The Grange

Following another rabbit trail from the Scott stories, Bob Alexander brought in a few items related to S.C. Scott.  Scott was a member of the Gillispie Grange here in Morris County.  His name was on a receipt for that Grange.  When Alexander brought the Grange to my attention I was just about as ignorant as one could get on the subject.  I had heard nothing of the Grange in Morris County.  So far I can’t find anyone who knows anything about it.  Even the Historical Society hasn’t surrendered any information.

John Maloy gives brief mention of the Grange in his History of Morris County.  In 1876, there were at least twelve Granges in Morris County.  None of these Granges are mentioned by name.   After scouring Alexander’s papers I have learned enough about the Grange to give us a start.  The Grange is separated into geographical divisions if you will.  First the National Grange, then the State, next are district Granges called “Pomona” (one per county), and finally the subordinate such as the Gillispie Grange.

The Patrons of Husbandry National Grange was established in 1867 by Oliver H. Kelley, an employee in the Department of Agriculture.  The Grange was designed to assist farmers with any problems they might face.  Such as drought, tornado, fire, expensive machinery, high fees for silo storage, outrageous rail fares for shipping crops and high interest and mortgage rates.  One way Granges succeeded in assisting farmers was to buy grain by the car load saving from ten to fifteen percent, and passing the discount on to the farmer.   This was the beginning of the Cooperation we know today.

Many were attracted to the Grange and by 1870 it had more than 1.5 million members.  Unfortunately, the Panic of 1873 caused interest and membership in the Grange to drop off dramatically.  Many Granges had purchased more machinery than they were able to pay off, and so they suffered the consequences.  By 1880 there were only 100,000 members. The Patrons of Husbandry still exists today but does not have the power that it did in the beginning.

Although we do not know the details of our local Granges, I suppose they suffered from the same misfortunes and that would explain why numbers dropped from twelve in 1876 to two in 1914 (three by the end of that year) and then up to eight in 1916.

One of the principles that shaped the Grange was temperance.  Kansas was a dry state and the Grange took pride in keeping it that way.  Also, legislative committees were organized to encourage our state to keep their employees at a minimum so as to make taxes less burdensome.  I find this a novel idea.  They also endeavored to improve the roads and rails to make hauling grain easier for the farmer.  Charity was also cultivated amongst the Grangers, making sure that those in want were provided for.  And last but not least, the Grange provided its own insurance.  As shown in the 1914 records for Kansas it came in pretty handy too.  There were 29 losses by fire, 27 losses by tornado, and 140 losses by lightning amounting to $21,631.81 that was paid for by insurance.

A sense of community and a moral attitude were also generated by the Grange.  As stated in the National Grange Journal of 1914, their purpose was to “meet together, talk together, and work together for the improvement of agriculture, and the upbuilding of a better citizenship among ourselves.”  In next week’s article I’ll share the Home Dedication Ceremony as prescribed by the Grange.  In this we’ll see the Christian faith as a strong presence in the organization.

Application was made October 20th, 1915 to organize the Gillispie Grange no. 1715 in Warren Township, Morris County.  By October 27th it was officially recognized by the State.  The previous year there were three Granges in Morris County.  Dwight no. 1595 boasting 68 members, Lairds Creek Valley Grange no. 1617 with 61 members, and Round Grove Grange no. 1618 with 47 members.  By 1916 the Granges in our County had increased to eight.  Added to the above were, Lull no. 1677 which met in the Lull school house on the 1st & 2nd Fridays; Spring Creek no. 1731 meeting in the Spring Creek school house on the 1st & 3rd Wednesdays; Beman no. 1734 meeting in the Beman school house; and finally Sunny Side no. 1744.

There were Grange Halls much the same as Masonic and Odd Fellow lodges, and in fact the manual has ceremonies concerning the building and opening of a Grange Hall.  I am not aware of any Grange Halls present or past in Morris County, as you can see from above, our local Granges tended to meet in the school houses.

For those interested in their family’s connexion (sic) to the Grange I list the names from the Gillispie roster.  The date for this roster is not known, likely circa 1915.  R.H. Bryon, H.B. Bryon, J.D. Buchman, Lewis Buchman, Charlie Banka, John Banka, L.C. Campbell, J.W. Campbell, John Clark, F.J. Clark, Charlie Edens, Albert Edens, Nelson Graham, O.R. Gillespie, Dewey Gillespie, Emory Gillespie, Geo. E. Hebrank, Frank Hebrank, Albert Hebrank, Oscar Holzhey, Lew Holzhey, Fred Holchert, A.C. Karnes, Vernon Karnes, J.M. Litke, Dave Litke, Lewis Litke, A.B. Leeds, John Litke, Homer Mitchell, Albert Mitchell, Clerance Mitchell, Frank Nagle, Jerry Omera, Pat Omera, Marcy Paige, Geo. Roll, J.C. Reily, B.H. Rader, A.M. Roberts, E.R. Stewart, S.A. Stewart, Ernest? Steward, Roy Smith, Clyde Smith, D.F. Smith, Herbert Stuard, Harold Slack, John Slack, S.C. Scott, H?F. Wiley, W.H. Watts, Joseph Watts, Lewis Zeigler, Herman Zeigler.  The women folk were Minnie Acuff, Ruth Bryon, Pera Bryon, Mrs. H.B. Bryon, Mrs. R.H. Bryon, Mrs. Charlie Banka, Johanna Clalk, Grace Edens, Mary Edens, Annie Edens, Lettie Gillespie, Catherine Gillespie, Mrs. Emory Gillespie, Mrs. Geo. Hebrank, Mrs. Frank Hebrank, Mrs. Lew Holzhey, Ethel Holzhey, Mrs. A.C. Karnes, Mrs. John Litke, Mrs. Albert Mitchell, Josephine Omera, Mrs. D.J. Omera, Mrs. Marcy Paige, Mrs. Geo. Roll, Mrs. J.C. Reiley,  Ethel Reiley, Mrs. E.F. Rader, Mrs. S.A. Stewart, Mrs. Ernest? Steward, Mrs. W.P. Slack, Ruby Slack, Mrs. D.F. Smith, Mrs. Joe Watts, Miss. Nellie Watts, Mrs. Lewis Zeigler.  Names are spelled as on roster, I’m sure some are incorrect.


The Patrons of Husbandry encouraged the custom of naming the rural home. In several states it was possible for the name to be copyright registered and protected by law. The postal service recommended it to aid in the rural mail delivery.

The Ceremony of Dedication as prescribed by the Patrons of Husbandry was to be used outdoors, on the lawn near the home. The name that was to be given the home was placed upon a banner and hung upon the porch or the side of the house next to where the ceremony was to take place. The letters on the banner were to be cut from gold or silver paper and the banner could be decorated with flowers, vines or evergreens. A motto may also accompany the name, something such as “Home Sweet Home” or “There’s No Place Like Home.” This banner would remain covered with some light weight material until the unveiling.

The Grange officers, consisting of the master, overseer, steward and chaplain would be gathered near the altar. The musicians and choir were located on the porch. The family to dedicate their home were in the inner circle near the altar, and all their neighbors and friends in a larger circle around them. Once everyone had taken their seats the ceremony begins.

The officers commence with much verbalization and great solemnity and pomp. Then the chaplain is addressed to offer up a prayer unto God. “Our Father, who didst establish the first home in the garden thou didst plant eastward in Eden, we ask Thy blessing upon this home which we would this day dedicate to Thee, to our country, to humanity and to all that tends to the highest, best and purest earthly life. We ask Thy blessing upon all true homes. We ask Thy blessing upon that wider home, our native land. Grant Thy blessing upon the inmates of this home, “lift up the light of Thy countenance and grant them peace.” Bless all who are assembled here. “God bless us every one;” and when we are done with these homes of earth, bring us all to our heavenly home, to the mansions not made with hands, where the flowers fade not and the fields are ever green. Amen.”

Then the choir stands up and leads “The Dear Old Farm,” a song from the Grange Song Book.

“I love the good old farm,

The dear old peaceful farm;

Its fields are green and its skies serene,

I love the dear old farm.”

Next the master speaks of the forefathers and the importance of the Holy Bible and writing its precepts in our hearts. “It contains the secret of happy living; it contains the key to heaven; it contains the pearl of great price; a guide to the children, a fortress of strength for those in the battle, the sunshine and shadows of life, and a comfort to the aged pilgrim.”Then the chaplain presents the Bible on the family altar, and everyone sings ‘Nearer My God to Thee.’

Now we have the flag march. Three boys and three girls (members of the Juvenile Grange if available) dressed in red, white and blue, or wearing red, white and blue sashes or ribbons are headed by fife and drum or with marching music such as Yankee Doodle or Hail Columbia. The girls in the front rank, the center boy carrying the American flag on a pole enter the circle and march three times around the circle and stop in front of the altar facing the master. The master tells how the flag is world respected and that it’s the emblem of liberty and law, encouraging the family to protect and uphold it. The flag is waved above the altar and then ran up a pole nearby or fastened securely to a stake by the altar. Everyone removes hats and joins in military salute for a moment of silence, then ‘America’ is sang.

The lecturer delivers a well formed speech on the importance of education in the home. A few highlights are, “What sculpture is to the block of marble, education is to the human soul. Education commences in the home, at the mother’s knee. The mother sows the good seed before the world has sown its tares…Home should provide food for the mind as well as for the body…Good books educate, elevate, encourage, cheer.” When concluded, the lecturer places a book of poetry and prose upon the altar.

A skit representing Ceres, Pomona and Flora is now presented. Ceres was worshiped in ancient times as the goddess of agriculture; Pomona the goddess of the orchards and gardens; Flora the goddess of flowers and vines. Three ladies representing each of these goddesses approach the altar and leave their gift upon it. Ceres brings corn and grain in hopes that the farm will be fruitful. Pomona places a basket of fruit, and Flora leaves a basket, wreath or bouquet of flowers on the altar. Between each presentation the chaplain offers thanks to God for each blessing.

Another song from the Grange book is sung, ‘Bud and Bloom.’ The three goddesses and the master recite the following. “CERES: First, the Springtime, Childhood, preparing the soil for the seed, the season of Faith. POMONA: Second, the Summertime, Youth, planting and cultivating the crop, the season of Hope. FLORA: Third, the Autumn, the Manhood and Womanhood, the harvest time, the season of Charity. MASTER: Fourth, the Winter, Old Age, the season of enjoyment in the Home of the rewards which come to all who have labored with Fidelity in the other seasons.”

An alcohol lamp is now lit and remains so for the rest of the ceremony. The chaplain says, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven.” Next the chorister, organist or leader of music lays a scroll of music on the altar. “Trusting that music and song may ever brighten and cheer this home.”  Another song is sung and then the steward makes an address about how the Grange teaches kindness in caring for dumb beasts. “A merciful man is merciful to his beast.”

Finally, we are brought to the unveiling of the name. With a flourish of music or a drum roll, a small child pulls the chord that causes the cloth to fall away from the banner proclaiming the name. Everyone then repeats in unison, “And-we-name-thee-“ then spelling the name of the home and in the fashion of a college cheer, shout the name three times. ‘Home Sweet Home’ is then sung. The family circle is formed around the altar with friends surrounding the family, and all sing ‘Blest Be the Tie that Binds.’  With this the formalities are finished and the ceremony ends with the singing of ‘God Be With You Till We Meet Again’ and the ‘Doxology.’ The rest of the day is spent in visiting, food and refreshment and recreation.

So, as you can see the Grange had a deep rooted foundation in Christianity. Family, Faith and Friends were very highly valued, and in all things God was acknowledged for the good received in their lives. Life’s priorities seemed to have been put in the proper order by these old timers, and knowing this makes living and working a great joy.


I was compelled to limit material for previous articles to keep from exhausting my readers.  This week I’d like to take a musical interlude and lay before you a couple of tunes that were omitted before for space sake.

If you can remember back to B.R. Scott, you might recall his favorite hymn ‘The Gate Ajar.’  I searched through all of my old hymnals, of which I have quite a number.  As I ran my eye down the index of each book I finally saw ‘The Gate Ajar.’  It was number 298 of ‘Great Revival Hymns Number Two.’  As I flipped through the book to 298 I found the page missing.  How disgusting.  What little imp would take the one page of interest and leave the rest?  Well, anyway, I told my frustrating story to Ken McClintock and he said he would keep his eyes peeled for the song.  Two or three weeks passed and Ken presented me with an 1883 ‘Songs of Free Grace.’  He wandered into an antique store one day and was thumbing through some hymnals when he found this one.  He promptly purchased the book and relieved my affliction.

The words to ‘The Gate Ajar for Me,’ (this is the full title) were written by Lydia O. Baxter about 1872.  The tune is accredited to Silas J. Vail on, and to Phillip Phillips in ‘Songs of Free Grace.’  The tune is in 6/8 time and is very similar to the melody ‘There is a Fountain.’  Cyberhymnal also shares this story of Maggie Lindsay who lost her life in the railroad catastrophe at Manuel Junction, Scotland.   “All was packed, and rea­dy for her go­ing home to Aber­deen, her school-days be­ing over. At 6:35 on Tuesday morn­ing, the train for the North start­ed; and she, with her eyes up­on her hymn-book, the leaf turned down at her best-loved song, “The Gate Ajar for Me,” tast­ed once more of the love of Je­sus. The aw­ful ca­tas­tro­phe took place; and the col­li­sion with the min­er­al train left her se­vere­ly in­jured, and the page of hymn-book stained with her blood. Dur­ing the two days of suf­fer­ing that fol­lowed in the house to which she was moved at Man­uel, the scene of the rail­way ac­ci­dent, she oft­en whis­pered and sang the words of the hymn which was to be her song till death. The min­is­ter who watched by her said the ex­press­ion of her coun­te­nance could not be de­scribed as she again and again re­peat­ed the words, “Yes, for me, for me!”  Without further ado, ‘The Gate Ajar for Me.’

There is a gate that stands ajar,
And through its portals gleaming
A radiance from the cross afar,
The Savior’s love revealing.

That gate ajar stands free for all
Who seek through it salvation;
The rich and poor, the great and small,
Of every tribe and nation.

Press onward, then, though foes may frown,
While mercy’s gate is open;
Accept the cross, and win the crown,
Love’s everlasting token.

Beyond the river’s brink we’ll lay
The cross that here is given,
And bear the crown of life away,
And love Him more in Heaven.

Refrain:  O depth of mercy! Can it be
That gate was left ajar for me?
For me! For me!
Was left ajar for me!

Another song that tickled my fancy was found in Bob Alexander’s ‘Grange Melodies.’  This book is about six by eight inches, bound in red cloth with faded gilt letters.  It was published in 1915 and cost about 34 cents when new.  This book contains some pretty good music and some great lyrics.  The following is my personal favorite.


Some curious weeds I might mention, That lend to the landscape no charm, To one let me call your attention, Keep politics off of your farm. Tho’ weeds will with politics mingle, Potatoes with politics fail, Devote your whole mind to your business, And make every effort avail.

Just keep an eye open to business, Keep posted but stick to your text, Don’t be disconcerted by trifles, And don’t be too easily vexed.  Don’t spend all your time riding hobbies, Predicting distress and alarm, You’ll find it a great disadvantage To grow politics on your farm.

Oh, this is an age of advancement, And kings are the “sons of the soil,” But political schemers and “bosses” Full many an effort will foil.  Pray, take this advice as a warning, You’ll find it will work like a charm, Apply yourself strictly to business, Keep politics off of your farm.

Chorus: Keep politics off of your farm, Your crops they will certainly harm, If you would successfully labor, Keep politics off of your farm.

             For many this song still rings true today.

Samuel C. Scott

Samuel C. Scott

This week we get a look at early Morris County as told by Samuel C. Scott, son of J.P. who we’ve read about previously. Sam was born on the family farm north of Council Grove July 2nd, 1875.

Sam is very good about representing life on the farm at the end of the nineteenth century. When Sam was very young, he and his father went to Enterprise to have some wool carded. He tells how his mother would spin wool and make socks for the kids. He also tells of his mother making straw hats for them. While Sam and his sister were out herding cattle one day, a storm came up and blew his rye straw hat away. A cow snatched it up and devoured it, so he went without for the rest of the summer. Another early recollection of his, was accompanying father on a trip to Parkerville. They went to buy leather harness for the big black mules Jack and Joe. John Moser was the harness maker, and he presented young Sam with a strip of leather that he played with as a whip.

Sam tells us that he remembers seeing the ‘Pottawatomie’ Indians camped on the S.S. Snodgrass farm north of Council Grove. These were not the Pottawatomie, but the Ponca Indians. I am quite amazed at Sam’s memory; he would have been less than two years old at the time. The Ponca were the last of the Indian tribes to be moved to Indian Territory. About 150 of the tribe came through Council Grove in late May of 1877. The remainder of the group, about 550, came through a month later and camped on Little John Creek close to where the Allegawaho Memorial Park is located south of Council Grove. I’m afraid I can’t reconcile the differences in Scott’s history and other historical accounts. Most likely, Scott is a bit off target on his recollections, the numbers are about right, but the location is wrong. Scott says, “Dogs I never saw so many in my life. They were a hard looking bunch, poor ponies… when they departed the women with the young ‘papoose’ rode on a rig consisting of a pole on each side of a pony, back end dragging the ground. A few old skins and blankets hung across these poles on which was perched the mother and child…I can remember [three?] Indians sitting on their ponies for hours looking down at our old shack.”

Sam relates some stories that the old timers told him about the grasshopper plague, as it happened before he was born. Sam Pierson lived up north of town on Munkres Creek. He came to town during the siege of grasshoppers. When asked if there were many up his way he replied, “Gosh, yes, thousands and millions of um. Yes by gum, units of them.” Many folks complained of holes being eaten in their hoe handles and other hand tools. Mr. Pierson said they had ruined a good log chain of his. An Irishman, Frank Doran, went to run the hoppers off of his cabbage patch. He tripped and fell on a clod of dirt and before he could get up, the hoppers had eaten holes in the back of his pants. Peter Clarke witnessed an extra big hopper sitting up on a cottonwood limb and acting as brigadier general. He waived the rest of the army on to Bumgarner’s field.

Scott also relates, “Wells Brand said the hoppers sure showed him up to his neighbors by leaving the weeds all stand and going into John T. Sharp’s field of corn.” Also, “George Biglin said an old gobbler ate so many hoppers he had to send for John T. Sharp to operate on said turkey. Sharp’s testimony in the case was that the old gobbler had eaten about three bushels of them.”

Brothers Dick (driving) and Sam Scott (standing next to Dick) representing the Modern Woodmen of America in a parade in Council Grove. The buildings in the background were razed in 1959 but located on the north side of Main Street just west of the Neosho River Bridge. (Courtesy of Carole Day.)

My favorite story related by S.C. Scott was told to him by Mr. Charles T. Forster. This event happened in 1875. Forster’s family tended cattle, and in those days Morris County allowed stock to roam free. Fields and gardens were fenced in, and folks had to herd their cattle. There was a calf that the Forster’s turned out with the mother to graze. For some unknown reason the calf was starving. When young Forester went out to herd the cattle one day he came across an astonishing scene. “On approaching the herd he noticed the big white cow standing in a peculiar style and as he drew near he could see two large bull snakes sucking the cow and two steers were horning and pawing at the snakes. The snakes released their hold on the cow’s teats and began to wind around the steers front leg and neck and in a short time had the steer down. So now was the time to interfere, the ox whip was plied (sic) so fiercely that the snakes released and disappeared in the tall blue stem grass. However, the cause of the calf’s leanness was found.”

Scott shares his own encounter with the snakes of Morris County. “I remember when I was fourteen years old my brother R.C. (Dick) and myself were out trying to locate a wolf’s den, it was between sundown and dark. He had an old army musket and I had a bow and arrow. I got tired and laid down in a slough of high grass about one-fourth of a mile from where the snakes had encountered the steers and cow, but some fourteen years after. I was rolling around and first thing I knew a big snake got around my body. I got up and started screaming and running towards Dick. I could see the snakes head dangling in front of me and I ran and clawed with both hands. I soon saw my brother coming toward me, the snake had released and fallen to the ground. We looked afterward for the reptile but never could find it.”

Among other snake records of Morris County, Scott says his father J.P. killed a timber rattle snake that had twenty-nine rattles. Mr. McGoldrich and C.T. Forster were reported to have killed a snake that measured seventeen feet six inches in length. This monster was caught in Council Grove northwest of Frank Flemings produce house.

S.C. shares one of the dangers the early settlers had to fear.  “A great prairie fire was raging from the north coming down the divide between Munkres Creek and Short Creek and a gentleman of Kentucky stock lived on a farm at the intersection of these two streams by the name of Warren Johnson. He was one of the men that came to Morris County in the early ’50s and had some real pioneering. But a young man living up the divide was much alarmed at the fire and mounted on a pony started south yelling, “fire, fire” as he passed the settlers shacks. He finally reached the Johnson homestead and rode up shouting, “fire, fire.” Being about ten o’clock at night he could not see the clothes line which caught him fair under the chin and hurled him ten feet in the air. He lit yelling, “My God Johnson, I’m killed. I’m killed.” Johnson who had stepped out on hearing cries of fire, said, in a stern tone of voice, “You’re making a hell of a fuss for a dead man.”

Here’s one of the recollections of Scott while in Council Grove. “I remember entering the little city of Council Grove just when Mr. Virgil Roberts was having considerable trouble getting the ‘Old Mule’ to take him and the street car up the grade going west on the bridge. He and the mule had trouble and the mule turned around and gave him the ‘Mule Daugh.’ However, Mr. Roberts finally mastered the situation and with some help got in on the schedule time, no damage or loss except Mr. Roberts ‘cud’ of tobacco.” Scott gives the impression that the street car was a flop.   Therefore, the mule and car was sold to Strong City, where I’m sure it was every bit as successful.

S.C. wrote a biography on his brother J.P. Jr.  A story is mentioned in this biography that I have found nowhere else.  It claims that B.R. Scott and a Mr. Munkres owned a butcher shop in Council Grove.  There was a Frenchman employed as butcher.  Two Kaw Indians came in and placed the butcher’s head on the chopping block and removed it for him.  The two Indians were then hung from the bridge spanning the Neosho.  So goes the story.  To date Ken McClintock and I are not aware of B.R. having owned a butcher shop.  And what’s more perplexing, decapitation is very out of character for the Kaw.  If this did in fact happen, it had to have been between 1869 and ‘73.  It’s possible it could have been Indians from a different tribe, or perhaps it was just blamed on the Indians.  Until we can find more substantial evidence supporting this story, all we can do is wonder.

This photograph on display at the Kaw Mission in Council Grove arrested my attention. I don’t believe it confirms the story of the beheaded butcher but it is alarmingly coincidental. I just can’t believe they found time to have their picture taken before they were hung.

Isaac Scott

This week our subject is getting a little closer to home.  Isaac Scott, brother of B.R. and J.P. Scott, is my great, great, great grandfather.  Isaac was born in Belmont County Ohio, October 12th, 1834.  Like his brothers B.R. and J.P., he was also a carpenter.  We don’t have as much information about Isaac since he came to Kansas later than his brothers.  An entry from J.P.’s day book dated April 20th, 1877, reads, “received of B.R. Scott $25.00 in part for share of sale of the old homestead in Ohio, sold to Isaac Scott.”  This was about a year and three months after their father Richard Scott had died.  So it appears that Isaac continued on the family farm for awhile after his father’s passing.  It is stated in family history that he devoted most of his life to the mercantile business while in Ohio.

Isaac was married to Julia Miner, and there were eight children born to this union.  Their second child, Lettie M. Scott died at the age of 22 on October 19th, 1885.  The details are not known, but the following year (1886) the first daughter was married, and I suppose she remained in Ohio, after this Isaac moved to Council Grove with the remainder of his family.  It is stated in the family history that he ran a large shoe store here in Council Grove for a number of years, until his health failed.  So far I’ve found an advertisement from December 25th, 1885 for B.R.  Scott and Estlin owning a boot and shoe store, but I’ve not found Isaac mentioned.  It’s likely that Isaac managed the store for his brother.

All else that is said of Isaac shows that he was an upright Christian involved with many church activities.  He didn’t seem to be politically minded, and was classified as the “Abraham Lincoln” type.  He would rather give than to take so much as a cent from anyone.  He was quiet and conservative, and his disposition was the very kindest, his temperament even and considerate.  Isaac Scott departed this life December 4th, 1914, in Council Grove.  His lovely wife Julia was past 80 years old when she departed this world February 16th, 1919.  They lay side by side peacefully resting in the Greenwood Cemetery.  And that is all we know of Isaac Scott.

Dick, Hattie, Jennie and Lizzie Scott 1892.

This brings us to Dick Scott, third born of Isaac and Julia.  Dick is my great, great grandfather.  Dick and his wife Lizzie lived north of Delevan.  You may still see the ruins of their home to the south end of the old air field.  If I remember right, I believe Whitman’s own the property now.  Dean Miller had told me about the connexion that his family had with mine.  The Millers and Scotts were neighbors, and they apparently shared a lot of stories, work and recipes.  Anyone who knows Dean knows about the famous black walnut taffy pull he has at his home around Christmas time.  Well, Dean told me that Dick Scott’s name is on the original recipe and that it was given to his father by Dick, and ever since it’s been a tradition to make the taffy at Christmas.  I must say, I think it’s the best taffy made, sure wish I could get that recipe.

Dick and Lizzie had two daughters, Hattie Dee born 1889, and Jennie May born 1890.  Jennie May is my great grandmother.  Jennie’s sister Hattie is my great, great aunt.  Hattie continued in this area all her life.  Most of you may remember her as Hattie Gilbert.  She married Columbus Gilbert in 1912. Those who would know Columbus would remember him as ‘Lum’.  I remember as a small boy coming to Council Grove with my grandparents to visit great aunt Hattie.  One visit I recall, Hattie looked at me and my grandpa and asked, “Now, you two are married?”  She hid a little grin as she asked, because she knew very well.  I believe since she was over one hundred folks expected her to be a tad senile, so she wanted to play with them a bit. My great, great aunt Hattie passed away here in Council Grove, approaching the age of 104.  When asked the secret to her longevity she replied, “Pizza and Oreos.”

Orville and Jennie Varner’s wedding picture; February 10th 1910.

If anyone has memories they would like to share about Hattie or anyone mentioned in this story, please feel free to come in and talk with me.  Or you can write me at 210 W Main St. Council Grove, Ks. 66846.  As always, I encourage anyone and everyone to write down your memories and family history and send a copy to the Morris County Historical Society.   The stories that make Council Grove or any community rich, is not so much the names and dates of National consequence that are crammed in our head at school, but the everyday ‘goins on’ of the people who lived here.

Addenda 8-7-12:  I finally found an ad in the Council Grove Guard for Isaac Scott’s shoe store.  It first appeared Friday June 8, 1888 and reads, “ISAAC SCOTT-Dealer in-Dry Goods-Notions, boots and shoes-Stock new, bought very low for cash, and will be sold at hard time prices.  We have the exclusive sale of the Gieseke boot and shoe.-Sims’ new building east Council Grove.”  Sims’ new building was torn down a few years ago.  It was located at the corner of East Main and 5th street near the NAPA.  NAPA bought the lot and had the building torn down and turned into a parking lot that they sell trailers from now.

Like the rest of his brothers, Isaac was also a Civil War veteran.  He served as a sergeant in 180th Ohio Infantry, Co. F.  Benjamin and James both served in the 77th Ohio Infantry Companies G and K respectively.  The youngest Scott brother, Howard, died a prisoner of war in Libby Prison and was buried in an unmarked grave.

James P. Scott

A few weeks ago, we got a more personal look at B. R. Scott.  His personality, character and business endeavors.  This week I’d like to tell you about his brother James P. Scott.   J.P. and B.R. came to Kansas in 1869, and the two of them engaged in the building business in Council Grove.

When the Scott brothers came here in 1869, there were still a few buffalo roaming the prairie.  J.P. had a hankering to exercise his sportsmanship with such big game.  He went on a buffalo hunt and succeeded in bringing one down west of town on Canning creek.  His brother B.R. had the Kaw Indians tan the hide for him for a total of $5.00.  That winter J.P. returned to his home in Ohio to pack up his family and bring them back to Kansas.  He presented the buffalo robe to his father.

J.P. headed back to Kansas with his family in the early part of March 1870. They left from New Matamoras and traveled by steam boat down the Ohio River to St. Louis Missouri.   From there they took the train to Council Grove, Kansas, arriving about 6 p.m. on April the 1st, 1870.  They were a dirty tired lot when they came into town.  On their arrival, they stayed with brother B.R. and his family for about a week while J.P. made arrangements for their new home on Short Creek.  A team of ponies was purchase for $90, a new wagon for $110, and a harness for $50.  The Scott family loaded up the wagon and headed for their new farm.

This photo was found in an apartment in Emporia, Ks. in 1994. The reverse says it is ‘Will Scott brother of J.P.’ I assume this is brother of J.P. Jr. and son of our subject.

They settled on a 40 acre plot on Short Creek, about 6 miles north and one mile west of Council Grove.  J.P. paid $1000 in cash for it, and discovered later he could have bought a whole section for that.  It didn’t get him down though, he was a hard worker and made improvements to his property over the years.  Starting out, all they lived in was a sixteen by twenty foot log shack with a fireplace, a ladder leading to the garret and a full basement lined with native stone.   This cabin was one of those erected in the 1850s when folks started settling in the Neosho Valley.  The property also came with a log stable, smoke house, rail fence and a hand dug well.  All these amenities attracted J.P.  In the fall of 1880 J.P. began building a new home for his family on Short Creek.  The house was built of “magnesia rock” quarried on the Scott farm.  J.P.’s son, Preston and a bachelor by the name of Jack Springer, dug the cellar, cut and hauled the rock all that fall and winter.  The stone was piled to a height of ten feet around the building site.  A German by the name of Henry Holthouse did the mason work.  The house was finished in 1881 and said to be the finest house on the creek.  By the time J.P. died in 1888, his farm had grown to 240 acres.

Of the many buildings that remained to J.P.’s memory after he died, we have a list of a few of them.  He built the Robert McPherson house which was owned by R.M. Collier in 1928.  The Scott brothers built the Saunders Mill, which was located about where Williams Fertilizer is. They also built the M.B. Nicholson residence, which burned down long ago.  J.P.’s son, S.C. Scott tells “How one of the big barns my father built 55 years ago (1873) is still in fine repair.  Some of the features of the buildings is the fact that no nails were used in the construction, and all the frame timber was native stuff, sawed and hewed out on the farm.  Soon after that my father built a flour mill.  We called it the “Bradford” mill.  It was located some 300 yards south and east of where Mr. A.J. Bell now resides.”  According to Ken McClintock, the Bradford Mill, otherwise known as “Peerless Mill,” was located about where Eric Nelson lived north of Council Grove.

Saunders Mill some time in the 1940s.

In the Snodgrass-Scott family history, it is stated that J.P. built the Lull schoolhouse, and later when their needs had outgrown the first, he contracted to build another.  Here’s an excerpt from the book.  “J.P. Scott built the schoolhouse, District 14, Neosho township, in 1871.  He was a member of the school board and was class leader and Sunday school superintendent there.  A preacher by the name of Whooten of Christian Disciple faith preached there.  People came for miles to hear him, some coming as far as 20 miles to church.  They rode in an old lumber wagon on a board.  A son, S.C. Scott, was the last person to conduct Sunday school service in the district.  In another school building, some quarter mile north of the old one, also built by his father, J.P. Scott, that last service was in 1900…”  J.P.’s oldest son Preston shared some of his recollections of his early school days.  “My first term of school in Kansas (four months) was in an old log shack, now district fourteen, Neosho Township, Morris County, Kansas.  The seats were slabs with legs bored in, rough and hard.  There were no desks.  An old maid by the name of Victory Downing was my first teacher, followed up by Jim Rinard (a cousin of my father’s) and a “dumb-dory” we called Jim Hadley.”

While I was doing some research at the Historical Society I found the first record from the Lull schoolhouse.  Dated August 16th, 1881, it shows James P. Scott as the director,  F. Doran was the treasurer and William P. Snodgrass the director.  Fifty-eight students were listed as attendants for that year.  The teachers were J.W. Collier and V. Downing.  Both teachers were employed for twelve weeks, Collier receiving $30 and Downing only getting $28.  According to the documents I found, the name Lull was first used in 1892, and it seems to have stuck ever since.  Lull Meadows that we know today is the second Lull schoolhouse.  It was moved to its present location before the reservoir was built to prevent it from resting in a watery grave.

The Scott brothers have contributed a great deal to our town from the beginning and some of their work is still with us today.  So let us appreciate and do our part to maintain it so that later generations can enjoy it.  After all, builders like these will be no more and work such as theirs cannot be reproduced, except at great expense.  Their work is the face of Council Grove.

Response to a Reader

By Derrick Doty

I must interrupt my thread on the Scott family and make an effort to correct a portion of “If These Walls Could Talk.”  One of my readers came in to the shop and informed me she was bothered by a statement I had made.  The statement in question is as follows.  The rest of the day was spent in speechifying, drinking, toasting, drinking, eating, drinking, and so on and so forth.  Our reader believes that I have misled folks into thinking that the fourth of July was spent in debauchery.  After careful consideration I can see that this is very likely.  So, I am compelled to exercise my hermeneutic ability on this passage and see if I can clear it up.

The English language is sometimes more difficult to interpret than it is to translate a dead language into a living tongue.  The reason for this is that many words have multiple meanings, and you have to use context to figure which meaning is meant.  For instance, the word hermeneutic above is usually used in the theological sense, but not originally, thus, the reason for my downfall.

My dear reader brought the following, from John Maloy’s “History of Morris County” to my attention.  “Some fifty barrels of ice water stood around at convenient distances, and, although we had licensed saloons, all were closed, no one intoxicated, and the few faint cries for beer went as unheeded as they would today.”  If the saloons were closed and no one was intoxicated and no beer was served, then how could I make my readers believe there was a lot of drinking going on?  I’ll admit that I was naïve.  I got the impression that there was some kind of spirituous drink at this event even though I knew there was no beer.  Why did I think this?  “Then came a series of toasts and responses, occupying over two hours.”  That is what John Maloy went on to say after the first quotation.  I made the foolish mistake to assume that ‘toasts’ referred to the drinking of champagne or wine or something of that nature, while giving honor to someone or something.  I was pretty sure toast was not used as a verb in the sense of browning something by heat, so I scratched that one off.  I didn’t think it was used as a noun for one who is a hard drinker (of liquor).  I was nearly certain it wasn’t used as a noun for a brown red-yellow hue.  And, as there was no milk at this event (for Mr. Maloy does not mention there being any) I don’t suppose they would have put their toast (bread) in their milk.  For whatever reason, I overlooked all these other possibilities and chose to go with the traditional meaning of toast, which we get from the old practice of putting a piece of toast in the liquor to flavor it.

You may also ask me how I expected there to be drinking going on when the saloons were closed.  Well, I’m not too bothered by that.  Of course the saloons were closed, the whole town was shut up because every soul was down at the Grove celebrating.

If I may, for my own defense, I will have you note that just as Maloy left out mention of any intoxicating beverage, so have I.  I named no liquor or malt beverage, distilled or fermented whatever.   All I said is that there was drinking.  And I’m sure you’ll agree that since there were some fifty barrels (equaling 2100 gallons) of ice water at this noble celebration, there was no doubt a lot of ‘drinking’.

Benjamin R. Scott

Mr. and Mrs BR Scott

Mr. and Mrs. B.R. Scott

The last few articles I’ve written on Council Grove have generated some more great information.  Carole Day walked into my shop last week and showed me a book that has quite a bit of history on B. R. Scott.  She brought it in thinking I’d be interested in some more information on Scott, and she was quite right too.  The book is titled “Family Records of Lemuel Snodgrass and Richard Scott and their related families.”  Mrs. Day had no idea how very interested I was in this little book.  My great, great grandfather was Dick C. Scott, he and his family lived north of Delevan a couple miles.  In fact, their homestead is on the south end of the old air field.  For years I have wondered if my Scotts were related to the Scotts of Council Grove.  My suspicions were confirmed.  Near the end of this book my eyes caught the name of Dick C. Scott.  I’ll tell you more about that side of the family in time to come.

Right now, I want to tell you more about Benjamin R. Scott who did much of the building here in Council Grove.  I believe the best way is to give you the obituary of Mr. B. R. Scott, in its entirety.

“B. R. Scott of Council Grove, Kansas, was born near Marietta, Washington county, Ohio, October 12, 1843, and died at his home in Council Grove, Kansas, November 10,1922.  He was the last of a large family of brothers and sisters.  He was married to Rachel Elizabeth Day, November 14, 1867, and November 9, 1869, they arrived in Council Grove where they have since resided.  During the fifty-three years of his residence here the family has lived in the same house.  Mr. Scott was the father of two children.  His daughter Minnie, wife of Rev. W. H. Comer, was born in Ohio, and his son Earnest D. Scott, cashier of the Farmers and Drovers Bank, was born in the home where the family now lives.

Loomis & Scott Grocery taken about 1906. 1. Mr. Loomis 2. ? 3. Crosby Loomis 4. Ben Scott

“Mrs. Norma Comer Bates, Olin, Byron, Albertine, Robert and Betty Scott are his six grand children and two of Mrs. Norma Bates’ children are his great-grandchildren.  Mr. Scott had many business associations in our city.  He was a farmer, carpenter, and builder for many years. He built many homes now standing, among them the Clarence White home and the old Bradford house.  He was a member of the lumber firm Scott and Anderson, later Scott and McGeorge, Scott and Estlin, (shoe store), Ridgon and Scott Groceries and B.R. Scott and Son lumber and hardware.  He helped organize the Farmers and Drovers Bank, January 27, 1882, and was a stockholder and director for many years.  He has been Vice-president of the bank since 1887.  He was a member of the A. O. U. W. and since May 13, 1876, was a member of the I. O. O. F.  During all the 46 years he has held membership in this lodge, this last year was the only time he was reported on the sick list.  During the Civil War Mr. Scott served in the 77th Ohio Infantry and was a charter member of the first organization of the Wadsworth post of the G. A. R. in1874.  The post was reorganized in 1878 and Mr. Scott was again active.  Captain C. H. Finney and B. R. Scott were members of the first organization.   Mr. Scott has been faithful to the memory of his comrades, and until his recent illness was always in line following the flag draped casket to its last resting place.  He was devoted to his family and his grand children and great grand children were the pride of his life.  To his friends he was true and loyal.  Outside his home ties the church was nearest his heart.  The M. E. South building was dedicated in July 1869 and when Mr. Scott and family arrived in November of the same year, they immediately became a part of the church.  For 48 years the Scott family were active workers in the little church.  Mr. Scott was Superintendent of the Sabbath School for 43 years, and was always leader of the choir.  No department of the church was complete without his presence.  His ministering to the church was always kindly, never officious, and the pastors always found him an inspiration.  One of the most touching tributes to his memory was a beautiful floral piece representing the “Gates Ajar” from all the members of the old South Church now living in Council Grove.  The song ‘’Gates Ajar” had been one of his favorite hymns, and each flower in that symbol of that portal through which he passed, spoke volumes of love for the man who had been their leader, and had shared their joys and sorrows for so many years.   When the church disbanded, no one showed greater courage than Mr. Scott.  No doubt his heart ached for severing old associations is hard.  Faith, his talsman, led him to worship in another fold.  He and his family joined the M. E. church and he was active until his illness began last January.  The funeral at his home Sunday afternoon was attended by a large number of old friends.  Rev. South of the M. E. church, his pastor, gave a beautiful tribute to his memory.  Rev. G. H. Cotton of the Presbyterian church read favorite passages of scripture and an account of his life.  The male quartet composed of Mr. McKenzie, Mr. E. M. Jones and the Scholes brothers sang a chant he had so often sung in days gone by, “Beloved, It Is Well With My Soul.”   Miss Helen Snow sang another of his favorite songs, “No Night There.”

“Many of his  friends will carry with them through life the picture of the tall upright man, who with W. H. White, W. F. Shamleffer, and R. M. Armstrong, wended his way through Greenwood that beautiful June morning in 1921 and paid silent tribute to the memory of the Old Settlers who rest there.  The “Master of Human Destinies” has called another old settler home.  Ben Scott, as he was called, had been a familiar figure in the community and we will miss his kindly smile and hearty hand shake.  The home circle unbroken for 55 years has sustained a loss that is shared by many friends who will cherish the memory of this man whose great ambition was “Service.”

“But the call he had waited for came at the twilight hour, and when the shades of night were falling the “Gates Ajar” received his spirit to the abode eternal.  To those whom sorrow has touched, we can only extend a hand of sympathy, knowing, “Love is ever Lord of death, and Love can never lose its own.”

The next few weeks I’ll continue with the Scott family, and share some early stories of Council Grove as related by those of the family who were here at the time.  It will give us a little peek at what life was like in last half of the nineteenth century here.

Built circa 1884-1887, served as various lumber yards over the years, now the home of Schwerdtfeger Auto Sales at 511 E Main in Council Grove.

Addenda:  I have found an advertisement in the Council Grove Republican September 27th, 1879 for the Morris County State Bank.  B.R. was listed as a director of that bank.

In Minnie Comer’s obituary, daughter of B.R., it is stated that B.R. purchased a three room log house with several acres on the east side of south Fourth Street.  The house is still standing and Virgil Wigle currently lives there.    Address is 214 South Fourth.  Scott built around the log house and added to it to make an attractive home.

If These Walls Could Talk

This is what the interior of the Council Grove Barber Shop looked like in the late 1870s and 1880s. The bearded man behind the counter is A.J. Collier.

A story of Council Grove from the Scott and Anderson building, 208-210 W Main.

By Derrick Doty

Surely you’re familiar with the old adage, if these walls could talk? We have all wondered what stories are hidden in the silent walls of time. The events of the past hundred years that cast their shadow on the threshold of some old abode. The laughter that reverberated along the hallway of history. If only these walls could talk. Well, why can’t they? Some walls do talk, if only we listen.

While reading through the histories of Morris County, and in particular Council Grove, I find many bits of past lives that set my imagination going. I often think of the stories my Barber Shop could tell me if only it could. So, for your entertainment and education, I present an account of the past one hundred and forty years, as told by the Scott and Anderson building, which you may know as the Council Grove Republican and Barber Shop.

So you want to know of the wonders I’ve seen eh? Well, where to start, where to start? I suppose the beginning is best. Let me see, if I remember right, I believe I was built about 1872, or was it 3? I’m sure I was here in seventy three, there was much goins on that year. B. R. Scott and John Anderson were the ones who built me. In the beginning, Bertram and Nicholson had their law office upstairs on the 208 side. November 11th of seventy three, P. S. Roberts, also a lawyer relocated his office to the rear of Bertram and Nicholson.

Mr Anderson partner of B.R. Scott

John Anderson partner of B.R. Scott.

Scott and Anderson did a lot for this town early on. About the same time I came along, they paid for the construction of a wooden foot-bridge across the river. There were a lot of sweet-hearts names carved on the handrail of that old bridge. Oh, then about ten years after me in 1883, B. R. Scott had another building erected across the street from me. If you look sometime you’ll see his name up there on it. The building and completion of our courthouse was the greatest shake of seventy three. They got her finished up just in time for a dance on Christmas night. I could just barely see it from here. It was the finest structure in the county for sure. And in 1902 when they added the front part, I was sure she couldn’t be more grand! I never thought I’d see her go, but I’ve outlived her pretty close to fifty years.

An occasion marked with great sadness was the death of our pioneer founder Seth Hays. He passed on the fifth day of February at his residence. If you could have seen the funeral procession you would not have remained unmoved. The whole town felt the loss of their long time friend. And they all turned out to send him to glory in the best way they knew how.

One thing I remember clearly, in May of seventy three the Kaw Indians absquatulated, that is to say, they left our little town. They were in town several days saying good- bye to old friends, giving gifts such as tomahawks, bows, arrows and such. Then when the last fare wells were exchanged, about 1,700 Kaw Indians were escorted by Fort Riley soldiers to the Indian Territory. In later years we would receive visits from some of the Kaw, but never again would they live among us. If they hadn’t all ready been given the “little end of the horn”, they sure got it at that time.

The biggest disaster of that year was the prairie fire west of town. It started in Chase County on Friday the 13th of November. By Saturday the fire was pretty well under control, but then to cap the climax, some bad egg went and deliberately set fire west of White City on Sunday. The wind was blowing from the north like a hurricane. Many folks lost their homes, farm implements, livestock, and crops. The landscape was black disaster. James Lindsey lost his life trying to save his home and granaries. They said he run his well dry trying to hold off the fire, then he took his horses and wagon to the creek and filled up barrels. As he returned, he found the fire had cut him off. So he drove his horses through the blaze. The horses shied away from the heat and threw James from the wagon. He made it out of the fire but his clothes were burning. He tore and cut every bit of his clothes off except his boots which were charred to his feet. Friends responded to his cries for help, but when they got to him he was mostly senseless and a terrible sight to look upon. He lingered a couple of weeks and then died. When the fires were extinguished, our town was covered in black soot and ash, and they reckoned the loss in the county at $50,000.

There was a panic that fall, and it left a lot of our business men unsettled. Financial disaster had swept across the nation, but our local codfish aristocracy had made it worse by a coal mine farce of the previous year. Apparently, some no account critter, honey-fuggled our town’s men into investing in a coal mine on the W. K. Pollard farm. The city council invested $500 dollars in the mine and found that the hole didn’t seem to be getting much bigger. Turns out, the only coal that came out of that mine was two buckets of Pennsylvania coal that had been planted there in order to sham the investors. To make matters worse, the next year (seventy four) we had drought and grasshoppers. The fate of a few of our business men was sealed, and some were left as poor as Job’s turkey.


The fourth of July 1876 was a rip-roaring time. Council Grove put on a celebration that nobody else could hold a candle to. At 10:00 am everyone gathered at the courthouse to begin the procession to Shamleffer’s Grove. For a whole hour I watched as this grand parade marched passed my doors. First came the Council Grove Band, followed by county officers, the mayor, city councilmen from all over the county, then secret organizations, next came chariots with 38 young ladies to represent the states, and13 more ladies to represent the first states, then the Company of Horribles commanded by General J.B. Munson, and bringing up the rear were all the citizens. There were at least 3,000 people in this parade, and when they reached the Grove there were at least a thousand more already there! The rest of the day was spent in speechifying, drinking, toasting, drinking, eating, drinking, and so on and so forth. They tried in years after to live up to or surpass the sensation of seventy six, but they never quite pulled it off.

Scott & Anderson building third from left with the clock in front circa 1880.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the McKinley monument up on the hill. They laid the foundation stone on the day McKinley died. And there it has remained a silent memorial of the past. But it wasn’t always silent. That bell used to ring every Fourth of July as we celebrated our Independence Day. It also called our town’s folk to the Lords Day and Sabbath School services. Occasionally it would ring out an alarm for fire. And one solemn day in 1881, that bell rang monotonously for half the day when President Garfield died. It was a lonesome and sorrowful sound echoing through this Neosho valley. It use to happen that when such things of national importance came to pass, all the stores would close for the day, some would put a wreath on the door, some would drape their windows in black crepe. At the time of recalling these things we are celebrating our states one hundred and fiftieth birthday. And do you know what? I haven’t seen one American flag (except the one that always flies at the post office) not a Kansas state flag, not so much as a puff of red, white, and blue bunting anywhere. In fact the day passed just like any other. Things have sure changed I tell you. But let me change the subject before I sound too misanthropic.

The Missouri Pacific line was completed from Kansas City to Wilsey in 1883. That track used to run just about two blocks south of here.

A story of particular peculiarity from eighty three, is the strange coincidence regarding two ministers here. Rev. W. B. Maxey from Kentucky and J. R. Bennett from Virginia. Both came to Council Grove about the same time, preaching in churches in the area and in town. Both were 75 years of age and each had been in the ministry for 53 years, and both died on the same day within two hours of each other. Both were taken to the South M. E. Church at the same hour for funeral services, and laid to rest in the Greenwood Cemetery, each buried with Masonic rights. I looked on as the funeral procession passed.

Sketch by E.S. Glover’s 1873 Bird’s Eye View of Council Grove.

The year of 1885 found the I.O.O.F. housed on my second floor, while A. J. Collier owned a grocery store on the first floor. At least, I’m pretty sure it was Collier. By eighty six a number of new buildings had sprung up down town including the Methe Jewelry, the Cottage House, the A.F. and A.M. Lodge, a bookstore at 211 W Main, the Ewing Smith building, B.R. Scott building, Gibson Miller & Simms Hardware, Dumm Furniture, and buildings at 15 N Neosho and 219 W Main. The winter of 85-86 was a cold one. We had some bad blizzards and lots of blowing snow. The city also installed a street car that year. It ran from the courthouse to the Missouri Pacific depot. It was drawn by a mule, and the fare was a half dime. The street car ran for about ten years and then it was sold to Strong City, where I understand it ran for a few years from the courthouse at Cottonwood Falls to the depot in Strong City.

We’ve had our fair share of fires in this town, and one swept through on September 19th of eighty six. It took out the whole block from the Hays House, or what we at one time called the Arway Hotel, to Neosho Street. It took a few homes to the north of the block as well. The wind was blowing a gale and it took great effort to put the blaze out. The women formed a bucket brigade to the river and worked till the fire had burnt itself out. Some owners were at a complete loss. The town reported a total of $100,000 in destruction.

Around 1887 Collier moved out and an insurance office moved in at 210. Then from about 1890 up till 1903 F. E. Pirtle had a jewelry store here as well as a music and publishing company. I must take a side rail here and relate the story of the “Morris County Exposition March.” It is connected to me in a most remarkable way. First of all, Andrew J. Guille, of Emporia, wrote the “Morris County Exposition March” and it was copyrighted and published by F. E. Pirtle in 1899. It was sold right here for a half dime. Nearly a hundred years later, the piece of music was discovered in the archives and arranged for an ensemble from the original piano score. It was played by the Council Grove High School Band on the ninth of May, the year 2000. Since then, it has been played by the Flint Hills Community Band every fall down at the old Kaw Mission. That’s not the end of the story though! Who’d a thought that the “Morris County Exposition March” would make it full circle? You see, unbeknown to D. Doty, he was practicing said “March” on his cornet, in the very place that it was sold over a hundred years before him. Curious, ain’t it?

Parade in 1906, Scott & Anderson building center of photo.

Amongst the many fires that have threatened our town, we have had as many or more floods. 1902, 3, and 4 left us anything but high and dry. The flood of 1903 was the worst. The Main street bridge washed away, several people were drowned and the water reached from Belfry street to the Missouri Pacific tracks. Every store downtown and many homes received damage. And as usual, fire follows flood. A fire broke out in the M.R. Smith lumber yard and burned part of the block west of Farmers and Drovers Bank. That year F. E. Pirtle left me and moved across the street, as many business men were forced to start over. I also have received some fire damage, I don’t remember when or what caused it. Could have been an oil stove or maybe electrical. But my chard timbers and floor attest to a very close call.

In 1908 there was a millinery store here, then in 1922 Brueggen’s Variety Store, which was here till 1929. After Brueggen’s closed, Edith Craven and Bertha Rissler opened the Specialty Shop, which remained here until 1936. Around that time the Council Grove Telephone Company moved in and remained till February l3th of 2003. Finally, on the last week of October 2003, Derrick Doty moved to town and opened the Council Grove Barber Shop within these walls, and the rest they say, is history.


What other curiosities can I relate? So much has happened and I don’t remember all the dates, but I’ll tell you of some once common scenes from our Main Street. I recall many a time when the circus would come to town. The calliope drawn by two teams of white horses passed in front of my doors. The steam bellowed out of that carriage in thick clouds. Elephants, caged tigers and lions, monkeys, clowns, and side show acts passed this way. People were sitting in the windows and standing on the street and wherever they could get a good view. I’ve seen hot air balloon ascensions on more than a few occasions. What a sight to see the balloon lit up in the night about two hundreds of feet over the town.

Sometime around 1911 or 12, a shocking story was exchanged within these walls. A man by the name of N. T. (Tanny) Olson, a farmer here in Morris County, had shot his hired man, Walter H. Newfarmer, and then hacked him up with a corn knife. He had been charged with second degree murder and was sentenced to twenty five years in the penitentiary. Supposedly he had acted in self defense, or at least that’s what many of his friends believed. Unless he was a lousy shot and ran out of bullets, I find it awful hard to swallow. Olson was a bachelor and was boarding with Newfarmer and his wife. It was rumored that Olson had been intimate with Newfarmers wife and that’s what led to the killing.

Several newspapers reported the happenings of the trial. I clearly remember the following from the Dwight Signal. “It was in the trial of this case that Captain Joe Waters, as attorney for the defendant, made his famous tearful plea for the acquittal of his client. Joe was crying and he had the members of the jury and spectators in the courtroom crying. One of the attorneys for the prosecution began removing his shoes and stockings in the courtroom. Fearing that the attorney had lost his reason under the strain of the trial, the judge halted Captain Waters’ impassioned plea while he asked the other attorney what was the matter. “I am getting ready to wade out.” said the attorney, and the flow of tears was partly checked in the laugh which followed.”

In December of 1914, several prominent men of the County were petitioning for a pardon from Governor Hodges. Olson had served a little over two years at that time. I never did hear what became of it all.

I witnessed a robbery at the Farmers and Drovers Bank once. Yes sir, it was March the 2, 1926. Two men went into the bank and a man waited in the getaway car out front. C. H. White was just returning to the bank while the robbery was taking place. As White opened the door, one of the robbers pointed a revolver at him. White slipped to the side and out of the gunman’s view and dashed across the street to the Durland and White Hardware store. The bank employees and the customers were escorted to the vault and locked in. As the men made their escape, White and Durland fired buckshot at the car as it sped off. They filled the car with holes but they couldn’t stop them.

For the most part of the twentieth century the Council Grove Republican and the Council Grove Telephone Co. have been housed in me. Many books could be written on what has passed in each office. I’ll tell you a few that stand out to me. About 1959, young C. B. Smith was sitting on the steps leading upstairs, facing the street. He was employed for Mr. Don McNeal folding newspapers to deliver. Unbeknown to Smith, two little urchins by the name of Jeff Baker and Louie Furman, slipped up the back stairway with a water balloon. It just so happened as those little miscreants let loose with the water balloon, Smith bent down for a paper. He felt a rush of air near his head. Heaven also ordained that Mrs. Lavon Olsen walked by at that very moment. As you can guess, Mrs. Olsen was pegged with the water balloon and the two little rats ran out the back, laughing. Mr. McNeal came out of the newspaper office on hearing the ruckus, and of course C. B. Smith appeared to be at fault. Smith told McNeal someone had just ran out the back way, McNeal met the scoundrels in the alley, much to their chagrin.

I remember Bonnie McClintock working for about a year in the telephone office here. It was around 1944, and J. W. Admire owned the company at that time. Gladys Strom, Elizabeth Ratliff and Harriet Admire (J.W.’s daughter in-law) worked here as well, and Grace Gillespie was usually the night operator, but for two weeks Bonnie sat in for Grace. Before Bonnie would start her shift at 9 p.m., she would first stop by the library and check out two books. There was always a considerable amount of activity on the lines up to around midnight, but after that there was very little to do but read. So she’d read through her two books and then the next night she’d come back with two new ones. I think she pretty near exhausted the library. Bonnie operated the fourth switch board farthest west. “509 R” the caller would say, and Bonnie put em through. The few calls that came in after midnight were usually railroaders on the Missouri Pacific, or folks from California that didn’t realize what time it was here. One night, Bonnie over heard a marriage proposal on the line. Now, of course she didn’t make a habit of this, the party had been on the line for a considerable long time and she was just checking to see that things were all right. Turned out though, that those two found someone else and never married each other.

Several years back, my current occupant D. Doty was awakened by one startling rap on the door. It was about four in the morning and still as a tomb. Doty got up wondering who could be upstairs at this time of night? Prowlers no doubt, nosing around to see what valuable property they could walk off with. So Doty went to the closet and quietly as possible put a shell in the 12 gauge. With the hammer cocked and aimed at the door, he stood there resolved to shoot first and ask questions later, should they break the door down. I must admit, it was quite a sight seeing him stand there in his under shorts pointing a shot gun at the door at four in the morning. After a few minutes, whoever it was in the hall left just as quietly as they had come in. Doty went to the window to get a look at who had been there, but they kept close to the building and could not be seen. It wasn’t till a couple months later that Doty found out who it was snooping around. It gave him great comfort to know that Council Grove still has a night watchman who makes a stroll downtown on occasion. Doty has since double checked the locks before going to bed.

West end of the Morris County courthouse as it looked prior to the 1902 addition. The second man from the left is R.M. Armstrong and the man on the right looks like W.K. Pollard.


One night a Council Grove policeman stopped me and a friend on the street. He asked if I was the one who lived above the Barber Shop. I answered yes. He replied in sort of a saucy manner, “So it was your floor I almost fell through. You left your door unlocked so we had to check and make sure everything was okay.” Knowing full well the floor was springy but not that bad, and that this was the ‘prowler’ that had been in the hall at 4 in the morning; I looked at him and said, “So you’re the one that almost got shot.” That ended our conversation.

An elderly lady whose name I did not get stopped me one evening as I was leaving the Christian Church and told me more about Tanny Olson.  I think she said that Newfarmer was her uncle.  Olson had actually decapitated Newfarmer and Newfarmer’s nephew was the one who found the body.  Olson served his 25 years in prison and when he got out he tried to hook up with the woman involved and she wanted nothing to do with him.  You can imagine she was surprised to read about this in the paper almost 100 years after it happened.

The Legend of a Tunnel

Hebrank House c. 1901

Hebrank House now Post Office Oak Museum. Picture taken after 1900.

Being the barber in town I hear a lot of stories from a lot of people. When I hear the same story from several people and the information is slightly different from person to person, I get curious to learn the facts.

One such story has always captured my attention, as I am sure it has for anyone familiar with it, is the local legend of a tunnel that leads from the 1864 Hebrank house, now the Post Office Oak Museum, to the Neosho river bank. At the request of friends, I will submit to you the information that I have gathered, in several installments. In this first, I would like to present to you the stories that I have heard from our locals.

Doris Chase related her story of the tunnel to me. She says that when she was in high school that her and her friends would walk down by the river after school. They would pass a big iron gate that they were told was the entrance to the tunnel that led to the Hebrank house. She described the gate as being similar in size to the flood gate on the west bank of the river near the Kaw Mission. Doris states that she had always been told that there was a tunnel there and that it was built for escape from Indians. She had never been in the tunnel herself and cannot recall any one who has been, as the gate was always shut.

Dan Young’s father, Willard Young, told him there was a tunnel, and Willard firmly believed it. Willard said the opening to the tunnel was located near the old bridge, which was north of our present bridge. He said the tunnel was blocked off to keep water out of the cave. Dan doesn’t believe that the tunnel was built for escape from Indians, but for some other purpose.

When Craig McNeal was a young boy, his family lived in the Hebrank house in the late 1940’s early 50’s. As he tells his story, he and a friend were convinced that there was a tunnel leading from the cave east of the house toward the river, and they actually tried to excavate it. But, as kids have limited tools, engineering, and muscle power, they were never able to make it through the thick walls of the cave.

Years ago, when I first opened my shop here, I had a customer come in and tell me his story of the tunnel. I do not remember who this man was, I don’t know if he may still be around, but I present his story as I recall it. He told me that his grandfather had been in a secret room that was south of the house, down in the basement. He saw old guns hanging up on the walls which gave him the impression that it was used as a hold-out or an armory against the Indians. This story especially caught my attention, because I had heard nothing of a “secret room” to the south before.

Blanche Osborne, great-granddaughter of F.X. Hebrank, wrote a family history that was printed in the Council Grove Republican. The article, dated March 27, 1978, reads “A tunnel was excavated from the cave to the brewery under the house. Later it was sealed off but the indenture can still be seen. There is also another indenture to the west which might cause one to believe there may have been another tunnel that led toward the river.” She also states a couple of the common ideas that were going around about the tunnel. It was used as a “station on the John Brown underground railway” or as a “fort to protect white settlers.” It is also stated that “None of the Hebrank descendants can verify these tales.”

I’m sure there are many more readers who have similar stories and like memories of the long running legend of the tunnel. Unfortunately, I cannot interview everyone. I have included what I think enough stories to establish our main idea. A long running legend of a tunnel running from the cave east of the Hebrank house, to the Neosho river; a tunnel leading from the basement of the house to the cave; and a possible secret room south of the basement.

If anyone would like to make there contributions to this collection, please write or email the C G Rep, or the Morris County Historical Society at 303 W Main St. Council Grove.

Early Kansas Brewery

By Derrick Doty

Last week we read the local stories concerning the old Post Office Oak Museum. Built in 1864, the building housed the Hebrank family, and a brewery was in operation in the basement. Some have thought it to be a stop on the underground railroad, or perhaps a fort to protect white settlers. Since I have related the current local story telling, I will now lay before you the historical references and the discoveries I have made, in an attempt to make history, legend, and physical evidence agree with one another.

The first step to solving the mystery of the tunnel, is establish context by putting together what we know about the property. An article from the archives of the Morris County Historical Society has information that is critical for developing our theories. We know there was a brewery there, we do not know how it operated. This post 1985 article by an unknown author gives some description. It states the “walls of the basement were high enough that a team of horses and wagon could be driven in through the double doors on the south west corner of the building and out the north west side….This was the mode of bringing in the materials for the brewery.” This is the only reference I have found that states this. Ken McClintock does not believe this was possible, unless you were “driving a team of Shetland ponies”. Ken says even if you could get a wagon in the doors you couldn’t turn it and there was a well in the basement to navigate around. The article goes on to say “Corn was probably the base for the brew.” After research I believe this to be erroneous. A wonderful history of brewing in Kansas, provided by the Free State Brewery in Lawrence, clarifies our modus operandi of the brewing business. It relates how many Germans came to Kansas from the 1850’s through the 1880’s and opened breweries. It even mentions Frederick (Francis) Hebrank of Council Grove. Apparently, basement breweries and storage caverns were quite common in Kansas during the last half of the 19th century. I find that barley seemed to be the grain of choice amongst these German brewers. In the 1870’s Marion and other near counties are cited as the big barley producers. The only reference I have found for using corn is whiskey of course, and a South American beer called chicha, made from maize called jora.

The article goes on to state that “…the kegs were loaded on to the wagon and taken to the cave…” There has been much debate on how the kegs were moved to the cave. We do not know the size of the kegs.* Ken and I always assumed they were 50 gal. On second thought, if the beer was intended for the passing travelers on the Santa Fe Trail, then the kegs would be small. If we go by the trail guides that were published for the pioneers, I don’t suppose there would be much room to haul beer. A chart of provisions provided by Clackamas and Wasco counties in Oregon list 140-200 pounds of flour per person; 40-140 pounds bacon per person; 10 pounds salt, 20 pounds sugar, 20 pounds coffee etc. That doesn’t leave much room for large kegs of beer if beer was taken on the trail. It is possible that various sized kegs were used depending upon who the customer was.

Even though the above article contains accurate information about dimensions, family, and general history of the house, I believe the writer was making unfounded conjectures based on his or her limited knowledge of the property, and he or she certainly knew nothing of beer making.

Some have supposed the rumored tunnel was how the kegs were transported. Others have believed a wagon could actually be driven down into the cave. As has been stated, many believed there was a tunnel between the basement and cave. Ken and I do not think it possible. The cave does not lie under the basement, but north and east of it. The stone front porch was built in the mid 30’s, it is believed the addition to the back of the house and upstairs were added at this time. This back addition sits over part of the cave. Ken McClintock, after doing much research and measuring, developed a theory. His theory allows for an alternate entrance to the cave. Ken says there could have been an incline at the back of the house. Starting where the north west door would have been and going down into the cave. So that the wagon or the barrels could be rolled down with ease and safety.

West view of Hebrank house

West side of Hebrank house showing the doorway that has since been blocked up.

I’ve made a discovery that may answer our question. I have found a blocked up doorway in the east wall of the basement. It measures 56 inches wide and 65 inches tall. The basement floor is not as low now as then because it has since had cement poured in it. This door is too short now to walk through without stooping. It may have been tall enough 145 years ago. This doorway is located about 20 feet from the entrance to the cave. There’s now a window where the doorway was. On the west side of the house, I found the same thing, evidence of a doorway (now a window) leading out of the basement. I later found a photograph in the MCHS archives to confirm that there was a doorway on the west side. I think it safe to assume there was also a door on the east side. This means the house had one doorway on each wall leading out of the basement.** My theory is, once the barrels were filled in the basement, they were then rolled (or carried if small kegs) out the east door 20 feet to the entrance of the cave. This makes more sense than loading them on the wagon, driving them around the house to the cave, and then unloading them. The barrels were lowered by block and tackle into the cave. Rails, whether permanent or removable, were laid down the steps to the cave, and the barrels slid down them. This seems to me the most simple and least laborious way to move the kegs.

Next week we will continue our research with some more documentation, and I will share what I have learned in the old cave.

Sources:, Morris County Historical Society, “Barlow Road” published in 1975 by Clackamas County Oregon Historical Society.


On March 27, 1978, the Council Grove Republican printed a family history by Blanche Osborne. In this article she says “a tunnel was excavated from the cave to the brewery under the house. Later it was sealed off but the indenture can still be seen. There is also another indenture to the west which might cause one to believe there may have been another tunnel that led toward the river.” She said some believed the house a “station on the John Brown underground railway” or a “fort to protect white settlers” which, is also found word for word in a paper from 1960. Blanche also stated that “None of the Hebrank descendants can verify these tales.”

Another article from the C G Republican dated March 30, 1929 reads “Mayor Young has Plan for Historical Museum” It gives a little history of the house and that W. L. Young is going to buy it. It also states “The old building is rumored to have a secret tunnel running from its basement, but R.M. Armstrong, one of the pioneer residents, believes this to be a myth. I find it interesting, it doesn’t mention where the tunnel may “run” to.

The earliest mention of a tunnel I have found is in Mary Metzger’s funeral notice, which she did not write herself. She died February 12, 1925. It appears later writers received their information from this source, as most later sources follow this nearly word for word. “A tunnel was excuvated from the cellar of this stone house to an underground cave in the yard as a precautionary measure against Indian raids.”*** It is known that Metzger had an encounter with the Cheyenne, she was about 20 years old at the time.

Thanks to the late John Maloy, Council Grove’s first and most reliable historian, we have an account of the 1868 Cheyenne raid on the Kaw. Mr. Maloy’s daughter, Lalla Maloy Brigham, gives more detail in her “Story of Council Grove.” She is known to have errors in her work, but we must take her for what she’s worth. It is from Brigham’s history that we have the familiar account of Mrs. Mary Metzgar. “During the Cheyenne raid of 1868 all of the women and children on the east side of the river were barricaded in the brewery. When the Cheyennes surrounded the building, they asked for water and something to eat. Mrs. Metzger met the braves and for an hour drew water from the well in the basement to give to the Indians. During this time the other women were upstairs with the frightened children. No one was molested.” There is no mention of a tunnel in her or her father’s history.

The phrase “a tunnel was excavated” has repeatedly caught my attention. To get the proper meaning of “a tunnel was excavated” can be tricky. There are two ideas represented by the word excavated. The first and most prominent is, a tunnel already exists and someone has “uncovered” it. I don’t believe this the intention here. The second and more probable is, the tunnel was “dug out” as an afterthought. So I believe if a tunnel existed beneath this old house, it was added at a later time, perhaps after the 1868 scare.

Thus far we have traced the story of a tunnel back to the 1920’s. We have no evidence prior to 1925. The best reputed historians fail to mention it. The people, who would have known about it, do not seem to be the source of the story. In fact, it is clearly stated that the descendants could not verify if it were true. They left no written evidence (that we have found) to confirm one way or the other.

Watch for my final installment on this subject in next week’s paper. I will not say it is the conclusion to our mystery, for another may take it up after me. Perhaps someone else may find new evidence. A long lost diary entry, news paper clipping, or a letter from one of the Hebrank’s. Perhaps then we may have a satisfactory end of it.


Early in the month of July, I took time to survey the Hebrank house very carefully. As I was making my rounds and discovering things, I also recalled the stories that I had been told of this house. Pieces of the puzzle started to fit together.

Let’s begin with the “secret room,” which I am sure I have found. The double doors, once the front entrance to the basement, are still there. For the first time, I opened the two doors and went in to see what I might find. An enclosed room with one small window for light. When I saw this room, my mind went back to a story a customer had told me. His grandfather had been in a secret room south of the basement; he saw old guns hanging on the walls. As I made my way through the cobwebs and spiders, I looked up and saw a cement slab above me. I was under the front porch of the house. I could see old truck springs and scrap metal in the cement for reinforcement. I thought to myself, “If I were a kid, I would think this was a secret room, and my imagination might lead me to believe the iron rods in the cement were old guns.” Maybe he did see guns hanging on a wall, maybe they were in the basement.

As to the cave, I’m perplexed. I had always accepted what I was told to be true. Even the articles from the descendants seemed to imply there was some form of tunnel connecting the cave to the house. The physical evidence that remains will not support these stories. But, I leave room for the possibility however slight it may be. To my observations, the west wall of the cave where the tunnel is said to be, is undisturbed from the floor to about five feet up. All these stones look original; there are no signs of anything being blocked up. However, about five feet from the floor in the center of the wall, is a space 24 inches by 36 inches that has been bricked up. For all practical purposes it looks like a chimney. A friend of mine that went down with me said the same. There is no reason to put a stove in a root cellar. The whole purpose is to keep things cool. My friend brought up an excellent idea which I had not thought of before. What if someone lived in here at one time? We have no source that mentions anyone living in the cave. I’m afraid it would be too damp for them anyway.

If this is the entrance to the tunnel, it would be a close fit to get through, and you would have a five foot drop to the floor once you got in the cave. To me it just doesn’t make sense. The other issue is, where and how did it enter into the basement of the house? The tunnel would have to curve to the south to enter the basement. Also, because the house has a walk-out basement, the tunnel entrance would be found in the dirt floor of the basement. Because of the cement floor and addition to the house in the 30s, we can expect no help. All evidence has been destroyed or covered up.

Concerning the supposed tunnel to the river, I believe this to be nothing more than a story. Although we cannot with certainty disprove its existence, neither can we prove it. There’s too much circumstantial evidence against the probability of a tunnel. First of all, it would be over one hundred yards long. Something that size could not be done quickly, or secretly. Second, geography is against it. The area where the Madonna of the Trail now stands was at one time a low wet area. Ken McClintock found a newspaper article from the 1870s where a discontented townsman voiced his complaint. In effect he said that something must be done with that “frog pond” on the east end of town. In fact, I found a wonderful picture from the Morris County Historical Society archives showing approximately 200 of our townsfolk gathered to begin work on the Madonna of the Trail monument. Farmers have their horses and wagons to haul in dirt and build up the mound. The community band is there dressed in white with hats and sashes on.

The biggest problem with having a tunnel leading to the river is… the river. The Neosho is a shallow river, when its not flooded. That’s why the wagons crossed here; they could easily descend the river bank and cross the trickling stream. But, as we all know, prior to the reservoir being built this town experienced a lot of high water. So on one hand the tunnel could not be used because of high water, and on the other hand in low water where are you going to go once you reach the river? Are you going to carry your canoe downstream while escaping the “bloody Cheyenne”? Let’s say the water was just right. Are you going to go down river to get away from Indians? You’ll end up at the Kaw reservation! Although the whites didn’t have too many problems with the Kaw, I still don’t think they would trust them enough to run to them for safety. According to Maloy’s history, the whites threatened to exterminate all the Kaw after the 1859 disturbance with Seth Hays. Fortunately, everyone cooled down and things resumed a quiet normalcy.

Then there’s the argument about the entrance to the tunnel down in the river bank that many claimed to have seen. According to Ken McClintock, in 1929-30 the river was redirected. The dikes on each side of our present Neosho River were built. The flood gates that we see at the Kaw Mission and at the foot bridge on the River Walk have been there since that time.

I have seen a picture looking to the north east of the old bridge. The picture was taken after one of the early 1900 floods. I’ll admit the picture is not the best quality, but there does not appear to be a tunnel entrance where several people have thought that it was. If there was any evidence of a tunnel on the bank, any reliable witnesses would have to be at least 90 years old to have seen the river bank before it was all changed. Even then, we would have the information from a six year old child’s point of view. I believe what people saw as the tunnel entrance to the cave, was simply the flood gate by the foot bridge.

The local accounts provide us with evidence of a tradition of “tunnel” story telling. This subject is not exclusive to Council Grove. I have recently been informed of other communities with legends of a tunnel. These stories have continued in the community for a significant span of time. It is natural that the stories would be associated with landmarks visible at the time of telling. The landmarks change and pass away, but we try to connect the stories we have received with the landmarks we now see.

We’ve had an exciting look at some of Council Grove’s rich history. We have come to understand a little more and we have learned something new. More important than the “Post Office Oak Museum” we have one of Kansas’ early German immigrant breweries. I do not know if any others exist yet, but I think we better look into it. What if we have the only one left? Well now, that’s more interesting than a highly suspicious tale of a Post Office Oak Tree. Oh, but that’s another story……

Addendum: January 2011

* John Maloy states a barrel containing 44 gallons. A keg would be smaller, but the capacity is not known.

** After further research, the Hebrank house appears to be built after the same style of the Steinway home in Seesen Germany. A design that was used in the first half of the 19th century. Also, according to the Free State Brewery, basement breweries were quite common, and this walk out basement style, with doors facing each direction, would afford excellent ventilation, and accessibility.

*** It is not for certain, but it is possible that Lalla Brigham wrote this obituary.

Addenda 1-3-2012:  George Hebrank wrote a short history of F.X. and the family for the paper in 1954.  He does not mention a tunnel or the Post Oak.

Addenda 2-9-2012:  I failed to take note of this before in research, but prior to Bill Young purchasing the Hebrank house there was a woman who owned it.  She went missing and that seems to be what led to the selling of the house.  Now wouldn’t it be interesting if she discovered the tunnel and fell into it and couldn’t get out and that’s why she was missing?


Since the writing of the Post Office Oak Tunnel, more tunnel stories in other places have come to knowledge. A customer told me of a tunnel legend in Hanover Ks. where he grew up. The Pony Express depot in Hanover has had a long attached rumor of a tunnel leading from it. As a young boy, this man said he tried to find that tunnel. He and his friends were always looking for it. To this day he still doesn’t know if there ever was a tunnel or not.

Immediately after I had finished writing the articles for the paper, I was informed of another tunnel story on PBS. I did not get a chance to see it, but I was told that PBS had done a special on a Sunday afternoon. Included in this special was mention of a tunnel that led from the Post Office Oak Museum under the Neosho River to the Hays House. I was blown away! That was the most farfetched story about the Post Office Oak Tunnel I had ever heard. How would you go through bed rock in 1864 and manage to keep the water out of the tunnel?

Another familiar tunnel story in our area is related to the Spring Hill Ranch on what is now the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Chase County. It has been rumored that a tunnel exists between the stone barn and the house. Some say it is big enough for a man to ride through on horseback, some say it’s not quite that big, but all swear its true. I was told by a customer that a friend of his knows it to be a fact because he had seen it when he worked at the ranch. Well, once again this tunnel if it did exist would have to go through a hundred yards of rock. I have the witness of Sharon Haun, who is the curator at the Kaw Mission in Council Grove. She was involved in the restoration work at the old house on the Preserve in the mid 1990s. Because of all the stories and rumors of a tunnel, she and all the workmen involved intentionally and laboriously inspected every nook and cranny of the house. This renovation was down to the bare stone, there was nothing that could have been hidden. They found no evidence whatever of a passage having been blocked up. There is a tunnel however; (or more appropriately a passage) leading from the house to the spring house. This passage may be about twelve feet long and looks like a tunnel. I believe the same thing has happened here as at the Hebrank House. What some have seen they have mistaken for something else. If a child had walked through the passage to the spring house twenty years ago, not to mention if it were over fifty years, the passage would seem bigger, and he wouldn’t have a good sense of direction, so he would think it was a “secret tunnel” that led to the barn.

Now a tunnel story that is true, which I find the most shocking of all. A friend of mine can testify as well as several others in the family, that his uncle who lived in Kansas City had dug a tunnel from the house to the garage with the help of his brothers. No practical reason why, they just dug a tunnel. When you learn that this same man also buried an old junk car in the back yard instead of paying to have it hauled off, you may find it an easy matter for him to dig a tunnel.

While writing the stories on the Hebrank house, a man happened to be visiting Council Grove and showing some old friends around. Years ago he had lived in Council Grove. While in the Post Office Oak Museum, the tunnel was mentioned. This man claimed to have been through the tunnel. Deborah Crawford, who was working there that day and was involved in the research, tried to contact me so I could interview this man. Unfortunately, I was unavailable and the man was in a hurry and couldn’t take time to talk about it. He was given my name and number so he could contact me and tell me what he knew of the tunnel. I was very anxious to hear from him as this was the only possible lead I had to proving the tunnel existed. I have never heard from him, and find it likely he may have been telling hogwash. Considering there was no evidence of a tunnel in 1950 when Craig McNeal was trying to find it, and likely if it did exist it had been sealed up before the turn of the century since no one else claimed to have been through the tunnel. I suspect this unknown man realized his mistake and decided to remain anonymous.

It seems that tunnels and trap doors and secret passageways have always been of interest to persons of all ages, throughout centuries. There’s an air of mystery and romance about it. When I was a kid living on the farm, it was always my dream to dig a tunnel from our farmhouse to the barn. I never got any further than a hole big enough to hide in under a false floor in the barn. My best friend and I had decided to make an underground secret room. So we started to re-dig an old farm well out in the woods. We were hoping that if we didn’t dig too deep we wouldn’t reach water. We dug down eight feet and were ready to start digging out our underground room. Then a heavy rain came and inundated our hole. So, we gave up on that project and filled it back in.