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
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
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.
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
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
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?
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.
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.
was the daughter is that right? Her parents were who the school was
Innis: No, the
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
Innis: Yes, Iím sure
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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