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Out of the Morgue
The real Great Bend boom, in 1887
otm vlc Keogh
The remnants of what was once a military fort on the open northern plains, Ft. Keogh is where the largest recorded snowflake fell in 1887. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

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.

Today is the 130th anniversary of a unique sighting. It happened on Jan. 26, 1887, in Montana, when a regiment of soldiers at Fort Keogh saw a huge snowflake. The snowflake was 15 inches wide and 8 inches thick! If you are even a tiny bit skeptical, you’ll understand the doubletake this writer experienced when reading the report. Surely that could not be. But, an internet search turned up several reports from reputable media outlets like The New York Times as well as the Guinness Book of World Records, that the snowflake had indeed been that big. Scientists explained many year’s later that the combination of temperature, humidity and wind speed can at times result in a snowflake which made of a composite of many crystals that appear to be, and in fact are, one giant flake. Who knew.
Those Ft. soldiers that winter probably had plenty of occasion to witness the various sizes and shapes of snow. According to Wikipedia, “The Winter of 1886–1887 was extremely harsh for much of continental North America, especially the United States. Although it affected other regions in the country, it is most known for its effects on the Western United States and its cattle industry. This winter marked the end of the open range era and led to the entire reorganization of ranching.”

Great Bend booming
According to the newspaper of the time, The Great Bend Register, things were looking up for our city.
“The year 1886 closed with a boom in Great Bend, but 1887 commences with a much bigger boom than the boom that boomed in 1886, and notwithstanding this is dead of winter, new buildings are going up right along and preparations being made for many more. Our streets are alive with people hurrying hither and thither bent on making some improvement. Real estate is changing hands almost every business hour of the day, and the beauty of it all is the boom is not confined to Great Bend alone. The whole county is on a big boom, east, west, north and south.”
Elsewhere in the paper, the urge to invest in real estate was echoed.
“There never was a better time to invest in Great Bend real estate. Parties with large or small means will do well to invest in any of the additions to the city for speculative purposes or for permanent investments. Many who took our advice a year ago have made money while others have regretted that they did not do so. We told them to catch on when the procession first commenced to move. By this time next year property will have advanced at least 50 per cent.”
Talk about an unfounded predictions. We can only hope no one lost their shirt by following the advice if they were so inclined.

Suffrage success
In addition to the boom, the state legislature was considering giving women the vote for municipal elections, prompting a series of short one-liner quotes on page two.
“It is said that Senator Plumb is for Woman’s Suffrage, and Senator Ingalls against it.”
“If the woman’s suffrage act becomes a law, the ladies of Great Bend will have an opportunity at the coming election to vote for city officers.”
The attempt was successful, according to the Kansas Historical Society. “The Kansas Equal Suffrage Association led the suffrage campaign. Success in this area finally came early in 1887. In the April elections women captured several local offices. They won all five seats on the Syracuse city council, and Susanna Madora Salter of Argonia was the first woman in the nation to be elected mayor.”
It turns out, Salter was nominated on the Prohibition Party ticket by several Argonia men as a joke. Salter surprised the group and received two-thirds of the votes. She was elected in April 4, 1887, just weeks after Kansas women had gained the right to vote in city elections. The 27-year-old woman knew more about politics than her detractors realized.

Also this week, in “the city of love,” Paris, France, work began on the Eiffel Tower. Perhaps that fact prompted the following declaration also found on page two:
“Miss Van Zandt has consented that if her rich aunt will send her on a visit to Paris, she will forego the great pleasure of wedding Mr. Spies. That girl is not as big a fool as we thought she was. LATER - We see that this fool girl has been married to Spies by proxy.”