DELPHOS KANSAS -- PRIDE OF THE SOLOMON VALLEY
North Central Kansas is often overlooked in Kansas travel books and folders; yet, this area may offer more of interest for the visitor than any part of the state. And Delphos, sitting off by itself away from any of the highways, received numerous unexpected contacts with the outside world. Once you look into its treasures you will be surprised and impressed with how many incidents of history and prehistory touched this area.
Delphos Located 5 miles west of the 1-35 and KS-41 intersection, Delphos was laid out as a town in 1869 by W. A. Kiser. It was officially recorded in January 1871. The name, Delphos, was submitted by the first resident in this vicinity, Levi Yockey, who came from Delphos, Ohio. Like many Ohio towns, Delphos, Kansas was laid out around a square that became a tree-shaded green park with a bandstand near its center.
Buildings have come and gone, but two Delphos landmarks had been the grade school, now the site of the Delphos Rest Home (No longer used- 1999), and the Delphos Opera House. The Opera House, torn down in 1936, was used to build the new Bohemian Hall west of Delphos.
Grace Bedell Billings' Monument Grace Bedell, the little girl who advised Abraham Lincoln to raise a beard, lived her adult life in Delphos. On October 15, 1860, eleven-year-old Grace wrote to presidential candidate Lincoln: "I have got four brothers and part of them will vote for you any way and if you let your whisker grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you; you would look a great deal better, for your face is so thin." On October 19, 1860, Lincoln wrote to Grace asking, "As to the whiskers, Having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affection [sic] if I were to begin it now?" As time has shown, the public didn't feel it was an affectation. The beard changed Lincoln's countenance from that of a plucked chicken to one of a man of distinction. Lincoln's photos show the last taken without the beard on August 13, 1860 and the first with a full beard on February 9, 1861.
Grace came to Delphos as the bride of George Newton Billings, a homesteader who later became the first cashier of the Delphos State Bank. A monument to Grace Bedell Billings stands on the north side of the city park showing part of her letter to Lincoln and his reply.
Anna Brewster Morgan's Homestead Anna Brewster Morgan was captured by Indians just northwest of present day Delphos during a raid on October 3, 1868. The young, pretty, school teacher had been married less than a month to James Morgan. On that ill-fated day Mr. Morgan was working in a field about a mile north of their dugout when he was attacked by a band of Sioux Indians. His frightened horses ran back to the dugout, and Mrs. Morgan, expecting the worst, strapped a pistol on her side, mounted one horse and set out to find her husband. Following the horses south, the Indians spied Anna approaching. They hid in the bushes, then pounced on her as she came up from the creek. They tied her to her horse and took her to their camp.
Later the Sioux traded her to a band of Cheyennes, who had earlier kidnapped Sarah C. White near Concordia. During the more than five cold months of captivity and long travel, Anna Morgan and Sarah White had given up all hope of rescue. Then they were rescued by Gen. George Custer on March 22, 1869, northwest of the Wichita Mountains near todays Lawton, Oklahoma. Custer had demanded the return of the women with the threat of hanging one of six hostage chiefs each day.
Anna's husband, James Morgan, survived the attack. The Morgans moved from their dugout on the north side of the Solomon River to their new house on the south side of the river, about a half mile west of Delphos. A pump in the field still marks their farm site.
Anna gave birth to a half-Indian child Ira, a few months after her rescue. The little fellow died about two years later. Anna had three more children, but the unhappy marriage d ended when the youngest child was seven. Anna and her children moved in with her brother, Arthur Brewster, and lived with him until the children were grown. Then she finished her days in a small house in Delphos. She avoided publicity and was never accepted by the Delphos community after her capture. In her guilt-ridden, unhappy life she later admitted, "I often wished they had never found me She was declared insane later and died at the age of 57 on June 11, 1902. She is buried not far from the entrance of the Delphos Cemetery next to her son, Ira.
Spiritualist Camp Ground In the oak grove northwest of Delphos, Spiritualists held summer camp meetings for many years. Crowds of people attended these meetings, many coming on special trains that stopped outside the camp grounds. The large "Welcome" sign above the stage and the surrounding tents gave a carnival atmosphere to the meetings. Because flooding along the Solomon river caused several meetings to be canceled, the Spiritualist moved their camp ground in the 1930s to Wells, Kansas. Spiritualist meetings are still held each summer in their Sunset Camp.
Zebulon Pike's Monument Zebulon Montgomery Pike passed along the hills west of Delphos in 1806 on his way to a Pawnee village about 7 miles east-southeast of todays Red Cloud, Nebraska. He and his party had camped near today's Salina on September 17, 1806, then moved on the 18th north of the Culver area. Rains kept the party from moving on the 19th and 20th. On the 21st they crossed Salt Creek and camped somewhere between Barnard and Delphos. On the 22nd they reached the Solomon River, probably southwest of Simpson. On the 23rd they crossed the river at a large fork. This would match with the Glen Elder area. They reached the Pawnee Village on the 25th, which was situated in the valley along the Republican River.
Earlier historians mistakenly distorted Pikes' route to reach the Pawnee village near Republic. But this village sat on a hill and does not agree with Pike's description of the village in the river valley that he visited. Nevertheless, Pike passed not far to the west of Delphos. The Ottawa County Historical Society endorsed a monument to Pike's journey. Don Ballou a former resident and long-time Kansas newspaperman, constructed the monument from local post-rock and Shellrock on top of Boyer Hill, about 4 miles west of Delphos. The monument's location gives the visitor a fine panoramic view of the Solomon valley.
UFO On the evening of November 2, 1971, Ronald Johnson, 16 years old at the time, reported that he saw a UFO lift through the Chinese elm windbreak behind a small farm building and move off toward the south. The Johnsons claimed that a strange white circle on the ground about the diameter of a stock tank proved the UFO had been present. This report created great interest among UFOlogists all over the world, many who visited the Johnson farm one-half mile north and one-half mile east of Delphos. This incident sparked numerous newspaper and magazine articles. Reports of the incident have also appeared in several books. Over twenty laboratory reports from universities and other sources showed a variety of chemical and physical analyses. The consensus of those giving an opinion stated that the material of the circle was vegetal matter. Several concluded that it was a particular fungus that over a period of time can cause a circular pattern called a "fairy ring" visible on the surface of the ground.
In spite of laboratory findings that the material in the circle probably existed long before the alleged UFO incident, a panel of UFO experts chose the Delphos UFO story as the best of the year in 1972. The National Enquirer awarded the Johnsons a $5,000 award in 1973 for their UFO story because it "supplied the most scientifically valuable evidence of UFOs in 1972.
Bohemian Hall Three miles west of the Pike Monument in the post-rock country stands Bohemian Hall, the center of social activity for the Czech immigrant settlement in the post-rock hills. Joe Kosar built the first hall in 1905, and lived in a lean-to on the back. Since 1909 the hall had served as Lodge Kansasky Vysehrad, #203. Community members built a new hall in 1936-37 using lumber from the Delphos Opera House. Friday night dances with big-name bands attracted large crowds for many years, but interest waned after World War II. The hall is still used for social activities for Czech lodge members. Three miles south and one-half mile east of Bohemian Hall lies the cemetery of the Czech community.
Indian Lookout The narrow cave in the sandstone cliff four miles south of Delphos was used by early settlers as a lookout for Indians. This practice may have begun after the early attacks by Indians because we have no reports that anyone ever saw hostile Indians from this site. One man, John Dyer, was killed near here in the last Indian raid in June 1869.
Highways 1-35 & K-41 Intersection This intersection had been the site for over 100 years of Mt. Pleasant School, the one-room school that the author of this article attended. The sites of the school and my boyhood home, one-quarter mile east, are just a field now. Gone too is the pasture with the stone-lined hand-dug well and depression of the original dugout home. Somehow, it seems that these physical features were symbolic of something more important than just an empty field. I would like to dedicate this open view to all who have returned to find their birthplaces gone.
Charles Crosson's Grave "Long Rest," the name given by Charles Crosson for his gravesite is located one mile east and three and one-half miles south of the 1-35 and KS-41 intersection sits about one-quarter mile west of the road. Charles Elliott Crosson served as a private under Col. Frederick Funston in the Twentieth Kansas Regiment during the Philippine Insurrection of 1898-99. According to the official record, Private Charles E. Crosson was wounded on February 4, 1898, the day before the fighting officially began. His wound, however, was so slight it was not reported.
"Charlie" made the most of his experience in the Philippines. He returned to his farm and tried to act as a gentleman farmer until the cost of hiring help exceeded the farm's profits. He sold the farm and moved to Minneapolis. Charlie became adept at whittling and carving His carved designs on wood products included Charlie Crosson walking sticks and the stocks of his gun collection. Later he built and carved a walnut casket for himself. Wearing his military uniforms, he displayed his coffin, guns, and other handicrafts at county fairs.
Then he purchased a plot of land on top of the hill overlooking the valley of his boyhood home. Here he built a concrete vault for his grave, added a cannon engraved with his autobiography, and a stone fence border with various stone towers. Born in Ohio on March 2, 1871, Charlie lived 80 years before he was laid to rest in his private graveyard.
All who knew Charlie remember that he carried a binocular case on his side. At the sound of an airplane he would whip out his binoculars and search the sky. His interest in airplanes stemmed from the flying exploits of his niece, Marval Crosson, and nephew, Joe Crosson, both famous pilots.
Born a few miles south of Charlie's home, Marval and Joe moved with their parents to California when they were young. Both Marval and Joe took an early interest in flying. At the time of her death, Marval held the women's altitude record. In 1929 while competing in the first cross-country Women's Air Derby with the top women flyers including Amelia Earhart, Marval was killed when bailing out too low from her stricken airplane.
Joe became a hero for numerous missions as a bush pilot in Alaska. In 1929 he discovered the body of the famous Arctic flyer, Carl Ben Eiellson; in 1931 he flew a mercy mission to an Eskimo village with flu serum; in 1935 he had the grievous task of flying the bodies of his friends, Will Rogers and Wiley Post, back to Seattle after their crash off Point Barrow in 1935.
Milburn Stone As a traveling-tent-show actor from Burton, Kansas, Milburn Stone made his connection with Delphos by marrying a local girl. It was here in the early 1920s while acting in a tent show that he fell in love with Nellie Morrison. They married in the Presbyterian Church, across the street from her home." Soon after their marriage, unable to find work in Kansas, Milburn went to Hollywood. Later he returned to Delphos to get his wife and baby daughter. Broke, he had to borrow enough money from several residents to enable him to move his family west. In California Nellie worked to support the family while Milburn pursued his profession. Nellie died young before ever sharing in her husband's acting success. Finding his acting niche as "Doc Adams" in the TV series, Gunsmoke, Stone's 250 films and his conscientious attitude established him as the technical advisor for the cast. When he didn't agree with the various directors' attempts to change his character, Milburn stood his ground. One of the other actors said that Stone told one producer, "I'm too old to scare, and too rich to care.
Indian Cave From the intersection of 1-35 & KS-41, go four miles south and two and one-eighth mile east. The cave is carved in a sandstone cliff a hundred yards to the north. This cave, in my opinion, was used as a sacred "sweat lodge" for a Plains Indian tribe. Before the cliffs were defaced with white man's names, it had several Indian petroglyphs. A section was photographed in 1914 by my uncle, Floyd Hogg. He said it was removed soon afterwards by scientists from one of the universities. Some relics were picked up in various sites of old Indian villages by my father and me during the dusty 1930s.
Stagecoach Station Nine Just west of Indian Cave between the fork of the Pipe Creeks, was the location of Station Nine of the Leavenworth and Pike's Peak Express Company. This branch of the express was used only a few months in 1859. However, it was in service long enough for Horace Greeley, at 57 not a young man, to ride it on his tour of the west. He found station buildings constructed from packing boxes and limited, poor food.
Cattle Trail Not known as a part of the great cattle trails, the area around Delphos was trampled by the hooves of thousands of longhorns during Abilene's heyday as a cattle shipping center. These cattle were driven along the east side of the Solomon River from Abilene north to the Indian reservations, and to ranches in Wyoming and Nebraska. In 1874 Joseph G. McCoy estimated that thirty to forty thousand cattle moved north to feed Indians as are placement for the buffaloes slaughtered in the Upper Missouri. However, this trail was used for a short time only, as extended railroad terminals put Abilene out of the cattle business after 1874.
Rock City Two miles south and about one mile west of the river bridge in Minneapolis lies a city of large spherical stones. Millions of years ago this area was overlain by a younger layer of ocean deposits. Some of the water seeped through this limestone layer into the Dakota layer of sand below - taking with it dissolved calcium carbonate. Mixed with the sand, the calcium carbonate hardened into a cement that resisted later erosion by an underground river. The result has been the spherical Dakota concretions we see today.
Boston Corbett's Homestead From the 1-35 & KS-41 Intersection go 13 miles north and three and a half miles east. Here a monument stands marking Boston Corbett's homestead. Boston Corbett shot John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln's assassin. Corbett was a part of a cavalry detachment sent out to bring Booth back alive. For disregarding orders Boston Corbett was court-martialed.
Thirteen years later in 1878 he moved to this soldier's homestead, perhaps to escape threats on his life by Booth's friends. Near the French settlement of Aurora, Corbett lived for eight years, constantly getting into trouble by threatening to shoot any one who crossed him. Fanatically religious, he sometimes preached in area churches. My grandfather remembered Corbett preaching in the Meredith Christian Church, starting his sermons by first laying his pistols on the lectern. Corbett later got a job as assistant doorkeeper in the Kansas House of Representatives. At a wrong moment he whipped out his pistols when he lost his temper. He was taken into custody and declared insane. He later escaped the insane asylum and mysteriously disappeared.
Buffalo Until the early 1870s the prairie was frequently visited by huge herds of buffalo. Pioneers here found not only buffalo, but also antelopes, coyotes, wolves, prairiedogs, prairie chickens, quail, wild turkey and numerous fur-bearing animals. The massive slaughter of buffalo from 1870 to 1875, estimated to average two and a half million each of those years, completely eliminated these magnificent animals from this vicinity. Except for the buffalo, most of the other wild animals have been replenishing their numbers in Kansas in recent years. And the Asian pheasant, introduced in Kansas after 1925, has proliferated. On a hill south of Longford in a pasture with buffalo stands a large statue dedicated to this stately beast.
Solomon River The river along the Delphos Mill dam near the south bridge has long been a favorite fishing spot. Tales of the sizes of fish caught or that got away have long kept fishermen coming back for another try. Because of a huge build-up or logs several years ago, the dam was blown up as an aid to flood control.
Limestone History Book In the slice through time of the limestone wall along the Boyer Hill road, you may find remains of our earliest residents. This mid-section of the100-ft Greenhorn-limestone layer is from the Cretaceous Period, the meridian of the dinosaur age from 70- to 130-million years ago. To see the famous Fencepost limestone layer, (the top of the Greenhorn layer) you can find it as outcropping on top of the hills on your way toward Bohemian Hall. The Fence post limestone settled from the last ocean over this area about 70 million years ago. But in these deeper layers along the road-cut, we go back in the Cretaceous Period 50 to 70 million years earlier. Here you may find a variety of clams, oysters and even shark's teeth.
George Washington Carver One of America's most famous scientists received his high school education in Minneapolis, Kansas. Born in 1866 in southwest Missouri, George Carver was separated from his mother, a slave, during the Civil War. He was brought to Kansas by a black family named Seymour. They lived in Minneapolis long enough for George to receive enough high school credits by 1884 to get into college. He and the family ran their own laundry business in a small house across the street and down the hill from where the new hotel was built. During his lifetime Professor George Washington Carver made many significant scientific discoveries on plants while in Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama. His most important discoveries changed the leguminous peanut from an unknown crop in 1896 to the second most important cash crop in the South by 1940. In addition to receiving numerous awards in his lifetime, he was visited by Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Roosevelt.
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