Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Isaac's Neighbors and Acquaintances

George Tousley
Last week's blog identified the early settlers in Isaac Werner's township.  This week I will share more acquaintances mentioned in Isaac's journal.  As those of you who regularly follow the blog know, Isaac wrote in his journal every day from 1884-1891, and the journal was 480 pages in an oversized legal ledger. If you do the math to compute how many days of entries his journal contains, you have some idea of the number of people he mentioned.

I indexed all of the surnames mentioned in the journal, and my index has a column of eight pages, single spaced, listing each surname.  I have not indexed each page on which the surname is mentioned; however, I have noted each year that surname is mentioned.  The indexing does not include 1870-1871 when Isaac was in Illinois.

Dr. Isaac Dix
Several readers of the blog have expressed interest in knowing some of the names.  This blog will not include every name, but what I will do is include names mentioned in the journal during four years or more.  The surnames are alphabetized, so you can search quickly for names in which you are interested.  If you do not find the surname you had hoped to find, you can send me an e-mail at with the name(s) in which you are interested and I will reply to you.

Neelands & Spencers on porch of their house
There are a great many names mentioned during periods of 3 years or less, which are not included in this blog listing.  The number of years that a particular surname is mentioned does not necessarily indicate how often the name appeared in a given year.  Some names that appear in fewer years may have been mentioned more frequently during a specific time than names that are included in this blog.  Because early settlers moved on, while others arrived later, some acquaintances did not know Isaac for longer periods.  

The following names are given alphabetically, with the number of years in which that surname appears in the journal given in parenthesis:

Baker (4), Beck (7), Bentley (7), Blake (7), Blanch (6), Briggs (4), Brown (4), Capbell (8), Carnahan (6), Church (5), Clouse (6), Curtis (8), Davidson/Davison (4), Dix (8), Eggleston (8), Farwell (6), Ferguson (5), Frack (8), Garvin (6), Gereke (8), Gillmore (4), Gloyd (5), Goodman (4), Goodwin (7), Green (7), Gullet (5), Hacker (5), Hall (4), Harrison (4), Hart (4), Henn (8), Hicks (4), Hilmes (4), Holbrook (4), John (5), Jones (4), Lewis (6), Marten/Martin (4), Mayes/Maize (5), Moore (4), Naron (4), Neeland (6), Pelton (4), Ross, Mrs. (7), Rowe (4), Searls (4), Seeley (6), Shaler (6), Shattuc/Shattuck (8), Shoop (5), Smith (7), Stimatze (7), Stringfield (6), Swartz (4), Tanner (4), Thompson (4), Toland (6), Tousley (6), Vosburg (7), Webber (8), Wilson (4) 

As I explained, the above-listed names are only a small portion of the surnames mentioned in the journal.  I researched every name mentioned, using records at the courthouse,, gravestones, newspapers, and interviews.  If your ancestor lived in St. John, or claimed a homestead south of St. John or on the northern boundary of Pratt County, or was a merchant in St. John or Pratt, or was active in Farmers' organizations or the Stafford County People's Party, there is a strong chance that Isaac mentioned them in his journal.

Let me hear from you!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Surnames of early settlers

Last week's blog shared the importance of preserving information descendants have about their ancestors so that future generations will not forget their past ancestry.  Often in writing my manuscript about Isaac B. Werner and his community, I have asked readers to look for old photographs.  This week I am urging readers of the blog to review the surnames I am sharing to see if family names appear.

Homesteads and Timber Claims, Albano, Stafford Co., KS

This map was copied by me from  Stafford County History, 1870-1990 and I do not know who to credit with making the original map.  It identifies those settlers who originally claimed homesteads and timber claims in Albano Township.  I copied it while doing research in order to enlarge it, and this copy is of my enlargement, which is still difficult to read because of labeling each of the 36 square mile sections in the township, all of which are subdivided.  The sections are numbered 1-36, beginning in the upper right and continuing in horizontal rows until concluding with #36 in the lower right corner.  Some of the divisions differ, with a larger or smaller claim.  The identification "TC" indicates a timber claim.

You will recognize some of the names from earlier blogs, for example Isaac H. "Doc" Dix has both a homestead and a timber claim in the north half of Section 31.  Isaac's two claims are in Section 33, his homestead in the lower-left corner and the timber claim that was assigned to his brother Henry in the upper-left corner.

Claims were limited to 160 acres, but you will notice that not all claims were in the corners of the sections.  For example, California Smith claimed 160 acres in the center of Section 21 and Mattie M. Beck and Peter A.N. Beck (no known relation) claimed rectangular properties in Section 18.  In addition, not all the claims were a full 160 acres.

To help you read the surnames, I will list them by section number:  #1 Pelton, Hunt, Frack, Wenzel; #2 Eddingfield, Long, Toland; #3 Smith, Williams, Webber; #4 Wasson, Neelands, Dunlap; #5 Neil, Bowling, Weeks, Clark; #6 McKibben, Mainline, Lynch; #7 Curtis, Smith, Goodwin, Markham, Martin; #8 Stambaugh, Shilt, Osgood, Curtis, Rex; #9 Neelands; #10 Cubbage, Neelands, Loftiss; #11 Frack, Pixley, Bowker, Bair; #12 Wenzel, Moody, Moore; #13 Cubbage, Davidson; #14 Tanner, Kackelman, Newton; #15 Toland, Loomis, Bedenhamer, Dilley, Stimatze; #16 Neelands, #17 Grunder, Hart, Frazee, Toland; #18 Beck, Rea, Hainline, James; #19 Smith, Skinner, Fox, Tousley; #20 Hall, Furman, Fitch, Rice; #21 Blanch, Rice, Smith, Stimatze; #22 Tobias, Frack, Carnahan; #23 Tanner, Davison, McHenry; #24 Davison, Hazelton, Goodman, Tompkins, Gibbs; #25 Bushell, Goodman; #26 Davison, Tobias, Cullison; #27 Stimatze, Campbell, Graff; #28 Shattuck, Frack, Henn; #29 Holbrook, Wasson, Vosburgh; #30 Webber, Rearick, Smith; #31 Dix, Fountain, Rogers; #32 Barker, Vosburgh, Rowe; #33 Werner, Ross, Bentley; #34 Mayes, Bonsall, Gareke, Shoop; #35 Young, Cullison, Smith, Tompkins, Dumen; #36 Reynolds, Jacobs.

You will notice as you read the surnames that I did not repeat the surname if the property extended into another section nor if more than one person with that surname made a claim.  You will also notice that many of the claimants were women.   For example, in Sections 24 and 25 you will see the surname of Gibbs, which indicates a claim by two unmarried sisters who occasionally visited Isaac to admire his trees or buy seed potatoes. Sometimes when families arrived they would each build separate residences, whether dugouts, soddies, or shanties, so that each member of the family could claim 160 acres.  This was especially true of siblings.  For example, Jerome M. Vosburgh and his wife claimed the southeast quarter of Section 29 and his unmarried sister Persis Vosburgh claimed the adjacent northeast quarter of Section 32.  Single women were entitled to claim their own homestead; however, when Jerome's wife died and Aunt Persis assisted her brother in caring for his children, some neighbors attempted to claim Persis' quarter, saying that she no longer maintained her own home on the land.  Isaac Werner and other neighbors supported the right of Persis to claim the property as a single woman and supported her contention that she did maintain her own home there.

I hope some of you with ancestors in this region will take time to study this drawing of Albano, Stafford Co., KS and consider whether you have stories or images to share with me.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Interviewing Relatives of Isaac's Neighbors

Isaac's "Dream Home" glued in his journal
I found Isaac Werner's journal in 2010 because I stayed in Kansas after my Mother's death to handle her estate.  To fill the days while waiting for estate matters needing my attention, I did some research about my family, and in that way I stumbled upon the journal.

Immediately I recognized the historic value of Isaac's journal, and I laid my family research aside to begin what has consumed--off and on--six years of research.  I realized that a few "old timers" remained in Stafford County who might help me collect information about early settlers, and I also realized that many with family connections going back that far were already gone or had memories less clear than they once were.

Now, six years later, I wish I had been more successful in reaching out to some of those people.  However, one gentleman that I did interview was Milton Mason John, Jr.  I was particularly delighted to talk with him because of his connection to Isaac's neighbor, G.G. John.  According to the probate records of Isaac's estate, G. G. John checked on Isaac daily for five months until it became necessary for Isaac to leave his home to obtain round-the-clock nursing care.  G.G. made Isaac an invalid chair and ran occasional errands in town for Isaac.  The request he made against Isaac's estate for his services was minimal, unlike another neighbor who bled Isaac's estate for an outrageous amount, given the wages being paid in the community at that time.

Southern home from 1800s
I came to admire G.G. John for his barely compensated attention to his declining neighbor, and I was eager to learn whatever Milton could share.

G.G. John was a brother to Milton's grandfather, and all of the boys in that family were given double initial first and middle names--Eleazer E., Milton Mason, Olin Olo, George G., and even John J. John.  G.G. John lived just to the west of Isaac Werner's timber claim, and Milton remembered G.G.'s home as quite large, with porches nearly all the way around.  Perhaps because the Johns had come from Virginia, G.G.'s house was built in the Southern style.  It no longer exists.  The information Milton gave me allowed my research on to provide more details that I might not otherwise have learned.

The image at the top of this blog was a clipping Isaac had glued in his journal--perhaps Isaac's dream home he hoped to build one day.  Milton described G.G.'s home as having been built in the "Southern style," so perhaps the photograph above might be similar, or perhaps the clipping Isaac saved with its porches might have resembled what G.G. built.

Milton Mason John, Jr. died this past March 27, 2016.  As a past St. John Postmaster (1955-1959), followed by his service as a rural mail carrier until his retirement in 1989, Milton was known and loved by many people.  I am sorry that he did not get to see my book about Isaac Werner published, but I am so grateful that I had a lovely interview with him that has become part of my research for the manuscript.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

2016 Cather Conference

W.W. I inspired painting

Detail of the above painting
Since my blog post of March 17, 2016 titled "Occupying My Time" (which you can find in the blog archives) shared that my  proposal for a paper had been accepted, I thought you might enjoy a follow up blog about the conference.  This year's Cather Conference in Red Cloud, NE focused on Cather's Pulitzer Prize winning novel One of Ours, in which the main character struggles with finding a purposeful life until he becomes a soldier in W.W. I.  My paper, titled "The Road Not Taken:  Comparing Cather's One of Ours with W.W. I Poetry," began with the Robert Frost poem by that name, a well-known poem which is rarely recognized as being related to W.W. I.  Twenty-one different poets were referenced in my paper, many of whom were soldier poets.  Did you notice that the cloud behind the farmer in the above painting was created from images of soldiers?  Farmers were considered very important to the war effort, as were the frugal cooking efforts of women and the plot gardens growing food for families so commodities needed for the soldiers were not consumed. 

American poet Alan Seeger
Perhaps the poem that best describes struggles most similar to what Cather's hero Claude Wheeler faced is "Sonnet 10" by Alan Seeger.  Seeger lived a bohemian life in Greenwich Village and the Latin Quarter of Paris before enlisting in the French Foreign Legion in 1914, well before his own country entered the war.  The sonnet begins, "I have sought Happiness, but it has been a lovely rainbow, baffling all pursuit..." and concludes "...Amid the clash of arms I was at peace."  Seeger is best known for his poem I Have a Rendezvous with Death, but it is Sonnet 10 that expresses the purposefulness of fighting for a cause in which you believe, which Seeger shared with the fictional Claude.  Seeger was killed in action on July 4, 1916, before the American troops arrived.

Der Tag from the exhibition
My paper was well received and I was pleased when several of the friends we have made at earlier conferences came to hear me read.  I had great fun preparing the paper, and I actually enjoyed presenting it.  I'm not sure whether I will ever have the opportunity to read it anywhere again nor whether I will publish it, but the days I spent exploring the wealth of W.W. I poetry, writing the paper, and preparing the slide presentation that accompanied my reading (with the power-point training from my nephew Darin Beck and my 'presentation assistant' Larry Fenwick), was time well spent for all of the things I learned.
On display in the Opera House was a wonderful exhibit curated by Tracy Tucker.  The painting at the top of this blog is from the collection of the Herbert Hoover Museum, one of six paintings loaned to the Cather Foundation for the conference.  It was the first time the Hoover Museum had allowed the paintings to travel--quite a privilege for the Cather Foundation.  Also on display was a W.W. I uniform, as well as many other interesting objects, including a copy of Der Tag from the collection of Cather's youngest brother. 
The cast of Der Tag
Der Tag is a 1-act play written by Sir J.M. Barrie (author of Peter Pan) as part of an effort by England to utilize the talents of its famous writers to create propaganda.  Barrie's concept was to show the political and military pressure imposed on the Kaiser to declare war through the characters of Chancellor and Officer, who exit the scene to allow the Kaiser time to reflect on what he is about to do.  He dreams, and The Spirit of Culture enters to urge against war, and the Kaiser (called Emperor in the play) tears up the declaration of war in front of Chancellor and Officer.  Again, he falls asleep and Culture reappears, wearing a bloody wound.  The Kaiser awakens believing his earlier dream had been real and war had been avoided, only to be told by Culture that he had brought the war upon his now devastated people.  The play was performed with high expectations in England and America but was not successfully received, perhaps because the Kaiser was depicted too sympathetically. 
Culture offers the Kaiser a dagger to end his regret 

Because of the illness of the woman intended to portray Culture, I was asked to assume the role.  To my surprise, I had a great time!  The play was performed twice in the lovely Red Cloud Episcopal Chapel to a nearly full house both times, and apparently we received more cheers than the actors did in the W.W. I productions of 1915!  (Notice my bleeding wound, a red scarf.)

Learning W.W. I dance steps
As always, we had a great time in Red Cloud enjoying speakers, the papers that were read, author Karen Gettert Shoemaker reading from her book The Meaning of Names, the singing and playing of popular W.W. I music by Kansans Dr. Sarah Young and Judy Chadwick, and learning a few dance steps from the era.  That's my partner stand-in-male-dancer Nancy and me just to the right of the support beam.  We were short of men eager to dance but certainly not short of eager dancers!
It is no surprise to any of you who follow my blog that I am a great fan of Willa Cather.  She is not only a great American author but also is among the few great authors to depict the central region of America, and many would say that she is the greatest among them.  You may want to revisit "What If Isaac had met Alexandra Bergson?," 5-2-2013, and "My Steadfast Tin Soldier," 9-25-2014, and the sequel 10-2-2014 for more W.W. I history.  I hope my love of Cather makes at least some of you curious to read her novels and short stories, and perhaps even to visit Red Cloud, NE!