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Tragedies and triumphs in 1909
Out of the Morgue
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Memorial to St. Joan D’Arc, the patron saint of France, at the Cathedral de Notre Dame de Pari.

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.

On April 19, 1909, Pope Pius X of the Roman Catholic Church beatified Joan of Arc at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. According to the website On This Day, “Joan of Arc was born around 1410 into a peasant family and into a France beset by internal conflicts and under attack from the English. At the age of 12 she claimed to have had her first vision of saints and angels eventually exhorting her to aid France in driving out the English.”

Beatification, simply put, is when the church recognizes a person has led a holy life and is now living in heaven, and may now intercede on behalf of those still living.

This week, the world witnessed the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on fire. At times, the video footage left us wondering if anything could survive the flames. Thoughts turned to the numerous priceless works of art that filled the church. One such piece of art is a statute of Joan of Arc located in the South wall interior. While we could not find a report stating the statue survived, many items have been saved, so it is only a matter of time before her fate is known. (

The history of Joan of Arc is very much a part of the history of the Notre Dame, and we found this summary about her at their website,

“This poor girl had spiritual and character richness even though she had no material goods. By being courageous, she helped France in the battles against the English troops. While using the wise military tactics of Joan of Arc, the well known heroine, France won lots of fights against England. She also was a great supporter of the monarchy; she is indirectly the reason why Charles VII was crowned. However, Joan of Arc was captured by the Burundians’, accused of heresy and burned at the stake. But this was not the end of the brave girl. On the 7 July 1456, Joan of Arc was declared innocent and a martyr.” 

Often referred to as “the Maid of Orleans,” Joan of Arc inspired many, among them the American humorist and author Mark Twain. Here’s an interesting tidbit we dug up at

“...Twain claimed Joan of Arc as his favorite among all his many books, and insisted in his autobiography, “I wrote the book for love, not money.” It’s a massive novel, and one that took him—by his own estimates—over a decade of research and preparation. And on every page we find the author’s utter admiration for this visionary Catholic saint.”

The book is considered very different from Twain’s other writings, and self-described his favorite, a work he “wrote for love, not money.” 

Joan of Arc was recognized as a Christian saint by the Roman Catholic Church in 1920, and her feast day is May 30. A church that bears her name is located in the French city of Rouen, in the market square where she was executed. 

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This 1909 comic strip appeared in the April 22, 1909 edition of the Tribune.
Hazardous Roads

Half a world away, in Great Bend, the newspaper was, well, newsy. Spring had arrived, and farmers and city dwellers alike were emerging from their winter hibernation and assessing what work needed to be done.  

One big frustration was the condition of roads outside the city, which prompted a column from one of the editors, “What about the roads?”

Farmers weren’t taking the time to drag the roads in the country, and Great Bend business men were complaining because “new roads are being built coming into town and these have been dragged and are considered as good as any in the state.” They felt the roads throughout the county should be maintained in the same way. And of course, all the work should have fallen to the farmers who lived in the country and were busy trying to get crops in the ground...right? 

Well, the column went on to compare Great Bend with the entire state of Iowa. 

“If a storm blocks the roads a call is made as soon as they are fit to drag and the result is uniform roads throughout the state at once.” 

Great Bend’s concern for roads didn’t stop at the front door. On April 20, a short notice warned residents they could be face arrest if they didn’t tend to alleys

“It is not too soon to begin the spring cleaning up of alleys. Complaints are being made daily. We have an ordinance not that says in substance that the marshal shall arrest on sight, anyone violating this particular ordinance.” 

Harsh! Today, much leeway is given in the abatement process, and while jail is not the first and foremost threat for non-compliance, it can still get pricey via fines. 


Tragic accidents

On the job accidents were a common occurrence in 1909, and this week alone, we saw reports of a few that claimed the lives of young men. One Hoisington man, Harry Tindall, 23, died his first day on the job as an electrician in Pratt. 

“...he had only been at work a few hours when he was killed by coming in contact with a live wire...Harry was a fine young fellow, well liked and was getting along in good shape and rising in his profession.” 

Another report on April 19, “HORRIBLE ACCIDENT. Bethel Flick of Pawnee Rock Badly Injured,” told the story of a another young, 23-year-old man who sustained unthinkable injury in the course of performing his duties. 

“Flick of Pawnee Rock was so badly injured this morning through being struck by train No. 566 at Pawnee Rock that there is the barest chance of his recovery. His right leg was cut off above the knee and the other so badly smashed that it will have to be amputated. 

“Trains No. 566 and 567 pass at Pawnee Rock and (Flick) who has been handling the mail at that place was crossing the track to get to the west bound train when the accident happened. It is thought he did not see the approaching train nor hear it.” 

The reports stated that after the accident, he was removed to the hospital and physicians were summoned from nearby towns, and the full extent of his injuries was not known. We found no further reporting, and no obituary.

In the April 23 edition, another tragedy was reported, but this one back in Europe. “EMPTY BALLOON LANDS IN ITALY” was a brief recounting of how tree aeronauts from Paris were believed to have fallen out.

“An empty balloon came down near Conti, Italy, Friday, and apprehension is felt for the three aeronauts that sailed away in the airship from Paris. They are Captain Mayer, Lieutenant Gardiot, and Mr. Patterson. It is supposed the balloon was caught in a storm and that the passengers were thrown out. Searching parties found articles belonging to the occupants. “ 

While we are not certain if this was a work related accident, or merely a fun voyage gone wrong, it was certainly a tragic report, and it is apparent there were no safety restraints worn at the time of the tragedy. 

Employers today may grit their teeth when it comes to visits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but when you consider how much safer the workplace is today, those safety regulations that we must observe seem well worth it. 

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We found this clever word ad in the April 17, 1909 edition of The Great Bend Daily Tribune. Consider, this had to be laid out letter by letter, line by line , by hand.

Speaking of workplace tragedies, here’s one that affected numerous businesses within a day’s drive of Great Bend. On April 20, a report, “BAD FIRE AT LA CROSSE. Part of the Town Badly Burned Out,” documented another common hazard of the time. 

“LaCrosse had a bad fire Monday night. The opera house, which is owned by Judge G.E. Andrews, Mell Crawford’s livery barn and all his livery stock, horses, vehicles and harness, Greenlee’s grocery and meat market, Cooks, formerly the Fouts Mercantile Co., one of the largest stock of goods in the state, were all completely wiped out.”

That fire, the report stated, started in the livery barn about 11 o’clock and was soon beyond control. While there was not certainty about the start, a spark from an engine at the nearby rail yard was suspected. 

Sadly, the insurance carried by the business owners was considered to be light, and the losses heavy. 

Today, the City of LaCrosse shows all signs it recovered from the long-ago tragedy. We found no further reports about the fire or its aftermath.