So as you drive southwest through Ellsworth, Kansas on Kansas State Highway 14 you pass on through the downtown and cross the bridge over the Smoky Hill River and as the highway curves to the left (true south) you look on your right for the first gravel road heading west.
Got that? Good. 'Cause it's a whole lot harder than it sounds.
There used to be a sign at this intersection denoting a cemetery down that particular gravel road with an arrow indicating the direction to take to it. For some reason it is no longer there.
There used to be a sign in the southeast corner of the cemetery denoting its name and giving its hours of operation and the speed limit for driving it. For some reason it is no longer there.
There used to be a nice fence all along the southern edge of the cemetery separating it from the gravel road. For some reason it is no longer there.
I tried Google Earth and then several Ellsworth County, Kansas websites to determine the name of this cemetery. Okay, so ten years ago I knew its name, but in the interim it is no longer coming to mind. No luck with the Internet; not one of these sites named this particular cemetery. They name every other cemetery in Ellsworth County, Kansas, but for some reason not this particular one.
So I sent out an email to "The Cowboy," Jim Gray, who knows more of the cowboy history of Kansas and especially Ellsworth County in his little finger than any number of historical societies put together. Sure enough, in about an hour he emails back that this is the Ellsworth Cemetery, or, as some locals now call it, the Old Ellsworth Cemetery.Boy, I feel better.
So on this particular sunny Kansas Saturday afternoon while walking around the Ellsworth Cemetery I discovered several handcarved tombstones that were amazing in their condition, considering their age.
The tombsone of Vincent B. Osborne. Note the error in spelling his name.
Although nearly a third of Kansas' counties bear the names of men who were Civil War officers, only two privates have been thus honored. One of them was Vincent B. Osborne, who served as a Kansas volunteer soldier for three and a half years, was twice wounded, and had a leg amputated in 1865. Osborne County, Kansas is named after him. The other county named for a private is Rooks for Private John C. Rooks. Two counties have been named for noncommissioned officers: Ness, for Corporal Noah V. Ness, and Harper, for Sergeant Marion Harper.
Nothing is known of Osborne's early life, except that he was born March 4, 1839, in Hampden County, Massachusetts. He was 22 years old when he enlisted in the Civil War in July 1861 in the Second Kansas Infantry, at Clinton, Missouri. He must then have lived in Missouri, for he suggests that his life would have been in jeopardy had he been captured by Missouri rebels.
One month after joining the army, Private Osborne was wounded in the thigh during the battle of Wilson's Creek (August 10, 1861), and was hospitalized for almost six months in St. Louis. Before he recovered, the Second Kansas infantry had been mustered out of service. Osborne re-enlisted, along with other veterans of this short-lived regiment, in the Second Kansas cavalry which was being organized in the early part of 1862. He was mustered in at Leavenworth on February 19, and assigned to Company A, commanded by his former captain, Samuel J. Crawford.
Between March and September, 1862, Osborne's, company rode more than 1,500 miles on escort duty, traveling from Fort Riley over military roads and the Santa Fe Trail to Fort Union, New Mexico, and back.
Returning to the regiment in the fall, Company A fought in a number of skirmishes and several important engagements, as the Second Kansas took part in a campaign against the rebel forces of Generals Marmaduke and Hindman, in Missouri and Arkansas. Osborne describes, at some length, the battles of Old Fort Wayne (October 22), Cane Hill (November 28) and Prairie Grove (December 7).
In the early part of 1863 Osborne was a hospital attendant at Fayetteville, Arkansas, and at Fort Scott. During the rest of the year, and in 1864, he was on detached duty much of the time, serving as messenger at district headquarters, Fort Smith, Arkansas, in the latter year.
On January 16, 1865, he left Fort Smith, on board the Annie Jacobs, to rejoin his regiment. Next day, at Joy's Ford, rebels shelled the steamboat and forced it aground. During the firing Osborne was severely wounded in the leg while helping to tie up the boat. Two days later, at Clarksville, Arkansas, his leg was amputated. When he left the hospital six months later, the war was over.
In 1866 he came to Kansas, having been appointed sutler at Fort Harker [today's city of Kanopolis, Kansas] by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, upon the recommendation of Governor Samuel J. Crawford, who had been Osborne's company commander. In 1867 he settled in the near-by frontier town of Ellsworth. On June 22 of that year Governor Crawford appointed him a special commissioner (along wth Ira S. Clark and John H. Edwards ) to organize Ellsworth County.
That same year another county to the north and west was organized and named for Vincent B. Osborne. It was also in 1871 that Osborne was elected to the state legislature from Ellsworth County, serving during the session of 1872.
He married Nellie V. (Henry) Whitney, widow of Sheriff C. B. Whitney who was killed in 1873. Their daughter Katie, born in 1877, died the same year.
Osborne was highly regarded by the people of his county. When he was admitted to the bar (by the district court) in October, 1875, the Ellsworth Reporter recalled his fine war record, noted that a county and city had been named for him, and stated that he ". . . is today probably one of the most popular men in the county."
During the 1870s he held several local offices, being a justice of the peace in 1872-1873, probate judge from 1873-1879, and township trustee for several years. At the time of his death he was city clerk, probate judge, and president of the newly-organized Ellsworth County Agricultural and Mechanical Association. He died on December 1, 1879, at the age of 40.
"According to the [family] tale, one dark night he tripped on a hole in the wooden sidewalk near his home. Somewhat enraged, he got himself a hammer to repair the sidewalk but in the dark he managed to pound his thumb instead of the board. Result: blood poisoning." - Great-granddaughter Linda Blain.
Perhaps the oddest thing about the life of Vincent B. Osborne was that he never set foot in his namesake county, despite living only sixty miles from it at the time of his death. Despite that fact, Osborne County has always been proud to be named for such an illustrious individual. Take well care of his eternal sleep, Ellsworth County.