Surfing the Influx

We can learn a lot by looking for nothing in particular.  We might not make any earth-shattering discoveries, or find anything remotely useful, but some interesting items often turn up.

I’ve downloaded several census pages, most of them concerning Republic County, Kansas, from (Yes, you can wade through the census without subscribing to a service, but searches can be a chore). After finding the detail I was looking for, or in the case of the 1870 census, after staggering away dazed and confused, I began to comb through the pages with no particular purpose in mind.  That was how I finally uncovered H. Lapier’s first name.  I know - who cares?  Even I’m only mildly interested.  But for those who might want to know, it was Henderson.  Henderson Lapier was one of the two claim-hunters who discovered the only victim of the 1867 Jewell County Massacre who survived his wounds.  In land records, Orel Jane Lovewell’s memoir about the White Rock Massacre, newspaper accounts, even Lapier's own Indian depredation testimony, he is known only as “Lapier,” or at most, “H. Lapier,” as if his first name needed to remain a deep, dark family secret.  

“Henderson Lapier” isn’t such a cumbersome mouthful, although it does suggest old money and sounds like someone who, as a lad, may have gone through a phase of dressing up like Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy,” or Buster Brown.  It makes me wonder what his middle name was.  Humorist Calvin Trillin once commented that most of the trust-fund set he knew at Yale in the fifties seemed to have three last names.  Trillin says he shared the observation with his roommate, Thatcher Baxter Hatcher, who didn’t understand what the fuss was about.  Perhaps it was Henderson Lapier's daughter who finally spilled the beans to the census-taker.  Now if only I could find out what the “M” stands for in “M. Winsor,” James J. Scarbrough’s partner in compiling the 1878 Jewell County history, I could let out a great sigh of contentment.*  Even the census remains silent on the matter.  For a name to be that closely-guarded, it has to be something really embarrassing.

As I scan down the column showing the birthplaces of citizens in western Republic County, I’m always reminded of Harry Wallin’s remark about the great confusion of languages around him that would easily rival the Tower of Babel.  Actually, many of the men and women gathered near Wallin were his fellow New Yorkers, or former neighbors from New Jersey.  Much of the “great influx” to North Central Kansas was homegrown.  A number of the new homesteaders were from Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.  We can even spot one or two who claimed to have been born in Kansas.  Many others did arrive in America from distant shores.

While most of the Scandinavians listed are from Sweden, a few, like Peter Rasmussen, were born in Denmark.  Ole Moa was from Norway, and may have been mistaken once or twice for his neighbor Ole Moe from Sweden.  Albert Schlapback is the only resident I noticed who was from Switzerland, but since I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, I wasn’t keeping a tally.  That would spoil the fun and make it seem more like genuine study or, even worse, work.

* Slightly more than a year later, I let out that sigh.  Mr. Winsor’s Christian name was Mulford.  See “With a Name Like That…"

© Dale Switzer 2023