Working Without a Net

I have tried to write this booklet with as near the facts as I could possibly ascertain through histories of all the early writers such as Winsor and Scarbrough, Andreasen and others.  Also with the able assistance of the deceased historian, Miss Lillian Forrest of Jewell City, Kan.

Much credit goes to my father, Stephen Lovewell, who spent many hours telling and retelling the facts as given to him by his father and mother.  During his illness his mind stayed keen up to the time of his death.

He was concerned about this writing and kept studying over the facts to be sure no fact would be forgotten or lost.  Also from articles written by Mrs. Thomas Lovewell and kept down through the years by Mrs. Mary (Lovewell) Stofer and her daughter, Mrs. Ethyle Dahl.

I have spent many hours in this research and expense through the last ten years, checking and rechecking all leads that might lead to some hidden fact.  I have located some although many facts are lost in the arcades of time and can never be found.  If there are contradictions it is because I was unable to find the direct fact.  The Dahl story was taken from diary of facts kept through the years.

Orel (Lovewell) Poole   

With those words, Orel Elizabeth Poole signed off on her study of her grandfather’s life, as presented in the Belleville Telescope in 1958,  just prior to the dedication of Lovewell State Park.  She sounds tired, as she should have been.  

Think about it.  There was no Internet, there were no word processors, not even such a thing as an IBM Selectric Typewriter.  When she tracked down leads it was by visiting libraries, newspaper offices, and the county recorder.  She wrote letters, made phone calls and rang doorbells.  She first wrote out her pamphlet in longhand, typed up a spirit duplicator master on an old Royal upright typewriter, clamped the master sheet on the drum of a Ditto machine, and page by page, proudly cranked out several pale, purple copies of her text.  A few years later Orel Poole would hand off copies of her pamphlet, as well as her notes and hand-drawn sketches of street layouts to a few libraries, thus entrusting any remaining tasks to younger hands and newer technologies.

Gloria G. Lovewell must have been able to get her hands on one of those IBM Selectrics by the time she produced the printer’s copy of her manuscript for “The Lovewell Family," but that was about the extent of the leg-up modern technology could give her in 1979.  Today we can examine 19th century land records in Oregon, drop in on an 1869 meeting of Excelsior colonists in Brooklyn, see for ourselves what was shaking at the soldiers’ quarters at Gilman’s Station on the Platte Road in May of 1865, all before finishing our first cup of coffee in the morning.  Orel Poole would be astonished to learn how many things she considered “lost in the arcades of time” are still lurking in the corners, waiting to be discovered.  Thanks in part to the Internet, the arcades are open and ready for business. 

The Internet is not only a useful tool for finding out what happened in the past.  It can also help us sort out what probably didn’t happen.  One of my first clues that the grisly story known as “Rawhide” may have been a pioneer urban myth, was how many contradictory versions of it popped up during an Internet search in 2008.  Many of these were from web pages of family histories, and a more recent search finds that in most cases the tale has been quietly withdrawn from public view.  However, plug the terms rawhide + wagon train + skinned alive into a Google text box and see for yourself what still turns up. 

The citizens of Niobara County, Wyoming, have been reenacting the alleged incident in an elaborate and bloodily realistic pageant staged annually since the 1940’s.  The story was considered such a distinctive part of their past that residents once considered renaming their town “Rawhide.”  

Just because the story has been proven dubious at best, hasn’t put an end to the celebration, by the way.  It has simply been retitled “The Legend of Rawhide.”   


© Dale Switzer 2023