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My name is Elbert Innis

My father John B. Innis came to Meade Co. in 1884. The C.P. (Crocker Paul) Fletcher family came in 1885. My father and Josephine Fletcher were married in 1889. I was born Feb. 11, 1891, in a sod house on the west shore of Lakeview lake seven miles east of Meade.

The B.S. McNeel family came in 1885. I married Mona McNeel in 1916. We were both born in Meade County and have lived here continuously since. My father filed on a claim there and my motherís sister (Pink) filed on a claim in the same area, so her family, the Fletcher family, lived near the Lakeview school house.

My father taught school for a great many years. The first school I attended was taught by my father and was then known as the Randolph school, located two and a half miles north of where we lived.



Elbert E. Innis

The only method of transportation at the time was horse. My father owned two mules and one was gaited so he rode the mule to school with me behind him.

Most of my schooling was at the Lakeview School located on the old dry lake eight miles east of Meade. Then in 1889, my mother brought us to Meade to attend school here and then we moved back to the country. When I was about thirteen years old I thought I had gone to school long enough and that I should be ready for high school. I came to town and took the county examination and flunked that because I hadnít studied Kansas history which was required at the time and I didnít know about it. When I was fourteen in 1904, I was able to pass the examination and spent two years in high school in Meade. We had no high school longer than that so I had planned to go to either Hutchinson or Lawrence to finish high school.

About this time my brother, who was cashier at the Meade State Bank, first talked to my parents then to me about coming to work for them in the bank. At the time I was sixteen years old, so I started working for them on August 15, 1907. I continued with that bank until 1937, at that time the fellow I was associated with died and in 1937, we consolidated the two banks, (Meade State Bank and The First National Bank) and at that time I went to the First National Bank as Vice-president and I was there until two years ago when I retired after sixty-five years of continuous banking in Meade.

The following is an interview of Elbert Innis by
Bill Bunyon and Ruth Benhke of the Meade County Historical Society:

Bunyan: Mr. Innis, you mentioned that the first school you went to. Lottie Bisbee said someone had asked her about the ďLickskillet SchoolĒ.

Innis: I donít know.

Bunyan: This was the Randolph School?

Innis: But that was the Randolph School.

Bunyan: And they call it the ďLickskillet School?

Innis: Yes, it was made up mostly of people in the community, the Innis, the Randolph, mostly those two families. I remember one as Carl? Ellis, he had one of the first high wheel bicycles I had ever seem. Thatís one with two wheels a high wheel in front and a low wheel behind. As a small boy only four years old I couldnít even look over the top of it. It seemed like an enormous big bicycle but the ones I have seen since that time, wasnít as big as I thought it was.

Bunyan: There were also some other schools that someone wanted to know about. The ďBlack School,Ē are you acquainted with that one?

Innis: Yes the ďBlack SchoolĒ was located South of Meade, if you have it marked on your map at the museum it was near the town of Touzlen. It is hard to believe that at one time there were forty-three school districts in the county. Now we have three grade schools and two high schools left in the county. That is a far cry from what it was at that time. Of course transportation had a lot to do with it. The kids who went to school in my time either went by horseback, horse and buggy, or many of them walked, there was no other way to get there.

Bunyan: About how far did the farthest child have to go to get to one of these country schools?

Innis: I would say not over three miles. They were that close together. In our neighborhood there were most of the schools that my father taught. The farthest away he taught at was over in the Trober neighborhood south and east of Fowler. He would go over early on Monday morning, getting up early and riding the mule to wherever he was boarding with some family in the area, and then come home Friday night. During this time when we had kids in our family were small we would have some neighbor boy who was larger than we were come over and take us to school. Of course it wasnít long before I was considered big enough to do the driving. Thatís the way we went to school. Always a one-teacher school and all the grades in one room.

Bunyan: About how many students were in each school?

Innis: Oh, if you had 10-15 it was a large school.

Benhke: We had larger schools south of Plains, at least East Glendale, West Glendale, Rolldale and Lone Star. I might insert right here the XI Ranch, the big Roberts ranch was too far for their children to go. I know they had private tutors. As they would have so far to go to school at Lone Star School.

Innis: That was true, in fact the XI Ranch covered most of the southwest parts of Meade County and parts of Seward County and northern Oklahoma at that time.

Bunyan: Now the Black School was named for Moses Black?

Innis: Moses Black was the first surveyor who surveyed the town of Meade and another of his projects was Graceland Cemetery and he also did county surveying. He was the first elected County Surveyor for Meade County. He lived here for most of his life.

Bunyan: Did you see the article in the KU Alumni newspaper that Florena Black (who you probably knew) was his daughter?

Innis: Yes, I was responsible for that. As long as we're talking about the Florena Black story, my son who is with Phillips Petroleum Co. is quite well acquainted with Paul Hendicott who was at one time president of Phillips Petroleum Co. and had been at the University with Florena Black. He had attended some occasions at which she had presented this paper based on her experiences in Meade and that is very reliable. The things she mentions really happened. She went to high school at the same time as Mona and I, in fact we were in the same class.

Bunyan: We were quite interested. I am a member of the KU Alumni and I saw this story and as I started reading it I did not know who Florena Black was. Then I saw Meade County and I then really got interested. I wrote them a little and they wrote back an sent the whole copies and they are at the Museum now. Did you get a copy?

Innis: Paul Hendicott knew that Eugene was from Meade so he gave him a copy. So thatís the copy we left with people who knew Florena around here.

Bunyan: I brought mine over and my mother had one, so thereís plenty of copies now. Itís too bad, you know she died just last year. I would have like to have talked to her. What about Boyer School? I do not know exactly where it was?

Innis: The Boyer School was in the other direction. It was down on Crooked Creek south and west of Meade.

Benhke: The Boyerís home was right there beside it, wasnít it?

Innis: Yes it was.

Bunyan: It was named for the family?

Innis: Yes it was named for the family. Some of the early day schools were named for the family who lived nearest or who furnished the most kids. This is true in the Randolph family.

Benhke: Reva Boyer was the daughter is that right? Her parents were who the school was named for?

Innis: No, the grandparents actually.

Benhke: Oh thatís her grandparents.

Bunyan: Now does Don have that school on the map?

Innis: Oh Iím sure he does have it.

Bunyan: The Boyer School?

Innis: Yes, Iím sure he does.

Bunyan: Well we donít have the Randolph or Lickskillet schools.

Innis: That is this Highland School probably and it is on the map.

Bunyan: Well that is good to know, we were just looking at the map.

Innis: It was also known as the Highland School.

Bunyan: What about the Cudahy Plant? The silica plant out there Ė we donít know very much about that Ė and perhaps you could give us some information.

Innis: To begin with, according to Sullivanís ďHistory of Meade CountyĒ about 1903, the first silica in Meade was mined by Ira McSherry, on what is now the John Isaac place just five miles south of Meade. He had a contract with Rhodes & Co. of Chicago to furnish them with silica over a five year period. And they paid him $2.00 a ton.

Shortly after that the Cudahy Packing Co. got the lease on the land north of Meade and west of Fowler, to build a railroad spur west of Fowler and that mine operated at full capacity for a great number of years until it was discovered that the soil in the Chicago River near Chicago would produce the same results in making soap and that is when the Cudahy Mine was discontinued.

There are several beds of silica in Meade County. Jim Turner, when he was alive, was probably the best informed man locally in Meade Co. because he worked with the people who developed the mine just east of Fowler. He also knew about the mine just west of town (Meade), the lease is still owned by the Puck Soap Co. I donít know if whether or not thereís any lease still existing. But that is a little of the history of the silica mining in the county.

The origin of silica is an interesting thing and that goes back to the geology of Meade County, which at one time Meade County was a lake and lakes, of course, have eddies and places where a white material such as volcanic ash, which they now think came from the volcanoís in Yellowstone, which settled into the lake and gathered in these coves, that became the volcanic deposits that we have in Meade Co.

Bunyan: Do you know how long that mine east of Fowler was in existence?

Innis: Not very long.

Bunyan: When I was a boy in 1949-1950, I can remember they had evidence over there, and of course the pits were there where they dug it up.

Innis: They had to haul it in and shipped the raw material at that time. Of course Cudahy when they built their plant put in dryers and extracted much of the moisture out of the silica.

In fact the McSherry mine that was later operated by Albert Hantla had installed dryers and was shipping his product at that time to Swift & Co. the manufacturer of soap products.

Bunyan: Was that the only silica mining that was done in Meade Co. that you know of?

Innis: Yes I think that was all. McSherry had the first operating mine later operated by Albert Hantla. And the Cudahy mine west of Fowler.

Bunyan: There wasnít any other material like coal or anything?

Innis: No; except I came by it the other day and one of the richest parcels of land in Meade Co. for what it has produced is the sand pit south of here between Meade and the state lake. It has produced thousands of tons of sand and gravel for which the Borchers family has received the royalties and as far as I know thatís still in operations.

Bunyan: Well Ruth Benhke had a question, thereís a dispute whether the Chinese laundry and the ice house, maybe you could clear that up?

Innis: There isnít anything to be disputed there. In the early history of Meade a fellow by the name of Lee Wong, a Chinaman, came here and operated a Chinese laundry. And the location was in the second block north of the museum in the northwest corner of that block and how I know is I had an occasion to look at the abstract of the lot. And found out that it was owned by Lee Wong. His death was sort of mysteries and I have my own ideas on that.

His throat was cut and being a laundryman at the time, the only way you could dry laundry was on a clothes line. It is my opinion that he was being chased home by some drunken cowboys and he ran under his own clothes line, and slashed his neck.

He was buried in the extreme south side of Graceland Cemetery. I did know exactly where its location. His brother from China came over here and it seems the most important thing to them was that his cue be buried in his home country in order for him to inherit a future life which they believed in and they came and dug him up, took the cue and left the bones scattered on the ground and that was the last of Lee Wong.

Benhke: I heard that they took the bones but you donít think they did?

Innis: No, no, they didnít; my authority for that is Fred Stalder who I knew very well and Herb Graves who still lives here. Now the building some people have mistaken for the Chinese laundry was only an ice house. Ice was being harvested on the John Stalder place just west of the cemetery, they had an artesian well and an artesian lake there in the winter time the lake would freeze solid and they would cut ice and store it in this ice house. I have seen ice stored there a lot of times, and this building is still down there.

Benhke: We have seen it.

Innis: There was no mystery about it except people have heard about there being a Chinese laundry. I know in art class on time we painted pictures of it and called it the Chinese laundry.

Benhke: Now what was the first floor, is that where the people lived or was this their business. I guess this cave is where they put the ice, in the lower part to the back. What was the two story part? Was this the living area?

Innis: That house has been remodeled since it was an ice house. It may have been made larger or higher. As I remember my uncle was in the butcher business here in the early days and the only way they had to keep meat was from ice, from an ice house, and no other way to get it and they of course got their meat from this ice house and Iíve been down there, went down there to get it. The ice was put in and packed in straw and saw dust and it kept for quite some time.

Bunyan: Would it last all summer?

Innis: It seemed to. Itís still a mystery to me how they kept meat in the butcher shop the way they did, but maybe.

Bunyan: It is something that ice would last so long.

Innis: If itís packed right it would last. But that should clear up the Chinese laundry and the ice house.

Bunyan: Now thereís another little building right? I think the same woman owns both of them, but thereís a little building that looks like an old store.

Innis: I donít know, could have been moved in from uptown down there.

You know a great many of the buildings in Meade have been moved in from these ghost towns. Like the town of Touzalin. There were buildings moved in from there and from old Carthage, which was between here and Missler. Then there was Mertilla which probably was the most developed of the ghost towns at one time and those buildings were moved to Meade.

Bunyan: Do you happen to know how old the Blehm building is?

Innis: I donít know exactly, Iíve tried to find out more about that. But that building was moved from Plains, I understand. It is an old building and Iíve talked to Godfrey about it and I think he was willing to go along and let the Historical Society have the front end and that should be preserved.

Bunyan: Weíve discussed it but we do not know exactly what to do with just the front end, because it canít just be laid down or it will just fall apart. Itís got to be put up, that is the problem. We have discussed that. But have you talked to him about getting that?

Innis: I have talked to him, but have not talked to what heíd want or anything. But it is the oldest business building in Meade.

Bunyan: It was here in the 1890ís probably. 

Innis: It came here, yes, shortly after 1890, I would say.

Bunyan: What about some of the old timers, the early inhabitants of Meade. Any interesting characters you can remember anything about.

Innis: When you mention interesting character there was no one that was not an interesting character.

Bunyan: Is there any that come to your mind?

Innis: There was Capt. Osgood, Dick Buis, Brother Buis and Glades Harveyís father, Capt. Painter who was Bill Painterís grandfather, Frank Davis, Tom Boodle, Lawyers Geo. Allen and Ed Smith father of Leora Smith, they were lawyers in their own right, and actually very few of them had any formal training. At that time they could read law and become admitted to the bar and that is what most of these fellows did, of course they were all characters.

The great event in every year, and this was true even after I went to work at the bank and for several years after, was court week. Court week usually lasted about two weeks and at that time everyone who could came to town and just camped in order to attend the sessions at court. That was one of the most interesting times and we always knew that we were going to be busy during court week as everyone came to town. Another interesting time, I donít know how much you have heard about it was the Old Soldiers Reunion.

Bunyan: Civil War Soldiers?

Innis: Yes Civil war. They had an encampment every year for a great many years, they had their gathering, the old soldiers would gather for three or four days maybe longer in an encampment at which they listened to one another and gave speeches and visited among themselves. When it was possible for them to do so, they would secure a tent and set it up. Even smaller tents that the families could live in when they came to attend.

Bunyan: Do you remember when they had the last one?

Innis: No. They finally combined with the Old Soldiers Reunion in Dodge City and this was held about the time of the Ford Co. fair each year.

Benhke: I did not know they had those did you?

Bunyan: Yes, I have read about the encampments that the civil war soldiers had. I suppose into the 40ís would have been the last one.

Innis: I would say the 20ís.








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