Saturday, February 27, 2016

Black History Month Essays Part 4


Retired Executive Director Gaylynn Childs
Our records at the Museum indicate there was an African-American presence in Geary County right from the beginning, finding information about them is another matter, Often it appears that personal or family histories of these early residents are non-existent, and then, out of the blue, in a newspaper or via a letter from a descendent information surfaces that brings these pioneers to life. Such was the case with our subjects for today's article.
In the Main Hall of the Museum is our Pioneer Settlers photograph collection. The faces that peer out above the names "Geo. Young" and "Mrs. Geo. Young," don't differ greatly from the other 243 images on the wall. They are dressed in the fashions of the time, the 1860s, and their hairstyles look very much like those of the other subjects. But they are different.
George and Mariah Young are the only African-Americans represented in the collection, which was compiled by photographer Louis Teitzel in 1909 in observance of the 50th anniversary of Junction City's founding.
We at the museum knew little else about the George and Mariah Young until 1995, when one of their descendants, Greggory Hickman-Williams of KC, MO, presented the museum with a wedding photograph of one of their sons, John Huston Young, and his bride Mary Hart, made in Junction City in 1888. Then Susan Lloyd Franzen, while researching her multicultural history "Behind the Facade of Fort Riley's Home Town," contributed some additional information. Most recently, we learned a bit more about the impact the Young family had on early Junction City while researching the article on Junction City's first school.
According to Gregory Hickman-Williams, the George and Mariah Young family was one of the first, if not the first, African-American family to settle in Junction City, coming in 1864, prior to the end of the Civil War. George Young was a barber by trade.
Susan Franzen, writing for Museum Musings in 1999, noted that Union editor George W. Martin provided unusually good coverage of African-American achievements in that early era: "When Love's Barbershop was opened by four black men in 1867, the Union made note of it. By the time of the US Census of 1870, one of the barbers, George Young from Tennessee, was quite wealthy. His real estate was valued at $1000. A white grocer and a physician in the same census each had $1500 in real estate, so George Young was successful by local standards of the day.”
One of those children born in Tennessee, the Young's oldest son, Willowby, caused considerable uproar in Junction City only a short time after the family's arrival.
At the beginning of 1866, although the Civil War had ended eight months before, feelings were still strong and loyalties divided in Junction City. There was yet to be built a permanent school building in Junction City, so from term to term, school was held in rooms located above the businesses downtown.
In 1865-66, school was being conducted in Ganz Hall, located in the upper floor of the stone building that housed J. H. Blake dry goods store. It was situated across from the City Park on West Sixth Street, where the Bartell stands today.
At the beginning of the new school term, in January of 1866, Willowby Young, was enrolled in this city school. The presence of the one African-American boy in the public school caused a great uproar and much heated debate, both on the street and in meetings and gatherings all over town. The Youngs immediately withdrew their son, but this did not end the dispute.
The Union reported that a meeting was held the next evening, with a lively debate on the subject of school integration. Those in favor of educating young Willowby with the white children of the town finally prevailed, and the school board ruled to that effect. However, inflammatory letters and articles continued to appear in print. On January 18, 1866 the Ganz building mysteriously burned down.
The general supposition was that the fire was the result of this racial controversy, and Editor Martin went so far as to accuse segregationist parents of arson, saying that they'd rather burn down the school than have it integrated.
Little else on the Young Family is in our files, we know they stayed in JC, and it is apparent by their presence in the Pioneer Photo Collection that they were considered contributing and significant citizens within the community they had helped to build. Now if we just knew the rest of the story from their perspective....

May be some of you out there can help us. Little by little, our files on the African-American community are growing. However, we do send out a plea to those within the community here to share their family and personal histories with the museum so our records and archives can more accurately reflect the whole history of our town.
George and Mariah Young, who arrived in Junction City in 1864, were believed to be the earliest African American settlers in the community. This picture was taken of them during their wedding in 1888.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Black History Month Essays Part 3

I grew up in a small town of Cooksville, Maryland, current population 424, which is quite amazing being that it has grown so much since I have left there.  Growing up in Cooksville was a wonderful experience, it was rural, farming community, open spaces, and plenty of places to ride bicycles, play baseball.  My family grew produce, raised hogs, cows, we had chickens for a while, and we ate well growing up on our farm.  I attended Cooksville Elementary School, a four room segregated school, for five years before desegregation. 

As a child I found myself able to drive a tractor almost sooner than I could ride a bicycle.  As I matured more responsibilities came to me, opportunities to operate bigger equipment, to be out all day working the fields.  Many of the other farms had equipment, but sometimes lacked the workers to operate equipment, so when I was finished with my chores I would work, or help out on other neighbor farms.  At the age of twelve or thirteen I had a savings account, and was able to support myself.

Mr. Mullinix was a farm equipment dealership whose kids attended school with me, was always looking for hired help.  I saw a great opportunity to work on a large farm, and operate a lot of new equipment; I jumped on this excellent opportunity.  It wasn’t pretty right away, because all I initially did was stack hay and/or straw on the bale wagon; however if I arrived early enough I would help milk the cows.  Milking was done long before daylight, but the reward was usually eating a good meal of chocolate pancakes.  Mr. Mullinix treated me like one of his sons in most cases.  He would visit us in the fields almost every morning, but never leave without checking the weight of the bales.   We would put away roughly 1000 bales per day, which sometimes took the entire day. 

I graduated from Glenelg High School in 1971and began work at the Howard County Police Department as a dispatcher.  Working on shift work with numerous police officers, I found most were veterans of the Vietnam War.  I joined the U.S. Army in 1972, leaving the state of Maryland and traveling the world and enjoying a wonderful life of adventure and excitement.  I tell most people I served in the military for two days, the first and the last; everything else for me was an adventure.  My adventure lasted for thirty years bringing to the great state of Kansas, and my home in Junction City.  Junction City is my home, where my wife Erin and I live and are very involved in our community. 

Jim Sands is very active in the community as shown here. He stopped by the museum to give a great presentation on the History of the Buffalo Soldiers at Fort Riley.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Black History Month Essays Part 2

My husband, Dennis Bobbitt and I, are natives of Rocky Mount, North Carolina.  Our military duty station at Fort Riley was 1987- 1994. We purchased our first home in 1988 and retired in Junction City.
Growing up,  Rocky Mount had a “small town feel.”  Everyone knew each other, neighbors looked out for one another, and traditionally, most people in the community had similar life styles and values. When you attended the local school, it wasn’t uncommon to have your school teacher as your youth or choir director at church.
When Dennis & I visit North Carolina on holidays and other various occasions, things have changed somewhat due to economy, but there is still that “small town feel” when we visit family, relatives, friends, and home town church. Things may look differently, but “our roots” are still there.
North Carolina is a reminder of the struggles and accomplishments of my ancestors and parents,              Rev James & Anna (Edwards) Joyner. The Joyner & Edwards “Family Tree Heritage,” traces back from 1832 to 1870 during slavery and the Civil War.
To me, Junction City has that same “small town feel” atmosphere, even though it’s a military- connected community. You are exposed to different diversities, cultures, prospectives, and opportunities. Being a transient community, the opportunity arose for me to establish The I.C.A.R.E. Center not-for-profit Organization in 2009. The organization connects youth & older adults to build positive relationships.                      My husband is well-known in the community, and is known for his love for the outdoors, sense of humor, and gardening.  Dennis was the English Speaking Minister at a Korean Church in the community for several years. Currently, he’s a minister at Second Missionary Baptist Church.
Both children, Tonya & Dennis, attended USD 475 Schools since the 4th & 5 grade.  They graduated from JCHS. Tonya graduated from K-State in 1996. Her career has taken her to various states. One in particular, is Orangeburg, South Carolina. She was Store Manager of Claffin University Book Store.  She was told by one of the college professions, “you’re not from here, are you”? The professor knew from the very beginning that she was different, by her educational background, technical knowledge, and adaptability.
Tonya contributes her career goals and accomplishments to her military experiences as a dependent, education in Junction City, and K-State University. She also contributes her spiritual development to her caring Youth & Sunday School Teachers at Second Missionary Baptist Church.
Her mentors were Mrs. Ruby Stevens, her Komomantyn Teacher at JCHS, and Dr. Larry Dixon, Principal at JCHS. Tonya enjoys visiting Junction City, because it allows her to relax from the busy city life. She’s always running into former classmates at Dillions or Walmart. Tonya is engaged, and resides in Kansas City, Kansas. She has her graduated degree as a Licensed Professional Counselor. 
My son, Dennis Jr. (DJ) was intrigued with ROTC from the 9th- 12 grade. He entered the US Navy in 1994 after graduating from JCHS at age 17. During his earlier military career, he would come home on leave and visit formal teachers at JCHS. His mentors were Deacon Augustus Evans and Deacon Ulysses Carter of Second Missionary Baptist Church. They were always “keeping him in check” when his dad was overseas for two years. They are no longer with us, but their memory lives on.  Dennis Jr has ventured in rental properties, and was the previous co-owner of “Deli by the Bay” in Washington State. He contributes his career choice and accomplishments to his military experiences as a dependent, formal teachers, ROTC Instructors, and church mentors.
Even though career & travels in the Navy have taken him to many places, Dennis still looks forward to visiting his roots in Junction City. He enjoys looking up some of his classmates who are still here, showing his daughters places where he hung out, going to church, and just relaxing. Dennis Jr. is currently an E-7 Chief Petty Officer, and looking forward to retirement from the military in the next two years. He has his degree in Business, and is working toward his Masters. Dennis resides in Virginia with his wife and three daughters.
Granddaughters, Alivia & Jasmine, have traveled to Junction City by themselves on several occasions. They’ve enjoyed spending time with grandparents, going to the carnivals, fishing, bowling, swimming, church, and other recreational areas in Junction City and Fort Riley. They particularly enjoy hearing,      “old stories” told by their granddaddy about himself, growing up down South during the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s era. The youngest granddaughter Lani, is 2 years old, and will have extended visits to Junction City when she’s older.
Junction City was a great place to raise our children! It offered new experiences and opportunities for the entire family.

-Vickie Bobbitt-

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Black History Month Essays Part 1

EDITORIAL NOTE: This February, the Geary County Historical Society will celebrate Black History Month by taking a look at 4 different accounts of African-Americans who have lived in this community. These stories will look at different aspects of their life in Junction City, and how race played a part in their everyday life. This is the first part of a four part series that will run through February.  

That Look Like Me
When I reflect on my childhood in Junction City it is inevitable to question the significance of my skin color. Born with deep dark skin shortly after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I came into the world and Junction City when things were changing for everybody.  I, not unlike JC, progressed and grew through the 70s and 80s.  From my early childhood I can remember feeling different. Sometimes it was different good and sometimes it was not so good.
I have fond and fun memories of attending Nursery School at the Methodist Church on Jefferson in the early 70s. The building housed spacious classrooms and a basement big enough to race around on the coveted Big Wheel.  My classroom was delightfully scattered with books, toys, and arts and crafts supplies. The latter included magazines used to cut out people in our likeness and paste them on construction paper to recreate our family.  I immediately realized I had quite a dilemma.  I could not use these magazines. As a matter a fact, my Mother had to supply some because nobody in any of their books looked like me.
Later in early elementary school my skin color would come into play again. During an activity we were asked to hold up our pinky. After spending a few seconds looking at my little finger I readily complied after informing the teacher that I indeed, had a brownie. 
As I progressed through Franklin Elementary and enjoyed Play Days and Fun Night, I began to understand the impact of the color of my skin. During an activity in the fourth grade, the teacher needed to select an “IT”.  She proceeded with the classic “Eenie, meenie, miney mo however in her version, the object to be caught was not a tiger but a “nigger”.  Though I did not perceive hostility, I was shocked at encountering a real life person that used that word. I also realized that not all people followed the golden rule when it came to people that looked like me.  I wrote a poem in fifth grade that scored an A+. The teacher praised its greatness and I excitedly waited to hear her announce that it would soon hang on the Principal’s Board. When this never happen I asked why and was informed that my cursive x was incorrectly crossed. Several changes later I realized it would never be good enough. Eventually, I discovered the same teacher taught my sister and was not very fair to her either.  In sixth grade, I called a white male classmate to get a reading assignment. His mother haughtily assumed I was calling with a romantic interest and was not pleased.  She was nice enough to me in person however she did not want this dark skinned girl dating her son.  My Golden Rule lesson was reiterated not only by my own personal experiences but by external factors as well. Roots aired on television and sometime around then I saw Gone with the Wind. The Colonial Theater showed the movie “Tough”, the story of a young black male.  We studied Black History in school but stayed on the safe subjects like Dr. King, or Fredrick Douglass. Junction City is just two miles from Fort Riley, however the Historical Buffalo Soldiers were rarely discussed in school. The Freedom Train came to Topeka in 1976.  It was Kansas cold and the line was long but the reward was priceless. The sight of President Lincoln’s Coat and Dr. Mr. Luther King’s Robes brought the reality of racism home.
Growing up I never let my skin color prevent me from enjoying the community.  I participated in Girl Scouts and a multitude of activities at the First Presbyterian church where a lot of the time the only other people that look like me were my Sister and Mother.  I joined softball leagues and participated in the Drama community at the Little Theater. Though most of the plays were Caucasian based, I was filled with pride and ambition when a stage full of actors that looked like me presented the play “9th Street”. Written by a black local author, “9th Street” was based on Junction City’s famous East 9th street.  The Fourth of July’s Sundown Salute was going strong at Milford and PiƱata was the meeting place for everybody of all races. We had two Dairy Queens, an arcade, a new movie theater with multiple screens and a skating rink. All enjoyed pretty peacefully by people of all races. The city was growing and so was I.
It wasn’t until I was commuting to and from Topeka that I encountered racism again. When my card failed to work at a gas station on the west side of South Washington the clerk demanded to see my ID. She then contemptuously informed me I did not have enough money, however the white customers before and after me were advised of a “system issue”.  During same time I made an appointment to speak with a broker two blocks up the street to get information on investing. The enthusiasm he depicted over the phone to share his knowledge changed to more than subtle disdain and a “you’re wasting my time” demeanor when he saw my dark skin. 
                On my most recent visit it was good to see businesses that depict Junction City’s growth in diversity as well as the community’s stability. I drove by Mark’s Beauty Salon and Foster Cuts, both owned and operated by people that look like me. I visited the Groove where a warm Junction City welcome awaits patrons of all races. Central National Bank, where I opened my first account is going strong and the ever loved Daily Union is still the paper of choice.  All places where people that don’t look like me and people that do are joined together by the love for Junction City. 

                                                                                                                                   By : Karren Kilpatrick