With a Name Like That...

Shelly at KOAM tells me I use too many commas.  While that’s probably true, I chalk it up to reading so much material from the 19th century, an era which embraced commas wholeheartedly, using them to slice and dice sentences until every clause and prepositional phrase was corralled within its own boundary, hemmed in by those little punctuation marks with the thorny ends.  Sometimes I think editors sometimes threw in extra commas just to make the lines of a column come out even.

I really should use footnotes too, although I see little value in them when dealing in electronic media.  I do  use clickable links when I can, and try at least to identify other sources, if only informally.  Anyone wanting to learn more can always scoop up a handful of quoted text and copy it into a search window.  That’s what I had to do this morning to see where someone else’s quote came from, because the actual source turned out to be an old book other than the one that was listed in the footnote at the bottom of the page.

Dave Lovewell had asked me to check out a student paper available on the Internet, one with a title which begins with the tantalizing phrase “Warriors at White Rock.”  Written as a class assignment for a K-State professor in 2010, the brief paper encapsulates the period beginning in 1862, when the Harshbarger, Clark and Furrows families from Knox County, Illinois, settled what would become the site of White Rock City, and ending in 1926 when the last stone was dragged away from the last building in the briefly-thriving community.  The publication is freely available from K-State Research Exchange in the PDF format, so your computer must be equipped with an app capable of opening the file once it’s been downloaded.  It tells the story of White Rock City swiftly and, for the most part, accurately, and once tidied up a bit would make a nice Wikipedia entry for the Republic County ghost town.

Tyler Clark’s student paper even includes a quotation I had never seen before, a little advertisement taken from the 1869 “Homesteader’s Guide:”

White Rock City is located in the noted White Rock Valley in a well timbered portion of the homestead county in the midst of broad bottom lands and fertile uplands with good building rock and timber in abundance.  Good opportunities are offered for farms and establishing all branches of trade and Manufacturing.

White Rock City was largely a vision at this point, in a valley “noted" chiefly for Indian attacks.  Clark explains that the opportunities for “all branches of trade" might have appeared boundless because trade at White Rock in 1869 consisted of John Galbraith’s General Store, which, as I’ve suggested before, might have provided all of a settler’s needs, so long as all he needed was tobacco and alcohol.  In one small section entitled “Indian Raids and Massacres In White Rock,” the paper quotes a paragraph from a history book which made me cringe slightly.

Early in April, 1867, a small band of Cheyenne’s found their way into the settlements on White Rock creek, and under the guise of being friendly Otoes, were admitted into the home of a settler named Ward and given food. One of the savages noticed a rifle belonging to the host and, taking it down, shot him as he unsuspectingly smoked his pipe.  The two Ward boys made a dash for their lives, the Indians firing at and wounding one of them fatally.  Mrs. Ward barricaded herself in the house and waited the next move of the savages, who procured an ax, chopped down the door and looted the house.  The confiscated plunder was loaded on two mules, the property of Mr. Ward, and, with Mrs. Ward as prisoner, the Indians hurriedly left to join their tribe on the Solomon... The fate of Mrs. Ward was never learned.

Clark cites M. Winsor and James A. Scarbrough’s 1878 “History of Jewell County” as his source material,  and probably gives away his own Republic County origins by consistently misspelling the name of the rival county to the west as “Jewel” (Although I suspect that the real culprit here is spell-checking software that thinks it’s so smart).  The blame for the tangled assortment of misinformation in the paragraph quoted above shouldn’t be heaped on Winsor and Scarbrough’s pamphlet, but on a source I found only after pasting some of the quoted material into a search engine and seeing where it took me.  

Before this, I had only ever glanced at the 1912 “Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Embracing Events, Institutions, Industries, Counties, Cities, Towns, Prominent Persons, Etc.”  Reading the paragraph lifted from it made me look up “cyclopedia,” which of course turns out to be an archaic form of “encyclopedia,” the two missing letters at the front of the word perhaps signaling to readers that they will find significant omissions within.  To be fair, the section on Jewell County admits that there was much additional bloodshed before the place was settled, but the entry on the Jewell County Massacre does not come close to providing even a sparse outline of what happened there in April 1867.  Poor Mrs. Setzer and Erastus S. Bartlett, victims who shared a cabin on the south side of the creek, are never mentioned, and Mrs. Setzer’s slain son Jacob is misidentified as one of “the two Ward boys.”

However, I was grateful to be sent down this particular trail one more time, because it led me to a piece of trivia I’ve been chasing for years, the Christian name of the newspaperman and author always known as M. Winsor, James A. Scarbrough’s writing partner for that 1878 Jewell County history which a student scholar at Kansas State University thought he had consulted, but really hadn't.  Checking old newspapers, census records, family histories, and any other source I could think of, yielded not a clue as to what embarrassing name might lie behind that intriguing capital “M.”  Then I found a synopsis of the man’s life which said he had joined the First Colorado Cavalry in 1863.  Aha!  A quick scan of the regimental roster flushed out my quarry.  

M. Winsor’s first name was Mulford.  It was a name he despised so deeply that he never allowed it to be printed, yet one which evidently contained enough proud family connections that Winsor handed it down to his son, who was born in Jewell City in 1874 and went on to have a long career in Arizona politics, under his full name.

The moral of this tale may be that a lot of untapped information is still lurking out there on the Internet, dwelling, unfortunately, side-by-side with a load of misinformation and half-truths.  Not every potential source volume is gospel.  Some of them are just old books.  A judicious sampling of several is always recommended.

I thought I was doing a good job of keeping the comma-count down, and then three in one small sentence.  Drat.  I hope Shelly doesn’t read this.  

© Dale Switzer 2023  dale@lovewellhistory.com