Jewels from the Vault

It occurred to me after finishing a February blog posting, that tying up loose ends in some ongoing investigations would require a fresh look at a vintage batch of Jewell County newspapers.

Thomas Lovewell may have brought his family only four miles west in the late 1880’s but the move took him into a new political jurisdiction.  Since 1866 he had lived at the extreme west edge of Republic County.  Relocating to Sinclair Township at the eastern end of Jewell County meant that for all pertinent legal affairs, land transfers, payment of taxes, matrimony, and arrest and trial, the bullseye had moved 32 miles from Belleville to Mankato.

Luckily, for years now Republic County newspapers have been freely available online through the Belleville Public Library.  Combing through these issues lately has been even easier at with its more accurate character-recognition algorithms and swift search engine.  Jewell County archives have not received the same treatment.

Thus, three months ago I filled out an interlibrary loan request at my local public library for a few reels of microfilm from the Kansas Center for Historical Research, and waited patiently for a response.  Six weeks later the librarian contacted me to apologize.  During a computer upgrade my message had floundered in a pile of binary debris, bobbing to the surface only recently.  Did I still want her to ask for the microfilm?  Yes, please, I replied.  

More weeks passed before she wrote to inform me that my request had been denied without explanation.  Puzzled, she shot off another email pressing the archive in Topeka for details.  Those particular reels turned out to be part of their holdings which recently had been shipped off to to be digitized.  There was no word on how long this process would take or when the reels might be back in circulation.  I also learned that at least some of those microfilm reels were one-of-a-kind.  If any were lost in transit, a little slice of Kansas history would go down the road to oblivion with them.

Fortunately, everything seemed to turn out fine.  A few days ago I navigated over to and found scads of sample front pages sporting brilliant emerald banners proclaiming them as new, including both incarnations of the Lovewell Index.  There were also papers from Omio, Formoso, Mankato, and the town which was then called Jewell City.

Within minutes of study I was rewarded with the answer to a burning question concerning a young man named James Manning, who in 1900 had been a fugitive from justice.  Manning, you may recall, was charged with the attempted murder of Jake Stofer as the latter waited for a train at Lovewell one evening in 1899 (see "Hits and Missus").  Manning fled the county that night and remained at large for over a year until the Jewell County Sheriff tracked him down in Colorado, where he was immediately arrested and held for extradition.  Sheriff Myerly was preparing to head to Colorado carrying a set of shackles when the smattering of newspapers formerly available to me seemed to lose interest in the story.  I would have to wait to see details of the case spill out from Jewell County newspapers.

Last February I speculated that Jake Stofer might have had a change of heart, withdrawing his complaint after the birth of Manning’s daughter Mary.  I was on the right track, but never guessed who had actually barred Manning’s prosecution, or the utterly petty motive for doing so.  An item in the July 20, 1900, Jewell County Republican gives the denouement of the story, one which must have lacked sufficient drama to be considered newsworthy by any paper outside Jewell County.

Myerly did a good job of trailing the man and finally located him in Colorado, and he had a right to feel a little hot when, after locating Manning, getting him under arrest, securing a requisition from Gov. Stanley, he went to Denver this week and the governor of Colorado refused to honor the requisition and turned Manning loose.  The reasons given for denying the requisition were that Manning was working out there, had a family to support and if he were brought back here the people of Colorado would be obliged to care for the family.

The state saved its money, Manning remained in Colorado for the time being, and everyone seemed to forget about the incident with the brick, except perhaps for Jake Stofer whenever the weather changed.  Another question I hoped the papers could answer was whether the James Manning who hurled the brick and ran, was indeed the same one who had married Thomas Lovewell’s youngest daughter Diantha a few weeks before the beaning incident.  That question did seem to be settled indirectly by another piece of Jewell County news.

While looking into whether there was only one James Manning or two living in Sinclair Township, I had been surprised to learn that the 1895 census reported none at all.  This turns out to make sense, because, according to the August 15, 1894, Jewell County Monitor, the James Manning who would cosh Jake Stofer a few year later, was cooling his heels in Lansing when the census was taken, while serving an 18-month stretch for grand larceny.

Two young men named James Manning and John Paugh drove 10 head of cattle to Jewell City last Thursday and attempted to sell them to Pat Fay.  Fay’s suspicions were aroused and he called on them for references.  They gave the names of Hirsch & Hill, of Formoso, but before this firm could be heard from the thieves became alarmed and skipped the town.  A little later a man named Robison, of Sinclair township, arrived and claimed the cattle, having tracked them from his pasture.

The thieves had been sloppy rustlers, taking 14 cattle and losing four of them along the way.  The cattle’s owner had a relatively easy time tracking his property along the 20-mile trail to Jewell, spotting a wandering stray every few miles.   Although James Manning and John Paugh both pleaded guilty to the charge of stealing cattle, a third defendant in the case was acquitted despite being identified as their accomplice by Manning and Paugh.  That third man was Jake Stofer.  The jury found Stofer not guilty because of a complete lack of any corroborating evidence against him.

It’s also interesting to note the identity of the thieves’ victim.  There were two men named John Robinson (or Robison) in Sinclair township in 1894, and both of them had ties to Thomas Lovewell.  Lovewell’s late daughter Julia had been married to one of the John Robinsons (or at least had a child with him), and the other, a local farmer and thus the likeliest candidate, was Thomas Lovewell’s nephew, who had spent part of his youth in the Lovewell household, earning his keep as a farm hand.

Marrying 26-year-old James Manning, an ex-con who had stolen cattle from her own cousin, may have been an act of open rebellion for Diantha Lovewell.  She and her sweetheart crossed the border into Nebraska to be married in Superior where they were less well-known, perhaps because Diantha was not 18 years old, as her marriage license states.  Not only hadn’t she reached the age to wed without her parents’ consent, today she would not be permitted to marry at all.  Born September 27, 1883, Diantha came before Probate Judge William Poebler on March 7, 1899, arm in arm with that irresistible bad boy James Manning, at the tender age of 15.

As I wrote last February, the couple seemed to spend the next several years dodging Kansas lawmen.  Whenever Diantha returned to Sinclair Township to see her parents, once spending a whole winter with them, local newspapers reporting on her visits never failed to point out that her husband was tending to business elsewhere, as if warning off process servers or Stofer menfolk looking to settle a score.  Strained from the beginning, the pair’s marriage had fallen apart completely by 1920, when the census finds them living separately in Wyoming, where both would remarry.

While I was at it, the abundance of new sources quickly cleared up a family mystery that haunted the late Dave Lovewell for years.  It can wait a few days longer.  

© Dale Switzer 2023