BUTLER COUNTY, KANSAS

NEWSPAPER STORIES

VANDALISM WHICH CAUSED EXTENSIVE DAMAGE INVESTIGATED

Investigation continued today into vandalism at the American Legion golf course, where damage was estimated at $1,500 to $2,000.

The sheriff's office would appreciate anyone giving information regarding this vandalism, Sheriff's Depty Frank DeFisher said today.

They can be assured the information will be strictly confidential.

Vandals tore up a practice green near the club house, damaged a fence and flag poles.

They also caused heavy damage to a pickup truck belonging to Terry Carter, golf course manager.

All tires were cut, wiring was ripped out, brake lines were cut. The gas tank, carburetor and radiator were filled with sand. There also was sand in the oil. (El Dorado Times, July 23, 1968)

FOUR ARRESTED IN CONNECTION WITH VANDALISM

A Hutchinson youth and three younger boys from El Dorado have been arrested for alleged vandalism at the American Legion golf course, where damage was estimated at $1,800.

Apparently solving the case, Butler County Sheriff's officers Wednesday arrested Roger Dean Schlegel, 18, at his home in Hutchinson.

Acting on a "tip" according to Sheriff Sidney Blakeman officers investigating the case arrested Schlegel, a former El Doradoan and three El Dorado boys, 15, 16 and 17 years of age, in connection with the destruction.

The three El Doradoans were not identified because they are juveniles.

Blakeman and a deputy, Frank DeFisher, brought Schlegel to El Dorado Wednesday on "probably cause, destruction of property."

A state warrant issued today charged Schlegel with two counts of malicious destruction of property, a felony.

Schlegel waived preliminary hearing this morning in county court and was bound over to Butler County District Court for trial during the November term.
Judge Darlington set bond at $1,000 which was not posted Schlegel was placed in the county jail.

The younger boys were released to the custody of their parents, pending juvenile court proceedings.

Vandalism at the Legion golf course, reported July 22, included damage to a 1964 pickup truck owned by Edgar L. Carter of Towanda, golf course manager, and damage to a putting green and fence.

Sheriff's officers said the truck's tires were cut, wiring was ripped out, brake lines were cut and sand was placed in the gas tank, carburetor, radiator and oil.

The green apparently was damaged by a sharp instrument, officers said. (El Dorado Times, August 1, 1968)

TWO BOYS DROWN IN WALNUT - Both Wichitans; body of one youth still missing

Fun for seven Wichita boys turned to tragedy Thursday evening when two of them drowned in the swollen Walnut River 1-1/2 miles east of Leon.

One of the bodies was recovered about 10:30 p.m. but recovery workers still searched for the other early this afternoon.

The double drowning claimed the lives of:

Arthur O. Watkins, 15, whose body was recovered.

Allen Bessette, 17, whose body was still concealed below the swift, muddy, water.

The drowning occurred apparently between 8:30 and 9 p.m. Butler County Sheriff Sidney Blakeman said today.

Both victims high school students were among seven boys who were frolicking around a rope swing above the dame on the stream.

Two witnesses told officers that Watkins had swung over the water on the rope, attached to a tree, and he dropped into the river.

Watkins floated with the current toward the dam, witnesses indicated and seemed to stand up once immediately behind the dam before going over.

Blakeman said Thomas R. Boudreau, 17, entered the water in an effort to help Watkins out.

In a fatal attempt to provide further aid, Bessette then plunged in and shoved Boudreau out of the water, but Bessette disappeared.

Watkins' body was later found lodged in a willow tree about 300 feet downstream, Blakeman said. The tree, growing on a gravel bank, was partly submerged by the high water.

Jim Linder and Marvin Beadmont, both of Leon recovered the boy's body. They entered the swift current with ropes tied around them.

Meanwhile, workers still searched today for Bessette's body. They worked in boats along a 2-mile area below the dam.

We are attempting to get another rescue squad from Wichita this afternoon, Blakeman said.

Augusta's emergency rescue team, which worked at the scene throughout the night, sometimes in the rain, left today. In addition to all sheriff's officers, the Kansas Forestry, Fish and Game Commission and volunteers are attempting to find the other victim's body.

Blakeman said the Watkins boy's parents arrived at Leon Thursday night at approximately the same time their son's body was being recovered. They turned back, following an ambulance carrying their son's body.

Bessette's parents stayed at the Blakeman home in Leon until about 3:30 a.m. today, but returned after daybreak.

Funeral services for the Watkins youth an East High School student, are pending at Culbertson Mortuary in Wichita.

Survivors include his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Perry Watkins, two brother's and one sister. (El Dorado times, July 26, 1968)

BOY'S BODY RECOVERED FROM WALNUT RIVER

The body of Allen Dale Bessette, 17, one of two Wichita boys who drowned Thursday in the Little Walnut River near Leon, was recovered early Saturday afternoon.

Recovery workers found the body of the other victim 15 year old Arthur O. Watkins, Thursday night.

Bessette's body was found shortly before 12:30 p.m. Saturday - some 40 hours after the double tragedy - approximately 100 yards downstream from the point the other victim was recovered.

Bessette's father was at the scene, but he did not witness the recovery according to Sheriff Sidney Blakeman.

Blakeman and Hal Halbrook, Eureka and Everett Wilnerd, Howard, Kan., two officers of the Kansas Forestry, Fish and Game Commission, found the second body.

Bessette and Watkins drowned about 9 p.m. Thursday while they were at the river with five other youths.

The two boys drowned near the dam about 1-1/2 miles east of Leon.

The attempt to find Bessette's body kept workers at the scene day and night.

The boys apparently had not gone to the swollen river to fish or swim. "I think they were just horsing around," Blakeman said.

In addition to sheriff's officers and fish and game personnel, other groups working at the river were the Greenwood County Fire Department, Belle Plaine Fire Department, Sedgwick County sheriff's officers and firemen, Augusta and El Dorado departments of public safety and Augusta's rescue squad, Rose Hill firemen, Douglass Fire Department, Salvation Army and American Red Cross.

Funeral services for Watkins were held this afternoon at Kansas, Okla. Services for Bessette will be conducted Tuesday morning in Wichita. (El Dorado Times, July 29, 1968)

BLUESTEM DRAGGED FOR BODY - Frank Whitehead, El Dorado, is drowning victim

A flotilla criss-crossed the murky waters of Lake Bluestem today, searching for the body of an El Dorado man presumed drowned.

Department of Public Safety officers identified the missing man as Frank Whitehead, 55, of 1419 Lowe avenue.

Manning the search craft which plowed back and forth across the lake for more than four hours this morning and into the afternoon were Department of Public Safety officers, municipal employees, volunteers, officers of the Kansas Forestry, Fish and Game Commission, Butler county sheriff's officer and Augusta Department of Safety personnel.

The number of spectators on the rocky hill overlooking the portion of the municipal reservoir being dragged increased slowly but steadily as word of the tragedy spread.

Added to the search force shortly after noon were rescue boats and personnel from the Sedgwick County Fire Department and an amphibious truck operated by Sedgwick County officers.

Department of Safety Officers said Whitehead and his father had gone to the lake early today for a fishing trip. As officers reconstructed events, their boat was launched at a ramp on the northeast side of the first point east of the dam, then moved to a nearby ski dock.

Whitehead apparently intended to help his father into the boat from the dock, officers said. The craft was not moored and after he climbed out, the boat began drifting across the lake.

Officers said Whitehead apparently plunged into the lake swimming in an attempt to catch the drifting boat. It was believed he reached the boat but did not board it before disappearing from view. He was last seen at a distance estimated at 100 yards off shore.

Officers said the boat was recovered on the north shore of the lake with the ignition on but without the engine running.

First notice of the tragedy was given to Butler county sheriff's officers shortly before 7 a.m. Rescue equipment was dispatched soon afterward, and a search started immediately.

The task proceeded under partly cloudy skies and with a brisk south wind ruffling the surface of the lake. Temperatures were in the 80's. In some areas of the lake, dragging equipment snagged on tree stumps and sunken logs.

A diver who descended several times to free dragging gear from obstructions reported the water was extremely dark, with visibility reduced sharply.

Portions of the search covered water up to 40 feet deep.

Shortly before noon, a sonic fish finding device was pressed into service by searchers. It was provided by Gale Moss of El Dorado.

Coffee and sandwiches were brought to searchers by Salvation Army personnel from El Dorado.

Some Department of Safety officers who were dispatched to the lake at the start of the search were relieved late in the morning since they had been on duty more than 16 hours. They were replaced by other municipal workers and Augusta officers.

Initial sweeps by boats dragging grappling hooks crossed the lake from south to north and back again. Later efforts paralleled the south shore. (El Dorado Times, Saturday, July 13, 1968)

EL DORADOAN'S BODY RECOVERED - Services for Frank Whitehead will be held Wednesday

The body of Frank L. Whitehead, who drowned early Saturday at Lake Bluestem floated to the surface about 6:30 p.m. Monday ending a three-day vigil on the water and ashore.

Oddly enough, the eyes of many workers who had searched since Saturday morning seemed fixed on the spot as the body of the 55 year old El Doradoan surfaced.

Whitehead, 1419 Lowe Avenue, had drowned at approximately the same point - 100 yards off shore - some 60 hours earlier.

Whitehead apparently plunged into the lake, swimming in an attempt to catch his drifting motor boat. It was believed he had reached the boat, but did not board it before disappearing in the water.

Whitehead had gone to the lake with his father on an early morning fishing trip.

The tragedy was reported shortly before 7 a.m. Saturday.

Funeral services will be conducted at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Park Avenue Baptist Church. The Rev. Fred Daughtery, pastor, will officiate. Burial with military rites will be in Walnut Valley Memorial Park Cemetery.

Kirby Funeral Home is in charge.

The water where Whitehead drowned is approximately 23 feet deep, according to Department of Public Safety police.

Scores watched as the victim's body was recovered and taken to the Playport dock across a hill west of the scene. The body was then taken to the funeral home.

Rescue workers and volunteers removed their boats which had dotted the water day and night since the tragedy, and dismantled their equipment lining the shore.

The last item of equipment was removed around 9 p.m.

Many volunteers and law enforcement officers, including police, Butler County Sheriff's officers and Sedgwick County officers had manned boats engaged in the recovery task.

American Red Cross emergency and field hospital units were set up over the weekend. El Dorado's public safety women reserves and the Salvation Army operated canteens at the scene. There were many donations of food Monday as tired workers continued their task in the rain.

The spot from which the body emerged had been dragged extensively since the drowning, as had other areas of the 870 acre reservoir.

Mr. Whitehead, a fuel inspector with the Santa Fe Railway Co., for the past 30 years had moved to El Dorado 22 years ago from Ardmore, Okla.

He was born Nov. 1, 1914, at Dilley, Texas. He and Erma Readmour were married March 13, 1942 in Dallas.

He was graduated from high school at Cotulla, Texas.

Mr. Whitehead was a veteran of Navy service in World War II.

He was a member of the Park Avenue Baptist Church, El Dorado Elks Lodge and American Legion.

Survivors include the widows two daughters, Mrs. Teresa Ann Darland, 503 North Orchard, and Miss Pamela Sue Whitehead of Wichita; his parents Mr. and Mrs. Frank M. Whitehead, Lyile, Texas, one sister, Mrs. Anna Louise Patterson, Houston, four brothers, Melvin T. of Lytle, Texas, Jimmie L. and B. J. both of San Antonio, and Roy A. Finch Whitehead, Houston three grandchildren.

The family suggests contributions to a memorial fund designated for the purchase of equipment to be presented to the city for use in emergencies such as claimed Mr. Whitehead's life. Contributions may be made in the Citizens State Bank. (El Dorado Times, Tuesday, July 16, 1968)

MEIKLE, LOLA

Mrs. Lola Meikle, 53, of Lakewood, Calif, mother of Jamie L. Woodall of Towanda, and a former resident of Latham, died Thursday morning at Lakewood.
Funeral services will be held here Monday at 2 p.m. at the Kirby Funeral Home chapel. Interment will be in Walnut Valley Memorial Park cemetery.
Mrs. Meikle was born at Conway Springs on August 10, 1914. She lived at Latham for 20 years, from 1937 until 1957, when she moved to California.
In addition to the son at Towanda, she is survived by her husband, Harold Meikle, of the home, her mother, Mrs. Stella Wise of Wellington, one daughter, Mrs. Shirley Silver of Bartlesville, Okla., two sisters, Mrs. Louise Gill of Mayfield, Kan., and Mrs. Wilma Page of Kansas city, Mo., two brothers, Everett Wise and Willard Wise, both of Wellington and five grandchildren. (El Dorado Times, July 26, 1968)

             

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