Wednesday, July 29, 2020

A Science Lesson from Mother Nature

Part of the elm tree row planted by my parents
A few years ago a visiting friend watched me carrying water to maple and red bud volunteer seedlings I had transplanted and commented, "You are quite an optimist planting seedlings at your age."  Well, I am still planting seedlings!  My husband and I are enjoying the tree rows my parents planted before I was born, which my brother had the responsibility of watering--a coffee can filled with water for each tree--at the age of seven.  He described pulling his wagon with a large container of water and dipping the coffee can into the container to water each tree as he went down the tree rows.  Those trees are getting old, and I fill in the spaces where trees have died with my seedlings so that someone in the future will have a tree row to enjoy as the old elms die.

I am probably less optimistic than I was when my friend made his comment, but in the heat of summer I fill my sprinkling can with water from the faucet on the front of the house and make two trips back and forth to the tree row to give each seedling a drink.  Between the squirrels digging the seedlings up, the moles nipping off the roots, and the deer eating the leaves, it is a challenge.

However, it is an excuse to be outside in the cool of the morning, enjoying the birds and the breeze.  This particular morning Mother Nature had another surprise for me.  Dangling from a strip of siding just above the water hydrant was was an odd looking, translucent 'thing.'  Quickly my eye caught another movement, and I saw a bright green walking stick a few strips of house siding higher than the odd 'thing' I had first observed.  Strangely, the translucent 'thing' bore a resemblance to the walking stick.

Of course, I had to take photographs on my phone, and when I finished watering and returned to the house I went on line to investigate what I had seen.

As a curious nature lover, I had seen walking sticks before, although they are nearly invisible in grass and litter, but what I had never before seen was the molting of a walking stick.  What I learned from my research is that the nymphs resemble adult walking sticks but are smaller, and sometimes different in color.  As they grow, they shed their outer skins.  By chance, I had apparently happened upon a walking stick soon after it had shed its outer skin.  Normally the walking stick eats the leftover skin it sheds, but my arrival must have interrupted the walking stick's breakfast.

The nymphs molt on average from 4 to 8 times before reaching maturity.  In addition to their trick of shedding their skin, they can also shed limbs to escape predators and then regenerate the missing limb.  I have always been fascinated by nature, and today's discovery has shown me that we are "never too old to learn."  Apparently, I am also not too old to keep transplanting volunteer seedlings!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

A Pratt Banker's Fortunate Escape

Home of Thaddeus C. Carver
Knowing of my interest in local history, a friend shared two news articles with me, both dealing with the the attempted shooting of a Pratt, Kansas banker in 1912!  The intended victim was Thaddeus C. Carver, President of the People's Bank at the time of the shootings.

Thaddeus C. Carver, known as Thad, was a prominent citizen, not only in Pratt but also throughout the state, having been elected and served four years in the Kansas State Senate.  His District served Reno, Kingman, and Pratt Counties, and he was Chairman of the Committee on charitable institutions and a member of the committees on Banks and Banking, as well as the Penal Institutions.

He had come to Pratt in September of 1884, working first in a general store, then the following year joining the Farmers and Merchants Bank as a bookkeeper and advancing to assistant cashier for three years.  In 1889 he accepted the position of bookkeeper at the People's State Bank, advancing as a cashier, and being named President of the bank in 1898.  He held that office on the night he was shot!

Julius Wayland, Publisher of 'Appeal to Reason'
According to the May 17, 1912 Wichita Daily Eagle newspaper, Carver was at home reading when he answered a knock at the door at 10:30.  As he opened the door, he saw "a man behind a pillar on the porch."  The man began firing, one shot entering the jamb of the door and the other striking Carver, although he didn't realize he had been hit at the time.

Apparently the man fled after firing the shots, and Carver walked to the telephone to call the sheriff, realizing only then that he had been shot.  Fortunately, the wound was not considered serious.  The newspaper concluded the report by saying:  "There are many Socialists in Pratt.  A paper similar to the 'Appeal to Reason' is published here and it is believed that a crank fired at the banker."

The Kansas Historical Society's collection of socialist newspapers from that period contains 29 different papers, but none is listed in their collection as having been published in Pratt.  'Appeal to Reason,' specifically mentioned in the newspaper article, was a national newspaper published in Kansas.  The University Press of Kansas published a book, "Talkin' Socialism: J.A. Wayland and the Role of the Press in American Radicalism, 1890-1912" in 1988.

Apparently having suffered no severe injury from the shooting, Thaddeus C. Carver was in Chicago when a second intrusion at his home occurred three weeks after the shooting.  The intruder broke the screen door, entered, and while walking about the house in the dark fell and "broke a plate glass window in the parlor."  A neighbor, L. D. Farmer, heard the falling glass and crossed the street to investigate.  He recognized tracks in the wet ground around the house which he thought resembled the tracks seen the night of the shooting.

The next morning, police arrested Earl Swingle, 30 years old, as he was attempting to board a train leaving Pratt.  The news article in the June 7, 1912 Wichita Daily Eagle stated that Swingle "is said to be insane."  The year of 1912 was the height of the Socialist movement, which had gained membership after the decline of the Populist Movement.  There was a small resurgence during the Great Depression, but never again did it reach the success of 1912.  Hard times had led to the appeal of socialism, which included the idea of social ownership of production by workers, with the capacity for self-management, supported by social political systems.

Upton Sinclair, Bain Collection, Lib. of Congress
Julius Wayland's 'Appeal to Reason' was read by many people whose names are familiar, and well known writers published in the paper.  Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" was first published serially in 'Appeal to Reason,' (February 1905-November 1905).  Sinclair's photograph appears at left. The comics published in 'Appeal to Reason' are said to have contributed to Walt Disney's interest in art when he was young.  Socialist ideas were not all radical, nor were readers of 'Appeal to Reason' all Socialists nor extremists.

I was unable to find any information about Earl Swingle, neither in newspapers nor on, although I did discover a surprising number of men about his age with the same name.  If, as the newspaper reported, Earl Swingle suffered from a mental illness, it would have been easy for him to become lost in the records.

Thad Carver apparently suffered no serious consequences from the failed attack.  He and his wife Minnie Ann Starr had three children--two daughters and one son, all of whom are now deceased.  His wife Minnie predeceased him (1863-1929) and he remained in Pratt until his death three years after his wife (August 1, 1865-December 1, 1932).  He is buried in Pratt.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Isaac & the Populist Movement Coming Soon!

In September of 2011 I began this blog.  I had found Isaac's journal in February of 2010 and had spent nearly a year transcribing it, as well as continuing with genealogy searches for every person mentioned in the journal and beginning the research that would continue for a decade.  My first two books, published by Baylor University Press and Dutton, a division of Penguin, had been published fairly quickly, and I assumed the same for my third book.  I continued doing research--traveling to the places where Isaac had lived, interviewing descendants of Isaac's neighbors, walking through cemeteries where people Isaac knew were buried, searching records at the courthouse, reading books Isaac had read, spending days turning the fragile, yellowed pages of the County Capital newspaper available at the Stafford County Historical Museum, reading biographies and autobiographies of famous people of Isaac's era, as well as reading other books of all kinds--academic, local histories and centennial editions, and government documents among others.  I even walked the route between Isaac's claim and Doc Dix's claim where the local post office was located.

Instructions for easier reading once you reach the University Press of Kansas at bottom of this blog.
My research was traditionally academic but also a personal immersion into the place and era when Isaac Werner staked his homestead and timber claims and when his community became involved in the Populist Movement of the late 1800s.  I wanted my book to be academically sound but I also wanted it to tell the story of Isaac and his neighbors in a nearly forgotten but extremely important time in American history.  I was raised in Isaac's community and my husband and I returned to the community in retirement, but I knew little about the importance of the Populist Movement and the People's Party that grew out of the movement.  Yet, the People's Party is the most successful 3rd party in American history, and many of their goals were adopted by our present political parties.  I wanted to share that story with ordinary readers, not just scholars.  Isaac had the personal library of a scholar but he was an ordinary man who valued the importance of reading.  I wanted to write for people like Isaac, living today.

In doing the depth of research I have done to immerse myself in Isaac's time, I have discovered many things that informed me but do not appear directly in the book.  I began the blog to share those things.  My interest in exploring the era and places relevant to that time provided much of the content I have shared with followers of this blog over the years.  I will continue the blog and already have some wonderful blogs about surrounding communities to share week by week.  Thank you for your continued interest and support!  I never expected for it to take so long to produce the published book.  There were periods when I laid the manuscript aside, but many of you encouraged me not to give up on finding the right publisher for Isaac.

And I have!  Right now I am doing the final proof reading and the indexing for the book.  It is being published by the University Press of Kansas.  They have supported my goal of writing in a narrative style that makes it enjoyable for general readers to immerse themselves in Isaac's story and be taken back into the years when Kansas and other states like Texas and other western and midwestern states, and post Civil War Southern states challenged the two established political parties, marched for Prohibition and Women's Rights, confronted the power of wealth during the so-called Golden Age, and played their role in transforming the nation during a period of a growing middle class.

Soon, I will finish the proofing and indexing and will be like the rest of you, awaiting the arrival of the published book.  Thank you again.  The image I have attached is from the University Press of Kansas Fall Catalogue.  Most of you who follow this blog will recognize the journal that appears on the cover of the book.  I think Isaac would be pleased.

To see the page above for easier reading, go to and in the search box top left of the page enter Lynda Beck Fenwick.  That will take you to the page shown above with lettering much easier to read.  At the bottom line following the first two reviews, (rather hard to see), you can click to read the reviews by two more reviewers.  I am very honored by the four reviewers and by their comments.  I especially like how each reviewer brought out different perspectives about the book.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

St. John's New Mural, #6

John P. St. John
In 1877, as the Mormons began building their church, merchants also began building in the community, and one correspondent writing to those in Pennsylvania reported, "people are coming here from all states of the Union and are astonished to find such a lovely place as this is."  Although the relations between the Mormons and the non-Mormons were friendly and cooperative, it meant that the population was not simply a Mormon community.  The desire to form a Town Company included both groups, and anticipating a future county seat competition among other towns forming in the county, they decided to honor Kansas Governor John P. St. John by renaming the Zion Valley Town Company after him.  Their organization and the community became St. John. 

When a group met to formally establish the town of St. John in May of 1878, it was the official end of the independent Mormon settlement of Zion Valley.  A week earlier the town company had sent its nominees for county offices to the governor, requesting his confirmation of their temporary appointment.  The majority on their list represented the non-Mormon population.  While there seemed to be a congenial relationship throughout the community, regardless of religion, the secularization of the town had removed control from the Mormons, and they had, in fact, become a minority of the population.

At the beginning of July, when Governor St. John organized Stafford County, he appointed 4 non-Mormons as the first county commissioners.  Perhaps the flattery of naming the town St. John, after the governor, had worked, for the governor designated the town as the temporary county seat.  Later, a county wide election confirmed that choice.

Photo taken May 2020
For Bickerton, the church and its mission had 
always been his primary concern.  The political
developments did not seem important to him.  His followers had achieved the development of a successful community, and the Church of Jesus Christ and its members were stable and prosperous.  Some Mormons may have felt that by working with non-Mormons materialistic matters had been given too much consideration, but what Bickerton saw was a successful community with his church at its heart.

The challenges of weather, betrayal, and financial disappointment, as well as challenges to his leadership, might have been enough to defeat some men, but Bickerton had adhered to his belief that God had told him that this place was where a community was to be built, and he had done that.  He would probably not be surprised that his legacy endures in St. John, Kansas a century and a half later.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

St. John's New Mural, Series #5

Detail from St. John, KS mural
William Bickerton was a coal miner, not a farmer, and although he was confident that "Stafford County was the place the Lord wanted me," he realized that he lacked the farming experience needed to select the best land for his colony.  For this purpose, in 1874 he went to the Kansas town of Parsons, where Mormons with farming backgrounds joined Bickerton to help with the selection of the best land for the colony.  Together, they chose the site, and a stake was driven into the ground to mark what became Zion Valley.

Bickerton returned to Pennsylvania, and on January 2, 1875, a conference was held to describe the place selected and gain the endorsement for his settlement.  Having accomplished that, the Zion Colonization Society was organized, funds were pledged, and those who wished to join the colony were invited, including those who lacked church affiliation.  Those who owned property in Pennsylvania were least interested in leaving, but those who stayed behind agreed to provide financial support for those who chose to go, especially needed until the farms on the prairie began producing revenue.

Unfortunately, the promised financial support proved as undependable as the Kansas weather.  That future could not have been known when the first group of settlers arrived in five wagons on April 3, 1875.  Bickerton described the unwelcoming conditions of their arrival as "very rough weather and snowing.  Many of the Brethren came from the East, and we lived in tent houses."  Despite the harsh conditions, they staked their claims and filed them in Larned.  Only 2 or 3 women had arrived with the men, as husbands had wanted to construct better dwellings before bringing their wives.  

The details of the treatment from those who had stayed in Pennsylvania to offer financial support while the colony got established is not a proud story.  Particularly damaging was one returned member who reported exaggerated negative conditions and prospects.  When supplies and financial support stopped, Bickerton returned to Pennsylvania to sort out the problem, taking with him a display of the crops they had raised.  Unfortunately, the intentional deceptions continued, resulting in severe privations for the settlers.

Detail from St. John, KS Mural
Despite that, in 1876 a few more settlers arrived, and the Zion Valley Colony showed promising signs.  The settlement had grown to almost 200 people by 1877, including Mormons and non-Mormons.  There was neighborliness among them, regardless of matters of faith, and putting the mistreatment by those in Pennsylvania behind him, Bickerton believed  the venture had achieved enough success to begin the process of making Zion Valley the headquarters from which missionaries could be sent to Indian Territory.  To move forward with that process, Bickerton filed a charter with the Kansas secretary of state to reincorporate the Church of Jesus Christ in Zion Valley according to Kansas state law.

The St. John mural appears to depict arrivals of later colonist, as the early arrivals were in winter snows, and few women were among them.  Those original men needed oxen rather than cattle to open the prairie sod for fields.