Chief Wah Shun Gah

Chief Wah Shun Gah 1907

In honor of the 30th anniversary of Wahshungah Days I thought it would be fitting to learn of the man whose name it bears.   The date of Wah Shun Gah’s birth is uncertain as well as his age at death.  The 1902 Kaw Allotment Roll shows the chief was 64 years old at that time; if the figure on the roll is correct, he would have been about 70 at his death.  Most people guessed him older than that as he looked pretty weathered I suppose.

We’ll just allow that he was born about 1837.  It is most likely that Wah Shun Gah was born in the Kansas River Valley somewhere between Topeka and Manhattan.  Wah Shun Gah means ‘cut face’.  He had received a tomahawk wound on his cheek which left a scar.  Other sources say that he was known as ‘Bird’.  Wah Shun Gah was said to have had twenty one wives in his lifetime, none of which survived him.

By 1847 the Kaw tribe was moved to the reservation surrounding Council Grove.  There were three bands or villages on this reservation.  The one Wah Shun Gah lived in was on Big John Creek of which Ishtalasea was the chief.  This village was located about 3 miles southeast of Council Grove where the Alegawaho Park is presently.  Supposedly Wah Shun Gah’s stone hut is the one farthest south of the three ruins along the creek.  The other two bands were located near Dunlap and Kahola Creek.

When the Kaw were removed from their Council Grove reservation in 1873 and sent to Indian Territory, they retained some of their Kansas identity.  The three bands which appear in government records of 1882 were known as the Kahola, Rock Creek and Picayune.  In 1875 Wah Shun Gah was made chief of the latter named and remained chief for life.  It seems his outstanding character and leadership earned him this right.

The most that we learn about Wah Shun Gah comes from a man who grew old with him.  General W. E. Hardy said he knew ‘Old Wash’ “since he was a small boy, knew him in 1847, knew him 1837.”  Hardy was secretary of the Kaw tribe for many years.  Concerning Wah Shun Gah’s character Hardy goes on to say, “He was a shrewd Indian.  He was smart, he knew how to handle the affairs of the tribe and secure for them everything that they should have.  There was not a shrewder, brighter chief and was one of the best that we ever had.  He loved his Indians.”

Wah Shun Gah was an Indian of the ‘old school’.  One of the practices he held to was shaving his head except for the scalp lock, which he was very proud of.  He did not take to white man’s ways except for the taste of whiskey perhaps, and this was something he was ever cautious of.  From the Kansas City Journal of Feb. 28th 1908 we read that Wah Shun Gah had a taste for strong drink but always made sure to leave home when he drank too freely.  This was because of an old tribal law which would expel any member of the council if found intoxicated.  On one occasion Wah Shun Gah came home pickled and realized he was on dangerous ground. Although that was not the end of his drinking, he made sure to not jeopardize his position as chief again.

A few anecdotes we find in the Arkansas City Traveler of 1908 give us a humorous look at our favorite chief.    Wah Shun Gah was a regular visitor to Arkansas City; he did quite a bit of trading there with a good friend of his, Mr. Newman.    He would call Mr. Newman up on the modern telephone and chat with him.  If Mr. Newman was not at his store when the chief arrived he would wait for Newman to return.  He refused to do business with anyone else.  If Newman was out of town Wah Shun Gah simply went home without doing any trading.

On one of his regular trips to Ark City some of the boys there introduced the chief to the bicycle.  They got the old Indian on the machine and showed him how it was done, supporting him until the bicycle got started on a downhill run.  Then they let go.  He made it a few feet down East Central Avenue until his blanket got caught in the chain and then he had a spill.  It was reported that when Wah Shun Gah was picked up he was cussing most vociferously and was ‘mad clear through’, so ended his interest in another of the white man’s inventions.

Concerning Arkansas City, the Chief prophesied that it would not be hit by tornadoes.  I found mention of this in a Council Grove Republican from 1954.  At that time tornadoes were wreaking havoc on the Oklahoma border and the citizens of Ark City were depending very much on the accuracy of the chief’s prophesy.  The article also stated that Indians prophesied Council Grove would never be visited by a tornado because of its valley location.  I just hope the prince of the powers of the air is aware of this arrangement.

Wah Moh O E Ke and Wah Shun Gah in 1902.

In 1902 Wah Shun Gah, along with Wah Moh O E Ke, went to Washington D.C. to represent the Kaw in the Kaw Allotment Act.  Charles Curtis, a Kansas congressman, member of the House Committee on Indian Affairs and part Kaw, was the man behind this plan.  The act essentially abolished the Kaw government and allotted tribal lands to their members.  Curtis had been working up to this since 1898 when the ‘Curtis Act’ was passed extending federal government control over the Indians.  If you think this sounds highly suspicious, I agree with you.  It is my understanding that Curtis got some land out of this deal.  There were a number of full bloods who opposed, but Wah Shun Gah did what he thought best for his people.  The reservation was divided among tribal members.  Wah Shun Gah always looked upon Curtis as a grandson, even though they were not likely blood relation.  Later this Charles Curtis would become Vice President of the United States under Herbert Hoover.

In February of 1908 Chief Wah Shun Gah came to the end of his trail.  The newspapers all report that he was found at the front gate of a house not very far from his own home.  He had apparently been drinking and they believed that was the cause of his death.  Perhaps his heart gave out.  The rest of the story was made known when Mrs. Jennie Graham stopped at the Trail Days Café for a bite to eat.  Mrs. Graham related to Ken McClintock how Chief Wah Shun Gah died at the gate of her grandparent’s home.  In her story the chief froze to death in a blizzard.  It is likely that the combined effects of alcohol and hypothermia did him in.

Mrs. Graham also shared about the wake held for Wah Shun Gah.  The wake was held at the Cooper School house.  Since the chief was frozen in a not so prostrate position, weights were placed on him to keep him laid out straight.  During the evening one of the Indians in attendance bumped the body and the weights fell off causing Wah Shun Gah to sit upright.  The room was evacuated in a disorderly manner.  There have long been stories of folks sitting up with the dead and the dead participating in the sitting up as well.  I cannot say if this is so as I was not present.

Addenda:   Although we in Council Grove spell it ‘Washunga’ Days, General W.E. Hardy states that the ‘correct spelling’ of the chief’s name is ‘Wah Shun Gah’, which is how I have spelled it throughout my article.  I did receive a little criticism for spelling it that way.  Apparently the Kaw Nation decided on the Washunga spelling some years back.  I hope the man who grew up and old with Wah Shun Gah would know how to correctly spell his name.

Post Office Oak

The Post Office Oak Tree in front of the Hebrank home. The woman pictured is likely Mary Metzger. c. 1900

The Post Office Oak Tree may be our biggest hoax ever pulled off in the Grove.  If that don’t grab you nothing will.  I have done considerable research on the Post Office Oak Tree and have not been able to confirm the story that has circulated about it.  When I am trying to establish the authenticity of a story I try to find the earliest source.  Where did it originate?  How long has it been around?

The earliest reference I can find concerning the old tree is in Lalla Brigham’s The Story of Council Grove printed in 1921.  Speaking of the old stone brewery built by Francis Hebrank, now the Post Office Oak Museum, she writes, “In front of this building is an old oak tree which belonged to the oak grove in which the treaty was signed in 1825.  In early days it was called the Post Office Oak, as there was a cache made of stone placed by this tree in which passing caravan left letters or messages.”

Here’s what we do know about the postal service here.  According to early Morris County historian John Maloy (who never mentions the Post Oak), the people of Council Grove had been getting their mail at the mail station until 1855.  This station was located where the Farmers and Drovers Bank now stands.  It was contracted to Waldo, Hall & Co. in 1850 and continued up to February 26th, 1855, when the Council Grove post office was established.  G.M. Simcock was appointed as the first postmaster.  Simcock however, refused this position because he had not asked for it, did not want it and it was given without his consent.  So the commission went to T. S. Huffaker the Kaw teacher and interpreter.

Maloy goes on to say there was, “no fixed place called a postoffice, but when a mail arrived he (the post master) would go to the mail station and get the mail sack and take it, followed by the crowd to some house or store where it would be poured out on the floor and distributed.”  Maloy also notes that every place of business had stamps to sell to the public.  This is our earliest history concerning the post in Council Grove.

Let us consider the practicality of a stone cache at the base of the tree.  First of all I have never found any historical account of mail being left unattended in such a manner.  Well, there is one, but that was in Mark Twain’s Roughing It.  The stage broke down because it was overloaded with back mail, so they left half the bags of mail for the cavalry to pick up.

If there were a dwelling or establishment, that is where the mail would be dropped and the home or business owner would serve as ‘postmaster’.  A great proof of this is from the Kansas State Historical Society’s publication ‘Kansas Post Offices’.   In 1869 in Dickinson County, a post office was operated out of a corner cupboard in the small log cabin of Alexis Blanchett.  This was not an exceptional instance but rather a common occurrence.

Knowing that Seth Hays was here in 1847 it is safe to assume he took care of what little mail passed through here.  Also knowing that the Neosho River came out of its banks regularly, it is ridiculous to think that intelligent persons would leave their mail at the base of a tree about 600 feet from the river.  Evidence of this purported ‘stone cache’ has not been found to my knowledge.  The absence of this stone cache has led to the modern version of the story, namely, that the mail was left in a knot hole in the tree or a hollow branch.  I will attest that when the tree was alive I do recall a hollow branch and I was led to believe that was where the mail was stuck.  Of course, as a child I never thought to question if the pioneers had to stand on horseback to get the mail, as the hole was pretty high off the ground.

What about the traders using the Post Oak to warn others of hostile Indians and swollen streams?  Again, I have never found mention of leaving messages in the Post Oak or any tree.  Wagon trains would meet each other coming and going on the road, at these places of meeting is when the most accurate news could be exchanged.  It doesn’t make sense to wait until reaching Council Grove to find out what’s going on, or learning of conditions at Council Grove, find them changed by the time you reach the reported area.

January 25th of 1955 an entry from Samuel Wood’s diary was printed in the Council Grove Republican as part of the centennial celebration.  The entries were supposedly made from September 15th, 1854 to November 26th of the same.  It includes Sam’s trip through Council Grove where he mentions dropping off a letter in the Post Oak.  If this diary were authentic, we might have a tinker’s chance at establishing the Post Oak as bona fide.   However, there are many inaccuracies in this diary that prove it’s a fake.

I talked with David Apelin of Dwight about this diary.  Aspelin is a descendant of Sam Wood’s brother.  In researching his ancestor, Aspelin was able to point out the anachronisms in the diary.  The biggest proof in point is that at the time the diary was purportedly written, 1854, Wood was not traveling the Santa Fe Road but was occupied in Lawrence.  He attended a reception for Governor Reeder on October 19th, 1854 and by the 29th of November had cast his vote for territorial delegate for congress.   It wasn’t until about ten years afterward Sam made his crossing on the Santa Fe.

Aspelin said that his grandmother wrote this story for the Council Grove Republican.  She received her information from a Westport Newspaper and from the archives of the Chase County Historical Society.  She pieced the story together from events which may have had some truth to them.  Don McNeal edited this article before it went to print.  He found something that stuck out like a sore thumb.  The Westport version of the story included the Last Chance Store.  The Last Chance was not built until three years after the diary was written.  So, McNeal left this line out of the Council Grove version.

There have been doubts about the Post Oak for a number of years.  Mary Metzger who lived in the stone house near the tree expressed her disappointment when the “decision was made to recognize the oak tree on the Crum property as the Council Oak Tree and they called the oak tree on her property the Post Office Oak.  She deeply felt the decision was the wrong one.”  Apparently Metzger had reason to believe that her tree was the Council Oak.  I won’t go there.

Now let us look at some numbers.  I went around to various remaining trees from the old oak grove and compared ages as estimated by KSU forestry.  I did my own measuring and estimations and found they were within ten years one way or the other of KSU’s figures.  The age and sprout date of the Council Oak is unknown and appears so on the 1985 Nation Register of Historic Places Inventory.  My figure, based on the diameter multiplied by growth factor 5, puts the tree at 210 years old when a wind storm took it in 1958. That puts the sprout date at about 1748. The Post Oak was estimated to be 270 years old when it died in 1999, making the sprout date 1729.  My calculations show the tree to be 222 years old making the sprout date 1777.  That’s pretty old, but not older than the stump at the east end of Rays Apple Market.  Its sprout date is 1694, that makes it about 35 years (83 by my figures) older than the Post Oak.  If a tree were used to stick letters in, would the Post Oak have been the more prominent?  I think not.

Granted, these numbers are not conclusive.  Based on the growth factor used, the age of the tree could vary by 180 years.  Recent studies have shown that some trees that were thought to be about 300 years old were actually 500!  Studies have also shown that Burr Oaks have a faster growth rate in Kansas.  So our trees could appear older than they are.

Cheyenne Raid of 1868

Since I mentioned the Cheyenne Raid last week I thought I might share that story with you.  On the 3rd of June, 1868, about three hundred Cheyenne rode into Council Grove from the west.  They were on a mission to exterminate the Kaw for some breach of Indian etiquette committed the previous winter.  I cannot find my source but I believe the Kaw got into a scuffle with the Cheyenne while on a buffalo hunt and ended up stealing some ponies as part of their victory.

Kaw Men circa 1868

Kaw men circa 1868 in front of what locals call the Indian Agency. The wood frame Agency building was actually across the road west of this stone house pictured on the right. The newer mission building was less than a mile east of the Agency. This stone building, which was the interpreter’s home, has been reconstructed in recent years with only three sides standing and no roof, and minus the three small windows just below the eves.

The Cheyenne split up, half going down the Four Mile Creek while the other half headed down to Big John where the Indian Agency and Mission were.  I’ll mention here, as some may not know this, that we had two Kaw Indian Missions.  The one we are familiar with here in town was the first, built in 1851 and only used until 1854 for the Kaw.  The second mission was built about 4 miles southeast of town about equidistant from the Neosho and Little John Creek.

The Kaw were prepared for the attack and Major E. S. Stover, who was the Indian agent, was in command.  The Kaw and Cheyenne spent most of the afternoon exchanging shots but neither side willing to engage in full battle.  Each kept out of rifle range of the other.  There were only two casualties from that engagement.  One Kaw was wounded and one Cheyenne shot in the foot later dying from the wound.

As dusk was approaching the Cheyenne thought it would be wise to head back to the vast prairie, before any Federal soldiers got involved.  Before making themselves scarce they came back through town and surrounded the Hebrank house and brewery, now the Post Office Oak Museum.  You can imagine after a long hot day of fighting they were in need of a good drink.  They demanded service from the residents of the home.  Mary Hebrank Metzger met them and for about an hour drew water from the well in the basement of the house.  Meanwhile, the women and children from the east side of town were huddled in the upstairs anxious for the Indians to leave.

The Cheyenne did not harm anyone but they ransacked a few farms as they headed west.  One being W.K. Pollard’s farm just on the west end of town.  They took what they could eat as they were famished.  R. B. Lockwood had all of his provisions commandeered by the Cheyenne.  It was also said that all the feather beds were slit open and scattered to the wind.  The retreating Indians left something of a snow storm in their wake.

The day after, Governor Crawford came to investigate and Major Stover gave him the particulars on what had passed.  A company of soldiers commanded by Captain Mullins was stationed in the area for a while afterward just to make sure all remained peaceful, and so it was for the next 144 years.

Old Bell Monument


Bell Monument

1920 postcard from author’s collection.

I like to be accurate when it comes to relaying history to others.  I don’t care to be duped myself and I would not do so to others.  I have always made a point to confirm what I can and simply say ‘I don’t know’ when I don’t know.  For some time now I have intended to cover the historic sites in Council Grove, and either prove or disprove the common story that is attached to those sites.  I have often been told by long time residents of this town that some of the history is closer to made up.  We have found this quite true in the case of the Old Pioneer Jail.  It appears that there are other stories that are completely false, partly false or the story has been elaborated over the years.  Some are easy to detect, others take a bit more research to come to conclusions.  One such elaborated story I want to set before you is that of the old bell on the hill.

What is now our Bell Monument on Belfry Hill was first intended for the Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence Kansas.  The bell was ordered by the church in 1863 but refused when they found a crack in the rim.  Sam Wood was in Lawrence at the time and found out about the bell.  Being aware that our town needed an alarm bell he arranged for the purchase and shipment of the bell to Council Grove.  It was hauled out across the Santa Fe Road by oxen at an exorbitant rate of $9.

It was not put into immediate use once it reached the Grove.  It turned out much like one of my home projects and didn’t get tended to for some time.  It sat on Belfry Hill until 1866 when a wooden tower was finally erected for it.  We are told by Lalla Brigham in 1921 that the bell was used as an alarm, church and school bell for nearly 40 years.  In 1881 when President Garfield died the bell rang monotonously for half a day.

By 1884 a new tower was erected and blown over in a wind storm and the bell rolled down the hill into A. G. Campbell’s yard, where the Ratliff’s presently reside on Mission Street.  Vandals (not the Vandals, but some vandals) busted the top off the bell with a sledge hammer.  The rim was overturned and used by Mrs. Campbell as a flower pot until 1901 when Mrs. Kate Aplington encouraged the school children to raise money for a stone monument to preserve the remains.

It was initially known as the McKinley Monument as the cornerstone was laid on the day that the president was buried.

In my research I have found that the story of the bell has morphed a little bit over the years.  Originally it was a church bell, then intended as an alarm bell.  A picture from the Morris County Historical Society shows two men sitting in front of the bell.  The picture was taken in 1940.  The sign on the bell reads “THE OLD BELL-(date is difficult to make out, something resembling 1868) USED AS CHURCH SCHOOL AND ALARM BELL” This sign is most likely the one that was placed on the monument at the early part of the century shortly after it was erected.   The present sign in front of the bell reads, “OLD BELL- 1863 Used to warn settlers of Indian raids”.   The present bronze plaque on the monument reads the same and appears to be old but was not on the monument in the 1940 picture.

To say the bell was used to warn of Indian raids is inordinately presumptuous.  There should be no plurality.  The only raid it may have rung in alarm would have been the 1868 Cheyenne raid on the Kaw, as that is the only raid on record.  History has somehow forgotten the brave soul who stood out there on the hill in bow and rifle range of the Cheyenne.  That would have been a most selfless and heroic act worthy of recognition and praise for a hundred years to come.  Also, I have found no historical reference as to who received such advanced notice to run up there and ring the bell.  Nor have I come across any statements from anyone recalling the bell ringing during the raid.

When we think of the bell as an alarm bell it may be natural to assume an alarm for Indians since this was the edge of civilization.  However, I believe the most common alarm to ring out would be for a fire, just the same as when the tornado sirens go off today at an unusual hour it alerts the volunteers to hurry to the fire house.  It may also have rang out when someone in the community passed away, but I have found no record of this custom here.

I have currently been reading ‘The Price of the Prairie’, which I believe may have spawned a number of romantic ideas concerning certain sites in Council Grove.  The writer is clearly using Council Grove as her fictional ‘Springvale’.  In the story the church bell is rang in the middle of the night to warn all the settlers of an impending raid by Missouri ruffians.  The Hermit’s Cave is high up on a bluff overlooking the Neosho River, in fact in the novelist’s version the Hermit plunged to his death into the river from the cave.  There is also a private post office used between two lovers, it is not a tree that is used but a crevice in the rock on ‘Cliff Street’.  The Tavern Oak, which is a prominent tree that grows in front of the tavern, is used as a meeting place; many familiar entities and locations, but all with a writer’s romantic spin.

Everet and Wayne Green pose in front of Old Bell Monument 1940, courtesy Morris County Historical Society.


I have come across a couple different stories on how Dunlap was founded. I have my doubts about both, but I leave it the reader to decide which version they prefer. I was told once that Dunlap was staked out on a hillside location originally. In the night some pranksters removed the stakes and placed them in the valley, and so Dunlap was built where it is today.

I think this second version may be closer to the truth. This comes from a history of Dunlap written in 1925 by Mrs. Jessie Parrish. The Missouri, Kansas and Texas railway promoted the establishment of a town every ten miles along the track. Some settlers preferred the afore mentioned hillside location which was not quite a mile west of present Dunlap, the railroad preferred a location just east of Rock Creek. Joe Dunlap donated land where Dunlap now stands and surveyors staked the town site. The folks in favor of the hillside site platted streets hoping to encourage building on that location. John Guthrie who was a staunch supporter of the hillside site waited for darkness and then went to the valley and plowed up the stakes until daylight forced him to end his work. However, there were enough stakes remaining that they went ahead and started building the town anyway. Personally I think it would be quicker to pull up the surveyor’s stakes than to plow eighty acres, but what do I know.

The beginnings of Dunlap are kind of sketchy. Prior to 1846 various tribes of Indians crossed the valley where Dunlap now stands. In 1846 the Kaw were relocated to the reservation surrounding Council Grove from their reservation near Manhattan. Here they remained until 1873 when they were once more displaced to Indian Territory. The band of Kaw that lived in the Dunlap area were chief Kahegahwahtiangah’s, if your tongue can’t quite maneuver that you may call him Fool Chief. This band consisted of about 250 Kaw.

The Missouri, Kansas and Texas railroad came through here in 1870. According to old stories there was somewhat of a race between several railroad companies to win the right to build through Indian country. The MKT won that right. In 1878 Benjamin Singleton, also known as ‘Pap’, purchased land in what was to become Dunlap. Pap Singleton born in 1809 was a former slave who made great efforts establishing colonies of freedmen in Kansas. Prior to the Dunlap colony, others had been established by Singleton in southeastern Kansas, they seem to have had less success than Dunlap. Somewhere around 500 blacks came to Dunlap, but only a part of them stayed. It was often said that the rumor of 40 acres and a mule brought them here, and they were disappointed. Of course that rumor is as old as the Civil War. The blacks that did remain for many years after held an Emancipation Day. They threw a big barbeque and many blacks came from Lawrence, Leavenworth and many other places.

Dunlap was established as a third class city in January of 1887. Although it was incorporated at a fairly late period, there was much activity going on earlier. The cemetery association was organized in 1881. The earliest church, the Methodist, was built in 1885. When the Katy first came through in 1870, Dunlap had a rough wooden platform that served as the depot for many years until a proper building was made.

A glance at an 1896 Dunlap Reflector shows that Dunlap stood on equal ground with Council Grove. The town boasted three blacksmiths, four doctors and a drugstore, attorney, flour and feed store, city meat market, men’s clothing store, shoe repairman, saddle and harness shop, two general merchants and a hardware store, Farmer’s Bank, confectionery and Osage coal, hotel, barber shop, Knights of Pythias, Knights and Ladies of Security, Modern Woodmen of America, Grand Army of the Republic, Methodist Episcopal church, Methodist Protestant church and a Congregational Church. Many other business, churches and organizations were added to the list in years to come. It appears that Dunlap was quite independent from other towns.

Although Dunlap is not as grand as it once was, there are still those that remain there that take great pride in their community. This can be seen by the hard work and expense that has been invested in the school gymnasium, which has been fixed up very nicely and serves the community for gatherings and events. With the latest interest being shown in the Indian, and Black heritage that is rooted in Dunlap, it has been attracting more attention as a tourist site.

Addenda October 26, 2012:  The Hillsborough post office was established March 19th 1874; the name was changed to Dunlap on April 20th the same year.  Joseph Dunlap served as the first postmaster for each.  The Dunlap post office continued until August 12th 1988.

Henry Kingman

SCAN0010Henry Kingman was born at Deer Creek, Tazewell County, Illinois, May 7th, 1842. His father having drowned while crossing a river in high water, Henry was left fatherless at age five.  Henry’s mother let a room to a man by the name of Bogardus in order to pay for Henry’s schooling.  Bogardus was a Harvard graduate; very educated and somewhat wealthy.  This man later became Henry’s stepfather.

At a very young age (nine) Henry realized he had itchy feet.  He was always looking for an opportunity to run away from home and see the country.  Anywhere but home seemed a good place to Henry.  A neighbor was preparing to head off to Arkansas with his wife.  Henry asked if he could join them and was told he could.  So, on the morning of the departure, Henry got up to make the fire and get the coffee started.  Then he slipped quietly out of the house and rode his horse to the neighbors.  The first day of travel they made it 15 miles and stopped for camp.  The next morning after they had eaten breakfast and loaded the wagon they started another leg of the journey.  They didn’t get very far that morning when Henry saw two of his brothers riding to catch up with them.  Henry hid under some things in the back of the wagon, and the neighbor made like he didn’t know anything about Henry.  The brothers searched the wagon and of course found Henry.  Henry was not willing to go home and likely wouldn’t have if it wasn’t his mother who had sent for him.

About three years later Henry tried again.  This time he ran off to a cousin about fourteen miles away.  There he worked for twenty five cents a day for about two weeks, when his step father and mother pulled into the yard.  They had heard where he was and came to get him.  Henry managed to stay home one night and took off for cousin Pratt’s again.  There he worked till corn husking and moved around from place to place receiving employment and room and board.  At a young age he was quite capable of taking care of himself.  He bought his own boots, shoes, shirts and pants and they very well may have been better than he would have received at home.

After several years of working here and there, going home occasionally but mostly being away, he and his two brothers arranged to go to boarding school.  This was the winter before his seventeenth birthday.  The previous year gold had been discovered at Pike’s Peak; naturally all the boys in school were talking about it and dreaming of becoming rich.  Some of the boys started making arrangements to head to the gold fields; Henry was excluded as they thought seventeen too young.  A week before the boys were to depart they decided to let Henry come.  They were in need of his wagon.

Henry prepared for the trip by taking a file to the blacksmith to have sharpened into a Bowie knife.  He found a stag horn to fix to it for a handle, and then took it to the harness maker to have sheath made for it.  Henry and his brother Charlie, who was also going on the trip, went home one more time to say good bye to the family.  Mother charged Charlie to take care of Henry and keep him out of trouble, and then cried as she told Henry to ‘do be a good boy”.

Six young men dressed in jeans, hats, rubber boots (except Henry who wore rubber leggins because he couldn’t afford boots) started out over the prairie for Pike’s Peak.  They were prepared for Indian attack as there were reports of hostile Indian activity.  As they got closer to Pike’s Peak they were more discouraged by the reports of travelers coming back.  Wagons with ‘Bound for the Gold Fields’ or ‘Pike’s Peak or Bust’ painted on the canvas were returning with –‘ed’ added or ‘Busted by G-d’.  After a bad report by a group of men returning from the Peak, the boys changed their plans and decided to head for California and try their luck there.

Henry had more than a few run ins with the Indians.   It amazes me that he didn’t get himself scalped or killed some of them himself.   On the way to California the men were eating pancakes and sitting round the fire when four Indians rode up.  The captain of the party spoke some Indian and asked them to sit and he would fix them some flapjacks.  One Indian had finished his own and then politely reached over and snatched Henry’s pancake and meat and wiped the plate clean with it and would have finished it off if Henry hadn’t slapped him square in the face.  Now that was insulting in any culture and more so with the Indians.   Fortunately they were able to calm everyone down, but Henry was advised to keep on the alert as they would likely try to get him.

It was on this trip that Henry saw his first Indian burial.  The travelers saw something up in the branches of a tree and at first glance thought it was some big animal.  When they got closer they found it was an Indian that had been sewn up in a hide and left up in the tree.   Henry climbed up and with his knife cut the hide open to see what was inside.  All that was left was the skeleton of some old Indian.  Henry grabbed a handful of the beads that were in the hide as a souvenir.  They met with more of these along the way but left them untouched as their curiosity was satisfied with the first.

When last we left Henry Kingman and company they were camped at Devil’s Gate.  It was there they decided to part ways.  Henry, brother Charlie and McClellan headed for California and Emer Ramsey, Free Kingman and Al Clark to Denver.  It was but two days later when Henry’s party went into camp that they met the later party catching up with them.  They changed their minds and decided to go to California.

It was near the Steamboat and Soda Springs that Henry was encamped with Campbell’s train.  The morning of departure Campbell’s train took Sublette’s cut off and Henry’s party took the Fort Hall road.  The Fort Hall road was nearly one hundred miles longer but afforded good grazing for the stock.  Henry was very fortunate he took this road because the Campbell train was massacred by Indians.  Only one woman in the train lived to tell of it, and Henry got to hear her story at Green river where she was taken by her rescuers.  She said that the murdering was not done by Indians only.  Two white men had abused her and left her for dead.

Some time later the party arrived in Honey Lake Valley where they split up once again, this time the Kingman brothers remaining for the winter.  The brothers decided to open a saloon out of boredom, and finally convinced the hotel owner to let them board up a side porch to use.  The bar was made of rough boards; card tables of over turned boxes.  They bought whiskey and gin by the barrel and peach brandy which came in wide mouth jars with three, sometimes four or five peaches in them.  They ran the saloon for about three months when brother Charlie headed to Virginia City to get rich in the quartz mines.  After two weeks he returned with claims staked and the two brothers bought provisions to open a restaurant.  Snow interrupted their trip over the mountain and so it was postponed for a time.

In the valley there were about a dozen women.  Dances were held often in the small towns of Richmond and Susanville.  A company of Cavalry was stationed at Susanville to keep an eye out for the Piute Indians.   The soldiers had been drinking and came into the dance hall with their revolvers on and insisted they would run the dance.  They danced with all the women and about midnight when the whiskey had taken full effect, a free for all fight broke out.  Fifteen or twenty shots were fired in the small hall but apparently the soldiers were too drunk to hit anything.  So, Henry and the other fellows lit into the soldiers and knocked them down and took their revolvers and threw them down the stairs.  That was the end of the cavalry attending the dances.

During the time that Henry was in the Nevada and California area the political boundaries were a bit blurry as state lines had not been drawn yet.  Nobody had heard of stuffing the ballot box as of yet, however in Susanville the ballot box for Nevada was on one side of the street and for California on the opposite side.  The men voted at both locations since they didn’t know exactly where they were at.  Henry was proud to have cast his vote for Abraham Lincoln.

Not only did the absence of state lines create difficulties with the voting, it also caused miniature wars between officials.  Both sets of officials tried to hold court and getting into a fight the California officers tried to arrest the Nevada officers and the later resisted.  The Nevada officers turned a log cabin into a fort and fired on all officers who came near.  They killed two men, one being a judge in Plumas County California.  The Plumas county officers sent for a mountain howitzer with which they planned to blow the cabin into toothpicks.  At this point the locals got involved and carrying flags of truce went in to act as arbitrators.  They sent over the mountains to Virginia City to both Governors to get their decision in the matter.  Response came back that neither party had any authority to do anything until state lines were drawn, which was done later that year.

Charlie and Henry eventually made it to the Sierra Nevada Mountains to do some surface mining.  They built a cabin and a dozen sluice boxes to trap the gold.  They also put quicksilver in the riffles of the sluice boxes to attract the gold.  The quicksilver could be burned off saving the gold.  The Kingman brothers worked for about four months making from $1 to $2.50 per day.

After many other adventures of avoiding Indians, traveling the desert, romance, fortune and disappointment, Henry turned for home.  Passing through the Salt Lake he stopped to see the sights.  He went to the Brigham Young Theatre where he watched a string of women come in and was told they were Brigham’s wives.  He also went to see the temple that was being constructed and to Brigham’s headquarters.  No one was around and so Henry strolled right in where after he had made it some distance was told by someone to leave as it was private property.

After five years away from home Henry returned looking something like Wild Bill Hickok.  Leather jacket and pants with fringes, long hair and beard.  His first stop was the barbershop.

Although Henry’s taste of adventure in traveling had been mostly satisfied, he now had a sense of adventure in business.  After sundry business ventures Henry Kingman made his way to Council Grove Kansas in May of 1884.  He purchased one thousand acres where present day Delevan is, returned to get his family and bring them back.  They lived in Council Grove two years and then Henry built a store house on the land he had purchased twenty miles west of the Grove.   It was two stories, the upper serving as the family’s residence.

In 1885, Henry with the help of two other men platted out Grandview Township.  What would later be known as Delavan was known as Rex by the Missouri Pacific.  Those who lived there called it Kingsville.  Henry submitted the name of Delavan to both the government and the railroad and it was accepted.  The town was named after Delavan Illinois where Kingman had fond memories of his implement business with his brother.  The little hamlet of Grandview, which was a little farther east of Delavan, strongly opposed the station being placed at Delavan.

Henry Kingman was the father of Delavan.  He built, invested and cared for his community.  One thing we learn which I have no more space to include details, is that Henry was the health officer at Delavan and during the 1903 small pox plague he was the one who tended to the sick in Delavan.  He buried the dead with his own hands because no one else would do it.  He tended to the sick because all others were afraid to.  His life story shows that he was a man loved by all who knew him.  At his 75th birthday party 400 friends came to see him from all parts of Morris and Dickinson Counties.

At the ripe old age of 85 Henry passed away the 20th of April 1927.  He rests in the Delavan Cemetery.  And now you know who Henry is.

Addenda:  The Grand View post office, established June 28th 1876, was moved to Delevan July 20th 1886.  Henry Kingman was the first appointee of Delevan post office.  The post office closed August 15th 1992.

History of Barber Shops in Morris County



Barber shop in Council Grove probably not much later than 1930 (chairs appear to be about 1923 models). Charles Taylor is the barber in the middle. The location of this shop is unknown, but may have been the shop located in the 400 block of East Main. See foot for more info.

I have been compiling a history of barbers and shops in Morris County for some time now.  I by no means have a complete and authoritative history, but I am sure I have enough to exhaust the most enthusiastic historian.  I shall lay it out here for you for several weeks to come.

I thought the Kansas State Barber Board might be of assistance in researching barbers of Morris County.  Unfortunately they don’t care to let people rummage through their file cabinets and don’t seem interested in giving any information unless given names.  Other sources for my information include telephone directories, business directories, newspaper ads, census records, Sanborn maps, and information collected from various individuals.  Mind you, not every newspaper has been scoured; I may have more to add to this history later.

When did the first barber pass through this land?  That is difficult if not impossible to determine as our records and accounts of early day Morris County are very few and not particularly detailed.   I would like to imagine that someone, even if not an apprenticed barber passed through here on the way to Santa Fe and acted the part of shaver for those heading west.

The first barber I have found record of in Council Grove is Brad Sharp.  He was listed on the 1870 census as a barber living in Council Grove age 27.  I have not been able to determine where his shop was located.  At some point he left the Grove and apparently went to a town that was offering more opportunity for him.  We next find Mr. Sharp in the Parkerville Tribune of January 30th, 1896.  The editor had listed all the businesses in Parkerville in the previous paper but left out the barber.  It reads, “…we unintentionally omitted the name of J.B. Sharp, the tonsorial artist.  “Brad,” as he is familiarly known to everybody, came to this country thirty five years ago and has been engaged in every manner of enterprise.  He is a finished scholar at his trade, keeps a neat and tasty shop and his work is always satisfactory to his patrons.”

The next barber shop that I have found is Thomas Cleek’s.  An advertisement for this shop first appears in the Morris County Republican Saturday May 13th, 1876.  The ad reads, “shaving, shampooing, haircutting, and hair dyeing promptly attended to.  Ladies and children’s hair dressing done.  Shop on Main Street, one door east of bank building.  Open till 12m Sundays.”

The bank mentioned above is most likely the Morris County State Bank which was located at 116 W Main, present day Bosch Furniture in the building closest the Hays House.  The barber shop was located where the extreme west part of the Hays House is now.  In 1886 a fire swept the entire block west of the Hays House, the barber shop was destroyed in this blaze.  Sometime after this fire an addition was made to the Hays House that included the site of Cleek’s barber shop.

Thomas Cleek was born in Kentucky about 1851.  How he came to Council Grove we do not know.  He was about 25 years old when he started his shop here.  The 1880 census shows his brother-in-law, T. McKinney, lived with Thomas and wife Ida.  McKinney was also a barber and I believe they worked in the same shop together.  McKinney may be the youngest barber ever in Morris County.    He was 17 years old and working when listed on the 1880 census.  All of these people are absent from the 1900 census.  It is likely that after the 1886 fire took the shop the family moved elsewhere to make a new start.

An ad from the Council Grove Republican of Saturday June 7th, 1879 reads, “New shaving saloon.  Henry Weigand proprietor; Council Grove Kansas; one door west of Commercial House; Hairdressing, shampooing, shaving, etc. done in the latest Chicago style; hair tonic prepared and for sale.  Call and see me.”  The Commercial House was built by Charles Gilkey in 1859, and originally known as the Gilkey House.  It was known by other names over the years such as Hotel Somnus as we will learn more of later.  The Commercial House was torn down in 1939 to make way for our present day Post Office at 103 W Main.

Between the Commercial House and the Miller Kerr building (now Alderman Dentistry) there were two or three wood frame buildings.  Weigand’s shaving saloon was located in one of these.   By September 20th of 1879 Weigand’s ad had changed and encourages the reader to check out the new White and Barth store.  This leads us to believe that  Weigand had moved his shop to the White and Barth building which was located between the present Farmers and Drovers Bank Plaza at 123 W Main and the McCardell building now Red Bud Design at 129 W Main.

I have been curious as to what ‘done in the latest Chicago style’ means.  A. B. Moler established the first barber school in the nation in Chicago, but that was in 1893.  So it is not possible that Weigand learned from Moler’s school.  One of his children is listed as being born in Illinois, so I presume that Weigand did live in Chicago at one time and most likely learned the trade there.  So I conclude that the latest Chicago style simply refers to where he apprenticed and the fact that Chicago would be comparable to New York City in fashion and latest developments in the trade at that period.  Weigand was born in Missouri May of 1852 and so he was in his late twenties when he first went to work in the Grove.  Take note of the ages, I have a point to make later.  Like the Cleeks, the Weigand family left Council Grove before 1900.  However, if my notes are correct, Henry is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

Springer’s Barber Shop is advertised in the Council Grove Republican of September 20th, 1879.  I’m afraid I cannot give a clear picture concerning Springer as I am certain there were more than one, possibly father, son and maybe even a third generation.  John J. Springer was born in Tennessee in 1872.  This however could not be the same that operated in 1879.  It is possible it could be the same Springer who opened their Tonsorial Palace with a Mr. Withrow in 1890.  He would have been 18 years old.  I have found no further information on Mr. Withrow.

An ad from an unidentified/undated paper reads, “M.W.A. (Modern Woodmen of America) Barber Shop J.J. Springer Proprietor-at the old stand-near the bridge.”  The ‘old stand’ means the same old place I’ve been and everyone knows where to find me.  Since this was near the bridge I am sure the shop was located where Adams 66 now stands at 15 W Main.  There was a shop shown on the 1900 and 1914 Sanborn maps at that location.   R.E. Ashburn was the successor to Springer’s M.W.A shop.  By 1901 J. Springer had his shop in the Hotel Somnus.  This shop boasted a billiard table.

As we skip ahead a bit to 1923, we find an ad in the Council Grove telephone directory for Springer Barber Shop.  This Springer was E.B., possibly a son or grandson of J. Springer.  This is the largest shop I have found in Council Grove or the County for that matter.  It boasted six chairs!  Shines and baths; no waiting.  It was located at 128 W Main where Catlin Lakeside Properties is now.  One item of interest to this particular shop is it advertises a “full line of Boncilla toilet articles.”  The Boncilla Clasmic Pack or Boncilla Facial claimed to remedy all sorts of skin ailments.  One ad from 1931 says, “After thirty minutes see the results-your face amazingly refreshed, fatigue lines utterly removed, color in the cheeks no rouge can bring; crows feet, black heads, pimples gone; enlarged pores closed; a smoother softer more lovely skin.”

I would like to think that I have found the first Black barber in Morris County.  Discovered on the 1880 census is John Matthews, barber in Dunlap, age 23.  And that’s all there is to say of John.  I have some other barbers for Dunlap but I’m afraid I cannot tell you their skin preference.  Frank Ryman advertises his City Barber Shop in the Dunlap Reflector of February 7th, 1896.  In a later ad, Ryman also repairs clocks and watches.  Melvin Whitaker told me of a barber he remembers in Dunlap by the name of Ikey Ryman.  I don’t know for sure if Frank and Ikey are one and the same, but think it very likely.

From the Dunlap Reflector 1896.

A little talk with Melvin Whitaker in July of 2011 revealed some more barbers in Dunlap.  Besides Ikey Ryman, Melvin remembered a Charlie Wiley and a man named Henderson that worked as barbers.  Wiley was what they called a ‘tramp barber’ according to Whitaker.  He would fill in for a barber while they were on vacation, but never had a shop of his own and usually worked out of his home.  He most likely was not a licensed barber.  Wiley charged 25 cents for a haircut while all the other barbers were getting 40 cents.  Wiley was also known to be a bootlegger, maybe that’s why his haircuts were so cheap.  As Whitaker recalls, it was around 1945 that Wiley worked in Dunlap.

Let’s go back to Council Grove for a bit.  I have a long list of barber and beauty shops in the Grove during the early to mid part of the 20th century.  I don’t have details as to who all operated in them.

The Sanborn maps show barber shops located at 216 or 18 and 123 W Main in 1885.  In 1887 there was a shop in the middle of the 400 block E Main, approximately where Tom’s bar is; also, a shop in the basement of the National Bank  at the corner of Neosho and W Main.  By 1908 there was a barber shop at 214 W Main.  In 1914 there was a barber shop located at the southwest corner of the block where the Neosho Plaza high-rise stands.  This was a little brick building that once served as the Express Office.  By 1922 there was a shop located at 105 W Main, next to the Commercial Hotel.  This may have been the same building Henry Weigand was in back in 1879.

Larry Kellogg sent me some information concerning his mother, Neva Jane Rees.  She opened a beauty shop in 1924 in the balcony of the Leader department store, which was located to the east of Red Bud Design.  It was called the Jane Beauty Shop, it was only open for a very brief time as the following year she was married.  Larry was told it was the first beauty shop in town.  I will grant that it may be, for it is the first that I have run across.

Bruce Scott of Delevan said when he got out of the Navy he went into a shop in California for a haircut.  As he was talking with the barber they discovered they were from the same County.  This barber, by the name of Nethercutt, once worked in the basement of the Farmers and Drovers Bank back in the 30s.  E.R. Nethercutt is listed in the 1936 phonebook.

A couple years ago a picture was brought to me that otherwise would have been thrown in the trash.  The person was cleaning out their garage and didn’t know who was in the picture, but since it was an interior picture of a barber shop, thought I might be interested in having it.  And so I was.  The picture is of three barbers with three customers in the chair; you may come in the shop and see it for yourself.  Careful examination of the photo revealed that the names of the barbers were hanging above them on the back bar.  Only one was legible, but that was all we needed.  ‘C.W.Taylor’ was what the one read.  I went to Ken McClintock and asked if he could fill in the blanks.  He thought some time and said he knew a Charlie Taylor but he worked on the railroad.  It was worth a shot to ask Charlie’s daughter, Charlene McRae, who lived here in town.  She came in and confirmed that the man in the picture was her father.  Charles W. Taylor was born September 5th, 1906.  He learned the barber trade in St. Louis and at some point bummed a train to Kansas.  He was employed with the railroad for most of his life, but it appears early on, and when not working on the railroad, he worked as a barber.  He was in his mid 20s in the early 1930s when he barbered here.  Taylor died in 1968 at the age of 62.  The location of the shop has not been confirmed yet.  Jack Foster said that Charlie Taylor gave him his first haircut in the basement of the Nation Bank; that would have been in the late 30s.  Another old-timer of Council Grove told me that Taylor worked on the east side in the 400 block location.  That may be the shop the picture was taken in.

In 1936 we find the Mae Howard Beauty Shop at 219 W Main, Mays Beauty Shop at 126 W Main and Springer Beauty & Barber Shop at 1 S Neosho; this was in the basement of the Farmers and Drovers Bank (it would appear that Nethercutt must have worked with Springer).  By 1942 Springer’s had moved to 119 W Main.  Then in 1944 it became Harrison Beauty Shop and about 1946 moved to 119 ½ above Scholes Jewelry Co.

From 1940-41 we find Davis Beauty Shop at 406 E Main.  Mrs. Ella Kreth’s Beauty Shop was at 28 N Mission in 1940 and moved to 412 W Main in 1941 where it closed up not long after.  From 1940-43 the Mallory Beauty Bar was located at 126 ½ W Main, above Mallory Drug.  At the same time Mi-Lady Beauty Shop operated at 20 E Main.  From 1940-44 West Shoe and Beauty Shop was at 215 W Main, sometime in 1944 it changed to Goodman Beauty Shop.  By 1946 Goodman moved to 22 S Mission and then in 1947 became House of Beauty.   Evelyn’s Beauty Shop took its place by 1948 and then moved to N Neosho Street by 1949.  In the nearly 9 years I have been in Council Grove I have always found it remarkable how often businesses change hands or locations here.  It appears that it is by no means a new practice when you look at how often these shops changed.

Express Office 1977

Old Express Office where Buck McAtee once barbered. Later, Joann Stiver had a beauty shop there. Photo taken in 1977.

In 1943 we find Alice Gillespie Beauty Bar at 18 Wood St.  From 1945-47 White Barber and Beauty Shop was at 206 W Main, in 1947 it became McAtee Barber and Beauty Shop and remained so until 1952. By 1956 McAtee was at the old Express Office at the southwest corner of the lot where the Neosho Plaza high-rise is.  Johnny Baker had his barber shop at 123 W Main from 1946-48.  He moved it to his home at 27 N Washington and operated from 1963-68.  The 1965 phone book shows it at 25 N Washington; I don’t know if that was a misprint or if he moved it briefly for some reason.  Lawrence Strouts told me a little story about Baker.  Strouts used to get his hair cut by Baker and one day Baker told him that if he had someone in the chair that he didn’t particularly care for, he’d leave a few hairs around the corners of the mouth during a shave.  This of course is irritating and the person would not likely come back.

Melba’s Curli-Q Salon was at 130 W Main in 1947 and Pullins Beauty Salon at 214 Hockaday in 1948.  Mel’s Barber Shop was at 610 Conn Street from 1973-76.  Mel Keyser had a shop at the Leader location and following a fire that took out those buildings he operated out of his home.  The shop by the Leader seems to have been a barber shop from the time it was built until it burned down.  In 1955 the Mary Ruth Beauty Shop was at 8 N 4th street.* More next week.

Opening Day 001

Opening announcement courtesy Ruth Lynn Oberle.


Claude Steck, or as everyone remembers him, ‘Smokey’ Steck went to the Moler Barber College in Chicago in 1947.  That’s where he started barbering in 1948 then moved back to Council Grove in 1949 where he barbered with Buck McAtee.  Information from Steck’s daughter Claudia sates that in November of 1951 Steck purchased the Hays Tavern Barber Shop and in 1958 moved to the Farm Bureau Building where he remained.  The telephone directory shows he operated at 222 W Main from 1955-67 and 1978-83.  He sold his shop in January of 1986.  Steck was a character and all who remember him have a story or two to tell.  I was told that he had a sign on the ceiling of his shop so that when people were getting a shave they could see it.  It read “what the hell you looking at?”  I have been told by more than one person that Smokey had one haircut to give, and if you protested he would point to the barber pole out front and say “that means I know how to cut hair.”

Steck’s certificate from the Moler College of December 1, 1948.

Russell Shubert started out cutting hair in the south portion of what was known as the Home Café.  The building was located where the Saddle Rock Café now stands.  From 1978-82 he worked at 412 E Main.  I had the pleasure of knowing Russell and I’m sure all will agree that you could not find a more kindhearted and genial person.  Russell use to come into my shop after hours and we would trade haircuts.  For as long as Russell had been out of the barbering business he could still give a very satisfactory cut.  Russell told me of the time when he would help Apache Joe braid leather strips for watch chains.  Apparently Russell didn’t do as well at that and Apache Joe would take his braids that he had worked so diligently at and cut them into little pieces with his knife.

Russell told me there was a time when he once barbered in Wilsey.  He soon gave that up because what was happening was all the guys would come sit in the shop and drink coffee and chat all day and wouldn’t get their haircut.  But when he was at his shop in Council Grove they would be lined up for hours waiting to get their hair cut.

C.B. Smith told me of Erville Winfield, he was apparently not a licensed barber but I must include this in the annals of haircuttery.  Erville Winfield worked for the railroad along with C.B. Smith.  One day Smith mentioned he needed to get his hair cut.  Winfield offered to do it for him.  Smith didn’t know Winfield cut hair but gave him a shot anyway.  So Smith went to Winfield’s house and got a pretty decent haircut and continued to go to him for the service.  As it turned out, Winfield was also a drunk.  So it was best to get your hair cut earlier in the day rather than later.  One day as Winfield was cutting Smith’s hair he asked, “Did you have ketchup for lunch?”  Smith said ‘no’ and Winfield replied, “Never mind then.”  After having his hair cut one day Smith went home and found that only one half of his head had been cut and the other completely untouched.  So he went back to Winfield to have it finished and found Winfield passed out drunk.  It was at this point Smith decided to find a new barber.  Oh yes, Erville also played the guitar and banjo.

As we get closer to modern times, we find that Council Grove went without a barber shop for nearly ten years.  Smokey Steck was the last until John’s Barber Shop opened up at 12 N Neosho in 1992.  The following year the shop appears as John’s Barber & Styling Shop.  Then in 1994-5 it appears as Council Grove Barber Shop.  Folks don’t seem to know too many details about the barbers that operated here, but from the accounts I have heard it does appear that there were two different barbers in this location.  It also sounds like the individuals who ran the shops were both a bit different.  One got in trouble with the law, had problems with his girlfriend.  The other locked himself in his apartment and shot holes in the ceiling with a pistol.  Of course, that’s what I have heard from the locals.

Once again Council Grove was without a barber for nearly ten more years until I came to open my shop in October of 2003.  Remember I said I had a point I wanted to make concerning the age of the barbers?  Most of the time when someone comes in my shop for the first time they say something like, “I expected someone older.”  Or they mention how all the other barbers they know are old men.  Well, they were young once too you know.  I was 19 years old when I started my business here.  And most all the other barbers listed in this history were in their early 20s when they started working.

The Council Grove Barber Shop has made its mark as not only an old fashioned shop but a center for music.  For nearly as long as the shop has been in business it has hosted a music jam on the last Tuesday of every month.   Musicians gather from miles around including White City, Alta Vista, Manhattan, Cottonwood Falls, Canton, Galva, McPherson, Topeka, Emporia, Herington, and even farther.   There have been amazing musicians pass through the doors over the years.  A young man named Daschle, who was just out of high school and walking from Washington State to Florida for Soles4Souls, came through Council Grove.  This was back when I had a piano in the shop and Daschle played and sang a piece he wrote and it was very good.  I have had flamenco, jazz, and rock style guitarists pick up the community guitar and make sounds come out of it that will never be reproduced.  And of course Alex comes over from La Hacienda and he spends time teaching me to play requinto music on the mandolin.  Which I admit is not my strongest point, but it is beautiful music none the less.

And who doesn’t know about the homemade ice cream and root beer that we have on the street in the summertime?  People stop to listen to the music and have a refreshing dollop of blackberry or some other favorite ice cream.  Maybe even a root beer float.  And Elvie Aikens more often than not brings some delicious cookies or something to munch on.  My favorite to date is what I call her birdseed cookies.  They have sunflower and maybe flax seed in them.  Like history, this too shall pass so make it a part of your memory while you have an opportunity to enjoy it.

To complete my list of barbers I give you the ones I know little about.  They are Bill Stoddard who worked in the upstairs of the Leader building in the early 60s; Leo Davis 400 block E Main; and Frank Means a ‘colored’ barber in 1928 all of Council Grove.  The Council Grove Guard of August 8th, 1913 advertises the “Union Barber Shop, The only shop in town; good barbers-courteous treatment; sanitary shop; E.A. Brunts proprietor.  Bath in connection; opposite the Missouri Pacific Depot.”  A business directory of 1889 shows Henry Davis barber in White City, and in 1901 H.V. Scholes also White City.  Max Walton barber in Dwight; Bill Ohm Barber Shop in Latimer, period unknown to me.  Palace Barber Shop J.T. Houseman proprietor, advertises cigars, tobacco and summer drinks; I think this was in Dunlap but am not sure.  Also a barber named Bradshaw and Eckleberry; I believe Ernest Braun told me of these.  A.J. Coffin was the proprietor of the Wilsey Barber Shop; I believe this was the early part of the 20th century.   And finally, Art Johnson the barber of Burdick, who played the banjo, harmonica and bass drum for cake walks.

And now a parting anecdote about barbers from the Council Grove Republican March 15th, 1906.  “John Drew, as he lunched, talked about barbers.  ‘They are so uncomplimentary,’ he said.  ‘They tell you such unflattering things.  A friend of mine went to be shaved at the Dark Harbor hotel one day last summer and the barber said to him, “Your hair is getting thin sir.”  “Yes,” my friend answered, “I have been treating it with anti-fat.  I never did like stout hair.”

Addenda: *The Mary Ruth Beauty Shop opened February 9th 1954.  Mary Ruth Carr Lakey Walker first worked in Freda Goodman’s shop and then later in Buck McAtee’s.  When McAtee closed his business Mary purchase the beauty equipment from him and began her own business which was located at the rear of what is presently Santa Fe Liquor in Council Grove.  She continued to work at her own shop until December of 1969 when she slipped on the ice and broke her ankle.  She continued to help in Goodman’s shop until 1983.

First Customer - Feb. 1954

Mary Ruth with first customer, Pearl Saunders. Courtesy Ruth Lynn Oberle.

Mary Ruth's Beauty Shop 1954

1961 photograph of Mary Ruth’s Beauty Shop at 8 N. 4th Street Council Grove. Courtesy Ruth Lynn Oberle.

About the photo at the top of the page: Someone brought it to me and said their brother-in-law found it in their garage and was going to throw it away because they didn’t know anything about it and it meant nothing to them. There was little to no hope of learning anything more about it when I received it, we didn’t even know if it was a shop in Kansas let alone Morris County. But, upon close inspection with a magnifying glass, I noticed the names of each barber was posted above their station. I could just make out C.W. Taylor on one plaque. I then asked local historian Ken McClintock if he knew of a C.W. Taylor who was a barber. Again, I had little hope of a positive answer. Ken said he knew a man by the name of Charlie Taylor but didn’t know if he was ever a barber. He directed me to the daughter of Charlie Taylor, Charlene McRae. Turned out he did do some barbering in his early days. Charlene affirmed the man in the photograph was her father.

Charles W. Taylor, born September 5, 1906, learned the barber trade in St. Louis and sometime after bummed a train to Kansas. He worked on the railroad most of his life, but in his early years barbered in Council Grove. He was known to have worked at the shop in the basement of the Nation Bank building and at the shop in 400 block of East Main.

This photo was on the wall in my shop for many years, until I sold out and closed up. Sometime after, one of Charlene’s daughters contacted me about the photo and I gave it to her so it remains in the family.

Dance in Morris County

Morris County has a long and rich history of dancing which has continued more or less successful for over 150 years.  Although we do not have detailed accounts of all the venues, musicians, and occasions we have enough memories to give us a good look at how dancing and music has been a part of the lives of our denizens present and past.

The old Morris county courthouse was dedicated with a ball on Christmas night of 1873.

In January of 1876 John Hamilton of Council Grove threw a leap-year party.  Apparently some ladies had given a dance previously and neglected to invite the men.  So Hamilton made up for it by inviting the outcasts and no ladies were invited to the party.  The Council Grove Democrat of January 13th gives a description of the attendees and their attire.  It was a custom back in the day to print in the paper who attended and what they wore, so the boys decided to make a mockery of it.  “John B. Hamilton acted the part of host and was sweetly dressed in a bathing suit; ornaments, cigar holder.  Louis Wismeyer was much admired.  He wore a wooden talma [cloak or cape] made of tin; ornaments, post office orders.  E. J. Marks was dressed in a Kerosene oil barrel, with broom corn trimmings.  His feet were incased in snow shoes, and as he glided over the floor he was pronounced divine; ornaments, horse collar.  John B. Flemming wore a splendid moiré antique horse blanket; ornaments, mumps.  Walt Miller wore a malt tub “entrain” with spigot bustle; ornaments, barley ear drops.  G. J. Wright wore one of Madame Foy’s corsets with shoe knife attachments; ornaments, shoe peg necklace.  A. T. Bush was appropriately clothed in a pair of stove pipe pants; ornaments, flat irons.  Jas. Tedstone was dressed in a pair of striped stocking suspenders, and had his hair dressed with car grease; ornaments, telegraph poles.  L. McKenzie was well dressed and looked sweet as usual in an oil cloth dressing gown and gum overshoes.  His hair braided with cockleburs.  He trotted through the “Highland Fling” with great alacrity; ornaments, a pensive smile.”  As you can see, everyone came attired in something pertaining to their line of work.

It has been mentioned in the history of the Hallmark family that during the late 1880s and early 90s dances were held in a private home in the Parkerville, White City neighborhood.

Some time in the 1920s a family by the name of Critchfield moved into what is now the Post Office Oak Museum.   The previous owner had used the cave for cheese making and a flood had put an end to his operation.  The Critchfields cleaned it out and waxed the floor and their son used it for square dances.  It was said that twelve couples could dance in the cave.

The Council Grove Squares is the longest running dance group in the community.  A visit with Bob Blackburn, a charter member, gave me some interesting information about C. G. Squares. This square dance group got started about 1962.  When they first started dancing they would meet in an old barracks out at the fair ground that was heated by a wood stove.  Later they danced in the community building at the City Lake, it was also an old barracks.  They have also danced at the lunchroom of the elementary school and at the armory.  Currently the dances are held at the Senior Center in Council Grove.  They meet on the second and fourth Monday evenings at 7 o’ clock.  The public is encouraged to attend.

During the 1954 centennial a dance was held each night of the celebration.  On Monday night a military ball was held at the armory.  Tuesday night a free square dance was held on the street for Farmer’s Day.  And Wednesday night ended with a centennial ball at the armory.  The Council Grove Republican showed that somewhere around 600 people attended the latter.

A dance was advertised in the Dwight Signal of December 1914.  Music was to be provided by fiddle and banjo.  It has been some time since I have seen this ad but I believe the dance was held at the roller skating rink in Dwight.

One other dance venue I’d like to cover, even though it was not in Morris County, is the Chalk dance.  The little town of Chalk, located across the northeast border of the county, has gone the way of Helmick.  There is nothing there that remains of a town.  But at one time it was a swinging place.  I talked with Alice Schultz whose grandparents, Leona and Claude Button, owned the Chalk store.  Around 1937 a dance floor was built out back of the store and regular dances were held there for many years after.   If the weather was bad they would dance in the upstairs of the store.  Charlie Massey called the dances.

In more recent memory, there were contra dances held in the parking lot of the Kaw Mission during Wahshungah Day weekend.  I believe these began shortly after I moved here.  The first that I could remember would be in 2004.  Garry Hughes of Kechi , Annie Wilson of Middle Creek, Charlie Laughridge of the old Kaw Reservation, Garry Rinehart of Lyndon, and myself were usually the ones to play the dance.  I think we had various callers through the years.  The dance only lasted for four or five years.

In the spring and summer of 2006 the rec. dept. was looking for another activity to do that wasn’t a sport and would get young and old involved so I was asked if I would get a dance started.  I thought it sounded like a good idea and we gave it a shot. The dances were held on the fourth Saturday in the Middle School lunch room. We had various people come and play and call for us.  I finally called it quits due to low turnout and having to pay a band out of my own pocket.  This is not unusual though.  Garry Hughes who helped get the Wichita dance started funded that dance out of his pocket (with the help of some others) for nearly three years before it finally supported itself.  Now they seem to have a very active dance community.

A couple years ago my wife and I held dance lessons at the Field School house in town.  The McClintocks wanted to take lessons to be prepared for an upcoming ball.  So we got a group of people together and for four or five weeks learned some quadrilles, waltz, contra, and schottische.  Everyone did very well and we had fun at it too.

And now we try once more to continue a tradition of dancing.  On the third Thursday of the month there will be mid-nineteenth century dance instruction at the Morris County Historical Society.  We will meet at 7 in the upstairs.  This is free to the public and anyone interested is encouraged to come.  You can get yourself in shape for the Spring Ball April 28th.

Ernest D. Scott

Ernest Dewey Scott

Back last October when the Historical Society was hosting the Greenwood Cemetery tour, I was portraying Ben Scott.  I believe it was the last group that came through, Julie Hower and her family were present, and at the end of my story Julie asked me a question that I was not prepared to answer.  “Wasn’t B.R. Scott an embezzler?”  I was caught off guard as you can imagine.  I replied that I was not aware of such a thing and it was news to me.  Julie told me there was a picture of him at the back of the bank and she had heard that he was an embezzler.  Now, most folks might get a bit bent out of shape if one was to accuse a long past family member of such an offense.  I, however, was not.  This sounded like a great story for the paper and I was eager to prove if it were true or not.

I asked John White what he knew of this story.  He said that he had heard B.R. was the one guilty of embezzlement but knew no details.  I then went to the bank to take a look at the photograph. It turned out to be B.R.’s son Ernest Dewey Scott in the picture.  Ernest was a cashier for the bank for many years.  My suspicions then turned to Ernest.

I began to develop a theory in my head.  I was highly doubtful that the perpetrator was Ben Scott since he was the vice president of Farmers and Drovers for many years up until the time of his death.  If he would have been guilty of embezzlement I think the bank would have dismissed him from his position.  Since Ernest was the cashier it would stand to reason that he would have the best opportunity to misplace money.  Then I started thinking about what I knew of Ernest.  I knew he died a sudden and what seemed unexpected death, it shocked the whole community.  So I got to thinking maybe he committed suicide because of what he had done?  This was one of the more reasonable of my wild ideas that I won’t bother to dazzle you with.

Well, all of that was just a theory I had with no substance.  I had to search the papers and find out how Ernest Scott died and if the paper contained any information about embezzlement at the Farmers and Drovers.  While looking through the Council Grove Republican (which at that time seemed to be a pretty poor informant) I found an announcement of the death of E.D. Scott and an obituary.  Both were very expressive as to the great loss to the community and the “gloom over the city” and of course many words of praise for the deceased; loving father of five and devoted husband; survived by mother and mother in law etc. but no mention of how he died.  I had to look to the The Daily Guard for the whole story.  On the front page of the Thursday May 15th 1924 Guard in bold letters read “CASHIER SCOTT A SUICIDE.”

I thought I was about to prove my theory!  As I read through the column it was much like the Cooley suicide which you may recall reading some time back.  Scott went to work at the bank in the morning everything seemed normal.  He met several people on the street and seemed his genial self. There was no indication of what was to come.  Scott went home for lunch and at about 12:50 he took his life with a shotgun.  When questioned, W. H. White, president of the bank, stated that he “was sure that cashier Scott’s accounts in the bank were all straight and all cash accounted for.”  White said he knew of a few things that Scott was worried about but nothing to indicate “self destruction.”   So that seemed to cancel out the theory of embezzlement, at least with Farmers and Drovers.

E.D. Scott

Looking at the exemplary character of both Benjamin and Ernest Scott, portrayed by the town’s folk, I would bet the story of embezzlement was likely nothing more than a rumor. And we all know how rumors can fly around here.  Three different times in the past eight years I was the last one to hear that I was closing the barbershop and opening one up in Cottonwood Falls.   And I’m sure someone will only read the last half of the preceding sentence and precipitate me to another move.

In fact, reading through the paper following the tragic event, you get a very colorful picture of how the town felt about E.D. Scott.  The mayor made a proclamation that all houses of business would close from 2:30 to 3:30 during the funeral service on Saturday.  All the banks in town closed their doors at 2:15 and remained so for the day.  Why don’t we do that anymore?

E.D. Scott was active in the city government as well as county.  As an employee of the city he did have disagreements with individuals, but it was noted that when the smoke cleared he always shook hands and with a smile made peace with the incensed party.

Did B.R. or E.D. Scott misappropriate money from Farmers and Drovers?   I believe anything is possible, but I personally think it highly unlikely in this case.  There are many unanswered questions to this case, but anyone who could satisfy our curiosity lies beneath the sod of Greenwood Cemetery.

Addenda-  F.J. Revere said that he remembers his parents and many others talking of this incident.  The story that Revere remembered is that Ernest did embezzle money, but not from the bank.  He made an investment in something and the investment went bad.  Revere did not remember the exact amount but said something like $1,600 stuck in his head.  It was by no means a lot of money by today’s standard.  Revere said the whole town was sick over the suicide.  Because everyone had so much respect for Ernest and his family, they kept quiet about the money and tried to cover it up or let it die.  They didn’t want the family to have to deal with the embarrassment.  Revere believed that if Ernest would have just told someone they probably would have helped him out and he would have continued to live.  I have had some theories as to what he might have invested in but nothing solid.  It is possible he was still running his father’s lumber company.  Maybe it was a building investment that went bad.

Smallpox at Delavan

In April of 1903 a tramp was taken in by a gang of laborers on the Missouri Pacific at Delavan.    The result of this act of charity was the death of many of the gang and an epidemic spread of ‘black’ smallpox through several counties along the Missouri Pacific.

The railroad gang had moved on to Bushton in Rice County before the disease became violent.  I do not have a complete list of casualties but the Council Grove Republican listed nine deaths and many sick within a few days after being exposed.  Among some of the deaths were listed three men in Bushton, a man named Isenhour in Geneseo and two brothers named Maupin.  Mrs. Isenhour, a Dr. Stredder, and a child of the Maupins had taken ill.  Two former residents of Council Grove who had moved to Bushton also died of the pox; a Mrs. Whelpley and a baby of John Davis.

As usual there was debate as to exactly what the disease was and how many dead because of it.  The papers reported that the numbers of dead and diseased were likely exaggerated, even though the cases were severe.   Doctors didn’t quite agree on what it was.  A doctor from Lyons insisted it was not small pox; however he did not give an alternative diagnosis.  Rumor also went around that it was the bubonic plague.  Of course that turned out to be false.

Vaccinations were available at the time and everyone who had not got one was encouraged to get one.  Towns were in a panic over the smallpox and many had proclaimed quarantines.  Salina had quarantined against Geneseo, Frederick and Bushton.  Guards were placed at all the Missouri Pacific depots in Rice and Ellsworth counties.  It appears that quarantine was also put on Delavan as well.  Even if there had not been one I’m sure the letter from the Republican’s editor would have prevented anyone coming from or going to Delavan.  It read as follows:

“Considerable alarm over the above report is being felt over the city (Council Grove) and the people are beginning to think that we should do something in the matter, as it (is) becoming quite serious, the Republican does not wish to be sensational or create a scare it is time something was done for should the disease break out in this town, it will be the deadliest it ever was until it is over with.  The Editor has lived in the south where there was such cases and a rigid quaranteen (sic), even to a shotgun protection was put on and it killed the town until it was over.  Do we want such a state of affairs here?  We hope not.  The above article is very explanatory and it does not need much comment only that another victim died yesterday, Mr. Varner, and there are several others very sick.”

This Mr. Varner was my great-great grandfather who lived in Delavan and was thought to be one of the Missouri Pacific workers; family history doesn’t prove that he was or not.  The whole Varner household was taken sick with the small pox namely John who died, his wife Clara and son Orville and daughter Pearl, all who recovered.  The best way to show you the terror and the heartache of such a malady is to give you a section of the Delavan news from the C G Republican.

“We had hoped that last week’s account of our small pox trouble would be the last to chronicle.  The taking of the disease by Mr. Varner’s family closely followed the interment of the last of the railroad gang and now comes the saddest to us of the events in the death of Mr. John Varner, husband and father of the family that died Saturday night and was buried Sunday.   Saddest to us because of their long residence here, the children a boy and a girl having been born here and grown to almost manhood and womanhood among us. The mother and children all sick with the dread disease unable to give the usual parting salutations to a loved one, with no friends who dare come to them in this hour of extreme sorrow, made the Easter morning full of gloom to this stricken family, leaving them so far as earthly considerations are concerned but little encouragement yet in the sight of the light of divine truth a glimmering light in a trustful faith of the resurrection morn which this day commemorates.  We are glad to note that the living ones of the family are hopefully better.  No new cases.  The sick ones are being as tenderly cared for as is possible under the circumstances.”

You will notice that burial was soon as possible for fear of the body spreading more disease.  John Varner is buried in the Delavan Cemetery in what was once the south east corner of the cemetery.  Of course the cemetery has grown since then and the grave is not in the extreme corner anymore.                       John’s son Orville grew to manhood and married Jennie May Scott also of Delavan and they later moved to what is now our family farm in Osage county where my parents live.  Orville and Jennie had ten children and a few that died at birth.  One of their daughters Ellen died of diphtheria in 1922 about the age of 5.  It was a very similar story with the neighbors near the farm; everyone was terrified and nobody came to visit the Varners.  Ellen was taken to the Delavan Cemetery and buried next to her grandfather who she had never seen.  Two diseased bodies laid to rest in the corner of the cemetery out of fear by the living, but with the hope of an incorruptible resurrection.

The smallpox had run its course and those who were to live kept on living and mourned the ones who did not make it.  The next column in the Delavan news read: “The ordeal seems to be past and we can now truthfully say we have no smallpox at Delavan, as was expressed in giving to the public warning of its existence.  Mr. Varner’s family is now well and there are no new cases.  We think we can confidently say to the people come back, get your mail, do your trading and help make our village what it should be a true trading post.”

Not only did disease take away family and friends, but it also crippled a community economically.

The three survivors later in life. Pearl, Clara and Orville.

Addenda-  Henry Kingman, founder of Delevan, wrote a book about his life in 1917.  Near the end he mentions a little bit about the town of Delevan, and more of the Varner history.  Kingman was running for County commissioner and a hostile attack was made upon him in the paper because of $25 he had accepted from the County.  I will give the entire account of his defense which was printed in the Council Grove Guard.  Kingman also won reelection as commissioner by a greater number than he did the first election.

“Here are the circumstances all of which are proven by records anyone may see in the County Clerk’s office.  In March 1903 some extra crew section men broke out with small-pox in the car they used as a sleeping place on the Missouri Pacific side track at Delevan, this county.  The disease was of the most virulent type.  Of nine railroad men who had it, seven died either at Delevan or after going to their home.  In and around Delevan seven had it and four died.  The patients were kept at the home of a man by the name of Varner.  His family caught the disease and the father in the home died.  Three others died in this house.  It became a neighborhood scare and scourge.  No one could be secured to nurse the sick, to go near them with food or care for them.  Mr. Kingman, being the county health officer in that part of the county it fell to him to give at least some attention and gradually the main part of the care fell to him.  A man who had had the disease and was therefore considered immune, helped, and with Kingman, were the main ones attending the cases.  One man who died in the car was not buried until after some delay because no one would do it.  Kingman finally did it alone, risking his health and the health of his family.  Kingman and one other man buried five small pox patients.  During Mr. Varner’s illness Kingman took time and pains to render assistance to the family, every time risking much to do so.  After it was all over and the community felt that the scourge had passed, it was a neighborhood request that the Varner house, bedding and clothing, be destroyed by fire to destroy all disease germs and prevent a possible outbreak of the dread disease germs at some future period.  A committee from the township waited on the county commissioners at a special session and the request to burn the house was granted as a measure of public safety.  The commissioners paid Mrs. Varner $300 for the house and $150 for the furniture and clothing, after proper appraisement by a committee of disinterested citizens had been given the county board.  The burning was done only after the recommendation of Dr. Painter, county health officer, and John Maloy, county attorney, that it was strictly a legal transaction and warranted by the facts.  These recommendations are on file in the county clerk’s office.  Now the contention of the Kingman opposers (sic).   The county board ordered Kingman to burn the house, paid him $25 for his services in the small pox matter in his neighborhood, and Kingman’s acceptance of it has become an issue in this campaign.  Behold what some people will do in the name of politics.  Does any one who reads this want the job of looking after seven small pox patients and burying five of them for $25?  It was no pay.  It could not be considered as pay.  The small pox trouble extended through part of four months.  Five hundred dollars could not be considered as pay if risk and all other features are considered.  It was more of a present than pay.  Both of the other commissioners, when considering the matter, said they would not have rendered the same service for $100, and one of them said he would not have done  it at any price.’

“If there is anything in this at all, it is that Kingman deserves re-election more than he otherwise would, and people who use this against him are showing lame ideas of good citizenship, to say the least.  Authority for the burning of the house was the written opinion of County Attorney Maloy, which closed with these words, “I would therefore advise you to procure appraisement  and estimate of the said building and such of its contents as ought not be preserved and at once condemn and order building and contents destroyed by fire.”  Maloy was right, therefore Kingman and the remaining commissioners were right.  The epidemic was well controlled and there is no telling how many Morris County homes were protected by the good management.”

One question that comes to mind is why the sick were kept at the Varner’s.  The Varner home was close to the track, so it is probable that the sick were simply taken to the nearest house and the family cared for them.

“ARTHUR POOLE, clerk, was born at Crewe, in the county of Cheshire, England, August 10, 1856. He came to Kansas in 1870 with his parents, locating on a farm three miles north of Parkersville. For several years he remained on the farm with his father. During the past five years he has been employed as a clerk in the store of A. J. Eastman at Parkersville. He was married at Parkersville May 19, 1881, to Miss Florence Rouse, daughter of David and Margaret Rouse.” From Cutler’s History of the State of Kansas 1883.  I believe Arthur is of some close relation to Clara Poole Varner.