Muddled Waters 

A week ago I mentioned being unaware whether Orel Elizabeth Poole had campaigned to have the reservoir along White Rock Creek named after her grandfather.  In an amusing email titled “Things I know and things I think I know,” Dave Lovewell assured me that just because I hadn’t heard about it, doesn't mean it didn’t happen.

I know there was a lot of objection to naming the dam and lake for Thomas Lovewell.  I think I know Orel Poole lobbied Congressman Wint Smith pretty hard to have the lake so named.  She was Republican  district committeewoman at the time and would have probably had no small amount of influence with him, plus I think I know that Wint Smith had taught school east of Webber as a young man so they may have been longtime friends.  

A few years ago I read another version of the story of how the name was arrived at, one apparently told by former Lovewell resident Will Dannefer.  The information arrived in a sheaf of papers from the Western History Manuscript Collection at Columbia, Missouri.  During his career with the National Reclamation Association, Dannefer assigned a group of twenty-six Fort Hays College coeds the task of compiling information about crop losses that had plagued the Central Plains between 1875 and 1939.  Dannefer wanted to show that the enormous cost of creating reservoirs in the middle of the country would be offset by savings from drought and flood relief.  He proudly claimed that most of the dams along Kansas rivers had their genesis with that study. 

According to Will Dannefer, the name of the project in Jewell County was suggested by a remark made by Chief Engineer at the Bureau of Reclamation, Courtney T. Judah, while the pair were climbing the hills near Lovewell, scouting locations for a diversion channel and storage reservoir.

We were standing on the hill side overlooking the present reservoir area, and he said he would have to give it a name to identify it by.  I asked him what was usually the custom in selecting and identifying and he stated, it should be in honor of some pioneer of the area.  Immediately the exploits of Tom Lovewell came to mind.  I recited some of the work he had done in pioneering this area.  Mr. Judah said that would be fine but that he could not use the name without the consent of the person involved or some of his heirs.

As Thomas Lovewell had passed away, I consulted his two sons, Grant and Steve Lovewell, and asked them if they were agreeable to the reservoir and dam named in honor of their father, they both gave their hearty approval...  Years later appropriations were made for the Lovewell Reservoir and Dam.

A memory in Dave Lovewell’s email may put a slightly different spin on the jaunt through the hills described by Dannefer.  "I think I know that I remember my grandfather telling about being with Dannefer and some other men on a tour of the valley in the 1920s looking for an ideal spot to promote as a site to build a dam.”  Dave’s grandfather was Stephen Lovewell, not only the son of pioneer Thomas Lovewell, but a former director of the Lovewell State Bank where Will Dannefer was cashier.  Dannefer was also one of the witnesses listed on Orel Jane Lovewell’s pension application in 1920, a document she probably signed at Dannefer’s bank.  Thomas Lovewell had only recently gone to his reward and Orel Jane was still living when Dannefer first envisioned his irrigation and flood control project.  It would have been odd if he had thought of some other pioneer to nominate for the honor.

The name “Lovewell Lake” did have its detractors.  When the Belleville Telescope conducted a poll to choose a name, “Lake of the White Rocks" submitted by Webber resident Mrs. O. W. Ross, or a variation of that name, racked up 150 votes.  “Lovewell Lake” received eight.  As time for the dedication of the dam approached, many people wondered what it would be called, as if the name already in use was merely a geographical description.  They had a surprise coming.

I’ve used quotation marks when presenting what seem to be Will Dannefer’s words from the manuscript on the building of Lovewell Reservoir, even though there are no quotation marks in the manuscript itself, which turns out to have been written by Mrs. Chet Poole, a.k.a. Orel Elizabeth Poole.  One paragraph in particular may embody Orel Poole’s final thoughts on the matter, especially in light of the Telescope campaign to come up with a more universally acceptable name.

It occurs to me that this will enlighten you as to the selection of the name Lovewell Reservoir and Dam.  It also occurs to me that since the name has been accepted and approved, was given the name for authorization and funds appropriated for the Reservoir and Dam of that name - the name cannot be changed without an act of Congress. 

With her paper “Lake Lovewell,” attributed largely to William Dannefer, Orel Poole may have been wiping her own fingerprints off the naming of Lovewell Lake as well as offering certain Telescope readers a final, “So there!"

© Dale Switzer 2023