Pulling Away from the Pack

When I see a list of the most frequently read blog entries on this site I sometimes find myself wondering, why that one?  

The leader of the pack used to be “Evil Incarnate,” the story of a railroad lawyer turned politician, real-estate investor, and banker.  You know, the sort of villain the Lone Ranger seemed to battle every other week on the old TV show.  There being no actual Lone Ranger to sort things out, Thomas Lovewell sued the banker on behalf of a long roster of local citizens and the M. E. Church of Lovewell.  When the target of the suit suddenly died, Thomas sued his widow.  That blog post was a sequel to “Everybody v. Everest,” which also includes a glorified engraving of the subject.

The same villain still rides high on the charts in “Anything But Gay,” which has nothing to do with what you’re thinking.  It’s a laundry list of horror stories that gives the lie to the term “Gay Nineties,” a sobriquet which was popularized by a writer in the 1920’s who looked back through rose-colored glasses on the era of his youth. 

Watching “The Battle of Whiskey Hills” come from behind to challenge “Anything But Gay,” I had to remind myself what that one was about.  It turned out to be the story of a pitched battle which never actually took place between Cheyenne Dog Warriors and a local militia.  The two groups wandered all over Jewell and Republic counties in May of 1869, fortunately, without ever bumping into each other.  

There was much scattered bloodshed that year, as well as a nervous standoff between Tall Bull’s warriors and Excelsior Colonists huddled inside their makeshift fort east of modern-day Burr Oak, but no head-on collision.  The title of the piece is drawn from the Burt Lancaster comedy, The Hallelujah Trail, where rival forces lose sight of one another in a sandstorm and thus are never able to engage in what otherwise would have been an epic and long-remembered battle.

The Bible, The Beatles, and The Board of Trade,” may have the most misleading title, being a story about the names given to Wyoming mining claims in the early 1900’s.  However, after you’ve read it, you’ll realize why it couldn’t be called anything else.  By the way, it has nothing to do with “Board of Trade Bloodbath,” another popular entry about an Army unit composed of lads from Chicago which took extraordinarily heavy losses at Vicksburg.

A current favorite is “Plug Hats and Puncheons” about that unfortunate Kansas pioneer Gordon Winbigler, whose story cannot be told without using two archaic or at least unfamiliar terms.  Once you see how smart a plug hat looks, you might understand why Gordon foolishly risked his life for one.  Although there are two headstones for Gordon in Republic County, one on the prairie where he died and another in a proper cemetery near Republic, it does appear that his mortal remains did make one final trip to the family plot at Monmouth, Illinois, in 1955.

An entry called “Nobody Knows the Lovells I’ve Seen” holds the record for keeping a grip on readers.  I try to write blog entries that can be read in two minutes, tops.  The average length of time readers dwell on “Nobody Knows…” is five minutes.  That’s averaging in viewers who take one look and then click away, of which there must be several.  This thing has been studied.  

It only exits because a few years back I finally decided to determine whether the Lovells, Lovewells and Lowells are and always have been distinct American families.  They certainly were at the beginning, when the muster rolls from King Philip’s War includes one “John” from each family in separate fighting units.  That blog post has been quoted in its entirety on a Lowell family website.  I couldn’t be prouder.

Thomas Lovewell’s granddaughter Rhoda advised me a few weeks ago, however, that she has run across Lovewell descendants who moved to Canada, got tired of correcting folks who rendered the name as “Lovell” and just decided to roll with it.  They’re all Lovells now.  So it does happen.

© Dale Switzer 2023  dale@lovewellhistory.com