Percy G. Ebbutt

November 9th, 1870, ten year old Percy G. Ebbutt left Blanxton, England with his father, brother and three other men.  Percy’s father was a successful upholsterer, however when his business burned to the ground he thought it might be a good opportunity to try some adventuring in the wild frontiers of America.  So, the party headed for Morris County, Kansas of all places.

I regret I cannot give you exact dates as Percy is not very good about keeping track of his time, so we will have to be happy with approximations.  We do know he was in Morris County for the space of about 6 years, from 1870-1876.  So everything I relate here falls in that timeframe.

Percy’s family settled on an 80 acre patch of prairie six miles north of Parkerville and three and a half miles west of Dwight.  Now mind you, not a one of these men had any experience in farming or livestock care, except for one fellow who spent a couple weeks on a farm in an attempt to prepare himself before he left England.  As it proved later, his short time on the farm didn’t help him much.  The first of many mistakes they made was to build their hut on the wrong land on the north side of the hill.  This ensured that they would be kept cooler in the summer months, as well as the winter.  They also learned that the stovepipe was too close to the roof, which caught fire.  It caused very little damage and they put it out quickly and rearranged the chimney.

When they first moved to the country they had absolutely no neighbors whatever.  They were completely on their own.  After surviving the first winter they made the necessary changes to their living habits.  They built a very nice wood frame house, this time on the right land.  It was still on the side of a hill facing north, but with six yoke of oxen they later moved it to the top of the hill where the view was better.  As their situation improved so did the area.  They gained neighbors like ‘Prairie’ Wilson, ‘Dutch’ Jake, George Dyson, and a large family named Quinn.  The Quinns were kind of a peculiar family.  Early one morning before daybreak, the mother and eleven children left the country never to be heard of again.  The day after they left, the wagon and horses were returned to the lonely husband.

Since I am particularly interested in by-gone customs and entertainments I was struck by a house party that Percy tells us about.  It was at the home of a neighbor they had not met and didn’t know, but it was generally accepted that everyone in the area was invited.  He said “it was rather a peculiar gathering.   There was no dancing and no music, and the time was principally spent in eating and drinking, and playing at silly, childish games, mostly after the style of “Kiss in the Ring,” but with all sorts of queer names to them.”  He goes on to say, “I do not really know what took place during the game.  I know there was a deal of shuffling about, something like “Sir Roger de Coverley” without the music.”  Sir Roger de Coverley is a dance that we know today as the Virginia Reel.  Percy said, “None of our party took part in any of these games, and we left the party early, voting it rather slow.”  This is the only account I have ever found that mentions indiscriminate kissing at a party of that time period.  The funny thing is, a Methodist preacher’s daughter was one of the girls at this party, and of course there were a lot of Methodists around.  They were vehemently against dancing but kissing was quite alright.

Do you remember about a month back we learned of Hezekiah Brake who lived on Munkres Creek?  Well, it turns out that Percy worked for old Brake for about 14 months.  Funny thing is Percy calls him Zedekiah Blake, but we know who he is speaking of.  He describes Brake as a ‘little shriveled-up man’.  Although Percy admits his time working for the Brakes was a better situation than if he had stayed at home, he still had some complaints against the man.  An argument the two had over watering horses finally drove Percy back home.  Brake insisted the horses be watered first thing when Percy got them harnessed at 3 in the morning.  Percy never knew what good it was to get the critters up so early.  He told Brake that the horses wouldn’t drink, and Brake insisted he must make them drink!

During the time spent with the Brakes, Percy experienced an earthquake while out harrowing. He also tells about the grasshopper plague.  They were two to three inches thick on the ground and you couldn’t help but kill dozens of them with each step.   One winter Percy and Mrs. Brake both noticed their gums leaving their teeth.  Because of all the salted pork and other meat they ate and the very few fresh vegetables on hand they were showing signs of scurvy.  It did not affect them much but left a few teeth loose.

He tells of the Brake’s daughter and how a man came one day to ask her hand in marriage.  The young man may have picked a better time as she was milking a cow when he asked.  She refused him and a good thing she did.  It wasn’t too long after, he married another girl and he eventually became County Treasurer.  The dirty cuss left the girl as well as the county, but not without taking $30,000 of the county’s money with him.

Percy eventually worked his way up around the Manhattan area and hired himself to a couple different farmers there.  His time in Kansas made him a proficient rider, decent cowboy, fair farmer and a good deal more experienced with life in general.  Not having the best of relations with his father, he decided rather than stay in Kansas to head back to England and to his mother.

Percy was within a hairs breadth, so to speak, of never returning to England.  You see the train he was on heading east through Ohio passed over the Ashtabula Bridge.  In a matter of hours if not minutes, another train passed over that bridge and it has gone down in history as the Ashtabula Horror.  December 29th of 1876, at 7:28 p.m., a passenger train plummeted 70 feet to the icy river below as the iron bridge collapsed.  The famed Phillip P. Bliss and his wife were on that train.  You remember, ‘Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life.”  Percy learned of his close call after he reached home.

In 1886 Percy published a book on his experiences in Morris County called ‘Emigrant Life in Kansas.’  And just think of it, if Percy’s train had been running a little behind schedule, we would never have his book.  We would never know about ‘Zedekiah Blake’.  We would never learn about life in northern Morris County in the 1870s.

I don’t know the last chapters of Percy Ebbutt’s story, but I do know that he somehow found his way to Canada and there he died.  His father William and brother John remained in Morris County and are both buried in the Dwight Cemetery.  We don’t know the reason for Percy’s parents being separated.  His mother continued to live in England while his father was in America.  They did not divorce but they did not appear to have made contact with each other since William left England.



This weekend Dwight marks its 125th anniversary.  It was in 1887 that the town company was organized, they purchased the land for the town site from Dwight Rathbone and Jessie Hammer.  The Dwight Land & Townsite Co. based out of Kansas City Missouri quickly busied themselves with the development of Dwight.  They built a majority of the buildings and leased them out.  Although Dwight was a swinging little town so early, it wasn’t until 1905 that it was incorporated.

Dwight Chapel. (Courtesy of Sharon Haun.)

In the autumn of 1887 a special train came to Dwight from Kansas City.  The people of Dwight gave a grand welcome with a band concert and a baby show and then commenced selling lots.  Ed Bouton, the manager of the Townsite Co., was asked what they were going to call the town.  It was said that after Mr. Bouton looked around, his eyes fell on the Dwight Chapel and so he suggested it be called Dwight.  Dwight Chapel was the Methodist Episcopal Church that was built in 1883.  Reverend J. S. Ward was the first pastor of this church, he lived in Skiddy and drove over on Sunday.

In the summer of 1886 the Chicago, Kansas & Nebraska Railroad Co. made a survey through Dwight and in the fall of that year began construction on the line from Topeka to Herington.  The C. K. & N. went through foreclosure in 1891 and the line was taken over by the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific.  The C. R. I. & P.  was reorganized as the Oklahoma, Kansas & Texas in 1980, which merged with the Missouri Pacific in 1988 which finally merged with the Union Pacific in 1997.

The first newspaper in town was the Dwight Wasp.  Hal Sweetland, who was a large man with a handlebar moustache and thick accent, was the first editor of the paper.  The first hotel was built in 1887 and at various times operated by a Mr. Brooks, Maggie Kern, and Mrs. Vendoline Goss.  The hotel also served, for a short time, as the first school.  A large room on the ground floor was fitted with tables and chairs and a Mr. Miller was the teacher.

The first general store was owned by Jessie Hammer.  An Englishman named Pantry ran the first grocery store and had the post office in his home.  The post office was managed by a lady named Kate Clark.  The post was eventually moved to a store downtown.  The first Bank of Dwight was operated by Sam Boyd.  The first doctor was a Mr. Curtis followed by Drs. Moore, Day, Brechbill, Edgerton, Mikula and Brethour.

The only other history I am prepared to give you at this time is of the 1900 fire in Dwight.  It was in December and a fire started in the living rooms at the back of a store owned by George Gudge.  The building and all contents were a total loss.  The fire also spread to the S. Swenson Lumber Co. which was also destroyed.  There was an amusement hall which had just been finished over one of these stores and three families were also living in rooms above at the time.  The hall was a loss and all three families lost most of their possessions and clothing.

One anecdote concerning this fire goes as follows.  The wife of one of the families living above hastily gathered her best dishes into a dish pan and told her husband to carry it downstairs.  Then pointing to a bundle of bedding said, “Throw that out of the window.”  In his hurry and confusion the husband threw the dishes out of the window and carried the bedding down the stairs.

Another destructive fire was in 1910 when the Graham building burned.  The upper floor was used for the Modern Woodmen of America, Masons and Eastern Star, and the Royal Neighbors.  All orders lost their possessions in this blaze.  The Eastern Star did not have insurance but fortunately the rest were able to replace their losses.

The Cottage Hotel owned by Mrs. Bolinder also caught fire and burned to the ground.  Smoldering shingles were carried by a south wind toward the depot which also burned down.

Rock Island water tower. (Courtesy White City Library.)

Dwight has been steadily holding their own for 125 years!  So come to Dwight this weekend and see what the fuss is about.

Addenda October 26, 2012:  The post office at Dwight was established March 19th 1887 and remains open to date.  Before the office was opened at Dwight, it was located at Damorris, which had been established since November 30th 1880.  Kate L. Clark was the first appointee of both offices.

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.

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.

Express Office 1977

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

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, *(I assume this was on the east side of town).  More next week.


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.

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.