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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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.
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
"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
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."
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
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.
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.
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.
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.