Lives Briefly Noted

A few weeks ago Phil Thornton emailed a clipping from a Wyoming newspaper that I hadn't remembered seeing before, concerning Thomas Lovewell’s 1907 prospecting jaunt to that state. Although brief, the news item contains a couple of new details:  We learn that the one-way trip from Jewell County to Laramie had taken 18 days by wagon, and the old prospector’s companion on the journey was not one of the family members who usually made the trip with him, but a 30-year-old bachelor from the Lovewell area named Thomas Hunter.

Thomas Ambrose Hunter was born December 13, 1876 in Sinclair Township, where his father, Thomas Johnson Hunter, was one of the first constables.  The family had come to Kansas from Iowa in 1870, staking a claim in Jewell County the following year.  We know which of the two Thomas Hunters made the trek to Wyoming with Thomas Lovewell because of a news item from the Concordia paper.  

The elder Thomas Hunter and his wife eventually moved to Concordia where their son dropped in to announce that he would spend the summer of 1907 digging up patches of southeastern Wyoming with the area’s best-known pioneer.  It was a trip that is otherwise remembered chiefly for the alarming news received by Orel Jane Lovewell that her husband was sick in the far-off mountains of Wyoming.  Thomas Lovewell and Thomas Hunter would roll back into Jewell County safe and sound on September 18.

The next year it evidently seemed prudent to send one of Thomas Lovewell’s sons to accompany the old man on what may have been a farewell tour of his mining claims.  However, since Thomas confided to an editor that year, he was getting too old to be spending weeks bouncing about in a wagon and would henceforth stick to railway travel, Wyoming might not have seen the very last of him yet.

Two years after his Wyoming adventure with an elderly and ailing host, Thomas Ambrose Hunter married a dressmaker and clerk from Concordia named Rose Sterling, who was nearly a decade older than her husband.  The pair made a visit to Lovewell before heading West to start their life together in Goodland, where Thomas was a fireman for the railroad.  Of course, the job of a railroad fireman was to keep a fire going instead of putting one out, and involved shoveling  fuel fast enough to maintain the necessary head of steam.

Thomas Hunter’s name appeared infrequently in newsprint, but from the few scraps available it seems that the Hunters adopted two children in Goodland and that Rose was frequently ill.  The family moved to San Francisco hoping that the climate would agree with her.  She died there in 1930.

Rose was close to her younger sister Nelle, who lived in Colorado Springs.  Nelle frequently stayed with Rose in Concordia, and was visiting her sister in Goodland in 1910 when the census-taker stopped by.  One of the questions on the form involved the number of years the Hunters had been married.  Rose seems to have written a “1” before realizing that the question was about completed years of marriage, and corrected the answer to “0.”

While there are no known pictures of the Hunters, Thomas’s draft registration card describes him at forty-two as tall and slender with blue eyes and gray hair.  As for Rose, there is a nice tribute to her character in a description of the couple’s wedding.

The bride is a young lady favorably known in this city.  For a couple of years she has been cashier at the Scott department store and in her work there she made many friends.

While going through pages of newsprint I kept finding ads for entertainments offered in Concordia, Kansas, around the time of the couple’s wedding.  I found it interesting that movies were already being projected every week in local theaters, interspersed with live acts.  The pictures couldn’t talk yet, but there was a guy who would get up and talk afterward, and maybe sing and dance.

It’s also notable that instead of listing running times for the films, they advertised the size of the reels.  It took me a moment to realize why this made sense.  How long the picture lasted depended entirely on how fast somebody cranked it through the machine.  

Could be a lesson in there somewhere.  

© Dale Switzer 2023