My Two Cents Worth

My Two Cents Worth……

By: Penny Milroy, librarian
Brown County Genealogical Society

Mrs. John (Elizabeth) Krebs
The Flower Woman of Hiawatha

Elizabeth Oehler was born November 19, 1848 in Canton-Berne, Switzerland. She came to the United States in 1855 with her parents. They settled in New Philadelphia, Ohio. She was orphaned by the age of 13.
She married John Krebs, February 21, 1870 in New Philadelphia, Ohio. They came to Kansas on their honeymoon settling in Claytonville. They lived on a farm in the Claytonville community for 5 years. In 1875 they moved to Hiawatha. They bought a house on the Northeast corner of 6th and Iowa Streets. The house has been gone a long time. In its day I imagine it was house of a great granger with it flower gardens.
Mrs. Krebs was well known in Hiawatha for her beautiful flowers. She was in charge of the flower beds at the County Courthouse for many years and THOSE flower beds are what prompted her to start the Halloween festivities in Hiawatha. In the City Council meeting minutes from October 22, 1912; Hiawatha Daily World, “On presentation of Mrs. Krebs The council pledged its hearty co-operation with the Civic Improvement Club to arrange for a sane Hallowe’en to organize a special entertainment for the young people to take place of the usual rough pranks and disturbances of injury to property.” This is the first mention that I find in many weeks of research of the Hallowe’en “parade”. In another article in the same day’s paper it reads; “Hallowe’en Festivities. Boys and girls, old and you, get your carnival costumes read for the big parade Hallowe’en. The merchants and citizens all favor the idea and give a list of prizes which will be published. Everyone should mask and wear fancy, grotesque or funny costumes. The band will lead the parade and Oregon street will be crowded with fun makers. The Mardi Gras at New Orleans won’t be any better than Hallowe’en in Hiawatha. Prizes will be given for the best costumes. There will be a grand free dance at Life and Annuity hall that all can attend.”
Rules for the Hallowe’en Carnival were published in the October 31, 1912 – Hiawatha Daily World. The carnival started at the Armory and went down Oregon Street then returned to the Armory for

games and prizes. Rules were to be enforced by the marshals and special police.
1. There must be no disturbing of person or property.
2. No material, unless it be confetti, will be allowed to be thrown or used. No confetti will be permitted to be thrown on sidewalk.
3. Civil conduct towards each other must be observed during the carnival.
4. When the carnival is over, that ends it, and there must be no going out in town afterwards, molesting people by pranks, or disturbing their property. It was signed by Mayor J.T. Grimes.
Hiawatha Daily World November 1, 1912 Headline: Hallowe’en Carnival a Great Success – It’s to Be Made and Annual Event and Will be Greater Next Year – Everybody Had a Good Time. The news article goes on to say that around 1,200 people participated in the carnival. It was a dreary night; but the turnout was good.
In the October 25, 1915 edition Hiawatha Daily World talks of 300 or more participating in the parade which will take place at 8 o’clock on Hallowe’en. “The one held in 1912 was praised by every person who attended.”
Thus starts the Hallowe’en tradition in Hiawatha. Mrs. Krebs would continue to be a big part of the Civic Club and later the Community Commercial Club which both were sponsors of the early Hallowe’en Carnivals and Parade. Hiawatha Daily World – September 20, 1916; “Additional lights will be strung for three blocks, paper pumpkin heads will be placed over the street light gloves and the stores will all be decorated for the event. Hallowe’en in Hiawatha will be one big community Hallowe’en party in the business section of town.”
Mrs. Krebs died August 21, 1931. She was the mother of 4 children John who died in 1893; Charlotte who died in 1895; Emma who died in 1896 and Louise who is the wife of S.E. Friend of Horton. Mrs. Krebs is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery. Her entire obituary can be found in the August 21, 1931 edition of the Hiawatha Daily World. She was known for many things the first being her involvement with The Civic Club, The Community Commercial Club and the Garden Club. She was much more to Hiawatha than the mother of the Hallowe’en Carnival but that is what she now is remember most for.

John Milburn Davis The Man The Monument

John Milburn Davis was born January 18, 1855 in Bowling Green, Warren County, Kentucky. He was the son of Asa Davis and Elizabeth Moore Davis. He was the youngest of 5 children. It was told that John was orphaned at a young age. His father died January of 1870 in Warren County, Kentucky. In all the articles about John Davis it never mentions any of his family; only that he was an orphan. I didn’t find out much more information about his family; in the 1860 Federal Census it lists: Asa Davis age 44, Elizabeth Davis age 38, Martha Davis age 16, Frances Davis age 13, William Davis age 11, Lovy (Levi) Davis age 8 and John Davis age 5. I did find record of John’s birth in Warren County, Kentucky in 1855. John came to Brown County, Kansas in 1879 and settled near Padonia in the area referred to as Kentucky Ridge.

Soon after John’s arrival to Kansas he began attending church. It was at church that he met Sarah Hart. They were married April 6, 1880 much to her family’s disagreement. John Davis was called “flaming”. He was “touchy,” he had a violent temper, but on the other hand, he was upright and scrupulously honest.

Much speculation was made about John and Sarah’s relationship. Many people feared he treated Sarah badly. Stories say that Sarah’s family disowned her after her marriage to John; but John’s only real friend Horace England begs to differ with the citizens of Brown County. In 1946 Homer Croy interviewed Horace England and John Davis at Davis’ home at 201 north 7thStreet in Hiawatha. This was the place John moved to when he left the farm.

Homer Croy author of “Corn County” came to Hiawatha, Kansas in 1946 to interview John Davis for the book “Corn Country.” Of course he was lured to Hiawatha by the Italian marble statues at the Mt. Hope Cemetery. He had heard the stories of the marble statues far and wide. (John made Hiawatha famous before he or Sarah ever passed away.) Croy wanted to hear the stories behind the statues and the man John Milburn Davis. Mr. Croy arrived in Hiawatha and sought out Horace England. Mr. England admits to Croy that he is probably John Davis’ only friend. England explains to Croy what John is like and that he will take him to see John and see if John wishes to speak to him.

John Davis does agree to speak to Croy and upon entering the house John Davis hands Croy a business card. The card read: “Lord, help me to keep my nose out of other people’s business.”

Croy and Davis visit for a time and Davis tells the story of his and Sarah’s lives. John was good at farming and made a good living from the land. When Sarah’s health began to fail he took her to Siloam Springs and hired doctors to see what they could do. Nothing could be done and Sarah died on December 3rd, 1930.

The town folks of Brown County, especially Hiawatha wanted John Davis to build a city park or a new hospital. He and Sarah scoffed at the idea and sent the first set of pictures off for the statues to Italy. The first picture John and Sarah were dressed in their wedding clothes. When the first set of statues arrived and were set at the cemetery John and Sarah would hitch up the team and ride over and look at them. Ten years later another set of pictures was sent off; and two more statues arrived in Hiawatha. These statues depicted John after part of his beard had been burnt off while he was burning corn stalks. People in town were talking like John Davis was crazy but in reality he was just crazy in love with Sarah.

A few years later John had been out using a scythe to mow a fence row and cut his left hand. It never healed properly and he lost his hand; and another picture of him and Sarah went off to be made into more statues. The newest statues showed John with his hand missing. In December of 1930 Sarah passed away and another picture was sent to Italy. These statues came back reproduced in stone, it was him sitting in a chair looking out and an empty chair next to him. Now the town folks were really thinking John Davis is a pathetic old man and John just simply didn’t care. He said it’s my money and I can do with it as I please.

The statues were starting to really cost John and he mortgaged the farm and he eventually lost it. It was time for the next statues to arrive at the cemetery and these were of a slab on the ground over the body of his wife and John kneeling and looking down tenderly upon her grave. The town was again in an uproar about John Davis and his crazy statues. Why would anyone mortgage a farm to put up a tombstone of himself looking down at his wife’s grave. He was plumb crazy!

It is said that John would walk to the cemetery often just to look at the statues. These statues told the story of John Milburn Davis and Sarah Elizabeth Hart Davis.

Horace England was in the monument business and he is the person who ordered the marble statues for John Davis and the only other person who ever knew what kind of money had been spent on these statues showing John and Sarah’s life. Horace was also John’s only friend. The town folks speculated $60,000 to $100,000 was spent but the true cost will never be known.

Homer Croy was probably one of the few people John ever let interview him. In Croy’s book he quotes John a number of times and he actually tells John’s story about Sarah without judgement. John had been judged by the citizens of Brown County and especially Hiawatha for many years and John had no tolerance for any of them anymore.

John told Croy that after Sarah passed away and the article that had been written about him in the local newspaper made him out to be rich. Letters poured in. He said one day he got 26 letters in the mail from women wanting to meet him. He never wrote a letter in return. He had a couple of women show up he said. They didn’t stay around very long. He’d ask them to sit in Sarah’s chair and they never looked quite right “they just didn’t fill it” and he’d ask them to move along. One came all the way from St. Louis.

John Davis moved to the county poor farm and died there on April 26, 1947. The people of Brown County moaned and carried on that he lived his last months on this earth at the county poor farm and that he had spent all that money on “those” statues, but in reality someone else paid for John’s care at the county poor farm and naught a penny was spent by the tax payers of Brown County.

Many things have been written about John Davis and his memorial and most of it critical of how he spent his money. In reality his “crazy statues” have brought a great number of people to Hiawatha, including the television show Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Yes a park or a hospital would have been nice but in the long run what John Davis did for Hiawatha was put this quiet retirement town on the map and draw in tourists from all over the world.

The book “Corn Country” came out after John died but he was able to read some of the proofs before it went to print. A signed copy of the book arrived in Hiawatha shortly after his death.

I used the book as well as articles from “The Hiawatha Daily World” for research. You can get the book from the Morrill Public Library on inter-library loan.

Obituary – Sarah Elizabeth Davis was born November 28, 1860, on a farm in Padonia township, Brown county, Kans., passed out of the life Dec. 3, 1930, at the age of 70 years, 5 days. She was married to John M. Davis, April 6, 1880. They celebrated their golden wedding April 6, 1930. She united with the Christian Church in her girlhood. After marriage she lived on a farm 2 miles east of Reserve, Kans. until 1915, then moved to Hiawatha, Kans., where she lived until her death. At the time she was stricken, Nov. 24, she said, “I am ready to go.” She leave (sic) her husband, John M. Davis, to mourn her going. – Hiawatha Daily World, Dec. 8, 1930.

Funeral Services – Funeral services for John M. Davis were held from Meek’s Chapel Monday, April 28, 1947, at 2 p.m. Interment was in the Davis Memorial at Mt. Hope cemetery, Hiawatha. Services were conducted by Rev. P.S. Barrow. Chester G. Jones, accompanied by Mrs. B.E. Spalding, sang “In the Garden,” “Beyond the Sunset.” Body bearers were Otis, Vernal Vonderschmidt, Menzie Bown, Joseph O’Toole, Jones Hillyer, Clarence Hillyer. Before burial, it was necessary to remove the heavy railing from the east side of the Memorial, the 7 ½ ton granite slab that covered Mr. Davis’ grave which was dug in 1931. Immediately after burial, the grave was filled; sealed, the slab placed back on it. Work of moving the railing back in place was to have been done Wednesday morning but because of the rain Tuesday night it was decided not to move the heavy stones until the ground is dry. – Hiawatha Daily World, April 29, 1947.

By: Penny Milroy, librarian

Brown County Genealogical Society

In October of last year Jill Frese gave a very interesting program on DNA. At that time my mom and I had convinced her brother to give up his DNA for us to have analyzed by Ancestry.com. The results were pretty much as we expected they would be A LOT of German with a few other things in mixed in but not much. We (my mom and I) have done extensive research on both sides of her family line and we knew we would find mostly German but were hoping maybe we would get a little something else to go on. We have had a number of people contact us and we have pieced together a few missing things from this.

After the meeting in October I really wanted to get my DNA done. I am an only child of an only child and I have very few family members remaining on my father’s side of the family. My paternal grandmother was VERY tight lipped about her family; she was the daughter of a tobacco farmer in Iatan, Missouri. She was orphaned at the age of 5 and was passed from family member to family member until she ran away at 13.

I have so many more questions than I do answers when it comes to my father’s family.

For my birthday in November my mom bought me a DNA kit from MyHeritage.com. I have been anxiously waiting for the last few weeks to see what my DNA would provide.

On the next to the last day of the year I got an email saying my DNA I was ready. I was so excited. I signed in and I was a little bit shocked. I am still shaking my head a little today.

I asked my mom if they found me under a rock. My DNA says I am 84.2% English, 10.7% Scandinavian and 5.1% Irish, Scottish and Welsh.

The Irish, Scottish and Welsh is the only part that is maybe a little bit of my mom.

Instead of getting answers I now have a million questions.

My two cents? Was it worth it to get my DNA done??? I’ll have to let you know.

~~ Penny

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