Thursday, December 30, 2010

Stevens County: 1969 Hutch News interview with Claude French about Bonnie and Clyde

French held a variety of jobs
outside the gas field. He came out
in 1928 to work wheat harvest
before returning to southeast
Kansas to graduate from high
school. In 1929, he returned to the
area for good.
French was in downtown
Hugoton the night City Marshal
Charlie Newman was fatally shot
by Fred McBee: McBee had a few
alcoholic drinks before the incident
in the Jewell Cafe owned by Bonnie
Parker and Clyde Barrow — known
locally as Blackie and Jewell
Underwood or Blackie and Jewell
I was us close to the city marshal
as 1 am to you (within arm's reach)
when he got shot out here. He was
Charlie Newman. Fred McBee shot
him. They are both dead now.
I think that somebody had given
Fred a shot in this cafe. He just wa»
a little over inebriated up on Main
Street and was causing a problem
and .the city marshal was going to
take him to jail. It was '31 or '32,
right in there.
They (Bonnie and Clyde) left that

Woodsdale: Survivor Herbert Tonney's first-hand account of the Hay Meadow Massacre

As seen in the Stevens County history book, as well as Legends of America:

"I do not need to swear to the truthfulness of my story, for I have already done so in many courts and under the cross-examination of some of the ablest lawyers in the country. I have repeated the story on the stand in a criminal case which cost the United States government more money than it has ever expended in any similar trial, unless perhaps that having to do with the assassination of President Lincoln. I can say that I know what it is to be murdered.

Woodsdale: Hutchinson News Story May 19, 1933

Mabel Willebrandt May Have Had
Reason For Wanting Federal Post

Former Assistant Attorney General Checked Up on Slayers of
Young Uncle in "No Man's Land" While
In Department of Justice.

Liberal, May 19.- Everyone remembers
Mrs, Mabel Walker Willebrandt,
the thoroughgoing lady
who was a s s i s t a n t attorney general
of the United States during the
Coolldge administration.
Miss Kate Wright of this city
has her own Ideas as to why Mabel
Walker took up law and headed
her career towards that branch of
her profession which would put h e r
Into contact with the d e p a r t m e n t of
justice. She may be wrong, but
a few y e a r s ago, w h e n Mrs. Willebrandt
was holding that office,
a department of justice agent visited
Miss Wright, whose father was
Charles R. Wright, pioneer lawyer
of this southwest country-

Woodsdale: Hutchinson News Story July 24, 1920 about the Stevens County Seat war


Thirty-two years tomorrow,
.July 25, 1888, occurred one of the
tragedies of southwestern Kansas,
the Hay Meadow" Massacre, In
•which Sheriff Cross, of Stevens
• county, and a posse of four, were
all shot down In cold blood, four
of the five being killed outright,
by another posse headed by City
Marshal Sam Robinson, of Hugoton.
Tho following story of that frontier
tragedy of 32 years ago was written
by Tom -McNeal, of the Topeka Capital,
who was living in the southwest
at that time:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Castleton, KS - A Reno County ghost tow

For a fleeting moment, this little town was touched by the silver screen.

It was 1951, Francie White Grilliot recalls. She and her grade-school friends were excited to be part of the background in a Hollywood motion picture being shot on location in their hometown of Castleton - a film to be called "Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie." A wardrobe of old-time clothing was kept at the high school, and her mother, a seamstress, was charged to make it fit the extras. 

The film crew transformed little Castleton into Sevillinois, Ill., a town set in 1905. They built a fire station, barber shop, livery stable and other period pieces that were situated around the already existing post office and Santa Fe depot. And for about two weeks, Castleton boomed with activity.

But then the crew packed up and headed west, and the tiny town of Castleton, already well amid rural decline, continued its downward spiral.

The post office closed in 1957, and the red brick depot, which had attracted the eye of the Hollywood producer, was razed in the early 1960s.

"There's not much left," Francie said from the kitchen table in the farmhouse where she grew up.

Castleton, Kansas.

A view of the elevators, which are owned by Mid Kansas Cooperative

Like all towns, Castleton founders had dreams for the stagecoach stop platted by C.C. Hutchinson in 1872. Hutchinson already had founded the city of Hutchinson, which eventually would secure the county seat of Reno County. He named Castleton after his new bride's hometown in Vermont.

Much of what is left can be seen from Tom Grilliot's lane: the tall bins of the cooperative elevator, a few dozen houses and a community church. There's a dozen or two homes, as well

A faded sign on the two-story township building still reads "Sam Eichenbarger, General Merchandise," which, according to a 1970 story in The News, was seen in the film. The basic plot in "Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie" centers on a man who moves to a small town and sets up a barber shop, Tom Grilliot said, adding the movie has highs and lows for its characters.
It starred David Wayne, Hugh Marlowe and Jean Peters as Nellie. Peters was Howard Hughes' girlfriend at the time, and Hughes had hired a chaperone to make sure Peters didn't stray. Fresh roses from Hughes arrived at her room at the Bisonte Hotel in Hutchinson every morning, according to News editor Stuart Awbrey's column from the 1960s.
Awbrey said he was traveling west after the Castleton filming, so he stopped in to see the director, Henry King, who was putting finishing touches on the film.
"King was using the studio's biggest sound stage, and on it was a re-creation of what had been at Castleton a few weeks before," Awbrey wrote. "The railroad station seemed to have been rebuilt, stick for stick, and rubbed to the same dilapidated look. And, of course, the barber shop, firehouse and such might have been moved directly form central Reno County. I was stunned."
"What was that bit about getting authenticity in Kansas?" Awbrey asked.
"Well, we salvaged some scenes from our trip," King said. "But after we saw the runs out here, we decided on some script changes. And I wasn't too happy about the lighting we got in Kansas."
Thus, how much of Nellie's release was actually filmed in Castleton is anyone's guess, it seems, although Francie Grilliot says she thinks she saw herself in the film.

The town grew to 450 people. It had two blacksmiths, a livery, a depot, meat market, groceries, hotel, restaurants, hardware and a creamer, the article stated.
Then came the death dealer, Charlie Hornbaker, the unofficial mayor, told The News when the post office close.
"The auto not only ruined our town, but others," he said. "We can now go to Hutchinson in the time it took to hitch up the horses. But who'd want to go back to the horse and buggy days?"

"Like a condemned man marking time on the wall, Castleton chalks up another loss when its weather-beaten, 85-year-old post office closes its doors for the last time Friday - no longer a necessary part of the postal system, wrote News reporter Jim Banman. "The village will mark the passing, as it did the closing of the Santa Fe depot, by digging a few scoops of loam, making a mound and placing a few flowers on it."

,A memorial was erected in the 1950s to those who served their country.

The high school closed in the 1950s and the grade school a decade or so later. In 1955, the Santa Fe ran its last Doodle Bug train, and Hornbaker bought tickets so all Castleton youngsters could have the last ride to Hutchinson.
The post office closed in June 1957, and in the early 1970s moved to Great Bend. It's still on display at a museum.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Carter Spur: Wicked little town nearly forgotten

CARTER SPUR - History, it seems, wants to forget about the wicked little Rice County stop of Carter Spur.

It's been decades since the spot on the intersection where Rice, Reno and McPherson counties meet on Plum Street has been on a map. The Kansas State Historical Society doesn't mention it on its list of more than 5,000 dead towns, although Carter Spur was much livelier than some that have met the same fate.

Only a few old-timers recall the name, and most only recall a few bits and pieces of what happened here. And the only thing that is left of Carter Spur, something that marks the place of wild parties, of drunkenness, gambling and bootlegging, is a small piece of concrete slab next to the abandoned Frisco railway.

No one knows how the stop got started, how it met its final demise or even how it got the name of Carter, although an early 1940s story in The News recorded a Carter family living near Carter Spur.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dashed hopes to be Reno seat part of town's end

By Amy Bickel - The Hutchinson News -

RENO CENTER - Folks in this little settlement had high hopes it would be the Reno County seat.
Its location was prime - the center of Reno County. It already was on a freight trail, and there seemed to be plans by the railroad for a line to run through the hamlet.
"I expect to live to see the day that Reno Center will not only be a larger town than Hutchinson, but also the county seat," local resident and proponent Tom Crotts told a newspaperman in the 1870s.
Fast-forward 140 years and it's evident Crotts was wrong. Hutchinson is, by far, the biggest city in the county and it has the courthouse, to boot.
Meanwhile, Reno Center isn't even a dot on a map, the location just a no-till field south of the tiny town of Partridge, said area resident Jim French.
This, however, is more than a story of a Kansas ghost town. It's about Hutchinson's beginnings, of wheeling and dealing, of how the Santa Fe Railroad steamed into Partridge in 1886 and Reno Center was history.

Altering railroad broke Cash City

  CASH CITY - He has found a few sardine containers and some square nails around the site where a few of his ancestors once lived, noting passers-by would never know the spot amid the Clark County prairie once was home to 500 people.

There were hotels and a blacksmith, shoe and wagon shops, a lumberyard and livery. Cash City even had a doctor, a drugstore and a mercantile, along with a newspaper, the Cash City Cashier, which talked of the town's bright future.



Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Empire, Kansas continued: Leora Flook's story

Note: Also provided by Linda Andersen with Galva's museum. 
Leora Foster Flook

The Colby homestead. Joseph Colby founded Empire in around 1871. His great, great grandson, Scott Colley, is a renowned jazz bassist who used this photo for the cover of his new album, Empire.

Michael Sauer was the first buried at the Empire Cemetery, one of the few remains of this ghost town. He died from complications of being caught in a blizzard.
            I was born 6 miles south of Blairstown, Benton County, Iowa, July 8, 1867.  We owned a farm in Iowa later, but I don't know just where.  Anyway, my father decided to come to Kansas, so he came first and looked things over, bought a half interest in a store with a Dr. Fry in what was known as Empire.  The doctor was to follow his profession and in idle time help in the store.  Father also took up a claim of 160 acres, the SW quarter in Section 1-20-2.  Then he came back to Iowa, sold his farm and we moved in with Grandpa Morse's for the summer.  The 27th of April, Jessie was born and the following September, 1873, we moved to Kansas.   

Empire, Kansas continued

Note: This is provided by the Linda Andersen, with the Galva Historical Museum.

Written by Leota Lowery Beard - 1952

The only structure that remains from the town of Empire, a house moved to Galva when Empire was abandoned.

            Old Empire was a wonderful place, over 80 years ago.  Everyone was so sorry when the railroad came through, and the town was moved, two miles north and one west, then one half north, to the railroad, and the name was changed to Galva.  The name Old Empire, though, still remains to that corner of Sections 35 and 34 of Empire Township and the opposite ones in Lone Tree Township.  The town was in each township and also on both sides of Turkey Creek, which was never known to run dry in this locality.  The school house was built on the west side of the section line running north and south and on the south side of the road going east and west.  The school district was over four miles square.  This building was also used as the church.  It was a Christian Church, although among the attendance there were Methodists and Presbyterians and one Catholic family, the McVays.  Some came from many miles away as it was the first church in the community.

Empire, Kansas

The story of Lilly's Escape and Unbelievable Ride

            It was a bright June morning in 1867 when a settler named Babb said goodbye to his wife and three children and a family friend. He was taking a small herd of cattle, perhaps a dozen, to market in central Texas.

Coal Mine. Residents never found much coal, however.

            The family friend was a pretty young widow of twenty-five years. Her husband had died a few months earlier, and she was spending the summer with the Babbs on their ranch near the headwaters of the Colorado River south of where Lubbock, Texas, stands today.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Amy, Kansas a Lane County dead town

Bentz Lewis, with Garden City Coop, looks around the Amy Baptist Church sanctuary.

The Amy Baptist Church is in the shadows of the Garden City Coop.

Amy Baptist Church before it is razed. It sits on K96 west of Dighton.

An old attendance chart is part of the remains littering the church basement. Below, the school closed around 1980.

The town located just west of Dighton on K-96 once had a lumberyard and a general store. The town even had a band - complete with uniforms - and a bandstand. "It had activity," said Pat Herndon, who owns The Old Bank Gallery in the nearby county seat town of Dighton. "But it never had a big population." Amy started back in the late 1800s as Ellen - a stop established by the railroad, said Joel Herndon, Pat's son, who also serves on the Lane County Historical Society board. However, it wasn't until 1906 that the town began to thrive, and the town was renamed Amy, Pat Herndon said. Nolan Yates, who started the post office that year, applied for a permit with the U.S. Postal Service, but his request was denied because Ellen was already a name of another town in eastern Kansas. Not knowing what to name his community, Yates picked names of local teenaged girls and submitted them to the postal service. An official there picked Amy, after 16-year-old Amy Bruner. Herndon said her husband's grandfather, John Herndon, started the lumberyard around that same time as well. A grocery also opened in 1906, according to an old advertisement sign salvaged from the store that now hangs in an area farmer's work shed. It was during this time the town prospered, Pat Herndon said. With nothing more than a horse-drawn buggy to get families from place to place, residents often traveled to the nearest town for social gatherings, such as playing baseball or attending a concert. There were children's games and even a small merry-go-round with an organ music box - the riders pumping the ride to move - similar to an old-style railroad handcar. Those are just a few of the stories that former residents have passed down generation to generation, Herndon said. She herself moved to Amy in 1961 after marrying her husband, Walter. The couple lived there until 2002, when they moved into Dighton. It is also where they attended church for a number of years, she and her husband serving as youth sponsors in the 1960s.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Carneiro, Kansas - an Ellsworth County Dead town

CARNEIRO - The bells of the steeple chime in parishioners every Sunday morning at the little white church in this rural Kansas town.

And it seems it doesn't matter that the school closed years ago or that fewer than a half-dozen residents live here. Pastor Steve Holmes continues to bring a message to his 20-some-member Carneiro United Methodist Church congregation each Sunday - just as other ministers did for 125 years.

"Kansas, like the commercials say, gives you a sense of wide-open spaces," he said, noting that this ghost town of sorts "doesn't have the hustle and bustle of the city.

"I just think it's closer to God that way," he said.

Take a drive through the Smoky Hills past Kanopolis Reservoir and the Ellsworth County town of Carneiro suddenly appears amid the sloping terrain along K-140. These days, all that's left of the once-prosperous sheep shipping point are a few homes, the boarded-up school, a dilapidated general store and the well-manicured church.

Yet, the little town still has a pulse thanks, in part, to the weekly church services, as well as a monthly community potluck in the church's small addition. The town is also a tourist stop for those visiting Kanopolis Reservoir, and recent local lore suggests the area might have buried treasure connected to the notorious outlaw Jesse James.

Residents built the school in 1916 - the same year that Wellington decided to get out of the sheep business. Wellington, who also had interests in Ellsworth, including the development of an entire city block, reported to an Ellsworth newspaper that he was selling his herd due to low tariff on wool. The article said he was contemplating turning the 19,000-acre ranch into an immense sugar plantation.
The old school, however, remains, perched atop a small knoll - cracked and weedy concrete steps leading up to brick structure. The high school closed in the early 1940s, with the building staying open as a grade school for at least another 20 years.

Early founders had lofty dreams for this little waypoint along this westward path.
Before its official naming, Carneiro started as a site where the Smoky Hill Trail crossed Alum Creek, according to the U.S. Corps of Engineers. It was called the Alum Creek Station. In 1866, the Kansas City and Santa Fe Stage and Mail Line began to travel the military trail from Kansas City to Denver.
Local historian and Kansas Cowboy newspaper founder Jim Gray of Geneseo tells the story of how five soldiers were escorting a stage from Salina to Ellsworth. Though told to save their ammo, the men took "pot shots" at buffalo along the way.
"They were attacked by Indians," Gray said. "The soldiers stopped by the (Alum) Creek bank to hold off the Indians and they started running out of ammunition. Only one made it to Ellsworth alive."
The stage stop, however, didn't really prosper until E.W. Wellington came to Kansas in the 1870s. Massachusetts-born Wellington, a Harvard graduate, brought his new wife, Clara, as well as his Harvard friends and associates from Boston to Kansas, where he eventually began an extensive sheep operation in Ellsworth County.
He called his ranch Monte Carneiro, Carneiro meaning sheepfold in Portuguese. He built many houses and ranches to accommodate himself, friends and workers, Gray said.
With the large amount of sheep, Wellington, whose ranch was a few miles north of present-day Carneiro, and his group decided to develop a shipping point for the livestock in 1882, which is how the town sprang up. Businesses included a hotel, stockyards, a school and three general stores, Sneath said. According to the Kansas State Historical Society, the post office was started in June 1882.

Carneiro Cemetery is about a mile west of town

This is one of E.W. Wellington's homes, a prom. Ellsworth County rancher, biz man

Holmes said his little church began in 1885 in a school building, which was eventually razed to make way for the "new" school, built in 1916. The Methodists used the basement for services, while the Christian Church used the upstairs.In the mid-1890s, producer Henry McManes said he'd help build the new church, providing two lots and the services of his hired hands. The white church's first service was in March 1895.

One of the general stores still stands, complete with old display cases, collections and junk filling the inside, but Sneath wasn't sure if it was the one his ancestor ran.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lake City, Kansas

Resident recalls zenith of town great-grandfather founded
By Amy Bickel - The Hutchinson News -

LAKE CITY - It was a town crisis when the Lake City Bank began to fall into the street.

From her 120-year-old ranch house, Carol Lake Rogers recalls the day, noting the old green stoves that toppled into the pile of rubble from the upstairs were "probably worth a few dollars."

These days, part of the old bank still stands, looking like an open Barbie playhouse. An old bathroom sink hangs on a wall in the upper story, becoming visible after a portion of the bank crumbled down.

It's enough to cause Rogers to sigh in disappointment, saying that the town her great-grandfather, Reuben Lake, founded amid the scenic Gyp Hills cattle country is slowly chipping away.

Rogers is one of the last Lakes in Lake City, a Barber County town so remote there isn't a direct route to it. The paths are those less traveled - either dirt or a county road called River, which winds with the Medicine River all the way into Kiowa County. The community, at one time, boasted a school, two groceries, a hardware store and a hotel, as well as more than 1,000 residents in and around its vicinity. All those businesses closed years ago, their buildings either shells of a former life or broken into shambles. Moreover, she figures, there can't be much more than 50 people surrounding the town.

The hills and trees, mixed in with several abandoned buildings and homes, also make the perfect setting for an aging ghost town.

"It's sad to see these little towns go," she said from the home built by her grandfather, Riley Lake, in 1886. "When autos got plentiful, there was really no reason for people to stay here."

An old ranching town

Sitting in the home her grandfather built for his first wife, a beautiful stone ranch home on the edge of the city, Rogers calls herself the keeper of Lake City's archives.

While she didn't grow up in town, her parents sent her to live with her grandmother and Riley Lake's second wife, Pearl Lake, in the ranch home when school was out for the summer.

Rogers said Reuben Lake and his band of seven other men rode to the Gyp Hills to take advantage of the government's Homestead Act, which granted each 160 acres if they improved the land.

"My grandfather, Riley, who was 10 years old at the time, drove one of the wagons," Rogers said.

With some hostility still coming from the area's Native Americans, the small colony went back to northern Kansas for a short time, returning sometime in 1873.

That's when the town began to form, thriving as a commerce center for those who farmed and ranched amid Barber County's hills and valleys, Rogers said, noting her great-grandfather had a sawmill by the river for a while, until it burned down. But by then, Lake City was prospering with two groceries, a blacksmith, a hardware store, a hotel and the bank.

A post office opened in December 1873 and, at one time, Rogers said, it served more than 1,000 residents in a small area around the city.

There also was a gas station, grain elevators, a telephone company, livery stables and a high school. There even was a doctor and a drugstore, she said.

Ronnie Hoagland, who lives in town and still operates the family ranch in the area, lives in the home he bought 40 years ago for just a few thousand dollars. He recalls when the school was open, the gas station was a fuel stop and grain was hauled to the now-abandoned elevator.

His daughter, Kim, said she used to get money to buy fudgesicles at the local grocery.

However, the grocery, she added, has been gone for years.

Lake City today

These days, a few things remain of Lake City, remnants Rogers is amazed are still standing.

An old Gano elevator sticks up amid the weeds and trees in the center of a city block - right along the lines of the abandoned railroad track. The old blacksmith shop is wide open - a couple of plastic lawn chairs set up on the cement base. Some homes sit abandoned and the old school has long been closed.

Three old gas station pumps sit side-by-side in front of the boarded-up shop. There's also an old red pay phone, which, amazingly still has a dial tone.

"You'd be surprised how many people use that," she said. "You can't really get a cell phone signal out here."

The Lake City Methodist Church still has services and serves as a meeting place, Rogers said.

Yet, the only businesses that remain these days include a part-time concert yard/art business operated by Kenton Ray in front of the abandoned school. Ray, who works at the gypsum mill in Medicine Lodge, hopes to expand the business once he retires in a few years.

The other is the seasonal elevator, only open during harvests. The elevator sits next to abandoned ghost tracks, complete with railroad crossing signs. The last train went through in the 1990s.

"It was Memorial Day weekend," Rogers said. "We were having our annual alumni dinner and the last train went through and tooted its horn on a Sunday."

She paused for a moment, then added that it was sad to see these little towns go and folks move away. However, she couldn't imagine living anywhere else. She and her husband, Grant, moved into the old Lake homestead in the mid-1990s upon retirement.

"We could have lived anyplace we wanted to," she said. "We wanted to live here in spite of the drought, the wind and the heat in the summer and the cold in the winter."

Road sign points to Lake City
Railroad is gone, but elevator operates during harvest seasons
The old elevator, surrounded by weeds, trees.