Sepia Saturday – Musical Notes from Luray, Kansas

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. 

Last week I spent hours searching “webber” in old newspapers in and around Luray, Kansas. I was looking for information about my 2nd great-grandfather Norman Webber, prompted by last week’s farming theme for Sepia Saturday. It was fun learning little bits and pieces about my gggrandfather Webber and I was able to flesh out a bit of his life as a farmer.

Not every hit of the name Webber was a tidbit about my Norman, of course, and the vast majority of results in the 1880s were advertisements in the Luray newspaper for Tate and Webber, a dry goods store. I had heard or read family information stating that Norman owned a store and Tate is the surname of Norman’s mother, Elizabeth Isabelle Tate. I assumed a family connection to the Tate who was co-owner of the business and that the Webber in the name was Norman.

But then I found a notice stating that James Webber, not Norman, was in business with Tate.

Luray Headlight, 18 Oct 1888

So I learned that Norman’s brother James also lived in Luray – and that James was co-owner of Tate and Webber grocery and dry goods store.

Before I realized that James also lived in Luray, I assumed that the mention below was about my gggrandfather Norman.

Luray Headlight, 20 Oct 1887

At a later date, a first name is attached to a Webber with a violin.

Luray Headlight, 7 Mar 1889

So I decided the first mention of Webber with a violin was probably the same as the second mention of a Webber with a fiddle – and that was James. Of course, Norman may have also played fiddle, but I never found mention of it in the newspapers I read.

Jim must have enjoyed singing too, as he sang in the church choir.

Luray Headlight, 28 Feb 1889

That sounds like a pretty small choir. Maybe the editor didn’t attend the church program and just didn’t make much of an effort to find out who else participated.

As more and more returns for advertisements for the store came up in my search results – several in every weekly edition, it made sense that Jim probably made weekly visits to the newspaper office. More, if he just liked to drop in and shoot the breeze. And the occasional and sometimes silly references to J.T. (Jim) Webber in the paper makes that seem entirely plausible. I may dedicate a post one day just to the amusing bits about Jim that appeared in the paper.

Perhaps Jim fancied himself a music critic and a comedian.

Luray Headlight, 7 Mar 1889

The Luray Cornet Band did not go to the inauguration of Benjamin Harrison, but at least two bands with Kansas connections did: Marshall’s Band of Topeka and the Dodge City Cowboy Band.

Marshall’s Band, Topeka, KS 1895-1915

1913 Dodge City Cowboy Band

The Luray Band may have been overlooked for this honor, but Jim Webber had high praise for the men… If rattling the shingles and making a box of cigars leap for joy is high praise.

Unfortunately, I could not find a photo of the Luray Cornet Band, but I found several references to them in the newspaper. The citizens of Luray must have been very supportive of the band.

Luray Headlight, 3 May 1888

Luray Headlight, 30 May 1889

Sometimes the band members received other perks.

Luray Headlight, 21 June 1888

And they were always appreciative.

Luray Headlight, 13 Sep 1888

The newspaper often gave a little boost to the band by stating how rapidly they were improving and how the town could rightly be proud of them: “harmony prevails among the boys to its fullest extent, and each one is trying to do his part well. The town has reason to be proud of its band.” 

The Luray Cornet Band played at all of the patriotic celebrations.

Luray Headlight, 28 Jun 1888

Callithumpian is a new word for me! The Oxford online dictionary defines callithumpian as: US informal and regional (originally north-east.). Designating a group of people making cacophonous music or noise using a variety of instruments, utensils, etc., as a demonstration of a general feeling of celebration, dissatisfaction, etc.; of or relating to such a band or its music. Frequently in “callithumpian band”, “callithumpian serenade”. Now historical.

So I guess it was really noisy!

Luray Headlight, 27 May, 1910

As active participants in civic and social life in their community, I imagine my ancestors fully participating in these events. Maybe my gggrandmother was one of the “ladies of Luray” who helped prepare and serve food for the band fundraisers. Surely Norman’s and Jim’s families attended the July 4th and Memorial Day celebrations.

No one in my family has ever seen a photo of James Webber. And no one remembers hearing Norman’s son talk about the musical interests of his father or uncle. I just heard from a cousin that there is a photo of Norman’s son, Myron David Webber playing the fiddle. Perhaps he learned from his Uncle Jim – or maybe Norman also played. (When I get a copy of that photo, I’ll add it here.)

I’ll leave you this bit of wisdom:

Luray Headlight, 9 Aug 1888

Now it is time to march on over to Sepia Saturday and see what music others have created with today’s prompt.

Sepia Saturday – Farming and Fences in Kansas

Sepia Saturday Theme Image 424 – June 2018

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs

This week’s prompt image is of farm workers in East Yorkshire – a threshing team?

There are quite a few farmers in my family tree, but not a lot of pictures of them about the business of farming. I do have one photo of an ancestor that I don’t know much about, so I’ve taken the past few days to get to know him a little better.

Norman Webber

The farming ancestor in question is Norman Webber, my 2nd great-grandfather. Norman Webber was born in 1848 in Westfield, Pennsylvania, the eldest of five children born to David Norman Webber and Elizabeth Isabelle Tate. Norman’s father died in 1856 at the age of thirty, when Norman was about eight years old. The 1860 U.S. Census shows Isabelle and the children living on the family farm and Isabelle’s brother, James H. Tate, living with the family and working the farm.

I can imagine that as the eldest child and eldest son, Norman had many responsibilities at a young age. As a single parent with five young children – one still a baby, Isabelle must have relied on Norman to help with his younger siblings, with household chores, and to help his uncle with the farm work.

Below is the photograph of Norman Webber on a farm.

My questions about this photograph were:
* where and when was this taken?
* what kind of farm implement is that?
* what is up with the stone posts?

Charlotte Augusta Embree

Norman Webber moved to Iowa in 1868 and married Charlotte Augusta Embree there in 1872. Norman and Lottie moved to Luray, Russell County, Kansas probably in 1887. Sometime prior to the enumeration of the 1900 Federal Census, Norman and his family relocated to Lincoln County, Kansas, which is adjacent to Russell County on the eastern border. Several years later they returned to Luray. I think I can safely assume that this picture was taken in north central Kansas.

I found a few newspaper items that tell a little bit about Norman and his farming experiences.

This unfortunate incident occurred in early 1901 while Norman was farming in Lincoln County, near Sylvan Grove.

The Lincoln Republican, 7 Feb 1901

Here are a few pictures of corn shellers. Interestingly, Norman’s daughter Maude married Clyde Peck about six years after this accident.

Other items in the newspaper note that Norman sold some corn to a Mr. Wilson of Pottersburg in January of 1903 and that his son Bert (Norman had a son named Bert) “is seen daily transporting the same.” He “has no wheat out” (does this mean he didn’t plant any?) in May of 1903, and had put up his alfalfa hay over two days in October of 1906.

Norman suffered some minor injuries in 1907 that laid him up for a few days.

The Lincoln Sentinel, 3 Jan 1907

Another notice in the paper provides an approximate time of the move back to Luray.

The Luray Herald, 11 Sept. 1908

The above news item sounds like it refers to a residence in town rather than a farm. Norman was 60 in 1908, so it makes sense that he might have retired from farming when he moved back to Luray. The long white beard that Norman sported in the farm photo probably belies a man in his 50s or 60s.

Lincoln County or Russell County? I’m not sure, but I’m leaning toward Lincoln.

What kind of farm implement is that? It is a little hard to tell from the angle of the photo, but I think it is a “hay rake” or “dump rake.” The photo below is from the Queensland (Australia) State Library and the farm implement looks very similar to the one in the photo of Norman.
The caption reads: Horsedrawn hay rake used by a Queensland farmer, 1905. Script on back of photograph reads: Father and brother William taken in 1905′. The photograph features a spring tyne hay rake pulled by one horse.

The Wikipedia description of a hay rake:
The typical early horse-drawn hay rake was a dump rake, a wide two-wheeled implement with curved steel or iron teeth usually operated from a seat mounted over the rake with a lever-operated lifting mechanism. This rake gathered cut hay into windrows by repeated operation perpendicular to the windrow, requiring the operator to raise the rake, turn around and drop the teeth to rake back and forth in order to form the windrow. In some areas, a sweep rake, which could also be a horse-drawn or tractor-mounted implement, could then be used to pick up the windrowed hay and load it onto a wagon.

You can get a visual of the windrow-making process here. The final step was gathering the windrows and either making a haystack or hauling the hay to a barn.

What about those stone posts that dot the photograph of Norman? I’ve learned that north central Kansas is famous for those limestone fence posts. There were no trees on that prairie to use for fence posts, but there was easily accessed limestone just below the surface. Limestone fence posts stood up to prairie winds and fires and, with the invention and use of barbed wire, they also withstood herds of cattle.

Rock quarry, Russell Co., KS 1911

The limestone was soft enough to shape, but hardened with exposure to the air and only a few tools were required to make the posts. They were quite heavy though – each 5-6 foot post weighed about 350-400 pounds.

Today, one can visit the Post Rock Museum in LaCrosse, KS, and follow the Post Rock Scenic Byway through Ellsworth, Russell, and Lincoln counties. If you would like to purchase a post rock, they run about $150.

The limestone posts of north central Kansas have inspired artists, photographers, and poets. One descendent of a Kansas farmer wrote and recorded his poem “Fence Posts made of Stone” by Al “Doc” Mehl. 

And artist Fred Whitman creates sculptures from old post rocks. They are beautiful.

I’ve spent a lot of time with old newspapers and Great-grandfather Webber this week. I’m sure there will be more posts about him in the future.

It’s time to “make hay” and visit other participants at Sepia Saturday.

So when it seems I’ve had a hard day,
As I haul myself back home,
Well, I just imagine Grandpa
Settin’ fence posts…made of stone.
~ Al “Doc” Mehl