Chapter 34

January 12, 2012

County Extension Horticulture Specialist Nathan Crane reminds producers that the annual examination for pesticide certification will be from 9 am to 12 noon on Thursday, January 18 and January 26. If you haven’t picked up your study manual, you can stop by the office, download it from the KSU website or stop by the KSU bookstore when you are in town for a basketball game.

Speaking of basketball, the Wildcats had an up and down week. On Saturday, they beat #7 Mizzou and then lost to unranked Baylor on Tuesday. Looks like it’s going to be that kind of season for the ‘Cats.

Charles and Jennifer Singleton, along with Eddie and Glenda Singleton and Jerry and Susan Hall, returned from Dallas on Monday, smarting somewhat from KSU’s loss to Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. “Dallas was fun, though,” according to Susan. Jerry got some ideas for new dishes to add to the menu at The White Marigold.

Hazel Bradford has been ill for the past week. Dr. Oswald says it’s a mild case of the flu, but Milly says her sister over-did it at the wedding reception. “She thinks she’s still seventy-five. I told her not to dance so much with that young man from the Buckinghams.”

Tom and Michelle Clemons went to Salina to visit Michelle’s sister. “We decided not to have guests for a few days and just relax.” Folks who run B&B’s rarely get that opportunity. Hope you had a restful time, folks.

Marie Combs took Grant to the KU Medical Center on Tuesday for a stress test and a check-up. He’s been feeling a bit tired since Christmas. Probably his annual stint as Santa at Walnut Rest that did it.

Bill Heath got good news last week. The leak in his pond has been fixed and it seems to be filling just as it should.

Dorothy Westover says that the selection of recipes for the Erin Go Bragh Cookbook has been completed. Editing and layout will begin this week. We are all excited to see this 100th Anniversary edition, Dorothy!

The Prairie View Extension Club will meet on Monday at the home of Helen Baker. Planning for the new year will begin. Members are encouraged to bring left-over holiday cookies and candy for “re-distribution.” “If any are left,” Helen suggested, with a wink.

Jason Glenn and Harry Singleton report that they are continuing to recover from Jim and Melody’s wedding. As a final tribute to the happy couple, Carl Giammarese and another member of the Buckinghams trashed their room in The Convent. Being the good citizens that they now are, they left blank check with Harry to cover the damages.

By the time you read this column, you’ll be finished shoveling the four inches of snow expected this week. Walnut Shade takes on a certain charm in the winter, one that we all appreciate for about the first six or seven days. But make no mistake, I do appreciate our readers and so…

Until next week, I remain
Your Faithful Correspondent

~.~

My review of Jim and Melody’s wedding included the description of the end of the evening’s festivities at the elementary school gym, where Pete Townsend and Roger Daltry did an acoustic version of “My Generation.” I called it “Our Generation” because that is how Roger announced it. He said that he has been referring to the song that way for a couple of years because he realized that it belonged not just to him and to Pete but to all of us who matured and endured during the ‘60s. There were an awful lot of us in the gym that night, just as there are a lot of us still around everywhere. A lot of us thought we’d “die before we got old” and a lot of us did. A lot of us probably don’t have too many more years left, but we continue to try to make the most of them. I always marvel at the number of “tribute bands” that are abroad in the land, playing the music of the “Summer of Love” and beyond. Many of us have missed out on the music of other decades because we stopped listening to the new performers about the time that disco emerged, though I have to admit that I get a bit nostalgic when I hear a later BeeGee’s song or something from Donna Summer.

~.~

The celebrities who visited Walnut Shade over the last couple of weeks are not the only ones who have enjoyed the charms of our community. Not by a long shot. At one time, in the 1880s and ‘90s, the Opera House was practically inundated with notables, both American and international. I’ve already mentioned that Lilly Langtry and Oscar Wilde stopped here. More about them in another missive. During the presidential campaign of 1859/60, Abraham Lincoln made a brief visit to Walnut Shade on his rambling tour of eastern Kansas. Lincoln had a distant cousin who lived in Leavenworth, Mrs. Mark Delahay. It so happened that Mrs. Delahay was staying with a friend in Walnut Shade for a few days after Christmas when a telegram reached her that Lincoln would be in the region. Rather than interrupt her visit with her friend, Lincoln wrote, “May I presume to intrude upon your sojourn in a town I have heard about from my visit in Atchison?” Lincoln was probably referring to Walnut Shade’s reputation as a staunch abolitionist enclave, having been so cited in Freedom’s Champion, the newspaper owned by John Alexander Martin who would later become the Governor of Kansas. Nothing is known about Lincoln’s time in Walnut Shade beyond a brief account in the Miller County Ledger: “A candidate for the Presidency of the United States, A. Lincoln, made a stop in Walnut Shade on his way to a speaking engagement in Leavenworth. Lincoln is challenging William Seward for the Republican nomination. Seward is favored to win.”

The Ledger has never been known for its powers of prognostication. It correctly predicted that the United States would enter World War I, but thought that wouldn’t happen before 1920! Being a Republican newspaper in a Republican county in a Republican state, the Ledger backed Herbert Hoover against FDR; Alf Landon, of course, against FDR; Wendell Willkie against FDR; and, Tom Dewey against FDR. The Ledger’s sports editor picked the Kansas City Chiefs over the Green Bay Packers in the 1967 Super Bowl (officially the AFL-NFL World Championship Game; the term Super Bowl wasn’t official until Super Bowl III in 1969) and then the Minnesota Vikings over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV. Winners? The Packers in ’67 and the Chiefs in ’70. Admittedly, the Ledger has had a better track record since Stan Hawkins took over ownership of the paper in 1980. While he is a not-so-secret Democrat, he saw the Reagan Revolution coming that swamped Jimmy Carter and he’s been right in every Presidential election since then. His predictions about the Chiefs, Royals, Jayhawks, and Wildcats have been pretty accurate, but then there’s nothing too unpredictable about those teams: football winners — Wildcats; football losers — Jayhawks and Chiefs; basketball winners — Jayhawks; basketball losers — Wildcats; baseball winners — yeah, right.

Besides the three appearances by Will Rogers at the Opera House in the 1920s and ‘30s, and the Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1941, perhaps the biggest visit of celebrities came in 1901 when Mark Twain brought Winston Churchill to Walnut Shade. Churchill, then only 25, had just been elected to the House of Parliament in England. Despite being from a relatively wealthy family, Churchill embarked on a speaking tour of North America, France and Spain in order to earn a living.

Why did Mark Twain bring Churchill to Walnut Shade? Two reasons. The previous year, Twain had given a lecture at the Opera House. The evening had not been a success. Halfway through his talk, a huge thunderstorm rolled into Miller County and knocked out the power generating station outside town (Walnut Shade was one of the first towns in Kansas to be electrified, having converted part of the mill on Walnut Creek to a power generating plant. I’ll write more about this at another time.) The crowd, which had come from as far away as St. Joseph, was understandably disappointed and never one to leave his audience anything but wanting more, Twain promised that he would return as soon as his schedule permitted and that he would bring “someone with much more notoriety than I could ever hope to have,” not really knowing at the time who that might be. An opportunity came later in the year, however. While Twain was in New York to celebrate Christmas with his family, who had come from their home in Connecticut, he was asked to introduce a speech by Winston Churchill at the Waldorf Astoria. Accounts of the evening generally agree that while good-natured barbs were traded by the two men, Twain had gotten the advantage of his young friend.

At one point during the back and forth, Twain presented a challenge. “You, sir, are rightly lauded for your facility with the English language. Why, everyone here in New York understands perfectly what you are saying, but I’ll give you five shillings if you can give this same speech in Missouri or Iowa or Kansas and make anyone understand. My relations back there mostly speak the Old English, which they learned from their grandpappies who fought your ancestors at Valley Forge.”

Not being willing to back down from a gauntlet thrown in front of New York society, Churchill said that he would be happy to speak anywhere Twain chose. So, for the second reason: as unlikely as it might seem, both Twain and Churchill had a relative in Walnut Shade.

Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) had two siblings who survived to adulthood, Orion and Pamela Clemens. Orion was ten years older than “Sam” and they were the best of friends throughout their lives. Pamela married and moved to St. Louis from Hannibal when Sam was only seven, but they kept up a lively correspondence until Pamela’s death in 1904 and she provided the link between Mark Twain and Winston Churchill.

Pamela married William Moffett in 1851. They had two children: Annie, born in 1852, and Samuel, named after her brother, in 1860. In 1869, Annie married Augustus Wright Mott, grandson of Jordon Lawrence Mott, founder of the J.L Mott Iron Works in New York. Being the second son in the family, Augustus was expected to make his own way and had moved to St. Louis to try his hand at brewing, after graduating from Cornell with a degree in chemistry,. He was hired by Eberhard Anheuser and quickly rose through the company on the strength of his ability to make important adjustments to the formula then being used to produce beer. However, he did not get along with Adolphus Busch and after Eberhard’s death, Augustus and Annie decided to move, first to Hermann, Missouri and then to Walnut Shade. Augustus planned to open a brewery in Walnut Shade, but determined that the soil was more conducive to growing apples than hops and so planted an orchard, which later produced apples that won the first prize at the World Columbian Exposition in 1893 in Chicago.

So, Annie Clemens Mott was Mark Twain’s niece. But, what of the connection to Winston Churchill? Churchill’s American mother was the famous Jennie Jerome, who married Lord Randolph Churchill in 1874. Jennie was the daughter of Leonard Jerome and Clarissa Hall. Clarissa’s sister, Caroline, was married to the Rev. Dr. Fay H. Purdy, a well-known Evangelical preacher in the Free Methodist Church in the 1840s and 50s. They had three children: Louise, Catherine, and Sarah. Catherine married Jordan Lawrence Mott, Jr. in 1859 and had two sons: Jordan Lawrence Mott, III and Augustus Wright Mott, the same Augustus Wright Mott who was married to Annie Clemens, niece of Mark Twain. Mark Twain’s niece was… Winston Churchill’s second cousin by marriage!

As confusing and improbably as all this might seem, it didn’t seem to phase Twain when it had come to light back in New York. “Why waste your time looking up your family tree?” Twain wrote. “Just go into politics and your opponents will do it for you.” Churchill would find that to be especially true as his political career advanced. His mother, Lady Churchill, was embroiled in many scandals during her life, some of which, it seems, she purposely created, never the one to shrink from the spotlight.

When Twain and Churchill arrived in Walnut Shade, Annie and Augustus greeted them at City Hall, where, it seemed nearly everyone in northeast Kansas was gathered. After a few brief remarks, Annie and Augustus escorted the famous visitors to their home and gave them dinner before the evening event. One can speculate that an apple pie was on the menu.

Churchill’s lecture that night centered on his adventures during the Boer War in South Africa, and the status of the British Empire, which gave Twain the opportunity to express his disdain for empire-building and war. “I have always admired the superior cleanliness of Englishmen and Americans as compared with all the rest of the world. We are especially known for advancing, hand in hand, from land to land, introducing the bath tub wherever we go and so elevate reluctant nations to unwonted heights of civilization.”

No storms interrupted the evening and the next day, Twain and Churchill continued their journey, stopping in Topeka and Kansas City before heading to Chicago for the last engagement on Churchill’s lecture tour. Mark Twain never returned to Walnut Shade, but wrote in his autobiography about his two visits to the town.

“I’ve been run out of many cities all over the world. The first time in my dear niece’s community, it was a storm that did the trick; the next time in that beautiful hamlet, the inhabitants greeted me with true friendship, but by the time my traveling companion had regaled them with his dubious exploits for more than two hours, I feared they were considering breaking out the tar and feathers. Fortunately, the late hour persuaded them to take their rest and we were able to make our escape unscathed.”

We are certainly glad that Walnut Shade is not known, among other things, for being the place that rode Mark Twain and Winston Churchill out of town on a rail! But what a marvelous evening it must have been!

~.~

As I said some time ago, I found some clippings about events in Walnut Shade and Miller County from early in the last century. Herewith is another of one of the most interesting ones:

July 22, 1907 — Howard Maloney and Elmer Long traded horses one day last week. They both claim they got a bargain.

About stclairc

Abstract artist, photographer, writer
This entry was posted in Observations, Psychedelic, Serendipity, Small Town Life, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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