Another opportunity for a road trip. This trip took us towards to Hays to see my niece, Abby, graduate from Ft. Hays State University. Sharing that moment with her and the family was well worth the trip.
Since we were on the road we took advantage of the moment and made a few stops.
Delphos: Grow a Beard, Abe! Monument
This is a weird and cute little monument to a young girl that may have changed U.S. history. An eleven year old girl from Westfield, New York name Grace Bedell, wrote Presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln a letter on October 15th, 1860. She thought he should “let your whiskers grow” adding, “You would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband’s to vote for you and then you would be President….”
Lincoln responded on October 19, 1860.
After some pleasantries the then-Senator responded, “As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affection if I were to begin it now?”
Obviously Lincoln grew the beard and won the election. Lincoln made a stop in Westfield on February 16, 1861 to meet Bedell and show her his new whiskers.
So what does this have to do with Delphos, KS?
Well, Bedell married a civil war veteran named George Newton Billings when she was 17 years old. They moved to Delphos. Bedell-Billings and her family lived there until her death on November 2, 1936.
In 1966, Delphos decided to honor their local star with a monument.
The monument is dedicated to Bedell and has bronze reproductions of her letter to Lincoln and his reply to her.
Interesting side note: Westfield, NY did not create a monument until 1999. Way to go Kansas!
The original letter is in a collection at the Detroit Public Library. The original pen can be found at the Delphos Museum, which was closed, or we would have stopped in to see it.
Beloit: Welcome Sign
My dear friend Laura is from Beloit, Kansas so the last time I was here I took a picture at their welcome sign. Jeremy and I decided to send her a WYWH pic.
Cawker City: The World’s Largest Ball of Twine
I love this place. Talk about a town that stepped up to make their claim to fame. I also need to somehow tie this into my favorite Weird Al Yankovic song, “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota.”
The story goes that Kansas farmer Frank Stoeber got tired of the twine in his barn. On Christmas Eve, 1953, he started to roll it into a ball. By 1956 the ball was over seven feet tall. Talk about dedication.
Frank decided to move the ball into town for the 1961 Cawker City Centennial Parade. It was a hit. The city put it on a concrete slab next to Highway 24. Stoever died in 1974, and the city kept the site going. They added an open-air gazebo to protect it from the elements.
If you time it just right, you might be asked to add twine to the ball and take your place in Kansas history. I happened to time it just right and was allowed to add a few feet of twine to the ball.
A gentleman from New Jersey was also there. He has a YouTube channel called @ForgottenUSA. You might want to check it out. He does some cool stuff.
Cawker City: Eyegore’s Odditorium and Monster Museum
Our trip was on a Friday so I was afraid we would not get to see this modern roadside attraction. Turns out the owner, Matt, is a teacher, and he’s out of school, so Eyegore’s Odditorium and Monster Museum was open. It’s worth a stop, Matt has some really unique items and a hundred stories to tell.
Including the story of how a man and woman from Virginia ended up in Cawker City, KS. It’s a great story to tell, and it’s their story, so you will have to get the details from them.
The store features a number of taxidermized animals, random monsters including a vampire chicken and a lot of bigfoot paraphernalia.
The store’s mascot is the alien finger puppet. Matt wants to raise the money to build the world’s largest alien finger puppet. When he is ready to open we will be there!
Lebanon: Geographic Center of the U.S.A.
In 1918, a scientific survey established the geographic center of the 48 contiguous US states about 2.6 miles northwest of Lebanon, and a monument was put up to mark the spot for tourist.
Interesting Side Note: The geographic center of all 50 US states is located near Belle Fourche, South Dakota.
This is a small park with a tiny church known as the “U.S. Center Chapel.” It seats about 6 or 8 people. There was a bible on the podium so you could read a verse or take a moment for prayer. Apparently, it is also a popular place to get married.
The star attraction at this stop is the seven foot tall rock monument denoting the center of America. A flag pole tops the rocks with tattered U.S. and Kansas flags. A plaque on the monument shows it was dedicated on April 25, 1940 by the Lebanon Hub Club.
Athol: Home on the Range
Our next stop was one that I have wanted to visit for a long time. In the little town of Athol, KS you will find one of the most famous cabins in the world. It is literally the “Home on the Range.” I felt like this story needed a little more attention so you can check it out here. Athol: Home on the Range Cabin.
Hays: Boot Hill Cemetery
I know when you hear the name Boot Hill, you think about Dodge City and their famous hill.
But the Hays City Boot Hill was the original. In fact, it was the oldest cemetery west of the Mississippi. Most historians believe there were around 80 graves. The first burial took place on November 5, 1867.
Unlike Boot Hill, most early deaths were from natural causes or accidents. Over time, Boot Hill did start getting victims of shootouts and other western crimes. The last burial was on November 9, 1874. As the city grew, the Boot Hill bodies were moved to Mt. Allen Cemetery.
The original cemetery at 18th and Fort is marked by “The Homesteader,” a statue by local artist Pete Felten. Felton is still alive and you can check him out at https://www.facebook.com/PeteFeltenBruceBurkholder/
As I mentioned before the first burial at the Hays Boot Hill was in 1867, The town of Dodge City was not founded until 1872.
Hays: Elizabeth Polly Park
While we were in Hays for my niece’s graduation. I was running through the list of sites we were seeing on our trip. My sister asked if we were going to visit the Blue Lady. I had never heard of it, but my sister gave me a brief history about a statue on top of a hill dedicated to the woman’s spirit, often seen as a blue light. We tracked down the park and made a visit on the way out of town.
This is Elizabeth Polly Park. It has a statue of Elizabeth who was a nurse at the Fort Hays Hospital. She and her husband worked there during the cholera outbreak of 1867. She was known as the nurse that would give comfort to dying soldiers in the final hours. Tradition says the couple lost two sons to cholera.
In the evenings Elizabeth would walk what is now known as Sentinel Hill to relax. In 1867, Elizabeth died from the disease, and her ghost can still be seen walking the area. Most stories claim she wears blue or carries a blue lantern.
In 1967, the town put up a memorial on the hill to honor her. The park and this statue we visited were created in 1982. I did not realize there were two statues until we got back to Wichita.
Victoria: Grave of George Grant
The name George Grant might not catch your attention, but his legacy is worth noting. Especially if you like a good hamburger or steak.
Grant was born in Scotland in 1822. He was a well-known silk merchant in London. He moved to America and founded the town of Victoria. In 1873 Grant imported four Black Aberdeen Angus bulls from Scotland to Victoria… the first Angus cattle in the U.S. My mouth is watering just thinking of the ribeyes cooking on the grill.
Grant died on April 28, 1878 and he was buried in the town he founded.
Near his grave is a monument dedicated to the first Aberdeen Angus cows in America.
In 1973, the Aberdeen Angus Breeders Association added the Angus bull to the top of the monument.
I was surprised at how big the whole memorial to Grant was in person, but yet the Angus bull was pretty small on top of it.
Grant’s story is unique and if you would like to know more, click here. https://legendsofkansas.com/victoria-kansas/
Victoria: Train Massacre Cemetery
The cemetery contains a memorial dedicated to the Railroad Workers killed during an Indian raid.
It happened on August 1, 1867. Six unarmed employees of Union Pacific were attacked by a band of Cheyenne Indians. A seventh man, named William Gould was buried at Fort Hays. He survived that attack, but did not survive for long.
The gravesite is surrounded by a metal pipe fence but you can still get into the graveyard. The monuments are pretty worn down, but they still stand. Below is a list of the six men killed in the attack.
R. S. Ashley, Foreman (Wisconsin)
Thomas Carney (Iowa)
John Harrington (Kansas City)
Hugh McDonaugh (Denver)
Pat Rafferty (Kansas City)
Charles Watson (Canada)
Wilson: World’s Largest Czech Egg
Jeremy and I knew we had to stop at Wilson’s most popular attraction. We knew it would be an egg-cellent place to go. I also loved the story so much I gave it its own page: Wilson, KS: World’s Largest Czech Egg.