Wild West history, Big Well in Greensburg, R. Lee Ermey,

(Frank) Today on Around Kansas we start with some Wild West history; then learn about the Big Well in Greensburg, Kansas. Next meet R. Lee Ermey, an Emporia native and retired Marine, who went on to be in movies like Apocalypse Now. Next chocolate lovers learn where to find handmade chocolates in Wichita and we get a glimpse of the Dillon House in Topeka. We’ll end with a poem from Ron Wilson.

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

(Deb) Welcome to Around Kansas, I’m Deb Bisel and I know that a lot of you are like myself, real fans of the wild west history of Kansas. And gosh, nobody beats what we have here, the stories we’ve got here in Kansas. And no town has a better wild west story than Coffeyville. And Coffeyville really got its claim to fame October 5th, 1892 when the Dalton gang, local boys, rode into town with a plan to rob the bank. Not only one bank- two banks. It was a really bold and daring move. It’s hilarious to think about it in retrospect as they rode into town they’re disguised with fake mustaches and fake beards. It must have just been ridiculous looking because they wouldn’t have had anything of what we might considered quality or convincing today. None the less, that’s how they rode into town. They go into the plaza there in downtown Coffeyville, which is busy, people milling around and that’s when they split up and head to the banks. Didn’t quite work out the way they had planned however. The battle that ensued the attempted bank robberies wound up claiming the lives of eight men. The outlaws Grat and Bob Dalton, Dick Broadwell and Bill Powers and four Coffeyville residents, Marshall Conley, Lucius Baldwin, George Cubine and Charles Brown and three other townsfolk were wounded. Now for nearly two hours after the fight was over the bodies of Grat and Bob Dalton and Dick Broadwell lay in what would become known as Death Alley. When the body of Bill Powers was found at the edge of town where he’d fallen off his horse they put him there too. All four bodies were propped up and photographs were taken. Afterward the bodies were thrown into the little city jail. The next afternoon the outlaws were buried in black varnished wood coffins. They covered all but about, recovered all but about $22 dollars of the robbery money. They had taken about $25,000. So, almost all of that was gotten back. Now I gotta tell you about this photograph. When these four guys are laying there on the sidewalk and propped up and they’re taking pictures that would have been really common in the 19th century. And these photographs would have been sold just like postcards. It was real common, Bill Anderson comes to mind or Jesse James when they died those photographs were very popular souvenirs in the 19th century. Now, what’s real interesting about the Dalton gang, is even after the bodies were removed eventually the townspeople painted the figures of those men onto the sidewalk and they keep that painted, every time it starts to fade out they keep that painting retouched and redone to this day. So, if you go to Coffeyville today, you can see the paintings of the outlaws. Now in 1931, Emmett Dalton was about 60 years old and he and his wife came back to Coffeyville and a reporter from the Kansas City Star visited with them and they were retracing his steps along the hold up route and through the town. And then they drove out to Elmwood Cemetery. First to the grave of Frank and then to the graves of Grat and Bob Dalton and Bill Powers. After a time, Emmett Dalton moved from the graves and told McDonald, “I challenge the world to produce the history of an outlaw who ever got anything out of it except that,” he said pointing to the graves, “or else huddled in a prison cell. The biggest fool on earth is the one who thinks he can beat the law and crime is made to pay. It never paid, it never will. And that’s the one big lesson of the Coffeyville raid.” Thanks to David Dary for sharing that in “The True Tales of Old Time Kansas.” We’ll be right back.

(Frank) Good morning, I’m Frank Chaffin and this is Around Kansas, and today I am fascinated by a big hole in the ground so I did a little homework, I even wrote it out. Anyway, the big hole in ground is called the Big Well. And it is big. And it’s in Greensburg, Kansas, so let me tell you a little bit about the history of this big well. It was an amazing feat of engineering in the 19th century. It was started in 1887 and it was finished in 1888. And it ended up 109 feet deep and 32 feet wide. Now get that in our mind if you will. Think about this. If you’ve ever been to the State Capitol in Topeka, go look up in the dome and you’ll get kind of an idea of what this thing might look like looking down. Anyway, there is a spiral staircase today that you can walk down and down and down into the cavern of this big well in Greensburg, Kansas. It was opened again to tourists in 2012. If you recall in 2007 the town of Greensburg was 95 percent leveled by a tornado. OK, let’s begin the story in 1887. The city granted a franchise for a water works. It was to cost approximately $45,000 dollars. Now, in 1887 that was a big sum of money. It was a good investment since this produced water up until 1932. Remember this was a hand dug well. OK, this is the interesting part because workers began working at sun up and they got paid at sun down. So, they worked all day and the pay- 50 cents to a dollar a day. Again, in 1887 those were pretty good wages. Crews of 12-15. There were farmers, cowboys, transients, worked all day using picks, shovels, half barrels, pulleys and ropes to dig this huge well. OK. Now stones used for the walls in the well were brought in by wagons from the Medicine River which is about 12 miles south of Greensburg. The dirt from the well excavation was again hauled away by those same wagons. Now what did they do with that dirt? Well, the wagon beds were slatted and they could open the slats and slowly let the dirt out and guess what? They built streets and roads to the well. Waste not, want not, back in 1887. OK. A wide shaft was cribbed and braced every 12 feet with planks. And… in other words it looked like a big wagon wheel, there were braces around the side and with spokes. And the workers shoveled dirt into barrels and those were hoisted to the surface. As stone was put in place in the walls then, the braces were removed. Perforated pipes then were driven into the bottom of the well in gravel and this helped the water flow and of course, also the purity of the water. This was done to increase the flow of the water in the well basin. Now again, it was completed in 1888 and it ended up 109 feet deep and 32 feet in circumference. The well was covered but then reopened as an historic attraction in 1937. In 1972 it was designated a national museum. Over 3 million people have descended the metal stairway into the depths of the cavern in this well. The world’s largest hand dug well. In 2008 it was also designated one of the eight wonders of Kansas. Now again in 2007 an F-5 tornado destroyed 95 percent of Greensburg. The town was just gone. And of course it took the visitor center too. But the people of Greensburg said, “We’re not going away, we’re gonna rebuild.” And in 2012 the visitor center was opened again and today you can go visit the well and you can also visit Greensburg, which we will do in other programs here on Around Kansas. It’s a remarkable recovery that this town had. So, anyway for now this is Frank Chaffin saying, see you somewhere Around Kansas.

(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas. Now if you watched TV, if you’ve been to the movies any time in the last 20 years, chances are you’ve seen R. Lee Ermey. This Emporia native, Marine Corps veteran and dynamic personality has just been all over the place. He was obviously born to be a staff sergeant. And his God given skill as a sergeant is what’s made him famous. You might of seen him on “Mail Call” on the History Channel, just any number of things. He had an injury that actually forced him to retire from the Marine Corps, but he was at the University of Manila where he was studying criminology and drama and appeared in several Filipino films before he was cast as a helicopter pilot in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now.” Now, due to his Vietnam experiences Coppola also used him as a technical advisor. He got a featured role in Sidney Furie’s “The Boys in Company C” and then was in “Purple Heart” in 1984. His most famous role however came as gunnery sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” in 1987. Emory was nominated for a Golden Globe and did win the Best Supporting Actor from the Boston Society of Film Critics. Since then he’s appeared in numerous character roles in such films as “Leaving Las Vegas,” “Seven,” “Dead Men Walking.” However, he prefers comedy these days. And he’s got a comedic role in “Saving Silverman” and basically just anything he wants to do. He’s just absolutely amazing. Now, the story I heard, I have no idea if this is more than gossip, but when he got the role in “Full Metal Jacket” he was actually supposed to be an advisor and he was supposed to be training somebody how to perform as a sergeant and nobody could do what he could do and it just came naturally to him. And I also heard that Stanley Kubrick is not much on improvisation, he likes actors to stick to the role that they’ve got. But with Gunny, hey you can’t beat his improvisations. He’s just an amazing character and it’s only fitting that this guy, this incredible poster boy for the Marines is from Emporia, of course the birth place of the Veterans Day parade. So, look out for Gunny. Tell him Around Kansas said hello. We’ll be right back.

From the Land of Kansas is a trademark program that helps Kansas businesses grow, produce, process or manufacture Kansas products. Let’s meet Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates. Wichita’s most exquisite chocolate store, located in Bradley fair. Owner, operator and Mast Chocolatier Beth Tully creates small batches of her preservative-free confections by hand, using the finest chocolate from around the world and all natural ingredients. Cocoa Dolce features a variety of bittersweet, milk and white chocolate truffles and bonbons. The store is also home to Wichita’s only wine and chocolate lounge, where guests enjoy eclectic wines paired with chocolates in an intimate setting. For more information visit them online at

(Deb) This is going to be our new home for the place where we sit and talk about places Around Kansas. So, we’re just thrilled to be partnering with the Pioneer Group who have purchased this incredible, historic home and are bringing it back to its former glory. This house was built in 1912-13, that era and it was built by Hiram Price Dillon a businessman and philanthropist from Kansas City. He thought that it would be a little more advantageous to him and have a little more prestige to be in the capital city and so he came to Topeka and built this incredible home, all for entertaining. Everything about this home was to invite people in, for them to enjoy, and that’s what’s going to happen again here. The Price home will be finished, or the Dillon Home will be finished in January of 2015 and it will be available for spaces to be rented out for parties and official functions. And they are doing a spectacular job in bringing that back. The library is gorgeous. You’ve got these beautiful stained glass windows with famous writers depicted in the stained glass and the main hallway, you have stained glass figures of Lancelot and Guinevere. You’ve got the lovely gold piano that actually belongs to the Shawnee County Historical Society, but that these guys paid to have restored and that’s going to find it’s home once again in the Dillon House. So, we look forward to meeting you every week from right here at the Dillon House. We look forward to the renovation and seeing all the things as they come along. They’ve re-added the portico that was originally there and was torn down by the insurance company that was here for a while. The lions- are they not incredible? Those actually came from New Jersey. These were Mr. Dillon’s fathers, on his estate in New Jersey. And they were brought out here. So many details and you stay tuned for the next several months and we’ll bring a little piece to you each week.

(Ron) All of us are familiar of the routine of going to the store to get groceries. But for the cow/calf man, getting groceries has an additional meaning. This poem is entitled “Getting Groceries.” Getting groceries is something we have to do, for supplies from the store, each week or two. There’s milk, bread, cereal, eggs and juice. Plus the snacks and drinks that teenagers use. And right before a holiday or a winter storm, I get amazed at the shopper checkout lines that form. But when I see a cow nursing a baby calf, it reminds me of a cattleman that made me laugh. When he saw a calf nurse, one of his tendencies was to say, that calf is getting groceries. I thought it was a funny saying back in the day, but now I understand it in a modern way. For we all need food to help sustain and grow, just like that newborn calf will undergo. Humans go to the garden or to the store of course, the calf gets his nutrition direct from the source. We’ve had a bottle calf, which our kids think is fun. But it takes time and trouble to get those chores done. So I give thanks for my favorable luck, when I see a new calf that will stand and will suck. Now the wife says our kitchen inventory needs to rebuild. So we’ll be getting groceries for the pantry to be filled. But for the cow/calf man there’s nothing better somehow, than to see a calf getting groceries from a Mama cow. Happy Trails.

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

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