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This article was sent to me many years ago by Victor Tegarden who lived in Liberal, KS. It was a copy of a newspaper article from the “Kansas City Star” dated Sunday, June 20, 1915. Offered here with permission from the ”Kansas City Star” (copyright).

 Apparently this group of traveling journalists were making their way across the nation and sending reports of their adventures to the “Star.”

 On a Walking Trip to California

 O Pioneers!

 By Harriet U. Andrews

The best things in life come accidentally, as it were, and by the way. Planned and expected happiness may or may not turn out to be an apple of Sodom, but make yourself beloved of the gods, and perfectly beautiful things that you weren't at all expecting tumble from the hands of fickle deities right into your lap.

That's the way it was with Meade, Kas., and us. Meade fell into your laps, you might say, by virtue of a pink envelope addressed to me by a man named Marshall, of whom I had never heard in my life. He wrote when we were away back in Bartlesville, Ok., inviting us to come to Meade and visit a clubhouse on a 30-acre lake. We all said: "How very nice of him!" and thought no more of it, as we intended then to go north to Dodge City and take the Santa Fe Trail.

However, on the way from Bartlesville to Winfield, Kas., we began to get our fill of hopping out of the way of motor cars, and when we got to Winfield O.F. inquired of travelers and automobile men whether we could go straight west off the main traveled roads. Then the name of Meade came up, and as everybody assured him finally and once for all that he could never, never get to Meade, he became fired with determination to go there.

The automobile men at Winfield told us we could not possibly get west of Harper. We walked to Harper. At Harper they said we could not proceed beyond Medicine Lodge. We walked to Medicine Lodge. At Medicine Lodge everybody said we would be lucky if we got to Coldwater. We walked to Coldwater, and there they assured us that Ashland was the jumping off place. We walked to Ashland.

Her Folks Back East.

"Yes," said a woman who lives in that town, "my folks back East won't come out here to visit me because they think I live in the wild West. They think this is the very edge of things." "Back East?" queried Elizabeth with interest. "Do your people live in New York state?" "Oh, no!" cried the lady, scandalized at the insinuation. "They all live in Greenwood County, Kansas." But to this broad minded woman, as well as to everybody else in Ashland, Meade was in the wilderness beyond the pale.

Few people had heard of Meade. Nobody had ever been there and nobody even dreamed of knowing how to get there. But at last, when they found that O.F. was determined in his lunatic idea of going to Meade, somebody gave him a complicated set of directions, which I cannot now remember, but which included the command to go west twelve miles till we came to "a mail box named Kibby," and then take the first trail north. We came to the "box named Kibby," and found the trail, after having been assured by a farmer plowing one hundred feet west of it that it was not there. We followed it until we met a mail carrier, who gave us an entirely new set of directions, which we followed until we met a farmer in a wagon, who told us we were on the way to Minneola. As we had no desire to go to Minneola, O.F. decided to find Meade by himself. So we started west over the pasture again and landed finally at John's Creek Ranch, where we camped for the night.

Here for the first time we met a man who had been in Meade. Meade had fallen pretty low in our estimation by this time. We had about decided that Mr. Marshall was a snare and his 30-acre lake a delusion. But at the big, hospitable ranch, one of the cowboys told us what a fine man Mr. Marshall was, and the owner of the ranch actually knew a man who knew another man who could tell us how to get to Meade.

So, Sunday morning we packed up and started bright and early to find the other man. He gave us a long list of roads and trails and turnings, which O. F. wrote down carefully on a little card, and every one of which turned out to be wrong. But, by following our noses and a generally westward trail, we did come to the farmhouse of a man who knew the real way to get to Meade, and here, too, O.F. had speech with Mr. Marshall over the telephone, and the latter also sounded real. So we started again to "go west till you come to a wagon wheel with about twenty mail boxes on it, then go on west about another mile till you come to another wagon wheel, then turn north and go three miles and then turn west again and go seven miles to Meade.

"Meade at Last! We followed these, and at last, west of us, miles away across the level prairie, we saw a spire and a water tower and knew our town was there. It was about half past five of a very warm afternoon. The sky was blue, save for a thin, gray line of clouds across the western horizon. It was so hot that O.F. and I had our sleeves rolled up and our collars turned in. As we walked the line of gray clouds advanced to meet us, until it divided the sky into a dark and light hemisphere. The very instant that we walked under the dark half the air changed. It turned cold as abruptly as if we had stepped into another zone, and the wind came rushing from the stillness, tossing the wheat about like the foam of the sea, and blowing the voices out of our mouths.

We stopped the wagon, put on our sweaters and coats and buttoned them, with the gale trying to whip them out of our hands. "We can't put the tent up anywhere in this gale," I yelled in return. "Let's ask at a farmhouse if we may stay there all night," cried Elizabeth. We were passing just then a trim little white farmhouse with screened piazza all around, a tree-filled yard and a big table and a garage and a general air of attractiveness and plenty. Let's ask there," suggested Elizabeth. I believe it would be better to go to a less prosperous looking place," objected O.F., looking down at his own disheveled person with regret and at me with absolute disfavor. We did look pretty disreputable. "People like that wouldn't want to take us in." "I don't want to go to a less prosperous looking place," said Elizabeth testily, for her. "If I have to stop anywhere I want to be where it's clean. You go in there and ask."

In the Land of the Pioneers.

So O.F. went in. Here I should like to draw a line of stars, as they used to do in the old novels. Above the stars, as you might say, we stood in the road, dirty, cold, blown about the wind, looking forward skeptically in a mythical lake in a town where nobody had ever been. Beneath the stars, behold! Here is tired old Bill, unharnessed and fed and housed in a warm stable. Here are three tramps in a warm, cheerful, well ordered farmhouse, bright with electric lights and welcoming faces, and affording an immediate and unlimited supply of hot water running charmingly out of a tap. Then more stars. Then such a supper nobody ever had before, and such beds afterwards! That was our introductions to the Wormans, and the Wormans were our introduction to Meade and Meade was our introduction to real pioneer hospitality, the hospitality of the open plains, where the door was always on the latch for the stranger, and no questions asked.

As we walked into town the next morning, Mr. Marshall came out into the street to meet us, and pretty nearly the whole town followed suit. We met all the leading citizens, and were presented the freedom of the place, the use of everybody's motor car and the key of the country club. We walked four miles out to the country club and then more stars, as the poet might say. In about half an hour, Bill was roaming over a pasture limited only by the horizon, our tent was up, our wagon unpacked, Elizabeth was blissfully preparing a meal by a kitchen range, where she could cook "standing up," as she ecstatically phrased it--poor little Elizabeth, who has cooked stooping over for nearly seven months—

and our luncheon table was set on a screened piazza overlooking a pretty little lake, a real prairie lake, treeless, and spread out as if by accident in the midst of a vast open pasture, across which we could see terns and great blue herons sailing in the sky for miles, coming to stalk or swim in the wind ruffled water.

Five Children and Fifty Cents.

That evening, people began to come to call. We were offered boat keys and fishing rods galore, and invited to stay as long as we would. The next day we were conducted in a triumphal procession of three motor cars to visit some of the farms of Meade County, and people who did not know us and did not know we were coming to see them, came out as our cars stopped and said: "Why come right in!" Meade is the most wonderful place I ever saw. Everybody is a pioneer. Everybody is interesting. Everybody has a story to tell. Most of the people who are here now came about 1885, during the first flow of settlers from the East, when Meade County had a sort of boom. At that time, as many as a hundred and forty prairie schooners could be seen in one day, passing through Wilburn on their way from Dodge City. Everybody came in a wagon and nearly every man had five children and fifty cents.  

As we met one pioneer after another, I conceived the notion of asking each man how much money he had when he came here and how many children. The answers were so similar and so thrilling that I got all excited trying to remember them without my notebook. Mr. Marshall offered me the kindly loan of his check book and an indelible pencil to write with--where else on earth would you find a merchant willing to turn his check book over to an unknown female to scribble on?--and I wrote the life histories of Meadites down on the backs of checks and wrote them so fast that I got them all mixed up and credited one Frank Murphy, who came here unencumbered by either wife or money, with having five children and seventy-five cents to cope with when he filed his claim.

I got the men and their offspring and their respective financial beginnings finally straightened out, but I have been one continual exclamation point ever since I began to inquire into these pioneer doings. To me, the epitome of their performances is encompassed in the small person of one little 9-year-old girl. Mrs. Worman's little girl, who is about three and a half feet high and weights about fifty pounds. The night we stopped there, she helped her mother get supper. There were fried potatoes on the stove in a big iron frying pan, and necessity required that those potatoes be transferred to a dish resting on a shelf in the pantry. The mite grabbed the big frying pan, which was about half as large as herself, carried it into the pantry, dumped the potatoes out into the dish, which she had to stand on tiptoe to reach, carried the frying pan back again and slammed it down on the stove without winking an eyelash. The way that little thing handled that big frying pan seemed to me to express to a nicety the way these pioneers handled their problems.

All of the Worman offspring were the same. Before we started out on the road in the morning, the two oldest boys had been all the way to town and back with the drag to smooth the road, and were out again in a sulky cart, driving a colt that had just been broken to harness the day before. Such are the children of pioneers.

"We came here in a wagon, with four sick children and $20,"said Mrs. Worman. "All my children had the measles and my baby died the first week, and all of our money went to take care of it and bury it. We lived in a sod house. My aunt gave me some cows and I made butter and sold it. I had to drive thirty-six miles once a week to get the butter to the train."

She lived in a sod house, and took care of sick children and bore other children and made butter to sell and helped work the farm, and yet she and her husband are young and undaunted still. They have an automobile now, and a house with a furnace and a bathroom and electric lights, but they have not ceased to be pioneers. When they built an addition to their house and wanted a new chimney and the masons were slow, Mr. Worman, who had never built a chimney in his life, built the chimney with his own hands, and it draws. When they wanted abathroom and the plumbers were slow, Mr. Worman put in his own plumbing, in the intervals of managing a big wheat farm; and the plumbing works. Every summer Mrs. Worman cooks for twenty-five harvest hands who demand five meals a day, but she hires a girl to help, and everything on the place that can be done by machinery has its proper machine. The washing machine and wringer are both run by a gasoline engine, and the electric light power for the house is made on the place.

How They Lived.

Meade is full of people like this, people who came here from Eastern states with no money and no knowledge of the conditions they were to meet. And to what did they come? Literally, nothing but sod and sky. There was no timber to build houses with, so they had to dig themselves holes in the ground, or erect houses made of strips of the sod they ploughed up. There was no wood for fuel, so they burned buffalo chips. There were no wells then, and all of them hauled water all the way from one to ten miles. They had no money, and had to live on credit from the stores and pay their bills, in many cases, with calves.

This is not an old wives' tale, nor the story of men who are doddering old grandfathers now. It is the life history of people who are young and pioneering still, and who are, moreover, riding around in motorcars, and sending their children to college. We saw the juxtaposition of the new and the old today, when we went to dinner with E.D. Smith, who lives in a sod house he built himself twenty-five years ago. The sod walls are eighteen inches thick and plastered on the inside with a rough cement. The roof is of planks, weighted down by stones. We ate dinner in the raftered kitchen, where the white pine beams are so stained with age and smoke they look like walnut. The deep recessed windows made the interior resemble a cottage in the Old Country, and the geraniums in the windows and Mrs. Smith rolling piecrust for a Barbazon painter. Yet in the next room was a telephone and a shining typewriter.

A telephone in a sod house-there you have Meade in a nutshell. Everybody has a telephone as a matter of course, and yet they had to run the wires along the barbed wire fences because they have no poles.

Get a lot of Meade farmers together and you hear tales! Take the Frank Marrs. They came here twenty-two years ago in a wagon with five children and fifty cents. They lived in a dugout where the mud was so deep on the floor that the legs of a chair sank into it six inches. They traded their mules for a share in a truck garden. It was the first truck garden in Meade County. At that time everybody had to haul water, and nobody would take the trouble to grow vegetables, so the Marrs sold everything they could raise.

"We did work in those days," said Mrs. Marrs. "Sometimes I would be so busy all day I could not attend to the planting, and many a moonlight night I've gone out and planted sweet potatoes till 11:30 and then got up again at 4 or 5 o'clock the next morning." And she stands young and erect and strong as she tells the tale. These people planted every bush and tree that is no growing on their land. They made everything that they used. They were fifty miles from a railroad. There were no mills, and they had to grind the wheat for their bread themselves.

"How much money did you have when you came here?" I asked Mr. Marshall. "I came in a wagon," said he. "I had two children. My brother and I rented an abstract office and paid $6 rent for it in advance. That left us with $1.65 to start business. We had to buy everything on credit the first year. I had a claim, but I had to mortgage it to pay the first taxes, and if the man who held the mortgage had not died I should have lost it."

"How many children did you have?" I asked Captain Painter. "Five," he answered. "And fifty cents?" I queried with a grin, for the unanimity of this early poverty began to sound like fiction. "I didn't have as much as fifty cents. And that's the God's truth. I had a mule, but it died the first week. And we lived in a dugout cave in the side of a bank.

"How many children did you have?" I asked Mr. Adams, the mayor. "I didn't have any. And I had $200, and I came on the train. But," he added, as if to redeem himself, “at the end of the first year I had just seventy-five cents."

"When a crowd of these people are talking together of the old days, you wish you had a stenographer to take down every word.

"How much money did you have?" I asked "Doc" Anschutz. "I didn't have any. And I slept on the prairie grass." "Didn't you even have a dugout?" "No. I married my wife out of one, though," he said reminiscently.

"I was born in one," said Miss Johnston, the postmistress. "I was married right out on the open prairies," said Mrs. Frank Murphy. "We lived in No Man's Land, and Mr. Murphy had to come up here to Meade to get a license. Then of course we had to come up into Kansas to be married. There was a ranchman preacher who married us. Three buggy loads of us came up and we stood right on the open prairie to have the ceremony performed."

We met an old man, E. W. Jenkins, who has been in Kansas since 1857, when it was a territory. He brought his wife to Meade County from Arkansas thirty years ago. "How many children did you have?" I demanded of her with alert interest. "I don't remember," said Mrs. Jenkins. And then when I laughed she added. "Oh, yes, I had four. Everybody had so many children then." "And how much money did you have?" I asked Mr. Jenkins. "Not $2," he replied.

Could Tell by the Sleeves.

"We lived in a sod house away out on the prairies," said the trim, old lady, smoothing down her apron. "And I thought it was awful at first. I was discouraged. It seemed dreadful that there was no Sunday school for my children, so when somebody told me there was a Quaker woman that had meetings I went there. It was in a sod house and the seats were piles of sod with boards over them. All the women were dressed up in their best, and they all had on the clothes they brought with them. Nobody had bought any new ones since they came here, and you could tell how long a woman had been here by the style of her hat and sleeves. Some of them were styles of ten years back. We had a literary society and I used to drive eighteen miles to the meetings. It was hard then, but I wouldn't live any place else but Kansas now."

She was so little and so sweet and soft looking, and just think what she had been through! Pioneers, O pioneers! You are so wonderful, so great, so gigantic in your effort and achievement. You indomitable women, I bow down to you for what you have done. I am ashamed of myself and the puerility of my generation. I wish that we were fine and strong like you.

"Have you voted?" I asked Mrs. Jenkins suddenly. "Of course," she replied. Every woman in Kansas of whom I have asked that question replies in the affirmative. It's no wonder Kansas passed the suffrage bill. Could a legislature dare to look these women in the face and tell them they didn't know enough to vote? They have a woman postmaster in Meade, and Miss Agnes Wehrle runs the only Democratic paper in Meade County.

Settlers flowed into Meade County steadily, until, in 1889, there was scarcely a hundred and sixty acre tract that did not have a house of some kind and a family on it. Then came a dry season, and people became discouraged and began to move away. About that time, Oklahoma and No Man's Land were opened for settlement, and many people rushed down there. Meade County was practically deserted. Land fell so low in value that you could buy a quarter section for fifty dollars. Of four banks in Meade, soon not one was left, and only two men in the county were able to write checks on any bank. Everybody who could get away went, and only a few of the old settlers remained on their land.

And Water Within Eighty Feet.Artesian Well Meade KS

Those who stayed grew rich. For, about 1895, began the use of artesian wells for irrigating the land. These wells had been sunk as far back as 1885, but nobody then had any understanding of the wealth of water that flows under what is now known as the Artesian Valley. Mr. Marrs told us that he carried water to his farm in barrels for three years before he found that by merely drilling eighty feet down he could get all the water he wanted. Now he has twenty-five acres of fruit and vegetable sunder irrigation, and he has enough water to irrigate his whole six hundred and forty if he wanted to.

When the farmers of the valley want water on the land, they just turn a faucet and flood the ground, with none of the expensive business of pipes and tiling. At the Leach Farm, where lives the "Mother of the Artesian Valley," there are twenty-eight of these wells. Mrs. Leach, who is so fine and big-hearted and generous and motherly that you love her just to look at her, showed us over her great, comfortable house and farm.

The lavishness of water in what was once known as the Kansas Desert almost shocks you into insensibility. All of these farms have "milk houses," where ice is unknown. The milk house contains a long and deep cement trough, through which water runs in a continuous stream. In this stream of water stand the milk pails and jars of butter and wonderful cream. The overflow from these troughs runs over the land when needed, or into a fish pond, or, as at the Leach farm, into a ditch, where yellow ducklings swim contentedly.

Leaches Ranch Artesian Well

An inexhaustible supply of water.

Think of it. And it is water that shows absolutely no bacterial count, something that Doctor Cross has assured O.F. does not exist. But there stands the analysis from Manhattan, "Bacteria O." An unlimited supply of water. And it is only about twelve years since people began to have sense enough to know what it meant. But that is why these pioneers who bravely stuck it out in their sod houses, now ride in automobiles.

And the land is blossoming year by year. There are great trees that these harassed and busy women found time to set as tiny saplings. The cherry trees are full of ripe fruit now and plums and apples and apricots are large and plump.  The land itself shows the effect of cultivation. Where once was only dry sand there is now prairie grass. Where once was only prairie grass wheat grows with unexampled and almost miraculous willingness to prosper. Thirty bushels of wheat per acre has been produced without sowing or cultivating-just volunteer from seed dropped at the previous harvesting. And they tell me that when they have sunk wells sixty-five feet deep they have gone through nothing but black humus the whole distance. The rich loam is apparently of unlimited depth.

It sounds like a fairy tale. But it is true. This is the great and wonderful Artesian Valley of the Great and wonderful state of Kansas. Yet nobody could tell us how to get there and we learned of it merely by virtue of a pink envelope from a man named Marshall, inviting us to a town where nobody had ever been.

 

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