Uncorking Another Bottle

It’s a season when we expect to see a year-end wrap-up of every other facet of modern culture - movies, music, books, politics - so why not tie up a year’s worth of family history into a neat little bundle as well?

My first impuse was to write that it’s been a fallow year, but that was before I reviewed the postings for the past twelve months.  Although I wrote only about thirty blog entries in 2018, at the very end of last year Kathy Knight managed to conjure a photograph of her grandmother, soprano Marguerite Lovewell, in her costume for “The Moon Maiden,” an American operetta premiering in 1913.  The year was off and running with a collage made from that photo, along with the latest news from Phil Thornton.  

Phil’s searches through newspaper archives and his resulting road trip uncovered more details about the Lovewell family’s excursions in southeast Wyoming in the early 1900’s.  If the family had played their cards right, they could have enjoyed a brush with greatness in the person of President Theodore Roosevelt, who was touring the West in 1903.  Otherwise, the highlight of their adventure had to be a run-in with a box of dynamite which apparently lit itself.  

Late last winter the Kansas Center for Historical Research shipped several crates of microfilm to be scanned by Newspapers.com.  The result is a windfall of information about activities in northern Kansas from the final days of the frontier onward.  Some of the most interesting discoveries this year involved family misfortune.  We’re finally able to attach a cause to the death of Adaline K. (Lovewell) Smith who, it turns out, died of quinsy at the age of 31, while visiting her brother Stephen Lovewell.  

Jewell County newspapers also covered a minor crime spree involving stolen cattle and Lovewell neighbors (and soon-to-be in-laws).  We also found the solution to another crime mystery posed by the late Dave Lovewell some years back, regarding an attempt to rob the Lovewell Post Office.  Dave had stumbled upon a reprint from a newspaper archive indicating that his grandfather, Stephen Lovewell, was accused of the robbery and shipped off to Junction City to stand trial.  This turned out to be not only a case of mistaken identity, but probably an attempt to make a federal case out of a broken pane of glass.  The matter was dropped as soon as defense attorneys showed up.   

Another Lovewell cousin, Jim Dieckman, shared photos of some of the keepsakes from his late mother’s collection of regional memorabilia.  Lillian Dieckman was an antiques dealer whose searches often turned up  advertising materials relating to her former hometown of Formoso, a town which was virtually Lovewell’s twin.  Lying only about seven miles apart, they were both created during a great flourish of railroad building at the end of the 1880’s, each one reaching its zenith in the early decades of the 20th century before slowly dwindling during hard times for Kansas farmers.  The latest additions to albums of images and documents devoted to both towns can be found in the “Photos” section of this site.  The Lovewell album also now includes enhanced copies of Thomas Lovewell’s 1867 letter to Kansas Governor Samuel Crawford.

Despite my own stretches of indolence, Lovewellhistory website has had a banner year in readership, ending on a particularly high note.  While I can generally count on receiving two dozen visits a day (probably as many snooping “bots” as actual people), average daily traffic in November was 81.  In December it fell to 71, although the number of page views for last month hit an all-time high of 5,179.

Most returning visitors enter through the front door; first-timers sometimes arrive here after searching for some surprisingly specific terms.  Multiple users found their way to the site by googling “Daniel Auld stone house at Frankfort, Kansas,” “Battle of Whiskey Hills,” “The Family of Tom Lovewell,” “Scandia, Kansas, William Granstedt,” and my own favorite, “The King demands to know where his Switzers are at one point in this act.  What are Switzers?”

That last query sent three visitors to a blog entry entitled, “Where are my Switzers,” which was viewed 124 times last year.  The most popular offering, “The Other Half,” received 256 views.  This story of Susan Turnbull’s life and loves in Topeka after her exit from the Lovewell saga, might owe its popularity to the sheer number of family names involved, although there’s also a child murder (Susan was a witness).  Second place goes to “Hatchet Job,” a piece concerning the death of a New York prostitute known as Helen Jewett, which was essentially an essay about how the most-studied moments in history tend to be dotted with blood spatters.  As if to prove my point, a runner-up among popular blog posts is “Board of Trade Bloodbath,” the sad tale of the carnage suffered by Christopher Lovewell’s Civil War regiment.  

So there’s a cap on a fifth full year of Lovewellhistory.com.  I’m afraid I don’t see an end in sight.  I just spied a bunch of newly-digitized Kansas papers with tantalizing clues, and Phil Thornton tells me he’s cleaning his gun and shopping for bear spray in advance of getting back to Wyoming one of these days.  

So there’s more to come.

© Dale Switzer 2019  dale@lovewellhistory.com