Thursday, August 9, 2012

Naron--an early settler, a town, and a cemetery

Near Isaac's homestead were two country cemeteries in use in the years before his death.  The nearest one was the Naron Cemetery in Pratt County, about two miles southwest.  The community of Naron took its name from an early settler, and the cluster of buildings included a store, a school, and a church.  In 1914 the town of Byers was founded about half a mile to the south of Naron, and the businesses in the old community literally picked up and moved to the new town.  The old Naron Cemetery continued to be used by the neighborhood, for it sits on a hill about a quarter of a mile northwest of Byers.

My aunt, Wilma Carr Beck, wrote a history of Byers, 1914-1964, in which she describes the celebration day of the new town, using information found in the Pratt Union newspaper.  The death of Naron and its rebirth as the new town of Byers was the result of the decision by the Anthony & Northern Railroad to locate its tracks where they did.  Byers was built along the north side of the tracks and was given the name of the railroad company president, O. P. Byers.  Relying on the promise of the railroad that the tracks would arrive in Byers on October 15, 1914, the town scheduled its celebration for that date.  The tracks did not actually arrive until later, but two political candidates did--the Honorable J. S. Simmons and Senator Jewett Shouse, and the town celebration became a sort of political rally.  There was also a balloon ascension and a barbeque dinner, and the citizens felt that their town was off to a strong start. 

As for the town of Naron that Isaac had known, Byers drew what was left of it like a magnet.  Many houses were moved, but the certain end to Naron was when W. F. Brown moved his store into Byers in March of 1915.  He carried a complete line of dry goods and groceries, and his slogan expressed his disappointment for the demise of Naron, as well as his commitment to Byers.  "We never came here and we don't intend to go away!" the slogan declared.  Using the pen name of 'Old Fisher Brown,' he wrote for the Pratt Union newspaper, and about the time of his commercial move to Byers, he wrote, "Old Naron was almost gone, but not forgotten."  Today, most of the people who remembered the old town of Naron are gone, taking their memories with them.  Even the town of Byers has nearly disappeared but for a few houses and one thriving business.

Isaac did not live to see the founding of Byers, but he certainly knew the settlement of Naron, often mentioning trips to the Naron Store, Farmers' Alliance meetings in the Naron school house, wagons parked around the Naron Church, and funerals held at the Naron Cemetery.  Naron was about a mile and a half south of Isaac's homestead, and the cemetery was about a half mile southwest of the town, so both were an easy trip for Isaac, even before he owned a horse.  Although Isaac chose to be buried in the Neelands Cemetery to the north of his claim, several of his friends and neighbors are buried in the Naron Cemetery, including:  Frank Curtis, whose life Isaac may have saved when he was only a teenager by suggesting changes in the boy's diet after the doctor had told his mother there was no hope; Charles Shattuc, who farmed some of Isaac's land as Isaac's health began to decline; William F. Brown, with whom Isaac shared an interest in books and ancient history, as well as progressive politics; Gus Gereke, who was a nearby neighbor and someone who joined with Isaac and others in planting a cooperative field of potatoes; and neighbors James Lattimore and Wesley Logan, whom Isaac hired to harvest a crop.  A visit to the Naron Cemetery cannot help but evoke sadness to see the several gravestones of infants and young children of Isaac's friends, their lives cut short by the hard times Isaac's Journal describes so vividly.

Reminder:  By moving your cursor over the images or clicking on them, you can enlarge the images to view them better.


WesFisk said...

Thanks for sharing, Lyn. I've heard my dad talk about Naron; however, I had nearly forgotten about it.

The Blog Fodder said...

Cemeteries tell such interesting and tragic stories or rather they just hint at the stories and leave us wondering. Old cemeteries fall into disuse and disrepair and are eventually forgotten like the lives of the people who are buried there. Which is sad as every person makes a contribution of some piece of the puzzle that becomes the future. I am glad some of them, like Isaac, get to be remembered a little longer.

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

Wes, The little house that Virg and Opal called "Green Acres" is about where Naron was located.

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

Blog Fodder, Thank you for your thoughtful and beautifully written comment. The Naron Cemetery looks a little lonely and forgotten on its hill surrounded by fields, but it is still an active cemetery, with families continuing to bury their loved ones among ancestors.

Kim said...

I have heard about Naron, but thanks for sharing more information.

The Blog Fodder said...

Hi, Lyn, I tried to find Naron cemetery on Google Maps/Earth but no luck. Found Byers and Neeland OK, even saved screen shots of them, just for fun. Told you I was a map freak.