Preacher Evans: The Great Orator of Minneapolis, Colorado

Public speaking was an important part of life in 19th century America. Whether you wanted to win an election, win support for a reform movement, or become a successful minister, you needed to learn how to deliver crowd-pleasing speeches. Candidates for office debated one another. Evangelical ministers hoping to win people to their denominations could often use rousing sermons to attract large crowds to their revival meetings. In the same period, the local lyceums and other organizations provided an important source of education and entertainment for people of all classes by bringing national celebrities into cities and small towns across America.  (E Pluribus Unum Project)

They cite Gilman Ostrander who writes in his book, Republic of Letters: The American Intellectual Community, 1775-1865:

Oratory was a lawyerly skill that boasted a tradition as venerable as the law itself, extending from Demosthenes to Daniel Webster. From medieval universities to nineteenth-century liberal arts colleges, orations remained an essential part of higher education, and forensic eloquence remained the mark of a cultivated man. Patrick Henry rose to the head of the Virginia bar chiefly on the basis of his forensic ability, being admittedly unqualified for practice so far as his technical knowledge of the law was concerned. The Olympian prestige and appeal of oratory in the ages of Patrick Henry and Daniel Webster is hard to appreciate in our present age of mass media, but in mid-nineteenth century America, Emerson observed that “The highest bribes of society are all at the feet of the successful orator. . . . All other fame must hush before his. He is the true potentate.” (p. 104).

The ability to play an effective role in discussions of local importance (such as whether to build a town library) or to speak persuasively in debates over national issues (such as the dispute over slavery) could even contribute to the standing of a private citizen in his or her community. Along with print, oratory was an essential part of public life. It was how the business of public life got done.

A quick reminder of where the 1886 -1887 boomtowns were located.
Judge J.D.F. Jennings. Photo Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Click here to see more Jennings stories on this blog.

We have heard there were some great orators during the the Boomtown era in Southeast Colorado. It seems each town in the county seat fights leading up to the 1889 Colorado legislature had a lead orator who could make the case for their town to be the county seat. For Boston it was Judge J.D.F.Jennings, while in Minneapolis it was a preacher named Evans. In 1918 Sam Konkel told us,

“As a speaker the judge was without peer in the southwest, unless an exception be made in the case of preacher Evans, who lived somewhere in the neighborhood of present Konantz and whose sympathies by reason of his location were with Minneapolis – in the fight for the county seat. As an aside, as we shall not have occasion to again refer to Evans, it will suffice here to say that he was a speaker of the first water, and we believe a thoroughly upright man.

Living in the neighborhood of Minneapolis, he naturally cast his fortunes with that town, and had he lived no doubt would have wielded a strong influence in the fight for the county seat honors.

He was diplomatic and fearless in what he championed and in his public addresses along the lines of his convictions and the cause he championed.

On one occasion at Boston he bearded the lion in his den in a speech favoring Minneapolis for the county seat — that speech made all those Bostonians sit up and take notice.

We believe it was not more than a week or two after this that Evans was instantly killed by being hooked in the eye by a vicious cow.

When the news reached Boston of the fatality, it was Judge Jennings who said it was the best thing that could have happened to Boston which was a compliment in line with what the North said when Stonewall Jackson was accidentally killed by his own troops”

I believe the following news clipping I found this past week reports that visit to Boston by the Minneapolis contingent in August of 1888, when preacher Evans gave the speech that made the Bostonians pay attention to rival Minneapolis.

Bent County Register (Lamar, Colorado) 18 Aug 1888

Let’s see what else we can learn about the Minneapolis orator, the Reverend William Evans.   

LeRoy Reporter (LeRoy, Kansas) · 3 Jul 1886

Cherryvale Globe and Torch (Cherryvale, Kansas) · 18 Mar 1887

Kansas People (Osage City, Kansas) · 10 Aug 1887

The short letter below provide another glimpse of the gifted orator of Minneapolis, Colorado.

The Western Baptist (Topeka, Kansas) · 27 Jun 1888

Colony Free Press (Colony, Kansas) · 30 Aug 1888.   NOTE:  This I believe is an error. Evans is reported to have lived in Stevenson, Colo. in all other references .  I believed the editor of this paper just assumed it was Stevens County Kansas.  

The Leader-Democrat (Richfield, Kansas) · 1 Sep 1888

Ingalls Union (Ingalls, Kansas) · 6 Sep 1888

The LeRoy Reporter (LeRoy, Kansas) · 22 Sep 1888.  Reprints the story as follows,

 Death of Rev. Wm- Evans -This entire community was startled on Saturday morning by news of the death of our pastor, which occurred at his home in Stevenson Thursday evening. He had recently bought a cow which proved to be vicious, and while tending her she attacked and gored him in the throat, severing the carotid artery. He had strength to run to the house, but bled to death almost instantly. He was in many respects a most remarkable man. In early life apprenticed to the trade of molder and machinist, he served his time, and continued in the business thirty-five years before he began preaching. Earnest, energetic, enterprising, he made his marks in the walks of life through which his way led him. He was an earnest christian and an able preacher, and was doing the Master’s work with all his will when called to serve him in a higher capacity. He leaves a wife, one daughter and four sons to mourn his loss. Minneapolis, (Colo.”) Republican.

The Richfield Republican has the following: The body of Rev. Wm. Evans was brought here on Sunday last from Stevenson, Colo., and buried in Grand View Cemetery. Mr. Evans’ death was sad one and somewhat tragical. He recently purchased some Texas cows which like the greater part of the Texas stock are wild and vicious. One of the cows had long sharp horns which it seems Mr. Evans feared might cause injury to somebody, and he attempted to draw the animal up to a wagon and tie her for the purpose of sawing off the horns. During the effort the animal plunged at and knocked him down and on his attempting to regain his feet made a second attack upon him and plunged the point of her horn into his neck severing the jugular vein. With the assistance of his two boys, who were with him, Mr. Evans started for and got into the house just in time to escape a third attack from the infuriated animal, which became exceedingly furious. He was cared for as well as could be but bled to death in a few minutes. Mr. Evans was a Baptist minister and preached alternately at Boston, Vilas and Minneapolis. He was postmaster at Stevenson, some eight or ten miles north of Plymouth, Colo. He came from eastern Kansas to this country. He was a member of the A. 0. U. W., a benevolent insurance association, from which his family will get $2,000. He left a wife and several children, some of them grown. He was about fifty years of age.
Wichita Star (Wichita Kansas) 4 Sep 1888
Garden City Sentinel (Garden City, Kansas) 6 Sep 1888
The Wichita Weekly Journal (Wichita, Kansas) · 6 Sep 1888

The Burlington Democrat (Burlington, Kansas) · 28 Sep 1888

Cherryvale Champion (Cherryvale, Kansas) · 8 Sep 1888

Rev. Wm. Evans, was gored to death by a vicious cow 011 Thursday of last week at his home in Stevenson. He was gored in the throat the horn severing the carotid artery. Rev. Evans for years was an employee in the Missouri Pacific foundry, but since leaving here has been devoting his time to the ministry. – The Parsons Weekly Eclipse (Parsons, Kansas) · 4 Oct 1888

Mrs. Evans, widow of the late Rev. Wm. Evans well known in this city, came in from Colorado Saturday last and was the guest of the Rev. P. C. Brown and family over Sunday. She took the Gulf train Monday morning for Persons (Parsons?) where she will visit her son and collect the amount of $2,000 due her on a life insurance policy left her. Cherryvale Bulletin (Cherryvale, Kansas) · 3 Nov 1888

Mrs. Evans, widow of the late Rev. Wm Evans, of Colorado, Sundayed with Rev, P. C. Bowen and family, and on Monday went over to visit her son at Parson.  – The Weekly Clarion (Cherryvale, Kansas) · 8 Nov 1888
Cherryvale Champion (Cherryvale, Kansas) · 3 Nov 1888

Colony Free Press (Colony, Kansas) · 18 Oct 1888

Could Evans have made a difference for Minneapolis in the County Seat Fights? We’ll never know! Stay Tuned for more.

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Theatre in 1880s Southeast Colorado: Ten Nights in a Bar Room

A part of the history of Old Boston, Colorado  which might go unnoticed is the attempt by the town founders to build a civil and cultured existence in an environment that seemed to produce anything but civility. Their attempts at taming the “noted burying ground” as it was described in the following news clipping seems like a futile exercise as we look back with 20/20 hindsight. 

Finney County Democrat (Garden City, Kansas) 15 Dec 1888.

Still, some of their efforts with a community theatrical troupe and a community band led by Freeman Jess Newton and the Jennings were admirable. The storyline of the play discussed in this narrative is of temperance, which you might not expect from the characters assembled in the town of Old Boston.  

Other towns in the boomtown era such as Wilde, Springfield, and Holmes City played on the wild nature of towns such as Boston, Minneapolis, Vilas, and Carrizo when recruiting homesteaders and investors. They included statements in their town advertisements such as the following:

“WILDE A PROHIBITION TOWN. While Colorado is not a prohibition State, there are a number of noted towns like Manitou Springs, Greeley, etc., which have adopted the method of inserting a clause in all deeds forever prohibiting the sale of intoxicants, and wherever this method has been adopted and adhered to on the part of the town projectors, it has proved eminently successful. Manitou Springs is noted as one of the most cultured, refined and moral cities in the United States, whether east or west; and it owes it to the one thing of prohibition, which has excluded the whiskey element, and attracted a class of people in favor of temperance, schools and churches. The three town companies of Wilde, Springfield and Holmes in joint meeting adopted the prohibition plan for all three towns, for which are facetiously called dry towns, cognomen* the projectors are only too willing to adopt.”

Other towns such as Boston didn’t seem to have such concerns about alcohol use, but they at the same time entertained with a play whose primary theme was prohibition.

Several news clippings discuss a theatrical production produced by the Boston Colorado amateur dramatic troupe. The play “Ten Nights in a Bar Room,” is based on an 1854 novel, “Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There” written by American author Timothy Shay Arthur. In the 1850s, sales of the book were second only to Harriet Beecher Stowe‘s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Ten Nights in a Bar-room was a financial success for Arthur and the novel transferred to play format, so it was used to promote prohibition to large audiences. The play based on the novel continued to be popular even after prohibition in the United States, although it was often presented as a parody.

Illustration from an 1882 edition of  “Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There” 

We see the play mentioned several times in Boston related articles, such as this excerpt from The Democratic Principle (Syracuse, Kansas) · Wed, Dec 14, 1887, 

The novel is presented by an unnamed narrator who makes an annual visit to the fictional town of Cedarville. On his first visit, he stops at the new tavern, the Sickle and Sheaf. The proprietor, Simon Slade, is a former miller who gave up the trade for the more lucrative tavern. The business is a family affair, with Slade’s wife Ann, son Frank, and daughter Flora assisting him. The narrator also observes the town drunk, Joe Morgan. The father of a loving wife and family, he meets his moral downfall when introduced to alcohol. Morgan becomes an alcoholic and spends most of his time at a bar. One day, his daughter begs him to return to his family. He ignores her desires until she is hit in the head by a flying glass as she goes to retrieve her father. Slade had thrown the tumbler at Morgan so, to a degree, her death is on his hands. On her deathbed, the daughter begs Morgan to abandon alcohol, to which he agrees. The novel progresses through the ruinous fall of more characters all at the hands of hard drink and other vices (gambling becomes another major reform notion in the text). Shay spends some time discussing corruption in politics with the corrupt “rum party” candidate from Cedarville, Judge Lyman. The narrator notes how even the drinkers in the story call for “the Maine Law“ which will prohibit alcohol from being so temptingly available. The novel closes with the death of Simon Slade, already mutilated from an earlier riotous sequence of murders and mob mentality, at the hands of his son. The two had gotten into a drunken argument and Frank strikes his father in the head with a bottle. In the final scene the narrator sees the post with the once pristine and now gross and rotten Sickle and Sheaf totem chopped down after the town’s moral fiber showed itself in a series of resolutions that led to the destruction of all the alcohol on the premises.

Ten Nights in a Bar Room was the play the Boston Dramatic Troupe was putting on after the shooting of Henry Savoie, in the streets of Old Boston, by Big Bill Thompson.  The January 4, 1888 edition of the Trinidad newspaper, The Citizen tells us,  

“Excitement now about subsided since the burial of Savoie. William Thompson and Ben Darnell left here for Vilas this morning.  They have softened public feeling to a considerable extent by their amicable conducted while here.  Their statement and explanation were very different from Savoies’ They came in on Saturday evening and rough time was expected on account of several rumours which had gained credence since they left several days before for Trinidad.  One of them was to the effect that the editor of the Boston Banner would be brought to terms for publishing Savoie’s ante mortem statement with comments.  The play  “Ten Nights in a Bar Room” was being acted when they arrived and about thirty well armed deputy marshalls were placed in the hall to quell any riot which might arise.  Word was repeatedly sent to the editor that he would be shot on the stage (he was playing the part of Swiehel.) Nothing happened, however, and at last the people are getting down to business again.  – The Citizen (Trinidad Colorado) 4 Jan 1888.   NOTE:  Swiehel was likely to reference the character Simon Slade. 

In the above news clipping, Boston Banner Editor, George Daniels, plays the part of Simon Switzel, however as there was no character with the name Switzel, they are likely referencing the character, Simon Slade. The Leader-Democrat (Richfield, Kansas) · 28 Jan 1888.

Old Boston was as Wild as They Come, but some of the related stories almost humanize the characters who attempted to create this town on the Southeast Colorado plains. Stay Tuned for more….

Cooling Troughs in SE Colorado: Includes A Video Tour by Steve Doner

EDITORS NOTE: We have included videos from our good friend Steve Doner’s Youtube Channel. If you like history Subscribe Now.

Cooling Trough made of a Single stone. Checkout the videos for more!

We live in an era where refrigeration allows us to have foods from all over the world.  Modern refrigerated trucks and ships bring us foods which are kept in the fridge or freezer for months, and at our convenience we get to enjoy treats like ice cream and cold soda pop any time of the year. 

In the old days keeping things cold was a luxury. In some places you could get ice and snow in the winter, and keep it for a while. A lot of places, however, don’t have that advantage, and shipping ice from the places that did was incredibly expensive. 

At one point in history there were steamships transporting  blocks of ice across the Atlantic, which sounds absolutely absurd. Drinks with ice, and ice creams, were luxuries outside of cold seasons.

If you don’t need to keep things frozen or cold. It’s very possible to keep things cool.  There are many natural ways to keep things cool. The biggest source of cool temperatures is the ground: dig down a few feet and you’ll find that the temperature generally hovers around 55 to 60°F (13 or 14°C).

Caves, if you have them, will save you the labor of digging. Beers, wines, and cheeses in ancient times would be aged in caves, keeping them at a cool temperature so that fermentation would proceed at a reasonable pace. Even today, storage facilities for wines and cheeses are called “caves”, even when they’re actually just walk-in refrigerators (or in the case of wines, room-temperature showrooms).

Streams, which often begin as underground streams, will be in the same temperature range as the ground temperature mentioned above , and the flowing water has the ability to cool things down faster.  On the farm not so long ago that cool water pull from the ground was a primary way milk, eggs and vegetables were kept cool.   

In June 1916  The University of Illinois Department of Agriculture  Published  “Cooling Cream on the farm.”  Their guide to using cool water to cool cream on the farm provide the following  summary:

  1. Quality is the fundamental factor that controls the condi­tion of the butter market and that determines the price at which butter sells. 

2. The quality of butter on the market depends more on the

quality of the cream from which it is made than on any other con­dition incident to production, manufacture and transportation of the butter. 

3. In order that the cream may arrive at the creamery in good condition it must be cooled promptly and be kept cool until it leaves the farm. 

4. Running springs and cold water wells serve as efficient natural facilities for cooling cream on the farm. 

5. In the absence of these natural facilities properly con­structed cream cooling tanks should be used. These may readily be constructed by the cream· producers or can be purchased ready­made and at low cost. 

6. By pumping all water used for watering the stock through the cream cooling tank, the use of the cooling tank involves ·prac­tically no extra labor. 

7. The proper use of the cream cooling tank and keeping separate the warm cream from the cold cream retards the souring of the cream, checks undesirable fermentations, eliminates the animal heat from the cream and protects it from contamination with dust, foul odors, flies and other impurities. 

8. In order to secure the best results from the use of the cool­ing tank, all utensils, cans, separators, strainers, stirrers, dippers and the tank itself should be kept thoroughly clean. 

They continue, Dug wells with cold water may also serve as natural cooling and storing places for cream. The cans may readily be lowered into such wells by a windlass or on ropes with pulleys. Dry wells and pits, although cool, are usually not suitable for storing the cream. As previously stated the mere ·exposure of tqe cream to cool air does not cool the cream rapidly enough to prevent fermentations. Then again, such pits are usually damp and are prone to contain stale air and often foul odors and gases, which may be absorbed by the cream and which are favorable for contamination with, and growth of molds and other undesirable micro-organisms. Dry wells and pits are very similar in their effect on cream as cellars. Their chilly atmosphere is due to dampness rather than to low temperature and their standard of sanitation is at best questionable. Running springs and dug wells with cold water on the other hand, furnish ideal places for cooling and storing cream. These natural facilities are available on many farms but are often not utilized. If intelligently used, these facilities may serve the purpose at practically no ex­pense to the farmer, quite as effectively as especially constructed cooling tanks. 

The most amazing part of this post is the work of my friend and historian from Walsh, CO, Steve Doner. He has provided videos of Cooling Troughs in SE Colorado. If I were you I would subscribe to his Youtube Channel. You won’t be sorry.

A couple of notes on Steve’s video’s.  The Blanchat video shows some of the amazing stonework of Joseph Blanchat who also was a stone mason on the Springfield school built in 1889 shown below. Also Check out my blog “The Old Stone Schoolhouse in Springfield”

This post sponsored by Everett Beef.
Want to know where your food comes from?
“Beef Like Your Grandparents Use to Do It”

Crop Prospects for Southeast Colorado in 1888

PERSONS Stories and Incidents of the Early Day East Enders

Before Baca County became a county in the spring of 1889 it was the eastern end of Las Animas county. As spring is upon us, I thought it might be good to look back at the crop prospects in Southeast Colorado in 1888.  The following  report comes from the The Daily Sentinel (Garden City, Kansas) · 28 Feb 1888.  I have included the towns from  what is present day Baca County and the areas surrounding Baca County including Old Bent County.  If you want to see where many of these towns were located, check out Boomtown Maps. There were many more Kansas listings, but we have chosen those most relevant to the history of Baca County.  If space allows we may present Kansas locations in the future.

Springfield and Vilas were in Old Las Animas County when this was printed.

Brookfield was in the Northwestern part of what is present day Baca County

Troy and Indianapolis were near present day Kim, Colorado. I am still unsure of the location of Alfalfa. If anyone has any clues, let me know.

The following are from Old Bent County which was broken up in the 1889 legislature.

Wilde was just west of Two Buttes mountain in present day Prowers Count. For more on Wilde check out my blog Wilde, Colorado: Colonel York, The Bloody Benders and West Point

Grandmother Eva Ratliff by Kathryn Ratliff Benes

With all of the news focused on COVID-19, I can’t help thinking about my Grandmother Eva Ratliff. As a young woman, she lived with her family in Pittsburg, KS where she taught school. She was told that, because of her weak immune system, that she would likely die unless she moved to a dry climate. So in 1916, her father accompanied her to Baca County, CO to homestead, as a single woman. She taught school in the county seat of Springfield during the school year and “proved up” her place during the summers – until the Spanish Flu of 1918 struck. Because she was rather frail, she retreated alone to the dugout of a friend near to her homestead. The dugout had sandstone steps that led to the base of the stairwell, and a door at the bottom that opened out. While self-quarantined, far from anyone else, the Blizzard of 1918 hit. It snowed and blew for days, and the stairwell became packed with snow. She could open the door to the outside only far enough to start digging out with a teaspoon. My grandmother and grandfather didn’t know each other at the time, but he too had come to Baca County because of his health. He, too, had been told by a doctor that unless he moved to a dry climate, he would likely die within a few years. My Grandfather Jack Ratliff became a range rider for the JJ (also known as the Prairie) Cattle Company. During the Blizzard of 1918, the cattle that he was in charge of, drifted with the blowing snow, and in the aftermath of the blizzard, he began gathering the strayed cattle. As he went about that task, he came upon a dugout where smoke was coming out of the smokestack, but the dugout was completely covered with snow. So, my grandfather began to dig out the snow from the stairwell and found a little “city” lady diligently digging her way out of the snow prison with her trusty teaspoon. They found that each of them probably didn’t have long to live, so they decided to get married. Grandmother lived to be 84, and Grandfather lived to be 93. Over the years ahead they survived more Colorado blizzards, droughts, grasshopper infestations, falling cattle prices and bank crash that took all of their money with the exception of 1 dime, but they were resourceful survivors who loved the land and always saw a “way forward.” They were good stewards of the time and place in which they lived. That DNA and mentality was passed down to my father and my aunt, to my generation, and hopefully to generations of our family to come. My family’s story is not so different than others who live in this great country, so while there is sadness over the suffering and lives lost, we are a resourceful people and we will, as a people and a nation grow and thrive as a result of this time and place in which we live. Prayers for our Country.

Jack Ratliff by Kathryn Ratliff Benes

Editors Note: I’ve often mentioned Jack Ratliff as the other Baca County Wanderer when writing about Orville Ewing. If you search online for Jack Ratliff will also find numerous postcards such as the one below which he sold during his travels. We are fortunate to be able to post the following below from his granddaughter Kathryn Ratliff Benes.

For those of you who read the stories of my Grandfather and Grandmother Ratliff, I wanted to post a picture of my grandfather when he was in his late 80s. It’s difficult for us in the 21st Century to understand the “wandering heart” of many old-time cowboys who grew up in the 1800s. In his younger days he had been a range rider for the large JJ/Prairie Cattle Company. And, even after he married my Grandmother and had my dad and aunt, he often was away from home trading horses and increasing the ranch herd. It was in their blood to be out riding the range, and always hard to settle down to some type of domesticated life. There’s a song by one of my favorite Colorado cowboy singers, Bill Barwick (now passed), that I believe reflects the spiritual relationship of these old-time cowboys who never really could settle down with the people they loved at home. It’s title is Caroline in the Sunset, (I hope this link works on this post) and I believe, although miles apart, that my grandfather continued to love my grandmother, and that she made a promise to wait for him until he was ready to settle down. I hope you love this song as much as I do.…
In his last interview (that I’m aware of), published in an Oklahoma Sunday news magazine, Granddad said, “Well, now I’ll tell you, I don’t regret this life I’ve led. I would probably do it again if things worked out the same way. I’ve had a lot of fun and I’ve learned a whole lot about human nature….But I do miss my family. Yeah, I really do,”

Growing Up in Baca County, Episode #5b John Havens

 As the dust storms increased many of the farm families and a few of the town residents had to pull up stakes and look for greener pastures.  As a kid working around the service station I observed first hand family after family load all their belongings into cars and onto pickups and head out to find new homes.

A Colorized version of a 1930’s Baca County Dust Storm

   Even these many years later I remember three families who moved to southern Louisiana.  At least three families moved to Idaho, some to Oregon, some to California.  Several families moved to western Colorado, others to the Canon City/Penrose area.  It was not quite like a scene from Grapes of Wrath, but the Vilas community suffered the loss of many fine families.

   For those who stayed, times were hard.  Many farmers found work with the WPA, building bridges, roads and public buildings.  They would plant crops only to have them wiped out by the dust storms.  Then there were plagues of grasshoppers and the increase of jack rabbits.  Those critters increased in population until the famers had to organize rabbit roundup to reduce the population.  On one occasion Army Worms invaded an area near Vilas.  They stripped every garden as they moved from South to North for several miles.

   It was unbelievable how the dust swirled around houses and barns and drifted much like snow.  Farmers had to shovel the snow (dust) away from their front doors to gain entrance.

   There was one crop that seemed to thrive quite well during those days and that was broomcorn.  Tons of it was raised in Baca County, and if my memory serves me right, the town of Walsh became known as the Broomcorn Capital.

   But raising this crop was not easy.  It was strictly a dryland, crop and farmers spent long hours in planting it, weeding it, and then harvesting it.  Since no machine has been invented to cut the crop, it had to be harvested by hand.  Broomcorn cutters came from eastern Oklahoma, Western Arkansas, Southwest Missouri and other areas to cut broomcorn in the Fall of the year.

   One farm couple I was personally acquainted with hired 8 to 12 men during broomcorn harvest.  This couple had to get up by 5 a.m. and have breakfast ready for these men. They turned their double garage into a cook shack during this time.  They served bountiful meals, prepared lunches for the men to eat in the field, and another wellcooked evening meal in the cook shack.

   Since they no longer had livestock, they turned their barn loft into sleeping quarters, and the men ascended by ladder to their beds.  This had been their accommodations for several years, and no one had complained.  Then the Government stepped in and told this farm couple they had to have a stairway to the loft.  They complied with the order, and the first year of harvest one of the hands fell down the stairs and broke his leg, and the farmer had to pay the medical expense.  Also, the government said they had to have outhouse facilities at the end of so many rows of broomcorn.  The farmer decided there was getting to be too many rules and regulations, so they quit raising broomcorn.

(A comment by Kathy)

I know we have to have rules, but sometimes the rules cause more harm than good.  These men were out of work, the farmer out of income, and the community had one less industry.

    The WPA was a worthwhile program and saved a lot of people from starving and gave people a pride in earning a living for their family.  Today we are still enjoying some of the great buildings, bridges, and monuments that these people built.

Growing up in Baca County Episode 10 By John Havens

    On Saturday afternoons and evenings there was usually a little more activity in Vilas than other times, unless there was a ball game going on out of town.

Tony’s Market by Lucille Homsher

     Farmers would come to town and bring their cans of cream to leave at Tony’s Market and to stock up on groceries for the coming week.  Many would hang around just to visit with their neighbors.  One couple who had a pet dog named Wanda would park in front of Terrill’s Drug Store, go in and buy one ice cream cone then sit in the front seat of their car and all three share the cone.

    But Saturday nights was when Western pictures were shown at the theater in Springfield.  Before I was old enough to be of help around the service station I would often be invited to go to the picture show with some family who was going.  Nothing was more exciting than to sit down front with a whole gang of kids and yell at the cowboys and Indians.  There was Hop-Along- Cassidy,  Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and others, who were our heroes.

     After I was in my teens Dad expected me to help wait on customers at the station.  I enjoyed meeting new people and made many friends.  I guess I was somewhat like Will Rogers who once said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.”  Even in Vilas there were the occasional visitors who were just passing through on their way East to Kansas or West to the mountains.

    During broomcorn harvest in the Fall of the year there was a lot more activity in Vilas.  Broomcorn Cutters came from Eastern Oklahoma, Southwest Missouri, Arkansas, and other places.  Some became residents of Baca County.  Some who came were Indians, some were Mexicans, but all came to work.

    One Saturday evening a car pulled into the station and they were Black people.  I had seen a few Black people, but had never been around any of them.  In fact, I don’t believe there were any Black people in or near Vilas.  I soon got acquainted with the drier and we had a great time visiting.  The next Saturday, they were back again, and Dad started to wait on them, but the driver wanted to know where I was.  He told Dad he wanted me to wait on them.  My nickname was a child was ‘Junior’, and he told Dad, “I want Junah to wait on me.”  So, dad called me over to the car and I gave that fellow full service.  This continued through the next few times they came in.

     I never asked where these folks were from and if I found out their names, I failed to remember.  But I never met them again.  I graduated from high school, served my two years in the Army, went to college and graduated, and after pastoring a church in Miami, Oklahoma I became pastor of a rural church out of Hugoton, Kansas.  I moved my family from a city of 12,000 to a church 13 miles SE of Hugoton.  What a change!  In order to supplement my income, I went to work for IGA Grocery Store in Hugoton.  One day a Black man came in to the store, very frail, having only one arm, and could hardly walk.  As I looked at him I wondered where I had seen him before.  That night it dawned on me that he was the Black man I had waited on as a teenager back in Vilas.  A few days later he came in to the store again and I asked him if he had ever cut broomcorn near Vilas years ago.  He responded that he had.  I said, “Do you remember a teenage kid who waited on you at the service station?”  He looked at me and said, “Junah, is that you?”  What a visit we had after more than 16 years.

More Poems from Grandma Bamber…

This is the 3rd of posts of Nellie Grover Bamber. It again is a true pleasure and honor to get to post these for my friend Nancy Hall Nelson. The image of Grandma Bamber printed on an early dot matrix printer is a piece of history in itself. The poems? Priceless. In the not so recent past I had a conversation with Nancy Hall Nelson about using her Grandma’s Poems in a compilation of I am working on, which will tell the story of the Dust Bowl primarily through the eyes of the Springfield Herald, 1930-1939. I will call that book, “The Dust Bowl: A View from Ground Zero”

Although they are not all dated, the poems which are dated were written over course of many years with the earliest dated 1935 (See Previous Blog post) and the most recent dated 1970. Per my conversation with Nancy I am pleased we get to share all of them here.

Growing up in Baca County by John Havens. Episode 9 part 2

   Dad and Uncle Tony always looked forward to a reunion at the Boise City Cemetery of the Havens and Snodgrass clan.  Then we went from Boise city to Guymon to place flowers on the grave of the 13 year old sister of my Dad’s and Uncle Tony.  She had died during the year the family had spent there.  Our Memorial Day trip brought us home by way of Elkhart.  In all my years of growing up I don’t recall we ever missed that trip.

   One Summer I got a job driving a gas delivery truck for Obed Hancock.  This gave me the opportunity to get acquainted with many farmers South of Walsh and Vilas.

    I shall never forget delivering gas to one farm where the farmer’s wife came out to where I was filling the barrels.  I had known this older couple many years.  She wanted to know if I would like a piece of fresh baked gooseberry pie.  Boy, that sounded good.  So she returned to the house and brought the pie out to me.  It looked so delicious and I could hardly wait to dig into it, but I took one bite and she noticed the expression on my face, then she said,  “O good Lord, I forgot to put any sugar in it.”  I shall never forget that experience.

   On one occasion while refilling my delivery truck with gas I heard someone yelling and screaming.  I soon discovered there was an elderly bachelor living in a small shack near the gas depot.  I went in to try and help him.  He had fallen and was unable to get up.  There were baby chickens running all over the floor and the stench was almost overwhelming.  I got him p and somehow got someone to come and care for him. I don’t know how the man could live in such unsanitary conditions.

   One last memory I will share was an experience that happened in 1940 when I was 14 years old. My Mother became one of the Census Takers for Baca County.  Her territory covered Vilas and much of the area South and West.  Since she would be driving on back country roads I persuaded her to let me go along and drive, since I was just beginning to drive at that age.  I learned where many people lived who came to Vilas to trade at Tony’s Market or Dad’s Service Station.

    After finishing her work in Vilas, we then went to Campo the Richards and Mt. Carmel Communities.  Even as a teenager it made me realize how many miles these people had to drive to get groceries, and even farther to see a Doctor in Springfield.  We didn’t have much in Vilas, but only a stone’s throw to a café or to get groceries, and just 10 miles to a doctor.  We take so many things for granted and forget to count our blessings.

   Memories keep flooding my mind of those days of Growing Up in Baca County.  The days of delivering papers, the Denver Post and the Grit, to homes in Vilas.  When every kid in town got together and played games all over town on a Summer evening.  The Butlers, the Walkers, the Williams, the Gordons and myself.  Then there was the Women’s softball Team, and in the Winter the Town Basket Ball Team. 

We can’t go back to the good old days, but how good it is to remember the experiences and our friends of the past who helped make life better for all of us.             John Havens,   age 90

Pratt, Kansas.

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