Wilde, Colorado: Colonel York, the Bloody Benders, and West Point.


Wilde was founded by Colonel A.M. York from Fort Scott Kansas.

The town, Wilde, Colorado is not Baca County.  It was technically in Old Bent county or what is now Prowers County just west of Two Buttes Mountain and north of Butte Creek. However, most of us from Baca County feel the mountain, just over the county line, and the area just north of Two Buttes  lake are just as much a part of us as if they had always been on our side of the county line. Wilde was another of those 1887 SE Colorado Boom Towns. Wilde was founded by Colonel A.M. York from Fort Scott Kansas.


Fort Scott Daily Monitor March 13, 1887

An 1887 town company ad described it as 2 1/2 miles from the TWIN BUTTES and 1 1/2 Miles  (north) of BUTTE CREEK. Sam Konkel tells us in the July 5, 1918, Springfield Democrat Herald, Wilde was located on the old road from Vilas to Lamar, west of the Twin Buttes, something like a mile north of Butte creek, and from half a mile to a mile east of the present Springfield – Lamar road. Refer to the Southeast Colorado Boom Town Map blog for another reference to the location. Various other news clippings such as the one below  provide insight to the 1887 town.


Medicine Lodge Cresset February 23, 1888

The town company ad paints a “pen picture” of Wilde as follows,

WILDE AS A TRADING POST

“It is safe to assert that there is not an equal to Wilde in the Bent Land District except Lamar as a trading and distributing point, and that this the one great thing to give our place a prominence over other places.

But aside from the importance Wilde possesses as a trading point, it most beautifully located about 2 1/2 miles from TWIN BUTTES, one of the greatest natural curiosities in Colorado.  The Buttes rise abruptly from nearly a level prairie to the height of several hundred feet and conical in shape, with an almost regular slope form base to summit. The view from the top of the Buttes is indeed grand.  The vision reaches over a great distance and several towns can be seen. Almost immediately south of the Buttes, and distant about one mile, is one of the most picturesque canyons outside of the mountains. North and west about eight miles are the “Cedar Hills,” a range of hills covered with red cedars, which for beauty are unsurpassed. At one place there is a miniature “Garden of the gods,” which excites the wonder and admiration of all beholders.”

BUTTE CREEK, a clear, beautiful stream of running water, timbered with cottonwoods is 1 1/2 miles south of Wilde.

THE BLOODY BENDERS

Colonel York’s brother, Dr. Wm. York,  was a victim of the infamous Bloody Benders of Labette County Kansas.  These “innkeepers” welcomed unwary visitors with jackrabbit stew, a sledgehammer to the skull and a trap door to quickly remove them from the table.  They would then be buried somewhere nearby. NOTE: The distance reference below describes a distance of 10 rods. A rod is 5 1/2 yards.


The Head-light (Thayer, Kansas) · 7 May 1873.

The Bloody Benders had a remote little inn not far from the Kansas homestead of Laura Ingalls Wilder.. Wilder mentions two brushes with the Benders, who are sometimes referred to as America’s first serial killers.

Wilder says, “while Pa watered the horses and brought us all a drink from the well near the door of the house. We did not go in because we could not afford a tavern” Sometime later, “on his trip to Independence to sell his furs, Pa stopped for water, but did not go in for the same reason as before.”

If Pa Ingalls had been able to afford to go in, Laura may not have seen her Pa again.

Colonel York’s brother was not so fortunate and ended up as one of the Bender’s victims. The official word is that no one has ever been able to prove what happened to the Benders even though a a large reward was offered (see below) and nationwide manhunt turned up suspects for many years after.


The Weekly Commonwealth (Topeka, Kansas) · 28 May 1873

During the boomtown years 1886-1889,  Sam Konkel, as editor of “The Boston World” had the opportunity to interview Colonel York, and tells an interesting tale of the Bloody Benders from Colonel York’s perspective.  Here is a July 5, 1918, Springfield Democrat Herald article by Sam Konkle recalling that interview:

An interesting  thing in connection with Wilde is that its mammoth residence-hotel was built by Col John York, brother of the Dr. York murdered by the notorious Bender family of Labett county Kansas in the early settlement of that country, we believe about 1873.

We became acquainted with Col York after he built his wonderful Wilde castle, and at one time had an extended talk with him with regard to the murder of his brother, and thus got information of the hunt for the notorious family that was never before revealed.

It will be remembered that a number of people seemed to be swallowed up in Labett county — could be traced about so far, and then were never heard of again.

Dr. York of Ft Scott was the last one to be swallowed up.  The Yorks were wealthy and influential, and immediately started a number of detectives and others on a hunt for Dr. York.

Some of the posse called a time or two at the Bender home and when a number of them one day rode up to the Benders they found the family had fled.  Then an investigation of a well-cultivated patch of ground near the log cabin proved to be a graveyard, and in one of the graves was found Dr. York.      

Posses started out in all directions for the family, and the state of Kansas joined in the hunt, but never an authentic hide or hair was ever found of them, though all kinds of wild rumors of their being here and there and how this posse and that posse captured them and executed them found occasional newspaper circulation for years afterwards.

Of course in talking with Col York the subject of the mystery of the Benders naturally came up, when the colonel stated positively that to him and others there was no mystery in connection with what had become of the family, though at the time for reasons well understood they could not give certain information they had to the public.

Even after those many years the colonel didn’t care to be explicit, but stated that to him and others there was no mystery about what had become of the notorious outfit, that they went after them and and that after coming back from the hunt he had no more interest in the family and knew that no one would ever find them, thus conveying the direct inference that they had found the Benders, put them underground and returned home.

We never heard further of Col. York, but presume he went back to Ft.Scott, and so far as we know may be living there now.

The colonel was a brave man, but after he had made his getaway from these wild shores we don’t suppose that money or commands could have induced him to face those experiences a second time.

And for that great magnificent palace that cost in the neighborhood of $10,000 he likely got something in the neighborhood of $500 — maybe something more, may be something less, but that was about the way houses sold after possibly nineteen – twentieths or more of the settlers had gone out of the country.

WILDE and WEST POINT

It also appears that in Wilde, there was a school and in June of 1890 D. H. Dickason of Turan, Kansas received a contract to teach at the school.  Various reports indicate his parents had settled in Wilde. The following sequence show his coming to southeast Colorado and his subsequent appointment to West Point.


Turon Headlight (Turon, Kansas) · 12 Jun 1890


Turon Headlight (Turon, Kansas) · 18 Sep 1890


The Philadelphia Inquirer
(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) · 19 Sep 1890



Turon Headlight (Turon, Kansas) · 1 Jan 1891



Turon Headlight (Turon, Kansas) · 15 Jan 1891


Turon Headlight (Turon, Kansas) · 22 Oct 1891


Turon Headlight (Turon, Kansas) · 29 Oct 1891


When did it the Old Stone Schoolhouse become the Masonic Temple?

The question that led to this blog was, “When did it (the old stone schoolhouse) become the Masonic Temple?”   I couldn’t answer the question off the top of my noggin so I went to a resource I found awhile back, James Hill’s 1941 Master’s Thesis, “A History of Baca County”  Hill was superintendent at Vilas a few years prior to returning to complete his Masters and he did a summary of organizations in the county at that time. The text below provides the answer to the original question.  I have added a couple of news articles to provide some timeline info prior to the purchase of the school as the Masonic Temple. Hope this helps.


Springfield Herald, Sept 22, 1916



Democrat Herald June 17, 1921.
Obviously , this never came to pass when they bought the Old School

A number of Master Masons, reciting in the vicinity of Springfield, met in the basement of the M. E. Church in Springfield on Friday evening, September 23, 1921, at the call of Albert A. Hazerman and Edward C. Measel for the purpose of considering the advisability of petitioning Marshall H. Van Fleet, Grand Master of the Masons in Colorado for a dispensation to form a new lodge in Springfield. The meeting was called to order by L. C. Elver and after a thorough discussion of the situation it was decided to first look into the matter of purchasing a place to meet. The committee of organization was appointed to the meeting adjourned.

The next meeting was on November 21st 1921, and was called to order by L.C. Elver.  The committee reported on the purchase of suitable quarters and it was decided to purchase the old Springfield School building if it met with the approval of The Grandmaster.  A petition requesting disposition was drawn up. L. C. Elver was recommended as master; R. J. Flint, senior Warden; and Lloyd Cole, Junior Warden. Petition was signed by all present and bore the following names:   L. C. Elver, R. F. Flint, C. L. Doughty, J. J. Phillips, V. E. Critz, L. L. Bland, Loyd Cole, E. C. Denney, A. A. Hagerman, Maurice Long, J. M. Royster, J. E. Terrale, R. K. Trivett, E. C. Measel, and J. M. Graft. The next week,  the following officers were elected and appointed: E. C. Measel, treasurer; A. A. Hagerman, secretary; W. A. Strand, senior steward; Maurice Long, junior steward; and Charles A. Roweth, teller.

The dispensation was issued May 13, 1922, and received May 16.  Masons and their ladies met in the basement of the M. E. Church or bank would have been prepared. Fifteen local members in forty-seven non-resident members were present.  James Cade Doughty Lamar lodge number 90 read the dispensation to deliver it to L. C. Elver,” with appropriate remarks, charging him with the duty of maintaining the high standards of masonry in Colorado.”

The Masonic Temple Association, and independent organization, was incorporated for the purpose of financing the newly purchased Temple. Certificate of stock in the various denominations from $5 to $25 bearing interest at 6% per annum were issued members of The Lodge, payable out of the revenue of the lodge. Only one issue was made and the certificate of indebtedness were paid off December 21st 1931. During this time cash sometimes ran low and going was tough, but members advanced private loans to meet emergencies.

On September 22nd 1922 the charger was issued by Marshall H. Van Fleet. The charter members were R. F. Flint, Lloyd Cole, J. J. Phillips, E. C. Measel, A. A. Hagerman, E. C. Denney, C. A. Roth, Albert Neal R. K. Trivet, J. M. Graff, Maurice Long, Charles L. Dowdy, William A. Strand, J. M. Royster, Roy Hodges, H.L. Chapman, S. E. Eaton, L. L. Bland, C. C. Temple, C. S. Grill, J. A. Spikes,  H. C. Kett, V. E. Ritz, J. C. Tara, and L. C. Elver.

At the time it received its Charter, the lodge had 25 members;  today has grown to a membership of 114. The temple is located in the northwest part of Springfield and formerly was a school house.  The building has been reappointed and re-roofed. The basement has a banquet Kitchen in a hall with a restroom and equipment to take care of the social activities of the lodge. The main Lodge Hall is on the main floor. The present officers of the lodge number 158 are H. L. Hershey, master;  E. E. Terry, senior warden Z. T. Howell, junior warden; Joe Perkins, senior deacon; c. L. Dowdy, treasure; B. H. Cox, secretary; V. L. Novinger, senior steward; J. Jackson, junior steward; and C. P. Leimkuhler, teller.

Boston, Lamar, & Sam Konkel’s “An Outlaw in Lamar”

There are many connections between Lamar, Colorado and the 1886-1887 Boom towns of Southeast Colorado. If you have not familiarized yourself with those boom towns click here to see a map.  The news about migration to Southeast Colorado and those new towns was often reported in newspapers such as the following from the March 24, 1887 issue of the Buena Vista Democrat.

Also from the same March 24, 1887 issue:

Boston probably more than any of the other 17 towns sprouting up on the Southeast Colorado prairie in 1886-1887 made an effort to connect to various communities, including lamar.  The following reports provide examples of said efforts.

Bent County Register (Lamar Colorado)
May 28, 1887 Page 2 Library of Congress

In 1887 many of those little towns which were started had a band.  The Boston, Colorado Cornet band was apparently a very talented group with the leader of the band, Freeman Newton, leaving Old Boston for a job with the Topeka, Kansas Orchestra just a couple of years after the establishment of the town.  They were talented enough for an invite to play on a float which was entry number thirteen (see below) in the May 24, 1887 parade celebrating the first anniversary of Lamar, Colorado.  


Bent County Register (Lamar Colorado) May 28, 1887 Page 2 Library of Congress

More on the Boston band and another parade is provided in the second clipping below on Lamar’s 36th anniversary in 1923.

The Garden City Herald (Garden City, Kansas) · 08 Jun 1922.

Many other clippings note residents of the towns passing through Lamar on their way to other destinations.

Bent County Register (Lamar, Colorado)
12 Nov, 1887 Library of Congress.

The Taloga Star (Taloga, Kansas) · 16 Dec 1887.

In 1918 and 1919 the Springfield Herald had a regular series called “Persons, Stories, and Incidents of Old Boston and the Old Days,” written by Springfield Democrat-Herald editor Sam Konkel.   Each issue looked basically like the one below with the only changes being the subtitle.

Konkel was the editor of the Boston, Colorado Paper 1887-1889 and then the Springfield paper from 1913 -1930.   Many times these editors would visit other newspaper offices and the note below shows Konkel darkening the doors of the Bent County Register in April 1887.   

Bent County Register (Lamar, Colorado) April 2, 1887

Many of these articles provide the  foundation for the historical account of Boston, Colorado which I wrote, “Old Boston: As Wild As They Come.”   

There were a few other tales Konkel provided in this series. This puzzle piece in the history of Southeast Colorado is provided in the January 17, 1918 issue of the Springfield Herald. Several times in his writing Konkel mentions Judge Doughty. Doughty ran an ad for his law practice in many issues of the early Springfield Herald such as the one below.

Springfield Herald, Dec 31, 1897.

An Outlaw at Lamar

One day last week a man prominent in Lamar gambling circle cut off the Marshal and his deputies with a nickel six-shooter, after having tried the heads of some of those citizens with it — World, June 21st 1888

It was the afternoon of the day that the incident occurred.

We don’t know whether it was a breach of confidence or a breach of promise or of etiquette or some other breach the culprit was guilty of, but there was sure a breach in the ranks of the agressors when the said disgressor turned his shining six shooter on the official mob that was wanting to put him in limbo.

Lamar at that time was in the primer of its history. There were only frame houses then and they were unpainted and somewhat unpretentious.

The sidewalks were something like old Boston had in those days — boards. And the street looks something like the road down this way before they were shipped.

And out in the middle of the street stood this gambling knight, like some wild animal at Bay his eyes flashing defiance, and his shining nickle-plated peacemaker in his hand — and the minions of the law, with their bravery at stake wondering what to do next.

Once and Twice and Thrice the chief defender of the faith—the same being the the city marshal essayed to engage the wary knight errant in private converse, and each time the defender of personal liberty turned the speaking end of that nickel shiner down on them and the said defender of Lamar’s holy ordinances faced about and return to the sidewalk.

As we remember it now, the man who wanted not to be interned was finally given his way about it and walked back to the saloon and the show was over for that day.

The Judge Doughty tells it after the marshal had been bluffed into good behavior, the august mayor of the pompous city—to be, shoved his hands down  into his jeans pockets, and said a short prayer and crossed himself, and then ambled unconcernedly towards the  bad man talking about the weather, and started in on the future greatness of the imperial city, when the gun was turned the ugly weapon down on him with exclamation —

“Throw up your hands you blankety-blank”

But the mayor having said his prayers and crossed himself knew that whichever way he went whether up or down — provided the daring man got him he would be in a better place than Lamar anyway, jerked his hands out of his pockets with a plug tobacco in one of them and remark that —

“By___ I’m going to take a chaw of terbacker — if it’s the last act of my mayoral administration.”

And the outlaw left actually laughed at the mayor with his hand still Skyward kept right on walking and talking, saying to the personal liberty man to have a chaw with him — regular old fashioned  Sweet Navy that our fathers and mothers used to chaw on”  etc. etc.

And then he begin to admonish the bad man to put up his gun became peaceable and  law-abiding and to join them in the great missionary work of saving and reformation and to the end that he might live happily ever after, etc —

And the outlaw to avoid being further punished by the mayor’s religious exhortation told the mayor he was a damn good feller and turned around and walked off.

Whether the bad man then turned from the error of his ways, afterwards joining the Saints or the Holiness people or becoming a great salvation captain,  Judge Dougherty has not advised us; but we are presuming he finally died with his boots on and went down to plead with the old Nick for the other Lamarites when they came down that way.

In conclusion, by the way of an explanation as both the  writer of these old-time historical sketches and Judge Doughty are  conscience is on veracity, and sticklers for moral uprightness, and as there is a slight variation in the observations taken at the time. —

Therefore is our idea to the set personal liberty defender, to the special delectation of Judge Daddy and others, pulled off the second matinee and that moral and upright town and hence the entertainment seen by us were on different occasions.

Next time again

Konkel often closed the series articles with little phrases such as the one above.  Here are a couple of other ways he would close.

“Ditto Next Week”
“Next Week Again”
“Something Else Next Time”

On occasion the closing was something like the following:

“Right at this point we find we have “overdrawn” on our space account, so we will squirt some embalming fluid into the rest of the yarn to keep it from spoiling, and will give it to you the next time.”

FINAL NOTE: This issue of the Springfield Herald, which contained “the article “An Outlaw in Lamar” has both the date and the year  scratched out and penciled in with a different date. This is shown in the image below and I am not sure what was intended.   It doesn’t appear to me the sequencing of that issue was wrong.

THE OLD SETTLEMENT AND THE NEW SETTLEMENT OF BACA COUNTY: by Sam Konkel

Sam Konkel told us much about the first wave of settlement in the 1886-1887 time frame.  In this article from the December 21 1917 issue of the Springfield Herald he offers some observations comparing that first wave with the second wave starting in 1907    Sam as always is entertaining with his writing. I will leave it at that and hand it off to that master wordsmith of early Baca County. Enjoy.

The old settlement began thirty one years ago, first striking old Boston, then Minneapolis, then Vilas, then Springfield, then Carrizo, Brookfield, Stonington. Plymouth, Holmes City, Carrizo Springs.

A striking feature of all the old settlements in the whole west was that an intended town would be laid out, and the settlers would then swarm around the new town.  

Thus land within a few miles of all the above old towns was filed on and a great deal of it proved up, while beyond those limits the country was mostly unpopulated. Just what that old population was— is hard to even approximate at this time. Basing the population on the claims of the towns and their communities would give several thousand  — anywhere say from seven thousand to ten thousand.  As an illustration, old Boston at one time claimed 750, when as a fact the real population of the town probably never exceeded 250, and may have been even considerably under that number.  

If we were going to venture a rough guess on the population of the county at the high-tide of that old settlement, we would say anything up to 5,000 —  feel sure at least it was considerably less than half what it is at the present time.  Why that settlement came and why it absquatulated, is is the one quandery of the new settlers of the county and those coming to visit, invest, or to investigate.

Very often the collapse of that old settlement is at the present time accounted for on the presumption that those old settlers didn’t come with the intention of staying and making this their homes  —  were here simply to speculate  — to prove up and get out.

We believe though there is no foundation for the presumption.  On the contrary, those old settlers moved here with their families nearly all of them staked everything they had on the country  — and nearly all of them left with nothing.

The why of the failure is about five fold. In the first place, they came with the belief that it rains here on the just and unjust exactly as elsewhere — that the American desert and mostly rainless west was a myth of geographers and the early pioneers crossing these plains.

In the second place, not one of those old settlers—and no one else as a fact, had at that time ever stopped to presume that farming could adapt itself to the rainfall, or that one plant is different from another in rainfall requirements.

In the third place, they did not know that new ground in a dry country is not dependable—didn’t know that age to the’ ground properly farmed, would give added moisture for the crops.

In the fourth place, not knowing there is a difference in plants as to moisture requirements, the settlers during the first three tragical years of the country’s settlement staked their all on corn, and those years being on the dry order, the big ears failed to materialize—often the stalks ditto—and then they gave up all hope and pulled their freight.

In the last place, those old first settlers were almost invariably afraid to risk the sandy land, where, as we know now  at least on new ground they would have stood a better chance, than on the hard land soils.

Well, at the end of the third year the settlement was mostly gone  — a few lone and forlorn settlers hanging on by the skin of their teeth and remaining with the country. Then followed the middle ages of the country’s history—every man knowing every other man in the county, and the whole county a neighborhood.

About seventeen years, then the renaissance—if we may be; allowed to borrow the term, new migration to the west starting in about 1907.

We have told the why of the old settlement and of its failure. The why of the new settlement has its sequel no less than the why of the old settlement; and indeed upon this sequel is based the hope and depends the salvation of the country.

The sequel to this new settlement is the study of dry farming methods and dry-farm plants, and the promulgation of these investigations and discoveries.

At the time of our “renaissance” there was no questioning the fact by anybody—practically at least, that this is a dry country; but the experiment stations and a few individual experiment* ore gave out the hope that by dry methods a living could be made in the dry west—and this hope brought the second settlement.

The feudal lords who had parceled out this great county neighborhood  during on the middle ages among themselves for range purposes, naturally balked on this new settlement, and honestly actually believed farming here to be an impossibility.

Dry farming at that time was just beginning to be heard of here, had never been practiced in the county, as indeed was about the case of real farming of any other kind —  consequently they were all from Missouri on the farming proposition.

Three years were given to the first of the new settlers to pull out — five years at the uttermost. All though said that some of them would stay, some putting it at 50 percent, some at 25 per cent, but most of them at 5 to 10 per cent. Our readers know the rest of the story. The maximum five years elapsed, five years more have followed suit, and practically every year has seen an augmentation of the settlement we had the year before.

There is no longer any questioning the new settlement, and no longer any questioning the agricultural status of the country. The only question now is as to how long land will continue to sell here for a half or a fourth of what it in average years will produce in standard crops, and as to what this land is actually worth.

To close by answering the question—if in the rain belt a piece of land is paid for in ten years by farming it, Mr. Farmer | considers he has been a tollerably prosperous case.

Here on old time prices crop values ran upward of ten dollars, while on up-to-date prices crop values are running everywhere from $10, to upwards of $100 per acre.

At $10 an acre for crops, on the bases of ten years to pay for the farm, would give $100 an acre as the value of the land.

Years alone will tell the story, but if this land isn’t worth from $25 to 50 an acre right now — wholly for fanning purposes, then crop production and values have nothing to do with the question.

Meantime we would say to eastern investors, come here and investigate for yourselves.

Joy Coy, Colorado & the Coming of the Railroad

“Nearly everything lives in a hole in the ground; the rattlesnakes, prairie dogs, owls, ground-squirrels, and even the people.”

-Letter from Joy Coy Colorado, 1916

Pritchett, Colorado lies in the extreme Southeast part of Colorado.  There is not a lot of activity there these days. There is a school, a bar, a hotel for providing astrotourism adventures in the best dark skies in the United States, and a few houses. The empty storefronts on main street provide a few clues of a busier time when this portion of Colorado was the “Broomcorn Capital of the World.”

As you drive south through Pritchett you see a couple of towering grain elevators and railroad track.  The railroad is a key part of this story but we will save that for later in this post.

A couple miles west of Pritchett, Colorado State Highway 160 turns south as it takes a path toward Trinidad Colorado.  As you turn south there sits in a pasture, on the right hand side of the highway, a few piles of ruble signifying as many such locations do on the prairie that there was once life and activity in former days.  This location and this ruble was what was known as Joy Coy, Colorado. The reference in the quote above about living underground refers to a “dugout” which is a shelter that is dug in the ground and roofed over.

The author standing next to the ruins of Joy Coy, Colorado
A 1929 map including Joy Coy courtesy of the University of Alabama Maps Collection
https://bit.ly/2C28bWs


The first news from Joy Coy was in 1915, so it is likely that is when folks came and set up the town.  They came because this was one of the last places in the United States with free land available to homesteaders.  

The first I learned about the settlement of Joy Coy was in the book, Bear Tracks and Cactus Tree’s by Iris Powell Colwell.  Iris lived in Balko, Oklahoma,the hometown of my wife and she actually attended our wedding. It was only a few years ago that we discovered that when Iris was a child her family homesteaded west of Joy Coy. They apparently ran the store there for a time (See Below).

Iris Powell Colwell’s Uncle John Jackson with his Reo Speedwagon loaded with groceries for his store in Joy Coy, Colorado. Springfield, Colorado businesses in the background.

Additional information about the settlement of Joy Coy follows:


The Mountain Echo (Yellville, Marion, Arkansas) · 12 Nov 1915

T

O. F and Jeffie Gray of Bruno returned a few days ago from Joy Coy, Colorado, where they had been Visiting their brother, W. O. Gray, who went to that country  last spring and homesteaded 320 acres of fine land. They said that the entire 320 acres can be cultivated and that it is very rich and productive. They also stated that while there is a great deal of land in that country subject to homestead entry, it is being taken up very rapidly, and in a short time it I will all have been taken off the market.  The young men stated that they would return to that country in a very short time and file a homestead on 320 acres each. We regret to see these young men leave Marion county but hope they will do well in Colorado


The Nashville Journal (Nashville, Kansas) 23 Dec 1915.  



Photo provided by Kathy Evans Olson of her grandparents (on the right) on their wedding day in 1916. They homestead near Joy Coy.


JoyCoy was described  in the 1980 Baca County History Book as follows:

Jacob Gelvin wife Myrtle, sons Walter Ray daughters Flossie and Margaret, bought the whole east side of town.  It consisted of a three room house, a filling station, garage, blacksmith shop between this building and the general store was machinery. The general store carried everything from thread to cookies.  Crackers, cookies and candy came in a 12x12x12 inch box with lids


A Wellsville Globe (Wellsville, Kansas) · 30 Jun 1916.

Well Mr. Editor of the Globe, we received copies of the Globe yesterday and it seemed like a letter from home. We were sure glad to hear of plenty of rain back there.  Rain is our greatest need in this country. It is very dry at present. We have only had one real good rain since we got out here, and that has been six weeks had – several sprinkles. We planted corn, maize, and cane and it is all up, but it is so dry that it don’t grow very fast and our garden is late and can’t make much to eat if we don’t get rain soon. But we are not alone in the drought. It has been dry in Western Kansas and Oklahoma.

Well we like the climate it sure is a good place to eat and sleep; the nights are cool and we sleep under cover every night and fire feels good in the mornings.

Can say to inquiring friends that all the land is taken up but there are some relinquishments that can be bought rom $60 to $500. The country is pretty level and the soil is loose and good and deep enough to raise any thing if it gets to raining and they say it will.  

Nearly everything lives in a hole in the ground; the rattlesnakes, prairie dogs, owls, ground-squirrels, and even the people.  We have a nice dugout 16×20; and a house on top of the ground 14×14 in which we cook and eat, but we sleep in the dugout.

We are getting lonesome, for nearly all our neighbors have gone off to harvest. We were over close to the cedar mountains 3 weeks ago and there are thousands of head of the J. J. company over there and as many sheep. They are a good bit of trouble to the settlers and will be worse when the crops get larger. There are none of the cattle or sheep in this part of the country because this is more thickly settled. Every thing is high out here cows are $75 to $100 a head. Our neighbor paid $90 for one and they are scarce at that. If any of you Wellsville people want to get brown just come out here.


Mrs. J. R. Smith.



Photo provided by Diane Evans Harvey of the family homestead near Joy Coy.  

Dear Sir; The enclosed check will bring to us away out here in Baca County, the news from home for another year.

We are rejoicing in the assurance of a good crop, as we have had many very heavy rains over our county in the past two weeks. The ground here is thoroughly soaked up and every pool is full of water. My crop of forty acres is in fine shape. Corn just about in roasting ears; sudan grass higher than my head and ready to cut; twenty acres in feed, cane and maize, is looking good and we have a Little patch of Mexican and tapir beans, which are “the settler’s” stand-by.

We are now using besides them, potatoes and turnips of our own raising.

My family is well. Mother has just returned from a three weeks visit with her sister in Rocky Ford.  My children are looking forward to school duties. I expect to try wheat this fall, with what success I cannot foretell. Your friend, Mrs. T. R. BARNETT.

Editor Gray County Record. Dear Sir: I will drop you a line, as I did not receive your last two papers. But it is not your fault.

We sure have been having some winter here. It started snowing about 5:00 o’clock, December 17, and never stopped snowing and blowing until about 10:00 o’clock December 24. It sure was some storm, and we have not had the mail from Lamar but once since the 20th of December, so that accounts for our not receiving your paper.

The weather man started the new year here by dropping the mercury to twenty below zero, and that makes one feel like staying close to the fire.

There are some few cases of flu in this neighborhood yet. The Baca County paper states that one man lost 35 head of cattle in one night since the storm. As this is all the news I think of at present, I will close, wishing you all a happy and prosperous new year.

Chas. E. Ryder.


The Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Kansas) · 8 Mar 1919


Kansas Farmer and Mail and Breeze (Topeka Kansas) · 10 May 1919


The Gray County Record (Ensign, Kansas) · 17 Jul 1919


Joy Coy Colorado, around 1920


The Dexter Tribune (Dexter, Kansas) · 31 Oct 1920

Capper’s Weekly (Topeka, Kansas, United States of America) · 27 Mar 1920


The Nebraska Farm Journal (Topeka, Kansas) · 15 Dec 1921


The Hugoton Hermes (Hugoton, Kansas, United States of America) · 3 Feb 1922


Joy Coy, Colorado like many towns looked forward to the coming of the railroad.  The news of the day anticipated that the rail would reach Joy Coy.


The Ogden Standard-Examiner (Ogden, Utah) · 6 Jul 1926


The Dodge City Journal (Dodge City, Kansas) · 28 Feb 1924


The Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Reno, Kansas) · 29 Jul 1926

The proposed extension of the railroad to Joy Coy never came to pass.  The railroad stopped approximately two miles short of Joy Coy. A new town, Pritchett. Please Note in the clipping below they refer to Vilas as Wheeler, presumably in reference to long time Vilas merchant CF Wheeler.


The Morton County Farmer (Rolla, Kansas) · 27 Aug 1926,
John Jackson, Civil War Vet, Joy Coy Homesteader and Storekeeper standing. Younger Brother Rob Blevins sitting

By a Staff Correspondent. Springfield Colo., Feb. 1 — All Baca county expectantly awaits today the fulfillment of a dream born a halt century ago when the first rugged plainsmen began homesteading the rich prairies, the sight of a train puffing its way over the prairie.  This long awaited sight will be given residents of Baca county tomorrow when the first scheduled train will operate over the new Santa Fe line extended out of Manter to Pritchett Colo., a new town near the western edge of Baca County.

The Santa Fe operating department today formally look over the 56.1 mile stretch of of splendid railroad from the construction company.  Regular service will be inaugurated tomorrow. For the time service will be tri-weekly, trains running west from Dodge City on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and returning form Pritchett on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.  No trains will run on Sundays. The first train leaving Dodge City, Kan., at 7 o’clock in the morning and reaching Springfield late in the afternoon.

Railroad officials have assured local shippers that daily service will be accorded Baca county just as soon as business warrants.  It was pointed out that it would be far better to start with tri-weekly service and increase the trains than to give daily service on the start and then reduce the trains.  

A Splendid Railroad.

No finer piece of new railroad was ever turned over to an operating company than that extending form Manter Kan., to Pritchett, Colo.  Nothing but heavy steel was used in the construction and the roadbed in splendid shape at present. Lack of rain in more than six months has prevented any grade settlement.  This means the Santa Fe will have considerable filling to do later, but for the time at least riding over the new line is as comfortable as the Santa Fe Main Line. Special trains carrying officials making final inspection of the line before acceptance by the operating Department have been zipping along at a speed of 10 to 50 miles an hour which is nothing short of remarkable for a new road.

The opening of the new Manter line of the Santa Fe leaves one railroadless County in Colorado that is real Blanco in northwest corner of the state.

Great Development to Come.

The importance of the railroad to Baca County cannot be overestimated.  Here is a great expanse of rich land barely tapped by the handful of hardy pioneers who have stayed against the day of the railroads coming, hauling their products 30 to 50 miles for shipping.  It opens the way for a great many agricultural developments on the land which will grow wheat corn broom corn and numerous row crops. It is said of the sandy section of the southern part of the county that there never has been a complete failure except where hail has taken its toll.  Rainfall comes during the growing season due to the melting snows in the mountains to the west.

Grain Awaits Shipment.

A considerable tonnage of freight awaits commencement of a regular train service. The Santa Fe will operate in a mixed train carrying both freight and passengers. Nearly a train load of wheat is already loaded with the three principal stations, Pritchett, Walsh and Springfield, and a large amount of broom corn and grain is piled on the ground at Walsh waiting cars. The construction trains have previously carried out some grain and have brought some inbound Freight.  Most inbound Freight has been trucked across from Lamar, however, immense service over the construction company train was too uncertain.

Springfield and other Baca County towns will continue to get their mail Lamar station for the time because of the lack of daily service on the railroad.  Daily truck service out of Lamar has been supplying mail in the past.

Ends Long Wait.

“We have been waiting for this train service for 40 years.”  Commented Mayor H.. E. Homsher, of Springfield today. It should bring us many new settlers in the launching of service and undoubtedly marks the beginning of an era of prosperity for our country. The railroad means the thousands of acres of sod will be broken this spring.

Extensive building programs in Walsh, Springfield, and Pritchett will now be possible with materials available via Freight. Efforts to build especially in the new towns that have sprung up from the Prairie on both sides of Springfield have been particularly handicapped by the lack of materials.

End to Two Towns.

Opening of the railroad memes the passing of two Pioneer towns Joy Koy and Stonington. Joy has been moved about two miles into Pritchett, western terminus of the road and and Walsh is replacing Stonington.  Since the railroad has not come to these pioneer settlements they moved to the railroad.

The opening of the railroad brings this Colorado County closer to Kansas Distributing points than those in Colorado, actually closer by measuring miles. Vacuum County will be a big buyer in Hutchinson markets. Dodge City is also bound to reap a great deal of benefit from the tapping of this new country.

Three agency stations.

The Santa Fe will maintain agents of each of the three principal points on the new Railroad.  H.S. Hazel is the Agent of Springfield; R. A. Spellman at Walsh and A. E. Menefee at Pritchett. The railroad has built homes for the agents at Walsh and Pritchett and it looks like the same thing would be necessary in Springfield for there isn’t a vacant building in this town.

Grain elevators are already beginning to rear skyward along the new railroad and others will soon be under construction. Places for elevators have been provided several sightings as well as in the three towns. Stations and sidings on the new 56.1 mile extension starting at manter and extending West or as follows:

Bartlett, Colo., siding.
Walsh, Colo. agency station.
Vilas, Colo. siding.
Springfield, Colorado agency station.  
McCall, Colo siding.
Pritchett, Colo. Agency station terminal.
Saunders, Kas., siding.


Joy Coy ball team about 1926 –
Back row: Dick Jordan, Floyd Michael, George and Raymond, Nelson McClain, Ward Brown. Seated: Raleigh Stout George Middleswail, manager John Halbert, Winnie Union Chas Brown

Waiting for Lots in Pritchett photo courtesy of Art Dowell.

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