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.


Calvin Reasoner – 1996 Inductee

The only known photograph of Calvin Reasoner, when he was a member of the 1873 Kansas Legislature. Photo courtesy of “, Kansas State Historical Society, Copy and Reuse Restrictions Apply”.

The annals of Osborne County history cite many individuals of exceptional ability. Few, however, can match the versatile Calvin Reasoner. Clergyman, newspaper editor and reporter, attorney, author, judge and politician, Reasoner left his impression on the early history of Osborne County and rightfully takes his place in the Osborne County Hall of Fame.

Calvin was born May 13, 1837, in Adamsville, Muskingum County, Ohio. He was the sixth of eleven children born to Jacob and Nancy (Hill) Reasoner. Little is known of his early life, other than that he was a college graduate with several degrees of merit, including Doctor of Laws. On March 8, 1863, Calvin married Venetia Shearer in Jackson County, Ohio.  Together they raised four daughters, May, Florence, Clara, and Elsie.

After their marriage the Reasoners moved west to Leavenworth, Kansas, where from 1864 to 1869 Reasoner was pastor of the First Christian Church. In 1870 he moved his family west again, this time settling in Tilden Township in Osborne County, Kansas. There Calvin joined with others and founded the town of Arlington. To insure the stability of the new town he and his partner Frank Thompson opened a general store, and in 1871 Calvin became the town’s first postmaster.

It was on the steps of Reasoner and Thompson’s general store that the organization of Osborne County took place on May 27, 1871. Much to Calvin’s consternation. however, Osborne City was selected the temporary county seat and not Arlington. To champion Arlington’s cause, the first newspaper in the county, the Osborne County Express, appeared with Calvin Reasoner as editor. The county seat contest was spirited, but in the third and final election held in November 1872 Osborne City garnered 267 votes to Arlington’s 214 and dashed its supporters’ hopes forever. The Arlington post office was discontinued and the town quickly faded away.

Calvin accepted defeat graciously and moved his family to Osborne City, where he opened a successful law practice and real estate business. He served as editor of the Osborne Times newspaper in 1873 and was elected mayor of Osborne in 1881. In 1873-74 he served both as the county representative to the Kansas Legislature and on the board of trustees of the Kansas Institute for Education of the Blind. In 1876 he compiled the newspaper series Historical Sketches of Osborne County in which was preserved much of the history of the county’s first five years.

In 1881 the Reasoners divorced. Calvin then married Ellen Jillson on December 16, 1882, in Massachusetts. This marriage also ended in divorce four years later. By 1888 Reasoner was working in Washington, D.C., as a special correspondent for the Topeka Daily Capital. The 1890s saw Calvin move to Utah, where he served as a probate judge in Ogden and wrote influential political articles urging less state government control by the Mormon Church. In 1896 his self-published book, Church and State: The Issue of Civil and Religious Liberty in Utah, influenced many Utah legislators in writing that state’s constitution.

Calvin Reasoner later lived in Warrensburg, New York, and in Sanford, Florida, where he lived with relatives.  He died there December 6, 1911, and was laid to rest in Sanford’s Lakeview Cemetery.   To date there is no known photograph of Calvin.

*  *  *  *  *


by Calvin Reasoner

Introduction:  Since the announcement a few weeks ago that an effort would be made to preserve a record of the historical details incident to the earliest settlement of our county there has been a commendable interest manifested in the mater by a number of our most intelligent citizens, and we can promise you a series of articles in which the most important historical matters can be preserved.  Let it be noted, however that in this series we will endeavor to follow no particular method whereby a systematic presentation would be secured.  Some articles will be furnished to us entire and will be published as presented and due credit be given to each contributor.  When the whole is spread upon the record, however scattering, it will not be difficult to systematize and put in proper shape. – C. R.

The first item we shall mention is the pecuniary condition of the early settlers in general.  It is no disgrace to those who came first into our county to say that the majority of them were very poor in this world’s goods, however blessed they might feel to be in their hopes of another and better life.  At the present, after half a dozen years of settlement, but few are well circumstanced.  Few have more than the barest necessities of life.  A very limited number have the comforts of life and scarcely any are able to afford the luxuries.

It must be expected that a majority of the settlers in a new country, and especially in a homestead country, will be poor.  Before the homestead law was enacted lands were often sold to the highest bidder and men of capital as well as those of moderate means would purchase lands.  The wealthy would buy large tracts and hold them for a rise in prices through settlement and the poor would buy each a farm for a home.  It was consequently by the improvements of the poor that speculators would get an advance on their lands.  But in a homestead country no man can get more that a small amount of land and in order to hold that he must live upon it.  Thus a man of wealth can scarcely invest his means until lands begin to change hands.  Some capital may be invested in the purchase and sale of goods, but even this kind of business is very much limited by the general destitution.

The markets . . . so far as there were any, were very remote from the settlers of our county–as they are still–but in 1870 and 1871 there was very little produced for sale, even if there had been a good market.  The principal staple was buffalo meat, and this was carried down the Solomon [River] valley as far as Solomon City [110 miles away] or sometimes to Junction City [160 miles], both places being trading points.  Buffalo meat was carried in wagons, sometimes in the raw state, and frequently it would be dried.  The latter would sell at from six to ten cents per pound and the former at from three to six.  Occasionally prices would vary from these figures but these were about the average.  The employment was therefore better than nothing and it was all that was available at the time.  Hence a great many of the settlers in 1870, 1871, and 1872 became of necessity buffalo hunters.

Let us draw a picture which has often been verified in our past history.  Here comes a covered wagon slowly moving up the road which was recently merely a buffalo hunters’ trail.  There are two persons walking and a boy driving.  Inside you notice, as the team approaches, that there are women and children; also bedding, boxes, tools and traps of various kinds; a shovel and a broom stick out behind and a small chicken coop hangs on at the rear.  The little cavalcade halts in our presence and inquires for vacant lands.  They want to get ‘timber and water.’  You tell them that there is plenty of vacant land with timber and water at a certain point and then inquire how far they have come.  Well they have driven some two or three hundred miles in search of a home and now they have got to their destination and they feel like laying the foundations of a new home.  They don’t feel discouraged by the entire newness of the country but indicate a determination to make the best of it.  They drive on to the place indicated and soon take hold on the surroundings and show they are able to take advantage of everything that offers in the building up of a new home.

You visit them in few weeks and find that they have used timber enough to build them a comfortable house capable of withstanding the winds, the heat and the rains.  They are breaking some ground and planting corn in the sod.  If the season is favorable they will get some ten or fifteen bushels per acre of sod corn and this will suffice to feed the team and perhaps a cow; and if it be not far to mill some of it will be ground for bread.  If there are no mills the corn can be parched or boiled.  I have known families to live all winter on little else than boiled corn and thankful to get even that meager supply.  If the season should fail to be one that would produce corn our settler will have hard times.  They have no money, perhaps.  Probably they did not bring five dollars into the country with them.  Some brought considerable money and soon consumed it in living expenses and then were quite destitute.

What then must our poor family do?  There is no work that will bring any remuneration.  How many poor settlers a few years ago contemplated life from this unhappy standpoint.  If the settler could get to haul a load of goods or freight of any king for a merchant or anybody else this would be of help; anything he could turn his hand to.  In this state of things it was very convenient to turn buffalo hunter, and for two purposes–one to supply the family with food, the other to have something for market to supply other things.

The year 1870 was tolerably good for wheat in the lower part of the Solomon valley, where it had begun to settle up and be cultivated, but it was dry through June and July.  In the vicinity probably corn would not have made more than half a crop.  Rains began early in August and continued through the fall.  All through the early part of the summer hot winds prevailed.  Some of the rains in the latter part of the season were exceeding heavy, so that the ground in many places was flooded with water.  During the latter part of this year 1870 Mr. [Frank] Stafford settled with his mother and her family on Little Medicine Creek near the mouth.  About the same time Baronet Gow, Will Garrison and Joseph Hart settled there, and these were the pioneers on Little Medicine.  They were soon joined by Wiley Wilson and others.  The winter was remarkably mild and pleasant and very favorable for the maintenance of stock without grain.  Gow had two yoke of oxen and had no grain to feed them, but they lived through and came out in the spring in good order, having had nothing but buffalo grass to subsist on.

Gow was a great devotee of the ‘weed.’  He had been out about a month and was severely punished for want of it when he succeeded in getting half a dollar and came out post haste down the valley to the writer’s store to get tobacco–I should have said ‘tobaker.’  His chagrin can scarcely be imagined when he got to the store and found that he had lost his money.  His words fell thick and fast and most of them indicated that he had been brought up under some of the numerous forms of orthodox religion.  A caddy of bright navy seemed to intensify his disappointment.  On being handed an immense plug his dental outfit set to work in good earnest as though the making of ‘amber’ was the chief end of man and to expectorate it around the height of human happiness.  It was not expected at the time that the plug would ever be paid for but it was and hundreds of dollars more within the next two years by this same honest, hardy, good-natured Baronet Gow.  Mr. Frank Stafford was one of the first three commissioners appointed by the governor and was subsequently elected to the same office by the popular vote.  He still resides in single blessedness on Little Medicine.” — Osborne County Farmer, March 3, 1876, and July 7, 1876.

John Christopher Ise – 1996 Inductees

One of the foremost Kansas educators of the twentieth century was born June 5, 1885, in western Ross Township of Osborne County.  Named after his maternal grandfather, John Christopher Ise was the seventh of twelve children born to Henry and Rosena (Haag) Ise on the homestead Henry had claimed in June 1871.  As an infant John was stricken with polio, which caused his right leg to become withered and nearly useless.  His parents decided early that his best chance at success in life was for him to become a scholar.

John attended the nearby one-room Ise School and learned to play the guitar and the violin.  With the latter he occasionally gave recitals in the area.  In 1902 he taught a term at the Prairie Bell School in Bethany Township, receiving thirty dollars a month in pay.  Later he also taught at the Rose Valley School in Ross Township.  In 1903 his damaged leg was amputated and he was fitted with an artificial one, after which he could walk almost normally.

Ise entered the University of Kansas (KU) and graduated with a degree in music in 1908.  He followed this with Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Law degrees.  In 1911 he was admitted to the Kansas bar.  The next year he received his master’s degree from Harvard University, where in 1914 John also became a Doctor of Philosophy.  He was an assistant professor of economics at Harvard and Iowa State College before joining the faculty at the University of Kansas in 19l6.  He became a full professor there in 1920.

Dr. Ise’s interest in natural resources economics made him internationally known and internationally debated.  “As crusty as the Kansas sod, Ise had the self-imposed mission of shocking both students and the public from their intellectual lethargy,” wrote Clifford Griffin in his The University of Kansas: A History (1983).  Then-radical ideas such as conserving national oil reserves against future shortages and restricting drilling and mining in national parks and other federal lands caused Ise to be branded a Communist by some.  But as time went on his ideas and writings earned him lasting respect both as a resource conservationist and a prophet of the energy crisis of the 1970s.

On August 4, 1921, John married Lillie Bernhard in Lawrence, Kansas.  They had two sons, John Jr. and Charles.  John was an independent in politics and a charter member of the League for Independent Political Action.  He also served as president of the American Economics Association, the Mid-West Economic Association and on the editorial board of the American Economic Review.  He was given life membership in the Kansas Illustriana Society in 1933 and later was named to Who’s Who in America.

John was a member of several local organizations in the Lawrence area.  He and his wife gave $25,000 in 1955 to the Lawrence Humane Society for an animal shelter in memory of their son Charles, who had died in a plane crash, and spent much more time with this cause.  Dr. Ise’s efforts in this area were recognized in 1968 by the American Humane Association.

John’s eight books ranged in subject matter from a comprehensive test on economics to a collection of humorous comments on current condition, interspersed with the classic story of his pioneer family in Osborne County.  The United States Forest Policy (1920), The United States Oil Policy (1926), and Our National Park Policy: A Critical History (1961) all reflected his economic views on the nation’s natural resources.  The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, better known as OPEC, was formed in 1961 based on Ise’s conclusions in his Oil Policy book.  Economics (1940) was a classroom textbook by Ise that was used at KU and several other colleges and universities from 1940 to 1965.  Sod and Stubble (1936), a look at his parents’ life on the Kansas prairie in nineteenth century Osborne County, is still in print over 75 years after its initial publication.  Ise also edited Howard Ruede’s critically-acclaimed Sod-House Days:  Letters from a Kansas Homesteader (1937).  These latter two books are considered to be the finest literature ever written about homesteading life on the Great Plains of North America, and have made Osborne County a focal point for scholarly study of the region.  Ise’s final book, The American Way, was actually a present to him by his colleagues at KU upon his retirement in 1955 and is a collection of his finest speeches and letters.

Ise kept in touch with his boyhood home in Downs, whether giving the commencement address at the high school graduation or just visiting old friends.  It was also customary for him to hold in Lawrence a yearly dinner for all Osborne County students attending KU.

John retired in 1955 with more earned degrees than any other KU faculty member. Up to fifteen thousand students had passed through his classes in thirty-nine years of teaching.  He retired a world-renowned economist and is considered one of the three greatest professors in University of Kansas history.  Currently the John Ise Award is given annually to recognize the student with the most outstanding achievement by the University of Kansas Department of Economics.  John continued in the post of professor emeritus and also taught as a visiting professor of economics at Amherst College in Massachusetts, Groucher University in Baltimore, Maryland, Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and at Harvard University.

John Ise passed away March 26, 1969, at Lawrence and was buried there in the Oak Hill Cemetery.  His legacy of teaching and his writings will continue to shape and inspire the world we live in for many years to come.




“I was asked to write a brief summary of my father’s life as it pertained to Osborne County.  Of his early life I know little beyond his own story of his parents’ life as set forth in his book Sod and Stubble.  This book, which I understand is being reissued in 1996, delineates the hardships, sorrows, and joys experienced by Rosa and Henry Ise (nee Eisenmanger) as early settlers near Downs. It ends with the selling of the Ise farm and the move of the family to Lawrence following Henry’s death.

It became abundantly clear to me how much my father’s early farm life had affected him, since for as far back as I can remember (I was born in 1923, in Lawrence, Kansas) he always owned a couple of farms.  These were both quarter-sections, one near Richland and the other near Doniphan.  He let neighbors farm these in exchange for half the wheat crop, which I remember as yielding (at least during the 1930s) a modest negative return.  And just after my brother was born, in March 1926, he moved our family from the rented house on Louisiana Street to a farmhouse a few miles west of Lawrence on Highway 40.  His nostalgia for the farm had apparently overweighed my mother’s misgivings, but after about a year she prevailed and they moved back to 1208 Mississippi Street, where he spent the rest of his life.

He had extremely broad interests in life.  Thus at KU he earned bachelor’s degrees from three schools – the School of Fine Arts in 1908 (in music), the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1910, and the School of Law in 1911.  He subsequently earned Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard in economics, which became his consuming interest from then on, particularly the study of conservation and farm economics.  He wrote several books on these subjects, U.S. Oil Policy, U.S. Forest Policy, and U.S. National Park Policy, in addition to Sod and Stubble.

His early life on a Kansas farm had imbued him with several traits that I always found very admirable.  He was scrupulously honest – I can remember once when he found that a sales clerk at the old Woolworth’s store on Massachusetts had given him a nickel too much change, whereupon he walked a block and a half in a light snowfall to return the nickel.  This was not an easy task for a man who had to drag along a heavy artificial leg (prosthetics have come a long way since he had his withered leg cut off in 1903).

He loved animals with an unqualified love.  He had worked his way through college by serving as a mounted officer for the Lawrence SPCA.  His stories of how he had rescued dogs and horses from what seemed to my brother and me as incredible brutality and cruelty made a deep impression on both of us.  After losing the use of his leg at the age of two to polio he had to get to school (half a mile) in a little wagon pulled by his faithful dog, Coalie.  When my brother was killed in a light plane crash in 1955 my father donated money for the Charles Ise Animal Shelter in Lawrence.

And he seemed to have an uncanny way with animals.  During the months that we spent on the farm west of Lawrence a neighboring farmer gave him a large and savage Airedale that had so badly bitten several of the farmer’s hired hands that he had to get rid of the dog.  I can still remember Dad taking me and the dog by the scruff of the neck and saying, ‘Pal, this is Johnboy – you two are going to be friends.’  Not a growl from the fierce-looking dog, who did indeed become my fast friend, twice saving my life ( as I still believe), once from a huge sow who had broken down her pen – this pig had actually eaten two of her own piglets –  and once when I got stuck in quicksand in a wash near the farmhouse.  These incidents may have hastened our move back to Lawrence!

My father was also a firm believer in the Biblical injunction ‘By the sweat of thy brow shalt thou earn thy daily bread’ and he worked harder than anyone I knew.  He would teach all morning ‘up on the Hill,’ come home for lunch and then immure himself in his office, or ‘Library,’ as we called it.  This was the downstairs room in our three story house, which contained many hundreds of books, mostly in his own field.  All the rooms of the house, except for the kitchen, had bookcases, all full and almost all read.  Dad worked, grading papers, preparing lectures, or writing some book or other, all afternoon and for three or four hours after dinner.  This was a daily routine, except on Saturday afternoon when the Metropolitan Opera was playing, or when my parents either went out to dinner at friend’s homes or entertained friends themselves.  My mother was an excellent cook; once being written up in Clementine Paddleford’s Sunday column for her Black Walnut Cake, but no wine or liquor was ever served in her house.  Her father had been a Methodist minister and she and her nine brothers and sisters had been raised quite strictly.  Dad’s parents had actually drunk beer and wine on rare occasions, to the considerable embarrassment of all their eleven children, most of whom remained strict teetotalers.

There were many things Dad could not teach me and my brother, because of his artificial leg.  Thus there was no ball throwing or family bicycling trips.  But he showed us things that to me were more important.  As a child in Kansas he had had to be very inventive in the matter of playtime activities.  He had learned to whittle with his jackknife–I still have a little box in which he carried his flute, carefully crafted from about a dozen types of wood native to Kansas.  He showed Charlie and me how to crack a long bullwhip, and how to make shingle darts, launched with a stick with a knotted piece of string which fit into a notch in the body of the dart.  He was incredibly precise with those things, and could hit targets at fifty yards as well as my brother and I could with our BB guns.  Because of his missing leg he had had to compensate by using his arms more and had such strength in his arms and hands that he could chin himself with one hand, holding onto the exposed ceiling joists, a feat that his athletic older brothers could not duplicate.  But the most important things he could and did teach us were attitudes and beliefs.  We learned to love the outdoors, what is now called ‘the environment.’  Summer vacations were always spent camping in the western national parks.  We picked up a love of great art, good music and great literature.  His favorite author was always Mark Twain.  He was fiercely loyal to Kansas and to the United States, which belies his frequently controversial views about many things.  He was widely considered to be a Communist sympathizer for many years and the chancellor and even the governor received occasional letters from Kansas businessmen complaining about “that radical John Ise, infecting the young minds in our University.”  This amused Dad greatly, but infuriated me and my brother.  And thanks to a tolerant administration he remained at KU for thirty-nine years and I believe he taught at least a few thousand students how to think for themselves.

During my postdoctoral Fulbright fellowship to France in 1950 I was working with Jean Daudin, then a leading physicist in the field of cosmic rays.  He also happened to be one of the leaders of the Communist Party in southern France and we worked together at the Pic du Midi, on the Spanish border, where he frequently entertained Spanish Loyalists hostile to Franco.  Dad was teaching that summer at a seminar in Salzburg, sponsored by Harvard University, and I can remember the bitter argument he had with Daudin about communism, when the two of them met in Paris, for by 1950 the grim reality of Stalin’s dictatorship was obvious to all.  I had to translate for the two of them for Dad spoke no French and Daudin no English and it was difficult for me to translate Dad’s cusswords into the kind of French I had learned from Mademoiselle Crumrine at KU!

He was a very good economist, serving as president of the American Economic Association, and an excellent teacher.  His textbook on economics was for a time used by the majority of state universities, and I am glad that I was able to take his course in Economics 90, although I was too shy to ever open my mouth in class.  When he retired from the KU faculty in 1955 his colleagues expressed their admiration by publishing a collection of his essays in a book, The American Way.  In 1963 he was very proud to receive KU’s highest honor, the Citation for Distinguished Service, awarded at Commencement exercises.  He remained a true son of Kansas all his life, which was inexorably shaped by his early upbringing in Downs.  In one short essay reproduced in The American Way, entitled ‘No Time To Live’, he recalled one episode of his college days, when the family was still living in Downs, in the following manner:

‘When we went to Lawrence to college we did not expect to make the trip in four hours but rode the unhurried Central Branch, changed trains a time or two, making connections if we were lucky – if not, lounging around the depot for some hours or perhaps all night.  I remember well the evening my sister and I missed connections at Beloit and sat out behind the depot most of the night, reciting poetry and talking of our plans and ambitions and theories of the good life.  It was full moon, and there was a mist on the field of ripening wheat across the fence, and the frogs were croaking from the creek nearby.  Sister has been gone these many years, but I can still close my eyes and see that lovely, peaceful scene as if I had been there only yesterday.  An interruption of our long journey which I, no doubt, cursed with vigor, had enriched my life with an unforgettable experience.  It was enforced leisure, but how rich and enduring.’

One final remark he made about the early settlers among whom he was raised is still relevant:  ‘They had what it took, and it took a lot.’  That about sums it up.” – John Ise, Jr., November 1995.

A young John Ise when he worked as a schoolteacher in Osborne County.


The rural one-room schoolhouse where John Ise attended as a child and later taught at as an adult.

A page of notes from 1924 by Rosa Ise to her son John. It was pages of memories like this from which John got the background for his book “Sod & Stubble.”


The modest gravestone of John Ise in Oak Hill Cemetery, Lawrence, Kansas.

Frederick J. Hulaniski – 1997 Inductee

The history of Osborne County would be sadly lacking if tribute was not paid to one of the truly original characters to ever set ink to paper on the Kansas prairie.  Frederick J. Hulaniski, writer, author, judge, newspaper publisher, and mining engineer, was born January 30, 1860, in Sandusky, Lee County, Iowa.  Fred’s father, Julian Hulanicki, was an officer in the 1830 Polish uprising for which he was banished from Poland to America in 1833.   In 1838 Julian married Marcia Tuttle and the couple had six children, of whom Fred was the youngest.

Fred was educated in the military academy at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and at Omaha (Nebraska) College.  While in Omaha he learned the printer’s trade, at which he served an apprenticeship with the Omaha Herald. In 1875 he moved to Kansas and became connected with the Leavenworth Times and later was with the Topeka Capital. At the age of twenty-one Fred was employed in Cawker City, Kansas, as a printer in the offices of the Cawker City Journal. In the fall of 1880 his courtship of and consequent marriage to Miss Ruth Kerr became a local matter of great interest.

“MARRIED. – In this city, Tuesday afternoon [October 12th] by the Rev. C. I. Shackleford, Mr. Fred Hulaniski and Miss Ruth Kerr.  Fred is the ‘boss’ manipulator of metal in the Journal office.  He has for some time placed his affections where they would do the most good, and has laid the treasures of his heart and hand at the feet of the beautiful Ruth.  Ruth has not scorned or repelled the advances of her amorous young lover, but on the contrary, seeing in him the embodiment of all that is good and noble and believing to be the only person on God’s green earth who could make the little song birds sing notes of joy in her heart.  Her young affections have gone wholly out to him and not withstanding the objections of her misguided parents, she promised Fred to be his and his alone, at the drop of the hat.  Tuesday Fred, armed with a marriage license, proceeded to the house of the bride’s parents, and invited her to go and ride with him to one of the neighbors.  They started and stopped not until they arrived in this city, where they were duly united in the holy bonds of wedlock, as per above notice.  In the evening the stern parent came to town and finding the young people, he suggested to Mrs. Hulaniski that she take a seat in his carryall and go home with him and sleep with her mother. Fred considered this to be about the proper time to interpose the authority which the statutes of the state of Kansas in such cases made and provided have guaranteed unto the husband, and so consequently informed the old gentleman in very emphatic language that Mrs. Hulaniski should do no such d—-d thing.  Mr. Kerr saw through the millstone and left the house of Hulaniski to work out its own destruction, and sought relief in cursing the minister of the Gospel who had robbed him of a daughter.  Brace up children, and bear in mind that the course of true love never did run smoothly.” – Cawker City Free Press, October 14, 1880.

Fred and Ruth later became the proud parents of four children – Paul, Opal, Ruth, and Marcia. In January 1883 Fred moved his family to Bull City (Alton) in Osborne County, Kansas, and there began publishing the Western Empire, his first newspaper.

“Fred Hulaniski has bought the Bull City Key and will convert it into a six column folio, all home print, and will tack to it the name of The Western Empire. Rather a big name for such a little paper in such a little town.” – Downs Times, January 4, 1883.

“TO THE MORTALS NOW EXISTING UPON THIS EARTH, GREETINGS” ran the headline of Fred’s first editorial. He served as both editor and publisher and readily accommodated himself to Bull City, its customs and people. They, in turn, got over the initial shock of the style of their combative, flamboyant, and humorous editor and he became one of the town’s proud attractions.

“It was the last day of the year 1883, just forty years ago, that I, a lass of thirteen, first saw Hulaniski . . . There was to be a dance in the old Nethercutt building and the hotel [the Mitchell House in Bull City] was to furnish the supper. This particular hotel was my home, and being ‘in the way’ around the kitchen, my mother ordered me to go to another part of the house and practice the piano or read a book. I obeyed – most people obeyed my mother – and upon opening the sitting room door, there in an old hair-cloth armchair, one with walnut frame and white castors, sat the object of this communication.

He was a young man as cleanly cut in line and contour as any of Booth Tarkington’s heroes of the Indiana ‘80s. He wore a black Prince Albert coat and at his wrists three or four inches of white cuff – his hands, which hung listlessly over the arms of the chair, were slender, thin, white, aristocratic. His hair was almost blonde and hung in ringlets to his shoulders. I said, ‘Good evening,’ and while he answered me, he did not continue, so I took from under a pile of music – where it was hidden – my first novel, Tempest and Sunshine, and read quietly until my father and mother came in to speak to the stranger. I did not understand the trend of their conversation but it was about some newspaper rumpus in which the stranger had participated in some town – Cawker [City], Beloit, or Downs, I know not, but with a wave of his hand he used the word ‘illegitimate.’ I did not know what the word meant but it sounded big and I stored it away to use when I should next indulge myself in ‘showing off’ to the hotel guests, a stunt that frequently precipitated me into tears and an evening’s isolation in my room.

At one time ‘Huly’ had his office in a wee small place directly across the street from the Mitchell House just a shack between Gilchrist’s grocery store. About this time someone – probably Mrs. Hulaniski and some lady relatives who were visiting – presented the scribe with a tan colored cashmere smoking garment.  It had a red velvet collar and red velvet facings down the front and huge, velvet pockets; to wear with this were black velvet embroidered slippers, and sometimes he came to his office thusly attired.  I can see him – the picture is as clear as if the camera had focused it yesterday – rushing through the door of his small home, pens behind each ear, his long hair waving in the always blowing wind, as he headed up the street to interview an occupant of a farm wagon . . . .” – Lena Mitchell in the Alton Empire, January 11, 1923.

“Fred Hulaniski moved his family to Bull City yesterday morning. Mr. Kerr and daughter of Jewell County, father and sister of Mrs. F. J. Hulaniski, were visiting in town . . . The Western Empire of Bull City claims to be the only reliable paper on earth.  The Kansas Herald, of Hiawatha, makes the same claim.  One of the two men must be lying about the matter.” – Downs Times, February 1, 1883.

Thoroughly fearless in expressing his opinions, Fred used his brilliance of mind and distinctive personality to extoll his readers into discussions on the events of the day.  Not everyone was happy with Hulaniski’s stories on local affairs; three times disgruntled citizens tried to set fire to his printing plant.  He received more death threats during his first year of publication than perhaps any other newspaperman in the annals of Kansas history.  He deterred these potential perils to his person by openly wearing revolvers and secreting one or more knives in his clothing.

In the beginning Fred seldom failed to voice what he thought of his fellow newspapermen if they disagreed with him, and often they responded in kind. “Czarevitch Hulaniski” was his name when mentioned in the Stockton, Kansas, newspaper; in Downs and Osborne he was “Count Hulaniski;” and after a personal spat with the editor of the Portis Patriot he was ever after referred to as “Hole-in-the-sky.” Hulaniski’s propensity for igniting wars of words made still other newspapers wary. “We had been told that the Empire quill pusher wore horns, a brace of revolvers, and pawed the ground like a mad cow in a Bull City,” reported the editor of the Salem (KS) Argus in 1885. “We interviewed him at a distance and must say he looked every inch a gentleman – a perfect gentleman, sir.”

In the fall of 1883 Fred sought to influence the upcoming county election by starting another paper in Downs on the eastern edge of Osborne County. The Saturday Evening Lamp made its debut in October 1883, with Hulaniski again as both editor and publisher, while continuing to publish the Empire in Bull City; the only time in the history of the county any newspaperman has ever tried such a gamble. Fred soon discovered that two papers meant twice as many people came “looking for him” over his articles and he frequently had to stop off in between the two towns in Osborne in order get away from his angry detractors. The Lamp ceased publication after only five weeks; the experiment was over, but, as one contemporary author noted, the Lamp “packed more controversy and discussion into those five weeks than most publishers do in an entire career.”

Yet for all his dramatics and sometimes caustic language Hulaniski forced other newspapers to improve their quality and depth of writing and news coverage with the emphasis on more detail. His own Western Empire was widely read and remained a financial success throughout his three years of ownership.  In those years Fred made himself available for amateur theatricals, recitals, and other events that helped to maintain town spirit and pride, and served for a time as city clerk.  During the spring of 1885 scarlet fever swept through Bull City, and through those terrible weeks Hulaniski used the pages of the Empire to grieve with and to console every family who lost a loved one.  His words came even more from the heart when his only son, Paul, died of the fever and was laid to rest in the town’s Sumner Cemetery.

The gravestone of Paul Hulaniski in Alton’s Sumner Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Von Rothenberger.


The Western Empire of November 28, 1885, contained an editorial featuring the whit, irrelevance, and bluntness so typical of Fred’s editorial style: “The last issue of the Empire contained an account of a snipe hunt, wherein a lot of young bloods had considerable sport at the expense of some young dupe whose name we did not learn.  On Tuesday we received a letter from some fellow who signed “W.S.R,” and who evidently has tried on the shoe and found a perfect fit.  The letter reads as follows: ‘f. J. hulaniskyee— Want you To under stand that i Aint such A Blasted tool as you take me Too Bee And if you Ever stick Any Moore of your Slang in youre papper i Will Make It Moste Interesting for yu but i Think the Bigest fool Printed It. W.S.R.’   Now, we have not the remotest idea who “W.S.R.” is, nor do we care, but he is evidently a much greater ass than we first supposed, or he would never flare up and take unto himself a piece in a newspaper that contained no names whatever nor alluded to no one in particular.  If Mr. “W.S.R.” had kept still, no one outside of a few would have known it was him who gave himself so everlastingly dead away by holding the bag for Snipe, and we trust that in the future when he bites at old gags like this he will have common horse sense enough to button up his lip and keep mum.  However, if Mr. “W.S.R.” wishes to “Make it Moste Interesting” for the editor of this paper, we hope he will not deny himself that pleasure any longer than necessary, for if there is one thing above another we like, it is to be “interested.”

Shortly afterwards Fred sold the Empire and left Bull City, which had been renamed Alton the year prior. “F. J. Hulaniski, late of the Alton Empire, passed through the city Wednesday on his way to Leavenworth, where he takes a position on the daily Times.” – Downs Chief, July 1886.

“Vol. 1, No. 1 of the Kansas City Sun, F. J. Hulaniski, editor, is before us. It is a neat five column, eight page paper published in the interests of agriculture, religion and Hulaniski.” – Downs Chief, March 14, 1889.  Later that year Fred sold the Sun and headed west, moving to Ouray, Colorado.

“F. J. Hulaniski, the versatile ex-editor and founder of the Western Empire, is now assisting in the publication of the Plaindealer at Ouray, Colorado, and is dealing some telling blows against the third party movement for which he labored last fall until his stomach revolted at the task and he found it imperative to seek a cleaner field. His work on the Plaindealer is easily recognized by old acquaintances.” – Downs Times, October 8, 1891.

Soon Fred was the sole editor and publisher of the Ouray Plaindealer and in November 1895 he was elected elected county judge of Ouray County on the Populist ticket.  Fred’s taking over of the Plaindealer ignited “continuous warfare” between the Ouray Herald and the Plaindealer, starting in 1891 and lasting for over 20 years.  Fred referred to his rival as “the little red-headed woodpecker down in the Fourth Ward” – a district that included the red-light district of the time. The Herald editor, E.G. Bacon, called his counterpart “Mr. Hell on Whiskey.”

In April of 1899 Fred joined with some of the best-known men of the state of Colorado in the incorporation of a large publishing company in Denver.  During this period Fred was also engaged in mining enterprises in Colorado. These profited him greatly and he had offices at one time in New York.

“Count Hulaniski, who used to run a sort of a Sunday Sun paper in the cellar of Chris Knapp’s meat market, called the Saturday Evening Lamp, was in Concordia recently and the Kansan says: ‘F. J. Hulaniski, an old-time newspaperman of this part of the state, now Ouray, Colorado, was in the city last Wednesday and made the Kansan office a call. Count Hulaniski, as he was usually called, was one of the warmest propositions as a newspaper skinner there was in the state when he was in action. He had a paper in Bull City, now called Alton . . . He went to Colorado about ten years ago and landed at Ouray with the magnificent amount of 25 cents in his pocket, which he spent as soon as he could find the opportunity for a drink of whiskey and a package of smoking tobacco. He owns a newspaper out there and has become rich as a mining promoter. He is now on his way to New Orleans to spend the winter, in company with his daughter.’” – Downs Times, January 24, 1901.

“Ouray, Colorado, September 29th – The suit for divorce by Mrs. Hulaniski, wife of former County Judge F. J. Hulaniski, one of the best known newspaper men on the western slope, will never come to trial. The attorneys for Mrs. Hulaniski last night announced that a settlement had been reached and that an order will be entered this afternoon in the county court withdrawing the suit. The grounds of settlement will not be made public.” – Downs Times, October 6, 1904.

By 1906 Fred had moved on to California, where he published a newspaper in Mountain View.  Five years later he purchased the plant of a labor paper and started the Richmond Morning News, and later wrote editorials for the Richmond Record-Herald, both located in Richmond, California.  Fred also published a book entitled the Thinkograph, which then became the title of a monthly magazine he published from San Francisco.  Fred became well known throughout the state via his writings and activities and he took an active part in the development of Richmond and Contra Costa County.  In 1917 Fred published the book The History of Contra Costa County, which was well-received.  Among his many business interests at the time was the Wonder Gold Mine at Allegheny in the Grass Valley area of Nevada County, California.

On February 15, 1928, Frederick J. Hulaniski died in Richmond of a heart attack following a case of influenza.  He was interred in the Sunset View Cemetery at El Cerrito, California.

Frederick J. Hulaniski as he appeared in 1917. Taken from his book “The History of Contra Costa County”.

* * * * *

The following is a classic story by Frederick J. Hulaniski, related as only he could.

Looking Backward into Kansas Through Thirty Long Years

“Another Northwest Kansas newspaper blew into this editorial den this week and nestled down upon the littered roll-top among communications, complaints and bills payable, which sent me on a long hike into the past. It is the Osborne County Farmer, Bert Walker, editor; and I borrowed white paper and ink of it thirty years ago, and, maybe, paid most of it back.

I was young then, and Western Kansas was young, and all of us possessed less wisdom than Solomon, although the Solomon River ran nearby and turned the wheel that ground the corn that brought eight cents a bushel in the cribs that Jack built. As we get older we are all prone to look back into the past in reminiscent mood instead of looking ahead, for the reasons that the period ahead is short and, as a rule, we haven’t much to look forward to.

The present editor of the Osborne Farmer worked for me when he was a kid boy, at Peabody, Kansas . . . Now he has a fine newspaper and business and is rich enough to eat pie for breakfast if he wants to, which he does if he is anything like he was in knee breeches. I ran two newspapers in Osborne County at one time, one at Downs and the other at Alton, and often took refuge at Osborne, halfway between, to escape general results continuously erupting at both ends. Osborne was not always a haven of safety, either being the county seat and inhabited by land pirates, highbinders, blackhand conspirators and plutocratic oppressors of the plain people, who held the county offices which others wanted. When one set of men hold the offices which another set want, the ins are always land pirates, highbinders, blackhand conspirators, and plutocratic oppressors of the plain people, which fact can be proven by the outs. It became my duty, in the interest of the horny-handed son of toil, as most everybody was in those days, to help ‘turn the rascals out,’ and as fast as I got one rascal turned out another got in, and then both of them put in part time gunning for me.

One particular instance I remember will doubtless be recalled by most any of the old-timers there now, as the town was much excited and amused when the circus was going on and bets were about even as to whether I or the sheriff of the county would furnish the corpse for a first-class funeral. The sheriff’s name was Al Anderson, and he weighed over 200 and struck a ton. I knew he struck a ton because I got the whole ton right between the eyes, and saw a million dollars worth of fireworks and maybe it was two millions.

The principal crime the sheriff was guilty of was holding an office which somebody else wanted, and of that he certainly was guilty. He drove up to Alton one day with a pocketful of tax warrants, or something of the sort, and collected mileage, about sixteen miles each way, on each paper served, and I figured up from his bill to the county that he had driven his team of horses over a thousand miles in one day, and called loudly in my papers for the humane society to prosecute him for cruelty to animals. In the interest of that noble animal, the horse, I held that a thousand miles was too far for him to be driven in a single day, and I contend that to this day, thirty years later, that the position was well taken and true. Any man will drive a team of horses a thousand miles in one day is no lady. Now, you wouldn’t suppose that sheriff would get mad at my printing only what was true, but he did. He was real provoked. Probably he didn’t love horses as much as I did. In this instance I was the villain and Sheriff Al Anderson the fair maid. He didn’t look much like a fair maid, but we’ll let that pass so we can hurry along in this narrative and catch up with the blood-curdling details.

The sun rose over the Solomon River. I don’t just remember after half a lifetime whether it rose over the river or not; but never mind, it rose around there somewhere and grinned red and hot like any other blithering idiot as the sheriff and I sought each other’s gore at the Central Branch Missouri Pacific depot at Osborne and all the way up the street into town for half a mile. He had greeted me cheerily as I stepped off the train and put out his hand to shake hands. I didn’t notice that it was his left hand that was proffered, which was there where I was foolish. He yanked me up to him with his left hand and delivered that ‘ton’ with his right, which was as big as a ham and the ‘ton’ was a full 2000 pounds weight. I went down between the railroad tracks and plowed up the right of way with my classic features, leaving various and sundry particles of the features among the dust and cinders along the track, coming up finally bleeding like a stuck hog. My hair was long in those days, and it got into my eyes, and with the dirt and cinders in my face and the blood streaming from many cuts and bruises I must have been a sight for gods and men. Also I was as mad and crazy as any asylum inmate within a padded cell, and as dangerous as any other lunatic. I had no gun, but tore the buttons off a Prince Albert coat to get at a knife big enough to make a buffalo stop and think twice, and made a lunge at the sheriff.

For a wonder, he had no gun on him, either, an unusual occurrence in those days, as most everybody went armed. So Mr. Sheriff was right square up against it. No coward, he, by any means; but there was but one choice. It was either run or get hacked into hamburger; and so as I reached for him with that snickersnee he jumped about ten feet toward town and kept it up, making time like a scared jackrabbit would out on the adjacent prairie. I followed, bleeding, crazed, wild and murder in my heart, and the sheriff did a sprinting stunt never before or since equaled in that vicinity, and the crowd at the station followed, yelling like wild Indians, while hundreds rushed out of the houses or stuck their heads out from doors and windows and shouted encouragement to one or the other, or both. It must have been about a half mile up town to the main business street, but we made it in record time and turned to the right and down among the business houses, scattering people right and left like tenpins, and not ten feet apart. One fellow sought to stop the sheriff and got knocked into the middle of the street for his pains. Another sought to stop me and I reached for him with the knife, and if he is not going yet I have never heard anything to the contrary.

“The Great Chase” – a sketch of the famous street race of Anderson and Hulaniski in Osborne, Kansas.

Finally Anderson dodged into a hardware store diagonally across from the old Lipton House hotel, slammed the door and turned the key, which happened to be on the inside, while I danced a Highland fling out on the sidewalk. Then mutual friends butted in and took me over to the hotel and washed some of the dirt and blood off, and the sheriff sent an ambassador over with a flag of truce and a suggestion that we declare an armistice, or submit our war to arbitration, and my recollection of it now is that the arbitration was at a drugstore soda fountain where the prohibition elixir of those days was dispensed and caused lions and lambs to lie down together, and anybody else to lie down that got three or four shots of it.

The next chapter of this drama was pulled off at Alton, in the west end of Osborne County. Eight men were arguing with me one evening in front of Hop Rinehart’s drugstore, after the usual manner of political arguments in those lively old days, and as there was eight to one I stood a good chance of getting all that was coming to me. I was as busy as a toad in a tar barrel, doing the best I could, when Sheriff Al Anderson showed up across the street, coming fast in our direction and shedding coat and vest as he came. He grabbed one little fellow by the neck and one leg and threw him bodily though the store window, and then he and I had a picnic with the rest. And after they were disposed of the sheriff and I clasped hands across the bloody chasm and bloody sidewalk and were good friends forever after.

All that sort of thing has passed away now, in the place of sod houses and straw stables are beautiful and prosperous homes. That section of Kansas is one of the richest and best in the world, and doubtless when Editor Walker has occasion to go over to the court house to interview the sheriff or anybody else he does not feel called upon to carry along any implements of war such as are now being used over in Europe. But thirty years is a long time, and people, customs and countries change. The court house when I was there was right on the edge of a trackless plain. I have shot jackrabbits from the steps of that court house, and was fined for contempt of court by Judge Clark A. Smith for trying to shoot one out of the windows while court was in session, as was one Pete Mitchell, who kept a hotel at Alton and put in most of his time coursing rabbits with a pack of hounds.

I courted and married the best woman in the world in that section, and have got her yet, thank God. Two children were born to us in Osborne County, and our little boy sleeps the long sleep there now. The country and the people are associated with pleasant memories, love and good fellowship in my mind and heart, and thousands of happy things happened, altogether different than political wars, guns and knives and black eyes and prohibition booze and gory battles, and now after all these years as I look back and see it all again; I am willing to admit that not all of the county officers were land pirates, high binders, black hand conspirators and plutocratic oppressors of the plain people, and as far as Sheriff Anderson is concerned I will go so far now as to own up that he was a good and brave man, and I don’t care a dern if he did drive that team a thousand miles in one day. Probably it was a rattling good team.” – Osborne County Farmer, November 11, 1915.

Orville Grant Guttery – 2001 Inductee

Orville Grant Guttery, son of Charles and Victoria A. Doak Guttery, was born May 4, 1886, at Alton, Kansas. Later she married Louisa May Conn at her home east of Alton on April 15, 1908.

Grant, or “Crackie,” as he was both known as, was instrumental in saving much of the early history of Osborne County. In 1928 he canvassed the entire county to discover all marked and unmarked graves of Osborne County military veterans, saving many from oblivion in the process, and led a campaign to place military markers on their graves. For 40 years he took photos of Osborne County rural schools and homes. Many of these are now the only known images left of these places, and are preserved in the Osborne County Museum. Grant also led the movement in 1930 to place a proper monument on the grave of fellow Hall of Famer and noted early Osborne County resident Hiram C. Bull.

Grant was 50 years ahead of everyone else in his thinking. As such Grant was considered a little odd or different, by even his own family. He had a variety store in downtown Alton where he repaired shoes in the back, and sold antiques and milk from a single cow. He had penny candy up front for the kids. He was an antique dealer long before there was such a thing. On the window of his store was the word “RELICS” to describe what he sold. He was a member of the Woodmen Lodge of America and was a devoted church worker in the local Methodist church. He drove a Model A coupe and derived a great deal of pleasure collecting used frames and lenses for the organization known as “Eyes for the Needy,” having sent hundreds of frames and lenses to them.

Grant’s collection of scrapbooks is on file in the Osborne City Library, Osborne, Kansas. Between these covers are many historical articles on the city of Alton and of Osborne County in general.

Louisa Guttery passed away on January 20, 1957. Grant lived alone after the passing of his wife until he also passed away, on December 16, 1959.

In 2011 Grant’s collections of stories and letters concerning the early history of the town of Bull City – later called Alton – were gathered from his scrapbooks and posthumously published by Ad Astra Publishing under the title Tales of a Town Named Bull City.

Elsie Lincoln (Vandegrift) Benedict – 2004 Inductee

Benedict Vandegrift Elsie bElsie Lincoln (Vandegrift) Benedict was born in Alton, Osborne County, Kansas on November 3, 1885.  She was the eldest of six children born to William and Adelia Vandegrift and during the 1920s became a celebrated author, woman suffragist, human analyst and lecturer on psychology.

The report announcing the birth of Elsie Vandegrift on the night of Sunday, November 3, 1885. Taken from the Alton, Kansas "Western Empire" newspaper of Thursday, November 7, 1995, Page 5, Column 2.
The report announcing the birth of Elsie Vandegrift on the night of Sunday, November 3, 1885. Taken from the Alton, Kansas “Western Empire” newspaper of Thursday, November 7, 1885, Page 5, Column 2.

Elsie grew up in Alton until her family moved to Colorado in the mid to late 1890s.  She married Ralph Paine Benedict, a publisher and nationally known lecturer and author on personality topics, on November 1, 1914, in Denver, Colorado.

Elsie was the more prominent one of the couple – Elsie was a pint sized dynamo with a booming voice who commanded attention where ever she went.  Ralph stayed in the background, but he was as essential to their success as was Elsie.

Elsie first lectured on woman’s suffrage under the name Elsie Payne Benedict in Denver, Colorado. Later she owned the Benedict Cottage at Carmel, California, which was rented by her friend, famous evangelist Amiee Semple McPherson.

She drew big audiences here in the pre-World War II decades, discussing a wide variety of subjects from choosing personality colors in clothes to fit the individual, to doing well in marriage and in business. In a 1922 lecture at Scottish Rite Auditorium, she commented, “Most people use less brains in selecting the person with whom they are to spend their lives than they do in choosing an automobile, a bicycle or a cut of steak.  Love isn’t enough; there must also be understanding.”

“Elsie Lincoln Benedict has a brilliant record.  She is like a fresh breath of Colorado ozone. Her ideas are as stimulating as the health-giving breezes of the Rockies.”–New York Evening Mail, April 16, 1914.

“Elsie Lincoln Benedict is known nationally, having conducted lecture courses in many of the large Eastern cities. Her work is based upon the practical methods of modern science as worked out in the world’s leading laboratories where exhaustive tests are applied to determine individual types, talents, vocational bents and possibilities.”–San Francisco Bulletin, January 25, 1919.

“Several hundred people were turned away from the Masonic Temple last night where Elsie Lincoln Benedict, famous human analyst, spoke on How to Analyze People on Sight. Asked how she could draw and hold a crowd of 3,000 for a lecture, she said: ‘Because I talk on the one subject on earth in which every individual is most interested – himself.’”–Seattle Times, June 2, 1920.

“Elsie Lincoln Benedict is a woman who has studied deeply under genuine scientists and is demonstrating to thousands at the Auditorium each evening that she knows the connection between an individual’s external characteristics and his inner traits.”–Minneapolis News, November 7, 1920.

“Over fifty thousand people heard Elsie Lincoln Benedict at the City Auditorium during her six weeks lecture engagement in Milwaukee.”– Milwaukee Leader, April 2, 1921.

Elsie was the author of seven books:  Famous Lovers (1927); Brainology: Understanding, Developing and Training your Brain, Elsie Lincoln Benedict School of Opportunity (1928); The Spell of the South Seas (1930); Inspirational Poems (1931); Stimulating Stories (1931); Benedictines (1931); So This Is Australia (1932); and Spain Before It Happened (1937); and two with her husband Ralph, How to Analyze People on Sight–The Five Human Types (1921), and Our Trip around the World (1925).

Around 1920 Elsie and Ralph adopted a son, Tony, in Australia.  Tony flew with the Royal Australian Air Force in Libya and after World War II returned to Australia to live.

Ralph Benedict died in 1941.  Devastated by the loss of her husband, Elsie retired from public life.  She spent the rest of her life traveling the world and visiting family.  She died in San Francisco, California on February 15, 1970.

To read a free online copy of Elsie and Ralph’s book How to Analyze People on Sight-The Five Human Types (1921), go to this link:

And be sure to “like” the Facebook page dedicated to Elsie: