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Winfield Letter George Gentry

                                                       EARLY WINFIELD.
                                 Letter to Winfield Courier Editor June 2, 1928.
                                          [Description of Winfield circa 1878.]

Another glimpse of early Winfield is told by George G. Gentry in a letter to the Winfield Courier editor, which was published June 2, 1928.
Fifty years ago the past week was the first week I spent in the city, then but a settling of a few stores and homes. I accompanied my parents and several brothers and sisters. We arrived in the city on May 20 after six weeks traveling in an overland Pullman (covered wagon) from Sangamon County, Illinois.
“Go west, young man, and grow up with the country,” was the advice of Horace Greeley to his audiences in his many lectures. My parents decided to follow his advice and start their youngsters right. Of course, they also had thought out the economic advantages and wanted to try for a homestead for our future home. At Fort Scott the head of the house met a man who had been to Winfield and thought it the best place to start expanding and so for Winfield we headed to expand with the town. Our informant believed that railroads would reach Winfield by fall.
His presumption proved true for the Southern Kansas pounded its way into Winfield just 10 days after the Santa Fe in October 1878.
However, we arrived in Winfield by driving our team between the two asylum mounds on which the state oil-fields are now located. From there we drove west to the cemetery and to Third Avenue on which was located Frank Manny’s brewery. The road led west to Schmidt’s greenhouse, then south to Fifth Avenue to the home of the late Dr. Graham, father of Alva and Erney of this city, and west to Main street. Then we were told to go north to the creek and did so, making our camp just east of where the office building of the Rogers nursery now stands. We camped under a black oak tree which is still standing.
The next day we moved into a house located on the lot where the Brettun park now is. The lot which the hotel is standing on was then a corral for roping wild ponies and a livery stable. The spot was also the collecting and distributing point for the town herd of cows and the herd usually consisted of about 80 head. Joe Hudson was manager of the establishment.
On down the street where Noah Davis now has his business of car top repairing was the Rodocker photograph gallery. The hotel was located where Goodman’s store now is and just south of the hotel was a saloon. A livery stable was on the plot where the Calvert-Cheek department store is now and just south of it was Jackson’s bakery and restaurant. In the same block were Wallace’s and Wallace’s grocery, a pool room, and on the corner was Joe Harter’s drug store with the offices of the chief of police and Dr. George Emerson on the second floor.

The White Way café holds the location then occupied by Jim Fakay’s saloon; Fakay also built the house now being remodeled for the Durrin and Swisher funeral home. John McGuire had a grocery store on the corner where the First National bank now stands, and just east on the alley was the shop of Douglass and Wilson, colored barbers. Where King’s confectionary now is was a carpenter and washing machine shop and the proprietors were Jake Crawford, Mr. Gary, and S. S. Gentry. On the corner east was Dr. Mendenhall’s office. His residence was located on the lot occupied by the Courier building recently vacated and if the doctor had a patient or was wanted on a call, said patient pulled the rope at the office door ringing a dinner bell and calling the doctor to his duties.
The first door south of the First National bank building was Joe Sea Kisky’s saloon and 50 feet west of the west side of Main street on West Ninth was the public well. A small white frame building occupied the corner where the Winfield National bank now stands. The original home of the Winfield National Bank occupied the corner across the street from the Brettun Hotel east. The plot occupied by the Shenneman meat market was occupied by a meat market then and has been a meat market owned by various parties since the early days. The Davenport café was then a bakery and restaurant and has been through the years. At the corner where the Wallace store now is was the William hotel or Williams house and was the headquarters of all the stage lines which came from many points. The hotel was in (a) constant war zone for it was the Mecca of all the bootblacks of the town. The rightful owner of said territory being William, or Billy, Farringer, boot polisher. The regular price was five cents but occasions have been known when one boot polished, the bootblack would demand a dime before he would complete the other boot.
The Farringer residence was situated on the lot now occupied by the L. Moore Implement company and was Winfield’s first Conservatory of Music. The well in the jail yard was at that time the Winfield water works. The constable, Ed Nickelson, was engineer and sprinkler, and as the pavement was 8 or 9 inches deep it took constant care. Mr. Nickelson would drive his sprinkler under the filler pipe and then unhitch one of his horses, put on the power and pump the tank of water.
History tells a story of a prisoner who escaped from the jail when sent for water at the well. This well was located just north on the sidewalk going west from the sidewalk to the alley in the court house lawn. By the well was also a coal house for fuel for the court house and jail. The jail was on Ninth avenue due north of the court house and was also the sheriff’s home. The first school house was recently torn down on the old Central grounds. The primary grades were taught in the Alexander Milling company office.
The yard on which the Jarvis-Thompson lumber yard now is was then a lumber yard and has continued such.
I helped cut wheat on land east of Andrews and north of Ninth avenue. A Mr. Thompson owned the land. He was the original owner, and built the present Courier building. We also cut three crops of flax on Southwestern campus which was owned by Dr. Davis, a doctor with Cherokee blood in his veins.
Just north of the fair grounds was Captain Lowery’s corn field and hog pound. The Consolidated Mills (dam) was built of log and a dirt, stone and brush dam was later replaced by the present one (concrete). Fish in trying to get down stream would get stranded in brush and the boy who got up earliest would be sure of a mess of fish if he arrived soon enough.
Year by year the old town has changed but the change has been so gradual that it has not been so pronounced.
                                                   Signed “George G. Gentry.”

RKW obtained the Gentry letter when doing research. MAW

I am not about to correct it as it is priceless, in my opinion.
However, I did notice several things.
Wallace’s and Wallace’s grocery. Believe he meant Wallis Bros.
Jim Fakay’s saloon. Believe he meant Jim Fahey.
Joe Sea Kisky’s saloon. Believe he meant Jo Likowski.


Cowley County Historical Society Museum