BUTLER COUNTY'S EIGHTY YEARS BIOS
JUDGE AND MRS. BLACK
(transcribed by Sheryl McClure)
Among those who came to El Dorado in its early days, when the spirit of the pioneer led men far from their old homes, was Samuel Edward Black. There wasn't much in El Dorado then as folks view things now, but to this young man, who had spent his first thirty years on his father's farm near Greenville, Illinois, El Dorado offered opportunity; striking out for himself.
A quiet man of simple tastes, he was not without ambition. The newness of the Kansas plains appealed to him. Just why he chose El Dorado no one seems to know, but as there was a certain definiteness in everything he did, there must have been a sound reason. He arrived here in 1872 and took his place in the ranks of the men and women who had begun the arduous task of building a town on the banks of the Walnut. In 1875 he was appointed probate judge of Butler County to fill a vacancy. When he had finished this unexpired term, he was elected to the office, holding it until 1881, when he retired to enter the abstract business, forming a partnership with Tom E. Woods. Later Judge Black sold his interests to establish himself in a real estate and insurance office. Judge Black was admitted to the bar in the year he retired as probate judge, but he never entered the practice.
El Dorado was a small town in 1872, but the townspeople were happy, and there were many cultured persons here. And when Miss Fannie DeGrasse, a singer of talent, came to conduct what was then known as a "musical convention," it provided a high light in the town's affairs. Here she met Judge Black. Miss DeGrasse had come from her home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Winfield, where she had relatives, hoping that the escape from Northern winters would restore the health she had lost from over-study. Refusing to permit her lack of physical strength to deter her, she pursued, tirelessly, the work she loved. But when she met this quiet young man from Illinois, her dreams of an operatic career somehow faded. The night they met, the two remained in conversation in the concert hall long after every one else had departed. The romance ripened quickly, and the following year, Fannie DeGrasse became the bride of Judge Black.
Reared in an atmosphere of art and music, there is no question but that the change to a small town housewife required considerable adjustment. But Mrs. Black had a versatility that responded to the demands upon her, and in blissful content, the two started down life's road together. When this young bride came to El Dorado, she brought something with her—something that has endured through the years—her love of music. She established herself as an instructor in music, staged light operas—assembling the best music talent of the town. And there was much good talent here.
For almost forty years Mrs. Black was an instructor in voice and piano, and the daughter born to this union—Grace Louise—later joined her mother in this work. And the students of Fannie DeGrasse Black, who came and went through that long period of years, are scattered throughout the length and breadth of the land. Some of them still are prominently identified with the musical world today. William Alien White was among her pupils, and while he rebelled at the compelling monotony of it, no one questions the music of his soul that has been spread on printed pages.
For twenty years Mrs. Black was active in the Presbyterian church. She became an instructor in El Dorado for the Western Conservatory of Music, of Kansas City and Chicago, in recognition of her outstanding ability. She lived a full life; a life of value to her community. And in everything she did, Judge Black gloried in her achievements. His greatest pleasure was in her.
The union was broken when Judge Black died September 27, 1916, in Long Beach, California, after a lingering illness. Mrs. Black died August 28, 1930, in her old home in El Dorado.
Grace Black, the only daughter, married Burns Hegler, a newspaper man in 1919. Mr. Hegler came here in 1917 as editor and manager of The Walnut Valley Times, and was later with The El Dorado Times following the consolidation. Mr. and Mrs. Hegler have an only son, Burns Edward Hegler.