Augusta Historical Society and Museum

Augusta Historical Society and Museum We cannot improve our tomorrows without first understanding our yesterdays.

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Michael Reynolds Bruce was born to Thomas and Polly (Turpin) Bruce on November 9, 1834 in Chapel Hill, Tennessee.  At an...

Michael Reynolds Bruce was born to Thomas and Polly (Turpin) Bruce on November 9, 1834 in Chapel Hill, Tennessee. At an early age, he moved to Keokuk, Iowa where he was educated and reared, graduating in medicine in the State University at Keokuk. Dr. Bruce participated in the gold rush to California in 1849, returning by way of Isthmus of Panama, Cuba and New York City. The Bruce family is traced back to three brothers who came from Scotland and all of whom served in the Revolutionary War from North Carolina. Michael’s father, Thomas was born in North Carolina on September 12, 1797 and died January 25, 1862. He was a soldier in the Black Hawk Indian War in 1832. Polly Kemp Turpin, wife of Thomas was born on December 25, 1797 to Edmond Turpin, owner of White Sulphur Springs plantation near Nashville, Tennessee. General Andrew Jackson camped there on his way to the Battle of New Orleans and was given a pair of yarn socks made by Polly’s grandmother. When Polly married Thomas on May 8, 1817 her father gave her as a wedding present a slave girl, Aunt Susa, who had taken care of her all of her life. When her grandfather freed his slaves before the proclamation, Aunt Susa refused to leave and took care of Polly, Thomas and their children. She died in Keokuk, Iowa at the age of about 80 years.

He began practicing medicine in Lancaster, Missouri and continued there for 20 years. When the Civil War broke out, he was one of the first to respond to the Union call and was enlisted as First Lieutenant. Dr. Bruce was mustered out of the 42nd Missouri Volunteer Infantry at the close of the War.

In 1866, Doctor Bruce was commissioned by Governor Fletcher as Supervisor of Registration of Schuyler County for reconstruction purposes. Michael and Margaret Ann Taylor were married at the end of the Civil War and to this union were born 3 children: Edmund, Pearl and Bertram. Margaret died in 1875 in Missouri and Dr. Bruce married Josephine Brush. To this union was born one son, Earl.

In the spring of 1876, Dr. Bruce and his family came to Augusta and engaged in the drug store trade as well as practicing medicine. He brought with him a supply of groceries and drugs, as well as a partner, Mr. Bundick. He set up his office in J. R. Reynolds’ Drug Store at 117 E. 5th Street, which was located in the Opera Block at the time. Dr. Bruce practiced in our community for the next 10 years, at which time they moved to Topeka, to a home at the corner of Topeka Avenue and 10th Street. Dr. Bruce was a member of the Masonic Order and the G.A.R.

Their son, Edmund, graduated from Augusta High School in 1884 and became an accountant in Washington, D.C., and their son, Pearl Willard, graduated from Augusta High School in 1888. Later that same year Pearl began working for the Santa Fe Railway in Topeka and continued that employment for the next 51 years. (There is no information concerning Dr. Bruce’s sons, Bertram or Earl.)

Dr. Bruce died shortly after moving to Topeka in May of 1888 from ‘consumption’ and is buried in Topeka, Kansas in the soldier’s plot near Gage Monument. His wife, Josephine is buried in Columbus, Kansas, along with their son, Earl.

Photos: Dr. Bruce photo during Civil War; his headstone in Topeka Cemetery; his wife, Josephine’s, and son, Earl’s, headstone in Columbus, Kansas; early AHS graduates; and, son, Pearl Willard.

Jackson Ewell Hanes, was born in Macon, Tennessee in 1869 to Thomas and Mary (Prudence) Hanes.  The Hanes’ were the pare...

Jackson Ewell Hanes, was born in Macon, Tennessee in 1869 to Thomas and Mary (Prudence) Hanes. The Hanes’ were the parents of 6 children: Martha Susan, Magnolia Alexander, Nora Etta, Callie Carlene and Jackson Ewell Columbus and Luella F. Two sets of twins died in infancy. The Hanes family came to Butler County in 1874. They had purchased 80 acres of land in Walnut township and paid $1,300, which later became known as part of the rich oil and gas belt of the Augusta field.

Interestingly, the Hanes family joined a number of other families, all from the same neighborhood (and in many cases related to one another) in Tennessee. These families established a community extending from about 2 miles south of Augusta to about 2 miles north of Gordon and extending for a distance of about 1 to 1 ½ miles on each side of the Walnut River. Nearly all the families located in this small community were members of the Southern Methodist Church. The community was called ‘Tennessee Bend.’

Many of the supplies needed for the farm were hauled from Wichita; however, they did considerable trade in Augusta, just to the north of their home. Thomas was engaged in farming and stock raising. Thomas died in 1900 and Mary died in 1899.

Burl Allison, in his book Augusta, Kansas 1868-1990, shared an excerpt concerning Magnolia Alexander, Jackson Ewell’s sister. He shared: ‘Among (the early arrivals) were a number of families from Tennessee. They settled in an area 3 to 6 miles south of Augusta on the Walnut River. Their numbers grew to such a degree that the section became known as “Tennessee Bend’. These people were almost all blood-related and were Southern Methodists. The story of one of them appeared in the Augusta Daily Gazette for December 21, 1961. By then she was 95 years of age, but still bright and alert. The lady may have been, probably was, typical of the Tennesseans who came to Augusta in the 1870s. Born Magnolia Alexander Hanes in Macon County, Tennessee, she was 8 years of age when her family and she set out for Augusta, Kansas. The date was August 31, 1874, and the trip was made by railway, with one exception. The rail line they traveled on had no bridge across the Mississippi River. It was necessary to leave the train and get into boats for the crossing. On the other side of the river was a train waiting for the passengers. They got onto it and came into Wichita, having spent three days and three nights on the trip. The Hanes family left Wichita by wagon and rode 25 miles to their destination. This was a location approximately 6 miles south and a bit west of Augusta. The house where the family spent that first winter was about 10x12 feet in size with an attic room upstairs. A hard blizzard struck January 5, 1875 and it was difficult to keep warm. In order to be comfortable at night, 5 of the family slept in one bed and two on the couch, with heavy covers over them. They even wore their caps to bed. Although it was a severe winter (ice on the Walnut River was 18 inches thick) there was sleigh riding. A brother-in-law to be of Mag’s furnished the horses. Then in March 1875, her father bought 80 acres of land and built a new 3-room house on it. After living in that tiny first Kansas home the new one seemed like a mansion. As he prospered and after a few years, Mr. Hanes built a 12-room house on the farm. However, times were pretty hard that first year. The after-effects of the grasshopper invasion were still present. There were things that couldn’t be had at any price. With the outside help that was mentioned, plus grim determination on the settlers’ part the crisis was overcome. Despite the troubled times life went on. Children, for instance, went to school. Mag began her Kansas schooling shortly after the family arrived in the State. She walked 2-1/4 miles to classes every day and a like distance back home. Her school had a 3-month term in the fall and a 3-month term in the spring. Mag was asked about Indians by the reporter, and she replied that they were all gone by the time her family had arrived in Kansas. She did say that Indians passed through on their way from Indian Territory to Nebraska and return. In the fall of 1881, there were 500 or so camped about a half mile from the Hanes house. The Indians were there for some time but never caused any trouble. When she was 12 years of age, Mag joined the Southern Methodist Church. Located about 5 miles southwest of Augusta on Thunder Road, this stone building was erected in 1882. It was later called Friendship Fairview Church, Fairview Church or simply, The Old Stone Church. It is gone now but its cemetery remains. In one of its plots lies Magnolia Hanes Wood.’

Jackson was reared to manhood on the home farm and educated in the public schools. He was among the first to attend the first school established in that locality, known as Floral School District, No. 120. Before attending Floral, he attended school held at the old Baum residence and taught by Miss Hattie Tremak.

Jackson Ewell married Miss Virginia Effie Carr, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. K. P. Carr, also residents of Tennessee Bend. Effie came to Butler County when she was only 3 years old, and with the exception of the early years, she lived in the same neighborhood her entire life. Effie’s father, Mr. Carr was known as ‘Jim Charity’ in order to distinguish him from the other three Jim Carr’s of the community. Jackson Ewell and Effie had 3 sons, Leonidas Lloyd, Virgil Roscoe and Roy V. Virgil was an AHS graduate in the small class (4 graduates) of 1910.

Effie died on February 17, 1953 at the age of 85. Jackson Ewell died earlier of a stroke, at the age of 61, on August 8, 1930. Both are buried in their beloved Fairview Cemetery, near the place where they worshipped for many years.

Photos: 1905 Walnut Township Map; Jackson Ewell Hanes’ family photo; Hanes’ headstone from Fairview Cemetery; listing of AHS graduates from 1910 showing Virgil as one of the 4 graduates; Effie Hanes; and, a photo of Floral School students from 1883 or 1884. It is likely there were a number of Tennessee Bend students in attendance.

James Hayes was born in Preston, Lancashire, England in 1865 to Robert and Sarah Hayes.  His father, Robert, was a nativ...

James Hayes was born in Preston, Lancashire, England in 1865 to Robert and Sarah Hayes. His father, Robert, was a native of County Tipperary, Ireland and his mother, Sarah Duckett, was born in Lancashire. James received a good preliminary education and at the age of 13 entered St. Cuthbert’s College in Durham, England. He received a thorough education, especially in classics, theology and philosophy.

At the close of his college career, James was ordained to the priesthood. He then engaged in missionary work in Liverpool, England for the next 15 years. In 1900 he came to America and located at Custer, South Dakota for the next 6 years in the Black Hills.

Around 1906, Father Hayes came to Augusta and became active in his parochial work here. In addition to his work in Augusta, he had charge of missions at ElDorado, Cassoday and Spring Branch. After coming to Butler County, he built a new church at Augusta and churches at all three of his missions. He also erected a fine parsonage in Augusta and a parochial school, as well as a residence for the sisters. All these improvements meant a vast amount of work and great sacrifice on the part of Father Hayes.

Burl Allison, in his book, Augusta, Kansas 1868-1990, when sharing the story of the July 13, 1924 tornado that did so much damage to Augusta, stated: ‘The church (St. James Catholic Church) itself was reduced to a heap of rubble. There was only a pile of bricks where before the tornado, a house of worship had stood. For years afterwards members of the church worshipped in the parish schoolhouse, which was on the south part of the present St. James parking lot. The priest of St. James, Father Hayes, suffered a broken arm plus lacerations.’

We weren’t able to locate any further information concerning Father Hayes, although it’s clear that he had a great impact on our little village during our early days. In a search of Ancestry and Find-A-Grave, there is no date for Father Hayes’ death; however, it is likely that he passed away in the early 1930’s from the information located on the plaque attached to his grave. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery, east of Augusta.

Photos: Calvary Cemetery; and, photos of tornado damage to St. James Church.

Ed (Edwin) Cassius Varner was born on May 17, 1867 in Jackson County, Illinois to Jesse and Olive Varner.  Many will rem...

Ed (Edwin) Cassius Varner was born on May 17, 1867 in Jackson County, Illinois to Jesse and Olive Varner. Many will remember the biographical sketch from November 2019 on Jesse and wife, Olive, early pioneers of Butler County. Ed came to Kansas with his parents when he was 11 years old. Prior to that he was educated in the public schools of Illinois, but after that was educated in Butler County while living on his father’s farm. He became familiar with general farming methods and stock raising. He began farming on his own in 1891 and in 1894 he bought his first farm. In the fall of 1902, he enlarged his holdings in Walnut township by buying the northeast quarter of Section 17 in Walnut township, for which he paid $2,600.

While Ed had great success as a farmer and stock raiser, his real success came from oil producing in the Augusta field, which became a mecca of oil investors and producers of the country. Ed owned 285 acres within the oil belt and the first gas well brought in on his place was on April 28, 1914. The first oil well was the next year on July 12, 1915. His last oil well brought in was on May 24, 1915 and the conservative estimate of the production of that well placed it at 7,000 barrels per day.

Ed’s brother, Frank, was also a large land owner in the Augusta oil and gas district, owning 277 acres. The Varner brothers were prominent factors in bringing about the deep tests in this district. The original intention of the operators seemed to contemplate gas production only, but Ed and Frank insisted that deeper tests should be made, and the rest is history!

Ed was married on September 23, 1894 in Augusta, to Miss Ona Carr, daughter of D. M. and Nancy (Dobbins) Carr, when Ed was 26 and Ona was 22. The Carr family located in Augusta in 1882 when Ona was a young girl. Ed and Ona had 5 children, Ethel (1916 AHS graduate), Ralph (1917 AHS graduate), Chester (1920 AHS graduate), Cecil (1924 AHS graduate), and Velma (1928 AHS graduate). Ethel later married Wesley William Skaer of Augusta. Cecil married Mary Marlys Mallison, daughter of Dr. Mallison who operated the Augusta Hospital through the depression years. Velma married Robert Dockum, of Dockum Drugs in Wichita.

Ona died in 1945 and Ed died in 1952. Both are buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

Photos: 1905 Walnut Township Map; Ed’s grandfather, Joseph; Ed’s grandmother, Martha; Ed’s uncle, David and family; Ed’s wife, Ona Carr’s father, Daniel; Ed’s father, Jesse; and, AHS graduates: Ethel, 1916, Ralph, 1917, Chester, 1920, Velma, 1928.

We’ve uncovered a bit of information about the genesis of Smileyberg, a little village 7 miles east of Douglass.  Many o...

We’ve uncovered a bit of information about the genesis of Smileyberg, a little village 7 miles east of Douglass. Many of our friends will remember it as a bustling little community in southeast Butler County.

Thomas Smiley was born in Canada on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, 7 miles from the New York State line in 1867. Thomas was the son of James and Martha (Paul) Smiley, both natives of Glasgow, Scotland. The Smiley family moved to Canada in 1828 and located near Montreal. Thomas was one of 6 children born to James and Martha. He was baptized on December 28, 1847 at the Church of Scotland and Presbyterian Church (Church of England) in Quebec. In 1866, Thomas left Canada and migrated to Indiana, where he and his brother engaged in work as contractors to railroads, furnishing wood for locomotive fuel and railroad ties. They were principally engaged in supplying the Wabash railroad with these materials. They were very successful in their undertakings and built a saw mill near Logansport, Indiana, which they ran for several years. They then moved to Kokomo, Indiana where Thomas had charge over a lumber yard for several years.

Thomas married Miss Martha Church of North Carolina. Thomas and Martha had 3 children, but sadly all three died in infancy. Thomas and Martha moved to Kansas, first locating at White Cloud for a few years. They then moved to a farm near Rose Hill and farmed for four years. Thomas became interested in Wichita real estate and stayed involved in that until an economic collapse when he lost considerable money. At that time, Thomas and Martha moved to Augusta and Thomas became an employee of Sisco Brothers. He sold merchandise for them throughout the area, driving a wagon and covered a broad scope of territory in the early days. He called it a ‘General Store on Wheels’, starting out the first of every week laden with general merchandise he traded for butter, eggs and poultry, taking order from samples for fancy dress goods which he delivered on his next trip. He formed a wide acquaintance and built up a reputation for honesty and integrity. Martha died in 1893 and Thomas never remarried. In 1908 Thomas moved from Augusta to 7 miles east of Douglass, erected a small store building, 16x20 feet, and put in a small stock of groceries and dry goods. The following year he built an addition on to his store and also increased his stock of goods. His policy was for reasonable prices and fair dealings. His business rapidly grew and the volume of business he did rivaled that of leading stores of Douglass and Augusta.

Burnett (Barney) Berg was born on November 10, 1860 to John and Hanna Berg in LaPorte County, Indiana. Barney was one of 9 children born to John and Hanna. In 1898, Barney married Miss Sarah Ellen Wilson in Hiawatha, Kansas. There are 5 children listed in the Census records. In 1904 Barney purchased 80 acres of land on the northeast corner of Section 21 of Rock Springs Township and established a blacksmith shop. At that point, Thomas and Barney established the little settlement of Smileyberg.

In 1912 David Hamilton Welch became a partner of Thomas Smiley in the mercantile business at Smileyberg. David was born in Buchanan County, Missouri on November 4, 1855. He came to Butler county where he was engaged in farming and stock raising for a number of years. He first became involved in the mercantile business at Udall in Cowley County. When David entered into business with Thomas, he bought one-half interest in the business and they became equal partners. David was married to Miss Mary McWilliams of Missouri. Mary died in 1892. They had two children in 1888 and sadly both died in infancy.

Thomas died in January of 1919 and is buried in Douglass Cemetery. Barney died in 1926 and is also buried in Douglass Cemetery. David died in November of 1931 and is buried in Widener Cemetery in Cowley County.

Photos: 1905 Rock Springs Township Map; 2 photos of Sisco Store; Barney Berg store photo; Berg headstone; Welch headstone; Smiley headstone; and Thomas Smiley obituary.


303 State St
Augusta, KS

General information

We always offer FREE admission to those visiting our museum. Come learn about the history of Augusta, while standing in the very first building built in Augusta, Kansas. We are open Monday - Friday from 11a - 3pm. We are open Saturdays from 1p - 4p from April - October. If you are unable to visit during our regular hours, please contact us to schedule a time to visit!

Opening Hours

Monday 11:00 - 15:00
Tuesday 11:00 - 15:00
Wednesday 11:00 - 15:00
Thursday 11:00 - 15:00
Friday 11:00 - 15:00


(316) 775-5655


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And another Augusta blog post:
I'm so pleased to have found this page. I write a family history blog, and have several posts relating to Augusta that might be of interest to your followers. Here's the most recent:
My great grandfather, Richard W. Stephenson (1874-1960), started the Stephenson's Men's Store on State Street in about 1909. The store continued under the ownership of my great uncle and aunt, Paul (1902-1972) and Do Stephenson, probably until about the late 1960s. Does the Historical Society have any photographs of the business or information on my family? Thanks!
Keep the interesting stories coming.
Hi every one , my name is Ray Freeman ,I live in England ,and together with my cousin Geoff ,we are looking into our family history ,We know that our great uncle had a business in town ,his name was Joshua Duncan Robson , we know that he has a grand daughter still living in the area ,and we are in contact with her , but what I was wondering is ,are there any old photographs of him or his store ,which was we think ,a Racket store situated at 432 State street , any help would be appreciated Thanks Ray