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COMANCHE COUNTY, KANSAS: HISTORY & GENEALOGY
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Letter from Newell Howard to Mr. & Mrs. Harve Schrock of Wilmore, Kansas.


644 Marion St., Denver 18, Colorado.
April 25, 1956

Mr. and Mrs. Harve Schrock,
Wilmore, Kansas.

Dear Friends:
          I am sorry we have been so long in answering your good and most welcome letter and in acknowledging the Christmas card. A leading reason for the delay was that we were pretty well worn out with the sending about 130 Christmas cards -- most of them with personal notes included.
          But a greater reason was that Thema was down with the flu Jan.1, I followed the next day, and Myrtle followed suite four days later. She and I were at our worst at the same days. We two had to draw straws to see which would wait on the other. But we made it all right although it sapped our strengh considerably.
          But Thelma had to go to the hospital for major surgery not connected with the flu. She is still just dragging around, but slowly gaining.
         John works for the Coe furniture Co. delivering and placing 'ritzy' furniture, sometimes making deliveries 75 or more miles away. Not long ago, while unloading furniture he slipped on a bit of ice and fell and the furniture came down on top of him breaking both hips and an elbow but not breaking any bones. He kept on working but finds that he was hurt more than he realized at first.
         Since the first of the year I have had almost the sole daily care of Myrtle, the house to keep in shape, and the greater part of the cooking to do. But for more than two months now she has been able to wait on herself and come to the kitchen for her meals. Also helps a lot with the noon meal but still has to spend most of her time in bed. Can do very letter writing. She has had her dress on for all day only since last September.
          Ralph and Mae come in twice a week to give us a hand and get our laundry. Their girls are getting along fine in school. Ralph and a partner have about 100 Chinchillas.
          John and Thelma are buying this three-story-and-basement brick building. They have the ground-floor on one side and we have it on the other. Since there is no direct passage way between the two and we have to go down steps the the lawn, then up steps on the other side, Myrtle and Thelma scarcely see each other for nearly two months.
          What time I can spare from doing other things I have been trying to write a book about the early days of Kansas -- that part of the state with which we are personally acquainted. However, have reached out a little beyond that area in some instances. Not a history, but a series of incidents revealing what life was like at that time. Have over 45,000 words typed and expect to add another 5,000, or more.
          My parents and their four children came from near Lamar, Mo., where they had sojourned for three or four years, in July of 1877. It was nearly a year later before I came. That area was not open for white settlement until sometime in 1874, but following the Peace Treaty between the U.S. and five tribes of the Plains Indians -- the Apaches, Araphahe, Cheyennes, Comanche and Kiowas -- signed at Medicine Lodge in October, 1867, a few white people began to filter in.
          The first of which we have any record was a man named Judson who settled in a box-canyon near Belvidere. He was killed there, supposedly, but not certainly, by Indians.
          The first ranch was established on Otter Creek, just a little to the west of where the highway from Belvidere to Wilmore first enters Otter Creek Valley. A couple of slight depressions in the sod in a little rise of ground just off the highway is all that marks its location now. The owner's name was Graves.
          Sometime later a man by the name of V.P. Wyman established a cattle ranch with headquarters at the junction of the two branches of Spring Creek, 2 1/2 miles north of Belvidere. In later years it was owned successively by John Hays -- Myrtle's father -- George McQuay, and, if I have it correctly in mind, now belongs to the Miller ranch.
          On October 1st (1877) Wyman was shot and killed by Cherokee Bill (sic), one of his ranch-hands. The murderer escaped into the nearby hills but at noon that day he dropped in at the Tommy Wilmore ranch, on Mule Creek, and ate with the hands. None of them knew what had happened but became suspicious that something was wrong, for as soon as he could bolt his food he again rode away into the hills. He was never apprehended in spite of the fact that a $500 reward -- big money in those days -- was offered for his capture.
          Wyman was buried on his ranch, my father conducting the funeral service, his first since coming to the Medicine Valley, and in all probability the first religious service for the dead in the county.
          In 1880 John Hays married Wyman's widow. To that union four children were born, two of whom did not survive their infancy, and are buried beside Mr. Wyman. In 1887 their mother joined them in death, and the four are resting side by side in the little plot of ground not far from the ranch house. The plot is fence and a single marker does duty for all four occupants.
          I am enclosing one of my little stories, a real happening and with correct names given. Doubtless you remember Bill Toeves. Bill, the Behlers and I combined forces that year during the harvest season.
          No, we have not hear about Mrs. Walter Ray, or Mrs. Ferrin, or Brother Cameron. Nor about Clarence Sherer, or Sam Fawcetts. Where does Buford Davis live now since he left the store in Belvidere? Does Lou Baker and wife still live on the farm?
          It would be wonderful if we could all meet again and have that picnic you folks speak of. It is not impossible. Stranger things than that happen almost every day. Two or three years ago, a carload of young men went over the hill on one of our mountain road and the car turned end over end about ten times before they reached the bottom, some 400 feet below their starting point. They were terribly bruised and jammed-up but all survived the ordeal.
          Our mountain reservoys (sic) are pretty low but the snowfall on our watersheds are nearly all above normal, some few as much as 50%. Crested Butte, near Gunnison, reported 24 feet some two months ago. We had about an inch of sopping wet snow only two days ago right here in Denver. We may get still more.
          One more harvest incident in which Toeves had a part. The Behler's furnished the header, barges, and four horses for the header, and one of the boys drove the headers. Tooves furnished a barge and one hand besides himself. I did the stacking and furnished a bargeteam and two horses for the header. We got together one afternoon at the Behler place just to try things out and see that everything was operating properly. Harvest would start the next morning.
          The first objective was a small isolated patch across a deep gully from the barn. One of the Behler header-horses was wild and hard to control and the drive was apprehensive when he could not control both teams while crossing the gully, so Toeves mounted the steering platform with him and each handled a team separately. Neither team was tied-in to the beam.
          The instant they threw the header into gear -- to act as a brake -- the wild horse lunged into the collar, causing the rudder, which they held between them, to whip violently from side to side. Both men were thrown clear of the header and landed on all-fours behind it. The header out-run the teams and for an instant they pulled dead-against each other. Then the onrush of the machine caught them unawares and jerked them violently backward down to the foot of the hill.
          Luckily no one was really hurt, just shook-up a bit. Nor was there any damage to teams or machinery. Harvest was completed in due time.
          Hoping to meet you folks again sometime face to face. I must close for now.

As ever,
                        yours,
                                                         Newell Howard



The Dodge City Times, on 27 Oct 1977, mistakenly reported that it was Christopher Carson Pepperd, not V.P. Wyman, who had been murdered, and afterwards offered both printed apologies and retractions of that story.

For contemporary accounts of the murder of V.P. Wyman, also see:

Shooting of Wyman, The Dodge City Times, October 6, 1877.

Cold-blooded Murder, The Dodge City Times, October 13, 1877.

$500 Reward, The Dodge City Times, December 1, 1877.

Red Cross Fund Oversubscribed, The Wilmore News, 28 June 1917.


Thanks to Janet (Schrock) Hubbard for contributing this letter from her collection of family history information for use on this website.

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This page was last updated 6 Jan 2006.