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.

The Noted Burying Ground: Boston, Colorado

The “Noted Burying Ground” or Boston, Colorado Cemetery shown in the Dec 2018 photo below is all that is left of what was Boston, Colorado of the Southeast Colorado plains.  There are two issues that must be clarified as we give you a bit of this story.

  1. The Southeast  plains reference is important as there was an 1880s mining town in Colorado also called Boston and if you search for “Boston, Colorado” that is what you are likely to find.
  2. The sign in the image below shows “1885” but the town was not platted and staked out until November of 1886.  
Boston Cemetery Dec, 2018

Old west stories often focus on brothels, lynchings, and gunslingers. The 1880s boom town Boston, Colorado, had all of those in excess from 1886-1889.  The town founders were counting on becoming the county seat of new Southeast Colorado County and hoped to catch the railroad. A country seat fight ensue and neither of those happened.  After a tumultuous 2 1/2 years and a classic old west gun battle in April 1889 the town was destroyed and subsequently abandoned. Though short-lived, Boston was home to a wide range of personalities in addition to the cowboys and outlaws.  The leadership of the town included the Jennings Gang before they went to Oklahoma and began robbing trains.


1889 Map incorrectly showing Boston as the County Seat of Baca County Colorado. Springfield won that County seat fight in 1889.

It was on the eve of November 15, 1886, several men stopped on the Southeast Colorado plains to stay overnight at the home of the Semion Konkel.  In this company, there was a Mr. Albert Hughes, Judge Jennings and his two sons Al and Ed. The next day the men traveled two miles south and eight west to a townsite which they surveyed and staked out, thus establishing the town of Boston Colorado.  Frontier newspaperman Sam Konkel joined the Hughes and Jennings to start and promote Boston. The town founders never intended for Boston to be a trail town or cow town. The town founders foresaw a grand and glorious hub which would catch the railroad and support commerce and agriculture in southeast Colorado.  Boston was home to mysterious murders and frequent shootings as well as homesteaders seeking free government land. Konkel’s motto “Land for the Landless and Homes for Homelss” was placed at the top of each issue of his newspaper as shown below,

Although their intentions might have been more civil,  the town descended into a place known for violence. The following story, told in more detail in my book Old Boston: As Wild As They Come, is a sample of what occurred in that place.  Another incident in September 1887 shows the dangers that lurked in this place.

“A saloon keeper of Boston, Colorado, was shot and instantly killed by an unknown man, on the morning of the 23rd.”.

This Garden City, Kansas newspaper report below indicates it had became known as the “Noted Burying Ground” Not a reputation a town wanting to entice settlers would want.  

In addition to those shot or lynched at Boston there is a record of wife of Ed Jennings, dying of typhoid fever.  It is not known for sure if she was buried in the Boston Cemetery. Ed was later shot and killed in Woodward OK, by Temple Houston, the youngest son of General Sam Houston.

Of those who were known to be part of the Boston story only two are part of the official record of those buried in the Boston Cemetery.  Barney Wright was shot in Vilas and died a few weeks later. Dr. Thomas Milligan stayed beyond the end of the town and ranched southeast of where the town was located.  For many years he was the only Physician in the county.

The demise of the town is shown as complete in the following report from April of 1889.  The Bill Thompson mentioned below was a regulator for the Prairie Cattle Company and is the subject of my current research and an upcoming book.

My cousin who still farms in the area tells the story about moving equipment from a field southeast of the townsite location.  To get to or from the noted field the most direct path was through said townsite location. When you were moving equipment home after working in the field if you got home and had a flat tire with a square nail in it you knew you had been through the Boston townsite.   Other than those nails the only remnant of the town is a building (below) which was likely a saloon. It was move to Vilas, Colorado after the depopulation, served as a store for a prominent local merchant, C. F. Wheeler, and now serves as that town’s museum.

The town site location at the intersection of County Roads T and 39 is shown in the image below with my cousin and I standing at what was the center of the town. On a rise to the northwest along County Road V sits the Boston Cemetery as a reminder of its violent past.

One of the cool things about writing a book is the cool notes you get from readers…

Learn more about Old Boston, Colorado in my books shown below, available at Amazon.com:

An 1887 Letter from Judge Jennings

Many of you are familiar with Judge JDF Jennings who was Vice President of the Boston or Atlantis (Colorado) Town Company from my book “Old Boston: As Wild As They Come.”    The Judge aka Judge Jennings aka John D.F. Jennings was a former plantation owner, an attorney, and a physician.  He served the Confederacy during the civil war as a surgeon. He is also often noted as the great “Orator” He was the father of Al, Ed, John and Frank Jennings. The following letter from the December 9, 1887 Trinidad Daily Citizen will provide a few more details about the Judge and daily life in Old Boston.

Header from letter written by Judge Jennings in the December 9, 1887 Trinidad Daily Citizen
Judge JDF Jennings

In the great rush of events time passes more rapidly than any of us imagine. It is nearly a month since I had the pleasure of listening to your goodly counsels, and yet it seems as only yesterday.

While i am writing the old winter King is on quite a tear. For the past few days the driving blizzard has howeled around our cottage homes, and our valleys and plains are enshrouded in a vast winding sheet of snow. Cold and blustering as it is, there is something in the falling snow and the hazy atmosphere around us that that reminds one of the winter among the grand old mountains, where you and I were born, and where we used to chase the fox and the swift footed deer.  Those were happy days brother.— free from care, free from  fear and with many bright visions floating before our youthful minds.  Have you any ideas that you and I will ever be as happy again?

Well Boston—the peerless—the beautiful—the law abiding, peaceful and quiet town that it is, is still growing, spreading and booming.  On the 24th ult. We celebrated our first anniversary, and a grad success it was. Just as daylight was peeping, something like the thunders of an earthquake shook the earth beneath us and caused us to spring from our beds in alarm.  We soon ascertained that the boys were on the rampage with dynamite bombs, which they exploded throughout the day and far into the night. I could not help thinking that those explosives were but the harbingers of Boston’s future; and that they would go thundering down the corridors of time until she shall become the great rival of our much loved sister — Trinidad.

From all points of the compass we are receiving cheering news of an enormous influx of home-seekers in early spring.  To day 128 lots changed hands, and some most excellent men from Kentucky have settled in Boston. They are all “A No. 1 Democrats.”

Judge Jennings Far Right

The surveying corps of the B.T. & G. W. railroad was driven by the cold snap, but will resume their survey as soon as the weather settles. They have completed their survey within 25 miles of Trinidad, and report that they have found the finest grade in Colorado; and 17 miles the shortest route ever yet made from the Kansas line westward.

W.O.P. McWorter, from Albany, Clinton county, Ky., purchased 14 lots in Boston to-day, and two shares in the Town Company.  His acquaintance say that he is worth a half million dollars. We are pleased to have such a man among us.

Our people are all standing the winter well, and are very hopeful of the future.

Our farmers are getting good ready for large crops the coming season.  If you will pay us a visit next fall you will find us all as happy as clams, and as game as fighting cocks.

I thank you kindly for the home thrust you gave those canting hypocrites who forced Dr. Kelley to recant his defense of Emma Abbot.  Kelley was right in the first instance, but showed himself a coward in the end.

All our people esteem the CITIZEN very highly, and if you will appoint Capt J. B. Parrot your agent in Boston, I have no doubt he will send you many subscribers.

A.Hughes and Mr. Houser started to Mexico to-day, with the foul intent of killing deer and buffalo meat, but we now have an abundance of venison.

There is no new town in eastern Colorado that esteems the people of Trinidad more highly than do the people of Boston.

With many good wishes for your future, I remain your friend.

“THE JUDGE.”

References

Photo’s Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Trinidad Daily Citizen, (Trinidad, Colorado) December 9, 1887

How about something different…like an Early Baca County Town Crossword

Well…here is something different. Here is an online version and a downloadable PDF. If you load the online version and refresh it may go away and you may have to delete your history or remove the cookies.

If the online version doesn’t work, try this downloadable PDF.

Good Luck

Dust Bowl Research Update: Origins of the term”Dust Bowl”, Maps and more

I have been collecting artifacts of the Dust Bowl as it relates to Baca County for awhile. My focus is compiling a resource that tells the “Dust Bowl” story from the perspective of the Baca County Newspaperman, in particular, Springfield Democrat Herald, Editor Ralph Williams.  

However, the research from other newspapers across the country is fascinating so I thought I would share a few tidbits that I have collected / or that am working on at this time.

The counties most often discussed in the “Dust Bowl” conversation surround Baca County so let’s begin with a 1954 U.S. Soil conservation service map which defines the worst erosion of the era.  In particular the following six counties are usually described as the most impacted counties of the Dust Bowl Story.  

Baca County Colorado

Cimarron County Oklahoma

Texas County Oklahoma

Morton County Kansas

Dallam County Texas

Union County New Mexico


The 1954 U.S. Soil conservation service map below provides a visual of the area.  

As such I have started collecting Newspaper Artifacts that discuss the Dust Bowl.  Here is chart which shows the enormity of the newspaper artifact data available on this topic.  The focus of this search was the term “Dust Bowl” in conjunction with the terms in the chart. Other terms such as “Dirty Thirties” and  “Black Blizzard” have been reviewed. There is also a good deal of overlap. Again, I am showing your this to show the enormity of the data available on this topic.

Origins of the Term “Dust Bowl”

Next,  let’s look at the term “Dust Bowl.”   The term dustbowl is usually attributed to Associated Press Editor Edward Stanley.  Associated Press reporter Robert E. Geiger, out of Denver, happened to be in Boise City, Oklahoma, to witness the “Black Sunday” black blizzards of April 14, 1935.

It is usually stated Stanley, Kansas City news editor of the Associated Press coined the term “Dust Bowl” while rewriting Geiger’s news story. While the term “the Dust Bowl” was originally a reference to the geographical area affected by the dust, today it usually refers to the event itself

The term was first used over a year prior to Stanley using it, although his use of the term began the widespread use of the term.  So who really coined the term? You decide.


Caribou County Sun (Soda Springs, Idaho) · 2 Feb 1934.



The News-Palladium (Benton Harbor, Michigan) · 5 Aug 1934.

Maps of the Dust Bowl


The Kane Republican (Kane, Pennsylvania) · 28 Mar 1936.



The Beaver Press (Beaver, Utah) · 20 Oct 1938.



Daily News (New York, New York) · 21 Aug 1938.


Daily News (New York, New York) · 28 Feb 1936.


The Evening Review (East Liverpool, Ohio) · 15 Dec 1939.



Iron County Record (Cedar City, Utah) · 18 Jan 1940



Sunday Journal and Star (Lincoln, Nebraska) · 20 May 1956.


Kliesen City, Colorado’s Namesake

As is normal, I was looking for something else when I discovered the namesake of another long gone Baca County Colorado town.  Mostly what we know about Kliesen City is that it was located north of the tracks, north of Vilas, Colorado. The present day Konkel lollipop factory is just south of what was Kliesen City.

Location of Kliesen City, Colorado.

A couple of our members have shared parts the story of Kliesen City Lonnie Kerr helped us out first.  His grandmother was Alice Brown who was married to Kenneth (Jap) Brown (Bert’s son). Alice was also Kathy Maestas’ mother.

Here is the rest of what we have found out. While perusing early 1930 -1932 issues of the Democrat Herald I first found the ads below  I don’t really think of there being a north Vilas so it caught my attention. A little later I found the January 1932 Obit for Bert Brown which said he owned a dance hall and a filling station in Kliesen City.  A couple different people posted the Baca Club tokens from Kliesen City. Here is a gallery of the artifacts we have collected about Kliesen City.

Above are the old foundations from Kliesen City and the old toppled flag pole.

The first ad above is a May 1932 ad for a dance. The middle picture is the faded glory of the old Kliesen City dance floor. The second ad is a June 1930 ad for the dance in north Vilas aka Kliesen City.  

Here is the tale of the guy Kliesen City is named for.  The January 12, 1951 issue of “The Catholic Advance,” provides us the following.

Answering repeated requests of his grandchildren for a reproduction in miniature of the Bethlehem story, W. P. Kliesen, of Dodge City, 82-year-old veteran of the western plains, designed and constructed a miniature church and two cribs. The church and one crib he erected on the lawn of the home of his daughter, Mrs. Gorden Day, at 1707 Avenue A, and the other crib he erected at the home of his second daughter, Mrs. Ernest Mussemann, at 1610 Avenue C. Dodge City folks passing the displays would rub their eyes and look again at the brilliantly lighted miniature church, not sure but what their eyesight was deceiving them. They would drive on to the corner of the street, turn and drive slowly back to take another look. Often they stopped to examine the fairyland church more carefully. About 2,500 people visited the wonderful work during the Christmas holidays.

Gem-Like Church

The brilliantly lighted diminutive church is complete in every detail from the bell in the belfry to the collection box ready for passing to the congregation. A loudspeaker installed in the little church plays Christmas music.

The church is 33 inches high’, 36 inches long, and 17 inches wide, but in spite of its small :size is sturdy. Mr. Kliesen spent two and a half months building it.  Now he thinks it would be simpler to build a life-sized one. The tiny house of worship is “furnished completely with all church equipment. It is even wired for electricity, making possible an illuminated cross atop the building. Statues of the Blessed Virgin and St. Anthony flank the altar with candles in place and the altar book open for services. The painting above the altar pictures the Crucifixion of Christ and is a copy by Mrs. V. C. McKinley of the altar mural in Sacred Heart church here. Statues of St. Therese and the Sacred Heart are toward the front of the church with the stations of the cross on either side. Small figures of the priest in vestments, the altar boys in cassocks, the kneeling nuns and those attending Mass, seem to inspire visitors to join in an unsaid prayer for world peace.

Beautiful Cribs

The cribs Mr. Kliesen built are beauties. They too are complete in every detail. There is one star over Bethlehem brighter than the others and there are the Wise Men it guided to the place of Jesus’ birth. The hills of Judea, another product of Mr. Kliesen’s skill, he covered with painted burlap. At their foot he unfolds the scene of Christ’s birth. There are Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and Joseph, 4he camels, and other realistic figures to depict the religious story. Veteran Grain Dealer Mr. Kliesen at 82 is alert and interested in world events and appears much younger than he is. He has weathered many years of ups and downs in the wheat and grain business from his record in 1916 of buying at $3.24 per bushel to the low of 24 cents in 1931. He has experienced three depressions and says he has been broke as many times.” He entered the Cherokee strip race of 1893 and staked a claim near Manchester, Okla., where he built a sod house the following year and lived there for several years. The development of the Cimarron Valley branch of the Santa Fe railroad moved him to build an elevator at Copeland in 1912. He later built an elevator in Sayre, another at Sublette in 1913, and one at Feterita in 1915. In 1927 a development company staked a new town near Vilas and called it Kliesen City, expecting to attract the Kliesen and other business interests of Vilas. Some of the buildings still stand. Kliesen City is little more than a ghost town. i Believing that he is proof of the truth in Horace Greeley’s advice “Go west, young man, go west,” Mr. Kliesen has helped numerous young men to prove the same theory by furnishing seed, land, and , machinery for a farm venture. He now owns land in Wichita county, and in Baca, Cheyenne, Crowley and Kiowa counties, Colo., and has produced as much as 100,000 bushels of wheat. He personally supervised farming operations on all the land until his 80th birthday two years ago when he presented deeds for land to each of his children and grandchildren. He said it was not only a Christmas gift, but a plan to “get himself out of a little work.” The Kliesens are prominent members of Sacred Heart parish.


W. P. Kliesen
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