I am a collector of miscellany such as old newspapers, magazines, calendars and even maps. Many of the old magazines I find at garage sales and flea markets. Others I've saved for years from my own subscriptions. I never know what treasures hide between their covers. Recently, I was browsing through some old 1940 Country Gentleman magazines that had originally been received by Agnes Dornsife, c/o General Delivery in Howard, Kansas.
In the September issue of 1947 a double page spread of colorful western pictures attracted me to the accompanying article written about Fredrick Remington. I settled down to read about my favorite western artist. About half way through the article it mentioned Butler County, Kansas and I realized why the name of one of the authors, Myra Lockwood Brown, was familiar. She had been a writer many years ago right here in Butler County, Kansas. My interest was captured and I decided to find out more about this local author. In my search I learned Myra had been a friend of Jessie Perry Stratford, owner and editor of the Butler Free-Lance. Mrs. Brown was even a frequent writer for this weekly publication through the '40s and '50s. Mrs. Stratford had encouraged me through the years in my own news-writing efforts.
Myra Lockwood was born 17 August 1889 to Rev. Ovid Lockwood, a Methodist minister and Nora (Stewart) Lockwood in Baldwin, Kansas. Myra had three brothers, Neil, Stewart and Gerald and three sisters Mary, Norma and Ruth Anne.
All seven Lockwood children grew up in Baldwin and attended Baker University, with Myra graduating in 1912 with a Master of Arts degree in English. All her siblings measured up to Myra in educational distinction. Mary, a member of the Mc Pherson College Faculty for years, was a feature writer of Kansas history. Norma was artist at the Chicago Museum of Natural History and illustrated magazine covers and children's books. Ruth Ann taught in the Wichita school system.
Neil taught in the Missouri School of Mines, the University of Minnesota at Duluth and the Washington University at St. Louis. Stewart highlighted his career by becoming the state entomologist for California. Gerald was a safety engineer for Cities Service Oil Company throughout Kansas and Oklahoma and later for the Continental Casualty Company of Tulsa.
Myra kept ties to her alumni and attended class reunions through-out the 50 years of her writing career. She first taught in Blythville High School in Arkansas. Then she taught several years at the College for Women at Chickasha, Oklahoma. She married Butler County farmer, Emmet Brown on August 24, 1921. As a Butler County farm wife she became a dedicated researcher and writer of Butler County history.
Her extensive research files were donated to the Butler County Historical Museum in May 1976. In this material I found considerable information on noted personalities. These included Abraham Lincoln, well known president of the United States and William Allen White, editor of the Emporia Gazette. Others were Wilbur Countryman, Flint Hill's rancher and owner of a bull named 'The Saturday Evening Post'; Glenn Cunningham, former Olympic champion mile runner; and Fredrick Remington, western artist.
Other interesting topics were The Flint Hills, Rosalia Township, town of Whitwater, Old El Dorado and the Conner's cabin. Far-ranging miscellaneous themes included Boeing Airplane Company, the Roniger Indian artifact collection at Cottonwood Falls, poetry and scripture, as well as the Virgin Islands and Colorado.
The files held pictures, clippings, carbon copies of letters sent or received and her written compositions in a variety of outlines. They were first handwritten, then typed on very thin paper, critiqued and retyped. Some of the themes have been shortened into smaller articles with different titles.
From Mrs. Brown's research of the Flint Hills she wrote many articles. Some of the material left over from the published article, "They Don't Need Progress," became "Land Of The Big Fat Steer." Then she wrote "Cassoday, Matfield Green and Bazaar" and "One Man's Dream a Blessing To Many" from some of the rest. The 1952 May/June issue of To The Stars, the Kansas Travel Spotlight Edition, published one of Myra's shortened versions of The Flint Hills Story, "Meat Where They Make It."
The Rosalia Township file held information on "Spring Creek Gap" published in The Eureka Messenger in May 1948. This article included some of the historical information published in the first issue of Jessie Perry Stratford's Butler Free-Lance, October 31, 1946. This lengthy article titled "History Of Rosalia Township" appeared in weekly chapters for the next two months.
Some of the other manuscripts in Mrs. Brown's files were "The Old Missouri Pacific at Pontiac" and "How The Mail Came To Butler." At least two drafts and a final copy of "History Of Rosalia Township" were also retained.
The Country Gentleman story of Fredrick Remington in 1947 was titled "Painter of the Rip-Roaring West." Mrs. Brown co-authored this timely story with Robert Taft, a Kansas historian from the University of Kansas. The magazine wrote in their "SHORTS and Middlings" column on page eight, "Old-timers who get a bang out of the article Painter of the Rip-Roaring West, page 16, will want to note that in October (1947) the J.B.Lippincott Co. is publishing a book, Fredrick Remington-Artist of the Old West.
Data from her files shows Mrs. Brown's extensive research led her to write other articles about this famed artist. One 1,900 word essay titled "Fredrick Remington In Kansas," included information obtained from personal interviews with Butler County people, who knew him. Some of Remington's neighbors, friends and acquaintances were Millard Harper, Martin Johnson and Rolla Joseph, of Potwin. El Dorado notables were Judge R. A. Scott and J. F. Sandifer, postmaster. This file also contained sketches by Remington of local interest, treasured through the years by his neighbors.
Robert Taliaferro, a weekly columnist for the Butler Free-Lance, under the by-line of "Tidbits," wrote about Mrs. Brown in his August 28, 1947 article. He commented on her achievement of bringing Butler County into national limelight in the Country Gentleman feature. Taliaferro included a picture of Mrs. Brown with praise of her research expertise.
The May 1948 issue of The Kansas Historical Quarterly printed an article, "The Pictorial Record Of The Old West" written by Robert Taft. He used much of the material left over from the Country Gentleman feature. Taft accorded credit for his research material to Myra Lockwood Brown and Jessie Perry Stratford.
By 1947 this Butler County farm wife was becoming well-known around Kansas as a writer of Butler County history. That year she wrote a narrative poem for Kansas Day. It was published in the Butler Free-Lance January 30 under the title "WHAT IS KANSAS?" The opening lines are: "It's skies that sing and winds that whistle" through 43 more lines that reveal the author's love for her homeland.
Many months of Mrs. Brown's research climaxed July 8, 1948 with a story "THE OLD EL DORADO-" that Jessie Perry Stratford published in the Butler Free-Lance. Accompanying the history was a photograph captioned "1858. This is the homestead of Captain J.D. Conner, El Dorado, Butler County, Kansas and first time in print." Some chapters in this saga of early El Dorado were: "Charm of the Walnut," "El Dorado-Place of Gold," "Sometimes Called Osage" and others that captured the reader's interest.
"UNESCO-Hands Across The Sea" was the topic the Free-Lance published in five issues from April 21 through June 30, 1949 where Mrs. Brown emphasized Butler County's role in (as she worded it) "the momentous program of The United Nations' Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization." She further informed the readers about Butler County's sister town of Beaugency, France. The affiliation between France and Kansan were for the purpose of establishing community friendships to promote democracy.
Mrs. Brown corresponded with many Kansas writers. I noticed in her files were letters to Bliss Isely, who authored the Kansas history book Four Centuries In Kansas, and his wife, a prolific writer of novels and poetry, who wrote under the pseudonym of Kunigan Duncan. Others were Rolla Clymer, noted editor of The El Dorado Times, and Jessie Perry Stratford.
Published in the Butler Free-Lance July 12, 1951 was Mrs. Brown's article "Dim Old Road In Rosalia Township." It was sub-titled "Once A Part Of Important Thoroughfare" and told about The Gap, a natural pass through the Flint Hills. The following year she wrote "An Author Pays Tribute To Burford Jeakins--Historian" published by the Butler Free-Lance, February 14, 1952. Jeakins had shown Myra Lockwood Brown the site of the first El Dorado as they stood on Aikman Hill looking across Walnut Valley. This old time Butler County native was born on the west side of the river the winter of 1862.
Through the years Mrs. Brown was a loyal member of Prairie Quill Club in El Dorado. Nation-wide she joined the Chicago Midwestern Writers Association and was affiliated with the American Pen-Woman's organization. For many years she was a reader editor with The Delineator Magazine, a leading publication for American women.
Mrs. Brown was a charter member of the Butler County Historical Society. At the Society's first regular meeting held May 6, 1956 at the El Dorado Methodist Church, Myra Lockwood Brown gave the address. That afternoon Myra began with this remark, "The directors of this society were most considerate when they asked me to talk this afternoon. They said I could talk about anything I wanted to. That was really generous. Butler County contains 1,440 square miles and for almost ninety-nine years has been making fascinating history. I'd like to talk about it all." That she had lots to talk about became evident when her speech was published serially the next eleven issues in the local weekly newspaper.
Some of the Butler County writers, who organized The Prairie Quill Club years ago with Myra were Sophia Molk, Charlette Offen and Josephine McIntire. They gathered together to critique each other's writings and give encouragement. On March 21, 1948 the Prairie Quill Club's members and their husbands honored Myra Lockwood Brown and a fellow writer, Evelyn Nace, for nation-wide publications. In early 1952 the club members attended classes in Wichita on "Magazine Writing" conducted by Frances Grinstead, former El Dorado creative writing instructor.
Sometimes this Butler historian broke with her own tradition and wrote less serious but no less interesting feature stories. One of these stories described an El Dorado family's 8500 mile trip to Alaska the summer of 1952. I found this interesting article in the Free-Lance newspaper September 25, 1952. Glenn Bonnell with his wife and teen-age daughter traveled to Alberta, Canada then drove 2000 more miles on gravel and dirt roads to Fairbanks, Alaska.
This was a accurate account of their adventurous trip that included fishing in icy cold water during the pink salmon's run and encounters with wild animals. Higher prices in the north were noted when Bonnell told of buying a loaf of bread for 40 cents. Myra appeared to get as much enjoyment from the trip through her reporting as the Bonnell's did in experiencing the actual trip.
An article written by Mrs. Brown in the January 29, 1953 Free-Lance honored Mrs. Charles Shimmin Grant on her ninety-fourth birthday. This feature covers Mrs. Grant's life from the time the family came to Butler County in the spring of 1894.
Later the same year on the first of October Mrs. Brown reported in the Free-Lance on "Old People's Day" at Potwin, Kansas. She titled it "We Love And Salute You," which was the underlying theme for the 1953 event. Old People's Day became an annual affair after originating in 1910. The next issue of the paper Mrs. Brown wrote "A Tribute To Florence Benson," her beloved friend, who was critically ill at Mayo Clinic.
In an old issue of the Butler Free-Lance March 11, 1954 I noticed an article about Myra Lockwood Brown. Her feature article, "Wichita Century Ago Was Village Of Indian Tribe" had been published February 28th in the Wichita Sunday Eagle. In this story Mrs. Brown told about some interesting Indian artifacts collected by local residents in eastern Butler County. Mentioned were Clem Adsit, W.W. Clarks, Mrs. F.S. Brickley and Emmett S. Gray.
The Kansas City Star published Mrs. Brown's article "In Memory Of Veteran Kansas Cattleman Days Of The Long Trail Remain Vivid" on September 15, 1955. This article featured 90 year old James Francis (France) Perkins who was born in Chase County. He herded sheep on the Bluestem grass when he was nine years old. Mrs. Brown told how he lived to see the Flint Hills lifestyle change in the 1870ís to the large cattle empires of the 1950ís. 'France' Perkins died 10 months after seeing his story published.
Mrs. Brown researched all types of Butler County History with equal thoroughness. On January 12, 1956 the full page feature article, "After Forty Years Community Service Harmony Ladies Aid Is More Vigorous Than Ever" appeared in the Free-Lance. This history was about a woman's club organized in 1914 on the Little Walnut River near Leon. The article was one example of the intense research she applied to all her writing.
Two months later she informed every Free-Lance reader about "Boys And Girls In St. Joseph's Home Accorded Devoted Care And Priceless Training In Behavior" as directors of the St. Joseph Orphan's Home were considering a change from an orphanage to a preparatory seminary. This was true account of the children's life there.
Mrs. Brown wrote at least one book. "A Lamp On The Prairie" was mentioned in her obituary, in The El Dorado Times. From the title one can assume it is about her beloved Flint Hills. She gained national recognition again when The Saturday Evening Post hit the magazine stands on November 2, 1957. This time with a feature of the Kansas Flint Hills illustrated in lavish color. Mrs. Brown collaborated with John Bird, editor of The Saturday Evening Post. The original title "They Love Their Hills" was changed to "They Don't Need Progress." A reprint of this article appeared two years later in the America Illustrated a magazine published in the Russian language by the United States Information Agency.
Another national periodical, The Dodge News, printed "Kansas' Ancient Flint Hills," written by Mrs. Brown in March 1965. The El Dorado Times said it "covered a spread of three pages, lavishly illustrated in green, red and black colors." This was closely followed in the September issue with "Wheat For The World" that filled four pages with text and color illustrations.
The files at the museum give evidence of Mrs. Brown's marketing 'trials and tribulations.' There are many copies of letters to and from editors of leading magazines across the nation. Many accompanied with a standard rejection letter, "Sorry we cannot use your article at this time."
It was in 1969 that Myra was widowed and moved into 1402 Edgemoor Drive, El Dorado. This woman writer wrote under the byline of Myra Lockwood Brown. But she was Mrs. Emmet Brown when she entertained the Prairie Quill Club. She had moved to town by the time she conducted the Quill Club in a study of "Forms in Poetry."
Jeanette Morgan, a former member of the Quill Club, recalls in the late 60's, Myra would bring different chapters of a biography of Glenn Cunningham to the meetings. This book was to include Glenn Cunningham's success with a youth ranch for troubled teens near Augusta. The local newspapers reported in glowing words when Mrs. Brown signed a book contract with William Morrow and Company of New York in April, 1967.
That same year Mrs. Browm combined her writing talents with Robert Graham, former musical composer of El Dorado. Mr. Graham produced a choral setting for Myra's poem, "Spring In The Gulch," on tape that was published by Presser Music company of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. "The poem is a Flint Hills lyric," Mrs. Brown explained, "and is the first of a series of eight or ten on which Mr. Graham and I are collaborating."
A festive occasion occurred June 10, 1971 when Robert Graham donated his musical works to the Butler County Historical Society. These included Mrs. Brown's poems "Spring In The Gulch," "The Bluestem Road" and "Out Of The Night." It is sad that Mrs. Brown didn't live to be at this celebration.
When Mrs. Brown passed away September 3, 1970 she was proceeded by her parents, her brother's Neil and Gerald and one sister, Mary. Ten days later her remaining brother, Stewart, died in California. Two years afterwards another sister, Norma was buried in Wichita, leaving Ruth Anne as the sole surviving member of the prominent Lockwood family of Kansas.
About the author: Gail Martin is a 76-year-old retired Kansas housewife and mother of six. She has written all her life "but just for myself." Gail was 4-H leader for 30 years in Butler County and led the club in publishing a club newsletter. She won first place as newswriter for the Mother's Art EHU club for three years. In the last twenty years Gail has been published in the Tower Family Book, family histories in the Greenwood and Wilson County history books as well as Kanhistique, The Golden Years and Schooner magazines.