Castle Rock in Gove County, Kansas in 1870

(Frank) Today Around Kansas shares a story about Castle Rock in Gove County, a landmark for travelers on the Butterfield Overland Dispatch. Next learn why the majority of immigrants coming to Kansas in 1870 were from Ireland. Then enjoy a poem from Ron Wilson; and we’ll end with E.G. Ross, a US Senator whose courage in voting his conscience sealed his fate as an outcast in Kansas.Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at

(Frank) Well, good morning. It’s early in the morning. It’s Wednesday, so this is Around Kansas. I’m Frank. (Deb) I must still be Deb. (Frank) We’re still a little giddy from St. Patrick’s Day I think. I don’t know. Not the day, but the parade. (Deb) The parade. Everybody celebrated in Topeka on Saturday, but St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow. But why not make it a week. (Frank) Hey, yeah. (Deb) Why not just make it an entire week. (Frank) Exactly. (Deb) Well, you know Frank until I moved to Topeka, I didn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day because the Irish in my background is the wrong part of Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. (Frank) OK. (Deb) You know the Scotch Irish who inhabit the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina, are people who basically got kicked out of Scotland, then they got kicked out of Northern Ireland. That’s my… (Frank) They were highway men. Yeah. (Deb) That’s my background. But so when I moved to Topeka, I fell in love with celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. It’s the best day of the year. Best day of the year. (Frank) It is. It’s usually a pretty good party. I mean the parade has grown and grown and grown. (Deb) And grown. It’s awesome. (Frank) And now of course, there’s the bed race too, that HCCI does. And that has blossomed through the years too. If you’ve never seen the bed race do so, that’s in the morning before the parade. And it’s really a fun thing to watch. (Deb) But there’s celebrations going on all over the state. So, figure out where yours is. Kansas City has a big celebration and they just have ’em everywhere, little bitty towns. And of course, the Kansas City Irish Fest. We’ll have to look, maybe first weekend in October. It’s one of those weekends where there’s like 250 things going on in the Fall. Phenomenal. Oh my gosh it’s a great festival. (Frank) Well, Kansas City, St. Patrick’s Day Parade has always been a big deal too. I mean it’s big big, big. (Deb) It is big. It is big. (Frank) Well and the thing is I get to do the story on St. Paddy’s Day today and that’s good because actually my ancestors came over with William the Conquerer, so we’re Norman and we’re English and we are Irish. And Chaffin is really the English pronunciation of the name. Chaffin is the Irish pronunciation of the name. (Deb) Have you ever been to Ireland? (Frank) No I have not but I would hope to some time. (Deb) I would hope to some time too. Maybe they’ll let me in, maybe they’ll let me in your part of Ireland. If I don’t mention too many surnames or… (Frank) If you tell them your name they go, we still have a warrant for your family. (Deb) Right, exactly. We still have a warrant for you. Stay with us, we’ll be right back.

(Frank) And we’re back. So, and now that we’re getting into Spring too, it’s going to be a great time to maybe travel around and see some of the places we told you about over the winter months anyway. (Deb) We should make a rock bucket list. You know the Travel and Tourism has their bucket list, but we should make a bucket list of rocks you’ve gotta see in Kansas. (Frank) There are a lot of rocks. There are a lot of trees too, but rocks. (Deb) It seems like every time we come on we are talking about a different rock. But man we’ve got some great rocks. And I got to go to Castle Rock. I had never been to Castle Rock. I’ve been to Monument Rocks in Gove County. (Frank) Alright. (Deb) But I had not been to Castle Rock until just a couple of weeks ago. Oh my gosh. I cannot wait to go back and explore. Cannot wait. And it is south of Quinter, so Quinter is up near the interstate. But if you keep going south of Castle Rock and go on down to Utica, and Utica is a very, very small town, but there is a phenomenal restaurant. It is called The Wertz Street Social Emporium. (Frank) It’s called what? (Deb) The Wertz, W-E-R-T-Z Street Social Emporium. And it is owned by Mark Bauer and it’s been several things over the years, but he put a restaurant in there in 1992 and has expanded it ever since. It’s got all kinds of dining rooms and party rooms and a couple of bars and just all kinds of stuff. It’s awesome. The food was wonderful, phenomenal steak. So yes, stop in when you make your trip to Castle Rock or Monument Rocks or Pawnee Rock or Point of Rocks or any of the rocks you plan to see, stop in Utica and tell Mark I sent you over. (Frank) You’re just shameless to get a free lunch aren’t you? (Deb) Honey, that steak was so good. So good. Yes. Yes, I will talk for food. I will talk for food. (Frank) OK, so are we ready for Castle Rock? (Deb) I think we are. (Frank) OK. (Deb) Let’s take a look. The bluff at Castle Rock rises over the Hackberry Creek Valley of Gove County plains, visible for miles and miles. Castle Rock stands about a 1/4 mile away to the north. Made of Niobrara chalk, it was an odd landmark for folks passing along on the Butterfield Overland Dispatch. The formation literally looked like a castle rising in the distance. Though nature carved the unique installation through erosion, folks were terribly disappointed when the taller spire of Castle Rock partially collapsed on July 22, 2001 after a thunderstorm. The great puzzle of Castle Rock is why it persisted when all the rock between it and the bluff was eroded away. The bluff itself is a series of eroded formations called hoodoos, and are just as interesting as the Castle, and quite extensive. The flat grassy area is chalk flat prairie, dominated by little bluestem, sideoats grama and saltgrass. Many wildflowers bloom from late spring to early fall. Lesser earless lizards, ornate box turtles, plains garter snakes, and western hognose snakes are found in the area. Western rattlesnakes may be present, so look where you step! Watch for great horned owls that nest in the hoodoo area. Look for sharks’ teeth and other fossils among the chalk rocks and gravel since his area was once the bottom of a large ocean. This is private land, so be respectful. There are no restroom facilities, so plan accordingly. Also, the roads are not paved so use common sense in case of wet weather. When the planets are aligned for your visit, plan to go and spend some time exploring.

(Deb) [Laughs] I love St. Patrick’s Day. I just love it. (Frank) Yeah. (Deb) That is so becoming. That hat is so you Frank. (Frank) Well, I have this one too. (Deb) It’s obvious you have an Irish background. Doesn’t he wear that well? (Frank) So, anyway, yea I mean of course the Irish were not exactly welcome to the shores of the U.S. of A. when they came. You do remember that? (Deb) This is true, this is true. If you want to see a great movie about that- Gangs of New York. (Frank) Oh yea. (Deb) During the Civil War, so the Irish are getting off and enlisting. They’ve got the coffins coming back from the south and the Irish are signing up to be citizens and soldiers, and they’re sending them south to fight. It’s a great scene. (Frank) And then they became the police force, the coppers and… (Deb) The firemen. Service jobs. (Frank) Firemen and everything. But anyway they began to move west and of course that’s what the story is about. And the immigration of the Irish into this part of the country. (Deb) Which is pretty significant. And here in Topeka some of my favorite folks are the Foxs, who of course have the Celtic Fox, the Irish pub here downtown. I can’t imagine this town without them. (Frank) Yea. And you know one of the longest running radio shows in Topeka is the Merle Blair Sunday Show. (Deb) Oh sure. (Frank) And of course, Merle is really Irish and so last Sunday he played all kinds of Irish music for his four hours on the air. He’s done that for I don’t know, 50 some years now. (Deb) Absolutely and he’s got the head of hair to prove he’s Irish, doesn’t he? That thick silver wavy hair. That’s right. He’s something. (Frank) Anyway, we’re going to talk about the immigration of Irish people into Kansas. (Deb) And we are so glad you came. (Frank) In 1870 the majority of immigrants to Kansas came from the British Isles, and particularly Ireland. In 1871 Thomas Butler, an Irish priest in Leavenworth, wrote this pamphlet encouraging Irish people to move to Kansas. The Irish have always immigrated to the U.S. to escape extreme poverty and a lack of opportunity. Irish immigration exponentially increased, however, as a result of the Great Potato Famine between 1845 and 1849. Catholic churches in the state increased from three in 1854 to forty-five in 1871. In his pamphlet Butler appeals largely to the practical reasons to move to Kansas. Butler writes a favorable description of Kansas and emphasizes its economic, health, and cultural opportunities. He details how immigrants can acquire land and describes life on the prairie. He also describes the health benefits of Kansas’ climate, and comforts prospective immigrants with descriptions of well-established Irish communities in Kansas-particularly those in Leavenworth. Although Father Butler’s pamphlet focuses on the Irish in Kansas, it also provides a snapshot of the state in 1871. Butler’s pamphlet can be read at Throughout Kansas, remnants of this Irish immigration may be found in Catholic Churches with the statues of St. Patrick, the Island’s patron saint who drove out the snakes, or in the Celtic crosses that dot cemeteries. But mostly, that legacy lives on in the red hair and freckles of many Kansans. On St Patrick’s Day, the wearing of the green transforms our largest cities with parades and celebrations and some smaller towns join the party as well. So let us mark the day with an Irish blessing: May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow, and may trouble avoid you wherever you go. Happy St Paddy’s Day!

(Ron) When I travel far outside of Kansas and I tell people I’m from the state of Kansas I get one of three reactions. Number one, they say Oh, Kansas City? Number two, they say Oh I drove THROUGH there one time. Or number three, they’ll make a Wizard of Oz joke. And I think Kansans sometimes get tired of hearing about the Wizard of Oz, but maybe its the thing we’re known for best. This poem is entitled “The Yellow Brick Road.” In the history of Hollywood one show which gives me pause is the infamous movie known as “The Wizard of Oz.” It’s about Dorothy from Kansas and how the tornado made her go off to the Land of Oz somewhere over the rainbow. She met some little munchkins and traversed the yellow bricks to a wizard and wicked witch who do a lot of tricks. Dorothy had this adventure with her little dog Toto and joined the Cowardly Lion, Tinman and of course the Scarecrow. This classic movie that’s become known worldwide about this Kansas girl who took this wondrous ride. But I think many Kansans think this story’s not so great because Dorothy is all some people know about our state. So we’ve learned that smiling patiently is the best thing we can do when some East Coaster cracks a joke about Dorothy and Toto too. But we also remind them that wherever Dorothy would roam, her entire goal was to get to Kansas because There’s No Place Like Home! Happy Trails.

(Frank) And here we are again. Aren’t you happy? (Deb) I’m happy. This next story is one that I love. This is one of my favorite stories about Senator E.G. Ross of Kansas. And I thought, given the political climate Frank, that it would be appropriate to talk about a decent man and how he was treated, how this one decent man got treated. But I think it is really important too, to remember in light of the political climate, there are a lot of decent people out there in public service. And I have to give a shout out, one of my dear friends passed away recently and he’s known to so many people around Kansas and that was Command Sergeant Major Retired Jack Elliott. And he was the Command Sergeant Major for the Kansas National Guard. He actually served 42 years active duty, an amazing man. And at his funeral there were so many officers, medal of honor recipients, the Adjutant General. All these people came to show their respects. But the most poignant eulogy came from his Great Grandson that Jack has helped raise. And he is in the Marine ROTC at Topeka High and talked about his Great Grandfather and what he had done for him. And it was just beautiful. So, there are still really incredible men of integrity and women of integrity among us. Maybe we should take a little time to take a closer look some time and see who they are and what they contribute. A little shout out there. (Frank) And also the Senator you’re going to talk about was ailing, quite ailing during the impeachment trial of Johnson at the time. And they actually carried him in to have him cast his vote. And of course, you’re going to tell them what the vote was. (Deb) Bless his heart. It’s an incredible story and it’s a kind of a mixed legacy since he was basically run out of Kansas. Hugh Cameron, remember we talked about him a few weeks ago, the Kansas Hermit, actually walked to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to apologize… (Frank) Oh yeah. (Deb) …to former Senator Ross at one point. So, just a really big story and we’ll share a little bit of it with you today. But we hope that you find some inspiration in it. When he passed away in 1907, newspapers proclaimed that he died in exile. That is pretty accurate. The once popular publisher and U. S. Senator Edmund G Ross was no longer welcome in Kansas. He eventually left, financially and emotionally devastated, and moved to the New Mexico Territory. President Grover Cleveland appointed him Territorial Governor but he would never recover his fortune, and it would take generations for his prestige to return. To understand the story, we must go back to Abraham Lincoln and Jim Lane. For many legitimate reasons, the bizarre Kansas senator had become a favorite of Lincoln’s. The relationship gave Lane great power. With Lincoln’s death, Lane’s star not only waned but plummeted. He was facing possible criminal charges when he committed suicide in 1866. In his place, the very capable E. G. Ross was appointed. He had not been in Washington long when the move to impeach President Andrew Johnson gained momentum. Radical Republicans sought the president’s removal and Ross was expected to go along with them. He didn’t. It was Ross’s no vote that sealed his fate as an exile and as a hero in the history books, earning him inclusion in John F. Kennedy’s, Profiles in Courage. Ross cast that historic vote understanding full well the cost. “Everything an ambition man holds dear,” he had said, he knew he was losing. When the Rosses returned to Topeka they were insulted, assaulted, spit upon. One of the most poignant monuments to the price of conscience is in Historic Topeka Cemetery where the Ross Family plot is empty save for the grave of his 4-year-old son. Had things been different, father and mother would lie beside the little one, and there would be a huge granite marker with ROSS etched upon it. Instead, the toddler’s flat marker is barely noticeable.

(Frank) Well it looks like that’s it for another week, so I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) And we’ll see you somewhere…. (Both) Around Kansas.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at

No Comments Yet.

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.