Fred Funston / Opera Houses / B&W Hitches / Trail of Death / Tom Watson

Today on Around Kansas you’ll see that Kansas is full of significant people, places and events! First we learn about the life and times of General George Funston and then how Tom Watson became one of the most beloved golf professionals of all time. Next see how Opera Houses found their place in Kansas communities starting in the 1860’s; meet a From the Land of Kansas business, B & W Hitches, and hear the story of the Potawatomi Trail of death.

Closed Captioning brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

Deb) Welcome to Around Kansas and we are filming today from Old Prairie Town at Ward-Meade Park in their 19th century school house. And what a great location this is. We want to thank them for allowing us to be here today. And everybody that knows me, knows that my passion for Kansas history is only surpassed by my passion for Kansas military history. So, I’m just tickled to pieces to talk to you about one of my favorite Kansans today, and that’s General Fred Funston. Now Funston was not born in Kansas, he was born in Ohio. But his family moved to Allen County when he was really small. So, he grew up in Allen County. He graduated from the high school there in Iola. And then he went on to KU. He was not an outstanding student, but he was well known and well liked and some of his classmates, William Allen White, Ed Franklin, Charles Scott and Vernon Kellogg, names that would all become famous in Kansas history. Now when he was a very young man, not long out of college, he joined a trip to Death Valley, California, and he wrote back to the paper in Iola about his experiences. He did an Alaskan expedition went to the Yukon and the stories of his exploits were just eaten up by people. He was a really good writer. Now,
after holding several newspaper jobs, he heard General Dan Sickles and anybody who’s familiar with the Civil War, Dan Sickles is a big name. He heard him speak. He was pleading the cause of Cuban independence at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Funston signed up as a Cuban revolutionary and he went to Cuba in 1896 and served 18 months there under the Cuban General. During that time, he was wounded three times, lost 17 horses and was captured once. His nephew later said that if he had not lied about his identity and swallowed his passport he would have probably been executed for being a spy. After he got back from Cuba, the U.S. declared war on Spain. And so now the United States was in it. The Kansas Governor formed the 20th Kansas regiment and he was picked to lead them. So they went to Manila, so he’s fighting in the Philippines. The 20th Kansas famed, famed in the Philippines war. He goes back to the Philippines after the 20th Kansas comes out. It’s Fred Funston who captures Aguinaldo, the leader of the opposition essentially. It’s just one of the most famous moments in history. Another famous moment in history, the San Francisco earthquake, 1906. And Fred Funston is front and center. He’s the commander there, the military post at San Francisco. He’s the one that bulldozes buildings in the path of the fire. He makes national news one more time. Amazing guy. He’s one you gotta find our more about. We’ll be right back.

(Frank) Good morning I’m Frank Chaffin and this is Around Kansas, the show that tells you about people, places and things that make Kansas a great place to live, work and visit. Today we’re in the WREN radio studio. Actually we’re in the back of the studio in what we call our little snack shop. So, when you’re over in the NOTO Arts District be sure to stop in and say “Hi” to us. And the reason we’re doing this is today we’re gonna be talking about entertainment in Kansas and we’re gonna give a little history lesson first, cause we’re gonna be talking about opera houses. That’s right, way back before Kansas was a state during territorial days the entertainment that was available of course, was live. Obviously there wasn’t radio or TV, anything else. If you wanted entertainment you went out and watched the cows or you went to a show. OK. So, anyway that led to the development of opera houses in the state of Kansas. In the 1860’s the advent of opera houses was started because many of the touring companies were located in New Orleans and so it made it kind of a summer activity because there was only river travel. The advent of the railroads hadn’t happened yet. And so, the players would come up the Mississippi and then from Cincinnati Ohio and St. Louis, Missouri, they would kind of spread out across the country to Atchison and Leavenworth. Well, as the state of Kansas grew, with more towns they needed to have entertainment. Now, don’t be misled by Hollywood because they always showed the entertainment in the western towns as in the saloon with shoot outs and drinking whiskey and of course, playing cards. Well, those were in the cow towns. There were a lot of towns that of course were not cow towns, they were communities. And so in the 1860’s and through the 70’s if you wanted to be an established town you had a church, you had a school and you had an opera house. Now, the opera house was used for, of course, community meetings. But also for touring groups to come in. Now, let me tell you about some of the popular acts that were there. There of course, were minstrel shows, operettas, variety shows, lectures, magic shows, medicine shows and elocutionists. Now
elocutionists were those that were formal speakers. They had big, deep, wonderful voices. And they would speak for hours on end, believe it or not. And it was pronunciation and style and tone that they used. So these were forms of entertainment in the opera houses. Now, what kind of opera houses were they? Well, some of them were quite ornate believe it or not. Some of them still exist, as you will see in subsequent shows that we’re going to do. But the opera houses, some of them had two balconies. They had slanted floors that they could install permanent seats and the light fixtures were quite ornate. There were a lot of carvings around. They were quite beautiful places. There were others that were really kind of plain Jane. But the thing is that people were hungry for entertainment obviously at that time. So, like I say minstrel shows, the magicians all of these began to travel. The advent of the railroads made it even more popular but also easier for more and more of the companies to travel. I just learned recently that the Santa Fe Railroad actually owned many of the vaudeville troops that traveled obviously from town to town along the route staying also in their hotels. Anyway, the 1920’s came and the decline of the opera houses began because movies came out. First the silent films and then of course the talkies. By the 1950’s most of the opera houses were done. Closed. Many of them became movie houses and many of them just simply fell into disrepair and were destroyed. However, there are a lot of those opera houses that have been restored in the state of Kansas and that’s where we’re gonna have some fun as we travel around the state and visit some of them. The Jayhawk Theatre in Topeka. The Opera House in Waterville and many more. So, this is Frank Chaffin saying, see you somewhere Around Kansas.

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(Deb) Welcome to Around Kansas. I’m Deb Bisel and it’s very appropriate that we’re coming to you from an old school house today. This is quite the history lesson. Now in 2011 when Kansas celebrated its 150th anniversary, it picked out about a dozen events that were the most significant in Kansas history. The Potawatomi Trail of Death was one of those events. And it’s kind of sad that the Potawatomi nation is still a big factor in Kansas. You know still residents of Kansas and have the reservation here. And we tend to know very little about them or their story. When whites settlement was made possible in 1854, Potawatomi had already been here for a couple of decades. But how they got here is a pretty sad story. Like most of the
Indian removal situations white people decided they wanted their land. And they were living in Indiana and Michigan and the government came in and said, “You’ve gotta go.” They got very, very little notice and the tribe was rounded up, the principle chiefs were actually put in a jail cell in a wagon. If you’ve watched some of old western movies, you might have seen some thing like that. And they loaded up their baggage and packed up the wagons. But mostly women and children and people were just… some of them were mounted, but most of them were just walking. And can you imagine this started in September, they actually left September of 1838, they left Indiana. And they walked to Kansas. They get to Kansas in November of that same year. So, they’re walking through what’s gonna be some chilly, cold weather as you can imagine coming down through Indiana and they came into Missouri. They actually crossed the river at Lexington, Missouri. If you go over to Lexington that’s a big piece of that community’s story as well. It’s a big piece as well. This is what one of the chief’s of the Potawatomi said about the removal itself. He said, “The President does not know the truth. He like me, has been imposed upon. He does not know that you made my young chief’s drunk and got their consent and pretended to get mine. He would not drive me from my home, the graves of my tribe and my children who have gone to the great spirit. Nor allow you to tell me your braves will take me tied like a dog.” And he actually was, that’s exactly how he arrived. You know they got to Osawatomie November 4th of 1838 and there was supposed to be housing available and there was none. So, you get to Osawatomie, Kansas, in November how are you going to find shelter? It’s just incredible circumstances and if you go to Osawatomie now, if you visit Osawatomie, the trail is marked there. A lot of the city sidewalks and park trails are marked with that Potawatomi Trail of Death so you can actually retrace some of their steps. There were 756 members of the Potawatomi tribe that first arrived in Osawatomie. There had been dozens that had died along the trail. Most of them were children. More than half of them were children. Now the Catholic church had established a mission there, the Sugar Creek Mission in Linn County. So many of Potawatomi’s moved there. And there was an elderly French nun Sister Rose Philippine Duchesne and she came in 1841 to teach the Potawatomi girls at the reservation. She worked at the mission until she became too feeble to serve. The Potawatomi’s named her the… which I cannot pronounce, but what it meant was “woman who prays always.” She was later canonized in 1888. Now in 1848 the mission was moved to Potawatomi County and today the Saint Philippine Duchesne Park is located in the site of the former Sugar Creek Mission. Six hundred Potawatomi’s are buried at the site. Now there are a lot of folks in the Potawatomi tribe that are making great strides. My friend Jon Boursaw is one of those, to have more of the history of the Potawatomi made public. And of course here in Shawnee County we have the Potawatomi Pow Wow every Labor Day weekend. But there’s so much to learn and there is just so much more to this story. So, I urge you at every opportunity to take advantage to find that out. It’s an incredible past right here. We’ll be right back, stay with us.

Deb) Hi folks, I’m Deb Bisel. Welcome to Around Kansas. I love nothing more than talking about all of the talented folks in Kansas, from Kansas, who have called Kansas their home at one time or another. And we have exported so much talent and sometimes some of it comes back and that’s the case with Tom Watson. Now, even folks who aren’t golf fans are familiar with the name Tom Watson. And for good reason. He’s one of the most enduring professional golfers since Sam Snead. And I remember back in the day growing up everybody knew Sam Snead as well. He has won 39 times on the PGA tour. Six times he was the PGA Player of the Year. Five times the leading money winner. Playing mostly on the over 50 circuit now, he gives the young folks a run for their money. You know, throughout his career he was respected as a sportsman and a spokesman for the sport of golfing. He received the U.S. Golf Association’s prestigious Bob Jones Award for Distinguished Sportsmanship in 1987 and he was elected to the PGA World Golf Hall of Fame
the following year. He won Golfer of the Decade for the 1980’s celebrating his 19 wins and 86 Top 10 finishes over the decade. You know, one of the great things about Tom Watson has always been his down to earth personality, the fact that he gives back so much. And for 25 years he hosted the Children’s Mercy Golf Tournament, a benefit golf tournament which featured other really famous participants like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino and that was all in Kansas City with the proceeds going to the Children’s Hospital. More than 25 years that tournament raised more than $12 million dollars for that hospital. You know he always has credited his upbringing in the Midwest and specifically in Kansas for his values. You know he got a combination of a work ethic and he had mentors. You know his Dad and Stan Thurs (?) who built the foundation for his golf game and his whole life. And now that he’s not playing on the PGA Tournament Tour anymore he lives in Stillwell, Kansas, just south of Kansas City and he ranches there and continues to be a force in the sports community. You know he put out an instruction DVD, Lessons of a Lifetime. He brought that out three or four years ago. It’s become one of the best selling instructional programs ever, having sold more than 60,000 sets in five languages in 36 countries. Isn’t that amazing? And other golfers talk about what a great… what a great instructional video that is. So, we’re just so proud to share Tom Watson’s story with you today and stay tuned we’ll be back next week with some other famous Kansans.

Closed Captioning brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

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