Each week we’ll take a step back into the history of Great Bend through the eyes of reporters past. We’ll reacquaint you with what went into creating the Great Bend of today, and do our best to update you on what “the rest of the story” turned out to be.
This week in 1925, women made history in the United States when three female judges, appointed by Texas Governor Pat Nef to the Texas Supreme Court, served on the states high court. According to TexasAlmanac.com,he appointed the women as a special state supreme court to hear the appeal of a case involving the Woodmen of the World (WOW), a fraternal association.
The Dallas Morning News reported on Friday, Jan. 2, 1925, “All records were shattered and at least three precedents established on Thursday, when Gov. Neff appointed a special Supreme Court composed entirely of women. It was a healthy New Year gift of recognition to the woman barrister of today. This is the first instance a woman has been appointed to sit on the supreme bench; it is the first time a higher court is to be composed entirely of women and it is the initial case where a majority of the judges will be women.”
That’s because he couldn’t find any male judges in the entire state that did not belong to the organization creating a conflict of interest. And he tried for months. Finally, in order for justice to be done, he had to appoint women to hear the case because they could not possibly be members of the organization, and he did so with a week to spare before the trial. Such was the influence of Woodmen of the World in that era.
The case, heard on appeal, concerned some land and a secret trust agreement. The Supreme Court Justices upheld the secret trust, which allowed the W.O.W. to hold onto their land.
Swindled out of farm
Back in Kansas, justice was trampled in Topeka, according to the Great Bend Tribune, when then Governor Davis issued a parole to a convicted swindler, F.D. Bushnell of St. John, without the man ever serving a minute in prison for his crime. The man was accused and convicted of tricking a farmer, Ed Pool, an aged black man, out of his land. Pool had been one of the county’s early settlers, who increased his land holdings over time to where they were worth about $70,000.
“Bushnell appeared with some corporation stock that promised well and persuaded Pool to buy. Pool gave what he supposed were some notes for the stock--but instead Bushnell had presented him with documents for mortgages of Pool’s land. He then went and sold the mortgages to a democratic state senator, R.C. Gates, who held land adjoining Pool’s. Pool found out, and Bushnell was charged and convicted with fraud. But the courts found Gates to be an innocent party, and in the end, he was allowed to foreclose on Pool.
So in the end, the older man was out his money and his land while the swindler was only required to serve probation, and the senator increased his land holdings. Outrageous.
The story can’t end there. The Tribune will continue to track down what happened to poor Mr. Pool, as well as Bushnell and Gates and report again next week.
WOW, an invitation
Also in this week’s 1925 Tribune, an invitation in the community section confirms the Woodmen of the World were active in this area also.
“Next Monday...the Modern Woodmen and Royal Neighbors will hold an open meeting for the installation of new officers of the two lodges. Besides the installation ceremonies, programs are arranged for an hours entertainment, consisting of music and songs and laughable stunts never before put on a Great Bend stage. You know how the Woodmen and Royal Neighbors pull these entertainments. Don’t miss this one.
Like other fraternal organizations, WOW certainly had a social component that encouraged members to be the best citizens they could be, encouraging patriotism and high morals. But they were primarily a benefits fraternity, held together by the common cause of ensuring members financial well-being. Today, they are mostly an insurance organization, but there are still elements of the fraternal organization in some of the states where they operate.
Fun 1925 Fact: “The common brick produced yearly in the United States would suffice to build a wall 17 feet high and eight inches thick around the entire country.”
Newspaper promotes radio
The Internet isn’t the first new technology the press has had to learn to adapt to, and it likely won’t be the last. In 1925, it was radio.
“The value of the radio business is nearly twice as great as that of the carpet and rug business. For every dollar spent on furniture, 33 cents is spent on radio. For every dollar spent on boots and shoes, 25 cents is spent on radio. For every dollar spent on musical instruments, pianos, organs, band and orchestra, phonographs and even the lowly harmonica, 75 cents is spent on the radio. The value of the radio business is with its clocks, watches and novelties. Radio is not a fad but a utility.
“For this reason the public is vitally interested in constructive policies both national and international, which encourage the universal use of radio communication. “