Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Few Additional Facts about Dana McGill

Dana C. McGill was born on April 15, 1885 in Grant Township, Cowley County, Kansas. His father, Carmont W. McGill and his mother, Julia were both born in Ohio. His brother, Raymond was five years older and he had a sister Nellie who was 16 years younger. Dana’s father died between 1910 and 1920 and Dana became the head of the household, which included his mother and little sister.

Dana died in Wichita in April, 1975 at the age of 90.

Here is Dana McGill at age 85 in the Kansas Masonic Home (1970)

As we go through life our destiny brings us in contact with hundreds of people with disparate personalities. Some we embrace into our lives, others we keep at arms length, and some we just leave behind as we live our lives. Dana is one that I just left behind. When this picture was taken I had not seen him for ten years.

Our lives intersected twice. First when I was a teenager, stockboy, and occasional checker in the L.C. Adam grocery department. Maurice Smith was the manager, and others of the staff were Chloe Rish, Arthur Hassard, Treva Littrell, and Dana--who was the delivery man. At that time we took a lot of phone orders which one of us would fill, make the charge ticket and place in a metal box/basket. Dana would load these into the old '34 Chevy truck with a special bed to protect the mechandise from all weather. He would then make the rounds and take the order into the homes of the elderly and infirm who needed this service usually placing the goods right by the kitchen sink.
I realized that Dana was not quite like the typical rural and small town folks that peopled my limited world. He had a rather formal air about him and you almost expected him to remove his hat and bow to certain ladies. He didn't seem much interested in the usual male passtimes like telling ribald jokes, hunting, fishing, chewing tobacco, etc. As a result he seemed rather remote and took some ribbing from the men in the seed house across the alley. When it got too heavy he would react and seeth and bang the grocery baskets around. He gradually managed to avoid The seed house crew except when they made a point of teasing him. I felt sorry for him when this happened.
My grandfather and others told me a few things about Dana. He was Nelly Mills brother, uncle to J.D. and Carl Mills and he moved to Cedar Vale from the Hicks Chapel Community where the family home was located. I learned that Dana was an actor at heart and always performed at all the rural "Literaries" giving readings, comic and dramatic, with great ferver and flair. This just didn't fit the mold for behavior of 60 year old men in our little town. I could see that Dana didn't have a lot of peer friends. J.D. Mills tells me that Uncle Dana was always ready to take him in his Model A Ford out to Hoosier or other outings, but that his Dad (Otis) wasn't real happy about his spending time with Uncle Dana. Don Shaffer informed me that Dana tried to inlist some of the local youngsters to start a Boy Scout Troop ( I was away at University by then) but at the organizational meeting none of the prospects showed up. Surely a very sad moment for Dana.
My second life intersection with Dana occurred in 1955 just after I graduated from K-State. My Father decided that my graduation present was to be him sponsoring me and paying the fees for me to become a 3rd degree Mason. I had limited time to learn all the necessary ceremonies and replies as I was soon going on active duty with the Air Force. The Local Lodge agreed to step up the interval between degrees if I could hack it. Dana became my coach and I spent quite a few hours on many different days with Dana in his little house just up the hill from the Methodist Church. He was an excellent tutor. He knew all the ritual well and he enjoyed teaching it so someone, especially because so much of it is dramatic and he could give full voice to his thespian instincts. I enjoyed my crash course and also my mind was working better then. I can still hear Dana's voice quavering with emotion at certain junctures as he was making a point. Well I made it through all three degrees in short order. Thanks to Dana!
My life took me to Europe in the Air Force and then when I got out I was very wrapped up in starting my veterinary practice and my thoughts seldom were on Dana. It is now in the late autumn of my life that I realize I learned a few things from Dana that were much more important than the Masonic rituals. I knew a man who lived his life true to his beliefs and inclinations. One who didn't cave to a different style just for the sake of impressing people and having lots of friends.
I found Dana's obituary in the Cowley County records. He died in the 80s a couple of years after the above picture was made. He is buried in the beautiful little Maple City Cemetary just a few miles from where he was reared. So his mortal remains are back home, but I hope his soul is soaring somewhere where they are orating, declaiming, and acting and where is doing his share of it with the smell of grease paint and gas lights in his nostrils. RIP Dana

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Letter from G. A. Beggs to Don and Shirley Shaffer

Waiting in my mail when we returned to Santa Fe was a letter and some clippings from Don Shaffer. G. A. wrote them a wonderful letter filled with memories that just have to be shared with the blog. This will give you a picture of how sharp G. A. Begg's memory is after over 50 years. He shared many stories with us after the homecoming parade in Fredonia and here are some more for your enjoyment. Take it away, G. A.!

Oct. 7, 2008

Dear Don and Shirley,

You made our weekend one to be ever remembered. Our homecoming parade was great. Your arranging for the alumni band was beyond our dreams. It seemed all the alumni were having a great time. They added lots of color and excitement to the day. I know it took lots of planning and time to make it all work—Thanks.

After fifty years, they seemed as young and excited as I remembered them. I think I could identify them all. I wish I could have visited longer with each. There were so many memories that we could have talked about—the class hay rack rides, playing lost trail in the moonlight and someone coming bleeding having run into a barbed wire fence; the last day of school picnic up at Charley Grounds gravel bar on the river; Don Cox swimming in Vonda Rish’s bathing suit; decorating the halls with poison ivy.

I remember other students like Thayne Townsend practicing the marches in the March Master band books. Mary White, who practiced constantly on her cornet. It was pretty common to hear students practicing as you passed through town.

Phil Foust brought us a stack of stock arrangements from his air force band and we formed a good stage band. It was comprised of: Barbara Woodruff, piano; Patsy Kelly, Jolene Westbrook, D. Warren, Diane Archer, saxes; Ron Warren, myself, Steven Alexander, trumpets; Frank White, trombone; Susan Alexander, drums. Larry Lloyd played the steel guitar. He became a pro and told me he made it to stage of the Grand Old Opera in Nashville and he said it had been his goal. His wife didn’t like it so he gave up his music career. This group played a tour to Dexter, Burden, and Leon schools one day and it was great fun. We also played an exchange prom with Sedan, which we enjoyed.

I’d like to say that we all enjoyed having Shirley come along. She seemed just as excited about the day as we were. She is such a charming person. We were all glad to know her better. Thanks for all your trouble and I hope we can keep in touch more often.

I am enclosing clippings from the Fredonia and Independence papers. They are for you to keep, but send to anyone who you think would be interested.

When I looked at Bob Marshall and saw what that old $25.00 Conn Cornet did, it makes me very proud I had a part in it.

Best to you both,

G. A. and Madge Beggs

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Pioneering Family in Cedar Vale, Kansas: The Rothrocks

A prominent family in the early days in Cedar Vale were William M. and Katherine Eve Rothrock. William was born February 23, 1864 in Indiana and Katherine (Kate) was born October 17, 1865 in Ohio. At this time nothing is known of their early years but in the 1900 Federal Census the Rothrocks are living in Cedar Vale. William is listed as a dealer in general merchandise and Kate is listed as a saleswoman in “dry goods.” They have a step sister, 15-year-old Clara Rothrock living with them and they employ a servant--21-year-old Lucy Hayes. It is probable that Kate was a sales person in William’s business and the fact that they employed a servant indicates that the business was successful. Perhaps the house that CV bloggers described was constructed during that period. 

Since there is no record of any other person named Rothrock living in this area of Kansas, it is unknown where Clara came from, but she is listed as having been born in Kansas. It is also impossible to determine exactly when the Rothrocks arrived in Cedar Vale, since the 1890 US census is fragmentary and doesn’t include information for Kansas.

By the 1910 federal census, William is still listed as a merchant and Kate is still employed as a salesperson in their store. Clara has left the household and there is a young school teacher, 19-year-old Pearl Buechle living with them. It is apparent from the two federal census reports, that the Rothrocks never had children.

By the 1920 federal census, William is listed as employed in a “mercantile and oil” business and Kate is no longer working at the store. There is a niece, 5-year-old Mildred Fisher living with them. Perhaps the presence of a 5-year-old in the household accounts for Kate’s no longer working outside the home.

In the 1930 federal census we find both William and Kate retired and living by themselves. William died on October 24, 1943 leaving Kate living alone in the house until her death on November 8, 1950. It was during the period between 1943 and 1950 that CV Memories bloggers had contact with Aunt Kate. William and Kate are buried in Cedar Vale Cemetery.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The latest from Lloyd Call

I first knew of Don Hankins when he was working a a pharmicist in the Matlock Drug Store. I do not know how long he had been there. Anyway-----

He took a carload of the class of '35 on their senior sneak to Ponca City. Mary Bess Chapel was one of them. There were 35 in the class and I drove my Dad's old Dodge. Harold Cable, and Howard Winchell who was in the front seat with me. Bonnie Dietz, Zelda Wilkinson, and maybe Ruth Littrell (Storer). Bonnie Dietz is living in Arizona (Ruth Storer and Zelda Wilkinson are in Sedan--the rest home dfc) I am the only boy still living.

Don Hankins and Mary Bess owned the Drug Store while I was in the Army, '42 to '45.

I think Dr Matlock had an office. The Chevrolet Garage was built while I was in High School--I think he had his office upstaires. I know the Stones Dental Offices were up there.

Friday, November 14, 2008


I have some vague remembrances of a woman to whom we referred as "Aunt" Kate Rothrock. I don't actually remember seeing her, but I must have because I mowed her yard at least once, so she probably paid me. But I can't picture her in my mind. She lived in a big, old Victorian home behind Dr. Hays house, and as I recall, when the neighborhood kids would go "trick-or-treating", they would avoid knocking on that door. Maybe there were vampire bats and ghosts living in the parapets of the old house. No one I knew ever saw her walking the streets of Cedar Vale nor working in the big yard.
Who was she? Did she have a husband? Who built that beautiful old house. Did she die? Maybe her body is still lying in a deserted closet somewhere in the house, or down in the basement???
I know that some of you will know "Aunt Kate", and be able to tell us about her, and answer some of the questions I have had for years.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

I was wondering what goes on in Cedar Vale on Veterans Day. Is there a memorial to the Veterans? I know I have relatives from the area that were veterans. I wish I could see the country there and get a better feel for it. I feel so disconnected. Any stories....James

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Skunk Hunt

The Skunk Hunt

Your interest in my grandfather's fur business brings back memories. No one has been more influential in my life than my Grandpa Sartin. My grandfather operated the fur business in Cedar Vale in the 20's, 30's, and early 40's. My father then took over the business and operated it until around 50-51.

Grandpa was raised on a farm and farmed himself in the early years. Most farmers in the early 1900's supplemented their income by hunting and trapping furs, there are a few that still do. In those days traps were very expensive, so they didn't have many, they hunted at night with dogs. Grandpa was big on hunting skunks because they could be dug out of a den and sometimes you would get several. He sold his furs to a traveling buyer that came through and bought all the farmers furs. Grandpa knew this man was making money on his furs, so he researched a national fur buyer by the name of Moss and Stephen in St. Louis, Missouri. He wrote then and inquired about a price list. He found that the buyer was making a great deal of money on the local furs. Grandpa told his neighbors he would buy their furs and give them more money than the fur buyer, word got around and he was soon buying furs from a big part of the

Cedar Vale area. He realized that his small business was doing so well that he needed a bigger building to skin and stretch the furs. He bought half a city block in Cedar Vale, including a house (right across the street from the hospital) and moved to town. I'm unsure, but believe the building he used for the fur house (across from the hotel) was already in existence. Each year his business grew by his innovation in marketing and hard work. I admire my grandpa for being so successful with only an 8th grade education and no one to teach him about business. One of his marketing techniques was sending the county clerk of each county a letter including a $5 bill asking if they would give him a list of the farmers in that county, he did this in nearly all the counties in the state of Kansas. He would then send these families a price list of what he paid for furs. He would take the train to areas as far as southern Oklahoma and set up a fur buying station for the weekend. He would ship furs out of Cedar Vale by the train car load in his most prosperous time. He later sold to other companies besides Moss and Stephen, other companies paid greater prices for various furs. Since the fur business just lasted about 4 months of the year he went into the service station business. I believe he built the service station on the corner of his property and he or my dad built the one Freddie Marshall operated for many years. He owned 2 stations in Ark City and 2 in Winfield, he partnered with Wes Drennen in Winfield.

I spent Christmas vacations and weekends with my grandpa and grandma on the farm south of Elgin, KS. In the evening there was no T.V. and limited electricity, I was told a mountain of stories. During the day we hunted and trapped furs. He taught me how to hunt for a skunk den, among other things. They usually build a den under a rock on the south or east side of a hill, unless is is a very deep canyon, then it might be on either side, the yard around the den would be very clean, the grass and leaves raked. I thought this was because they were good house keepers, but it was actually because they used the leaves and grass for bedding in their den. A female skunk and her brood would live together in the den along with 1 male. Other male skunks that didn't have a girl friend would live alone in a bachelor den, his yard wasn't as neat. When I was 11 or 12 and just full of this information, I suggested a skunk hunt to my fishing buddy Wilson Wesbrook, he was always game for new adventures. Armed with lots of enthusiasm, but no experience, we set out for Lookout Mountain on our bikes with a burlap bag and my 2 friendly dogs. On the back side of the mountain we found a bachelor den. My grandpa told me that you could take a long green stick with a fork on the end, push it in the den, when you feel the skunk you start twisting and his fur entangles in the fork enough that you can pull him out. Since we didn't have anything to kill the skunk with, I suggested dropping a big rock on him when he was pulled out of the den. Wilson wanted to pull the skunk out; he was lying on his stomach facing the den entrance, a dog on either side of him. I was standing on top of the den with a large rock ready to drop. Just as he brought the skunk to the entrance my dogs unexpectedly rushed in and grabbed the skunk. I couldn't drop the rock on my dogs! The skunk being attacked by the dogs defended himself as only a skunk can, unfortunately Wilson was bringing him out tail first and he was right in the line of fire. The dog's eyes burned and so did Wilson's. We skinned the skunk, put it in the burlap bag, tied it to the handle bars and set out for town. The scent and grease saturated the spokes and front wheel. They could smell us coming! Wilson and I shared $1.65; we were docked because we cut a hole in the hide. That was the end of Wilson's skunk hunting career because even after that tidy profit, his mother informed him he was not to go skunk hunting again. My mother was accustomed to the smell, so it was just another day for her. Ron Sartin