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Out of the Morgue
As man takes flight in 1903, Great Bend recalls first Christmas tree and tries the latest in cigars
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In 1903, this is where the Tich-i-ming-go cigar factory owned by L.S. Miller in 1903, which made alfalfa cigars, was located. - photo by VERONICA COONS, Great Bend Tribune

This week in 1903, while the people of Great Bend....., half way across the country, in Kittyhawk, N.J., Orville and Wilbur Wright completed their first flight at 10:35 in the morning on the 17th.   While they weren’t the first to make it into the air--several glider pilots before them succeeded--they were the first to sustain and control their flight.  
But word didn’t reach Great Bend for some time.  Instead, advertisers urged readers not to wait until the last minute to secure gifts for everyone on their list.  A highly advertised item that year seems to have been china plate.  Even the Great Bend Register got into the act, advertising a complete set as a premium for subscribers that month.  For $6.00, a subscriber could get the Register for a year, plus a set of semi-porcelain, handsomely decorated dishes.  It was unclear if the set pictured in the ad depicted the actual set.  
Speaking of interesting ads, one for Miss Nimocks School of Music reads, “Miss Nimocks...graduate of the Dana Musical Institute.  Teacher of Piano, Organ, Harmony Theory and Violin.  Gertrude Nimocks, Mandolin and Guitar.  Special training for beginners.  Monthly recitals by pupils.  Music rooms Broadway and Odell.”  
Miss Nimocks was the daughter of Judge George W. Nimocks, the first district of the district, arriving in 1872.  He lived until 1905, and according to Karen Neuforth at the Barton County Historical Society, by 1912, Gertrude had married and moved to California.  His widow remained in the home where the music rooms were located, at 2420 Broadway.

Ellinwood Christmas tree
A.J. Hoisington, contributed a retelling of the first Christmas tree in Barton County on the front page of the Dec. 10 1903 edition of the Great Bend Register.  As it turns out, two Ellinwood women joined forces to arrange for the tree to be brought from Emporia, and went to plenty of personal expense and time spent decorating it and filling it with candy, fruit, nuts and gifts for nearly 150 Ellinwood area children.  They did it to, “to make one happy time for the children during these grasshopper times.”
The evening was filled with recitations of poems and stories about Christmas, “followed by a very amusing description of Santa Claus by B.B. Smyth, teacher of the Public School at Ellinwood, during which the tinkling bells and swift hoofs of reindeer were heard, and suddenly in rushed Santa Clause, in the person of Fred W. Warren, covered with fur and frost from head to foot and loaded down with presents.  He was introduced to the audience by Mrs. W.C. Bay amid much commotion and merriment.
“Then came the unveiling of the Christmas Tree by Mrs. W.C. Bay, who made a neat and appropriate speech, showing the enterprise of Ellinwood in getting up a tree in such hard grasshopper times.”

Tobaccoless cigars
An announcement proved the city had its fair share of entrepreneurs.  
“L.C. Miller’s Tich-i-ming-go cigar factory is now putting out a new brand of cigars, which is strictly a home product,” the brief read.  “It is called “Alfalfa” and is an alfalfa filler, Florida cabbage binder and kaffir corn wrapper.  If you believe in standing by a home product try the “Alfalfa” cigar.”  
A quick Google search of “Alfalfa cigars” brought up a December 1903 story from The Lodi Sentinel, a weekly printed in California, “Using alfalfa in the manufacture of cigars.”
“A new use has been found for alfalfa, according to the Hollister Advance.  The stems when dried furnish an excellent substitute for tobacco in cigar fillers.  A factory in Oakland is putting a cigar on the market that deceives the most expert smoker.  The stems are cut in lengths and steeped in a decoction of tobacco for several days.  They are then subjected to a heavy hydraulic pressure which extracts every particle of moisture and leaves an agreeable flavor.  There is an entire absence of deadly nicotine, and the cigar can be put on the market with profit at a very low figure.”
Surprising research turned up that cigar making and selling was booming business all over the country during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  L.C. Miller wasn’t the only cigar enterprise.  Other Barton County cigar makers   were Joseph Troillet, Great Bend; John Hoffman, Ellinwood; Henry W. Koch, Ellinwood; Coffey & Moffet, Hoisington;
Mr. Miller and family lived in a large, three story home at 1619 Park St.  A large, detached garage may have served as the “factory”.  Miller was identified as a cigar maker in the 1900 census, and in the 1912 Great Bend Directory, was still listed under Cigar Manufacturers.  
Mr. Koch of Ellinwood also lived in a fine home in that city.  According to a history of Barton County written in the second decade of the century, Mr. Koch was a cigar maker in Chicago prior to coming to Ellinwood.  He moved here in 1875 because his business was destroyed during the great Chicago fire.
Interesting facts from the National Cigar Museum:

    1872  Charles F. Pusch founded his factory in Marysville KS. Fifteen years later his 20 rollers made him the 3rd largest of 150 Kansas cigar factories. Pusch lasted until the late 1920’s.

    1890  A midwestern cigar maker makes approximately $9/week. A Canadian cigar maker about $6. Keeping cigar rollers is a problem for many Canadian factories. California rollers make about $7, Chinese about $5.

    1895  40,000+ cigar factories in operation in the U.S., including buckeyes/chinchalles, designated as factories with less than 10 workers.

    1903  Some interesting figures for 1903 (rounded up to nearest 100k):

               Manhattan shipped 590,000,000 cigars

               Tampa shipped 94,800,000 cigars

               Key West shipped 32,600,000 cigars

Maccabees smoker
In 1903, the lines were pretty blurry between what was considered news, and what was considered advertising.  The brief about the Great Bend Maccabees event that weekend is one example.  
“The Maccabees held a very enthusiastic review and smoker last night. (So far so good). Dist. Deputy G.E. Colby was present and the members decided to start a vigorous campaign to increase their membership in Great Bend. (wait a minute...)  This order is conceded by all to be the strongest and best from a financial standpoint of all the beneficiary orders.”   Yep.   Call it what you will, but it’s an ad.
But what were the Maccabees?  They, like many of the other fraternal orders, served the purpose that insurance serves today, in addition to providing a social outlet for members.  The more resources the order had, presumably the better protected the members would be in the event of a tragedy or bad luck.  
When insurance became available and popular for the common man, the Maccabees changed their focus from a fraternal organization to an insurance company.  According to the website, for the group, in 2008, it “marked the return of the Knights of the Maccabees to its place in the forefront of Fraternal Orders.  The order has been modernized and redesigned for the 21st century with a new focus on the fraternal character of the Order.”