Thursday, January 31, 2013

An Ordinary, Amazing Woman: Mary Rickman Anderson Grant

by Kristine Schmucker, Curator

"Mrs. Mary O. Grant, colored, aged 95, one of the oldest residents in this county  died Tuesday night at 11:30 . . . "

At the time of her death in 1923, Mary Rickman Anderson Grant was among the last of the first settlers of Harvey County, but her name never appeared in any of the old settler lists. She is not pictured in the Kansan 25th Anniversary Edition printed in August 1922, a year before her death.  Her story, and that of her pioneer family, remained alive through oral tradition within the larger Rickman/Anderson/McWorter/Clark  families.

Mary Rickman Anderson Grant
Harvey County Pioneer
Photo courtesy Jullian Wall

Mary's story starts  in Sparta, White Co., Tennessee where she was born April 1835.  Her father's name was Nathanial  Rickman and her mother's name may have been Sophia.  In the 1860 Census, Mary is listed as the head of household with four children, Joseph, America, Lucy and Tennessee.  At some point she met and married David Anderson and moved to Ohio.  David Anderson served in the Civil War in Co I 14th Reg. U.S.C.T., which was the same regiment as Mary's brother Joseph Rickman.  Perhaps he introduced Anderson to his sister and they got married.  By 1870, the entire Anderson family was living in Clemont County, Ohio with David listed as head of the household with three more children; James Wayman, Thomas Jefferson, and Nathanial.  A daughter, Carrie, is born later that year.

Homesteading on the Prairie

In 1871, the Anderson family decided to move to Kansas. Like many black families they saw the opportunity to own  land. The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed a citizen to file "first papers", pay a $10 fee and claim 160 acres of land in the public domain.  The Anderson family left all that they knew and traveled by covered wagon to Emporia, Kansas for a chance to own their own land. From Emporia, they traveled to Florence, Kansas, where the family stayed  in a dugout while David Anderson went on to the homestead site in Pleasant Township, Harvey County.  Here he began building a new home, but met with misfortune almost immediately.  One of the horses died, leaving only one older horse for the difficult work of breaking the prairie sod.  Anderson decided to trade the horse for a pair of oxen and continued to work on improving the claim.
David M. Anderson
Mary's 1st husband
Photo courtesy Jullian Wall

Anderson filed for a homestead in Harvey County, Pleasant Township, Section 26, but he did not live to see the fruits of his efforts.  David died on April 3, 1872, leaving Mary with eight children on the prairie.  He was buried on the homestead.
1885 Atlas
Pleasant Township, Harvey County
Mary was determined to keep the homestead. Other members of the family helped her complete a sod house.  For the first several years, Mary lived in the small soddy with her eight children, four boys, and four girls.  The boys "slept in swinging beds hung from the cellar rafters so that they would be protected from snakes and insects."  Wild life of all types, from wolves and coyotes to buffalo would come within a short distance of the house. Fuel was scarce, so like other homesteaders, the Anderson family relied on cow-chips and corn stalks for cooking and heating.  From the homestead it was an all day trip to Peabody, the site of the nearest mill for the Anderson family.  The older boys would take a sack of corn and go by horse to the mill where the corn could be ground into cornmeal.

Death from accident or illness was a constant threat to the new settlers.  In 1872, Mary's daughter, America Turner died.  Three granddaughters, Estelle & Linnie (1879) and Alta (1881) also died and were buried in the family plot on the homestead. 

Challenges on the Prairie

An early challenge that faced the Anderson family was a  winged creature known as the Rocky Mountain Locust. August 7, 1874 no doubt started out like any other day for the Anderson family.  Perhaps Mary was up early make breakfast when she noticed that the sky seemed to be darkening.  At first she may have thought the low, dark gray cloud "being blown swiftly from the north west" was a rainstorm.  It was soon apparent that this was something else entirely.  Billions of grasshoppers had arrived in "swarms so large they blocked out the sun."  For three days the locusts, only 1.25-1.4 inches long, whirred and chewed their way across Harvey County.  In their wake, total destruction.  
"At the end of that time every stalk of corn and garden and every vestige of vegetation that was green enough for them to eat simply was not.  It did not exist.  All paint and even the old black  boards and logs were eaten until they looked like new lumber." ("Anderson,Rickman, & Rossiter Family Reunion Picnic" by Marguerite Huffman, ca. 1981 in Harvey County Residents Box 1B, Rickman/Anderson File Folder 35)
The Locust Plague, by CV Riley, 1877
The green shows the hardest hit.

Minnesota locusts of the 1870s
This species was not a grasshopper, rather a Rocky Mountain Locust which went extinct around 1902.
See also

The Anderson family confronted another challenge of the prairie.  In 1876, a prairie fire broke out near Whitewater, south and east of the Anderson claim.  Soon the flames were sweeping across Harvey County in a ten mile wide swath.  A neighbor  lost his barn and 20 head of cattle.  Young Jefferson Anderson was home alone at the time.  He did the only things he could think of - he turned the oxen loose and chased them to the creek.  Amazingly, the house was spared.  The main loss was of a pig pen and a stable. 
Orison Grant
Wearing his Civil War Uniform
Mary's 2nd husband
Photo Courtesy Jullian Wall

Forty-six year old Mary Anderson married Orison Grant, a Civil War veteran, in September 1878.  A Justice of the Peace performed the ceremony.  Grant  was 61 at the time according the marriage license.

Grant had also come to Kansas in search of land to call his own.  He settled on a claim in Highland Township in 1871.  After their marriage, the Grants sold the Highland claim in two parts; the first in 1885 for $1350 and the second in 1886 for $2000.  

1885 Atlas
Highland Township, Harvey County

In 1889, Mary made the final $8.00 payment on her homestead in Pleasant Township - the farm was officially hers.

Orison Grant died February 3, 1893.  His obituary noted that "people that knew him intimately dubbed him 'General' which title always pleased him.  He was respected by all who knew him." (Newton Kansan, 3 February 1893, p.3)

Keeping the family together

Mary stayed on the homestead until 1910.  At that time she sold the farm for $8,500.  Family was important to Mary and  it was important to her that the family stayed together.    When she moved to Newton, she had the six members of the family who had been buried in the family plot on the farm moved to Greenwood Cemetery, Newton.

For the next thirteen years Mary lived with her daughter, Lucy Rickman Mayfield at 330 E. 6th, Newton.  Mary Grant, Harvey County pioneer, died August 1, 1923 at the Mayfield home.
Mary Rickman Anderson Grant and Lucy Rickman Mayfield 
During the month of  February, in honor of  Black History Month, we will be featuring related stories from Harvey County. Much of the information on the Rickman/Anderson/Grant family is based on oral traditions preserved by Marguerite Rickman Huffman & June Rossiter Thaw and research by Karen Wall.  We are grateful for their willingness to share the stories of this Harvey County family. 

  • Anderson,Rickman, & Rossiter Family Reunion Picnic" by Marguerite Huffman, ca. 1981 in Harvey County Residents Box 1B, Rickman/Anderson File Folder 35)
  • Evening Kansas Republican, 1 August 1923, p. 5.
  • Newton Kansan, 3 February 1893, p.3
  • Karen Wall, Find-A-Grave, "Mary Rickman Anderson Grant."

Visit for more information on the Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sharing the Fun! A Recent Acquisition at the Museum

by Kristine Schmucker, Curator

Recently, a collection of childrens clothing was donated to the museum. Each handmade item was carefully labeled with who wore it and the year.  This adds so much to the object!  

The long christening gown was worn by Reba Essie Workman Hicks, Emporia, born June 6, 1888. I can imagine a young woman carefully creating this beautiful garment for her unborn child 125 years ago.
Lucinda, the doll, was purchased by Lola Blanch Hicks December 24, 1929. 
Christening gown and Doll
The collection of children's clothing was made by Lola Blanch Hicks Baldwin between 1939 and 1943 for her children; a daughter, Everell D. Hicks Francisco, and son, Lawrence Hicks.

Dress worn by Everell E. Baldwin, 1943

Crochet Apron, 1939-1943

Dress, slip and hood, 1939-1943

Dresses, 1939-1943
 Crocheted and knitted items used in the Hicks home 1939-1943.

Booties and Mittens, 1939-1943
Visit for more about upcoming activities at the museum.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

From Gettysburg to Sedgwick: The Adventures of Charles Schaefer

by Kristine Schmucker,Curator

Before settling in south central Kansas in the future town of Sedgwick, Charles Schaefer led an interesting life.  At the age of ten he left home and became a part of the frontier army at Fort Leavenworth and traveled throughout the territory as a scout.  Part one of the series can be read here Part 2 focuses on the Civil War and his adult life.

Schaefer wrote;
"In 1858 he went to San Antonia and there identified himself with the U.S. army as a scout, serving at Fort Clark, Ringold Barracks, and Brownsville; being at the latter place when the civil war broke out.  Knowing the officers on both sides so well he hesitated for sometime whether to cast his lot with the North or the South.  the question as to the right of a state to secede from the Union was the deciding factor and he enlisted October 16, 1860 in Company E 3rd U.S. Infantry, drawing his first uniform from the Alamo." ("Autobiography" by Charles Schaefer, p. 1-2. Charles Schaefer File, Sedgwick Historical Museum, Sedgwick, Ks) 

Charles Schaefer
Seventeen year old Schaefer spent the first year of the Civil War at Fort Pickens, Florida.  From there he went to the Army of the Potomac where he served the rest of the war, participating in most of the important battles of that region" under the command of General Fitz John Porter.  Schaefer was wounded in the knee at Gettysburg. 
General Fitz John Porter seated

"Dramatic Highlight of the Civil War"

The orders were not to fire, unless fired upon.  According to Schaefer, that order saved the life of General Robert E. Lee and prolonged the war.  Schaefer recounted the story for a newspaper reporter years later.
Standing behind a shock of newly cut wheat in a field near Gettysburg, Pa., a blue-coated man, age 20, leveled his rifle across the shock and took careful aim at the heart of a grey-coated man with stars on his shoulder and gold braid on his black slouch hat.  
"Don't shot!" exclaimed the officer commanding the squad.
"But I must," answered the lad with a 'bead' on the grey-coated man.  "That is General Lee.  He used to be in San Antonio when I enlisted there and so I know him.  Let me kill him.  It will end the war." 
But  the officer in charge of the blue-coated reconnoitering party was obdurate  . . So rather than disobey the order of his superior, Charles Schaefer . . . put up his weapon and Lee passed on without knowing how near he came to death."  (Undated Clipping "Sedgwick Vet Once Had 'bead' on Rob't E. Lee" in the Charles Schaefer File, Sedgwick Historical Museum, Sedgwick, Ks)
This was one of several stories that Schaefer would later tell about his experiences during the Civil War.  Schaefer mustered out in 1865, but reenlisted to serve as Post Quartermaster at Forts Harper and Zarah until 1869.  He was recognized for his service at Gettysburg in 1913, when each veteran was presented with a bronze metal cast from metal of cannons used during the war.

Home to Sedgwick, Kansas

He married Maria Theresa Rivallissa from New Mexico, in approximately 1868 and they decided to establish a more permanent home.

Maria M. Rivalissa Schafer, ca. 1868
In 1869, Charles Shaefer brought his bride to a place he had explored before while traveling with Col. Fauntleroy in the 1850s and again in 1860.  A place he remembered as a place of great beauty - the region near the convergence of the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers in south central Kansas.

Schaefer wrote:
"and as he again came into the valleys of the Little & Big Arkansas rivers, his keen vision and clear memory spotted again the characteristic view that had as first so impressed him.  I have already spoken of the fact that the only break in the broad monotony of prairie grass was the green made by the river trees.  South of the present site of Wichita a few miles was a  very thickly wooded place in the long line of green that marked the river.  This looked perfectly round from a  distance, and could be seen for miles.  El bosque Redondo, the Mexicans called it, and according to their tradition it had been known for years.     ("Autobiography" by Charles Schaefer, Charles Schaefer File, Sedgwick Historical Museum, Sedgwick, Ks) 
 Schaefer settled with his family on a ranch approximately four miles west what would become the City of Sedgwick in 1869.  He operated a supply store and engaged in raising cattle for a few years.  By the early 1870s, the Schaefer family had moved to the town of Sedgwick to open a grain and mercantile business with another early pioneer, William Finn.

Charles Schaefer (lt), William Finn (rt)
Charles and Maria's second child, a daughter named Rosa, was born August 12, 1870 and  was the first white child born in what would become Harvey County.  The Schaefer's had five children; Charles G., Rosa A., Esia J., John F. and Earl.  Maria died April 28, 1885 at the age of 43.  It was noted that "she was an early community worker and was loved by all -- she helped many people."

Five years later, Schaefer married Mary Francis Wilkin of Sedgwick.  According to Schaefer she "proved a most gentle and efficient mother to the bereaved children." She died in 1924 at age 75.

Harvey County State Militia & Public Life

In 1874, Schaefer was again called on to serve his state.  Deputized by Kansas Governor Thomas A Osborne on July 15, 1874, Schaefer was charged with the responsibility to "raise a company of men to stop the Indian depredations that threatened the countryside."
Document addressed to
Capt. Charles Schaefer, Harvey County State Militia
ordering the return of 30 Sharps Carbines.
Gov. Osborne organized the Kansas State Guards in response to Indian raids in western and southern Kansas mostly concentrated near Medicine Lodge, Ks. By the close of 1874, the Harvey County Militia was disbanded.  ("Autobiography" by Charles Schaefer, Charles Schaefer File, Sedgwick Historical Museum, Sedgwick, Ks)

Schaefer continued in public life when he served as Deputy Register of Deeds for Sedgwick County from 1888-1892.  During this time the Schaefers lived in Wichita, Ks.

In 1892 President Cleveland appointed Schaefer Consul to Vera Cruz, Mexico.  He spoke fluent Spanish "and made a good record in diplomatic corps."  He held this position for five years. ("County Loses Its Oldest Pioneer" Charles Schaefer Obituary; Evening Kansan Republican January 8, 1934, p.1)

In 1897, he returned to Sedgwick where he took an active part in civic improvements until his death January 7, 1934 at the age of 92.

This blog post is in connection to our current exhibit featuring the Harvey County community of Sedgwick, Kansas.  Thank you to the Sedgwick Historical Museum, Sedgwick, Ks, for providing access to their collections related to the history of Sedgwick.   

Visit our web page at for information available for family history research.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

January: Fire, Snow and Ice in Harvey County

by director Debra Hiebert, with research complied
by archival volunteer Thomas Carrell.

January in Harvey County has seen some extreme disasters, both natural and "from man's hand."  From "the most disastrous storm to hit Kansas" (from the Halstead Independent, 1961, referencing the blizzard of 1886) and destructive ice to unfortunate and tragic fires, January has historically offered plenty to keep the newspapers busy.

 As we enjoy another dry, mild winter, let's take a look back a few years to January 4, 2005, when Harvey County, and much of southcentral Kansas, was hit with a severe ice storm. The ice and accompanying wind brought tree branches and even trunks crashing to the ground, taking power lines, houses and other structures with them. Some county residents were without power for over a week as local and out-of-state crews worked to repair lines and replace poles.

Cold weather left the ice in place from Tuesday until the weekend, when temperatures in the '50's did away with it. The results of the storm could be seen throughout 2005, with piles of brush waiting to be hauled away and building repairs completed.

Earlier times in Kansas saw different effects from harsh weather. A 1961 edition of the Halstead Independent shared the story of the Kansas blizzard of January, 1886. According to this account:
"The last day of the year [1885] was beautifully warm and sunny and very quiet. Old Chris Krehbiel watched the flies flitting about the barn as if in midsummer and remarked to the hired man, 'Morgen fliegen sie nicht so.' (My loose translation is "They won't be flying like that tomorrow morning." Please feel free to correct this in our comments section!) He was right. By the morning of January 1 the temperature had dropped to 20 below zero and the wind was blowing the fine snow around so that it was impossible to see. One blizzard followed another all through January . . ." The storm claimed nearly 300 lives (mainly in the counties west of here, where shelter was not as available) and much livestock. Due to the unusually dry summer of 1885 leaving a shortage of feed, and a very mild fall, many farmers and ranchers had left their stock on the open range, so when the storm hit, the cattle drifted and froze or suffocated. What a difference to the current times when a person would have to work hard to be surprised by a storm due to the readily available weather information  The paper tells the tale of one lucky old sow who lived on a farm just west of Halstead. When the storm hit and she disappeared, the farmer assumed she was dead. Six weeks later in mid-February, she "came waddling out from a pile of snow and straw, almost too weak to walk and very thin, but still alive. Fed and sheltered she recovered." The paper also references the winter of 1911-1912, which was worse due to regular temperatures of 20 below and weekly snowfall, leaving the ground covered in snow from January through March, 1912. But "people were more prepared for it" with better shelter for both humans and livestock, and without the harsh windstorms that accompanied the 1886 season.

As destructive as these examples of snow and ice in our January history have been, fire has also figured prominently, particularly in Newton. The "most disastrous fire in the history of Newton" (Evening Kansas-Republican, January 29, 1908) was spotted at 6:45 AM in the hayloft of Thompson's Livery Stable at 112-114 East Sixth. The fire destroyed the livery and Lehman's Hardware, which was adjacent to the livery and faced Main Street.
Charred remains of businesses in 600 North Main, east side of street, including J.B. Thompson Livery, Kansas State Bank, Charles Johnson Drug Store, Wallace & Farrington Harness Store and Lehman Hardware.
Through hard work by Newton firemen, Santa Fe Railroad firemen, and Santa Fe rail workers (who responded to lend manpower as needed), only minimal damage was sustained by the surrounding businesses, mostly due to smoke and water damage to inventory. However, 35 horses died in the stable, with around 14 saved.

Less than a decade later Newton citizens experienced an even more devastating January blaze, this one claiming a life. Less than three hours into the new year of 1915, fire was discovered in the rear (west side) of the Knoepker Opera House, formerly called the Ragsdale Opera House.

The opera house was built in 1885 by T.P. and J.M. Ragsdale, eventually being sold to J.W. Johnson, then to J.H. Kroepker a few years prior to the fire. The building housed several businesses on the third floor, including Murphy Mortgage Company, Keystone Printing (owned by Mel Reynolds) and a shoe repair shop owned by E.M. Sikes. Also in the opera house was the McManus Department Store. T.H. McManus had spent the last few months of 1914 opening the store at this location and building his inventory back up after being completely burned out in August of 1914 at his former location, 508-516 North Main. (This fire burned the entire 500 block of North Main, including the businesses on East Fifth and East Sixth a story for another post!)
Remains of McManus Department Store, 500 block of North Main, displaying the sign stating, "McManus Dept. Store Open For Business-Opera House." The owner had arranged to rent space in the opera house before the end of the day that saw the burning of his business, and immediately set about opening and restocking.
The three-story Trousdale building was directly north of the opera house, and was occupied by a hotel owned by J.E. Hall, who had recently installed new furniture in the rooms. Damage continues throughout the day as walls collapsed onto surrounding objects, such as cars at a neighboring car dealership.

Citizens turned out in full force to see the remains of this downtown landmark, many  not taking the warning of the crushed car very seriously and standing a bit too close to the sagging walls!

The report of the opera house fire in the January 1, 1915 Evening Kansas Republican illustrates one way journalism has changed over the past century, with an interesting account of the origin of the fire:
"Those most familiar with the details of the fire declare that very distinct odors of oil were detected in the vicinity of the stage when the firemen reached the scene, and it is also intimated that some very reliable information is in the hands of the officers, which point to the fire having been of incendiary origin. Future developments will no doubt establish more certain the correctness of such a supposition."

The paper also reported that a man may have died in the fire. This was confirmed the next day when human remains were found by a "small army of volunteers." Willis T. Green was "an old settler of Harvey County and a well-known figure on the streets of Newton." Born in Ohio, this Civil War veteran moved his family to Harvey County in 1872, homesteading in Darlington Township. He served, at one time, as clerk of the district court and also worked as an engineer at the "old city water works." For eight or nine years prior to the opera house fire, he resided on the third floor of the building. Widowed and almost 70 years of age, he served not only as a handyman for the opera house building, but was employed around town doing odd jobs and repair work. Two married daughters and one son lived in Newton, with the newspaper offering the "sympathy of the community . . . in the loss of their father in so terrible a manner."

We welcome a January without, so far, a major blizzard, ice storm or fire destroying substantial downtown buildings. Disasters are interesting history, reminding me of the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." Here's hoping for a boring month!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Tasty Tradition to Welcome the New Year
by Debra Hiebert, HCHM Director
Many cultures have favorite dishes for the holidays, including New Years Day. The many Mennonite immigrants who settled Harvey County in the 1870's and 1880's brought a  traditional recipe used to welcome each new year. New Years Cookies are less like a cookie and more like a fritter or sugar doughnut. The low German name is portzilke, and means "tumbling over," a reference to the way the fritters turn themselves over in the frying oil. Many recipes exist, but all are fairly similar. One recipe is from Augusta (Dirksen) Schroeder, wife of Herman P. Schroeder. The Schroeders lived on Anderson Avenue (between 12th Street and Old 81) and farmed the surrounding fields. Both Augusta and Herman were first-generation Americans, living in Harvey County for most of their lives. Augusta's recipe for New Years Cookies follows the basic format:

New Years Cookies (Augusta)
1 c. raisins or prunes - soak overnight. Next morning boil up with water.
Take 1/2 c. of this juice and soak 1 cake yeast, 1 T. sugar, 1 t. salt.
Add 1 c. milk, 2 eggs and enough flour to make a bubbit dough. (Authors note: Bubbit was a holiday baked bread dressing to accompany roast meat, and contained either dried fruit, such as raisins, or small meat pieces.) After it has raised, stir or fold dough over. In meantime, heat Crisco and fry by spoonfuls in Crisco 'til brown.

The fried "cookies" were then rolled in sugar or drizzled with frosting. Augusta's recipe shows a modern substituion with Crisco, as the fritters were traditionally fried in lard. New Years Cookies are still served in Harvey County at special events, such as Fall Fest at Bethel College in North Newton. And, of course, in many private homes to welcome in a new year.

Does your family have a traditional meal or recipe to celebrate New Years Day? Share with our readers in the comments section. And have a 2013 filled with both traditional favorites and the best of today on your table!