Thursday, September 27, 2012

How Investors Created Pratt

Lyn in Pratt County Museum lobby near books for sale
Pratt County lay alongside the south boundary of Isaac's homestead, and its earliest towns were Iuka and Saratoga, both of which Isaac visited.  Iuka was established in 1878, the year Isaac came to Kansas, and although Saratoga was not incorporated until 1884, the settlement existed earlier.  Pratt Center was also incorporated in 1884; however, the method of its creation differed from the earlier towns.  Rather than evolving naturally from a cluster of settlers at its core, Pratt Center was formed by a syndicate.  In fact, the early town site was mockingly called "Dog Town," because the only genuine residents were the prairie dogs.
Briefly, Kansas required all counties to set aside land to be used for schools as the population grew and families with children settled the area.  Frequently, however, families preferred to donate an acre from their own homesteads for building a school nearer their homes.  With these small one-room schools dotting the countryside, one or two in each township, the land reserved for schools was often unusued.  Predictably, settlers chose to run the risk of treating these lands as homesteads, planning to make an official claim when the land was released from the school set aside requirements.  It was just such land that became involved in a legal scandal when Pratt Center was formed.  Leaving the details of that legal dispute for a later post, or to read in my book, for now it is enough to say that Saratoga settlers alleged a fraudulent conspiracy to get their lands, while Pratt investors claimed they had utilized proper legal actions available to businessmen to develop their town.  Ultimately the pre-emptive settlers lost their farms and the businessmen created a town.
Having entered the battle for the county seat late, Pratt Center nevertheless gained the prize in 1888.  Many Iuka businesses and residents chose to move into Pratt Center, and the remaining Iuka businesses focused on services for surrounding farmers, becoming a center for marketing and shipping grain.  Saratoga, however, disappeared, having lost its post office in 1895, and so many businesses and residences having been literally moved into Pratt Center by 1900 that few landmarks of the town that Isaac had known remained.  

The North School Building with its basement
Part of the problem was the close proximity of Pratt Center and Saratoga, so close that Isaac seemed to use the two names interchangeably in his journal.  After getting the patents to his homestead and timber claim, Isaac's friend Doc Dix decided to move into town to resume his medical practice, and Isaac referred to the location of Doc's new residence by both names.  In December of 1887, Isaac helped the Dix family move, and when he finished helping his friends, he went over to Pratt Center to ride the new street cars which had been operating for only two weeks.  However, there is an old photograph showing the house of Dr. Dix in Pratt.  These and other clues make it seem likely that Dr. Dix did move his family to Saratoga but participated in the subsequent exodus to Pratt Center.

Pratt Center thrived.  In his journal entry of April 27, 1887, Isaac wrote:  "Pratt Center laboring under a new boom, outfit at grading Rock Island R. R.  W. of road at town water tank, lots of new buildings going up all round along main street digging out foundations for several brick business blocks." 
Many of Isaac's trips to Pratt Center were to Blaine Bros. Implement Dealers.  He bought implements from them and they carried his notes given in partial payment.  When Isaac invented a 3-horse cultivator, he turned to them for advice about patenting his invention.  The 1993 publication by the Pratt County Historical Society, a re-publication of a 1911 book published by the Pratt Commercial Club, contains a picture (at left) of the distinguished D. W. Blaine, who was then engaged in the automobile business.  In 1888, with a population of 3,000, Pratt Center had twenty brick buildings; a city waterworks, electric lights, and a street railway; five churches (Methodist, Christian, Presbyterian, African, and Catholic); four banks, three newspapers, and a 3-story school that included a high school.  The long list of businessmen included proprietors of about every business that could be imagined for a bustling prairie town. 

Lyn beginning the museum tour
The name Pratt Center had been adopted during the county seat battle to refute Iuka's claim that it was the best choice because of its central location.  (A change in the county's boundaries impacted Iuka's claim and allowed Pratt Center to assert its own location advantage, although neither town was actually the geological center of the county.)  After winning the county seat battle, Pratt Center no longer needed to assert the distinction of occupying the center of the county, and "Center" was dropped from the town's name in 1893 after a newspaper poll indicated that citizens favored the simpler name of Pratt.
Visit the Pratt County Historical Society Museum online at or at its location at 208 S. Ninnescah, Pratt, Kansas, to enjoy their wonderful displays or do research from their collection.
Remember, you can enlarge the images in this blog by clicking on them.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Isaac's Giant Melon

Garden planted in the old chicken house foundation
When Isaac arrived on the Kansas prairie in 1878 and staked his timber claim and homestead, he did not own a horse.  It was 1886 before he bought his mare Dolly, and without a horse to pull a plow, he was limited in his ability to break sod.  For that reason, he focused upon planting and tending trees on his timber claim.  To meet the requirements for a homesteader, he resided on that claim, first living in two different dugouts before building a wooden house.  His farming consisted primarily of planting sod corn and tending his garden plot to raise his own food.
Over the course of keeping his journal, Isaac mentioned several things that he raised--tomatoes, cucumbers, peanuts, black-eyed peas, turnips, radishes, and melons among them.  His August 31, 1884 entry specifically described harvesting a forty-eight pound Cuban Queen watermelon.  As I did with so many references in his journal, I searched for information and at I found a member comment about a Missouri grower in the late 1800s who had grown Cuban Queen watermelons.
My tidy 2011 garden in early spring
I researched many heirloom plants and animals mentioned by Isaac.  After he acquired horses his primary cash crops were potatoes and corn, and he tested many varieties to determine which grew best in his sandy loam soil.  I attempted to research each of the many varieties that he identified, but I could not find some of them, even after consulting farmers who raise heirloom plants.
At local nurseries most plants being sold are hybrid varieties.  Having overcrowded my 2011 garden, I had learned my lesson.  This past spring I was determined to plant no more than five tomato plants.  Unfortunately, something nibbled one plant down to the ground and ate about half of another plant.  It was early in the season, so when my husband went to town I asked him to buy a replacement for the destroyed plant.  Suffering from the same dementia I experience when I enter a plant nursery in the spring, he came home with three plants rather than only one--one to replace the plant nibbled to the roots, one to replace the partially eaten plant (because he didn't believe me when I said I thought it would be all right), and one because the clerk had recommended it so highly.
Mid-summer the path has disappeared
When I took the new plants to the garden and dug up the roots of the "destroyed" plant, I observed a sprout.  Not one to throw away a plant struggling to survive, I moved it to have a chance at life.  The partially eaten plant was recovering, so instead of my carefully spaced five tomato plants, I had eight crowded plants!
Marigolds that had ringed the 2011 garden had left behind seeds, whose descendants I carefully transplanted.  I also noticed tiny seedlings with tomato-like leaves, so I left them to see what they might be.
After being away for a long weekend in early June, we returned to find many healthy little tomato plants, especially in the area that I had found difficult to reach in the overcrowded 2011 garden.  Unpicked tomatoes had apparently fallen to the ground and left seeds in the soil.  I transplanted (unsuccessfully) a few of the volunteers to an area too shady for them to thrive and left the rest.  The thick little forest of volunteer tomato plants that I ignored began to sprawl, as the store-bought plants grew in their tall cages, beautiful towers of green.
Sprawling tomato vines escape through the fence
Whether you live in the central region of the United States or not, you know from my blog that this has been the second year of high temperatures and little rain.  Before it got so hot, we got a few tomatoes from three of the eight plants we bought, but I'm sure you can guess where most of our tomatoes were picked--from the ignored, sprawling volunteer plants, of course!
They engulfed the green beans, cucumbers, and onions, growing wherever Mother Nature planted them.  They exploded through the fence.  And, they produced tomatoes!
Volunteers overtake the herb garden
What do seeds from volunteer hybrid tomatoes produce?  In our case, cherry and Roma tomatoes, probably because in 2011 the large tomatoes did not produce well to leave behind any hidden seeds.  The volunteers seem to be more tolerant of the heat and drought than the fancy hybrids in their cages, some of which produced nothing this year!
Tomatoes and marigolds were not our only volunteers.  The zinnas from 2011 overtook the herb garden outside the fence.  Herbs are hardy plants, however, and they refused to give up.  The other thing that spread vigorously was the Bermuda grass, which was determined to fight for space in the jumble of plants intended for herbs.  It was a messy garden in 2012, but it survived the drought.
I hope this year's tomatoes hide some seeds beneath their sprawling vines for Mother Nature to tend.  She seems to grow better tomato plants than the nurseries!  However, I must be more hard hearted next spring about which little volunteers I allow to live.  Either that, or I need to clear more garden space in a sunny area!  Maybe then I could grow asparagus and strawberries and melons and...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Before Carrie Nation--Prohibition in Kansas

Frances Willard
Ask most Kansans to name the woman who led the crusade against liquor, and they will think of Carrie Nation and her hatchet; however, prohibition in Kansas has a much longer history.
When Isaac Werner was a young druggist in Rossville, Illinois, selling liquor was part of his business, and one of the reasons he chose to sell his business was concern about the changing liquor laws.  By the time he arrived in Kansas in 1878 to claim his homestead, he was sympathetic to the prohibition cause, although he was never an active member of the Prohibition Party.
In 1880 Kansas voters (which would have meant men at that time) approved an amendment to the Kansas Constitution prohibiting all manufacture and sale of "intoxicating liquors."  The statewide ban went into effect January 1, 1881, and Kansas laws remained among the strictest in the nation for nearly seven decades, the statewide prohibition lifting only in 1948.  That year the Constitution was amended by authorizing the legislature to regulate, license and tax the manufacturing and sale, as well as the possession and transportation of intoxicating liquor, but open saloons were "forever prohibited."  Gradually, liquor laws were changed to bring Kansas more in line with other states.  
Despite the strict early laws of the state of Kansas, exceptions allowing sales of liquor for medicinal purposes and original container laws that permitted sales in the original containers under interstate commerce allowed liquor into the state.  During these years, a letter to the editor of the County Capital asked just how it was possible in a prohibition state for anyone so inclined to go to St. John or Stafford and get drunk!
While Isaac was living in Kansas, the Prohibition Party was a significant political influence, and at the center of the movement was the Women's Christian Temperance Union led by its second national president, Frances Willard.  Elected in 1879, she held that post for nineteen years.  At a time when women did not have the vote, WCTU women nevertheless championed prohibition through lobbying, petitioning, marching, preaching, publishing, and educating. 
Advertisement from the County Capital
The Prohibition Party created problems for the Populist movement, for among the People's Party were members who both favored prohibition and those who saw no reason to oppose responsibile consumption of liquor.  Whether Populist candidates supported prohibition or ignored the issue, they were bound to offend some portion of their members. 
In 1888 a young lady named Blanche Hazelett arrived in St. John and made her home with dentist Dr. McCann and his wife.  She had come as a WCTU prohibition lecturer, and when Isaac heard her speak at a meeting in Livingston one evening, he wrote in his journal that despite her youth, she was by far the best speaker of the evening.  It was not long before Isaac paid a social call at the McCann residence, and he recorded in his journal the "social time in pleasant surroundings."  Miss Hazelett became the Democratic candidate for County Superintendent of Schools, and her political biography during the campaign included the fact that she had served as secretary to Frances Willard.  When she lost the election, she resumed her travels as a prohibition lecturer, and Isaac enjoyed no further social calls on Miss Hazelett.
Frances Willard expanded the activities of the WCTU beyond prohibition, advocating for education, better working conditions for laborers, improved sanitation and health regulation, child protection laws, and work relief for the poor.  But foremost among her goals was what she called "Home Protection," which she felt could be best achieved by securing the vote for women above the age of twenty-one.  For those women who found the suffragists too strident and unladylike, home protection offered a socially acceptable way to work for enfranchisement.  With the vote, women believed they could impact laws concerning the issues important to protect their homes and families, including stricter laws to enforce prohibition.
Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard died in 1898, but the Women's Christian Temperance Union carries forward its mission to this day.

Membership certificate of Ester (Esther) Hoopes
A friend shared this wonderful family document with me after reading this week's post about the WCTU.  The certificate belonged to her great grandmother, and she added the note that her ancestor was buried wearing her Carrie Nation pin.  Anthony, Kansas, where Esther Hoopes lived, is not far from Medicine Lodge, Kansas, home of Carrie Nation.  Thank you, Helen, for this wonderful addition to my post!     

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Confronting the Dalton Gang

One of my problems with history is organizing various historical events in my mind in relation to each other.  When I picture the wealthy women of the Gilded Age arriving for a party at one of the mansions along 5th Avenue wearing their long strands of pearls and exotic feathers artfully arranged in their hair, it is hard for me to place them chronologically alongside prairie women raising their children in a dugout.  Yet, they shared the same period in history.  One of the interesting experiences in researching and writing the book about Isaac B. Werner was putting the events of Isaac's time together like pieces of a puzzle.
When I told my husband that I was writing this blog about the Dalton Gang, he asked, "Were they robbing banks in Isaac's time?"  The answer is, "Yes, they were."  The County Capital, to which Isaac subscribed, reported the Coffyville bank robbery on the front page of its October 7, 1892 issue.

The days of the notorious outlaws of the American West had nearly ended by the time the Dalton brothers began robbing trains.  However, they were continuing a sort of family tradition, since the Younger brothers who rode with Jesse James had been their first cousins.  Jesse James was known for robbing banks, and it was said that Bob Dalton decided to cement his outlaw reputation by doing something Jesse James never did--robbing two banks at once in broad daylight.

The bodies of the Dalton Gang
Perhaps they chose their hometown for the site of the dual robbery because of its familiarity to them, but whatever the reason, it was a bad idea.  They had hardly entered Coffeyville the morning of October 5, 1892 when they were recognized, despite the false beards they wore.  The gang consisted of Bob, Grat, and Emmett Dalton, and two other outlaws named Dick Broadwell and Bill Power.  Three of them went to the C. M. Condon Bank and two entered the First National Bank on what proved to be the last day of their lives for all but Emmett.
Oldest brother Frank Dalton
However, this is not a post about these bank robbers.  Instead, it is a story of two lawmen.  Ironically, the oldest of the Dalton brothers was a Deputy US Marshal who served honorably and was killed when he attempted to arrest a horse thief in the Oklahoma Territory on November 27, 1888.  His brothers chose to follow in their older brother's footsteps, but their service was not so honorable, and they traded their badges for the outlaw life that killed all but one of them.
The rest of this story is about Town Marshal Charles T. Connelly, who rushed to defend  his town when the Dalton Gang rode into Coffeyville.  The members of the gang tried to make their get-away, but getting to their horses that were tied in an alley complicated their escape.  Grat did reach the alley, although he was mortally wounded, and when Marshal Connelly ran into the alley from the south end, Grat let him pass and then shot him in the back at close range. 
Charles T. Connelly was only 47 years old, but he had lived an admirable life, beginning when he enlisted in the Ninth Indiana at the age of 17 to serve as a Union soldier in the Civil War.  As a civilian after the war, he had been a teacher, and according to an interview his son gave the Kansas City Star, Marshal Connelly had accepted the position of high school principal and would have left his office as town marshal in a matter of days.  His son told the newspaper that his father had served for about five months, agreeing to accept the position during the summer when school was not in session.  He was approached by citizens who wanted more law and order enforced in their town, and he and the citizens thought he was a man who could get that job done quickly.
Grave stone of C. T. Connelly
Charles T. Connelly had two children with his first wife, and after her death he married again and had two more children, only one of those two still living when he was killed.  The memoriam in the Coffeyville newspaper said:  "As city marshal he discharged his duty with great courage, and absolute fidelity to the best interests of the city.  He gave his life freely in defense of the lives and property of our citizens and his faithfulness to duty will ever be held in grateful remembrance by the people of Coffeyville."
The public schools were dismissed, and students and teachers marched to the depot to met the train bearing his body, and honor guards from the GAR, the Ancient Order of United Workmen, and the Modern Woodmen marched in front of the hearse.  Charles T. Connelly was a respected man whose life was cut short by the famous Dalton Gang, whose name is remembered, while the name of the honorable marshal they shot in the back is largely forgotten.
At on the Officer Down Memorial page, Marshal Connelly is honored.  (All of the Dalton brothers were killed except Emmett, who was sentenced to life but pardoned after 14 years.  Three men who had ridden with the gang, Newcomb, Pierce, and Doolin, were not part of the Coffeyville robbery, although rumors persisted that Doolin had been there.  The reference on the Officer Down page to a shootout by the Dalton Gang a year later is unclear, as no Dalton could have been a participant. 
For an eye-witness account of the attempted bank robberies, you may visit "The Dalton Gang's Last Raid, 1892," at .
Visit for the newspaper obituary, interview of his son, and funeral accounts (also the source for the image of Connelly's grave stone).