Wednesday, December 1, 2010


"DO NOT PANIC!  PLEASE REMAIN CALM!" - from the movie Animal House (1978).

It SEEMED like a good idea at the time.

They THOUGHT it would be easy.

For those of you who are still worrying about THIS year and have not been paying attention, next year is the 150th birthday of Kansas.  For some months various state officials and agencies have been wracking their brains trying to think of ways to celebrate this important milestone - cheaply, of course.  

And on November 5, 2010, the following email was sent out across the state:

"Dear Genealogists and Historians,

In commemoration of Kansas’ 150th Birthday and in conjunction with Savor Kansas and Visit Topeka Incorporated, Kansas Network to Freedom is holding a drive to collect local Kansas history for the Kansas 150th Commemorative Calendar.

We are asking every county and/or local society to contribute important dates, pictures of important historical figures and places, and information about their local history to include in the calendar that will be available at the 150th Celebration in Topeka on January 29th, 2011.

Submissions should be sent as attachments via email. Deadline for submissions is November 20th. Selections will be chosen from submissions sent in by the due date. If you have any questions please email or call Sherri Camp. See my information below.)

To contribute, send email to:
Sherri Camp, President
Kansas Network to Freedom

Thank you,
Sherri Camp"

Now, to the average layman 15 (fifteen) days would no doubt seem like plenty of time to compile such a list of dates, events, and photographs from every county.  They all have them just lying around already compiled, right?

Unfortunately, no.  Most counties don't have anyone who has sat and thought out such things.  Oh, they might remember such events as when the county was formed, and when the county celebrated its centenary, but that is pretty much about it.  And as to the actual dates?  And photos as well?  All that takes time to gather - say, six months, or more. 

And here you have been given 15 (fifteen) days. 

Now imagine what the Osborne County Genealogical & Historical Society thought when they read this email.  Like most of the small, local, all-volunteer-run such organizations across the state of Kansas, the OCGHS does not have someone reading the emails each and every morning.  Truth be told, they are lucky to have volunteers to even man the Society's office/archives for a few hours on any given day.  So when this particular email was read on November 18th - yes, November 18th, as in two days before the deadline for submissions - one can imagine the panic that set in.  After all, they want to be included in this celebration of the state, but - !

Years of being a state representative allowed OCGHS president Laura McClure to marginally control her personal panic enough to quickly send out emails asking for help in the matter.   

As one can imagine, the emails flew back and forth fast and furious.  No one - in Osborne County, at least - had ever sat down and compiled such a list of important events from throughout the county's history.  And we are talking about combing through the county's entire 140 years of political, social, and economic legacy in just two days to make such a list!  What events are important enough to be included?  Usually a year can be found for when events occurred, but what were the actual dates?  And where do you find these at?  And what events are important enough to be included?  And photographs, if available, would need to be found and copied.  And what events are important enough to be included?

And so it was with some relief (and great coincidence) that on that same day - November 18th - a second email was received announcing that the deadline for submissions was extended to December 1st.  Evidently the uproar had not come from Osborne County alone.  Still, that only left 12 (twelve) days in which to compile such a submission. 

So books were pulled, photographs and CDs of scanned photographs perused, the poor people at the county courthouse in charge of maintaining the county records duly harrassed, and every site on the Internet dealing with Osborne County history was consulted, and in 12 days 36 points from the county's past were brought forth.  Of these, two dates could not be confirmed in the time alloted, so they were dropped, leaving just 34 items from the county's 140 years of existence to be shared with the rest of Kansas. 

The following is the 34 entries sent in, along with the two not submitted - still great events in their own right - by the Osborne County Genealogical & Historical Society.  While the list does give some insight into this typical Rural Kansas county's legacy (as well as the mindset of those who compiled the list) please keep in mind that this list merely scratches the surface of this county's rich history, and in no way should be considered the final product:

           Important Historical Dates - Osborne County, Kansas:

July 21, 1866 – Irish-born U.S. Army soldier Edward Roche of Company I, 2nd U.S. Cavalry, is killed by Indians along Twin Creek while escorting the party surveying what will later become Osborne County. They bury Roche at what later becomes the common corner of Corinth, Penn, Winfield and Bloom Townships; he is later moved to the Osborne City Cemetery.

March 3, 1867 – Kansas Governor Samuel B. Crawford officially names Osborne County in honor of Captain Vincent B. Osborne, a Civil War veteran who lost a leg in a battle on January 17, 1865.

January 14, 1870 - The first homestead in Osborne County is settled on by George Wolberd in the northeast corner of the county, in Section One of what later becomes Ross Township.

March 4, 1870 – Charles and William Bullock settle on claims in what later becomes Tilden Township, where they erect Bullock’s Stockade, the first permanent settlement in Osborne County.

July 2, 1870 – The Last Indian Raid in Osborne County takes place by a band of approximately 50 Indians at Bullock’s Stockade. Two Indians are killed in the brief skirmish.

August 10, 1870 – Around this time Dr. Daniel Tilden arrives in Osborne County to claim a homestead in what later becomes Tilden Township. In the spring of 1871 he lays out and plats the townsite of Tilden on his homestead. In 1874 the town’s name is changed to Bloomington.

September 12, 1870 – Founding of the town of Bull City by Hiram C. Bull and Lyman T. Earl. A coin toss determines the name of the town. In 1885 the town’s name is changed to Alton.

November 8, 1870 – Founding of the town of Arlington by Calvin Reasoner and others and opening of the Reasoner-Thompson General Store.

May 1, 1871 – Founding of the town of Osborne City by the Pennsylvania Colony. By the early 1890s the “City” is dropped from the name.

June 2, 1871 – Founding of the town of Bethany, named by Zachary T. Walrond, and opening day for the Bethany Post Office. In 1880 the town’s name is changed to Portis.

June 3, 1871 – Meeting for the formal organization of Osborne County is held at Arlington on the steps of the Reasoner-Thompson General Store.

October 29, 1871 – J. B. Emley begins touting his new town of Emley City, at the center of Osborne County in what later becomes Independence Township, as the perfect site for the permanent county seat. In 1873 the town’s name is changed to Centerville. In 1876 it is changed again, this time to Bristow.

April 2, 1872 – Fourth and final election for permanent Osborne County Seat. Osborne City receives 267 votes to Arlington’s 214.

June 19, 1873 – Arrival of Henry and Rosa Ise at Henry’s homestead in Ross Township of Osborne County. The story of their life on this homestead, Sod & Stubble, written by their son John Ise, was first published in 1936.  Still in print 75 years later, the book is considered a classic on the homesteading era of the Great Plains of North America.

March 22, 1877 – Arrival of Howard Ruede on his homestead in Kill Creek Township of Osborne County. The story of his life on this homestead, Sod-House Days: Letters of a Kansas Homesteader 1877-78, was first published in 1937. Still in print nearly 75 years later, the book is considered a classic on the homesteading era of the Great Plains of North America.

June 5, 1879 – The townsite of Downsville is platted by landowners John Bea1, Azariah & Marinda Blunt, Mrs. Harriet DeLay, with Missouri Pacific Railroad president R. M Pomeroy in Sections 28 and 29 of Ross Township. Within six months the town’s name is shortened to Downs.

October 12, 1879 – Osborne County State Representative Hiram C. Bull and two other men are attacked and killed at Bull City by Bull’s pet elk. The sensational event makes national headlines and the subsequent funeral draws approximately 2,000 people. It is still considered the largest funeral ever held in northwest Kansas.

October 19, 1880 – The townsite of Covert is surveyed and laid out in central Osborne County, with a plat of the town being duly recorded on October 26, 1880.

May 1, 1887 – What is considered to be the first self-driving vehicle ever built in Kansas is invented by Osborne City blacksmith Frank Hatch. The vehicle consists of a wagon propelled by a four-cylinder vapor engine. It is driven that spring and summer through the streets of Osborne City and the surrounding countryside before being dismantled.

October 15, 1888 – The Union Town Company surveys and lays out a plat for the new town of Natoma in the southwest corner of Osborne County.

November 1, 1901 – Around this time is the establishment of Meades Ranch in Delhi Township, Osborne County as the Geodetic Center of North America. This unique and important scientific site is the reference point for all property lines and city, county, state and international boundaries on the North American continent that are tied to the national triangulation networks of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Central America. It was renamed the North American Datum in 1927.

May 29, 1904 – Birth in Downs, Kansas of psychiatrist Dr. Robert Hanna Felix, creator of the National Institutes of Mental Health.

June 8, 1904 – Birth in Alton, Kansas of internationally-acclaimed architect Bruce Alonzo Goff.

January 25, 1907 – John Locke, 1976 National Basketball Coach of the Year and the winningest high school basketball coach in Kansas history, is born on the family farm in Kill Creek Township of Osborne County.

October 7, 1912 – The original landowners relinquish all rights to a 40-acre tract around the Seventh-day Adventist-operated Hill Agricultural Academy in eastern Bethany Township. The land is laid out and platted as the townsite of Academy.

April 26, 1929 – Osborne High School junior Fred Stambach Jr. makes a high jump of six feet, 3.5 inches at the county track meet in Downs. With this one jump Stambach breaks six records – the school, county, district, state, national, and world’s interscholastic records. Though his world record is beaten just 24 hours later, Stambach’s jump stands as the Osborne High School record for the next 70 years.

September 22, 1943 – Crash of a B-24 bomber from California to Topeka, Kansas in southern Covert Township of Osborne County, killing eleven military servicemen aboard.  In April 2004 a memorial was dedicated at the site to their memory.

October 19, 1968 – Agra High School’s football team defeats Alton High School 19-13, ending Alton’s six-year, 51-game winning streak. The streak was the all-time state record for most consecutive football victories for nearly 35 years and for three decades was among the Top Ten such streaks nationally as well.

May 22, 1970 – Last day of classes for Oakdale School, District #3, in Ross Township. This was the last one-room rural schoolhouse in Osborne County.

October 14, 2000 – Osborne High School senior Brittany Dietz wins her fourth straight Class 3-2-1A girls’ tennis championship. She finishes her high school career with the all-time state high school single-season record of 43 wins (1997) and the greatest all-time career record of 149 wins and no losses.

March 27, 2003 – Osborne High School senior Brooke Ubelaker is named Miss Kansas Basketball. In four years she led the Bulldogs to a 99-5 record, two state championships, and two state runner-up finishes.

November 27, 2003 - Acknowledging Osborne County as the home of two famous books on the homesteading era of the Great Plains of North America, the Osborne County Commissioners adopt a proclamation designating Osborne County, Kansas as "The Homestead Literature Capital of Kansas."

April 2, 2007 - The Kansas Senate passes Senate Resolution No. 1859, declaring that the "Sod & Stubble Country Self-Guided Tour" in Bethany and Ross Townships of Osborne County to be an official state heritage tour.

April 25, 2008 – The century-old Osborne County Courthouse is named one of the 24 finalists for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Architecture contest. The building is selected as being the best example of James Holland-designed courthouses in the state.

[And here are the two deleted entries, again only because the exact dates were not able to be found in the time allotted:]

1880 – While digging a well in Section 27 of Hawkeye Township a man uncovers what he believes to be gold nuggets. Word quickly spreads to the nearby community of Bloomington, and the great Bloomington Gold Rush of Osborne County is on. Hundreds of area farmers immediately converge and illegally begin digging in and around the homestead where the strike occurred. The next day two experienced miners now farming in the area examine the original rocks and determine that they are indeed pieces of pyrite, or “fools gold,” effectively ending the rush.

1904 – Bert Walker buys the Osborne County Farmer newspaper in Osborne. Together with Farmer editor and Kansas Speaker of the House of Representatives Charles Mann, the newspaper over the next 44 years becomes for a time the most influential weekly small town newspaper in Kansas.

*  *  *  *  *

To sum it all up:  if anyone out there of any influence or position has been reading this, please in the future take the time to truly consider what you are asking and to properly think it all through first.  You are driving the volunteers - that are driving this state in the first place - absolutely nuts!

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