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.  

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

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.

Sam Konkel’s Map of Southeast Colorado Stagecoach Routes 1887-1889

A couple years ago I found a copy of Sam Konkel’s Southeast Colorado Stagecoach map in terrible condition.  The quality was so poor it was basically useless and it led me to the development of the 1886-1889 Boom Town map located here in a previous blog post. However,  in my last visit to Baca County, I stumbled upon the best copy of the map I have seen.   I will post here a few pieces of the stage line puzzle I have pulled together and the map (below).

March 5 1887 Bent County Register

There were at least two stage lines between Lamar and Springfield in the 1887-1889 time frame, the W. H. Harris Stage and the Cal Ferguson Stage.  Cal Ferguson was part of the Windsor Town Company that started Springfield and represented Springfield in the Colorado legislature during the fight for the county seat of Baca County.

There was also a stage coming from Syracuse, KS headed southwest into Baca County ( click here to read the story of how they built a plank road to get the stage out of the sand in the Arkansas River basin to the flat solid prairie).  There was also a Stage Line from Richfield, KS. to Boston, CO.  We have the following artifacts:

“Stage Line. W. H. Harris stage leaves Lamar Tuesdays and Fridays, at eight o’clock in the morning, for Farmington, Springfield and Boston.  He will run a daily line in a short time.  32tf.”
Bent County Register (Lamar Colorado) Jan 29 1887 Library of Congress

“Daily stages are how running from Lamar and Granada (to Boston)”
The Leader-Democrat (Richfield, Kansas) · 26 Feb 1887, Sat · Page 3

“C.S. Reed has purchased the Boston and Richfield stage line and is now running hacks regulary, tri-weekly.”
The Leader-Democrat (Richfield, Kansas) · 05 Mar 1887, Sat · Page 3

“Arrangements have been completed for a stage line from West Plains, Meade county via., Richfield to Boston Colorado.”
Ashland Clipper (Ashland, Kansas) · 12 Apr 1888, Thu · Page 1

“News reached here this evening by the driver of the Ferguson Stage Line that Boston, a new town of 500 inhabitants, 100 miles south of here and 85 miles of the railroad and telegraph line, had been taken possession of by a gang of outlaws.” (YES, IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE YOU HAVE TO BUY MY BOOK)
Medicine Lodge Cresset (Medicine Lodge, Kansas) · 18 Apr 1889, Thu · Page 2

“Ed. Allen came in from the East Monday and loading his sample cases on eastbound stage flew out on Wednesday. On this trip, he will go to the end of the road and then follow the furrom for 50 or 100 miles until he arrives at the new town of Corriso in Colorado.  Ed has an interest in the new town and will help boom it.”
Medicine Lodge Cresset (Medicine Lodge, Kansas) · Thu, Mar 17, 1887 · Page 3

So with all of that as the lead…here is Sam Konkel’s Stagecoach map of early Southeast Colorado (1887-1889) from the January 8, 1915, Springfield Democrat-Herald.  Enjoy!

I have added lines to emphasize the stage routes.

The Leader-Democrat (Richfield, Kansas) · 05 Nov 1887, Sat · Page 1

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The Town Boom Years in Southeastern Colorado 1886-1889: A Map

Sometimes it is hard to understand old forgotten towns.  Especially since we don’t always know where they are located in relationship to present day landmarks and towns. The map in this post contains the towns which popped up in the area as well as towns that were connected.  For example, many settlers rode the train to Granada or Lamar and then rode the stage south to get to the communities in what would soon be Baca County. I believe every single community on the map below is mentioned at least once by Sam Konkel.

Kansas towns of Hugo (now Hugoton) and Woodsdale greatly influenced the early development of Southeast Colorado as the infamous County Seat wars of Kansas, specifically the “Haystack Massacre” was a symbol of the bloodshed in Kansas.  Those moving into southeast Colorado wanted to avoid much of what occurred in Kansas.

In 1887 Sam Konkel wrote,

It is a cold day when some new town doesn’t start up in southeastern 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.

Note:  You won’t see Athens or Randal on the map.  I may change the map when/and if  I get confirmation of their locations.

For those who don’t know the location of a particular place it should be useful when I find and post clippings such as the following from the  Xenia Daily  (Xenia OH), Gazette September 3, 1887 which tell about a former resident settling on the banks of the “Butte River”.  Yes, if you are from Baca County you will understand why this is in quotes.

In 1936, J.R. Austin wrote,

“Had the old towns of 1887 continued to exist, the interest in them would not be as great as it is today. There’s something about a lost chapter in the natural procession of events that tradition loving Americans like to preserve as a treasure.  The element of mystery makes it attractive. Early events in Springfield and Vilas do not excite the popular imagination; the towns that are here today, many of the old landmarks are still extent, the past has gradually merged into the present, and tradition has become a thing of common knowledge.

But with an old, forgotten town it is different. How entrancing it is to stand amid the ancient stone ruins and lose oneself in reverie to picture in the imagination the scenes that belong to long ago. Tran-scribed there on the lonely plains are the symbols of its past. The long spacious Main Street is still in evidence, the lone cross street begins boldly in the center of the town only to melt away into the plains as the ruins of the buildings no longer confined it to its course. Here the people rode into town, walked across the street greeted their neighbors and friends, they commented on the current topics of Interest. The long rows of stones on the corner may have been the proudest store in town. Another less imposing, may well have been the place where the transient patron sat for meals and dreamed of the places far away.  There, goods were sold and precious money taken by the hard fisted proprietor in exchange.  Still another place may have been a saloon where the stern faced bartender disposed of his wares and kept a steely eye on the more suspicious looking characters who frequented the place.  How many quarrels may have started and ended here?   Lastly, and most important of all, are the little dugouts partly filled with stones where there once were homes.”

I hope these maps are useful.

Here is a July 2018 update to the Boom Town Map.  I added another crazy aka “Trail City”, Holly, Coolidge and Syracuse Kansas and Beer City, Neutral Strip (also a crazy).

Map 1 is the newest version (February 19, 2018) and includes Clayton, NM and Mineral City, Neutral Strip

Map 2 is the original map I post.  Not sure if it is still useful, but thought I would leave it here for now.