both Viking Landers, which still remain today on the surface of the Red Planet.

In later years the Coops moved to Camas, Clark County, Washington, where William passed away on June 23, 2012.  He was laid to rest in the Fern Prairie Cemetery at Camas, Washington.

SOURCES: Portis Independent newspaper, May 23, 1935 & May 30, 1935; Marge Albright, Downs, Kansas; Straub’s Funeral Home, Camas, Washington (www.straubsfuneralhome.com); http://www.findagrave.com.