Gary and Margaret Kraisinger, 1918 Flu Pandemic

(Frank) Today on Around Kansas we start with a story about Gary and Margaret Kraisinger, researchers who focus their work on American Cattle Trails. Then learn why Kansas is considered to be ground zero for the 1918 Flu Pandemic; and enjoy a poem from Ron Wilson. We’ll end with an update on a Mammoth Dig in Scott County. Stay with us!Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at

(Frank Chaffin) Good morning, I’m Frank. (Deb Goodrich) I’m Deb. (Frank) This is Around Kansas. (Deb) It’s November Frank. (Frank) Oh my, I know October went somewhere. (Deb) It’s gone, just poof. Just ended in a poof. (Frank) How many days until Christmas now, shopping days? (Deb) Not many. We just went through Halloween. My idol of course was always Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched. You just wish you could wrinkle your nose and clean stuff up. Wrinkle your nose have presents. Wrinkle your nose and have a great dinner and all that stuff. We need a little magic in our lives. Don’t we? (Frank) Yes, and so anyway– (Deb) It has been a beautiful fall. (Frank) It has. (Deb) It’s been a really beautiful fall. (Frank) It has, very much so. (Deb) The hills, the grass has just that little red cast to it. Now it changes in the fall. It’s been a beautiful time to drive around the state. (Frank) Well and the trees are spectacular this year, with all the rain– (Deb) Right. Yes, it’s made a really beautiful time. (Frank) Of course then we have to rake them all up. Oh well. (Deb) That’s jumping in piles of leaves, Frank. Do you still jump in the leaves? [Laughs] (Frank) Yes [laughs] (Deb) We are all 11 [laughs], jumping in the leaves. (Frank) That’s a great childhood thing. Rake up the leaves and then running and jumping. (Deb) It is. I don’t know why, but that is so much fun. Well, we’ve got a lot of anniversaries. I’m actually the chairwoman of the committee for the big event we’re doing at Fort Wallace next year, in 1867, was a really big year, I was just on the phone with a friend of mine so there’s all kinds of anniversaries. Of course we’re in the hundredth anniversary of World War I. As we mark that anniversary and next week is Veteran’s Day so we’ll have something for Veteran’s Day on next week’s show. As you turn toward thinking about what Kansas was doing in World War I, of course the big news became the flu epidemic, even though that didn’t hit until 1918. Camp Funston and everybody at Fort Riley said that was really big news in 1918. (Frank) It was and of course I’ll do a story on that. It’s amazing how they just took it for granted at first that it was a bad cold. (Deb) Right, like any of us would. But the stories of the soldiers and you’ve got a soldier’s experience there. Do we have time to read that, Michael? Let’s share that. (Frank) Okay. This is from a soldier to home. At Camp Funston, a solider described the situation during the late fall in a letter. “We’re here,” he said, “held up because Influenza or some such a name is in camp. It’s some such a thing as Pneumonia and they seem to think it’s pretty bad. It is at least bad enough to beat us out of our passes. For our commander promised us, every one, a very short pass before the 15th of next month. There are so many cases of the disease in camp I expect to make my home in Funston for some time. He says that we may all go home before we leave here for a short pass.” A week later, the same soldier noted that, “Lots of them go to the base hospital everyday and quite a number of them are ‘checking in’.” He estimated that there were between 6,000 and 7,000 cases in the camp. The situation slowly improved after that. (Deb) Unimaginable. Doug Wallace said his mother remembered, she was a child and she remembered seeing the trains pass. I think she may have lived at Wamego. The coffins were packed like cordwood, bringing the soldiers who had died from Camp Funston to the railroad station here, to be shipped back to their homes wherever they were. It’s just an incredible story and Kansas is right at the heart of it. (Frank) Tragically, millions actually died of the Influenza during World War I. (Deb) Yes, millions. It’s just an incredible story, and again such a big Kansas connection, sadly. But we’ve got some good stories for you, too. It won’t all be sad today; it will all be interesting though. Promise you that.

(Frank) Here we are again. (Deb) Next year, 2017, the 150th of the Chisholm Trail and of course Abilene, we’ve already been out to Abilene and talked a little bit about that. That gives us the opportunity to bring up Gary and Margaret Kraisinger from Halstead. If anybody in the state should have a gold statue devoted to them, the work these guys have done in documenting the cattle trails is unbelievable. It’s like a PhD program what they’ve developed. Gary is a cartographer so I love the story. When he started looking for information on the cattle trails, they just couldn’t find anything definitive. They start like all researchers do, go into the newspapers, and finding the cattle went a mile from town. He puts that little dot on a map. He steps back and looks at it and he has a shotgun blast. He’s like, “This doesn’t make any sense.” Then one night he’s looking at it and he’s like, “Duh, the dates.” When he puts the dates in, they start lining up. Then they start moving west for various reasons that they’ll talk about in their books. They’ve got a second book out, working on more, and just phenomenal folks. If you get a chance to hear them speak, take it. There are a limited number of books, you can go to their website and order one if you don’t have it. Several historic sites have them around Kansas but crammed with incredible information that nobody had done. (Frank) Randy Sparks, the creator of the New Christy Minstrels did a song about a cattle drive. It was get along little doggie, when you get to Kansas, you get to ride on a train. (Deb) [Laughs] Exactly. (Frank) Sorry Randy, I know I didn’t do it justice but that’s the gist of it. (Deb) Exactly. Yes, how poetic is that? That must have inspired many a cow on their journey. Let’s take a look at Gary and Margaret Kraisinger’s work. Since 1967, Gary and Margaret Kraisinger have had one mission in their research: to tell readers exactly where the Western Cattle Trail was located and its role in the history of the American West. Through maps and in-depth research they have documented the location of the largest cattle trail system to come out of Texas to deliver longhorns to the north from 1874 to 1897. Their first book, published in 2004, The Western, the Greatest Texas Cattle Trail, 1874-1886, presented the location and history of the trunk line, focusing with their maps on Indian Territory in Oklahoma, Kansas, and southwestern Nebraska. In their second volume, The Western Cattle Trail, 1874-1897, its Rise, Collapse, and Revival, published in 2015, the entire trunk line is presented from Texas to Canada, showing its route before and after the Kansas quarantine of 1885, plus a discussion of the system’s feeder routes, detours, and splinter routes. For this second book, the couple received, in 2016, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame’s Wrangler Award for best nonfiction book, and the Six Shooter Award from the Wild West History Association for Best Book for 2016. In the last several months, Gary and Margaret have shifted their research and writing focus to the Chisholm Trail. With the 150th Anniversary of the Chisholm Trail in mind in 2017, the couple have prepared another book entitled: The Shawnee-Arbuckle Trail, 1867-1870, The Predecessor of the Chisholm Trail to Abilene, Kansas. This book shows the importance of the early Shawnee Trail and its connection to the later Chisholm Trail. Audiences will be surprised to learn that trail drivers used another route in Indian Territory in Oklahoma to push their longhorns to Abilene, Kansas, in 1867 through 1870, before the current-day recognized Chisholm Trail in Indian Territory was used. The Kraisingers are constantly researching, mapping, and writing on some aspect of the cattle trailing industry. They plan to concentrate next on the cattle trails north of Abilene and Ellsworth into Nebraska. The couple is always glad to share their knowledge. Give Margaret a call if your group is interested in a program on any of the four south-to-north cattle trail systems.

(Frank) Here we are again. (Deb) I remember a few years ago seeing a documentary on the flu epidemic that’s going to be Frank’s next story. They were concerned, there were graves that they were going to exhume, I think in Norway. They were afraid the flu virus was still alive in those graves for whatever reason, the science is beyond me. That pandemic of course made worse by the fact that you’ve got people traveling all the time. World War I was one of the first massive movements of people around the world, which is one of the things that enabled the epidemic. It was like the perfect storm, so many things came together at that point. (Frank) We remember in the middle ages or the dark ages when we had the Bubonic plague, which wiped out the majority of Europe and it really did. Millions of people and then here we are in World War I, and now the Influenza comes along. (Deb) In the modern era, we thought we were beyond something like the plague. We thought we had progressed past that but man that was not the case. (Frank) Yes, anyway it’s an interesting story. I don’t want to get ahead of myself so let’s take a look. Kansas is often considered to be ground zero for the 1918 pandemic, according to the website. In late January and early February of 1918, a local physician in Haskell County noticed a rash of severe influenza cases. Although the physician had seen many cases of influenza throughout his career, these cases were extraordinary. Influenza, usually a mild disease, had suddenly become a killer. Over the course of the next two months, influenza ran rampant through Haskell County, cutting a swath among the county’s residents. At the time, few public health experts viewed influenza as a threat and local physicians were not required to report outbreaks to the authorities. However, this outbreak was so unusual that the local physician contacted the Public Health Service, sending them a report on the epidemic in his community. Back in Washington, officials viewed the outbreak as unusual enough to merit a mention in the Service’s weekly report on public health in the United States and abroad but did not send anyone to investigate. By mid-March, the outbreak appeared to have run its course. A few medical journals published articles on the outbreak, but there was no real discussion of the outbreak. Kansas officials were not especially vigilant at monitoring influenza rates during the spring and summer. The country was at war and farm boys from isolated communities such as Haskell County were on the move. During the spring, a soldier from Haskell County probably brought this new and virulent form of influenza to Camp Funston. By mid-March, Camp Funston was in the throes of an epidemic. More than eleven hundred soldiers stationed there were ill; thirty-eight that spring, a highly unusual rate. When the disease re-emerged in the fall of 1918, Kansas officials reported cases throughout the state. A later report indicated one thousand, three hundred, and twenty five cases the first week of October, probably an underestimate. By the end of the month, 26,800 cases of influenza had been reported, and deaths mounted. In Topeka, as elsewhere, hospitals overflowed with influenza patients and several emergency hospitals were opened. These included hospitals at the Garfield School and the Reid Hotel. Two infirmaries linked to Washburn College were opened and the gym became “an observation hospital.” The Secretary of the Kansas State Board of Health took swift action in an attempt to contain the disease. Schools, churches and theaters were closed while homes with ill patients were quarantined. In stores, customers were to be provided with 100 square feet to limit close contact and the number of passengers allowed on streetcars was limited for the same reason. The disease peaked in the state during the late fall. It remained prevalent throughout the state during the winter and spring of 1919.

(Ron Wilson) When I went to the County Fair recently, and then again when I go to the State Fair, one of the first things that strikes me when I go to the livestock barns is all the noise. This poem is entitled “Sounds Fair”. As I arrived at the fair grounds, the first thing that struck me was the variety of sounds I heard in broad cacophony. The bucket calves were bawling horses neighing, head to tail. In the back the geese were honking, hogs were grunting by the scale, In the pens the lambs were baaing and the goats were loudly bleating, while people exchanged smiles and called out a happy greeting. A diesel pickup chugged up to discharge its trailer load while a maintenance man putted by in a Gator on the road. They were cries of Mom and Dad as families made their way to put their carefully prepared 4-H exhibits on display. It is project check-in time as the fair is just beginning. The voices of 4-H’ers show their excited hopes of winning. It is an amazing collection of sounds that I hear at the Fair as the 4-H’ers annual projects all appear. Now the roar seems to subside and there’s a lowering of the den as the entries are checked-off and the livestock settle in. Our county agent has been hustling all around the grounds. Now, he stops to take a breath as the flurry settles down. “What do you hear?” I ask, as he drops into a chair. Well, he replied, “It sounds like a County Fair.” Happy Trails.

(Frank) And we’re back one more time. (Deb) For a really big story. (Frank) A big, big story. (Deb) We gave you the story of Cora the Elephant, our big star who had moved to Topeka. Maybe this was one of Cora’s ancestors in Kansas as she came back to visit. I’m working on a documentary on the Plesiosaur that was found out near Fort Wallace. God, don’t even get me started, millions of years ago, long time ago and of course those dinosaurs and whatever category you’d call those beasts did not coexist with man, despite the Flintstones and the educational value of that show. Mammoths did coexist. They were here at the same time man inhabited the planet and this is the story. Dr. Ralph Mandel from KU and the Kansas Geological Survey, brilliant man renowned around the world. We’re so lucky to have him right here. He invited Dr. Jake and me out to the dig-site where they found the mammoth. I’ve got to say, it was pretty freaking cool, right? It was really cool and it’s on private property. The general public doesn’t have access to this and they’re not digging all the time, just in the summer months and whenever the wind’s not 120 miles an hour and zero dark thirty. It’s pretty awesome. We’ve had some important fossils in Kansas. (Frank) A woolly mammoth. (Deb) A woolly mammoth. Isn’t that just the coolest thing? Let’s take a look. In July of 2011, a Scott County farmer was building terraces on a hillside in the Smoky Hill River Valley. As his machinery reconfigured the ground, he spied a couple of bones, a scapula, or part of a shoulder, and an ulna, one of the bones of the forearm, or foreleg as it were. The bones belonged to a mammoth, a mammoth that called Kansas home sixteen thousand years ago. The Kansas State Historical Society sent out a crew to look over the site and they were soon joined by Dr. Rolfe Mandel, who is the executive director of the Odyssey Geoarchaeology Program at KU. The Odyssey supported team has worked at the Scheuerman Mammoth site for the past five years with Dr. Jack Hofman directing excavations, Kale Bruner as crew chief, and crew — Barb Crable, Paige Englert, Kevin Fenyak, Chris Hord, Lauren Johnson, Leila Joyce Seals, Steven Keehner, and Helen Sangster. Rolfe said that one of the most interesting discoveries near the bones was a knapping pile, essentially the scraps that are evidence of making or sharpening tools. This discovery was tantalizing because it might lead one to speculate that this mammoth was killed by hunters, a theory bolstered by the fact that it was on a hilltop and not in a low-lying, marshy area or riverbank, or some more common site for discovering fossils and skeletons. There are no clear-cut marks on the bones that have been discovered, so while intriguing, there is not yet enough proof for this theory. While significant discoveries were made each subsequent summer at the site, the skull was not found until the summer of 2016, just as the crew was finishing up their last couple of days. The bones had not been deposited in a pile, but rather were distended, as if being washed slightly downhill. This would account for some of the bones showing more evidence of exposure and weathering. It is estimated that it took about 250 years for the animal to be buried. Even though human involvement remains unproven, it remains a tantalizing possibility as new artifacts are uncovered and studied. What an Odyssey!

(Frank) Well, we’re out of time again. (Deb) And look at all the educational stuff we shared. (Frank) Yes. I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) And we’ll see you somewhere- (Deb and Frank) – Around Kansas.

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