There they are!

When Frances Miller was five years old, her father moved his family from Beatrice, Nebraska, to Lovewell, Kansas, where he would serve as minister at the Church of the Brethren.  After two years at Lovewell the family returned to Beatrice in 1927.  In those two years little Frances absorbed the local landscape so thoroughly that eight decades later she was able to draw a map of the place from memory, penciling in the names of residents and where their homes had been in relation to places of business and other landmarks.

Frances’s granddaughter Angie from Beatrice served as pathfinder for Barb Gray back in 2005 when Barb and her sister, who were born in Beatrice but moved to Escondido, California, decided to visit the environs of their Kansas cousins.  The first picture in the slideshow that greets visitors to this site is still the photo of the Lovewell depot Barb or her sister snapped during the visit, which also included trips to local cemeteries.   The following year Barb found me on an Ancestry chat site and jostled me from being a casual tinkerer in family and regional history, to what I eventually became - a feverishly obsessed tinkerer.

I knew about the map which Frances had drawn many years ago and asked Angie for a copy a few weeks back.  Unfortunately the only email address I had for Angie is an old one which she checks only on occasion (though she did get back to me the following week with everything I could hope for).  In the meantime I rounded up a map I had pieced together long ago from microfilm frames of Orel Poole’s Sketches of the White Rock.  The Poole map is posted on the entry titled Time Travelers, while the map drawn by Frances (Miller) Pieper appears below. 

The two maps cover some of the same territory, but seem to be offset in time.  I believe the town was still in the ascendant in Orel Poole’s version, but must have started to slip in the era which Frances’s map recalls.  It is amusing that both artists misspelled “Brethren” the same way, despite Frances’s father having been pastor of that very church.  It is, however, spelled the way folks said it.  Both map-makers remembered that there was something odd about the spelling of Scoular-Bishop, but despite taking different approaches, neither could quite put her finger on it.  Google Search certainly comes in handy for double-checking these things.

Seeing the listing for Switzer Brothers Grocery reminds me that when I found Grandpa Jake living with his brother and business partner in the census, in answer to the question What is your relationship to the head of household, Jake candidly replied, Servant. 

In 2015 I posted a blog entry with a Shakespearean title borrowed from the nervous query of Hamlet’s devious Uncle Claudius, “Where are my Switzers?”  Thanks to the map drawn by Angie’s grandma I know exactly where a passel of them could be found circa 1927.  The answer to what made Lovewell a ghost town, might be that the Switzer’s all left town.  In addition to the fourteen children shown, there was a Joseph Switzer who died at the age of one year and four days back in Livingston County, Illinois, in 1878.

One of this group of Switzers I visited regularly when I was a child was Aunt Lulu, the wife of Ralph Dale Hendricks whose farm, as Frances notes, was west of town.  Besides being a farmer, Ralph was an excellent barber.  So, about every six weeks, while Dad chatted with his aunt and uncle, Ralph draped a cloth around my shoulders and went to work with his shears.

There are really only two memories I recall quite vividly concerning those visits.  First, either December Bride or The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show always seemed to be playing on the TV in the Hendricks kitchen, which was where barbering was done.  I was also fascinated by the way years of piloting a tractor up and down his fields had left Ralph with a neck that seemed to have been seared with a waffle iron.  Even though Ralph was only sixty-nine when he died in 1961, I was sure that he must be utterly ancient, and dreaded the thought of growing old and having my neck criss-crossed with gaping furrows like Uncle Ralph’s.

I must be doing something right, because so far, so good.

© Dale Switzer 2023