Friday, February 28, 2014

Quivira Cabin

The museum recently received a very nice pen and ink drawing of the Quivira cabin in memory of Harold Rohrer a lifelong Geary County resident by his son Hugh Rohrer MD. On the back of the drawing is an article from the Daily Journal of October 12, 1936 which gives the history of the cabin.

  Many old time residents of Geary County remember the cabin was located in Logan’s Grove just outside Junction City. This area was believed to be a Native American camping ground. It became a popular stopping place for travelers to rest and learn a little history about the area. According to the Daily Journal article the sign “Quivira” was mounted over the door by the landowner, Robert Henderson and archaeologist J.V. Brower. They believed that the grove was the northern boundary of the land occupied by the Quivira tribe.
The log cabin was most likely built by a trapper or hunter wintering in this area. An article from the June 3, 1920 Union newspaper claims that it is the first cabin built in this area. In 1853 a Mr. Shivvers discovered it while out hunting. Acquiring “squatter’s rights” to the cabin he sold it two years later to Captain Henderson.
 After being discharged from the army Henderson and his bride made it home until they later built a home in town. At different times the cabin has served the area "as a fort, a church, a schoolhouse, a political meeting place, a mortuary and a residence.”
The grove is named after General John A. Logan who was a close personal friend of Henderson’s.
Many local residents remember a granite monument that was erected on the property in 1902 to honor the Quivira Historical Society. This monument was later moved to Coronado Park.
 J. V. Brower was the President of the society. His discoveries of artifacts at the site led him to claim that Francisco Vasquex de Coronado reached the junction of the Smoky and Republican rivers and actually camped at the site of Logan’s Grove. Burial sites believed to be Native American were also found by the two of the Henderson boys on a hilltop near the site.     
In 1935 the property was bought by the Earl C. Gormley Post 45 of the American Legion for the purpose of preserving this historic landmark. The site was, for many years, used as a picnic place and a general get together place for social events.  

This pen and ink drawing is a wonderful addition to our collection. Especially since the cabin is no longer standing after being swept away by the 1951 flood. As we researched it further we learned that it has even more intrinsic value because it was done by a Kansas artist by the name of Margaret Whittmore.
Margaret was born in Topeka Kansas on September 7, 1897. She graduated from Washburn University in 1919, and later studied graphic arts at the Art Institute of Chicago and Taos Art Colony in New Mexico.
Margaret was very talented and went on to have careers as a writer, graphic artist, illustrator, and block printer. At one time she worked as an artist in the Works Progress Administration museum extension program. One of her projects was to create a series of prints depicting Kansas landmarks.
Her diverse skills led to work in a variety of different jobs. At one time she worked as a drafter for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway. Her love of Kansas led her to publish a series of sketches of early Kansas landmarks in Sunday issues of the 1936 Topeka Daily Capital. She would publish accompanying histories of the landmarks. Later she published the book, Historic Kansas: A Centenary Sketchbook. She must have had a love of books because she worked for libraries in Clay Center, Wichita, and Topeka. She also worked for the University of Kansas and the Kansas Historical Society.
In 1952 she moved from Topeka to Kissimmee, Florida. She passed away in Sarasota Florida on November 24, 1983.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

BSA Troop 117

Note: This is a reprint of an article published years ago on Junction City’s BSA Troop 117, the first African American scout troop in Kansas. This article was written by Susan Franzen.
This article was originally published in The Daily Union on Feb. 20, 2000.

About a month ago, James F. Warren sent me a picture dated February 1938, showing Boy Scout Troop 117.  While lettering at the bottom of the photograph listed the names and stated that the troop was sponsored by “Luke Steed” American Legion Post 159, Warren said this was the post in Junction City made up mostly of Buffalo Soldiers.  The legion commander and past commander were among those pictured, but the representation from the Ninth Cavalry Regiment included a white officer, Major Limbocker, and the director of the Ninth Cavalry Band, WO Clarke.  The Scout committee was a joint effort by men from Junction City and Fort Riley.

            Warren said he believes the story of the only black Boy Scout troop in Kansas is something that should be part of the lore of the Buffalo Soldiers.  The retired sergeants who lived in Junction City, as well as those on active duty at Fort Riley, were inspiring fathers and citizens.  The dignitity of these men encouraged the youths to show personal honor and compassion as well as worldly achievement.  The Scout troop was the most concrete example of their concern for the younger generation.  Because Warren has kept in touch with many members of Troop 117, he was able to give me names and phone numbers of several, including assistant Scout Master William (Potsy) Hurd Jr.

            While serving as assistant Scout Master, “Potsy” Hurd joined the Rifle and Pistol team at Fort Riley.  He was one of three men representing Fort Riley in the national marksmanship competition for military personnel.  In the qualifying championship at Fort Riley, he placed third, behind two white soldiers from the Second Cavalry.  But in the national contest, he placed first overall, winning the “Fort Bliss Trophy.”  The traveling trophy he brought with him back to Fort Riley bore the names, regiments and posts of all previous winners.  The engraving clearly showed that Hurd was not only the first winner from Fort Riley, he was also the first from any black unit.  It is not hard to imagine how proud the Boy Scouts were to have such a leader.

            Capt. Hurd, who was Pvt. Hurd in 1938 and only a few years older than the Scouts he led, was known to be from a proud Ninth Cavalry family.  Both his father and uncle had served as officers during World War I.  The uncle, Robert Porter Hurd, fought with such courage that he was awarded the Croix de Guere by the French government.

            In those days, there was no lack of combat veterans from World War I and the Spanish American War among the retired Ninth Cavalrymen in Junction City.  Warren heard many of their stories on front porches, at the barber shop and especially at the ROTC camp where he and his friends shined shoes.  Retired soldiers were their supervisors.  “The stories were usually humorous and sometimes exaggerated.  There were a couple of sergeants who usually exaggerated, and there were some good old barbershop arguments about who did what.”

            For Warren, who lived in Junction City with his mother and grandparents, the retired sergeants were role models as well as story tellers.  Sgt. Scott, Sgt. Lallis and Sgt. Barbour were three he recalled with special fondness.  Leo Scott was the same age as Jim Warren, so he spent a lot of time with the Scott family.  The Lallis brothers, Jack, Phil and Alonzo, were all outstanding athletes.  Growing up, Warren was particularly impressed with Phil Lallis, who lettered in three sports for four years in high school—a total of twelve letters.  Warren admired Sgt. Barbour because he raised several sons by himself after his wife died and “they all turned out great.”

            The extended family aspect of the black community of the 1930’s is something that many recall with nostalgia.  Warren’s memory is “All the elders in Junction City were surrogate parents.  Any of them would call my parents if they saw us doing wrong.”  The sergeants also took the young boys fishing with them in Clarke’s Creek or Three-mile Creek. 

            By joining the Scout troop, Warren also got to know the sergeants who were still on active duty, for several of them were on the Scout committee.  One of these was Norris Gregory Sr., the committee chairman.  Norris Gregory Jr., believed uniting the boys from Junction City and those from Fort Riley was one of the most valuable things the Scout troop accomplished.  While Fort Riley children went to school in Junction City from kindergarten through high school in those days, the activities of the Boy Scout troop provided an opportunity for building friendships and teamwork.  The camaraderie served them well in high school and college sports and lasted throughout life for many.

            One aspect of the troop that was treasured in many recollections was its diversity.  Not only did it bring together Junction City and Fort Riley youths, but it taught boys of from ages 11 to 16 to work together.  They were also proud of the multiracial aspect of the group. Warren was quite sure that Clarence Saunders and the Murphy brothers were Filipino in spite of their names.  In fact, their fathers were African-American, but they looked like their Filipina mothers.  He believed Scout master Don Mosley was Native American, through he could not tell which tribe.  Both Hurd and Warren proclaimed proudly the Sgt. Scott was “full blood Cherokee” with a strong resemblance to Cherokee Chief Loco.

            Perhaps one of the most ironic aspects of the troop, which was made up of poor, black youths in a segregated society, was that the military sponsorship gave the scouts opportunities that few other troops enjoyed.  This fact alone made them feel special.  Few, if any, of the families had access to cars, so the Scout committee made arrangements for an army truck to come to each Scout’s house to pick him up and drive him to the meeting at Fort Riley.  They enjoyed cocoa and donuts for refreshments.  When the troop met in the West Riding Hall, the Scouts were allowed to ride the horses around the track.  The regiment provided food, transportation and tents so they could attend camps and jamborees.  They were exposed to a group of men who cared for them and had high expectations for them.  “Get an education and keep up your grades,” was a phrase they often heard from Scout masters.  It must have made an impression because six members of the troop graduated from college and most of the others were successful in whatever line of work they chose.  Most, if not all, served in World War II because they graduated from high school while the war was going on.

            All of the former scouts I reached said they believed their experience in Troop 117 had been a vital influence in their lives, but each had a different impression of what it did for him.  Jim Warren thought it was Scouting itself that was important.  It gave him a permanent appreciation of the outdoors, cooking over a camp fire, pitching tents, blazing a trail, finding your way back, flag signals, Morse code, woodcarving, outdoor games and sports that developed cooperation.  His favorite activities were night hikes.  For him, the teamwork developed on the football field enabled him to effectively organize civil right activities in Junction City High School and years later, in Civil Rights with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Equal Economic Opportunities Commission and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance.

            Richard Wells, the youngest member of the troop, said he thought he learned “soldiering” from the Scouts.  They pitched their tents in rows and submitted to military discipline and drill.  They developed athletic ability and leadership.  He admired his soldier leaders so much that he wanted to join the Ninth Cavalry.  Instead , he served with a black company in the invasion of Germany in 1945 and took ROTC when he went to college on the G.I. Bill.  After he was commissioned, he spent five years on active duty, including service with an artillery unit in Korea, and served 27 years in the reserves.

            Norris Gregory Jr. stressed a different aspect of Scouting.  It taught him to be trusting and trustworthy.  It gave him experience with democracy.  By being treated with respect he learned to treat others with respect, gained self-confidence, learned public speaking and developed leadership qualities.  He made use of these skills and attitude as a teacher in Topeka and San Bernadino, California.  He was elected to the San Bernadino City Council and served from 1968 to 1975.

            John Murphy, whose father retired from the military in 1938 and moved his family to California, was the most surprise to receive a call about the Boy Scout troop.  He had been the troop’s bugler.  “I didn’t play the bugle, I played the slide trombone.  Most likely he was drafted as bugler.  Reveille wouldn’t sound quite right on a slide trombone. 

            Murphy’s recollections about music bring out another aspect of life in the 1930’s at Fort Riley.  There were two jazz bands in the Ninth Cavalry, as well as the military band that marched.  Since the married band members lived in the small area known as Rileyville, the children were surrounded by musicians.  One was an especially close friend of the Murphys, which inspired John’s parents to seek a musical education for their sons.  While John played trombone, his brother Joe played saxophone.  “Poor as we were our parents paid for instruments and music lessons for a couple of years.”

            John Murphy was the scout who remembered riding horses.  He also told about rounding up the stray dogs at Fort Riley to hunt jackrabbits through the hills.  They had no guns, so the youths ran down the rabbits.  In an economy where a chicken on Sunday was the major meat for the week, the young hunters were proud of putting meat on the table.  When asked what he learned in Scouts, Murphy replied, “I learned to be prepared and to help people.”  According to Warren, John Murphy has expressed his concern for others through out his life.  Warren recalls that Murphy made a special stop at Fort Riley to put flowers on his mother’s grave because he’d promised her he would.  Character made up of many acts that few people know.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A pioneer love story

Valentine’s Day was yesterday and it brought to mind a pioneer love story.

            In 1854 it became known that Pawnee was to be the site of the Territorial Capitol and people began flocking there. The first legislative session was scheduled to take place there in July of 1855. The site was located near the edge of Fort Riley and almost overnight a town sprang up. There were workers who came to build the homes and buildings needed for the new town. There were also entrepreneurs and adventure seekers coming to see what new opportunities they would find. Many brought their families with them to this new territory.

            Among these were the Berry and Wallace families, emigrants from Juanita, Pennsylvania. They came to seek their fortunes in the newly opened territory. The families arrived around the same time as the Territorial Legislatures. Before they could even find lodgings for themselves they were recruited to help feed the delegates.

            Ruth Berry, 16 years old, was quickly set to work making pies for the delegates from “anything which could be found in the way of pie filling”. It is recorded that she made over 70 pies under the most primitive cooking conditions. Ruth had the honor of serving her pies at the representatives opening banquet.

            Sitting at Governor Andrew Reeder’s table was a 28 year old Quaker school teacher from Pennsylvania, Garbet Fisher Gordon. He had come to Kansas lured by the countless opportunities the territory offered.

            Gordon was smitten when he laid eyes on Ruth.  Although there was a considerable difference in their ages Gordon courted Ruth. During their courtship they saw many changes in the little town of Pawnee.

            They met on the eve of the first and only legislative session that was held in the First Territorial Capital. There was much to see and witness while the legislatures were there. Disagreements between the residents and the delegates quickly broke out. The residents of Pawnee were predominantly free staters but the visitors were mostly pro-slavery and both sides were extremely vocal in their beliefs.

The legislative session opened on July 2, 1855 and officers were elected. The officers quickly made motions to expel the only two free staters who had been elected. On July 3rd the Governor made his address, guiding the assembly in how Kansas should be governed. His words were largely ignored by the legislatures. On July 4th a bill was passed to move the legislative seat to Shawnee Mission, which was where the legislatures originally wanted to meet. Governor Reeder promptly vetoed the bill. However, the legislature passed it and quickly suspended the session planning to reconvene in Shawnee Mission on July 16th.

            By the end of July cholera was running rampant among the workers at Fort Riley. Many residents left Pawnee fearing an epidemic. Many who stayed fell ill and died from the disease.

            By September the remaining residents were ordered to leave Pawnee by the US government. The reservation had extended its borders and the site of Pawnee was now within the reservation. Writings by Reetta Morris Hadden, who was a child at Pawnee, describe the time, “a squad of mounted troops from the fort rode into Pawnee. They came to give official notice that the site of Pawnee had been taken for the use of the government, and all of its citizens must vacate their homes on or before the 10th of October… the next day the quartermaster at the fort made the lower story of the Capital building a commissary department.”

            On the evening of October 10th, 1855 there were still a few families living in Pawnee as they had not been able to find or build other shelter. Troops came with huge grappling hooks and began pulling the homes down. When they were finished the only building left standing was the capital. 

            Despite the traumatic events going on around them Gordon kept courting Ruth. By February of 1856 she had agreed to be his wife.

Years later Ruth recounted crossing the frozen river with her family on the eve of her wedding in a sled pulled by oxen, “it was in the night, because the ice was stronger.”

Their destination was the former territorial capital which was being used as the quarters for the Rev. Clarkson, the Fort Riley Chaplin, and his family. It was there on February 14, 1856 that G.F. Gordon and Ruth Berry were married in the Clarkson’s parlor where not long before the future of Kansas had been debated.

They were married for 37 years and saw many changes in Geary County throughout their lifetimes. But that will be a story for another time.


 Little did Ruth Berry know that when she agreed to make pies for the First Territorial Legislature that she would meet her future husband. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Jack Turner's Story

February is Black History month and as I was looking through our files for ideas for articles I ran across an interesting article that Marilyn Heldstab, former director of the Geary County Historical Society, published years ago. It is the story of a former slave and Junction City pioneer, Jack Turner. It is such an interesting account that I thought we should tell it again.  Mr. Turner’s story first appeared in the Junction City Union on Feb. 27, 1934.

Mr. Jack Turner tells the story of his life and how he came to Junction City.
“I was born in the Ozark Mountain is 1844. This area was slave territory and I was to be under Fleetwood’s care until I was 21, when I was to be freed and receive an inheritance.
“I was kidnapped when I was 12 years old, I remember exactly what happened. I had covered corn all day long, and in the evening they told me if I would cross the creek I could ride home.
“It was nearly a mile from home, so I waded across and a Mr. Adams took me up behind him on his horse. He started out in the wrong direction, but when I told him he was going the wrong way, he said he was going home by way of Bald Knob.
“We rode all night and he kept whoopin’ like an owl. Finally a man came up in answer to his signal, and I was put up behind him on his horse. Next morning we got to Springfield, Mo. His wife asked me why the Fleetwoods wanted to get rid of me, but I told her I didn’t know."
              Turner was then taken to St. Louis where he stayed about a day and a night. From there he and his captor went by steamboat to Memphis, Tenn. From Memphis he was taken to Okolona, Chickasaw County, Miss.
“At Okolona I landed in Mr. Whittaker’s hands.
“We went to the Mississippi bottoms. We put up a crop and in the fall we went up to the hills again. There we went to Mobile Ala. and Mrs. Hodges (Mr. Whittaker’s daughter) put me in a hotel to cook. I stayed there about six months and then she put me in a livery stable for about six months.”
After returning to Okolona Turner was the coachman and house boy. He drove the barouche for the next four years.
“The whole crowd of us was taken to the salt works in Alabama for about a year. The war was pressin’ so they made the salt workers build breastworks. After about three weeks we went back to the salt works. Then the whole bunch (about twenty of us) returned to Okolona. We put in two crops. Then Mrs. Hodge’s father died, and her husband took charge of us.
“In the spring of ’66 he came out on the porch one day and told us we were free.
“After the war was over Mrs. Hodges and I were in Memphis for two years, then she went back to Okolona. Like a gump, I went over to Arkansas. She told me not to, but I went anyway. I went over with a man named Williamson to kill hogs.
“I came back but went again to help in the apple orchard. I was plowing around the trees in the orchard when I struck one twice with a single-tree of the plow. 
“He warned me to be more careful, but I told him I couldn’t help doing it unless someone held the single-tree for me. It happened again, and slamming the plow down, I hurried to the ferryboat landing just as the boat was leaving. Williamson rode up and motioned for the boat to come back, but it kept going.”
In Memphis again, Turner worked for a lumber company until he wrote to Mrs. Hodges now left a widow with her two children, Sallie and John. Mrs. Hodges immediately sent him $5.00 and his fare to Okolona.
"She’d sent for me everywhere I went," Turner said. "She’d send for me to come home even if I was just a runaway."
In 1868, Colonel Streeter of Junction City married the young widow. She brought her family and servants with her when she moved to Junction City. Jack came with them.
In 1871 Jack married his wife Martha, who had come to Kansas with her parents as part of the “Exodusters” immigration following the Civil War.         

Martha Turner

He states “I raised ten children to manhood and womanhood. They’re all married now and I was married 58 years and eight months.” Martha Turner’s obituary shows that she passed in January of 1929.
Turner worked as a freight driver for Streeter for many years. He would transport government supplies across the plains. He made his last trip in 1870.
 He also worked as the foreman of the Streeter farm between Junction City and Fort Riley.
  Turner remembers many interesting tales from his life in early Junction City.  
Straw rides were popular at that time and groups of people would ride in straw wagons to country dances. Turner would often ride a mule and drive the other three mules hitched to the wagon. One day someone else who was driving the barouche went under a black jack limb growing over the road, and the top of the cab was knocked off.
Turner remembers, “That man never drove again.”
In the times before paved highways, cord way rails were used as bridges over the swamps between Junction City and Fort Riley. Jack would drive over these rails day or night, and Mrs. Streeter always said she was never nervous when he was driving.
Turner recounts about his life as a slave but states, “he had never lived in the heart of the plantation section, so never had to endure the hardships of some slaves.”
“Mrs. Hodges treated us nice. Her servants were treated just as nice as other people. They always had Sunday clothes for church and her father never allowed anyone to look bad at slaves.”
Mrs. Streeter often told Turner that she could depend upon him to do what was right. He drove the family to Fort Riley to attend the wedding of Colonel Forsythe’s daughter. Then the footman got drunk. Jack stayed sober, because he knew he had to drive home.
Turner remembers a riding horse owned by Mr. Streeter. “That horse could step over the steps of the stile just like a person.”
Turner recounts, “drove the buggy and carriage teams from the time I needed a box to stand on to harness the horses." He also acted as a butler in the Streeter house.
Turner looks upon his life in Junction City with the Streeter family as, “the happiest days of his life, and often recalls to chance listeners the hospitality of this bit of old south transplanted to the western plains."
Jack Turner passed away September 12, 1937 at the age of 93.
(the story and quotations are written originally by Marilyn Heldstab, former Director of the Geary County Historical Society.  Her story, copied from the 1934 newspaper, appeared in Museum Musings in the Daily Union in 1991.)