Tuesday, June 12, 2012

An Old Bridge near Leon Kansas

Tobie on a dirt road east of Leon Kansas

Sometimes the Kansas explorer has to take pleasure in simple things. For example, I came across this rarely used bridge traveling with Tobie down a dusty dirt road. It is located in Butler County, just to the east of Leon Kansas on a road few people drive anymore. A mile to the south is Highway 400, a major route out of Wichita that goes though Leon and eventually on to southeast Kansas, hitting many small Kansas towns on the way.

The bridge's simple concrete and steel construction means that it was built after 1900, but is that all we know?

Old Bridge over the Little Walnut River

The only clue as to its date is the plaque that is placed at the west end of the bridge. R. E. Templeton is Chairman of the Butler County Commission.

Butler County Commission, R. E. Templeton, Commissioner

From pages 731-732, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, History of Butler County, Kansas by Vol. P. Mooney. Standard Publishing Company, Lawrence, Kan.: 1916, is the following biographical sketch of R. E. Templeton:

Robert E. Templeton, a large land owner of Sycamore township, and one of the most extensive cattlemen in Butler county, is a native of Ohio. He was born in Greenfield, March 17, 1874, and is a son of John B. and Catherine Templeton, natives of Ohio. The father was quite an extensive cattleman in Ohio, before coming to Kansas. In 1884, the family came to this State, first settling in Coffey county, near Burlington. They remained there but a short time, however, when they came to Butler county, where the father purchased the Blaker ranch in Sycamore township. This is one of the famous cattle ranches of the early days, in Butler county, and was formerly known as the Skinner ranch. ... Mr. Templeton was married September 7, 1904, to Miss Grace H. Young. ... Mr. Templeton takes a prominent part in the local political affairs.
The full text of Mooney's History of Butler County is available online.

Mooney's History of Butler County was written in 1916. Since Mooney does not record that R. E. Templeton was ever Chairman of the Butler County Commission, the traveler can conclude that the bridge was built after the date of publication, when R. E. Templeton was 42 years old.

Alex Baker is the only other name on the plaque for which I can find any information. He came to Butler county in 1888 at the age of 17. His family settling on a 360 acre farm in the Brownlow community - halfway between Leon and Latham. Kansas Trails. He was appointed county commissioner in 1922 to fill an unexpired term and was re-elected at the next election. This puts the date of our bridge to the Roaring Twenties or later.

Does all this matter? Not much, but it is something to think about. Someone said the other day that most interstate highways date back no more than 60 years to the Eisenhower presidency. Before that if a bridge was built it was by the county. In Kansas, bridge construction began in earnest at the turn of the century. Before that the few simple bridges that existed were of wood or stone, and a few of the stone bridges that predate the turn of the century still exist.

The Homestead Act of 1860 opened the west to large scale settlement by easterners such as R. E. Templeton. Butler County was opened up in the 1870's, making Mr. Templeton's father one of the first to come and enjoy the new land. Before that, Kansas was Indian territory. Kansas was home to the Kansas, the Wichita, the Pawnee, and the many other tribes that were displaced and removed to what was called Indian Territory. Kansas was the land where the deer and the antelope ranged, where vast herds of millions of buffalo roamed eating the tall prairie grass that then grew abundantly. The grass was so tall, that at times, an Indian would have to stand on his pony's back to see over the grass.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Joe Lebo

The town of Lebo lies alongside Interstate 35, east of Emporia. The town was named after Lebo Creek where Joe Lebo lived. He had been a Captain in the 10th Kansas Cavalry. I have tried to find information on Captain Lebo but information is sparse. Lebo Creek forms south of present day Lebo and flows south into the John Redmond Resevoir.

From William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, published 1883, A. T. Andreas, Chicago, IL. Coffey County, Early History:
Morgan Dix came to Coffey County in the spring of 1855, from Indiana, striking the Neosho River at Le Roy, and passing up the river by the way of Stubblefield's, he settled near Ottumwa early in the spring of 1855, and lived there until he died in 1874. Hiram Hoover, Judge Strawn and Joe Lebo also settled at or near Ottumwa the same spring ...
From The Leabo Line, Descendants of Francois Isaac (LeBas) Leabo
Josiah Leabo (Josiah2, Francois Isaac (LeBas)) was born 12 May 1831 in Indiana, and died 08 Jan 1895 in Hartford, Kansas. He married Mary Jane Crail 12 Feb 1860. She was born 30 Nov 1839 in Vermont (Fulton) Illinois, and died 19 Feb 1913 in Hartford, Kansas. ...[T]he town of Lebo, Kansas was named after Lebo Creek where Joe Lebo lived. He was a freighter and had been a Captain in the 10th Kansas Cavalry. It is believed that Josiah and Joe Lebo are the same person

That's it for now.

Note to myself. Burlington, the county seat will have a record of Joe Lebo's land title. There is a nice library in Lebo.

The best resource for information on the Tenth Kansas Calvary is The Kansas Historical Society.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Old Highway 50

Skelly gas station at Lebo on old highway 50

The fastest way from Emporia to Overland Park is along Interstate 35, that winds through Lyon, Coffey, Osage, Franklin, Miami, and finally, Johnson County. The trip lasts an hour and a half, if you are in a hurry.

Then again, the Kansas traveler is not always in a hurry.

Old Highway 50 is the route your grandparents would have taken. Coming from the west 50 starts in Garden City and runs through Dodge City, Strong City, and on to Emporia. It runs north at this point up to Kansas City and on into Missouri at Warrensburg.

Where the highway has not been incorporated into other highways, much of the old highway is gone. North of Emporia, next to I-35, the road is a 2 lane blacktop that goes through the farming communities of Lebo, Waverly, and Williamsburg, before arriving in Ottawa where it again connectswith the interstate.

At Lebo in Coffey County, there is an old Skelley gas station at the junction of Old Highway 50 and the town of Lebo.


Visit Lebo's downtown business district, a collection of Casey's General Store, a lumber store, a pharmacy, a grain elevator and a barber shop. I suspect that life has not passed by the citizens of Lebo, I think that, rather, they have just decided to enjoy a slower pace.