This week instead of delving into the history of Great Bend, we’ll travel a few miles down the road to Pawnee Rock, through the pages of the Pawnee Rock Herald.
This week, in 2015, a young and unproven Dwight D. Eisenhower graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with the rank of second lieutenant. For a brief moment, he almost received a medical discharge due to an old football injury, and had an alternative plan to run off to Argentina and become a gaucho. But, as fate would have it, the West Point medical officer interceded and found him a commission. The future President of the United States was assigned to the 19th Infantry at Fort Sam Houston. The rest is history. Having grown up in Kansas, Eisenhower could relate to the trials and tribulations of small town life in a place like Pawnee Rock.
Massive hail storm
In Pawnee Rock, farmers were in shock after a massive hail storm hit. Retailers in town were quick to react, slashing prices on merchandise they’d stocked up on in anticipation of the expected harvest and subsequent windfall.
“The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away,” is the way the good book puts it, and he did a good job of both to the farmers in this community on Tuesday evening. Wheat fields that gave promise of from 25 to 30 bushels per acre in these parts were left after a hail storm shortly after six o’clock a total loss. Many were fortunate to have their wheat insured, but there were some who had not. The area visited by the hail is said by old timers to be the largest they have ever known in Kansas. It is considered there is over 250 square miles hit with an approximate of over three million bushels of wheat cut down.
The storm didn’t extend to the east. In fact, a report that business was brisk at Kern & Mead grocery store in Dundee could be found in the paper.
“The grocery department was being patronized to the limit of the clerks ability to wait on the trade. Several made arrangements for harvest needs, one sale including an order for 100 lbs. of bacon. A gasoline engine, a power washer and an order ofr tailor made clothing being among some of the things we saw them sell. The genial proprietors are gathering a big business about them and seem to be able to deliver the goods in the way of satisfaction. “
The bad luck of some created opportunity for others, like Jouett Shouse of Kinsley, who ran this advertisement.
“I am in a position to loan a practically unlimited amount of money on Parton and Pawnee county land. Low rates, liberal terms, prompt service. If you want money on your farm communicate with me immediately.
And while some younger, uninsured farmers might have taken Shouse up on his offer, there would be many who would continue on, as though they had not anticipated a great harvest, and conserve all the resources they could.
Social earns money for pavilion
Earlier in the week, spirits were running high, and the community was generous with donations at the Parcels Post social given by the ladies of the Progress Club Saturday evening. Sam King, the owner of the City Drug Store, turned over his ice cream and soda fountain to the club, and the ladies auctioned off parcels they’d asked other service groups to send via the post to attendees. They raised the first $50 towards the erection of the pavilion that now sits atop Pawnee Rock National Historic Site. The total cost was estimated to be $1,500. Several other efforts were made, and one can only wonder if the ladies could envision a time when their pavilion would become a travel destination for those traveling the historic Santa Fe Trail.
Minstrel show passes through
The day after the hail storm, Pawnee Rock was visited by the J.M Busby colored minstrel show. Apparently, it was just the thing to help lift spirits in the disappointed town.
“The troupe carries with it an exceptionally good band and orchestra and a clever lot of comedians. Everyone seemed pleased with their efforts to please. The Busby people are a most courteous lot and look up to the people with whom they carry warrants and they are paid.”
A Google Search of J.M. Busby colored minstrel show brought up many references. The troupe toured all over the western states, well into the 1920s.
A self-published book was written in 1913, entitled”The Big One, One Uninterrupted Spasm of Laughter, Our Own Portable Light Plant, Best of Singers, Dancers, Cake-walkers and Comedians: J.M. Busby’s World’s Greatest Colored Minstrels.”
Minstrel shows were on their way out at this time, suffering from competition from vaudeville acts and changing social perceptions of blacks, according to Wikipedia. No playbills, photographs, or newspaper images could be found.