Kansas Wolf Hunts

A short post in the Madison News in 2011 sparked some family discussion about wolf hunts in Kansas.

60 Years Ago
January 18, 1951

“There will be a wolf drive southeast of Lamont Sunday, sponsored by the 4-H club. The roundup will be in the Crotty section.”

Karen commented that Mom (Gail Lee Martin) had talked about the wolf drives. “Seems like Norman (her brother-in-law) was in the story. I should have been writing these stories down as soon as she told them.”

 Karen asked our cousin, Tim (Norman’s son), “Do you remember wolf hunts at all?”

Tim said, ” Yes, I remember them. I even carried my BB gun if I remember correctly before I was old enough to carry a shotgun.”

She then tried to draw out more, “Well, now I just want to hear even more! Did you do it with the 4-H club or was it just a community thing? Was there really such a problem with wolves in Greenwood County in the ’50s?”

Coyote Photograph Postcard

Coyote Photograph Postcard

That triggered Tim to dig deeper into his memories, “Not wolves, coyotes, and usually some group organized the hunts. Kind of a community thing. The boundary lines were posted and men lined up around the perimeter and walked toward the center. Sometimes each side would be more than a mile or two or three. Coyotes would be driven toward the center and shot when they tried to escape the circle. I remember seeing piles of coyotes.”

Karen wondered, “I only had the snippet of the article that they printed 60 years later in the Madison News, not the actual article (January 18, 1951). Maybe the Madison News has it in their archives though. Was there a bounty on the coyotes? The whole process sounds really barbaric, but were coyotes a big problem for farmers?”

Here’s Tim’s answer, “Yes, the coyotes were a big problem, stealing chickens and other poultry, lambs, and calves were prey to them also. I know we lost some lambs to coyotes. I remember a neighbor who lived north of us telling of seeing a coyote kill his pet cat just for fun. The thing that probably ended the “wolf hunts” was that some people got carried away and would shoot other wildlife such as jackrabbits, owls, hawks and such. Also, I seem to remember an accidental wounding of a hunter a time or two.”

After rediscovering Karen and Tim’s discussion on the Our Family site, I researched in old newspaper databases. I found these articles in the Chronicling America (Library of Congress) online newspaper database. Some were huge events, but others were unsuccessful in reducing the coyote population. Sometimes the participants were injured or even died.

Phillipsburg Herald., March 27, 1884 (Phillipsburg, KS)

“During a recent wolf hunt in Sumner County, not a single wolf was seen.” 

The Helena independent., February 26, 1892

KANSAS CITY, -An enormous wolf hunt took place over Crawford and Bourbon counties in Kansas Saturday. As a result, about 300 wolves lie dead. Both counties and others adjoining were scoured by over 5,000 men, women, and children, armed in all conceivable ways. Two thousand jack-rabbits were also captured in the general round-up.

Owing to an error in signaling there was one break in the line which reduced the
number of captures, but another hunt will take place next Saturday to finally wind up
the foxes and wolves of southern Kansas. There was but one incident, Thomas Per

There was but one incident, Thomas Perkins being very seriously bitten by two
wolves. he will not recover, as he was torn fearfully by the infuriated animals.
The hunt was divided into four lines, each having more than a thousand men in
the party. Each side was fifty miles long, the square working to the central round-np.
Under the plan, the lines moved toward a hollow square. The west and north lines
moved about four miles and then awaited orders, while the other lines pushed in
more rapidly on horseback, driving the wolves, foxes, and jack rabbits in front of
them.”

Feb. 4, 1897, The People’s Voice, Wellington, Kansas

Wolf Hunt.
“The Southeast Sumner Hunting Association wish to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday, Friday, February 12th by having a wolf hunt in Green township. We will drive the entire township forming on the outside lines and commencing the drive promptly at 9:30
o’clock under the command of Wm. Massey on north line, Wm. Jordan on West, Dick Brooks on south and Sim Wartick on east.

Everybody turn out and bring all your dogs and shot guns, rifles debarred. There is no doubt that we will have a good time as there are quite a number of wolves positively
known to be in the township. Should the weather be bad the hunt will occur on the same day of the next week. By Order of Association.

The Wichita daily eagle. Wichita Kan. January 29 1899

The Wichita daily eagle. Wichita Kan. 1890 1906 January 29 1899 Page 10 Image 10 « Chronicling America « Library of Congress

(I missed noting the date on this next article. Kicking myself for being careless.)

BIG “WOLF DRIVE” IN KANSAS.

Sportsmen Came from England to Take Part In Annual Hunt.

“The West has one diversion unknown In the East and one which Englishmen come across the waters to participate in. It Is the annual “wolf drive” held each year on the prairies and which is the sole remaining relic of the famous wild hunts of thirty or forty years ago, says the Wichita correspondent of the New York Herald. While not as voracious as in former years, the coyote, or prairie wolf, is still capable of doing considerable depredation and is the worst foe the prairie farmer has to contend with. The animal still sneaks into the hen roosts and waylays lambs and calves in the field. As a consequence wolf drives are held every year, a sort of general roundup for the “varmints.”

The biggest wolf drive ever held In the West was participated in last Saturday by over a thousand horsemen bent upon obtaining the scalp of every wolf in the territory they covered. It was held In Sumner county, on the border line of Oklahoma, and a whole township was freed from the pest.

It was a motley array, farmers and farmers’ boys mingling with hunters and sportsmen, some of whom had come from England and Canada to take part in the sport. Each man was armed with either rifle or revolver and many with both, while dogs without number yelped and raced around.

At the appointed hour the word to advance was passed along the line, and the drive began from the confines of the township inward toward the center. As the lines advanced they routed the animals from their biding places, and the gaunt form of the prairie coyote was to be seen loping in ungainly but swift fashion far ahead of the horsemen and out of reach of the swiftness of the wolf hounds.

As the day progressed and the hollow square became smaller the wolves began to realize that their pursuers were bent upon their destruction, and they began to try to break through the ranks. Here was exhibited many an illustration of the subtlety of the prairie wolf in doubling upon Its enemy. A pack of dogs would be pushing after its prey too closely when suddenly the wolf would disappear. It had used a device well known to the coyote tribe and “doubled on its track”—turned square around and raced back alongside of the dogs—and before the pack had discovered what had happened the coyote would be rods away.

When the lines were within sight of one another the order to halt was given, and the dogs urged on to the work of extermination. While every man was well armed, few shots were fired, it being the custom of the drive for the dogs to do the killing. But if a wolf seemed likely to break through the cordon it was shot.

When the last wolf had been killed the carcasses were gathered In a heap and skinned. They counted up to four hundred.”

ks wolf hunt Wendi Brevitt's photo

Photo shared by Wendi Brevitt on Facebook in the Kansas History Geeks group. In Wabaunsee or Clay County.

In 1913, the Topeka State Journal reported, “One of the traditional wolf hunts in Kansas is thus described by the Holyrood Banner: The wolf hunt scheduled for Monday morning was well attended by our marksmen, who faithfully plodded over two sections but to no avail. The wolves were all hiding or had beaten it to a more healthful climate. The only thing seen by the hunters were a few rabbits but they had been practicing; for the event and were beating it at about a 2:10 gait.”

Advertisements

Planning a Road Trip

In January 2012, Gail Martin’s younger sister, CJ contemplated the idea of moving back to Kansas. She had lived many years in the Austin area and later in Seadrift, Texas by the coast. Her nieces encouraged her to move back to her home state.

Gail chimed in with some enticements. “We could take a trip this spring to Teterville and where we used to live when the rattlesnake bit me? Or over to Seeley and Burkett leases and oh yes, the bridge east of Madison that you drew one time, Carol that isn’t there anymore. I’ll bet the Madison Museum would love to have that picture!

Then we could go to the Locke lease or out the Kenbro where Viola and Roy used to live. The Greenwood County Museum in Eureka is an interesting place to spend a day or so.

Gail’s daughter, Cindy, added her thoughts too, “Yes, yes and yes again! I like the idea very much of Carol moving to Kansas.  (still afraid to get my hopes up) I know it will be rather heartbreaking for you to leave Seadrift & your beloved coast.”

CJ chimed in on the discussion, “Good ideas, Big Sis! You know, the Madison Museum just might like to have a print of that picture. I still have it. I’d love prowling around all those spots, refreshing my memories, which, oddly, seem to be full of gaps.”

bridge picture

Imthur Bridge, near Madison, KS (drawn in 1954 approx.) by CJ Garriott. The bridge is no longer there.

Here’s the bridge picture that CJ made and her description of it. “I’m posting my drawing of Imthurn Bridge, east of Madison, KS, for Father’s Day 2016 to honor my Daddy. In my teens, I signed up for a by-mail drawing class. One of the advanced tasks assigned was to draw a pen & ink from real life. This bridge piqued my interest as we drove back and forth to town across it. Once I decided the bridge would be my subject, Daddy checked out the area where I would sit to draw, cleared brush and weeds to make a space and made a sitting-drawing thing out of a bucket with a board across the top, and a little folding table to hold the drawing pad. Thank you, Daddy, for always supporting my varied interests! Mother too, the both of you made me believe I could do anything.”

Old Stone School

Our guest blogger today is Gail Martin’s little Sis, CJ Garriott.

CJ – “I found these photos I vaguely remembered having taken of a country school I ran across somewhere in my wanderings across Kansas. Don’t remember when, or where, or who may have been with me. Does anyone else? I thought I could make out “MAY” above the date, 1882, on the circular thing on the front of the building, that I had the presence of mind to get as close-up as I could. Thought that was the name of the school or townsite, but the website I found (below) said that was the date it opened.”

She noted that the photos were those square, rounded corner photos, “that tells me they were taken with my Instamatic, many, many years ago!”

Lower Fox Creek School - Strong City, Kansas CJ

Lower Fox Creek School at Strong City, Kansas. Photo by CJ Garriott

CJ added to the story, “I got to studying the back of the old school photos–there was faint (very faint!) red printing. With the super magnification dot on my magnifying glass and a bright light, I made out “May 77.” So, taken way, way, back there for sure! No telling what I was doing, wandering around northwest of Strong City!”

In 1977, the school was 95 years old.

Lower Fox Creek School - Strong City, Kansas CJ 2

Closer look at the date the school was built, May 1882. Photo by CJ Garriott.

Gail’s daughter, Karen, commented, “We visited with a family group in the spring one year when my daughter and I were back in Kansas visiting. She was maybe 4? So, mid-90’s. I don’t remember you being with us though and you’re not in any of the photos I took that day. It was known as the Z-Bar Ranch then, since then it’s become part of the Tallgrass Nature Preserve operated by the National Park Service and has reverted back to its first name, Spring Hill Ranch. The school is about a mile or so from the house, perched on top of a hill. There’s a walking trail to get there.”

Further Reading on the Lower Fox Creek School

Waymarking Site

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Virtual Tour of the School

Lower Fox Creek School 3_Tallgrass Prairie kk

Lower Fox Creek School in the 1990s. Photo by Karen Kolavalli.

 

Homage to the Flint Hills

Hills in Kansas? Yes, Kansas has the rolling Flint Hills where you’ll see tall grass prairie, limestone outcroppings, and a sky that goes on forever. It’s in the south-central part of the state.

I grew up nearby, and my mother spent her childhood in the Flint Hills. We love the sweeping vistas and subtle folds of the Flint Hills area. It was always a treat to take a scenic drive through the Flint Hills and to watch for windmills, prairie fires and big thunderheads.

Photo by Virginia Allain of the Kansas Flint Hills.

Photo by Virginia Allain of the Kansas Flint Hills.

Anyone who thinks Kansas is flat and featureless has never seen the Flint Hills. In Mom’s book, she talks about the thrill of seeing a prairie wildfire at night sweep across the hills.

In her collection of books, there was one of paintings of the Flint Hills. Each featured artist wrote about how the region inspired them. Artist Judy Love of Manhattan, Kansas wrote this, “The changes of light and color through the day and through the seasons transform these ancient hills into an incredible beauty that leaves me speechless.” She said that painting was her way of showing a “bit of what my heart feels.”

Here’s that book:

She loved the prairie wildflowers and taught us the names for some of them.

This one is aptly named the butterfly weed. (photo by Virginia Allain) Its official name is Asclepias tuberosa.

This one is aptly named the butterfly weed. (photo by Virginia Allain) Its official name is Asclepias tuberosa.

The hardy wildflowers of the windswept prairie can withstand drought and harsh conditions. Give them a try in your yard.

It’s hard to capture the prairie with a camera. Somehow the hills just flatten out under that big sky. As you cruise along in your car with the windows down, pull over now and then at the crest of a hill. Get out and admire the wildflowers. Listen to the sound of the meadowlark and notice the scissortail flycatcher or the hawk on the telephone wire.

The Flint Hills Poster
The Flint Hills Poster by Kcstore

Let your eyes follow the road as it forms a ribbon through the curves and folds of the land. Note the sparse trees revealing the line of a creek wending through the hills.

Savor it. The Flint Hills are a special place much loved by Kansans.

5 Blogs That Mom Would Love

Growing up in the Kansas Flint Hills gave Mom an appreciation for the rolling prairie vistas and for the big Kansas sky filled with puffy white thunderheads. She became poetic when talking about the sight of a prairie fire with flames outlining the hillside against the backdrop of the dark sky.

    • This photographer has the vision to capture such scenes with his camera. He showcases his Flint Hills photos on this site: Brad Neff Images at the Center for Great Plains Study. Each of his pictures would inspire Mom. He has a Facebook page that I follow too, as it lifts my spirits each day to see his latest photo.
    • James Nedresky is another photographer that will make you ooh and aah over the spare beauty of the Kansas hill region. Check him out. Due to copyright, I can’t show you their pictures here, so I’ll featured this picture by another photographer to whet your appetite.

Flint Hills note card
Flint Hills note card by Kcstore

  • Mom had many friends among the members of the Kansas Author’s Club. Here’s a blog by one she admired, Nancy Kopp, Writer Granny’s World. Nancy wrote for Our Echo as well, a site that Mom was the webmaster for many years.
  • Mom spent hours each day reading the posts on the Our Echo web site. She commented on every one, encouraging the writers of family stories, poems and short fiction. The writers there really miss her. Now my sister, Karen Kolavalli, does some of the maintenance on the site, but hasn’t the time to read and comment on every post the way Mom did. You can read some of Mom’s stories and see her bio on the site.
  • She loved to follow the blogs created by her own children. Here’s her daughter Cindy’s nature blog about her life on Moss Creek.

 

 

S is for Snake

My mother survived a bite by a rattlesnake when she was young. It was a story that we made her tell us over and over. We never tired of hearing how her father and the dog would scare up a rabbit so it would run into a culvert.

Her role was to hold a gunny sack over the opening at the opposite end. Her father would tap a stick on his end of the pipe which frightened the rabbit into running into the sack.

This worked well and they would have rabbit for dinner, but one time there was a snake that bit her on the cheek. You can read the episode in her memoir online.

P is for Prairies

Growing up in the heart of the Kansas Flint Hills, Mom loved wide-open spaces. I remember an excursion with her to find a tumble-down stone house that she caught a glimpse of one day. Most people, zipping along on the state highway, didn’t even register its presence.

Near El Dorado, Kansas, you'll find this old stone house.

Near El Dorado, Kansas, you’ll find this old stone house.

Almost hidden in a fold of the hills, it sat abandoned for 70, maybe even 100 years. Taking to the gravel back roads, she finally found her way to it. We had to trek through long prairie grass to get closer while keeping a sharp eye out for rattlesnakes.

Photo by Gail Martin

Photo by Gail Martin

We were also wary of range cattle. Most would not bother us, but a bull could be aggressive. The stone house, small and just a single room, looked lonely with its roof long gone and its walls only partially standing. The fallen limestone blocks littered the ground around it, blending in with the golden grasses of autumn.

Thank you, Mom, for instilling in your children an appreciation of those early Kansas pioneers and for the seemingly endless prairie views. My sisters and I talked about a suitable place for spreading our parents’ ashes. The Flint Hills area is high on our list of places they would like.

Abandoned stone house in the Kansas Flint Hills.

Abandoned stone house in the Kansas Flint Hills.

The roof is gone and the walls are starting to crumble.

The roof is gone, and the walls are starting to crumble.

Imagine the work of constructing this house in pioneer days.

Imagine the work of constructing this house in pioneer days.