Cheyenne County, Kansas

Clippings from Alice Gregory's Files

Submitted by Sherri Gregory

Kansas Korner
By Marilyn Holzwarth

The Cheyenne County Historical Society continues “An Ode to the North Divide” by lagoo. If you know the identity of the writer, please let us know.


There is Timothy Galvin still at large
There is Frank O’Leary tall and fair
There is George Boyd and Wilson George
And William Burns with curly hair
Daniel Collins is still in the ranks,
Mr. Harley was lately enrolled
Among ‘North Divide’ bachelors,
He is fearless and bold.

There are so many lonely ones,
I cannot name them all;
There is Edward McKinney who they say
Never has had a proposal at all;
There is D. W. Crabtree, rich as a Jew
But keeping back makes solemn and prim;
Oh, will not some kind maiden
Take up her cross and show mercy to him.

There is W. P. Lambert, of woeful state
All day long he roams the plain
Like a lost troubled spirit,
Who searches, and searches in vain,
He sighs and groans and cries aloud,
He bitterly weeps and beats the air,
He stops not for fence nor canon,
Madly he rides and tears his hair.

-- a Clipping found among Alice Gregory’s papers, probably clipped from the St. Francis Herald, date unknown


Comments by Alice (Crabtree) Gregory


Frank O’Leary (wasn't tall at all) married Mary Tongish and had children; Lewis, Lloyd, Helen, Frances… After Frank died, Mary married Jim Lang

George Boyd never married, in the 1930s he moved to Ainsworth, Nebraska and sold his place to Herman White.

George Wilson never married – he was seeing Serepta Crabtree at one time and she never married either.

Ed McKinney married LaVerne (Hoover) Gibberson, mother of Ellen (Gibberson) Drummond

Dave Crabtree never married (He was my Uncle Dave)

David W. Crabtree

Deed in possession of great niece, Alice (Crabtree) Gregory

DEED to South ½ Lot C in block 6 of first addition to Rose Hill Cemetery conveyed to Serepta Crabtree on June 10, 1947.
Note on front of deed: David W. Crabtree buried on this lot.


City Cemetery: Rose Hill
· To obtain information about internments in the city cemetery (Rose Hill), contact:

Axtell City Clerk
401 Maple St.
Axtell, KS 66403
(785) 736-2834

David W. Crabtree lived in Cheyenne County Kansas. When he became ill, his sister Serepta came to Cheyenne County from where ever she was teaching at the time, to take care of him.

Dave was paralyzed December 18, 1929. San Luis Valley. Then moved to brother Vester's home in Cheyenne County Kansas with sister Sarepta helping care for him. Then Serepta moved to Denver and took Uncle Dave with her. They later moved to Axtell, KS, where he died at 4 A.M. June 27,1947.

A pioneer story. Cheyenne Co., KS. Told to me, Alice Crabtree-Gregory in A letter from Floyd Crabtree in 1978.

"One night when Uncle Dave lived over in the hills about where Lute Stafford lived later. One winter night when the snow was knee deep he was walking home when a bobcat got his dog down and about to kill it when Uncle Dave stabbed the cat with his pocket knife but didn't kill it. He then took his fur overcoat off, wrapped it around his left arm then stuck it out to the cat. As the bobcat ripped the coat to shreds he stabbed it again in the heart killing it." Dave remembered living in " the old sod house with a hard dirt floor. It was just east of the frame house that came later. About 1909 or 1910."

Crabtrees Arrive on an Immigrant Train

Peter Crabtree was born in Ohio, ninth in a family of 20 children. His wife, Sarah Williams was born in a log house near Portsmouth on the Ohio River. Her parents were William Henry and Elizabeth (Altmann) Williams.

In 1879 the Peter Crabtree family with eight children joined a large group of relatives, in-laws and friends who left Ohio and made the long trip to Cass County, Nebraska. There they bought a farm, built a sod house, survived the “grasshopper years”, started two sons to college at Peru State Normal College and another in farming. In 1892, they brought the eight younger children to Haigler, Nebraska, on an immigrant train to find land near the others of the Williams family who had come in 1886 to establish homes along the Hackberry creek in northwestern Kansas.

This is the rest of the story as told by Frank Crabtree and written down as nearly word for word as we can remember.

“We came to Haigler on an immigrant train. There were box cars for our farm implements, furniture, dishes and things like that, and our cows and horse were in a stock car. Vester rode with our livestock (one adult could ride free in the freight car to take care of the animals) Vester saw stowaways stealing rides by hiding among other people’s stuff.

Uncle Jerome (Crabtree) was waiting for us when we got off at Haigler. The men put the wheels back on our wagons and loaded our stuff in. They hitched up the horses and we followed a trail through the brakes to the southeast towards the Hackberry toward Uncle Henry’s place (Jonathan Henry Williams). The others had come earlier and already had houses built. Uncle Jerome’s house was just south of the Charley Zuege homestead. When we got in sight of his house we could see the whole family outside watching up the trail and when we got close enough for them to see that we were us, they all ran pell mell to meet us. (Ma and Aunt Mag, Jerome’s wife, were sisters)

We went to Uncle Henry and Aunt Ella’s (Mary Ellen Vanderford) to stay while we looked for land. My sister, Cora, (Crabtree-Marshall-O’Brien) was the same age as Ida, their oldest kid. On down the creek was Gran-dad Williams’ place and Uncle Henry’s place was down on the Hackberry. (south of Lee Mills’ house.) We had a hard time to find a homestead. Most of the available land had been already taken by the time we got here. The quarter we got was about five miles north and east of the rest of the family. It was a tree claim. Took less time to prove up. It was just south of the James Boyd place. They had moved over west (James Boyd basin quarter 1890 – 3 quarters west a few miles 1894 and 1895) We lived in their house while we built ours. We built a barn first. There was a strip of land already broke up that we planted to corn the second year. We raised a kind of little red corn – with small ears – real hard kernels – almost too hard to shell. It would grow when bigger corn would dry up. We discovered that it was richer than other corn. Vester picked half a wagon box full in a little while. I thought we could help (the cousins Harley & Charley, Uncle Jerome’s boys) and get it done really fast. But Vester ‘fired” us after a little of our kind of help. Uncle Jerome had two or three milk cows and some chickens but no corn. Aunt Mag came over to see if they could get corn from us.

Later, we broke out the prairie with a sod breaker plow. Pa hired George Mullen to break up the land up on the divide (around where the Prairie Rose schoolhouse was later). We left the pasture on the hillside. I broke it out years later. (This land was later owned by Kenneth and Marion Miller). Livestock made its own way in winter. The tall buffalo grass was good feed and the Boyd quarter had water in almost all the time, even during the dry years.

We had the hillside pasture fenced and kept the horses in during the summer. If we didn’t have hay, we would let the horses out with harness on during the noon hour to eat grass. We gave them corn when we had it. We raised corn and cane – not much wheat then.

Vester had a team – lively but gentle and he left them in our barn. Once he sent me to bring them over to our house (the Boyd house at the time). I got on one of them. He was tired of the barn and started trotting – pretty jolty. I quit trying to hold him back and they got to a gallup. Within 40 rods of home, I fell off and woke up in bed. I was ten years old. We had brought one cow and had quite a bunch in a few years. We had all the milk, butter, chickens and eggs we needed.

Neighbors on the east were the O’Learys. There were young people the same ages as the Crabtrees.

Vester had a 1pre-empt that had a shack already built on it. The man was leaving. Vester proved up on it. Then he and I went back east (to Cass County, NE) to the home place for 2 or 3 years then came back. He and Dave came back and filed on other land

Abel and Becky came in 1893, Oren was three years old. Their homestead was north of us and south of the Lute Stafford place.

For a year or so we lived on a place down on the Hackberry south of the homestead. It belonged to some people named Thompson who were leaving. Mrs. Thompson gave readings. They left about 50 bushels of corn and Mrs. Thompson told Ma not to let anyone have it. One day, a man and the sheriff came and started to load up the corn. Ma tried to stop them. The sheriff said, “the only way to stop us is with a gun and we have guns too.” The Thompsons probably owed a store bill someplace.

One school year we had 40 pupils. They came from surrounding districts. I remember from the west district, George Boyd, Harley and Charley Crabtree. There were the Burns children from the east district and the Whites from the Hackberry south and the Wagners. In the district were the Biggses, the McKinneys and O’Learys. Pauline Wagner was the age of Cora. She was a nice girl; very bright; real short and tiny. She 2ciphered me down in multiplication. I always chose addition… I got pretty good at that.

Cora and I were kids when we came to this country. Hurley and the girls, Addie (Booth), Mary (Graves), and Lizzie (Pate) were teenagers. Serepta was 23 and started teaching school right away. Vester was 21 and was the main pioneer because Pa was in poor health. Ma was sort of like a doctor or nurse for the community and was a midwife. I remember that she made a salve that cured skin cancer. Pa was a great story teller and Bible student.”

Of this family of eleven, three sons, Vester, Hurley and Frank spent their entire lives in the northwest Kansas southwest Nebraska community. Cora and Lizzie retired in Haigler. Addie (Booth) died young while living in St. Francis. Dave and Serepta spent several years of their retirement here. The oldest, Will, was very involved in the education system and became a college president and Secretary of Education in Washington, D.C. The Crabtree roots went deep, but that is another story.

1 preempt: the right of purchasing before others; especially : one given by the government to the actual settler upon a tract of public land the right of purchasing before others; especially : one given by the government to the actual settler upon a tract of public land.

2 cipher: to compute arithmetically

--Italics added for clarity

-- Alice (Crabtree) Gregory

Anna Jacobs Steller
By Margaret Bucholtz

I would say that anyone that ever went to high school in St. Francis from about 1930 to after 1962 you would have remembered Anna Steller.
Anna Jacobs came to Cheyenne County about 1930 to teach in the high school. She had been teaching in southeastern Kansas before that. Anna was a young single lady and teaching was her life. Little did she know that she would meet her future husband, John Michael Steller. Nor did she think that her husband’s deceased wife’s mother would become her friend.

John had served in World War I in France, for the 115 Engineers Co. A., of the United States Armed Forces. He was cooking for his regiment when the war ended. He came to live in St. Francis because his parents and brother were living here. He became a carpenter with his brother William.

After a few years he met and married a young Lady, Ferne Merrell. Ferne had been a schoolteacher for a few years then she went to work for the St. Francis newspaper as a reporter. One of her jobs was to meet the daily train that came from Oxford, Neb., visit with the new comers and advise them about hotel accommodation in St. Francis. Her father Albert Merrell had died in 1922 so Ferne lived with her mother and helped take care of her father. When her father died, she stayed with her mother to keep her company. When John and Ferne got married they continued to live with Mrs. Merrell and everything was going just fine. Then in 1930 Ferne died and left John and her mother alone. John and Ferne had no children and John continued to live in Mrs. Merrell’s home.

A few years later John and the new schoolteacher, Anna Jacob, begin dating and decided to marry. John had bought some land to build a house for his new bride, Anna. However, Mrs. Merrell visited with them and asked them to live with her in the Merrell home. I am sure that Anna was alittle apprehensive at first but she agreed to try it. According to some that knew Anna well, said that things really weren’t too bad at first, but as time grew on a little tension arose between Anna and Mrs. Merrell. Anna visited with John about it and he decided to go ahead and build their own house. When Mrs. Merrell heard of this she sat them down and told them that she would do anything to get along if they would just stay.
Anna and John stayed and when Mrs. Merrell became ill it was Anna who stayed by her side and cared for her. Mrs. Merrell told a friend that Anna was better to her that her own daughter would have been. What a wonderful thing for Anna to do.

When Mrs. Merrill died in 1942 she left her home, farm and all her belongings to John and Anna. Although they were no blood relation, they were truly her family.

~Clipping from Alice Gregory’s Collection. Printed in the St. Francis Herald, Date Unknown

Father told about lynching

Letter to the editor:

The St. Francis Herald arrived on the afternoon mail. We read with interest the stories on the “hanging,” most of the stories were pretty accurate, others a bit of fiction.

I do remember listening to my father J.E. Uplinger and A.A, Bacon talk about how they got the keys from Mr. Bacon. Mr. Bacon had been warned by another sheriff that the mob was on its way to St. Francis. The plan was to take the prisoner to the state pen in Lansing, Kan.

Mr. Bacon and his deputy took Bacon’s car to Elmer Felzien’s filling station located across from the Cheyenne Theater. While they were filling the car, someone came up back of Mr. Bacon, pressed a gun into his back and said, “We do not want to hurt you Mr. Bacon, but we want your keys to the courthouse and jail.” They got the keys and were off to get the prisoner.

Under Kansas law, Mr. Bacon was suspended as sheriff of Cheyenne County by Governor Harry Woodring. Shortly thereafter, my father took whatever papers were necessary and went to Topeka and got Mr. Bacon reinstated as sheriff of Cheyenne County.

Robert J. Uplinger, Syracuse, N.Y.

Pauline Wagner Benefits Children And Youth

Through memorial gifts in Pauline Wagners’s memory, her family is placing a varied selection of Christian material in the St. Francis Public Library in order that her love and concern for everyone and especially children can continue through the sharing of these resources.
The material consists of Bible story books and video tapes for children, study material for junior high and high school youth groups, as well as a 120 minute video on the life of Christ.
Following is a list of some of the titles and topics of the books and tapes.

• Childrens Bible Story Books, by Arch books, twenty-one different books of childrens favorite Bible stories - age:
elementary.

• Childrens Bible Story Books with cassettes, by Arch, eight popular Bible stories children may play and read along in books - age: elementary.

• Childrens Picture Bible, all in pictures as seen on TV.

• Kids Praise 4 And 5, childrens Christian musical video tapes with singing and drama- age: elementary.

• Colby’s Lost Memory, Christian musical video, age: elementary.

• The Greatest Adventure Video Series, by Hanna-Barbera, eight VHS 30 minute cartoon tapes on Bible stories. These are action packed cartoons just like on Saturday morning but Biblical - age: elementary.

• The Greatest Adventure Book Series, by Hanna-Barbera, six books based on video’s kids can check out to read on their own - age: elementary.

• Why Wait? book by Josh McDowell. To go with the following two video series.
‘No’ The Positive Answer (video) A video teaching series of 30 minute messages by Josh McDowell, an internationally known author and speaker to youth. Video’s deal with how youths can live a Christian life given all the pressures that exist today. Comes with teachers guide and study book. Age: junior high and high school.

• How To Help Your Child Say No (video) This is a four-five message video series which is a sequel to the one above also by Josh McDowell which helps parents help their children through the teen years. Comes with teachers guide and study book. Age:
parents of junior high, high school, youth group leaders and teachers.

• Old Enough To Know by Mikael Smith. What teenagers must know about life and relationships. Age: junior high and high school, Sunday school material. Leaders guide and class book included.

• Talksheets, a book by David Lynn, 50 creative discussions for high school youth age groups.

• Jesus (120 minute video) A complete story of Jesus life.

A complete list of the gifts can be obtained at the library and all church offices in St. Francis and Bird City.

~St. Francis Herald, date unknown

From Clipping collection of Alice Gregory.

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