Lee Arlo Wykoff was born March 10, 1898, in Mayetta, Jackson County, Kansas. He was the eldest child of Charles and Ethel (Haynes) Wykoff. The family moved from Mayetta to Mitchell County, Kansas, and then to Osborne, Kansas, where Lee became an outstanding athlete in football, baseball, and track. He graduated from Osborne High School in 1918 and enrolled in Washburn College at Topeka, Kansas, and became the football team’s starting fullback. In 1920 he earned Little All-American honors at his position and later enrolled at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri. On February 17, 1920, he married Nada Hayes in Topeka, Kansas. They had two children, Dorothy and Robert. After graduation from college Lee began a career in professional wrestling. The first few years were a learning experience.
“The wrestling match at the Crystal Theatre last Wednesday evening between Lee Wykoff of Gravette, Arkansas, and Albion Britt of Luray [Kansas] drew the largest crowd that ever assembled at a like sporting event in this city. The paid admissions were in the neighborhood of $165.00 and a good share of the crowd was composed of ladies who appeared to enjoy the sport equally with the men . . . Britt was on the offensive every minute after they finally got into action and won the first fall with an armlock and head chancery after forty-six minutes of strenuous work . . . Britt won the second and deciding fall in twenty-five minutes, using an armlock and body scissors. Britt showed up to mighty good advantage in every stage of the game and easily outclassed Wykoff in quickness and knowledge of the game, and apparently his equal in strength and endurance. Wykoff is strong, persistent, and courageous, but did not appear to have the finish of his stockier opponent.” — Osborne County Farmer, April 22, 1926.
But over time Lee emerged as one of the nation’s greatest scientific wrestlers whose strength was feared by any opponent unlucky enough to fall in his grasp. He stood six feet, one inch and weighed 195 pounds in college, bulking up to 225 pounds at the height of his wrestling career. Lee was noted as a good influence for youngsters in that he did not smoke, drink, or chew. For a short time he wore a mask and wrestled under the name of “The Big Bad Wolf.” But it was under his own name that Lee at last reached the pinnacle of his profession between 1940 and 1945, when he was declared champion heavyweight wrestler of the world by the Western Association of Chicago. During that period Lee was also named world champion twice by the Boston circuit of professional wrestling and in Los Angeles he won the International Heavyweight Championship, a title he held for four years.
“It isn’t often that a little town like Osborne turns out a world champion,” said the Osborne County Farmer at the time, “and we can be pardoned if we boast a little and take on a little reflected glory.”
Lee settled his family on a forty-acre hog farm on the outskirts of Kansas City, Kansas. His wife Nada died in 1935 and Lee then married Eleanor Lampert on September 17, 1938. During World War II he helped the war effort by working in a bomber plant in Kansas City. At the end of 1947 Lee retired from wrestling and worked his farm, supplementing his income by working in security for an assortment of employers. Lee was an active member in the Masonic Lodge and for a time he was president of the Retired Wrestlers Club. He was a deacon in the White Church Southern Baptist Church, where his funeral was held after Lee passed away April 30, 1974, in Kansas City. He was interred there in the Chapel Hill Cemetery. Together with his brother, Dick, the Wykoff brothers’ legendary feats in sports will be remembered in Osborne County for many years to come.
The businessmen who flocked to Osborne County in the 1870s often lasted only a few years before moving on. Not so Frank Peter Wells–the business he began stayed in his family nearly a century. Frank was born January 28, 1850, in Cortland, New York. At the age of five his parents moved to Illinois. Frank attended high school and graduated from the Woodbury Preparatory College at Polo, Illinois.
In 1869 he went to Iowa for two years, and then it was on to Blackhawk, Colorado, where he worked as a miner, a pharmacist, and in the post office. Nine years later he joined a brother in operating harness shops at Brookville and Marquette in Kansas. In October 1879 he came to Osborne and opened the Wells Harness and Repair Shop, which he managed for the next fifty-seven years. In time his son Frank Edward, and later his grandson Max, managed the business. Between them the family owned the business ninety-one years.
Frank married Mary E. Fultz on November 10, 1879, at Marquette, Kansas. They raised six children: Mary (Dottie); A.; Charles; Nettie; Wallace; and Gertrude. In Osborne Frank was elected to the city council and was prominent in planting the first trees in the city park. In 1884 he was elected a member of the local school board, a position he held for twenty-six years.
From 1913 through 1916 Frank served two terms as Osborne County Register of Deeds. He was active in civic and social circles, particularly the Masonic Lodge, of which he was a member for fifty-three years. Frank Wells took care of the needs of two generations of Osborne County settlers and farmers until he passed away June 9, 1936, in Osborne and was laid to rest in the Osborne Cemetery.
In its early years Osborne County consistently attracted many young enterprising businessmen who exhibited the necessary desire and hard work ethic needed in order to be successful. Foremost among these was Winfield Washington Watson. Watson’s rise as a prosperous and influential business leader began with his arrival in Kansas in 1880. Over the next fifty years his leadership earned him considerable state and national recognition, a distinction which has earned him a place in the Osborne County Hall of Fame.
Watson was born November 29, 1848, in West Creek, Kankakee County, Indiana. He was one of the ten children of John Watson and Sarah Jane Patterson. His early years were spent in West Creek and Wilmington, Illinois, where he worked on the farm of Milton Butts and drove a team of oxen, often working by candlelight. In due course he courted and won the heart of his employer’s daughter, Clara, whom he married on April 14, 1870, at Monence, Illinois. They had one daughter, Florence. In 1873 Watson moved his family to Monence, Illinois, to join his brother William in the grocery business.
In 1879 the Watsons moved to Osborne, where he erected a frame building and opened a general store. Six years later he organized the Exchange National Bank and served as its first president. A two-story stone structure was built on the northwest corner of Second and Main Streets for the bank that housed several other businesses also, and the town’s first library.
Watson also served on the board of directors for the proposed Omaha, Dodge City, and Southwestern Railroad. The route for this line ran northeast from Dodge City through Jetmore, Hays, Osborne, Downs, Cawker City, and Jewell in Kansas. As with most railroad schemes of the time, the plans fell through and the line was never built.
“Those were great days,” Watson recalled years later, “Days when men dared big things and either won or lost. If they won, good and well; if they lost, they promptly forgot it and turned their attention to something else. And so it was with our enterprise.”
In 1889 Watson moved his family to Salina, Kansas, where he became president of the American State Bank. He also served as president of the Acme Cement Company, who furnished most of the material needed to build the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. By 1900 he had returned to the grocery business and formed the Watson, Durand-Kasper Wholesale Grocery Company. Watson was also president of the Duncan Shingle and Lumber Company in Kansas City, Missouri, and served on the board of directors of the Denver, Colorado-based United States Airways (later known as United Airlines). In 1912 Watson organized and headed the Meridian Road Association, which led the way in U.S. Highway 81 becoming the first surfaced highway across the United States, a move that was instrumental in attracting industry to Salina. His last important commercial venture came in 1921 when he built the Watson Theatre, which was later sold and renamed the Fox. Currently it is known as the Stieffel – Watson Theatre.
Watson was a staunch Republican and was considered one of the “Big Four” delegates at the 1920 Republican National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, whose influence secured the presidential nomination for Warren G. Harding. In his later years he was universally respected for his leadership and generosity–a reputation enhanced by his donation of 4,200 U. S. flags with which schoolchildren welcomed the Civil War veterans attending the state Grand Army of the Republic Encampment at Salina in 1925. He was a member of the Methodist Church and the Masonic Lodge. And once a year he would make a special trip to Osborne to visit old friends and the town he still cherished from his younger days.
Mrs. Watson passed away in April 1925. The next June Watson married Mrs. Esther Williams, and for five years the couple lived in contentment. Winfield Watson died at his home December 4, 1931, shortly after his eighty-third birthday. He was buried in the family mausoleum at the Gypsum Hill Cemetery in Salina.
“Zachary Taylor Walrond was born in Hart County, Kentucky, April 3rd, 1847. His birthplace is about six miles from Glen Lily, the birthplace and home, when not in public life, of [former Vice-President] General Simon Bolivar Buckner of Confederate fame and about twenty miles south of the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. Conrad Walrond, the father of Z. T. Walrond, was a prosperous farmer of a genial happy disposition. It was always a joy to the young people to visit the home of ‘Uncle Conrad.’ It meant a season of sunshine and good fellowship. The Walrond family are thought to be of English descent. Emily Mitchell, the mother of Z. T. Walrond, was of a Scotch-Irish family, her mother, Rachel Crawford, was of the old Virginia family, bearing the name, which has produced so many men distinguished in Church and State, Art and Literature.
Z. T. Walrond was known in early boyhood as ‘Taylor’ Walrond, in compliment to his namesake, the twelfth president of the United States. As he grew older he seemed to dislike the name and he was called by his abbreviated first name, ‘Zac,’ with the unanimous consent of those most directly interested, who soon learned to use the new name by which he was ever afterwards familiarly known among his relatives and friends. His early education was in the common schools of his native county. Later during the Civil War he entered the Male and Female High School at Columbia, Kentucky; at that time this town was one of the centers of learning for the Green River Country in Kentucky. After a time at this school he returned to his father’s farm and engaged at this occupation until the fall of 1867 when he again entered the Academy at Columbia. While in school he united with the Presbyterian church and being of exceptional promise as a student and with rare social qualities he was solicited to become a candidate for the Presbyterian ministry, to which he consented and was taken under care of the Presbytery with this calling in view. His zeal in study overtaxed his powers and he suffered a physical breakdown and left the school in the spring of 1868. After this he engaged for some time in active outdoor life to regain his health, teaching school in the winter until the spring of 1870, when he decided to seek his fortune in the West, coming to Kansas in the spring of 1870. He has left on record April 3, 1870, as the exact date of his settlement in Kansas, this being his twenty-third birthday. At that time the Arapaho and Buffalo roamed at will over the hills, valleys and plains of Western Kansas. In company with two brothers of the name of Crosby he selected a preemption on the North Solomon River in Osborne County.
Z. T. Walrond was one of the first, if not the first to obtain full legal title to land in this county [Osborne] from the United States. His patent is dated January 20, 1872, and bears the name of [Ulysses] S. Grant, then president. Albert Wells and J. J. Wiltrout, now a banker at Logan, Kansas, were among his comrades and neighbors at that time. They were all then young men, fond of adventure, and with high hopes for the future. They lived in a stockade in what became extreme northwestern Bethany Township as a defense against Indian raids, enduring the privation of frontier life for the purpose of a home and independence in a material way. He gave the name of Bethany to the township and post office [later known as Portis], being appointed the second postmaster and first justice of the peace in that vicinity. After paying out on his preemption he homesteaded adjoining land and remained on his homestead until the fall of 1873.
Z. T. Walrond was elected register of deeds, November 4, 1873, and took the office in January 1874, making his home in the city of Osborne after that time. Later in the year 1874 he had built the residence in Osborne which still stands at the corner of First and East Streets. In December 1874 he was united in marriage to Mary Duncan Smith of Horse Cave, Hart County, Kentucky, immediately bringing his bride to Osborne to occupy the new home. During all those early years Z. T. Walrond took an active part in laying the foundations of organized society. He was in the forefront of every movement for the public kind, generous and hospitable. He had a warm place in the hearts of the people. He himself has said he never had better friends anywhere than the early settlers in Osborne County. He loved them and was loved by them in return. He held the office of register of deeds two terms, retiring in January, 1878. During these early years he studied law and was admitted to the bar. After retiring from the office of register of deeds, he formed a partnership with the late [Robert] G. Hays (who died a few years ago at Oklahoma City) for the practice of law; later this partnership was dissolved. On January, 1879, he entered into partnership with J. K. Mitchell, and this partnership continued four about four years under the firm name of Walrond & Mitchell; later Cyrus Heren came into the firm and the business was conducted under the firm name of Walrond, Mitchell & Heren. This partnership was dissolved January 1, 1890.
Z. T. Walrond had a retentive memory and kept a record of current events, from which between 1880 and 1882 he compiled a history of Osborne County and Northwest Kansas known as the Annals of Osborne County, a history of the decade of the 1870s that is a mine of information for all later historians. He was elected county attorney of Osborne County in fall of 1880 and held this position for two terms, from January 1881 until January 1885. He was elected county representative to the Kansas Legislature November 2, 1886, re-elected November 6, 1888, and was a member of the Legislature when appointed United States District Attorney for the Indian Territory by President Harrison in the spring of 1889. During his second term in the legislature he was a candidate for Speaker of the House, but was defeated because he would not pledge himself in advance in the matter of appointments under control of the Speaker, deeming it of more importance to be free to use his best judgment in such matters and preferring defeat to being fettered. His action in this probably aided in calling attention to the character of the man and in securing his selection as United States Attorney on the recommendation of the United States Senator, Preston B. Plumb, who was particularly anxious for a man with unquestioned integrity and firmness to be chosen as United States Attorney for the Indian country. Mr. Walrond held the position of U. S. Attorney for four years, until the spring of 1893, when he was relieved by the incoming Cleveland administration, being succeeded by a Democrat.
After his retirement from public office he continued to reside at Muskogee, Oklahoma, engaging in the practice of law, being called into the public position again as Referee in Bankruptcy and afterwards chosen police judge of Muskogee. He discharged his duties in every public trust with honor to himself and to the satisfaction of his fellow citizens. He was frequently attorney for the Indians and enjoyed their unbounded confidence.
He leaves to mourn his loss his wife and one daughter, Lucile, three children–Virgil, Warren, and Annie–having died in infancy and whose remains rest in the Osborne Cemetery. He has a sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Hutcherson, residing at Portis, Kansas, a brother Madison in Nebraska, another sister, Mrs. Martha Hatcher and one unmarried sister, Alice, still living on the old Walrond homestead in Kentucky. An older brother, Thomas, was a Federal soldier in the Civil War and died before the war closed from disease contracted in the service The circle of his friends is only limited by the extent of his acquaintances which is not confined to state lines. He had been in failing health for several months and spent some time at Sulphur Springs, Arkansas, during the last summer in the hope of regaining his health but gradually became weaker. He suddenly became worse on Monday, November 2nd, and was taken to the hospital in Muskogee, where he had a specially trained nurse and the best of medical skill, but nothing could prolong his life and he peacefully and without a sigh breathed his last on one o’clock on Friday morning, November 6, 1914. While he lay in the hospital his friends made his room a bower of roses. Flowers beautiful beyond description covered his grave.
As before stated he connected himself with the Presbyterian Church in Kentucky, there being no church of that faith when he came to Osborne, he united with the Congregational Church and remained with that body until his removal to Muskogee, where he reunited with the Presbyterian Church, was chosen an Elder and at one time represented his Presbytery in the General Assembly as a Commissioner. He became a member of the Masonic fraternity in Kentucky and remained a member all his life. His pastor, Reverend J. K. Thompson, conducted the funeral service and his body was escorted to the grave in the Greenhill Cemetery by the entire local membership of the Masonic Lodge. The Bar Association of Muskogee was present in a body. Hundreds were unable to enter the outer portals of the church. At the conclusion of the church service the body was placed in care of the Knights Templar and their brother Masons. The active pallbearers were uniformed Knights Templar, while the honorary pallbearers were deacons of the church of which Judge Walrond had been a member for the last twenty-five years of his life. He was the oldest lawyer in the state of Oklahoma in rank of admission to the bar in that state. Few men have gained and held so high a place in the esteem of all classes of people through a long period of years. He was always kind, gentle and considerate of the feelings of others, rarely wounded anyone or made an enemy; at the same time he was always firm for the right as he saw the right.
One of nature’s noblemen such as we do not look upon every day but whose lives leave the world richer for all time by reason of their sojourn here. Requiescat in peace.”
— John Knox Mitchell, cousin, in the Osborne (KS) County Farmer, November 19, 1914.
Hudson Orville Turner was born on February 8, 1900, on a farm six miles west of Portis in Lawrence Township, Osborne County, Kansas. The son of Hudson and Mary (Caldwell) Turner, he attended the Portis schools. During his senior year in 1919-1920 Hud was the captain/coach of the high school basketball team, which earned a trip to the state tournament. After graduation he was a student at Ashland (Ohio) College for a term and Kansas Wesleyan University at Salina for another. At a track meet for Ashland Hud scored 27 points, finishing first in the 100-yard dash, 200-yard dash, standing broad jump, running broad jump, standing high jump, running high jump, and pole vault. From 1920 to 1925 Hud was a regular on the legendary town basketball team, the Portis Dynamos, and was also a formidable horseshoe pitcher.
After college Hud worked in sales.On June 28, 1931, he married Nina Marie Tetlow at her parents’ home north of Downs. Nina, the daughter of Fred and Katherine (Hull) Tetlow, was born on the family farm in Lincoln Township, Smith County, Kansas, on July 17, 1908. She graduated from Downs High School and the Kansas State Teacher’s College at Emporia. Nina then taught school at Solomon, Kansas, and at the Downs Grade School in 1927-1931. She and Hud had two daughters, Jeanette and Marjorie.
After their marriage Hud worked for eight years as a car salesman in Smith Center and managed the five farms owned by the Turner family. In 1943 he was appointed postmaster at Portis and served for the next 27 years. Hud became vice-president and a director of the Portis State Bank. During World War II Nina served as a substitute teacher in the Portis schools and in the Portis post office as a clerk. She also worked at the J. C. Penney Store in Smith Center. Later Nina was the assistant cashier at the Portis State Bank and, like her husband, served on the board of directors.
For 38 years Nina’s weekly columns as the Portis news correspondent for several area newspapers allowed thousands of people to keep track of what went on in the Portis region. Hud served on the Portis City Council and was instrumental in promoting the Kirwin Dam and Irrigation District.
Both Hud and Nina were involved in the Order of the Eastern Star. Hud was also a member of the Masonic Lodge while Nina was active in Delta Kappa Gamma. At a time in their lives long past when most people would have settled into quiet retirement, both Hud and Nina remained busy with civic and social activities. Nina served on the Portis Pride Committee, the Portis Reunion Committee, and in the Portis Christian Women’s Association. Hud was a cooperative observer for the National Weather Service from 1972 until his death. A passionate angler and bowler, he was state singles bowling champion in 1974 and again in 1980. In 1982 he was team captain of the Portis Dynamos (named after the old basketball team), which won the state seniors team bowling tournament. And at the age of 81 Hud took up public singing, performing in churches, senior centers and other public forums.
Hud and Nina Turner were active members in the North Central Kansas Tourism Council, promoting economic development through tourism across the region. To this end they backed the establishment of a memorial in Portis to Melvin Millar, native son and animator of Porky Pig, in 1992.
Hud Turner passed away in 1998, followed by Nina in 2001. Their decades of achievements and community service earned them many friends and admirers. Hud and Nina will be forever held with the highest esteem and respect among their fellow citizens, who honored them in 1996 with an induction into the Osborne County Hall of Fame.
John B. Taylor was born at Junius, New York, September 1, 1853, and passed away at Concordia, Kansas, April 13, 1926. John grew to manhood and then taught school and farmed. He came out West to Exeter, Nebraska, in 1876. On April 21, 1878, he was married to Jennie Linn Graves at Exeter. To this union were born seven children, three of whom preceded him in death.
John began his mercantile career when he moved to Alton on June 6, 1878 into a small, frame building in the south part of the business section and with a stock which would invoice at little more than $1,600. He soon needed more room, and as Hiram Bull offered John a lot and a half interest in the wall if he would build adjoining his own store building which stood on the corner north of the then-city fire department quarters. Mr. Taylor accepted the offer and built a two-story building with full basement adjoining the General Bull store building.
Early in the year 1881 E. M. Beal, of Junius, New York, came to Alton and a partnership was formed with John. In 1886 the City Hotel was purchased and the building razed to provide a place for a new store. Beal and Taylor, as the firm was styled, built the two-story part of the native stone building and equipped the upper rooms for offices, which were rented out. This structure housed the business until 1898 when increasing business again demanded larger quarters. The space between the store building and the First State Bank was built up, making another large room which was used as a store room.
During 1903 John purchased the buildings and lot east of the store building and built still another addition. The east wall was taken out and the part which now houses the shoe and clothing department added, thus converting the whole into one large room. This made the Taylor Store the largest in town and the largest company of its kind in all of northwest Kansas. After 1908 John no longer actively engaged in the mercantile business and it was managed by his son, Grover. During the time John was in business in Alton he bought other city property and several farms nearby. John was a member of the Masonic Lodge, Occidental Lodge, and the Odd Fellows.
John staked his place in almost every office from Alton mayor to Kansas state representative. He was elected as Osborne County Representative to the Kansas state legislature in 1902 and was re-elected for two succeeding terms. The fact that he was re-elected for two terms speaks for the splendid service he rendered his people while serving them in this capacity. It was during this time that John’s health broke down, and he was not permitted to enter the race again for representative. After twenty years of hard toil with public service he retired to Kansas City, Missouri. Here his wife’s health broke down. They then left for Whittier, California, hoping that she might recuperate, but she passed away January 13, 1919. Since that time John lived with his daughter at Concordia, Kansas, until his own passing. After a brief funeral service his remains were interred in the Sumner Cemetery near Alton.
During the last few years of his life John Taylor made frequent visits to Alton and always took an interest in Alton and Osborne County people. He was a man who was highly respected by all who knew him and probably the greater amount of his success can be credited to his integrity in business affairs. As stated in the Concordia Kansan newspaper at the time, “It was an honor to know and to have the friendship of John Taylor.”
John Taylor left a record behind him that your children might well be proud of. His life, from schoolteacher, farmer, town councilman, school board member, to state representative – serving from village to state – you will do well to follow as an example.
Hugh Albert Storer was a farmer, stockman and politician who was born in Alton, Osborne County, Kansas on February 13, 1889. The son of Charles and Elmira Storer, Hugh grew up on the family farm near Alton and continued to operate it the rest of his life. He married Ethel Sproal on August 20, 1915 at Bloomington in Osborne County. Together they raised a son, Everett, and a daughter, Lois.
Hugh served as Osborne County’s official weather observer for the National Weather Service from 1908 to 1965. He was honored by the National Weather Service for lifetime achievement in 1949 with the Thomas Jefferson Award, awarded only to those who have achieved “unusual and outstanding accomplishment in the field of meteorological observations”.
Ethel passed away in 1935 and two years later Hugh married Rachel Hart on June 1, 1937. That same year he began the first of five terms as Osborne County’s State Representative to the Kansas Legislature, completing his last term in 1946.
Hugh also served as secretary of the Farmers Union and on the local school board, as well as with the First State Bank in Osborne, Kansas. After a few years Hugh ran for public office once again, this time serving a four-year term as Osborne County Commissioner from 1953 to 1956. He was a member of the Alton Masonic Lodge for over 50 years.
Hugh passed away in Salina, Kansas on October 15, 1967. He lies buried in the Osborne Cemetery at Osborne, Kansas.
For three quarters of a century the store kept by the Stephenson family was a cornerstone of business not only for the town of Alton, Kansas, but also for a large region comprised of Osborne, Rooks, Smith, and Phillips Counties in northern Kansas. Edward Albert Stephenson, or “Ned” as he was known, was born April 8, 1871 at Beeton, Sinicoe County, Ontario, Canada. He was the son of William and Juliaetta (Harrington) Stephenson.
A few years after Ned’s birth his mother died and the family then moved to Galesburg, Michigan, where Ned started school in 1880. Three years later the family moved to Bull City (Alton), Kansas, where William opened for business both as a cobbler and as the proprietor of a mercantile store. On January 1, 1892, he opened a two-story native stone building located at the intersection of Mill Street and Nicholas Avenue.
Ned continued his schooling in Alton and attended Gould College in Harlan, Kansas. In the spring of 1898 he returned to Galesburg and there married Blanche Louise Blake on March 9, 1898. They then returned to Kansas and moved into rooms over the store. Their son, Robert (“Bob”) Blake, was born July 29, 1907, in Alton. William Stephenson died in 1900, and Ned and his two siblings, Richard and Emma, took over the store until 1927, when Ned and his son Bob bought the business. A member of the Congregational Church, Ned was a very caring and careful businessman. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, when times were hard for everyone Ned mortgaged his farms in order to sustain groceries at the store for his customers. He was generous in support of the families in the area; for one Christmas during this time he canceled $10,000 in grocery bills for local residents, but later expressed his disappointment in that many people didn’t appreciate his gesture. They were upset and even angry because they thought that he was giving them charity.
Ned and his family moved to a house in town after living above the store. In 1910 they then moved onto the General Hiram Bull homestead on the east edge of Alton. The next year Ned bought their last home, the farm a mile south of Alton that included the South Solomon River and the Alton Bluffs. Ned was a baseball player (the catcher position) and a fan. He donated the land for the Alton ballfield and was a member of the Alton Businessman’s Club, where the members would purchase their own chairs to sit in at meetings. In later years Ned could be found sitting inside the store waiting to greet his friends and acquaintances when they came to do their shopping. He passed away December 9, 1958, in Alton and was buried in the nearby Sumner Cemetery.
Bob Stephenson attended the Alton schools and then Kansas State University in Manhattan. After his buying of the family store (together with his father) in 1927 Bob transferred to the Kansas City Business College in Missouri to complete his education. On April 16, 1933, he married his high school sweetheart, Opal Tucker, in Alton. In 1942 the Stephenson Store celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in business and was named the oldest business in Kansas then operating under its original ownership. Bob entered the U.S. Army in February 1943 and the business was sold to Jim Fuller. Bob went on to serve with distinction in the 87th Division in Europe and returned home in October 1945, when he repurchased the store from Fuller.
Bob was an ambitious and likable man who was interested in all worthwhile projects that benefited the community. He served as mayor of Alton and also as city councilman, and was a member of the Masonic Lodge, the American Legion, the Order of the Eastern Star, and the Evangelical United Brethren Church. On June 2, 1966, he suddenly was stricken with a heart attack and passed away. A sorrowing community buried him in the Sumner Cemetery. Bob’s wife Opal sold the business that July, and after 74 years Stephenson’s Store was finally closed for good. The stone building was torn down in the 1980s.
Downs News & Times, Thursday, May 2, 1929—“The county seat high school athletes walked off with the field and track meet held in Downs last Friday and [also] wound up the day’s activities by breaking the state record on high jump, the feat being accomplished by Junior Stambach, who cleared the bar on the high jump at 6 feet and three and one-half inches, breaking the state record to smithereens.”
* * * * *
Osborne County Farmer, May 2, 1929— “One of the most marvelous athletic feats ever performed in Kansas was that of Fred Stambach, Jr. of Osborne, son of Mayor and Mrs. Fred G. Stambach of this city, last Friday at the [county] track meet in Downs, when he made a record high jump of 6 feet, 3 and a half inches. This feat not only broke the county record for high jump, but it broke the state record and the world’s interscholastic record by a half inch.
“Stambach is a junior in the Osborne High School and along with being a record-breaking athlete he is also an honor student in academics. Stambach’s high jump will no doubt stand as the county and state record for many years.”
* * * * *
Fred Garfield Stambach, Jr. was born on July 7, 1912, in Osborne, Osborne County, Kansas. The son of Fred and Carrie (Nation) Stambach, Fred’s interest in jumping went back to the time when he was in the seventh and eighth grades at Osborne and won the high jump and other events at track meets held in Covert in central Osborne County.
Fred wrote the following in 2002 on his high school sports experiences:
“In 1928, the year I was a junior in high school, I had never seen a basketball game. I have no idea why we never went to another town to see one. Transportation wasn’t all that easy, and I guess after football season, we just weren’t interested.”
“In the fall of 1929, after football season, our coach decided since the new gym would be completed by January, that we should learn the game. Only a couple of the boys, who had moved in from out of town, had ever played.”
“At that time the old grade school building was still standing just west of the new high school. In the basement was the furnace that furnished steam for the radiator upstairs, and showers for football players.”
“There were steampipes, running upstairs, in the basement along the upper part of a dressing room. We learned to shoot a basketball by shooting over those pipes. I believe we did practice outdoors, for a while after football season, but that didn’t last long, as it got too cold.”
“We were to play Downs, I think in early January , as the new building would be finished by then. This was to be at the dedication of the new gym. It was a great place to play and had boys and girls showers, and all that modern stuff. Wonderful.”
“In order to five us some practice the coach scheduled a game with the Portis second team. Portis had pretty good teams, so they weren’t all that bad. The game ended with a score of 11-9. I don’t know who won the game.”
“When we played Downs, to dedicate the new gym, I’m sure Downs won, but I don’t think any of us on the Osborne team disgraced ourselves.”
“In high school, in my freshman and sophomore years [1927-1928], I was second in the high jump in the county and district track meets. In 1929 and 1930, I won the high jump in the state track meet in Emporia . . . I remember one of the meets was in the rain. In 1930 I won the high jump at the KU Relays and [also at the] Missouri Valley Conference Championships in Manhattan. Since the school [Osborne High] didn’t have the money, or weren’t interested, I paid my own expense to these meets.”
“In the county track meet in Downs I guess I did jump 6 feet 3.5 inches, although there was always some doubt in my mind about it, as I never did it again until I was in college. In those days the takeoff was bare ground and the landing was in a pile of sand. The cross bar was a bamboo fishing pole, I would guess not always straight. I have wondered if maybe the pole didn’t sag and I jumped over the lowest point.”
“I never used anything but the scissors style [in regards to high jumping-style]. I tried the roll a few times but never felt comfortable with it. One week the track coach in college told me as long as I was winning, I’d better not change.”
* * * * *
In reviewing Fred’s amazing feat, it bears repeating that he was only a junior in high school at the time. With that single jump he broke not only his school’s record but also the county, district, state, national, and world’s interscholastic records – six records in all. Only a few hours later a high school senior in California claimed the world interscholastic record by jumping an inch higher than Fred, but there was great pride throughout the county in Fred’s accomplishment, as he was a world champion, even if only for a short time.
Fred’s mark stood as the Osborne High School record for the next 80 years.
Ted Hayes, Executive Director of the Kansas State All-Sports Hall of Fame at Wichita, Kansas , inducted Fred Stambach, Jr. into the Osborne County Hall of Fame in 2006. In his induction speech Ted put Fred’s record jump in perspective to today’s athletes.
“The 1929 AAU national high jump event was won at a height of 6 feet, 4 inches, and the NCAA collegiate high jump title that year was won at a height of 6 feet, 4 inches. We had a high school kid here, 16 years old, that was jumping as well as the greatest jumpers in the world that we know of. This would be like if we had some kid in one of the small schools here in this area high jumping 8 feet today, because today the world record is a little bit over 8 feet. Can you imagine the sensation that would cause to have an eight-foot high jumper coming out of a community like this? That would be the equivalent of what Fred Stambach did back in 1929.
“Back in Fred’s day, he was the best high jumper in the state, period. He was the best high jumper in the nation, period. One of the really great accomplishments that kid did, as I understand it, is that he went on to become the mayor of Osborne, and later a county commissioner, and was obviously very successful in whatever he endeavored to do. So with a lot of hard work, dedication and natural ability, he was able to achieve great things.” – Ted Hayes.
* * * * *
Fred’s track records are as follows:
7th & 8th grade– 1st in high jump
1927—2nd in high jump in county and district
1928—2nd in high jump in county and district
1929—1st in county in high hurdles, high jump, and broad jump
1st in state in high jump
1930—1st in county high jump, high hurdles, and pole vault
1st in district in high jump and high hurdles
1st in state in high jump
1st in Missouri Valley Championships in high jump
His success continued after he enrolled at Pittsburg State College in Pittsburg, Kansas:
1931—Placed in conference high jump
1932—Placed in conference high jump
1933—1st in conference high jump
2nd in KU Relays high jump
1934—1st in conference high jump
1st in Hastings Relays high jump
1st in KU Relays high jump [set Relays & Pittsburg State record with a jump of 6 feet 5.25 inches]
1st in Drake Relays high jump
1st in high jump in prestigious Central Intercollegiate Championships in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
* * * * *
After college Fred marriedCrystal Amanda Leeka on June 28, 1935 in Pleasanton, Kansas. They had two daughters, Niki and Judith. Fred moved his family back to Osborne and in 1938 took over the Stambach Memorial Works family business from his father. He was active in community and county affairs and served on both the Osborne School Board and the Osborne City Council. A member of the Masonic Lodge, Fred was President of the Osborne Rotary chapter and was twice Vice-President of the Osborne Chamber of Commerce. Fred was also elected mayor of Osborne and from 1971 to 1974 he served a term as Osborne County Commissioner.
* * * * *
“Last year Fred found out something about what age does for a former athlete. He went to Los Angeles to take part in the Senior Olympics after duly noting the previous games the year before produced a 4’5”high jump that took first place.
“This looked like easy pickings to Fred, so he entered and devoted only eleven days to training for the Los Angeles meet. He beat the 1971 mark by one inch that was good enough for third place, but he was amazed how four feet grew since his college years.” – Osborne County Farmer, September 6, 1973.
* * * * *
Fred Stambach, Jr. passed away on May 10, 2003, in Lenexa, Kansas, and was laid to rest in the Osborne Cemetery. After his passing an Osborne County Historical Marker was placed at the Downs High School track that was the site of Fred’s greatest sporting achievement. The marker text ends with this homage: “Let the memory and significance of Fred Stambach’s world record jump serve as an inspiration to all student-athletes who utilize this very same track and field in aspiring to their own dreams.”
One of the noted attorneys in Osborne County history was Edwin Parker Sample. While some sources list him as having been born in 1878 in Downs, Kansas, this is incorrect, as the city of Downs did not come into existence until 1879. Edwin Sample was born in April 1875 in Pennsylvania. At the age of twelve he moved with his parents, J. C. and Ella Sample, to Downs, where his father became a prominent furniture dealer and undertaker. Edwin attended the local schools and was a member of the first graduating class of Downs High School in 1895. He then attended Washburn College at Topeka, Kansas, and the University Kansas at Lawrence, where he graduated from law school in 1899. He immediately returned to Osborne County and commenced the practice of law in Osborne, Kansas. Edwin was at once nominated for Osborne County Attorney and defeated the incumbent, taking office in 1901. He served one two-year term before being defeated himself. It was not until 1909 that he was elected once more to the position, and served two full terms until he stepped down in 1912 and formed a law partnership with J. R. Reed of Smith Center, Kansas.
Edwin Sample was a noted speaker and in the days of his teens he was a great high school debater. As county attorney his eloquence was largely responsible for sending two accused murderers to the state penitentiary. Later the firm of Reed and Sample succeeded in clearing Will Ward, who lived north of Alton, of the charge of murdering his brother Enoch. As practically an unknown lawyer he was selected one year as one of the principal speakers at the annual Kansas Day club banquet. He electrified the audience with his eloquence and his reputation as a speaker was made. He was an extremely popular man who possessed a very sunny disposition and was given to much laughter and always looking at the brighter side of life. He was initiated into the mysteries of the Masonic rites in 1904 and was a member of Saqui Lodge in Osborne until 1928. In 1907 Edwin was elected mayor of Osborne and served a successful two-year term. His popularity was so that he was listed in the book Men of Kansas in 1905.
On June 21, 1905, Edwin married Florence Morton in Osborne. A daughter, Kathryn, was born to this union. In 1908 Florence Sample died and on December 28, 1911, Edwin married for the second time, to Augusta Flintom at Lawrence, Kansas. With her he had two more daughters, Edwina and Betty Lou.
In 1913 Edwin and his law partner Reed moved their law practice to San Diego, California, much to the sorrow of his friends back in Kansas, where he was one of the best known citizens of Osborne County and Northern Kansas. His popularity with everybody continued at his new home in San Diego. Ed was elected to two terms in the California State Senate in 1919-1926 and in 1936 he was a candidate for U. S. Congress on the Republican ticket. His law practice was extensive and he became one of the best known attorneys and citizens in Southern California. Edwin died from a sudden heart attack in his home in San Diego on August 27, 1939, and was buried there in the Cypress View Mausoleum.