(Written for The Western Star)
In looking over some of my old note books, I find six of them related to surveys and incidents of my early manhood spent in Comanche-co., during the years 1885 and 1886.
That country was then just being settled up and occupied by home seekers who were coming from the more crowded portions of Eastern Kansas, from Mississippi, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. They were mainly farmers and the sons and daughters of farmers, who were seeking cheap lands and a chance to establish homes and fortunes for themselves in a fertile and pleasant land.
The year 1884 had been one of ample rainfall in all that southern and southwestern Kansas country. Such crops as were planted in the sparsely settled land grew profusely and produced beautiful returns, thus giving promise of proper conditions for profitable farming, and caused a great movement of settlers out that way.
The Osage Indians had been moved southward a few years previously, and the government had thrown open for settlement the Osage Reservation, which any man or woman of 21 years of age, or a minor, if the head of a family, might secure a tract of 160 acres of land by actually settling upon it, filing his claim and doing a certain amount of improving, plowing and planting, and making a continuous residence of six months or more upon the land. Other requirements were submission of proper proof of such residence and improvements upon the land, and the payment of $1.25 per acre cash, before patent would be issued from the Government at Washington.
A very large number of new settlers availed themselves of the opportunity to thus secure lands and a home of their own in a fair and fertile land. The densest population ever concentrated on the lands of Comanche-co. was about July, 1885, when almost every quarter section of land in the county was occupied by a family, consisting of one lone old bachelor, one lone old maid, or, in many instances, by a man and his wife and a real family of from one to ten children.
At that remote period of time, Comanche-co. comprised an area 29 miles long north and south, by 30 miles in width east and west. Just a few years after 1885 two tiers of townships taken from Edwards county to the north. Through the powerful influences of a man named Green a new county was formed, named Kiowa County, with Greensburg as its county seat. But during my residence there, 1885 and 1886, these two tiers of townships were yet a part of Comanche-co.
I had come to Topeka, Kans., about March 15, 1884, and was in the employ of the firm of Hale, Tweedale and McFadden, then engaged in the construction of the foundation for the main building of the State Capitol, I will not dwell greatly on this portion of my experiences, only sufficiently to show how I later came to go down to Comanche-co.
I worked about Topeka for the firm named, from March to June, being engaged largely in staking out and measuring up the work done in excavation to bed-rock, from 18 to 28 feet deep, and the placing of heavy masonry for the foundation of the Capitol. During my possible periods of absence from this work I staked out several additions to Topeka, one especially which I remember being College Heights, a mile or more out in the country, southwest from the Capitol Square.
I was quite busy all my waking time, between my various vocations of keeping more than a hundred negroes at work excavating for the foundation, checking the delivery and placing of the foundation stones, making surveys and plats of various kinds and such work. But I liked the work, and rather wished it might continue indefinitely.
About the middle of June, 1884, I was sent down to Harper, Kans., in charge of a crowd of about 20 men, including four negroes, two of whom were cooks. Two others were students at Washburn College, going as helpers in any capacity required, so as to be able to earn sufficient money to continue their studies for another year at the college.
We were going down to Harper-co., for the purpose of making a re-survey of the west two tiers of townships of Harper-co. and the three easterly tiers of townships of Barber-co. We were under contract with the U. S. Government, and directly for the Surveyor General, myself having been sworn in as Deputy U. S. Surveyor for that purpose.
In this manner I made my first acquaintance with Southern Kansas. I remained all the rest of that summer on the work of the re-surveys required, the more isolated townships, up at a new town named Cleveland, in Kingman county, was added to our task, which was completed by late October, 1884. Soon afterward I returned to Topeka, finished compiling my field notes, and incidentally voted for Blaine and Logan at the national election early in November, but to no avail, and thus losing in my very first participation in a presidential election.
Near the holidays in 1884 I returned to Illinois for a short visit, but soon again returned to Topeka, Kans. The less than a year of residence in Kansas had produced in me a desire to return and live there always. I had seen the rapid settlement of lands take place right under my eyes in Harper, Barber and Kingman counties. It all looked like wealth and happiness to be able to secure a home and affluence in that "Land of Promise," so I made haste to return to it.
I knew I would need some kind of employment to enable me to subsist. I knew also that most of the Government land in Harper county and in the better portion of Barber county were already, pre-empted and settled. But few settlers had yet penetrated to that almost unknown part of Kansas known as Comanche county, so it was here I had made up my mind to start acquiring a home and affluence, all hopeful and without previous experience and without any real knowledge of the character of the land or the conditions to be met with.
Such is the zeal and courage of youth, that he stops not to consider facts or possibilities, but ever hopes for the best. I was strong, hearty, full of life and energy then, and cared not for any possible hardships that might be encountered. The previous season had pretty well immured me to any and all possibilities of hunger, thirst, heat, cold or any other adversity. I was not afraid.
Early in January, 1885, I went to Topeka, Kans., found a place at my previous home and rooming place on East Eight street. I went over to the State Auditor's office and arranged for the privilege of making copies of the original survey notes of all the lines in what then constituted Comanche county. There were public state records, and I presumed I was entitled to copy them as I saw fit, but the auditor did not think so, and required me to pay him a fee of several dollars per township for what notes and plats I desired to copy.
I worked there for something like two weeks and went quite thoroughly through all the survey records covering the whole territory in what was then Comanche county. There were the notes of the Second Guide Meridian, the township boundaries, and those covering the Sixth Standard parallel, the South Boundary of the Osage Ceded Lands, the South Boundary of the Osage Diminished Reservation, the south boundary of Kansas, and then the subdivision of the 35 townships, five of which next the south line of Kansas being fractional, but 2 1/4 to 225 miles wide north and south.
It was quite a job to copy all the distances, fallings, topography of streams, timber, description of corners established, and every detail, but I did it faithfully and as carefully as possible, paid up my bills in full and started for the Land of Promise one Sunday afternoon, about January 25, 1885, purchasing a ticket for Kinsley.
Arriving at Kinsley, I remained the latter half of the night at some cheap hotel, then took "Green's Cannon Ball Stage" for Coldwater, paying five dollars for the transportation. Four western ponies drew the stage coach at a gallop, and horses were changed every six or eight miles. We got an early and very good dinner at Greensburg and arrived at Coldwater by about 4:30 p.m. The distance thus traveled in about six hours actual going was 60 miles.
I had with me my surveying outfit, consisting of a transit, "Y" level, tools, poles, chairs and such like, besides a valise full of clothing and a trunk filled with clothing and books, all of which, as I now recall, went with me by stage for the five dollars. This line of stage coaches was operated by Col. Green. He had other lines which he operated, the appellation by which he went being "Cannon Ball Green" To this day a trail in that locality is yet called the "Cannon Ball" Trail, but goes westward from Greensburg to Dodge City, and going east from Greensburg to Wichita.
I stopped for the night at a small frame hotel at Coldwater, but my funds were getting low after being "held up" by the State Auditor, or more correctly speaking, by one of his clerks, for the payment of about $40 for the privilege of coping the Government field notes, and by the payment of my carfare from Topeka to Kinsley, the five dollars stage fare and my 25 cent dinner at Greensburg. My ready and available cash assets were by now limited to something like three dollars. True, I had made a requisition on my father for more funds, but it might take some days for that to arrive.
January 22, 1926.
I therefore set out from my shopping plans in Coldwater to get a cheaper boarding place, and went out south, afoot, and alone, in a strange and new country, unarmed, unafraid, in a country where settlements were remote and far apart, to find myself a place where I might live more cheaply, and above all else, find myself a pre-emption claim, to which I might later obtain a title and become a land owner in the great commonwealth of Kansas. To this end I walked in a southerly and southwesterly direction, disregarding all trails, and unimpeded by any luggage, and without even a walking stick, let alone a gun or other weapon. This, too, was at a time when settlements were scarce, trails few and weather cold, with about four inches of snow upon the ground.
I did not encounter a single human being or any kind of animal for the first seven miles of my travel, but finally saw a rather large house with smoke coming out of the chimney, at a point some two miles to the southeast of me, and I decided to go directly to this house. Arriving there I found it occupied by three charming and very fine looking young ladies, and not a man thereabouts. These ladies were Mrs. L. B. Andrews, her sister, name now escapes my memory, and a Miss Latham, all from Kansas City or some point near by, and Mr. Andrews, as I now learned, had gone up to Kinsley to purchase supplies. I was very glad to see any one of humankind, and felt especially glad to meet these ladies, and they seemed equally glad to meet me, and invited me in to warm myself, and we had a very enjoyable hours visit together in that strange, new country. From here I was not at all sure just where I really wanted to go. These ladies told me that each of them held a land claim, and that there were no tracts vacant in that locality. It was a rather smooth and level looking country, but being wholly covered with soil, I could not see just what the soil was like. From there I started in a northeasterly direction, going probably four miles, and just as darkness came on.
I fairly stumbled upon a small "dugout" in a hillside, with smoke emerging, and entered it, finding two bachelors living there in a rather undignified and un-prepossessing manner. These boys were from southeastern Kansas, Cherokee or Labette-co., had been out here alone together all winter, and were homesick, discouraged, despondent and were tremendously glad to have some one come along to help cheer them up, and to make them forget their families. By actual names, they were Ward Mansfield and Louis Stothard. They had an abundance of fuel, plenty of food, and but one bed. They were "holed in," mostly underground in their dugout, had a good stove, and invited me to stop over the night with them. There were two or three other families living within a radius of a mile or two of this place, and their dugout had been built upon or near the boundary line of the two claims held by these homesick boys. We had a supper fit for kings. It consisted of antelope steak, gravy and "flapjacks" with coffee. After supper we played Euchre and Seven Up and told stories for a while, then retired three of us in one not to large bed, myself being given the place of honor - in the middle. I could sleep under the most adverse conditions at that time of my young life. I slept soundly and well, and was refreshed and ready for any ordeal after a breakfast of antelope steak, flapjacks, gravy and coffee. Those boys were excellent cooks. They fried those steaks to a nicety and the gravy was white and good, and the coffee was such as might be served at a king's table. I could and did eat four times a much as I could do now, and I never felt better, nor had a better time than those three weeks I lived with those two bachelor boys. They too, seemed to enjoy my company, and were glad to share their bed and board with me, not knowing whether they would ever be re-imbursed for their trouble, or for the cost of the food which I consumed. They helped me to locate for myself a preemption claim upon 140 acres of land nearby, the tract being in Section 18, fractional southwest quarter.
It was a rather rough tract, for which reason it had been "passed up" by the earlier comers, but it had a spring of running water and a broad flat depression where wild hay grew luxuriantly the preceding year, and I thought it would finally make me a fine home. The weather remained cold, with several additional snows coming at intervals of a week or two, and I could not do much for a month in the way of building myself a domicile, but I finally did so. I just lived with those boys, ate, drank, played cards, told stories, some rather vulgar, I confess, others of a more refined sort, such as I had read and heard in days gone by, and those boys were more than pleased with it all. They took me to be a well traveled erudite, highly educated and polished sort of man, which I well know I was not. They fully enjoyed my company. It shortened the long winter days for them and gave them less time to think of their own homes and friends in far away eastern Kansas. It served my purpose quite as well as theirs, as I was out of funds and had yet to hear from my father back in Illinois before I could even pay my late hotel bill up at Coldwater. I had left my valise and instruments at the hotel, as a pledge that I would some day return and pay my bill.
One morning, the weather being fair, sky cloudless and but little wind, soon after my arrival at the dugout of Manfield and Stothard, accompanied by Mansfield, I went out in a northwesterly direction several miles to see if I might locate for myself a claim upon a good tract of land. The weather had been quite cold, with about six inches of snow still on the ground. Just the last two days it had moderated somewhat, and this was a rather pleasant morning, about January 25th, 1885. We had walked about six miles northwesterly from our dugout, looking at the country, and so far had encountered no other beings, human or otherwise. We might have seen a few coyotes and antelopes, as these were then quite numerous and excited little curiosity. Neither of us was armed and carried no weapons more formidable than a medium sized pocket knife apiece. We had gone as far from home as we though it expedient, if we were to be able to return by dinner time. Louis remained at home to wash the dishes and prepare dinner. We were heading as directly as we knew how for home. Presently we saw an animal directly in front of us, and between us and the brightly shining sun. At first I conducted it was but an antelope which would soon be frightened by our approach and run away, rapidly. But as it was directly upon our path, we went right along toward it. As the sun got higher above the figure of the animal by reason of our nearer approach, it did not look so much like an antelope as at first, and I concluded it was a grey wolf. Still we went on directly toward the animal, which seemed to be standing perfectly still, waiting for our approach. As we approached it within about 200 yards, the beast lay down, and in assuming a prone position it went down with front feet first, then the rear part of its body. This action indicated some animal of the feline variety, and not a wolf or antelope. We kept approaching until we could quite clearly distinguish that it was a cougar or mountain lion, which seemed to be calmly awaiting us for its belated breakfast. As we got within 80 or 100 yards of the lion, it rose quickly and sprang toward us, covering fully half the distance between us in a few seconds, and seemed fully determined to attack us. I had a knitted red and blue "comforter" tied around my neck and ears, and I quickly removed the comforter to hide the red color of it. We both pulled out our pocket knives and yelled at the beast, and made motion of attacking it, when it suddenly stopped, blinked its eyes, turned right about face, and started slowly back away from us, being at its nearest, but a scant 100 feet away from us. I think our sheer nerve served to save us from its attack.
As it walked away from us, it kept stopping frequently and looking back at us. Every time it went away from us we walked slowly and carefully backwards, seeking to put greater distance between us and the brute. It presently stopped short and came tearing rapidly toward us again, when we stood perfectly quiet and yelled lustily at it again, this time coming to within much less than 100 feet of us, but again stopping when he saw that we were not afraid of him.
He proved to be a full grown cougar or mountain lion about seven feet long and as tall as a very large dog. As he stopped, I caught his eye with mine, and he blinked his eyes and turned away, running now as we yelled at him. Again he turned about and seemed determined that he must have some food, human, if nothing better, for there had been a long, cold spell of weather, when it was difficult for him to secure his accustomed food and he turned about and made for us the third time, in which we succeeded in stopping him at near a hundred yards away. This time he ran away from us quite rapidly, stopping at intervals to look around, seemingly not yet ready to abandon his possible chance for a breakfast.
But while he was running away from us, we were also walking away from him, going backwards and stopping every time he looked around. All the while we kept yelling at him, and I think he was more scared at our yells than at anything else. He went finally in a gallop, and we walked backward until we struck a draw, or small dry branch, which ran in a southerly course, the lion being headed almost directly toward our home. We followed this draw in a southerly direction for nearly two miles, getting out at intervals to see what our friend lion was doing, and every time we looked he was still galloping away, going directly toward our home. We made a detour of about four miles by following down this draw, and finally reached a point near a shanty of some settler, vacated for the winter, and from there by a round about way made our way back home without further mishap. The cougar could really easily have killed us both, for all the defense we could offer, had he known it, but our sheer nerve and exuberance of spirit saved us from a such a fate. Our time to end all had not yet arrived.
January 29, 1926.
I am not attempting to tell all the incidents of my life in that faraway time, nor all the little incidents which befell me, I am drawing upon my memory of the events, and checking the sequence of time by means of the little note books where I transcribed some of the happenings right at the time of their occurrence. This method ought to insure greater accuracy than mere memory alone could afford.
Presently, about the middle of February, having gotten some funds from my father, I returned to the Hungerford House at Coldwater, paid my bill there for the meals and lodging gotten two weeks previously and took all my belongings down with me to the Ward domicile. That is, to the place where I had been living with Ward Mansfield and Louis Stothard.
Soon after this I filed upon the southwest quarter of section 8, in township 33 south range 18 west, and proceeded to build myself a dugout home. The lumber and labor cost of this dugout, exclusive of my own work, was about $25. Fairly good weather was coming on now, and I wanted to find where the boundary lines of my newly acquired land were located. Having all the Government Field Notes of Surveys with me, and the transit and other equipment necessary to do line surveying work, and having had a half year's actual practice hunting up old corners the season before over in Harper, Barber and Kingman counties, I felt fairly well equipped to make such line surveys.
There had been some rough surveys most already made the season before, for the purpose of locating claims of the earlier settlers, but no one had yet found an actual and bona fide government corner in the locality of my newly acquired land. There had been several surveys run quite long distances from proper original Government corners into and along the west boundary of the township, and a few temporary corners set, not pretending to great accuracy, as no checks had been found, nor other means of definite proof.
Using this pretended corner as a basis, I ran several miles of lines to north and south, with other cross lines to east and west during the next two days, February 17 and 18, 1885. After running 10 miles of lines in all, I found a quarter section corner stone very well defined, settling firmly in the ground, with large tufts of grass almost covering it. It was properly marked and agreed closely with the topography of the Original Government survey made in 1871. This was at the south quarter section corner of section 32, township 33 south, range 18 west, being nearly two miles east of Avilla.
The finding of this corner as we did about six rods to the south of where I had run the line, indicated that our starting point had been too far north, but not so far wrong as to east and west location. Following the clue thus gotten as to probable location of corner, I went over into range 19, to the west of my newly acquired farmstead, and found the stone corner setting in good shape, at the corner common to sections 13, 14, 23 and 24 of township 33 south, range 19 west. Running a mile south, we also found a very plain old government corner, mound and pits.
These corners so found showed clearly that the claim locations were considerably in error, and later, during the summer of 1885. I surveyed most all the lines in these two townships, Nos. 34 in ranges 18 and 19 west, and found more than half of the original corners yet intact, and rebuilt them in their original positions. I cannot dwell too tediously at too great length upon the various surveys made by me that season, but want to go into some detail in respect to a few incidents, only.
February 5, 1926.
There being so much uncertainty about the location of lines and corners, especially to the south and southwest of Avilla, and the town site of Avilla being located from the supposed township corner, now almost proven to be some 16 rods in error, a considerable number of the new settlers decided to make a full and complete survey for the purpose of ascertaining just "where they were at." To this end, and without promise of proper remuneration for my time and skill (if I showed any skill). I agreed to make a survey, starting on the south boundary of Kansas and running north on the range line between ranges 18 and 19.
A large crowd of men accompanied me to the state line. From the topography described in the Original Field Notes, I was able to pick out the location of milestones No. 239 on the south boundary of Kansas. Forty rods to the west of it, lacking two feet, I found a big sandstone near the summit of the highest land in that locality, marked "C. C.," indicating that it was a closing corner on the state line.
From this we started north on the range line and found a good sized limestone in the ground at 25 1/2 chains north of it being the corner common to sections 7-12-13 and 18. Thence we continued due north, using a variation of the magnate compass of 12 degrees and 50 minutes, and found nearly all the corners every half mile apart, just as described in the survey notes of 1871, but 14 years previously.
As I now recall the circumstances, we found all the old government corners but two or three in the next eight miles running north. The line was fairly straight and true, but distances were generally slightly longer than noted. We found improvements made from the temporary and rather haphazard surveys of the previous season quite a good deal awry, most of the old corners being somewhat to the south and east of where they were thought to have been..
Anyhow, we found sufficient of the old marks to definitely locate the true and proper corners, and a sufficient number of the interested land owners were present to see for themselves that the work was being done right. Right after that memorable two days of gratuitous work done by me, there was a grand rush of applications for line surveys, and I was kept quite busy with the work for several months more. Many of these early settlers found their improvements perilously close to their actual boundary lines, and few of them wholly outside of them, when their correct corners were finally determined. As I now recall it, I surveyed almost every quarter section of land in four congressional townships in that locality.
One Sunday I was at work making a survey down in that locality, about five or six miles south of Avilla, and coming in for dinner at the home of one of the interested land owners, I found a Sunday crowd already gathered there, but I do not recall the name of the resident with whom I went to dinner. There were three or four young ladies present, for in that early day there were a great number of young ladies and older maids out in that New Land of Promise, pre-empting a claim of 160 acres each. Anyhow, I was introduced around, and amongst the large number I thus met at dinner was a man by the name of "Pancake," and when introduced to him I thought a joke was being sprung on me, and asked again what the name was. I made some jocular remark about the oddity of the name and two or three of these young ladies began tittering madly, and every one present joined in the general uproar, even the victim of the unusual name, he being a man of about 35 years, and having a rather odd facial expression as well as an odd name. But there seemed to be no rancor in his attitude, and we all enjoyed the fun of it.
In March, the 20th to 25th, 1885, I went over to a point about 5 miles west of Evansville to make surveys of the lines of a dozen or more preemption claims just recently taken up by a bunch of fellows from Missouri. It was a rather rough and broken part of Comanche-co. and among the last part of the county to be really settled up and occupied. These Missourians were probably from the hills of Missouri, and felt more at home in the rough and broken country than they would have been upon the flat land around Protection or that more level part of the county. Anyhow, here were seven men living in a small two room house, the lower portion of the little house being used as kitchen, dining room, parlor and general utility room, and the upper story made into a large bed (not bedroom) but literally into one large bed, with ample room for the seven men, and while I remained there for a week, large enough for 8 men. Upon the floor was placed a deep layer of prairie hay cut from the nearby swales and draws, and placed on top of this was a blanket consisting of three or four ordinary blankets sewn together, covering the whole area of the "loft." Pillows of stuffed hay were placed on top, two of them sufficing, each about 7 feet long, and on top of this was placed a very heavy and large "coverlet" or blanket composed of three or four separate coverlets sewn together and now made into a single great blanket about 2 inches thick. Under this one thick cover we all slept peacefully and soundly.
Some of the younger men, mere boys, but probably 21 years old, were out there for a "regular lark" and seemed to think that being now out in the "wooly and unregenerate Wild West," they would have to play the part. Among the lot of them, several had small .22 caliber pistols which out in the New West would not be considered very formidable.
February 12, 1926.
In the course of our surveys in this locality, we ran about 20 or 25 miles of lines, mostly over rather rough land. We found the greater portion of the old Government corners with little difficulty, and got all the desired lines established.
One day, wishing to get a drink of water, we went into a draw or small canyon like creek, where we found some red colored water. It was fairly palatable, and all drank of it freely. Nearby we noticed a hole, about one foot in diameter in the side of the canyon wall, and from the smell, felt certain there was some kind of a cat close about. The Missouri boys peered into the opening, threw rocks into it, cussed the cat occupying it, dared it to come out and had considerable fun about the matter.
We had but gotten outside the draw and upon the bank when his "catship" did emerge. It proved to be a cougar or mountain lion, about seven feet long, and two or more tall, but as there were seven or eight of us in the party he did not stop to question our rights there. One of the Missouri boys fired a shot at the brute with his little .22 caliber pistol, but it seemed to not excite him much.
Later, during the early autumn of 1885, I was over in that same locality once more, making surveys for other parties. Two old bachelors were occupying the same dugout. Naturally these boys did their own cooking. We had a good dinner and a good supper, but upon retiring there was but one bed for the three of us. This bed consisted of a forked post set in the earthen floor of the shanty, a pole reaching lengthwise to the end wall of the dugout, and another pole crosswise to the other wall. On top of these were a few cross poles, then a mat of brush. On top of the brush that was an old comforter or rather heavy quilt, with another quilt for covering.
I slept in the middle, and had some little difficulty in adjusting my body to keep the sharp knots and limbs from tickling my ribs, but finally wormed about until all parts of my body were clear of the worst projections. I was much like the cabin boy of Shakespeare's "Tempest," sleep being possible to me in those days under almost any conditions. I awoke the next morning fully refreshed, and after a very satisfying breakfast went on with my work.
Among a number of other surveys I made the survey of the town site of Plano, that of Comanche City, a re-survey of Avilla and staked out a cemetery southwest of Avilla perhaps half mile.
The town site of Comanche City was a rather elaborate and sizable piece of work, occupying nearly a half section of land. Many of the valuable lots were cut up into parcels 25 by 140 feet, especially around the Square or business center of the city. I tried to do Mr. Woodward a good job on that survey. We set cedar pegs at every corner of every lot and placed stone monuments at the more important points and intersections and on the outside boundaries.
In connection with this survey, I made preliminary surveys for a power plant, mill race, tail race and water power by utilizing the water from cavalry creek and diverting it over to Bluff creek, as I now recall the names of the streams.
I spent two weeks or more in making this survey of Comanche City and had great hopes at that time that here would be built a metropolitan city, railroad center and great manufacturing town in the then very near future. For was it not in the center of a fine farming country? Also was there not an inexhaustible supply of salt nearby? Did not all men use salt? Would there not always be a ready market for all the salt which could be scooped up and refined in the Little Salt Plains? When these beds of salt were exhausted, if ever, was there not another great bed of salt a few miles farther down?
I had seen both the little and the great Salt Plains, and I knew the salt was there. Naturally I thought there would be a demand for salt as long as mankind cooked its food and seasoned it. Hence, when the opportunity presented itself to acquire some of those valuable town lots which I had been surveying. I jumped at the chance and took all my pay for the services rendered in deeds to some of those valuable town lots. I secured a half block in the residence portion of Comanche City - 12 lots, 25 x 140 feet each, and used four lots, 50x140 feet each, also in the residence section.
I paid the taxes on these lots for several years - 1 year, as I now recall. I made an effort to pay them the fifth year, but was informed by the county treasurer that no taxes had been assessed against any of the lots of Comanche City, and that the promoters that they paid all the expenses of my helpers, paid for the material for stakes, and, as I recall it, paid my board bill at Mr. Gaylord's residence nearby.
A little more about those Salt Plains. They were discovered by Col. DuTisne in the year 1719. He raised the French flag over them and took possession of them in the name of the French king. He thought that this salt was going to be a great asset to New France, but it seems not to have brought any great wealth to either the French owners or later possessors, up to now.
I made a visit to the Salt Plains about 25 miles nearly straight south of Avilla in the dry season, about June 1885. While there I saw large areas of bluish rock salt, seemingly a foot thick, covering an area of about 190 acres. I may have gotten the wrong impression as to the size of the area, but no wrong impression of its thickness.
I had spent an entire week near Evansville on line surveys, and was quitting about 2:30 p.m. one Saturday. I left my instruments and equipment at Mr. Black's residence and started out afoot for my home. By the time I really got started it was about 1 p.m. The road was new to me if I took the shortest course, about 20 miles over hills and hollows, walking at a rather brisk pace. After leaving Evansville I passed near but two human habitations on all that trip. I was wholly unarmed, except for a walking stick which I found.
During the early evening it clouded up so that no stars were visible. I noted the direction of the wind and concluded that I could steer my course by it. On the last four or five miles it got so dark that I could not distinguish any objects until I came directly on them.
It rained in little gusts, and I felt that the wind was veering more northerly, it first having been directly in my face, but I kept on, not daring to figure on any change in the direction of the wind. By about 6:30 I struck a trail at right angles to my course, and felt sure of my location. After turning to the left and following this trail a short way I found I had struck this trail at a point about 1500 feet to the northeast of where I had first headed for, or had gone off of my direct course but about 1500 feet in slightly more than 19 miles, making the trip in three hours and 15 minutes, and without seeing a single human being or wild animal. I considered that a rather remarkable incident.
I was not always so fortunate. I got lost between Comanche City and Coldwater several times at night. I recall staying one night with an old soldier of the Civil War, whose name I cannot now recall, but who was an aide decamp or adjutant to General Grant during that war. He then lived about eight miles southwest of Coldwater. I still feel very thankful to him for keeping me kindly.
February 19, 1926.
I am not attempting to tell all my experiences in that new and wonderful country. They would take up too much space. I got into several tight places and was shot at once, at least, while there. I saw several desperadoes, a few Indians and many cowboys. Most of the cowboys, of old timers and genuine cowboys, were not a half bad lot of men. Some of the later would be cowboys, just arrived from Missouri the preceding spring, were the type of desperadoes who gave the real cowboys a bad reputation.
These new cowboys started out on the supposition that they would have to kill a man or two before their reputation could be established. They were really dangerous. One such man took a shot at me along the road about six miles east of Avilla one fine afternoon, but I never could say for certain whether he really aimed at me or just wanted to scare me and create a reputation of being a "bad man." I did not wait to see or hear his explanation, as I was wholly unarmed.
Some time in August or the first part of September, 1885, we had a great Indian scare at Avilla and vicinity. The report came that about 2000 of the war like Sioux, confined but a short time before dawn in the Indian Territory, had broken their bounds and were headed directly for our settlement. The fact was quite placate that the Sioux Indians were entitled to resent their transference from a good hunting grounds of Dakota down to the mote densely settled and consequently poorer hunting grounds of the Indian Territory. They had been making threats of outbreaks and trouble in every possible _____, hence the reported outbreak was a natural event to be anticipated.
Only a few previous to this report a cavalry troop passed through Comanche county, going toward Fort Sill to aid in preventing an outbreak of those warlike Indians. Even in those days, before the telephone and radio, bad news traveled fast. All things pointed to the report being true that there had been a bad outbreak, and that we were in great danger of losing our lives and property.
People congregated that Sunday afternoon when this news came. They hunted up all their trusty rifles and firearms and ammunition, called together the people in central locations, and even went so far as to build a sort of stockade. All the able-bodied men were called out with whatever weapons they possessed to form a sort of "army of defense." But before all the machinery of war could be gotten together, news from a definite source reached us that it was all a hoax. That was the first and last Indian scare that I experienced.
I kept a diary in those days and wrote up the principal events of my young life, but some of the volumes have been misplaced. I will make a few quotations from the old diary.
Sunday, December 13, 1885. Went down to our claim shanty dugout, and straightened up things. Found the snow piled four feet deep in front of the door, and a good lot of it inside the house. Went back to Schaeffer's and wrote letters and read the papers and Shelly's Poems for the evening's entertainment.
Monday, December 14, 1885. Went to Coldwater to send in my final proof papers. Sent a money order in registered letter for $47.41, then came home back to Schaeffer's, and to shorten the road, came past Woche's across the prairie. Got into a hole five feet deep drifted full of snow and took a tumble in the snowdrift heard foremost, only the two side wheels of the buggy going in with the pony and myself. Poor Gyp laid quite still until I unhitched the tugs and then got up and walked out and stood there until I got the buggy out. I then hitched up and come on down to Schaeffer's, with my boots full of snow. Gyp skinned her leg a little, but was not hurt seriously.
Sunday, December 20, 1885. Rained all day. Very disagreeable weather. Read Shakespeare for a while and wrote several letters.
Thursday, December 24th. Went to Avilla to attend a Christmas entertainment, Christmas tree and all. Took Annie and Sallie Schaeffer with me. We heard several good declamations, some very credible music, and the hall was so crowded that I had to stand up throughout the program. I was like "Zeke" in Lowell's Bigelow Papers. I stood first on one foot for a while and then on the other, and on which foot I felt the best. I couldn't have told you, 'nuther. Also that night there were two dances at Avilla, but I could not keep those little girls out too late, and I returned to Schaeffer's by 11:40 p.m., and retired, rather tired and sleepy.
Friday, January 1st, 1886. Finished taking levels on the diversion of Cavalry creek and Cimarron river for power purposes and returned to Gaylord's by 3:30 p.m., where we had a very excellent turkey roast and a fine supper. Found a fall of 21 feet, going up Cavalry creek 1 1/4 miles.
Saturday, January 2. Cold, stormy morning, snowing and blowing, very lively. I decided not to venture out in the storm and stayed all day at Gaylord's. Read "Texas Sifting," and had roast turkey again. Fearful storm raging.
Sunday, January 3. A cold morning with wind still blowing, but it has quit snowing, the snow being now about eight inches deep, but badly drifted. I started for Avilla with my buggy, stopping at Mr. Miller's to warm up, and reached Avilla slightly before noon. Fed my pony and then drove up home to Shaeffer's by 3:00 p.m., the roads being terribly drifted with snow north of Avilla.
Wednesday, January 6th. Got a telegram when I went to Avilla for my mail, requiring me to go put to Lakin, Kans., where a carload of goods, cattle and a team of mules were awaiting my attention, having been shipped from Illinois by my father. Went to Peter Snyder and got Jonas W. Kell, and with him drove the pony and buggy up to Coldwater, intending to go west from there the next morning for Lakin. On the way to Coldwater, it turned quite cold, with a strong wind in our faces, and arrived there about dark.
Thursday, January 7th. Froze all day. Wind with a fine snow coming from about N. 18 degrees W. with a violence which almost precludes the possibility of going against it at all. I went to Judge Jennings' office and obtained my receipt on final proof of my preemption claim. This is the severest cold weather I have ever seen. All the stage coaches are frozen in. Decided not to undertake driving through to Lakin with my pony and buggy, on account of the deep snow and very cold weather. Too risky a trip to undertake.
February 26, 1926.
Friday, January 8th, 1886. Up at 6:30 a.m. Slept in a flimsy frame cottage where the snow seemed to blow right through the walls. Found a coating of about two inches of fine snow on our top covers of the bed. Mercury 18 below zero.
Friday, January 9th. Up at 6:30; breakfast almost at once. Then Kell and I took the stage for Kinsley at 7:30 a.m. This was an open heavy spring wagon with no shelter except a quilt and one blanket. Thermometer now 16 below and a strong north wind piling up the snow into deeper drifts. Kell got his nose, fingers and feet badly frozen, so I left him at the first stop Reeder City, to return next day to Coldwater and his home at Snyder's. I went on with the stage driver. I had gotten somewhat hardened with the previous cold weather, having been out in the worst of it. At the ford where one crossed the Medicine river, the snow had drifted it full, being about 15 feet deep, with very slight indications of where the ford really was. The mules missed the trail a few feet, and dropped into the snow, going completely under. We reached over and unhitched the tugs and let them scramble out on the northern bank as best they could. I helped run the stage coach over the drift, as it was solid enough to hold our weight at most all places, but I got my boots full of snow. We succeeded in lifting and pulling the wagon out part way where we could hitch the mules to it again, and were off toward Greensburg. We had gotten a jug of hot water at Reeder City, which helped mitigate the cold somewhat, but with my boots full of snow I got my feet frozen quite badly, and they have never fully recovered from that freezing. We got into Greensburg at 12:40 and got a fine warm dinner at the hotel, and soon felt almost normal again. The driver of the Kinsley stage was not foolhardy enough to venture out in that storm, so I had to wait in Greensburg the rest of that day, and over night. The Kinsley stage came in from the north at 3:30 p.m. and reported the roads very badly drifted of snow railroad trains stuck in snow drifts on the Santa Fe railroad, and the worst conditions of traffic ever before experienced in this section of Kansas.
Saturday, January 9th. Went up to Kinsley, starting about 9:00 a.m. and arriving about 1:30 p.m. without our waiting for dinner at Wendall where the driver changed horses. Found all trains here snowbound and four long passenger trains standing on the sidings, pretty well filled with people. All available hotels, rooming houses, restaurants and many private houses are filled with waiting travelers. They get their meals at the Railroad Eating House, Fred Harvey's restaurant, but all cannot sleep on the trains. Many of them had to sleep as best they could on the trains in common day coaches. As for myself, I slept on the depot floor, getting my meals at a restaurant, but with no beds available. I stayed here thus nearly four days waiting for the snow to be cleared from the tracks. I went out west with the very first train, which consisted of two engines and a caboose and two or three box cars, and the front engine equipped with a snow plow, by means of which we "bucked" the snow and got as far as Dodge City by 3:50 p.m. on Tuesday, January 12th. Here we stopped at the Dean House, for Wilbur and Lawrence Perry had also come up some days before me to Kinsley and gotten caught in the blizzard. They were also making their way westward to Lakin.
On this same train with me was J. Curran, who lived near Evansville. He was on his way west to look up some cheaper land. Here, then, were four Comanche-co. men seeking to leave the county, none of whom, so far as I have ever learned, ever returning to live permanently. I had no idea of leaving Comanche-co. permanently, at all. I did go over to Grant-co. and take up a homestead claim, remaining there until February, when I returned to Kinsley.
With seven other passengers, I went down to Coldwater by stage. The roads being muddy, we did not reach Coldwater until 9:00 p.m., after which I walked out to Schaeffer's a little hike of but eight miles. The diary shows that I soon got back on the surveying job which I had abandoned when the cold and snowy weather came on in early January, but it also notes considerable rain. On March 2, 1886, it rained the entire afternoon and all night. That night, a Mr. Boyd and a newly married young couple came in to Schaeffer's, wholly lost in the storm, and I gave up my bed to two of them. The next day was rainy and disagreeable, not fit for outdoor operations at all. The diary states that it was still raining at 8:00 p.m. on March 3d, when I retired. I can hardly, realize that it ever rained so much as this diary states, out in that country, but it is down in black and white in my old diary.
I worked on the survey of Comanche City from March 4 to 13, inclusive. I bought another pony from Mr. Sheldon, got the necessary equipment to hitch two ponies to my buggy, and again left Avilla to drive across the prairie west 145 miles to Grant county, Kans. I was accompanied by Miss Flora Bowman, an old time friend in Illinois. We made the trip in somewhat less than three days, arriving at Ulysses at 8:30 p.m., March 18, 1886.
March 5, 1926.
In that January 1886 blizzard, I really made that trip out to Lakin, Kans., and it took nearly a week to get through by reason of the railroad track being so badly filled with snow. I had other experiences, waiting at Kinsley days, at Dodge two days, and making the trip down to the Cimmaron river, 40 miles from Lakin, when the ground was covered from 6 to 46 inches deep with snow; camping out in a covered wagon, and such like experiences. Following the great blizzard came some severely cold weather or secondary blizzard, not much less severe than the first had been.
But that is all behind me now. I enjoyed it greatly after its accomplishment, and was glad that I was fortunate enough to survive it all, when as many as 100 or more persons in the same storm succumbed to its severities. I saw 3000 dead sheep piled against the snow fences right in the environs of Lakin, and more cattle and horses than I could count, lying here and there, frozen to death on the prairies.
On Monday, April 19, I again arrived at Avilla, driving through from Hartland in three days, stopping frequently to look at portions of the country. I was accompanied by my double cousin, Jake Dappert, of Stewardson, Ill. He spent a week or so with me in Grant and Stevens counties, but did not like the country so well out there. During the next few days he purchased 160 acres from Jonathan Schaeffer and another 160 acres from John Overstreet, the latter tract being six or eight miles southwest of Avilla.
About this time the fruit trees which I had ordered were delivered and I planted an orchard of six or eight acres of fancy fruit trees on my then newly acquired farmstead. With Schaeffer and Peter Schneider, we set out those fruit trees, the recent rains and melting snows having out the ground in first class condition. The trees gave promise of thrifty growth, but I never saw any fruit on them.
I went back again in August, 1886, to Comanche county and spent a week or so visiting some of my friends, and in attempting to collect some of my long past due bills. On this trip I recall vividly taking a young lady friend and exploring the Jesse James cave, near Evansville. This was my second trip of exploration in this famous cave, reported to have been the home and rendezvous of Frank and Jesse James at the time they were outlaws, probably 15 or 20 years earlier than this period.
The cave consists of three rooms, connected by narrow passageways. A small stream of water flowed along its floor, with deep pools of water at intervals along its course. The eastern entrance to the cave is quite large, amply sufficient to admit a man on horseback without stooping. There is a room immediately back of the entrance as large as an ordinary church. Depending from the roof in many places are stalactites, formed by deposits of lime in the water, and rising from the floor are stalagmites of the same material, similar to gypsum formed where the dripping water from the seams in the roof strike the floor.
Some of these formations were rather weird and striking. From the light of our lantern the colors of the rainbow scintillated, sparkled and flashed as we went along. A few bats flew about in surprise at the reflection of our lantern. There was a strong current of air in places along our passage, which extinguished our light several times.
It was a rather novel experience for me, to be all alone with a fine looking young lady in that cavern, deep underground, and seemed more strange when the lantern went out, with the girl clamoring for it to be relighted. But she was a perfect lady, and I tried to be a gentleman. We both wanted to see the cave, and spent several hours there.
This diary does not attempt to tell all my experiences in that fine, new and healthful country - Comanche-co. I have dwelt at some length on only a few of the incidents of my 18 months' residence therein. I could also recount many other events of that exciting and pleasant period of time spent there. I could tell about our Fourth of July celebration and picnic in 1885, when a large number of cowboys threatened to come over and clean out Avilla.
We had a posse of about 40 deputy sheriffs, myself being one of them, and we were all armed. As we were thus well prepared for any emergency, none arose which required our attention. There were close to 1000 people at that Fourth of July celebration that day. The order was excellent, and the whole entertainment as good as many of the same kind I had attended earlier in the more refined and effete East. True, there were a number of cowboys from the ranches east of Avilla, but they were all very gentlemanly in their conduct, and the dances did not develop any disorder at all. The whole affair was a complete success.
March 18, 1926.
I could go on and describe many incidents which occurred while I lived in that county in that far off period of 40 years ago, and to me, at least, they would be interesting. I have not touched at all upon several trips and outings in which I participated, which took us down south into the Indian Territory, nor of the two week's trip that a party of eight of us took in a covered wagon out into the then unsettled western part of Kansas, on which trip we went without water for 24 hours, and saw hundreds of antelope, a number of wild horses and a few even wilder men. That was not a part of our experiences in Comanche-co., and has no proper place in this narrative. I could tell about several elections which we had, church entertainments, spelling bees, parties, picnic and such like, but if I recited all these happenings in detail, this narrative would become too long. Again, if I told all my experiences, it would not seem possible that all these things had happened in the short period of 18 months during which I lived in Comanche-co. But those were quite busy days for me. I frequently worked at surveying lines for seven days per week, then when a lull came, I frequently took a whole week off, and several times two weeks or more, during which periods I made these memorable trips.
Whether it is because I was then young, vigorous, strong and hopeful, or from whatever cause, I really enjoyed my residence in this Comanche-co. locality more and better than any similar period of my life. The people were more friendly and vivacious. All were more or less poor people, so far as riches in money or property goes, but all were rich in spirit of friendliness, exceedingly gracious and courteous, very charitable, and without guile or deceit. These early comers were the Best of the Land. I wish I could have always lived among just such people.
Strange it may seem that my lot in life was so cast that I did not again visit Comanche-co. from late August, 1886 until early September, 1921, or for a period of 35 years. I then went to Coldwater, and in ten minutes found seven people whom I had known in that far away period, some of them having then been, and still are, I hope, my very best friends. The first man whom I met among my old friends was John Overstreet, and with his aid I soon got in touch with E. T. Dodson, Henry Knecht, Peter Schneider and his estimable wife, who owned adjoining lands to mine, and also D. T. McIntyre and J. A. Lightner, the latter two not having been real old friends, with whom I had previously spent many other happy hours, as I had with all the others. There are yet three others living at Coldwater whom I might have been able to see and visit if I had prolonged my visit several days, but I could not do so at that time, having but three hours for that visit.
I did again, return to Coldwater and spent an entire day in July, 1923, when I again saw all but the two last named of these good people, and in addition, visited good old Mrs. Dodson and Mr. and Mrs. Wm. B. Oller, the three whom I had missed on my visit of two years earlier. On both these occasions all these good people made me feel very welcome, and treated me with the greatest friendliness, and it seemed to me just like going home on a visit. I hope I may again some day go back and find all these same good friends of mine in hale and hearty condition, able to extend to me their welcoming hands.
And now I am going to attempt to give names to all my favorite friends and acquaintances of that long ago period. 1885 and 1886 when Comanche-co. was just being settled, and at which period I now think the population was about the densest it has ever been, when there was a family on nearly every 160 acre tract of land within its borders, and if not a whole family, at least one old bachelor or one maid. At that time there were a few more congressional townships in the county than now, the north 12 miles of Comanche-co. having been lopped off by Colonel Green to enable him to form a county for himself, in which his city, Greensburg, might become the county capital, which actually occurred soon after the period when I lived in Comanche-co.
Many of these names are doubtless well known even to this day. Some, most likely a goodly proportion of them, are the names of mere floaters, as I also, proved to be, but I have these names in my memorandum and notebooks and will give them with their addresses, as nearly as I can, correctly.
April 2, 1926.
Among the early day settlers of Comanche-co., grouped according to post office address, were the following:
Mr. and Mrs. L. H. Andrews
C. D. Baker
J. A. Barnhill
F. F. Barry
A. A. Bartleson
Mr. and Mrs. Bartlett and daughter, Julia
Battles brothers (carpenters)
John L. Bevil
W. S. Bolar
F. V. Brandon
D. H. Brewer
Chas. W. Brown
Smith M. Brown
James S. Bush
Mr. and Mrs. Coe
Colley Bros. (hotel men)
Mr. and Mrs. H. H. Cox
R. J. Craig
J. W. Dappert, deputy county surveyor.
Lucy C. Dappert, sister.
Darrow Bros., real estate.
Darrow & Watson
R. C. Dickey
E. T. Dodsen
T. B. Duncan
C. H. Eads
Thos. A. Fraley
J. W. Gatshall
J. E. Gooch
W. W. Grinsdale
James B. Hatcher
I. J. Hatcher
D. J. Haven
S. A. Haven
Mr. Heston and family
John (Jack) Howery
J. H. Hudson
W. V. Jackson
Jonas W. Kell
J. B. Kingston
D. L. Martin
U. H. Mecker
H. C. Miller
N. H. Moore
J. M. Myers
Wm. B. Oller
O. E. Ott
Wm. C. Painter
D. F. Parcel
J. B. Pearson
J. H. Powell
John M. Puckett
H. M. Ray
Ellsworth M. Scoville
Enos Beach Sheldan
Geo. M. Sheldon
A. B. Shidler
Florence and Kate Shidler
H. A. Smith
E. L. Snyder
John W. Stark
L. L. Stubbs
J. A. Tesh
C. A. Tingler
R. M. Watson (editor)
G. C. Wilcox
I. E. Wilson
B. F. Woodruff
W. C. Burton, deputy county surveyor.
E. W. Carey.
J. D. F. Jennings, probate judge.
E. P. Lee, county surveyor.
Wilbur and Lawrence Perry.
Jonathan H. Shaeffer.
E. S. West.
J. H. V. Brown, lawyer.
J. M. Christman
W. A. Christman
W. P. Christman
D. M. Circle
Wm. H. Cole
T. J. Curran
R. H. Estill
F. F. Fuller
J. B. Gouch
Green & Hall
Geo. M. Henry
J. W. Hodges
John W. Holland
W. B. Lindsey
D. T. McIntire
Chas. E. Norton
Ella P. Piper
Geo. A. Poppleton
B. D. Spicer
J. B. Widmer
J. N. Wright
John F. Yardley
Thos. J. Yardley
W. B. Broadwell, promoter of Plano City.
E. M. Dixon
A. E. Miller
Wm. H. Nighswonger
J. H. Rice
Mr. and Mrs. Gaylord
A. M. Hopkins
John C. Lappin
R. A. Munsun
G. E. Tourilett
D. A. Woodward
J. H. Ward
A. C. Alexander
A. H. Baker
M. L. Baxter
W. W. Baxter
Z. J. Bratcher
M. M. Cosby
W. P. Gibson
E. P. Hickok
J. A. Jarnagin
John R. Morton
A. L. Munson
S. F. Murray
S. S. Smith
Geo. W. Tade
H. E. Vance
Jos. F. Brewer
H. C. Butts
J. P. Jackson, Satanta.
Miss Norville - no address given.
Some say that the Al Smith, named above is the Al Smith who is now governor of New York and who won distinction in 1924 in his 18 days fight for the Democratic nomination for President.
I do not presume that I have listed all of the names of my fellow citizens, friends and acquaintances of that period, 40 years ago. Some of my old books have been lost or misplaced, so that I could not get the names of all of the people with whom I came in contact while a resident of Comanche-co.
JAMES W. DAPPERT, C. E.
Lock Box 141, Taylorville, Ill.
J. W. Dappert, a pioneer settler in this county, was a visitor in Coldwater the latter part of last week. For several years his home has been in Taylorville, Ill., where he is still busily employed as a civil engineer. He settled on a claim a few miles northeast of Avilla in 1884 and lived there for a little over three years when he went to western Kansas, and later to Denver, Colo., where he lived for some time. Mr. Dappert did considerable surveying in this county during the time he was here. After looking our town and county over last week, he expressed surprise at the improvements made during the years he had been absent from our county. Five of Mr., Dappert's sons were in France with the American army during the World War, and all made splendid records. One son, J. Ivan, was killed in action on the Western Front.
I went by stage over to Kiowa, where I visited D. A. Woodworth, promoter of Comanche City, and while there, met J. C. Malloy, an old friend of four years previous, whom I knew at the university. From there I went to Wichita, Topeka, St. Joe, Atchison, and up to Table Rock, Neb. There I remained something like three or four days, and returned from there as directly as possible to Hartland, Kans., and back to my homestead in Grant County, Kans.
I did not again visit Comanche County until about September 3, 1921, this trip being with Frank Phillips of Greensburg, whom I was then visiting. We drove down to Coldwater in the afternoon of that day. I had not seen that city for 35 years, and naturally did not expect to find many of my old-time friends. First, I went into a drugstore and after getting a cold drink, asked the clerk if there were any of the older inhabitants living about the city.
He at once pointed out John Overocker standing near by, and upon closer inspection I recognized a considerable likeness to his old self. John told me there were a lot of the old-timers around here still, and after a little inquiry, he took me in his car over to Peter Schneider's place where I met him and Mrs. Schneider, and visited an hour with them. Next he took me to see Mr. Dodson, Sr., the man who used to be in the blacksmith and repair shop at Avilla, and with him I then visited his home where I met Mrs. Dodson and her son.
Later I met Henry Knecht, T. J. McIntyre and J. A. Lightner. I knew William Oller lived there, but was told that he was out in Colorado on a trip, so I did not meet him or his family, this trip. Those I met seemed all quite glad to see me again, but my time was limited to two hours, and I could not look up all who were there.
I again visited Coldwater on July 13 and 14, 1923. My wife accompanied me on this trip, and a young lady, Miss Ruby Cronie, drove us down to Coldwater with Mrs. Phillips, her aunt. We planned to spend just one day at Coldwater, but it rained quite hard, making the roads impassable, so we remained over night at Peter Schneider's place. On this trip I met the Schneiders and one daughter, John Overstreet, the Dodsons, and in all seven people whom I had known very well thirty-eight years before. And all of them were glad to see me again.
June 23, 1926, was my next trip to Comanche County, my wife being with me on the trip. We came in via Mulvane and Wichita, on the Santa Fe railroad in the afternoon, and went directly to Peter Schneider's residence, where we stayed that night and until about 10:30 the next day. On this trip, I met people whom I had known 40 years before: J. M. Griffith, F. M. McIntyre, Robert King, Geo. H. Torrey, the man who had become lost and to whom I gave up my bed at Schneider's in 1886. I also met David McIntyre and the senior editor of the Western Star, Mr. Butcher, and his son, whom I first met in 1921, also E. V. Jackson.
Miss Ruby Cronie came down from Greensburg on Thursday, June 24, and from there we made a trip out to Grant County, over into Western Oklahoma, out in Colorado, and by the time we got back home six weeks later, we had also visited in Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota.
Again, I attended the old settlers' homecoming at Antioch Church near Avilla on November 18, 1926, and at this gathering I met more than 40 of my old friends of 40 years before. Also, we had a very sumptuous feast in the church basement that day at noon, and I called to visit others of my old friends, spending three days in that vicinity. I have missed five of the homecomings since then, but I hope I may again be allowed the great privilege of attending one more of these gatherings and may again be able to see a few of those very good friends of 40 years ago.
Last July 5th, I went by automobile from my home here in Iola, Kans., in one day, and the next day ate dinner at Pratt, stopped an hour at Greensburg and reached Ulysses, Grant County, Kansas, by 8 p.m. of the second day of our trip. I could not help but contrast the modern methods of travel which allows us to make a trip in three hours now, that took three days to make in that remote period of 36 years ago.
Many of my old friends of the early settlers of Comanche County have passed on since then, and several have crossed the river since I met them at the old homecoming in 1926. John Todd, Al Heflin, J. J. Overstreet, and Mrs. W. R. Oller are among them. My recollections of Comanche County are mainly very pleasant ones. The people were friendly and honest, and of that pioneering spirit which conquers all difficulties, and those who have stayed with the country are now mostly in affluent circumstances, and can laugh at the hardships and difficulties encountered 40 to 45 years ago.
I want to see that rolling prairie again some day, when it is all clothed in its golden garb of ripening grain, as I saw it last five years ago. It was then and will, I hope again be one of the most glorious spectacles ever beheld by human vision, those miles upon miles of ripening yellow fields of grain.
From the Taylorville, Ill., Breeze-Courier, December 10, 1947.
James W. Dappert, 88, civil engineer and one of the city's most prominent residents, who resided at 505 East Gandy avenue, passed away at 8:50 o'clock this morning in the St. Vincent hospital, where he had been a patient for the past six weeks. he had been in ill health for the past year but had continued active in his engineering work until October.
Mr. Dappert was born in Killbuck, Holmer county, Ohio, April 8, 1859, a son of John and Catherine Silveus Dappert. he came to Christian county with his parents, when he was a small boy.
After attending the country schools of Christian county he spent two years at Westfield College in Clark county and three years at Valpariso University. he then took a course in civil engineering, obtaining the degree of civil engineer. In March, 1884, he went to Topeka, Kans., where he laid out and helped supervise the erection of the foundation of the State capitol building and was deputy United States surveyor in resubdividing and resurveying Harper, Barber and a portion of Kingman counties in Kansas.
In 1885 he went to southern Kansas, where he was a deputy county surveyor of Comanche county and during that year proved up a preemption claim near Coldwater. The following year he went to Grand county, became county surveyor, holding that office during 1886 and 1887 and at the same time invested quite heavily in land and stocked his property with cattle.
In 1888 he moved to Pueblo, Colo., and for two years or more was assistant city engineer, being associated with some of the big public works at that point and also laid out a system of sewerage for Santa Fe, N. M.
He was on irrigation and mining surveys until 1892, when he returned to Christian county and had continued his activities here ever since. He has handled more of the farm drainage districts than any other man of his profession in Illinois. In addition Mr. Dappert was the Nos. 1 and 2 Drainage districts in Hancock county, Iowa and Nos. 1 and 2 in Charlton county, Iowa, as consulting engineer and design, and as court advocate was back of the law now enabling the people of those drainage districts in Iowa to assess the railroads for their share of the expense of operation. The precedent of that law has since been followed throughout surrounding states and brought into play in matters pertaining to drainage questions.
Between 1899 and 1910 Mr. Dappert was associated with the Judicial Ditch No. 1 Minnesota. He served as Taylorville city engineer from 1893 until 1920 and county surveyor from 1904 until 1908.
He was past president and life time member of the Illinois Society of Engineers; a member of the Mathematical Association of America; of the National Geographic Society, form which he recently received a congratulatory letter from the editor, and of the Mound church, south of this city.
On December 28, 1886, he was married to Miss Mary A. Fulton, daughter, of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Fulton, in this city, and they would have celebrated there 61st wedding anniversary this year. Mr. and Mrs. Dappert became the parents of seven children, five of their sons having served in the first World War. One son, Ivan, was killed in France in 1918 and the local post of the American Legion is named for him.
Surviving are his widow, four sons, Jack of Chattanooga, Tenn.; Merlin L. of Taylorville; Anselmo of Albany, N. Y. and Boyd of Taylorville; two daughters, Mrs. Paul Peabody of Stonington and Mrs. Clarence Kramer of Taylorville; eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren. He also leaves three sisters, Mrs. Amanda Large and Mrs. Elmer Brookens, both of Taylorville and Mrs. Lucy Shover of Rockford.
Dappert, James W. "My First Trip to Stevens County, Kansas". Hugoton Hermes. Feb. 16, 1940. [1 p.]. (Reel: H1272), on file at the Kansas State Historical Society, in their Bibliographic List of Kansas County Histories.
"We had quite a bit of pleasant and unpleasant experience in assisting in surveying out claims and re-establishing township lines and corners in the eastern part of Comanche-co. J. W. Dappert who I think was first official surveyor of the county manned the instruments. Mr. D. at the present lives near us and furnished five sons for the late world war." -- C.F. Spicer's Memoirs, published in The Western Star, June 10, 1921.
Comanche Steal: The Fraudulent Organization in 1873 of Comanche County, Kansas by Thomas Allen McNeal from When Kansas Was Young.
Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news articles to this web site!
This RootsWeb website is being created by Jerry Ferrin with the able assistance of many Contributors. Your comments, suggestions and contributions of historical information and photographs to this site are welcome. Please sign the Guest Book. This page was last updated 6 October 2007.
Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news articles to this web site!
This RootsWeb website is being created by Jerry Ferrin with the able assistance of many Contributors. Your comments, suggestions and contributions of historical information and photographs to this site are welcome. Please sign the Guest Book. This page was last updated 6 October 2007.