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This delightful story was brought to my attention by LaDonna Meyers who wrote "Cimarron Chronicles." It was sent to her by someone because it mentioned Doc Anshutz the subject of her book. It brought a smile to my face, so I thought I would share it here. I cannot find H.R. Walmsley in our history anywhere... but you can bet I'll recognize the name if it crosses my path. Not only does the article mention several old Meade County people, but it proves that we can be a very wet country at times!

October 31, 1914, H.R. Walmsley and his wife, Harriett, left Kansas City on an adventurous road trip in a horse-drawn wagon. Loaded with a tent, cots, and provisions, they wondered over Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, eventually ending their journey in Raton. Mr. Walmsley was a talented writer and chronicled his trip in several issues of "Recreation" magazine.

This excerpt was taken out of the July, 1916 issue of "Recreation" and chronicles the couple's time in the Meade County vicinity.

THE ROAD TO FREEDOM

by H. R. Walmsley

In the long ago, when I passes this way, there were, along the border between Kansas and No Man's Land, several flourishing cities that are now buried in a forgotten past.

As we left Sun City, Kansas, and climbed the gypsum hills, a vista of the un-trodden plains of the early days spread out before us. At rare intervals, away off cross the horizon, we would catch glimpses of prairie schooners moving slowly along the trail. When we stopped for lunch, the cattle came to interview the strangers. We passed through Coldwater, finding it as cold as its name, and on to Ashland, the only place except Boise City, Oklahoma, where we were not well treated. At Ashland we were told that we could go no further west and would have to take a road north or south. But we passed out to the west, and made a trail of our own to Meade, traveling across hills and canyons, creeks and swamps, through cattle ranges and open prairie to John's Creek Ranch, and on to Meade, the most fascinating town in Kansas.

A Friend of Old Times Appears

Meade is a town of early settlers, who went through al the struggles of the pioneer days. Here we were royally entertained and provided with a thirty-acre lake packed as full of swans as a can is of sardines, with rowboats, and a clubhouse with screened porches, cement floors, hammocks, a cook stove, a closet full of club skeletons, and last, but by no means least, a pasture for Bill [their horse] that was fenced only by the rising and setting suns.

Great blue herons stalked the lake by day and came to the tent and talked to us at night. Terns, gulls, divers, ducks, kingfishers and swallows swam in the lake or skimmed over it. A great white egret came daily for his breakfast A prairie dog town stretched along the southern side of the lake, and its population of "dogs," owls and snakes furnished us with much entertainment. Nearly everybody in Meade had a car, and nearly every car was placed at our disposal. "Doc" Anshutz, the only man I found on the trip whom I had known in the early days on the frontier, took us for a wild eighty-mile ride in his car over hills and holes, sage brush, creeks and sand, scattering jack-rabbits and steers in every direction. Doc Anshutz is one of the pillars of the community. When No Man's Land was organized under the federal courts, Doc was made a justice of the peace.  He knew about a much law as a badger, but he was furnished with part of a volume of Oklahoma Statutes and a file of the Appeal to Reason. With these, and enforced good sense, he made the once lawless community so law-abiding that the lawyers had to emigrate.

All the country club members came out to see us and to fish and swap pioneer stories around our camp-fire. The real fisherman of the town was Capt. Painter. After Mr. Marshall and a dozen others had scientifically fished all day with most approved outfits and no results, the Captain would sit by our tent with an old stick for a rod, a piece of wood for a float, an ordinary hook baited with grasshoppers, and pull out a good sized crappie every minute.

Pioneers are still there, and pioneer days are still there. The homesteading and dugout building are as real now as of yore. They still haul water for miles and build fires with "buffalo chips." The sod houses and the adobe houses of Southwest Kansas and No Man's Land still echo back the yap of the coyote and the cowboy's yell.

From Meade we trekked across the great wheat belt to Plains, the busiest town on the planet during harvest. Here we were invited by Mrs. Don Edwards to come to her house for a "hot bath" and we liked the hot bath and Mr. and Mrs. Edwards so well it took us four days to tear ourselves apart from them. And then we started over the old cattle trail for the Edmonds Ranch.

Cities That Were

We passed many ghosts of former days. In the long ago, when I passed this way, there were along the border between Kansas and No Man's Land, several flourishing cities that are now buried in a forgotten past. One day we had fought our way over fourteen miles of hub-deep mud. In the west, threatening and majestic, loomed the daily electrical storm. A farmer watched us as we pitched our camp.

"What are those trenches?" I asked."

Where the water pipes ran. You're puttin' your tent right over the big supply well," he replied.

"What water works?" I queried in surprise.

"Don't you know you're in the town of Springfield?"

I looked around. On one side of the road a wheat field spread its yellow heads to the hills beyond, and on the other side, unfenced prairie stretched to the horizon.

"Yes," the native repeated. "This is Springfield. That tree in the wheat is what remains of the city park. Here, look here." He stooped and felt in the tall grass by a fence post and picked up a big iron hinge. "That's all that's left of the courthouse. That mound over there by the dog hills is the $16,000 schoolhouse, and them ditches are where the water pipes ran along the streets."

And this was Springfield, the old county seat of Seward County, which I had once known as a modern town of fifteen hundred people! Prairie dogs and burrowing owls held sway in the obliterated thoroughfares. Two coyotes sat on a haystack not far away. A desolate feeling came over me and I asked; "How about Fargo?"

"Nothin' there except the ruins of the $12,000 school."

"And Arkalon?"

"Only one house and the old bridge."

I felt dazed. That night seven inches of water fell and as we decided to wait for dryer roads, I walked over to the site of Fargo in the morning. Here stood the old brick schoolhouse, occupied now by bats, owls, pigeons and, according to many witnesses, ghosts. Windows, doors and part of the roof were gone. A bittern had her nest in what had once been the playground for hundreds of children. To the south for a mile through a prairie dog down, were rows of square depressions that I knew had once been the cellars of stores and dwellings, but which were now filled with water and singing frogs.  All this destruction was the result of bitter and senseless strife. The county seat war had wiped Springfield, Fargo and Arkalon, all flourishing towns, from the map and left the quiet told town of Liberal monarch of all she surveyed. The Springfield park, the site where the courthouse had been burned, the graveyard where the sheriff was buried, after having been appropriately filled full of regulation holes, all were plowed up and sown in wheat.

All along the hike through western Kansas and No Man's Land we passed site after site of vanished cities. Carthage, that former paradise of gamblers and cattlemen, was so completely destroyed that the ghost of Marius could not have found any ruins on which to rest his spirit bones, nor could the senator of "Deienda est Carthage" fame complain at any imperfections in the job.

At the Edmonds' ranch, we were delayed by the Cimarron River, which went on one of its periodical sprees and washed away the bridge. The flood also uncovered a hitherto unknown stone house strangely covered over with buffalo hides, and buffalo skulls were exposed, gleaming white ghosts of the past.

We walked from the Cimarron to Liberal, and then passed down the Liberal-Raton Trail, across vast stretches of open, sandy prairie, through the valleys and old canyons and cattle ranches, into the mountains of New Mexico. Oh the fine walks and wondrous scenes! The freedom from all the restraints of railroads and hotels and autos. The dim and glorious trails, fowler covered, tradition crowned, death stained, memory awakening trails... may they continue to await appreciative spirits to tread their ways, may they never be obliterated by the advances of greed besmeared commercialism.

 

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