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 1885, General Grant died. The Great Bend Tribune heralded the news, and inside advertised both a book containing his biography and a remedy for cancer of the tongue that claimed it could have cured his condition.
“General Grant died at 8:08 Thursday morning. He died without pain, peacefully, as one sleeping. His entire family were present. The whole world is in grief over the sad event. The Army and Navy ordered in mourning for 30 days. We can give no details, the news being received just as we go to press.”
According to History.com, “Grant spent the last few years of his life writing a detailed account of the Civil War and, after he died of throat cancer in 1885, Julia (his wife) managed to scrape by on the royalties earned from his memoirs.”
That had to be a relief, after the former Supreme Commander of the Union forces and former two-term President of the United States, faced bankruptcy at the end of his life after losing his fortune in a bad investment in a scandal-prone banking firm.
Perhaps Tribune Editor and Proprietor C.P. Townsley did not consider the purpose of the memoir. He recommended a competing book, written by a Mr. Albert D. Richardson, “A Personal History of Ulysses S. Grant.”
“The book is really of more value and practical use than the General’s own “memoirs,” which will cover but comparatively small portions of his life, while Richardson’s book covers the entire career of the great soldier, and sells for about one-third the price.”
Richardson had been a war correspondent during the Civil War, and had served as a Union spy. His book was published in 1869, prior to his own death at the hands of the ex-husband of his lover, Abby Sage. He did not die immediately, however, living long enough to marry Sage a few days before he took his last breath. Perhaps the recommendation was simply Editor and Proprietor C.P. Townsley’s opinion, one newspaper man favoring another. (FYI--Richardson’s book, “The Secret Service, The Field, the Dungeon, and the Escape” about his time as a war correspondent and spy can still be found today on Amazon.com available in several formats including Kindle.)
Expansion of Broadway
This week, “Broadway has been extended westward on the north boundary of old Mr. Brinkman’s residence. This is a very sensible move.”
Brinkman owned property west of what was once Central Normal College, later St. Mary’s Academy, and today the Dominican Sisters of Peace. While plat maps are available for the time period, street names have changed, but it appears the land owned by Brinkman may have included part of Veteran’s Memorial Park and surrounding area.
J.V. Brinkman arrived in Great Bend in 1874, and opened the first bank in the city. With him, he brought his wife and nine children, Nora, Katie J., George, Charles, Lillian, Ola, Mabel, Eloise and Louis. Born in 1841 in Ohio, he was 33 years old when he arrived. His wife was a year older than him, and outlived him by three years. He died in 1905, and she in 1908. According to A Biographical History of Barton County, published in 1912 by the Tribune Publishing Company, “He was a man who took a deep interest in the welfare of his neighbors and the upbuilding of the community in which he lived. Many are the incidents known to his friends of which he would never speak regarding his charitable acts, and the aid he rendered those who were in need at a time when aid was hard to obtain.”
In 1912, his sons continued to own and manage the bank he built, years after he passed away, until Sept. 8, when the bank merged with First National, to become First National Bank, with assets of nearly $1 million, making it the largest bank in western Kansas.
J.V. was one of the partners that started the first mill in town, the Three-Run French Burr. “(They) built a flour mill in the county on the banks of Walnut Creek east of Great Bend. It was the intention to utilize the water power furnished by Walnut creek, but it was learned within a year that just at the times when the power was needed there was not sufficient water in the creek to furnish the necessary power, and in 1987 the mill was moved to ... just south of the Santa Fe tracks on Main Street in Great Bend.”
Street namesake mentioned
Elsewhere in that edition of The Great Bend Tribune, another name of a prominent Great Bender is dropped. Mr. W.H. Odell and his wife, Melda, were two of Great Bend’s original settlers, filing for their land south of 24th Street and west of McKinley on Aug. 29, 1871 when he was 39 years old. Apparently, he was for a time a neighbor of Mr. Brinkman.
“The Congregational Church social will be held at the residence of Mr. Odell, Friday evening, July 31. All are cordially invited.”
Here is what we can tell you about Mr. Odell, whom the street in this city is named after. Ray S. Schulz, author of History of the Streets of Great Bend, Kansas wrote, “He was a very active resident of Great Bend. He served as a County Clerk , operated a hardware store for a few years until he sold his interest to one of the Moses men, and was a tombstone agent. He was one of the city’s first historians, writing a political history of Barton County, published in the “Heart of the new Kansas.” He also took a stab at running a newspaper, “Barton County Progress,” in the 1880s.