Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Stagecoaches in southeast Kansas

Try walking through a muddy field on a rainy day in May

Notes. Spring Creek runs through Derby (then called El Paso) and Dog Creek is south of present day Mulvane. We don’t know for certain, but the route probably followed the Arkansas River where the present-day tracks of the Santa Fe Railroad run.

The stage was a Concord coach pulled by a team of two horses. The Parker & Tisdale stage line later became the Southwestern Stage Line. Fresh horses were kept at relay stations, and the station keeper was ever ready to unharness and re- hitch the fresh team, to get the stage coach rolling on without interruption.

Keep in mind that roads, for the most part, had not been laid out by the state or counties. To get a feeling for the trip try walking across a muddy field after a good rain. Compound this problem with ditches, ponds and streams, and horses struggling to carry a coach laden with passengers and luggage. Originally, north of El Dorado teams of four horses were used to carry passengers through the Flint Hills to Emporia, south of El Dorado, the coaches switched to teams of two horses.

From Wichita to Winfield by stagecoach

Coach and Four, Century Hotel 1877

Winfield Courier, May 11, 1876.

Last Saturday, the stage from Wichita got sandwiched between Spring and Dog Creeks. The passengers, and I was one, took to the water to find dry land. Hack, horses, and everything went down in the mud. Our worthy local agent, Mr. Bangs, and "Tommy," the driver, succeeded in transferring the females and mail to a wagon and then driving them back for the night to El Paso (present day Derby).

In getting out of our difficulty, we happened to drive over a wheat field which was under water and belonged to an idiot living on Dog Creek. He swam the creek and chased us on foot for about two miles. That was all the good it did him, however, as we hadn't time to converse with him.

The next morning, the idiot returned, brandishing a weapon in front of the stage, demanding "damages or blood." Bangs modestly but firmly said: "This is the U. S. mail line. One man and one shot gun has no legal right to delay these documents of importance; these letters of business; and these epistles of love that are trying to reach their destination. Stand aside, my friend. Lay your troubles before special mail agent Jno. M. Crowell. He will refer you to Senator Ingalls, he to the Department at Washington, and it will give you redress." We drove on. The fellow sat down and cried. Bangs was too much for him.

There are several sources for this story. Perhaps the best is the account gathered by the Cowley County Historical Museum.

Kansas Atlas, Rock Township, 1877

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Walnut River Wrought Iron Truss Bridge

Wrought Iron Truss Bridge in Butler County, Walnut River, near Douglas, Kansas

Drive south of Augusta, Kansas on Highway 77. 

[Highway 77 follows the course of the Walnut River. The Walnut River joins the Arkansas River at Arkansas City. The highway continues south of Douglass to Winfield and Arkansas City and further south. The highway also parallels the Santa Fe railroad tracks which arrived in Douglass in 1881. This was also the route of the Southwest Stage Coach, operating in the 1870's and 1880's from Florence to Arkansas City, via El Dorado, Augusta, Douglass, Walnut, Lone Tree, and Rock, but this is another story.]

Just past Douglass, turn right or west onto 230th Street. This is a dirt and gravel road that goes around a bend in the road and takes you over the Santa Fe tracks. The road straightens out into rich bottom land where corn and silo grow. A half mile or so and one comes to a "T" which is Buffalo Road. Your choices are north and south. Go south (left). Buffalo Road quickly turns west again and continues as 230th Street. A few hundred feet and the road jags to the left again to cross the Walnut River.

This is one of several wrought iron truss bridges that can still be found in Kansas. There is a larger one nearby at Bois D'arc.

This bridge was made by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio. The company was founded in 1864. In an 1882 pamphlet the company proudly proclaimed that it had worked in 26 US States, Canada and Mexico, and that: "during the past 18 years this firm [has] erected nearly 4,300 spans, varying in length from 20 to 300 feet."

Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio

The span of this bridge is about 100 feet. The bridge bed is made of large timbers laid horizontally and then vertically to make a path that cars can follow. Be sure to slow down and be mindful of the height and weight restriction.

Slow down

Height 6 feet 6 inches, Weight 3 tons

Walnut River two miles south of Douglass, Kansas

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Kansas Flint Hills National Scenic Byway (177)

Chase County is named after Salmon P. Chase,  United States Senator from and Governor of Ohio, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Cottonwood River flows northeasterly and easterly carving out a river valley of sandy loamy soil enclosed by limestone bluffs and rounded sloping hills. 

This is the land of tall grass and clear streams where the buffalo by the millions once roamed.

The Kansas Flint Hills National Scenic Byway on highway K-177 stretches less than 50 miles between Cassoday and Council Grove through Chase County. That short stretch is captivating and rustic, a throw back to the days of old. It is a two lane black top that follow the old Chisholm Trail past the rail head at Bazaar and meets up with the old Santa Fe Trail in Council Groves where soldier and Indian met to try and resolve competing claims to the land.

Along the way, one passes though Matfield Green, Cottonwood Falls, Strong City, and past the Tallgrass Prairie Reserve.

On his way from Wichita to a Kansas State football game one warm October morning, the man from Oz took these images. In the early morning, there was a thick white fog hanging over the hills like milk dissolving into tea.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Cattle Egret in Kansas

June, July, and August have been wet, but the rains won’t be enough to bring water tables back to normal, as the first half of the year was dry. Despite the recent rains in Kansas, those that keep track of precipitation say this is not enough to end the drought. Farmers in parched southwest Kansas say the unusually high amount of rain that fell in July came too late to help the winter wheat but the fields of summer corn look just fine.

Still the rain and the cooler temperatures make life in Kansas a little better. 

Now, you are driving the back roads of Kansas and you come across the unusual. Here is a herd of Cattle Egret (Bubulcus Ibis) summering at a Butler County, Kansas pond with cattle of course.

Cattle Egret with cattle in Butler County, Kansas

As I approach the pond with my camera, the egrets take flight, flying to a nearby tree.

cattle egret

Cattle Egret flying to tree

 [My daughter says I need a new telephoto lens.]

You are probably familiar with the snowy white egret that inhabits Kansas rivers. The Cattle Egret is the only white egret with both a yellow bill and yellow legs. The dark legs in many of the images comes from the muddy pond. Adult egrets have the distinctive yellow patches on the head and body. The orange stripe begins on the crown and continues down the back.

Cattle Egret in flight

Cattle Egret with orange patches

It flies in flocks for protection and feeds primarily on insects. It summers in Kansas and returns to Mexico during winter.

Cattle egret are believed to have originated in Africa and then spread to other parts of the world during the 19th century. Birding in Egypt.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Briles Schoolhouse, Franklin County, Kansas

Before the Civil War, Franklin County was home to several Indian tribes including the Osage and Ottawa. (Other tribes who settled in Franklin county included: the Piankeshaws, Weas and Peorias; Sacs and Foxes; Chippewas and Munsees. History of the State of Kansas by William G. Cutler's, 1883.).

As settlers arrived, the county became a battleground between Free-Staters and Slaveholders with visits by Missouri Boarder Ruffians. In 1856, the Pottawatomie Rifle Company was organized in nearby Pottawatomie valley. Composed of Free-State men, about one hundred in number, its captain was John Brown, Jr..

Briles Schoolhouse, founded 1868

Briles Schoolhouse – Built in 1868 and closed in 1960, the school is now a community center, Through the efforts of the Full O’ Pep 4-H, the State Highway Dept. paid to have the school moved in lieu of paying for the right-of-way when K-68 Highway was widened in 1980.

The DirtBum

The school, on Highway 68 at Texas Road, is Stop 8 on the Driving Tour of Northeast Franklin County.The school is District 48 on the Kansas Historical Atlas for 1903. The land was deeded by John Briles, 9 July 1868, for the consideration of 1 cent, 1 acre (SW1/4 of S30 T16 R21).

From the notes of Philetus Fales (Classics teacher, Ottawa University administrator, superintendent of the Indian Department, and twice Franklin County superintendent of schools).
Dec.31, 1868   “Visited school in District 48. Fine stone schoolhouse, but not furnished. On account of mud, only slim attendance. Mr. McClure teacher, 35 enrolled.”

By 1869, the school was down to 19 students. Franklin County Digital History.

WC Briles is the land owner of record on the 1903 Kansas Atlas Township/Range 16-21.

detail, Peoria Township 1903

detail, Franklin County, 1903 Kansas Atlas

Peoria Township, Township/Range 16-21

Franklin County, Kansas Atlas 1903

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Silkville - the day they came to dance

The following story was printed in the Urbana Daily Courier, 24 September 1917. the article was printed after the Topeka Daily Capital reported the news of the sale of the Silkville property. This sale took place after a fire on April 29, 1916 partially destroyed the manor house. It was rebuilt to one-third of the original size.

Silkville, Kansas was the dream of Ernest de Boissiere, a Frenchman from Bordeaux who believed in a workers paradise based on the production of silk on his Kansas farm. In 1869, de Boissiere purchase 3,600 acres in Franklin county, south of Ottawa. He imported silkworms, planted mulberry trees, and constructed a three story home for the French workers and their families. By 1872, three silk looms at Silkville were capable of making 224 yards of ribbon a day.

Charles Sears seated at left, front row

Charles Sears, a former leader of the North America Fourier Phalanx, was made property manager. Fourier was a French philosopher who believed people would be better off living in communal societies rather than individual, private living. Fourier was a Frenchman who developed the idea of the phalanstère, a community of workers based in a single structure. In the phalanstère, private property existed, but activities such as eating and cooking were communal.

The one room school for Silkville on Old Highway 50.

Silkville school, de Boissiere in the doorway

Silkville school today

After several years, Sears had gotten silk production up and running. Cattle were brought in and milk and cheese were made. Orchards and vineyards were planted. In 1874, De Boissiere decided to come from his estate in Bordeaux to see how things were progressing. The Silkville community in its early years was secretive. To outsiders in Emporia and the small farm towns of Kansas, Fourier's ideas seemed strange. Their was talk of free love, abolition of marriage, and atheism. De Boissiere decided to open the doors of Silkville to the Kansas community and share what had been accomplished. A circular was printed, guests invited, and on the appointed Sunday the gates of Silkville were opened to all.

As the newspaper reported, "Wine was free." And everyone, children included, were invited to drink as much as they wanted. Kansas Baptists and Southern Methodists laid aside their religion for the day and all drank and danced to the music, "even forgetting it was Sunday."

Ernest de Boissiere is the small grey bearded man left of center

Dreams do not last, and de Boissiere's dream of a workers paradise in Kansas came to an end. Competition for silk, the availability of higher wages elsewhere, and the human desire to make one's own way in the world spelled the end of Silkville. In 1892, de Boissiere deeded the Silkville farm to the IOOF, and then returned to France where two years later he died.

The IOOF operated the farm as an orphanage, but after several years the project was abandoned. The property was then sold to private owners. Today all that remains of Silkville is the one room school that stands out on Old Highway 50.

a History of Silkville, by Janelle Richardson,Great-Great-Granddaughter of early settler, Claude Clair

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Providence, Kansas Ghost Town

For Sale, Providence Mineral Wells: 

In 1893, when A.A. Hyde, inventor and founder of Mentholatum of Wichita, advertized the sale of the Providence Mineral Wells in Providence, Kansas, one could have bought a hotel, 80 acres, and a mineral spring for $6,000. [Medical Brief: A Monthly Journal of Scientific Medicine, 1893, Volume 21, Issue 2]

Nothing remains of the ghost town of Providence, Kansas, a city once located near the intersection of 230th Street south and Southwest Meadowlark, a few miles south of Rose Hill.

Detail, Butler County Atlas of 1887, Richland Township

How to get there.

Directions using Richland Township, Butler County Atlas 1887

In 1881, a post office was established at the city of Providence, Kansas. John Dunnell was appointed postmaster. His son, C.F. Dunnell, sank a well on the south side of the road to a depth of 142 feet and found water. The taste was a bit salty and bubbly, but rather than be dissuaded, Dunnell brought the water to the attention of A.A. Hyde of Wichita, Kansas. Hyde found the mineral water to have curative properties and formed the Providence Mineral Well Company. [Providence Mineral Wells — Providence, Butler County. A. A. Hyde, Providence Mineral Well Company. Extra Census Bulletin of the United States, May 23, 1891; Mineral Resources of the United States, 1893.] Hyde soon built a general store on the north side of the road. It was a two story building and Norman Hagar was the proprietor who lived on the second floor with his family. Eventually, a hotel, livery and blacksmith shop, drug store, confectionary, and several residences were built. The street was named Providence Row or Mineral Street. The town had its heyday during the Wichita boom of 1885-1886 when Hyde and others advocated a stay of a few weeks at the mineral spa. Land speculation caused a collapse in the Wichita economy in 1887, the same year the railroad came to Rose Hill. The economic collapsed persisted throughout the last decade. In the 1890’s Wichita would lose one third of its population and one half of its valuation. 

Read more in the History of Providence, Genealogy Trails

Hyde apparently had no takers on his 1893 advertisement to sell the mineral springs as he was still advertising in 1905 the curative properties of the mineral waters in the Wichita Eagle newspaper. And the Butler County Atlas of 1905 still shows Providence, but the city is past its prime. Nearby Rose Hill was on the railroad line. And the Oklahoma oil boom at the turn of the century lured dreamers onto other projects, and many of the buildings were put on wheels and driven away.
Butler County, 1905
Detail, Richland Township, 1905 Butler County Atlas