Saturday, February 17, 2018

James Matthias Van Huss

The tree of life is broad, with branches far and wide, and many leaves.

James Mattias Van Huss, older brother of John Finley Van Huss (my wife's great grandfather), was the son of Valentine Worley VanHuss (1818–1908) and Lucinda H. Campbell (1818–1870); grandson of Matthias Van Huss and Elizabeth Worley.

Jamers was born 9 September 1845, on a farm, just east of Elizabethton, Carter County, Tennessee. The farm is still there, and a small family cemetery.

Unmarried and 25 years old, James left Tennessee in 1870 (therabouts), along with his parents and several brothers. Another branch of the Van Huss family remained in Tennessee and relatives can be found there today.

One imagines that they came by covered wagon, traveling a route close to US 50 that went through Jefferson City, Sedalia, and eventually Kansas City, before settling for a short while in the rolling hills of south Johnson County, Kansas. There James' mother Lucinda died, whether by illness or accident is unknown. Fairly quickly, the family moved on to Butler County and the several brothers took up homestead claims or purchased land near Beaumont, Kansas.

In 1875, James married Elmetta Lucinda Gifford. The marriage produced eleven children.

It could be that James and his wife settled in Glencoe Township, on 480 acres a half a mile west of Beaumont and just north of US400. There is a stone foundation left and the markings of a well and a pump. Hickory Creek begins to form here and there is a man made lake on the property now.

I say could be because I need to go to the county register of deeds to confirm that he purchased the property indicated on the 1885 Atlas of Butler County, Kansas.

By 1900, James (at the age of 55) and Elmetta were living in Grant County, Oklahoma. James died 6 July 1908, Hawley, Grant County, Oklahoma.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wichita Stock Yards

My father-in-law mentioned the Wichita Live Exchange to me the other day, otherwise I would not have even thought of it. Bob is approaching the ripe old age of 90, and the subject came up when I asked what his father Fred Van Huss did for a living.

"My father was in the business of buying and selling cattle," Bob said. "This was before the war, I was nine or ten, and once in a blue moon, my dad took me to the the Exchange and got us odd jobs."

"Cleaning up cowshit?" I suggested, and he laughed.

"Mostly, we were in the way, so it wasn't often that my brother Jim and I got to drive with my father from Beaumont to Wichita."  "One summer I remember, my dad got us a job driving the cattle from pen to pen, after a sale. One little critter took a shine to me and rushed me, hitting me in the chest, and taking my breath away."

"My dad," he continued, "stayed in Wichita during the week, the drive to Beaumont was too far, and the roads too poor, to make it a daily trip. He partnered with two or three other cattle buyers so they could share the expense of an office in the exchange and a secretary."

There is precious little to remind Wichitans of the Live Stock Exchange.

Way back when, writes J’Nell L. Pate in her 2005 book, America’s Historic Stockyards: Livestock Hotels, "The entire town of Wichita could be termed a stockyards as early as 1872 when the two-year-old settlement and trading post on the Chisholm Trail saw its first railroad, the Santa Fe, arrive. Citizens also worked to get the Western & Southwestern Railroad to connect to the Santa Fe and others. After its first year as a railhead, Wichita received 70,000 head of cattle worth at least $2 million."

J. R. Mead's photo of cattle crossing the Arkansas at Wichita 1869,
Wichita Photo Archive

In 1887, a stockyard was built at Emporia and 18th Street, but it burned down its first day of operation.

Wichita Live Stock Exchange

A second stockyards opened on January 1, 1888, then soon moved to north of 21st street when meat packer Jacob Dold agreed to build a plant next to the yard. He did. Then, in 1901, his packing plant caught fire.

Dold Plant, Wichita Photo Archives

Despite this bad luck, progress on the stockyards continued. Not only were cattle lots built, but a Stockyards' Hotel and Exchange Building were added, smack dab in the middle of the stockyards. Mind you, this was all 40 years before Fred Van Huss took up work at the Exchange. And before Fred arrived another fire destroyed the yard and the hotel in 1904. Then, in 1909, the Union Stock Yards Company decided to build a new Exchange Building, the one most old Wichita residents remember, and the one Fred worked at with his partners.

I don't know what a cattle buyer does or did, Bob didn't know either. Children often don't know what their fathers do.

I imagine that it involved the sale of slaughter cows and bulls, then breed cows, pairs of cows, and stock cattle and feeder calves, like it does today. And Fred got a commission on each sale.

In the midst of the stench from the packing and rendering plants, the Live Stock Exchange must have been impressive. The outside was a two story building with windows along the front. Inside the floors were of white marble, the walls of dark wood and glass. Visitors were greeted by two tile mosaics, one, on the first floor, a bull’s head measuring 40-inch by 45-inch. On the second floor, a 4 by 6 foot section of tiles proclaiming, "Market That Satisfies" surrounded by the contented heads of a cow, a horse, a pig and a sheep. The Exchange housed 15 livestock commission firms, one of which at one time was the little group that Fred belonged to, plus a national bank, the office for the president of the stockyard company, an office for the Wichita Terminal Railway Co., and branch offices for the packing houses. It must have been a merry group that played cards during off times, smoked cigars, and drank beer and something harder, even during the Prohibition Years.

In 1980, long after Fred Van Huss moved on, the stockyards shut down. And, in 2000, the Live Stock Exchange was razed to the ground.

Source: Wichita Historic Preservation Alliance

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Maria Llabres

When I met her three decades ago, she was short, tough, and wiry. She lived alone, or rather I should say, she lived with her dogs in a small house in Butler County, and tended her garden daily. Her grey hair grew about her head in the fashion of the 1920’s. She never sat down in my presence, a practice no doubt she learned waiting on customers in the family hotel in Mallorca. Her sentences were short and clipped. A no nonsense woman who had had a hard life.

Her name was Maria Llabres. She was born in 1895 on the island of Mallorca, and, by stages in her life, traveled and lived in French Algeria, and then Kansas.

Images trigger memories, some random, some not.

Someone sent me a picture of the Casa Fina plate from the Ibiza collection. The plates come in a sand grey and iridescent blue. Now, you may know that Ibiza is the smallest of the three main Balearic Islands. In Roman times, it was a hangout for pirates, today it is known for its night life. From Ibiza it is a short hop to the largest of the three islands, Mallorca. Mallorca is where my wife’s family took up residence for a period. Not my wife mind you, but her grandmother Maria Llabres.

The birth year 1895 makes her a contemporary of the poet Robert Graves, who like Maria was born in Mallorca, but unlike her decided to remain there.

In Mallorca, Maria’s family ran a small hotel and restaurant. The family left Mallorca for Algeria for a chance to farm, but the Algerian struggle for independence ended that. Maria married shortly after the end of the First World War and came to Kansas, leaving behind a sister Catherine, who married and became Catherine Guerrier. She came to Kansas once to visit. The visit was brief. The years are not always kind to relations and hard times make things more difficult. They grew corn which they called Kafir corn and held parties celebrating the Queen of the Kafir Corn. But the corn did not always grow and that which did grow was meant for cattle and chickens. And chickens would eat most anything and cattle could be fattened up on the blue stem grass of the Flint Hills without the expense of the corn. The apple and pear trees shriveled and died. The flowers in the fields failed to bloom and the bees sought nectar elsewhere.

Drought cost Maria and Frank their farm. Then, the oil fields around El Dorado, which once provided work for Frank began, to disappear.

Life in Kansas could not be easy for a girl from Mallorca.

Maria must have looked a lot like this

Maria enjoyed her garden, her wine, her dogs, and cooking a dish that was a combination of chicken, olives, and wine. It was a dish she passed down to her daughter Mary and one of my favorite foods.

Most of Maria’s life is forgotten. She would be 122 this year. She is, for most of us, beyond living memory. For that reason, I will quote one of Robert Graves’s poem as a memorial to Maria.

She came and asked: Are the apples ripe?
The hay put up?
The wheat stored?
Didn't you know, I stammered,
The sun couldn't wait
The fields weren't Ploughed
The rain was dry.
But you promised
Corn, plums, Pears and honey
On my bread.
Didn't you see
The dog, rat and cat
Digging in the garden dust?
The clover didn't bloom.
Find me a basket, she said
Bring a hoe
The corn is ripe
This pear tastes good.

Earlier post on Maria Llabres.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Brownlow, Kansas

Brownlow, Kansas is a town which has never appeared on a map. 

The few references are confusing and contradictory. For instance, the Butler County Directories, 1878 Gazetteer and Business Director, R. L. Polk Company describes Brownlow as: “A settlement on Hickory creek, in the southeastern part of Butler county, 10 miles from El Dorado, the county seat and shipping point.” If accurate, this would suggest that the town was on a railroad, none of which existed in this area at the time. 

Then the obituary of Alexander Baker says he “came to Butler county in 1888 at the age of 17. The family settled on a 360 acre farm in the Brownlow community - halfway between Leon and Latham.” Further that Mr. Baker was a member “of the old Brownlow Methodist Church, the congregation of which later transferred to the Latham Methodist Church when the Brownlow church closed.” 

Detail of Butler County, Kansas map 1885

Perhaps the best designation of where Brownlow comes from is the school district designation – “23 Brownlow Leon Rt. 3.” This places the schoolhouse known as Brownlow, no. 23. At a location halfway between Leon and Latham as Mr. Baker’s obit suggests, but a few miles past the ten miles given in the Gazetteer. 

Where does the name Brownlow come from? 

Best guess is that the community was given the name by T.R. Purcell in nearby Walnut Township. Purcell, a Tennessee native, gave his service to the Union cause, enlisting in the First (Union) Tennessee Cavalry, under command of Colonel James P. Brownlow, and serving two years and nine months. Col. Brownlow is remembered for his crossing of the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta, Georgia on July 9, 1864. What made the event noteworthy was that the Northern soldiers who crossed the river and attacked the Confederate defenders on the south bank did so in the nude. 

The Brownlow village and community disappeared in time, but the cemetery remains. It can be found with the help of Google at 135 se and Hickory road to the south of Hickory Creek.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Fred B. Van Huss

Fred was born in 1894, Parents: John Finley Van Huss and Josie E. (Brewer) Van Huss and Siblings: Bula, Luva, Elmer E., and Lois O.. In 1927 he married Beulah M. Phillips in Chase County. They had two children: James and Robert.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Worley - What's in a name?

What's in a name, in particular, the name 'Worley'? 

Jo Anne Worley, Laugh In, 1969

The question arises because of my wife's family genealogy, in general her great great great grandfather Valentine Worley Van Huss, and in particular, her great great great grandmother Elizabeth Worley and her great great great great grandmother Catherine Worley.

Worley - English: possibly a place name, either from a variant spelling of Wortley, in which case a town near Sheffield; or alternatively in Essex and Somerset called Warley, from Old English weir  'a low level dam for fishing' + leaha clearing in the woods’; or from Warley in West Midlands, from Old English weorf ‘draft oxen’ + leah

Werle (Verle) – German: a shorten version of Werner, or Verner (Scandanavian) derived from warin from a military word meaning 'guard' or 'vanguard'.
Werle (or Wenden) - a fiefdom, Herrschaft, roughly the same as a barony, in the Holy Roman Empire founded in 1235. 

Vanguard comic first issue,
or alternate source for the name Worley, Werner

Catherine Worley was the mother of Matthias Van Huss. Elizabeth Worley married Matthias. Surely the two Worleys are related, but how is unknown. 

Matthias and Elizabeth had one child Valentine Worley Van Huss. When he was two years of age, his mother died. Matthias remarried to Lavinia Dugger and the couple had nine children, half brothers and sisters to Valentine. 

Valentine would grow up and leave for Kansas with his sons to homestead in Butler County. They settled on one of the few places in Butler County that didn't have oil underground so they had to scrape by for a living.

What about the three Worleys, Elizabeth Worley (1798-1820) and Catherine Worley (1769-1795) and Jo Anne Worley, comedian on Laugh In, famous for her swirl and infectious laugh.

Add Catherine Worley here... 

Elizabeth Worley was born in Wythe, Virginia, on 1798 to Valentine Worley and Anna Barbara Spraker. Valentine was born in Rowan, North Carolina, on 1772 to Michael Worley and Anna Reigher. Michael was born in Ontario, Canada on 1750 to Jacob Worley and mother unknown. Jacob hailed from Germany. 

This genealogy is uncertain, especially Jacob Worley. 

Jacob has an alternate spelling of his last name as Werle and he was from Alsace, Germany. Others trace the Worley name to Lancashire, England and further back to Normandy, and eventually the Vikings who settled in Normandy, but this is speculation.

What is in a name? Don't we each make a name for ourselves? Or as the Bible says in Genesis 11:4, 

"Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth."

But then again, we know how that turned out.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Dr. William James Phillips

Dr. William James Phillips was a rural doctor and surgeon for the Frisco Railroad in Beaumont, Kansas. In 1885 he came to Kansas, moved to Beaumont in 1895 and lived there until his death in 1929.

This article is based primarily on the two sources mentioned.

[Dr. William James Phillips' daughter Beulah married Fred Van Huss, and so is the maternal grandfather of Robert Van Huss, my father-in-law.]

The country doctor of the 1880’s and 90’s was a general practitioner delivering babies, setting broken bones, pulling teeth, tending snake bites, and wounds from gun shots and farm equipment. The country doctor might live on his own farm to make ends meet, and so would travel by horse or buggy to treat patients in outlying farms. They likely delivered every child within miles, and sat with the dying as they left this world for a better place, and these happenings often required a doctor to get up in the middle of the night to attend his patient. As cash was short on the prairie, the pay for a doctor might be a basket of eggs, a bushel of corn, or a side of beef.



The Phillips family originated in Wales. William James Phillips' paternal grandmother was Irish, coming to America at the age of nine. This paternal side of the Phillips’ family came to America in colonial years, later moving west  to Ohio, then Iowa, and finally, with William James Phillips to Kansas.

William James Phillips (1856-1929) was born in Washington County, Iowa on October 2, 1856. He was the second son of George Phillips and Susanna (Deen) Phillips.

William grew up near Iowa City. He attended public schools and an academy. In 1874, at the age of 18, William spent 15 months working on a farm along the Little Blue River near Washington, Kansas, (north of Manhattan and Clay Center and west of Marysville).

Six years previous, Cheyenne and Arapahoe had made a raid in the county. Four years previous, the Kansas Pacific Railroad completed its line along the Smoky Hill River from Kansas City to Denver.  Buffalo still roamed western Kansas.

In 1885 William graduated from the College of Medicine, State University of Iowa. [Announcement of the College of Medicine, the State University of Iowa, 1885-1886,] After graduation, Dr. Phillips settled in LaCrosse, Kansas to practice medicine, marrying the same year Maggie Z. Redman (1867-1958), (daughter of A. J. and Mary (Wright) Redman).

In 1895 the couple moved to Butler County and Beaumont where Dr. Phillips worked as surgeon for the Frisco Railroad. They bought a 130 acre farm at the southwest edge of town.

Page 32, 1905 Butler County Atlas, Glencoe Township

Dr. Phillips served as town clerk. He operated a drug store and acted as pharmacist. He was a Republican, and a member of Beaumont Lodge No. 465, Ancient Order United Workmen.

The Phillips family grew to eleven sons and daughters.

Clarence M. farmed 3 1/2 miles southwest of Beaumont; Hubert W. worked as a brakeman with the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and lived at Biggar in Saskatchewan, Canada; Edith Fern was the wife of A. L. Milliken, station agent for the Frisco Railway at Altamont, Kansas; George A. drove an auto stage at Brawley, California; Pauline, the fifth child, died at three years of age; Helen M. is the wife of J. H. Nichols, an express messenger in Wichita; Beulah M. was a school teacher and would marry Fred Van Huss; as of 1918, Paul W. was attending a school of automobile instruction at Wichita and the three youngest Alwilda, Wendell and Ruth, were attending public schools in Beaumont.

Beaumont Cemetery, William J. Phillips and Margaret Z. Phillips

William died in 1929 at Beaumont and is buried in the Beaumont Cemetery just north of Highway 400. His wife Maggie died in 1958 and is buried next to him.

George Phillips

William's father, George Phillips (1814-1873), was born in Ohio on February 10, 1814. He was an early pioneer of Washington County, Iowa and died in Daytonville, Iowa on February 6, 1873. His career included farming, general store and hotel owner. He was a member of the Methodist Church and served both as steward and trustee. In politics he was an active republican.

[I find nothing of the family history of the Phillips before George.]

George Phillips married three times. He first married Elizabeth Deen, a native of Ohio. She died in Illinois and was the mother of ten children.

His second wife Susanna Deen (1831-1856) was a half-sister of his first wife. She died at Daytonville, Iowa, October 9, 1856, one week after the birth of William J. Phillips. She had one other child, W. S..

George Phillips married his third wife Judith R. Downing. Her only child, Thomas A. L., died at seventeen months.