Myles Keogh, Waverly

(Frank Chaffin) Today Around Kansas starts with a story about Myles Keogh, an Irishman who died with Custer at the Little Bighorn. Next see how a young woman from Waverly met and married Walter Beech and ended up running Beech Aircraft Company. Then learn about Independence, Kansas, and how Lewis and Clark celebrated the first 4th of July west of the Mississippi.Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at

(Frank Chaffin) Good grief it’s Wednesday. I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) This is Around Kansas. (Deb) Good grief it’s the end of June. (Frank) It is the end of June. Good grief. Where do these years go? (Deb) Where do they go? I don’t know. (Frank) I guess we just have way too much fun. (Deb) We do. We’ve got so much going on and this is kicking in an event that we’ve been working on all year long. Tonight Dr. Jake and his cavalry entourage are spending the night in Julesburg, Colorado and tomorrow morning they take off to recreate the epic trip of Lyman Kidder, Lieutenant Lyman Kidder. July 3rd they will arrive at Edson– near Edson, Kansas, which is a little east of Goodland. Where hopefully they will not be massacred like poor Lyman Kidder was. At two o’clock on the third, there will be a program at the Museum in Goodland and at four o’clock there on the massacre site there will be a program also with Jake and all the guys. He’s been planning this for ages. That kicks off a really historic week in Kansas. July 6th will be our big bus tour. We start in Oakley at the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center. Right there in the shadow of Bill himself and we’ll go over to the Fick Fossil Museum and then over to Russell Springs, we’ll do Little Jerusalem and the Smoky Valley Ranch. We’ll do historic Scott Lake and Punished Woman’s Fork and the Jerry Thomas Gallery in El Cuartelejo Museum so it’s going to be a huge day. The next day is nerd day where we have the symposium at Fort Wallace. Then on Saturday, we have the big encampment with dozens of reenactors and that night, Michael Martin Murphy concert. Sunday a celebration of Seventh Cavalry, basically and all these folks at the Fort Wallace Cemetery. It’s going to be a huge, huge week. Just want you to join us, go to This is the great Fort Wallace in Western Kansas 1867 Exposition. It’s going to be a big time. Go and see us, Frank. (Frank) All the way out there? (Deb) Listen, it’s a gorgeous motorcycle ride. It was beautiful. Right there on Highway 40, you won’t be on the interstate; you’ll be away from all the traffic. (Frank) Okay. (Deb) Except for the thousands that are going to come and attend. You’ll be just all by your solitary. (Frank) Okay, I’ll be there in the crowd somewhere. (Deb) I’ll look for you. It won’t be like Elvis, I will recognize you. You won’t go unnoticed like Elvis did when he slipped in over at Graceland. I’ll recognize you. (Frank) Okay. (Deb) Yes, you better be there. The fourth of July is the only day we’re not doing anything. What are you doing on the fourth, Frank? (Frank) Well, when I was a kid and lived in Newton, we went over to Halstead. You know where Halstead is? They had this huge fireworks display over there but I remember one year when we were going back to Newton, we stopped on the way and we were going to shoot off firecrackers. Dad had the box of fireworks on the front of the car. The spark got in there, Oh yes. (Deb) Oh no. (Frank) Yes, that was exciting to watch. See, I still remember today and I had to be, I don’t know, seven, eight years old? (Deb) Wow. (Frank) That was an exciting Fourth of July. (Deb) That was a Fourth to remember, wasn’t it? (Frank) Yes, it was. (Deb) Oh man. (Frank) Anyway – (Deb) Practice firecracker safety children. Don’t be like Frank.

(Frank) Back again, at the end of June already. (Deb) Already and we’ve got so much going on. I was talking about the events at Fort Wallace. We’ve been working on the addition to the museum at Fort Wallace. We’re getting all the artifacts together and Valerie Smith just did this incredible job designing this. Of course, Jerry Thomas did the statue of Medicine Bill Comstock, that’s going to be unveiled on July 8th. All the stuff. When you start looking through the larger-than-life characters that were there, it is Custer and Sherman and all these people there, but Myles Keogh may be the most handsome man that ever served there. He was just devastatingly handsome. He was an Irishman. He had a really bit of a drinking problem there, Frankie, you know. I don’t know, is it just redundant to say an Irishman had a drinking problem? Is that even a surprise to anybody? He never got married because he loved all the ladies – he loved all the ladies there, Frankie. (Frank) Oh, my. (Deb) Yes, he’s one of my favorites. I’m trying to get Melissa Rau to do a sculpture of him. I’m raising the money but if you want to contribute to build a statue, a sculpture to Myles Keogh, be still mu heart. (Frank) I assume that you’re doing a story about him? (Deb) Yes. Every chance I get. [Laughs] We know Myles Keogh as the Irishman who died with Custer at the Little Bighorn in 1876, leaving his horse Comanche as the only Cavalry survivor. Custer’s “Irish Knight” they called him. Keogh was only 36 years when he was killed in service during the Indian Wars. But he was a hardened veteran by then, having served first in the armies of the Papal States, defending the Pope during a rebellion in Italy. The papal armies were defeated and Keogh was imprisoned at Genoa. After his quick release by exchange, he went to Rome and served in the Company of St. Patrick as a member of the Vatican Guard. The highly decorated soldier became bored with guard duty, however. When the Archbishop of New York came to Rome to recruit army officers, Keogh and two of his comrades joined the United States Army. He became a cavalry officer on the staff of General Buford, fighting at Brandy Station, the largest cavalry engagement of the war. Buford’s nemesis was Confederate Cavalry commander, General J E B Stuart. He was promoted to captain, 7th Cavalry, on July 28, 1866 and assigned to Ft. Riley, assigned to Company I under the command of George Armstrong Custer. Keogh had sole responsibility for defending the Smoky Hill route against Indian raids from late 1866 to the summer of 1867, while commanding Fort Wallace. With unrest at every hand, a shortage of soldiers, supplies, and anything else that would make commanding a post possible, he performed admirably. He knew and/or served with almost every legendary name on the Plains. Ironically, his former enemy Stuart had also seen service in Kansas, but before the war. While serving here, Keogh retraced many steps earlier trod by Stuart. The handsome officer had a fondness for drink but also admitted to a weakness for the fair sex. He never married. Keogh is forever connected to Kansas through the legacy of his service, and his horse, preserved for posterity at KU.

(Frank) Here we are back again. Now, we’ve been talking about the Air Capital of the world, which is Kansas and more so, Wichita, as there were three or four manufacturers there. One of the more famous, of course, is Beech Aircraft. The Beech Bonanza. The Beech Bonanza was one of the best selling aircraft ever in private aircraft. It was incredible. It was built right here in the state of Kansas. (Deb) There’s gonna be a big surprise at the end? (Frank) There will be. The thing is at one time, all three of the aircraft manufacturers Frederick, Beech, and Cessna, all worked together. (Deb) I imagine that. (Frank) Then they started their own companies. Even though they were competitive, they built some fantastic aircraft. They really did. You’re also going to find out in this story too, that sometimes it wasn’t always the guys. I’ll give you a clue and it’ll keep you on the edge and that is– but anyway. [Laughs] This is Kansas Profile from Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University. Cessna. Beechcraft. Stearman. These are some of the classic names of airplanes and aviation companies. Those names belong to men who were pioneers of the aviation industry. Today, we will learn about another of the industry’s best leaders. But this aviation business pioneer wasn’t a man – it was a woman. Earlier on the show we learned about aviation industry leader Clyde Cessna. In 1925, Cessna and another man named Lloyd Stearman created an airplane company along with a young test pilot named Walter Beech. Walter Beech came from a farm in Tennessee. He built a glider at the age of 14 and served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War I. In 1921, he came to work for an airplane company in Wichita. Four years later he joined Lloyd Stearman and Cessna to form Travel Air Manufacturing Company. Here he met a woman named Olive Ann Mellor. Olive Ann came from Waverly in eastern Kansas. She attended business school in Wichita and then was bookkeeper for a company in Augusta before becoming bookkeeper and then office manager for Travel Air Manufacturing. She and Walter Beech were married in 1930. In the following year, Travel Air was purchased by the Curtiss-Wright Airplane Company. Walter Beech became president of Curtiss-Wright, but he didn’t like the fact that those duties kept him in New York, away from production of airplanes. In 1932, he and his wife Olive Ann came back to Wichita to form their own new business: Beech Aircraft Company. Walter was president of the company. Olive Ann was secretary-treasurer. The company goal was to attain higher standards of airplane performance. In 1933, their innovative Staggerwing design airplane won the Texaco trophy race. Soon the Beech Staggerwing airplanes were breaking records all over the world. The Twin Beech, unveiled in 1937, was another major success. In 1940, Walter Beech became ill with encephalitis. Olive Ann stepped in to run the company and did so successfully until his return. During World War II, the Beech Aircraft Company built more than 7,000 planes for the U.S. war effort. After the war, Beech unveiled the V-tailed Bonanza, which was another success. The Bonanza was used to make the longest nonstop solo flight on record by flying 4,960 miles from Honolulu to New Jersey in 36 hours. The Beech business was continuing to grow, but in 1950 Walter Beech suddenly perished from a heart attack and the company was again plunged into uncertainty. Olive Ann Beech stepped into the leadership role yet again. She was elected by the Board of Directors as President and Chairman of the Board. For the next 18 years she served in this capacity and presided over a remarkable period of growth. The company grew its aviation business and even diversified to assist NASA with the development of cryogenic systems in the 1950s. In the 1960s, the company introduced the King Air which quickly established itself as the industry standard in corporate jet props. Today, the various King Air models maintain a market share of more than 90 percent in their class. Wow. In 1980, Beech Aircraft was purchased by Raytheon. Olive Ann Beech served on the Raytheon Board of Directors until she became Chairman Emeritus in 1982. She passed away in 1993 after receiving many honors. For example, the highest honor which the aviation industry bestows is the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy which was awarded to her by the National Aeronautic Association in 1980 “for five decades of outstanding leadership in the development of general aviation.” She was inducted into the American National Business Hall of Fame in 1983 and became the first inductee in the Kansas Business Hall of Fame in 1986. That’s quite an accomplishment for someone who came from the rural community of Waverly, Kansas, population 581 people. Cessna. Stearman. Beechcraft. These are pioneers of the aviation industry, and one of its key leaders was a woman, Olive Ann Beech. And there’s more. Cessna and Beech were partners of Lloyd Stearman, whose name for his classic biplane still endures today.

(Frank) We’re back again. We were just discussing the fact that most every state in the nation has a Springfield. It also has an Independence. (Deb) Or, as I say, my relatives who live there back home say, “Independence” They live in Independence, Virginia. Independence. (Frank) Okay. (Deb) I suppose we spelled the same way I think. [Laughs] Yes, the parade in Independence. We’re going to the parade in independence. They’re going to kill me. [Laughs] Independence, Kansas. (Frank) Independence. I don’t know, it just popped into my strange little mind, the movie Independence Day. I’m sure it’ll be playing over and over – (Deb) Which has nothing to do with independence Kansas? (Frank) Not at all. (Deb) Not we’re aware of. (Frank) It’s a good movie. (Deb) That’s a good movie. (Frank) It’ll probably be on looking at. (Deb) Yes, Independence Day. Yes, and 1776 the Musical, that’ll be playing. I love that. I love it. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) Oh, yes. John Adams’ You’re Obnoxious and Disliked. [Laughs] Yes, love it. Love it, that show. We’ve got our own Independence in Kansas so let’s take a look. (Michael Goehring) What could be more appropriate than celebrating July 4th in Independence, Kansas? Fireworks in Riverside Park mark the holiday each year. The Osage were being removed to the Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, and in 1869 George Brown took advantage of the situation to purchased land along the Verdigris River for a mere $50. He called the town site Colfax, in honor of Schuyler Colfax who had been Speaker of the House and then Vice President for U. S. Grant. But other folks favored Independence and it was designated the county seat of Montgomery County in 1870. A baseball trivia claim to fame is that a permanent lighting system was first used for an exhibition baseball game on April 17, 1930. The Independence Producers squared off against the House of David semi-professional baseball team of Benton Harbor, Michigan, with the Independence team winning with a score of 9 to 1 before a crowd of 1,700 spectators. Famous folks from Independence include Sherman Halsey – Music Video Director; Dave McGinnis – Football Player and Coach; Derek Schmidt – Kansas Attorney General; Helen Foster – Actress; Jim Halsey – Businessman; Ron Warner – 2005 NFL player for the Washington Redskins; Scott Hastings – Basketball Player; William Inge – Playwright, and last but not least, the Rhesus monkey, Miss Able, of Outer Space fame.

(Deb) Welcome back, folks. We were just talking about Lewis and Clark’s Expedition and their July Fourth adventure in what would be Kansas. Frank, I understand you were there; you were part of that celebration? (Frank) [Laughs] Well, many years after theirs, of course. There’s really a place off the river there that is almost a natural amphitheater. We had a country concert in there when I worked for a country radio station up there. It was kind of fun. (Deb) Was that for 4th of July? (Frank) No, it wasn’t but we had a promotion around it, it was a float we called it the 7up Float. 7up sponsored it and we had people float into there – (Deb) I love it. (Frank) – homemade rafts and all that. (Deb) Really? (Frank) Really interesting since – (Deb) – somewhat like… (Frank) The river runs at seven knots there, which is enough to – (Deb) It’s pretty swift. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) It’s pretty swift, enough for them to miss their landing. (Frank) Yes, that was a lot of years ago. (Deb) The 7up Floats, somewhat like the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Yes, exactly. (Frank) Except they were going the other way. We came from the north with the current. They were going against the current. (Deb) They were gone against the current. (Frank) And he said, “We tired, it’s Fourth of July, let’s pull off here and party.” (Deb) That’s right, that’s exactly what they did. Where was the first July 4 celebration west of the Mississippi River? If you answered Kansas you would be correct, according to! Camping near present day Atchison, Lewis and Clark marked the occasion with their men. Six weeks earlier, they had left American civilization. The party of 29 men, called the Corps of Discover, had made good progress, traveling up the Missouri River in a 55-foot keelboat and two dugout canoes. When the wind was behind them, the keelboat sail was raised, they sometimes managed to travel 20 miles in a single day. By early July, the expedition had reached the northeastern corner of what would be Kansas. The fertility of the land astonished the two. Clark wrote of the many deer, “as plenty as hogs about a farm.” On this day in 1804, they stopped near the mouth of a creek flowing out of the western prairie. The men asked the captains if they knew if the creek had a name. Knowing none, they decided to call it Independence Creek in honor of the day. The expedition continued upstream, making camp that evening at an abandoned Indian village. To celebrate the Fourth of July, Lewis and Clark commanded that the keelboat cannon be fired at sunset. After an extra whiskey ration, the explorers settled back to enjoy the peaceful Kansas night. In his final journal entry of the day, Clark wondered at the existence of, “So magnificent a Senerey in a Contry thus Situated far removed from the Sivilised world to be enjoyed by nothing but the Buffalo Elk Deer & Bear in which it abounds & Savage Indians.” The next day, the travelers resumed their journey up the Missouri and into the history books. The name, Independence Creek, remains, and a marker notes their campsite.

(Deb) well Happy 4th. (Frank) [Laughs] See ya. [Laughs]

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

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