Sam Konkel: The Writer

Sam Konkel was the editor of one of the two Boston Colorado Newspapers, The Boston World (1886-1889) and later the Springfield Herald /Springfield Democrat Herald (1913-1930).  It was in 1918 -1919 during this time in Springfield where he relived and wrote during the stories of his time in Boston, which we used as the foundation for our book “Old Boston”.   When he wrote, he often signed the column with the moniker, “The Writer.”

We have used Konkel’s content in many ways the past few years, even adapting his salutatory address from when he purchased the Springfield Herald in 1913 to our Salutatory when we purchased the Herald in 2019.  

In the years following Boston, Sam and his brother Joe moved on to Lyons, Kansas and ran the Lyons Democrat for a couple years.  It was was after the Lyons years that 

Konkel was a very prolific writer, but during the decade of the 1890s you do not find much of his work in the various newspaper databases.  It was during this time he was back east, found his bride and for a time was teaching school. 

However, when he moved back to Eagle Ranch in Southeast Colorado he began to write again. From about 1906 until 1913 when he bought the Springfield Herald, Sam Konkel wrote extensively about farming in the west. 

There is an interesting reference to a December 1913 article Sam wrote for Farm & Fireside magazine.   Farm & Fireside was a semi-monthly national farming magazine that was established in 1877 and was published until 1939. It was based in Springfield, Ohio.  Again this is a reference to the article.  I have searched eBay, Amazon and a few other sources  for a copy of the original 1913 issue, but have not been able to obtain it thus far.

It was the original magazine for what eventually became the Crowell-Collier Publishing Company.  From 1918 to 1923 several of the covers of this magazine were illustrated by Norman Rockwell. 

In February 1930, it was renamed The Country Home in an attempt to compete with Better Homes and Gardens.

The Leader-Democrat (Richfield, Kansas) · 28 Aug 1886, Sat · Page 3
The Leader-Democrat (Richfield, Kansas) · 04 Sep 1886, Sat · Page 3
The Leader-Democrat (Richfield, Kansas) · 23 Oct 1886, Sat · Page 3

Much of Konkel’s writing 1906 – 1913 is dedicated to observing farming endeavors in Southeast Colorado, asking questions about growing certain types of plants/crops  as well as tips and tricks for the farm. Much of the work was originally published in either the Kansas Farmer and Mail and Breeze or the Missouri Valley Farmer.  It was then republished elsewhere, usually smaller papers in Kansas, however,  some of the articles were printed far and wide across the country.  There is even one instance where he was quoted in the Chicago Tribune. 

Over time we have continued to collect Konkel’s work.  His writing provides unique insight to the people, nature, climate, crops, and farming methods in early Baca County.  It indeed tells the story of pre-county and early day Baca County.  Some of our upcoming research and stories will utilize some of this content and will be presented in the pages of the print Herald and behind the paywall of the online PlainsmanHerald.com, while other pieces will be pushed out via Baca County History.com and our social media platforms.  

Check out this announcement on PlainsmanHerald.com to learn more of our 2022 history projects.

Missouri Valley Farmer (Atchison, Kansas) · 1 Aug 1906, Wed · Page 3

To the right is an example of Konkel’s work during this time. There is much much more like this.

Since we are writing about Sam, we might as well use one of his closings… 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.  

Indianapolis, Colorado – Est. 1887.

In the 1880s Americans were moving in droves to the Western frontier. Waves of migrants were inspired by the promises of cheap land and riches, Following the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869, the journey west became considerably easier. Many entrepreneurs and private town  companies began heavily advertising real estate, investment and tourism opportunities in the West.  Indianapolis, Colorado was one of those places.

Sam Konkel, editor of the Boston World 1887-1889 and the Springfield Herald 1913-1930 mentions Indianapolis, Colorado several times in his 1918 -1919 Springfield Herald articles.  It appears from his writings there was a fairly close connection to the Boston Town Company, of which Konkel was a part. What do we know about Indianapolis?  Most of the town residents were from Meade, Kansas.  Three town blocks were reserved for churches and two for public schools.

It had a newspaper, the Indianapolis Journal which Konkel mentions. 

It had one citizen, Catherine Colver Williams who was a proponent of Women’s Suffrage.   

Evening Star (Washington, District of Columbia) 10 Jan 1889

It had some troubles, as was common in those old towns. 

June 18, 1887 Minneapolis, Minnesota Star Tribune

Most references to Indianapolis, such as the one below are from Meade, Kansas.

Meade County Democrat (Meade, Kansas) 25 Jun 1887 
Meade County Democrat (Meade, Kansas) 25 Jun 1887 
Meade County Democrat (Meade, Kansas) 3 Jan 1890. 

What I really didn’t notice until now that Indianapolis was another town the Boston Town Company was hoping to become a county seat along with Boston, Carrizo, Albany and Brookfeld. The town is usually mentioned in listing of new towns starting up in 1887 similar to the one Konkel shares with us in the paragraphs below which are extracted from. 

“Persons, Stories and Incidents of Old Boston and the Old Days.” Springfield Herald, July 5, 1918.

The Town Building Fever -It is a cold day when some new town doesn’t start up in south-eastern Colorado.  In the short space of four months, there have been seventeen towns laid out south of the railroad and east of Trinidad.  They are in the order of their ages –Boston, Albany, Vilas, Carrizo, Springfield, Minneapolis, Humbar, York, Farmington, Wilde, Holmes, Indianapolis, Athens, Bloomington, Brookfield, Plymouth, and Randal — Western World, April 21, 1887.  Konkel also provided the following: Mr. Konkel editor and proprietor of the Western World published at Boston Colorado, visited Indianapolis last week.  We were very much pleased to meet Mr. Konkel who is a gentleman of culture, education and experience, and a valuable man  for Boston. While here he was a guest at the Aultman hotel of which he spoke of in the highest terms, he further said Indianapolis was the best town for its age he had saw in the west –Clipping from the Indianapolis Journal in Western World, October 1887.

The item is a little shy on grammar, but, laying modesty aside, the facts as we remember them now were about as stated.

Indianapolis was located about thirty miles west of Carrizo, something like ten to fifteen miles west and south of the present Kim, having the Black Mesa frowning at it from the east and Mesa De Mayo looking down at it from the rear.

Do you know, we’ve been out in that country several times in the last few years and looked for that old town site and couldn’t find it, nor could we find anybody out there that ever heard of it. 

We would say there were about two or three dozen houses at Indianapolis when we were there.  The hotel was two story. For the reason that Boston fathered the town we have a special interest in it.  

The object of Boston was to make counties about the size of those in Kansas — about thirty miles square, hence Boston, Carrizo and Indianapolis were to be county seats of three counties carved out of Las Animas, and Albany and Brookfield of two counties carved out of Las Animas, Prowers and Bent counties. 

All of these towns were promoted by the Boston Town Co.

As there was no settlement of any kind left in that country, we are presuming the houses were pulled down to the Cimarron, though some of them may have followed the example of Elijah and have gone straight up along with their newspaper, the Indianapolis Journal.

The ad below is from the Meade Globe (Meade, Kansas) 9 Apr 1887.  NOTE they reference the San Luis Valley as the location.  We have transcribed the text in the box following the ad. 

—Ho for Indianapolis. Is everybody going? It looks that was as quite a number of our citizens have been to see and say that the that the San Louis valley, in which Indianapolis is located, is the finest they ever saw, and hun-dreds more are going even from this our lovely locality, to get homes and and make money.   Indianapolis was located about the 13th of March, 1887, by a company of gentlemen from Meade and Seward counties in what is known as the San Luis Valley, 31 miles east from Trinidad, Colorado, where coal is worth from 80 cents to one dollar a ton, flour $2 per hundred, lumber $5 to $16 a thousand and every thing in proportion, and where you are in plain view of the snow caped Rocky Mountains, plenty of timber, water and building stone. The valleys are surrounded by skirts of timber and abound in running streams, where the finest soil for farming purposes was ever under the sun. The Company is composed of gentlemen of the first class under whose management Indianapolis can’t help but prosper and grow fat. The capital stock of the company is limited to fourteen thousand dollars, by its incorporation, divided into 280 shares of $50 each. The stock being worth its face value, and no doubt every share could be so disposed in Meade Center, but that the company refuses to dispose of it as they are quite jealous of their new enterprise. Never before in the history of the west has emigration reached the proportions it is at present assuming. 

The (mostly unreadable) town ad (below)  for  Indianapolis was in the Boston World (Boston, Colorado) Thurs March 8, 1888. 


Boston World (Boston, Colorado) Thurs March 8, 1888. 
See more Boom Town maps here:

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


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.

Sam Konkel’s take on the Al Jenning’s “Fishy” Autobiography.

In Old Boston: As Wild As They Come we tell the story of many of the characters of the that short-lived (1886-1889) and wild Colorado Boomtown, Boston, Colorado.  The key resource for this story are the 1918-1919 writings of Sam Konkel, who ran one of two newspapers in that town.  Konkel told us much about the Jennings family before they gained a bit of fame and notoriety in Oklahoma.  Konkel would tell you the Jennings were talented, but of low moral character.

In 1913 a seven-part series was written and published in the Saturday Evening Post by a journalist, Will Irwin along with  Al Jennings, of that Boston family. Telling the tales of Jennings and the Jennings clan. I have noted their time in Boston is but a couple short paragraphs in both the “Post” series and the book.  That story then became a book by the same name “Beating Back” in 1914. Below is the first page of the series which became the book as well as the cover of the book. Also please note the illustrator of the book, who was non-other than the famed western artist, Charles Marion Russell.  

Per a 2014 Saturday Evening Post story which recalls the 1913 Jennings series,

“The storyline in the Jennings’ story had all the qualities of popular melodrama. A proud young man turns outlaw after his brother is killed and the law does nothing to bring the killer to justice. He becomes a fearless train robber but remains chivalrous and fair-minded. Eventually, he is betrayed, shot, captured, and tried. Sentenced to life imprisonment, he refuses to be intimidated by other prisoners or prison officials. His fearlessness and quick wit earned him the reputation of a man who can be trusted. Then a high-ranking politician befriends him and helps him obtain a pardon. Returning to the West he starts life over, and runs for office—the bad boy who makes very good.”

In 1913 Sam Konkel purchased the Springfield Newspaper and became the biggest promoter of the most southeast county in Colorado until he sold the publication in 1930, just prior to the beginning of the 1930’s Dust Bowl.  

Konkel gave us other bits and pieces of the Boston story throughout his tenure as the publisher of the Springfield paper.  Many others have mocked Al Jennings as the most incompetent train robber ever. I think Konkel would disagree with the incompetent part as he always complimented their talent and their courage.  However he also always stated that the troubles they encountered were of their own making as a result of low moral character and a continual state of looking out for no one than themselves.

In the Sept 19, 1913 issue of the  Springfield Democrat-Herald Konkel notes the Jennings being featured in the “Saturday Evening Post,” but seems very skeptical of the Jenning autobiography with statements such as the following,

There are over two pages of the prologue, and in an early issue it is promised the real story as told by Al (Forney of Boston) will begin. Not much comment at this time is required.  In the prologue Al claims to have run away from home when eleven years old, and to have drifted into Colorado and New Mexico and become a full-fledged cowboy.  The Jennings were identified with old Boston and went out penniless as did many others.  During the time they were there no one, as far as the writer knows, ever heard of Al’s cowboy experience, or his having run away from home.  They all told of their show experience, in which they were sometimes a foot and sometimes horseback; and also of Al’s cadet experience, which probably had a duration of one or two years. The most of Al’s story, as presented in this prologue, is fishy.  However, the Jenningses were talented, and while their morals were of a low order, there wasn’t any questioning their courage.The old judge was not only a lawyer and a doctor, but he was an orator whom it is doubtful if the state of Colorado at the time had a better.  If his life had been along moral lines he would have been a potent political factor in any place he would have cast his lot.

In January 1914 Konkel says,

As to Forney’s autobiographical sketch in the the Saturday Evening Post, there was a basis for all he says, but you would have to scrape the face-powder off to find it.”

The Saturday Evening Post series did bring together a couple of Bostonians to swap stories of the old days.  One of the first stories in the Democrat-Herald (Sept 19, 1913) was after the publication of the Saturday Evening Post Series,

Register Whitaker and wife came down from Lamar Saturday and visited among the Springfielders over Sunday.  Gene is an old timer of the old-timers, having been an inhabitant of the town of old Boston during the hog-killing days of its wild and woolly existence along with the editor of this paper, having practically fought, bled and died in the interest of that famous town.  Of course, Mr. Whitaker called to talk over those red letter days, brought up incidentally by a reference to the Jennings family biography recently published in the Saturday Evening Post. Naturally, for two Bostonians to get together is like the meeting of two old war vets — they can talk about it hours at a time, either sitting down or standing up and enjoy it just the same as if they were acting and living it all over again.

“Beating Back” by Will Irwin and Al Jennings is in the public domain and part of the Google Book Digitization project if you want to read the Autobiography of Al Jennings click here to access the free copy. 

It is also available from the Saturday Evening Post by clicking here.  

You can learn more about Al the rest of the Jennings clan in  Old Boston: Wild As They Come which is available on Amazon.  If you want to support this project so that we can keep more historical books coming, check out our website www.lonesomeprairie.com for information on ordering signed copies of the book and historical shirts such as the one below from Boom Town Gear.

 

The Digital Campfire of Social Media and How it Sparked a Book Project

Greetings from an unseasonably mild but windy Casper Wyoming.  I have a little bit of reflection and a couple of messages related to a local history blog, social media,  and the sparks that lit a book project about one of the wildest little towns of the old west.   Four years ago,  I launched Bacacountyhistory.com.  At that time I stated,

Maybe this project stops with a few blog posts and a couple of tall tales, or maybe we can transform the content into an update of the big brown Baca County History book from the early 1980’s.  

Here we are four years later with a great collection of blog posts from multiple folks.  In conjunction with this blog is a realization on my part of how powerful social media can be for recording and sharing local history.  The primary social media tool I am speaking of for this post is Facebook.  Over the past few years, an ever-increasing number of members in two different Facebook groups have provided a continual stream of memories about the place where I grew up, Baca County, Colorado as well as surrounding areas in Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma Panhandle and the Lamar, Colorado regions. Those Facebook groups have been a primary catalyst for more than one of those blog posts

I usually end up coming back to some technology angle since my day job as the Computer Director at Casper College, usually pushes me that direction.   I must say that beyond the sharing of  history of the county where I grew up, the technological application and interaction of the Baca County Facebook community and its members fascinates me to the “nth degree”  

On the negative side
Social media and digital social networking isn’t for everyone. However, it is such a massive part of all our lives; whether we embrace or reject the media, it is not to be ignored. I don’t want to get too much into the negative aspects of social media other than acknowledging they are there and that I sometimes can’t believe what I see,  Usually, on the negative side I am thinking….”What is wrong with these people?”    

On the positive side
I have grown to think of our Facebook groups as a digital campfire. That descriptor was given to me by Technology/ Geek Rock Star and friend Wes Fryer.  For a moment assume a digital campfire is a gathering place where a whole lot of folks who are in a whole lot of different places in life have found common ground.  The fire is a place to gather together and swap a few tales and warm up before having to get up go out and face that cold, cold world.  If this is true, then the folks where I grew up have found a digital campfire with Facebook.  To them, all I can say is….”you all have done good!” 

On the positive side I find it fascinating that it’s entirely possible to have hundreds of friends on Facebook. They may not be friends I know on a personal level and spend time with in the real world on a daily or weekly basis. But they’re friends nonetheless. Some are childhood friends, some childhood heroes, and some college acquaintances I have reconnected with.  Some I spent a whole lot of time with, and there are several people I consider friends who I have never met face to face— some I probably will never meet  — but that doesn’t lessen the connection we have made these recent years thanks to social networks.  

I waffle back and forth on whether face to face contact to the phone might be better for conversation but the true advantage of how we are connecting on these Facebook groups is that we can use these tools on our terms.  As individuals or time is stretched to greater lengths by work and family commitments. However, social media offers a chance to communicate speedily and efficiently.

With a phone call, for example, you can’t just say what you want to say and then hang up. That would breach phone etiquette and be seen as downright rude. Instead, with a phone call you have to swap pleasantries before saying what you want to say, and then swap more pleasantries before the conversation comes to a close. Sometimes we may describe it as cold, but it certainly provides some efficiencies that allow for interaction with more people than maybe we were able to in the past.

Facebook has allowed us to share interests with others who have those same interests, such as a shared county history.  Facebook, does for example when preparing to connect us asks you to list interests. This makes it much easier to find common ground with other users.

This release of info does require the sharing of information, and in the process giving up a degree of privacy, which is cause for some people to reject social media outright. Keeping key personal information private is necessary, but sharing likes, dislikes, interests, thoughts, and views contribute, it could be argued, to an open society.

As with most things in life, there are pros and cons.  When used in moderation, with checks and balances on how younger people, in particular, are using them, social networking sites are just a tool.  What is our hearts often is what comes out, so we all need to be wary of how these tools are used.  

So what is the book that has been sparked?  For me personally, the journey is not yet a Baca County History book update (although I still think it is a good idea) as was originally thought four years ago.   But instead it has become a more focused book  I am calling, “Boston: Wild As They Come” with a two-part goal, which is first, to tell the story of the now extinct town of Boston Colorado and second to celebrate frontier newspaperman Sam Konkel who has given us a great historical treasure 100 years past its the original publication.  He wrote a series of newspaper articles which provides us what he remembered of those old days.  One social media conversation led to another and another and then a trip to the Baca County Museum and then……Yes, this project really is a new real-life tale about the old west in 1886 Southeast Colorado.  And to answer your question…no it is not historical fiction.  It is those actual events and people of that old time town.

I am not sure I would have gotten involved in this book project without social media, but at this point, we are on track for a late spring 2018 launch.  I have several angry stabby editors blazing away at the narrative and hopefully, I’ll be ready soon to tell everyone when pre-launch sales will open. It has also sparked a couple of side projects that could easily develop into another book or two.    To provide a bit more of an idea about what I am doing with this book project,  I have provided the book cover, a brief description of the story and my Table of Contents as is stands today, (February 2018).

Boston 1886
On the eve of November 15, 1886,  four members of the Atlantis Town Company stopped on the Southeast Colorado plains preparing to stake out and establish Boston, Colorado.  Though short-lived, (1886-1892) Boston was home to personalities ranging from common homesteaders, flat earth advocates, cowboys, and outlaws including the Jennings Gang before they became famous in Oklahoma.  Frontier newspaperman Sam Konkel joined the joined the town company to promote Boston and described it as “The Utopian City of the Plains.” Old Boston was built to catch the railroad and support commerce and agriculture in southeast Colorado but it quickly became one of the wildest little towns on the American old west frontier.

Book Cover

Click the book cover to purchase on Amazon.com/ Thanks.

Draft Copy of Old Boston Table of Contents February 2018

Note: This post is cross-posted at my tech blog kentbrooks.com

The Sidewalks of Old Boston

The Springfield Herald had a regular series in 1918 called “Persons, Stories, and Incidents of Old Boston and the Old Days.”  The episode author is listed as “The Writer” who is actually Sam Konkel.  

Left: Sam Konkel   Middle: Sam Konkel 188ish   Right Sam Konkel 1930ish

Photos courtesy of Zaylan Konkel

The October 19, 1918, edition of the series was titled “Sidewalks”.  The thing that’s interesting about Sam Konkel to me is was in Boston as the publisher of the Western World during its entire existence. It is noted in this article he left the country in 1889.   The 15-year return to a ride through Old Boston corresponds to his return in 1905 to run the Springfield Herald which later became the Democrat Herald.  I bet the silence he mentions up returning was amazing as he was there during its wild lively days.  His recollections are very important to the history of Old Baca County as his was a first-hand account of those days.    This story goes as follows:

Now we will have the sidewalks – see ordinance. This time the city has the contract and will put down the walks if the citizens fail to do so. Sixty days and we will be the only new town except Lamar in Eastern Colorado, with complete sidewalks. We will have another Jubilee then — World August 2nd, 1888.

Jas. D. Newton Saturday brought in the first load of native lumber that has found its way to our town. Dr. Brown ordered the lumber for sidewalks. It’s made from hard pitch Pine about 10 miles south of Troy and sells there at $18.00 per thousand feet. — Western World August 19th, 1888.

To have real sidewalks in those days or something the holler about.  The town wasn’t 2 years old so the sidewalks were really a wonderful achievement, and Boston, of course, is pretty well “blowed up” over it.

The walks we believe were 8 feet wide and extended 4 blocks on Main Street and 2 on 9th Avenue.

The city put down the sidewalks. We presume some of the lot owners paid for the walk collected as payment on that lumber.

In case the parties were to wait for their money till collected as taxes, on the lots, we are not presuming the lumber was ever paid for, as the town and the whole country went to the dogs the next spring, the good people not stopping about such little things as paying the taxes before going.

The writer left the country in May of 1889.  At the sidewalks were still there — as standing (laying or lying) monuments to the industry and enterprise of the good new town; or shall we say as a satire on the stranded hopes and ambitions of those who just a few days before had seen the star of their destiny in the west and had moved to carve an empire out of the country to which the star led them.  And of course old Boston was all there at the time.  

Fifteen years later the writer rode down the Main street of old Boston and do you know, the first thing we thought of was those sidewalks — and they were gone — everything was gone.  

On Nov. 1887, the Boston city council solemnly ordained an ordinance entitled — “To prevent Removal of Town Property.”

But here in the face of that ordinance, solemnly ordained, all the hooks, ladders and buckets belonging to the town were gone, the sidewalks were gone — and the whole durned town was gone.  

What had become of the hooks, ladders and buckets? What had become of the town? And the people — where were all the people?

The thing that probably impressed us most as we rode into and stopped in the center of that old town — was the awful stillness.

Of course we knew before riding into the town that everything was gone, but the feeling of that awful stillness in the center of that town was as if the good people of that good old town had met with some nihilating world catastrophy, and all it’s people were then sleeping beneath what was once it’s lively thoroughfares.

But the sidewalks — bless your sweet life, we never did learn will let them rest.

Something else next week.

Known All Over Creation and Down in Arkansas as The Great County Builder: Sam Konkel

The more I dig into the history of Baca County, the more I appreciate Sam Konkel’s contributions to the development of early Baca County.  He started the “Western World” paper in Old Boston and ran it throughout the three years Boston existed. He left the county for several years before returning to the high plains of Baca County  and was maybe the most vocal promoter of Baca County  from 1913 to 1930.  I love his work in 1918 and 1919 when he ran a series retelling stories of Old Boston, early Vilas and more.  We learn a lot about the people of that era from him.  That work is significant because he was in Boston and saw it throughout its short and wild existence.  When I have posted stories such as “Tioga County” and “Some More Old Vilas” Sam Konkel is the “The Writer”   Sam Konkel called himself the “Great County Builder” publishing Baca County maps and promotional materials that were sent nationwide.

His efforts were certainly played a part in the population in the 1930 census being the largest in the county’s history (See Summary Chart Below).

He owned several newspapers as shown in the clipping below but his work and passion was Baca County.

His work laid a great foundation for work that was done later  by J. R. Austin, Ike Osteen and others.   Now there is the irony that all of this County Building optimism was a precursor to the most difficult decade in the history of our country. 

Saying Goodbye to our 1000 Readers
June 19, 1930

After Seventeen years it is no small task to say the parting words to old friends and acquaintances, as which the Great County Builder looks upon its thousand readers, some of whom have been subscribers of this great family journal since its first issue in 1887– forty-three years ago.

How time does fly! It has been 44 years since the editor started the Western World at old Boston and seventeen years since taking over the old Springfield Herald–1913–and eleven years since the consolidation with the Baca County Democrat, it then becoming the present Democrat Herald.

We have seen during this time the most wonderful growth of any purely agricultural city in the world, it gradually developed from a berg of a couple dozen unpainted buildings and a population of something like fifty souls, also at that time mostly unpainted and unvarnished, and  little hinky-dinky stores with a handful each of goods– to a city of 1,400 people with a hundred businesses and professional places in the town and mercantile establishments securing stocks of thousands and tens of thousands of dollars worth of goods, some of them actually upward of $50,000 and not sure but the one of them as mere $100,000

During the 17 years the editor has never lost an opportunity to boost for his Town & Country, and believe that we have played no small part in the upbuilding of both, and giving to both the publicity that is made them the most favorably talked of units in the whole last both at home and abroad, and the publicity as a matter of course Accounting for the wonderful transformation of both City and country, has above at line.

The editor believes in the internal law of right, and believes that right — regardless of where it is found, or by what body of man it is promulgated. Believe that right should be the Eternal Rock of one’s convictions, and it should be their policy to “know that they are right” and then go ahead.

With this policy is a guide, we have chosen the party nearest our convictions and in our activities that direction have sometimes stirred up some little resentment among the hot ones on the other side, though among these very ones we can right now count some of our very best friends.

At this stage you want to say that we have the firm Faith to believe the both Springfield and back and County are just now at the threshold, and it inside of 5 years Springfield will be the leading town of the Southwest, and that air that time the Democrat-Herald will become a daily and probably leading daily of the Southwest.

At this splendid outlook we have sold Democrat-Herald to I. C. Ross of Dodge City Kansas and have done so for the soul and whole reason that we have reached the stage in life where the strenuons is no longer appealing and we choose to extend our efforts in other directions that will not call so imperatively for our personal attention; and further than this deponent sayeth not at the present time except to announce that we are not contemplating shaking the dust off our town and country off our feet, though one cannot tell what the future will bring forth.

Having said these words of our self, we want to introduce to you the new owner, Mr. I.C. Ross and his establishment of Dodge City Kansas.

Mr. Ross has won his spurs in the newspaper arena, though not having been active in the harness for a few years. It is a right old saying that having once been in “ink slinging” business period after being out of it a while the fingers begin to tingle for the quill or some other ink slinging device, — now mostly in the shape of typewriters and linotypes and so it was with Mr. Ross.

Mr. Ross for a few years has been running a large job office (a kind of third cousin to a newspaper office)e in Dodge City, finally yielded to the law of journalistic and having visited Springfield several times and seen something of its wonderful development, decided that this was the ideal town for his new journalistic venture–that being the how of this absquatultary  and the introduction of Mr. Ross as the new Great County Builder ramroder.

Thanking both our subscribers and the businessman of Springfield for their favor and liberal patronage and asking the extension to the same to our live-wire successor, we remain yours for a greater Baca County and a greater Springfield.

S.M. Konkel