Getting Out of Dodge

My first inkling that Adaline Lovewell may have died of consumption came with a tiny news item in a February 1895 edition of her hometown paper, the Dodge City Globe-Republican.  “Miss Mary Lovewell, of Lovewell, Kas., arrived in the city Saturday, and will permanently reside with her sister, Mrs. T. C. Smith.” 

Mrs. T. C. Smith was, of course, Thomas Lovewell’s daughter Adaline or “Addie,” who was born August 16, 1872, and would die in 1903 at the age of 30.  According to Lovewell family history it was Thomas’s eldest daughter Juliana, known posthumously as “Julany,” who died of consumption.  After finding two contemporary sources, Juliana’s obituary and the pension testimony of Orel Jane Lovewell, both attributing Juliana’s death in May 1894 to cancer, I began to wonder if some details about these two daughters, who both died in their third decade of life, had become intertwined.

As early as 1892, Orel Jane Lovewell was called away from her own husband’s sickbed to care for the ailing Adaline, but that was when Addie and her new husband were living nearby in what was still being called “Lovewell Station.”  Thomas C. Smith, the station’s first telegrapher and depot agent, had married Adaline at her parents’ home in Lovewell in 1889, when he was about 23 and his bride was 17.  Within a few years Smith relocated his family to Dodge City where he served as depot agent for the Rock Island Railroad, and, after 1894, both depot agent and telegrapher, assisted by his younger brother.  

Young Mary Portrait

The fact that 14-year-old Mary Lovewell (pictured here around that age) was expected to board a train and travel 250 miles to live with her sister “permanently” suggested to me that in 1895 Addie may have suffered a relapse of some chronic illness such as consumption.  If she did, the patient evidently rallied by June, when she was well enough to travel to Lovewell for a visit with her parents.  There seemed to be no reason for Mary to remain in Dodge, freeing the young woman to return home to be courted by Ben Stofer, whom she would wed the following year, a few months before her 16th birthday.  Anyway, that’s one explanation for the comings and goings around Dodge City in 1895.

In her brand-new updating of the Lovewell family saga, family historian Rhoda Lovewell reveals that my hunch about Adaline’s condition may be correct.  A persistent story among Adaline’s descendants supports the idea that she was in fact the consumptive daughter in the Lovewell family.  However, even if my conclusion was on target, I may have missed the mark with my interpretation of the clues.  For instance, was there trouble in the Smith marriage or something even less sinister?   Did Addie have a baby in 1895, and just needed a helping hand from her little sister?  

It turns out that both of Addie’s children were born early in the marriage.  The first of them, in fact, arrived a tad too early.  Little Wynetta Smith was born slightly more than 7 months after the new railway station agent and Thomas Lovewell’s daughter exchanged their wedding vows in her parents' parlor.  

Their hasty marriage may have been the first skittering pebble of what turned into an avalanche of bad news for Adaline’s family.  The rumbling really got underway when the following news item appeared in the Globe Republican on November 14, 1895.

T. C. Smith’s Case.

T. C. Smith, late agent for the Rock Island railroad, at this place, was arrested by Sheriff Beeson, in Kansas City, Friday last, and arrived here Saturday evening.  A warrant had been sworn out before Justice Swan, by A. T. Lawrence, representing the American Surety Company, which company bonded Smith for $2,000.  The complaint charges embezzlement.  The company charges an embezzlement of $537.60 from the railroad.  There is a shortage charged by the U. S. express company, who also employed Smith; and his bond is held by the Fidelity Deposits Company.

Smith was brought before Justice Swan on Tuesday, for a preliminary hearing, but the trial was postponed until the 26th, to give Smith a chance to make the shortage good.  The bond companies are not disposed to prosecute if this is done.  He is under $600 bond.

J. M. Kirkpatrick, county attorney, is for the prosecuting and Ed. H. Madison for the defense.

The Rock Island company regarded T. C. Smith as one of the best agents on its road; and he had secured considerable business for the road through his efforts.

Smith claims there is a rebate due him on account of business procured, which would materially lessen the amount claimed due from him.

Smith has many friends in the city who regret his unfortunate condition.

Convicted of embezzlement the following summer, Smith and his lawyers fought the verdict all the way to the Kansas Supreme Court, which upheld the judgment against him in January 1897.  Thomas C. Smith was sentenced to two years in the penitentiary.  As he was being hauled off to Lansing, his local paper opined, “There is a good deal of sympathy for Smith, and it is reported that his good conduct will lessen his term of imprisonment.”  

I was tempted to imagine  Thomas Smith being so desperate for cash to pay his wife’s medical bills that he began pocketing railway funds, until I remembered running across a small item appearing in exactly one Republic County newspaper a few years back.  It was the May 2, 1890, edition of the Republic City News that carried the ominous nugget:  "The station agent at Lovewell absconded with about $300 of the funds of the railroad company.”

Did Thomas Lovewell manage to keep his son-in-law out of jail once before, while corralling news reports about the young man’s misdeeds?  Or was some other depot agent involved in the business at Lovewell Station in 1890?  It sounds like something worth looking into.*

There was no reining in the press after Smith was apprehended in Kansas City in 1895.  The story, recounted briefly but in breathless prose, appeared in newspapers across Kansas, including the Belleville Telescope.

Ruined financially, disgraced and in a fair way to serve a term in the penitentiary at the age of 28 years, is the plight of T. C. Smith, a married man and father of two children.  He looked upon the wine when it was red, consorted with loose women and gamboled on the green with $950 of the money of the American Express Company and the Rock Island railroad.  Smith, up to two weeks ago, was the trusted agent for these companies at Dodge City, Kan., and his honesty was guaranteed by the American Security Company, who will have to make good his peculations.  He was taken to Dodge City last night.

Rhoda’s new book details Smith’s real estate transactions in the late 1890’s as he converted his holdings in Lovewell and Dodge City into much-needed cash for paying lawyers and, perhaps, his wife’s doctors, while also buying a 160-acre out-of-the-way tract in Nemaha County called “Burr Oak Farm.”  He apparently hoped to move his family there in 1898 after getting out of Dodge the hard way, via Lansing.

* Smith was evidently not the culprit in 1890, nor did Thomas Lovewell have anything to do with burying the story.  See “Slipping Through the Cracks"

Photograph of Mary Lovewell provided by Ashley Gresham (no photos were available of Adaline or Thomas Smith)

© Dale Switzer 2023