Page 1












the discoverer of hutch salt in one of his quieter moments‌page 2

I 12 oh, what a train ride this will be... underground





E 22 unique, varied salt-related items abound in collection



Linda Schmitt, executive director, rchs

Mike Allen, finance manager, rchs

2 bold, flamboyant ben blanchard ...his strike made hutch the “salt city”

11 “haunts” was a spirited affair ...some say in more ways than one

Jamin Landavazo, chief curator, rchs

Gayle Ferrell, director of operations, kusm

Tonya Gehring, docent supervisor, kusm

Tina Moore, administrative assistant, rcm

Lynn Ledeboer, curatorial assistant, rcm

Colleen McCallister, visitor services, kusm

Dave Unruh, maintenance supervisor, kusm

12 this train is a-comin’ march? ...but you’ll have to catch it underground

16 this confab was inspiring ...with networking, ideas and insight

17 meet the multi-talented tina moore ...our new administrative assistant

18 what makes you happy? ...a global look at happiness

19 sugar plums kept right on dancing enjoy holiday high at rcm events

20 dr. v returns with answers your challenging salty questions

21 our membership keeps growing sure you’re on board for rchs

22 this collection has a dash of salt ...everything from notepads to needles

24 bisonte and traveling exhibits ahead BOARD OF DIRECTORS John Doswell, president • Shannon Holmberg, secretary Charles Studt, treasurer • Michael Armour, president-elect Patty Foss • LeAnn Cox • E. Francis Habiger • Nan Hawver Todd Laffoon • Sherry Mundhenke • Tim Davies • Richard Shank Barbara Withrow • Jerry Wray • Mike Carey, ex-officio • Myron Marcotte, ex-officio • Lee Spence, ex-officio

...then get down and dirty in salt Volume 23, No. 1 Legacy is published quarterly by The Reno County Historical Society, Inc. 100 S. Walnut St., P.O. Box 664, Hutchinson, Kansas 67504-0664 Distribution is free to RCHS members. For advertising or membership information, call 620-662-1184. © 2011 The Reno County Historical Society, Inc. ISSN 1045-3423 All rights reserved. The RCHS disclaims responsibility for statements of fact or opinion made by contributors. Third class postage paid at Hutchinson, Kansas.

ON THE COVER ben’s family, from left: ben, avis, beryl, clyde, “grandmother vesta blanchard,” ralph and nellie, both from ben’s first marriage to mattie. beryl and clyde were from ben’s second marriage to avis. Ca 1900. (2010.03.01)

BOLD BEN BLA By Linda Schmitt, RCHS Executive Director


vesta blanchard, ben’s mother, came to care for ben and his two children after his first wife died. (2010.03.03)

ben teases readers with “what next?” in his early ad for real estate in indiana, right, as seen in the july 22, 1882, “terra haute gazette.”


here is no topic associated with salt in Reno County that creates more interest than the tales of Ben Blanchard. Would salt have been discovered in Reno County without Ben? Yes, but would all of the conditions have come together to establish Hutchinson as the “salt city” without Ben’s discovery in 1887? Possibly not. There has been much speculation about Ben’s life, his business dealings and all aspects surrounding the salt discovery in South Hutchinson. It is my hope that this article will present the facts and dispel the myths about this fascinating and largerthan-life character. Ben truly was an original. Among other names, he was at times referred to as “Get Rich Quick Blanchard,” “Bold Ben,” and “Billious Ben.” His esca-

pades dominated the Terre Haute Gazette (Indiana) from October 1885 to February 1886, and, soon after his acquittal of charges of fraud, he rebounded to develop the city of South Hutchinson on June 1, 1886. In December 1887, Ben was responsible for the first salt discovery west of the Mississippi.

THE FACTS Much of the factual information that we have about Ben today comes from research by Mike McCormick,

who wrote articles about Ben for the “Wabash Valley Profiles” in 2001. Mike used articles about Ben from the Terre Haute Gazette and other papers, and interviewed Ben’s descendants. Ben Blanchard was born in Ridge Farm, Illinois in 1857. The family soon moved to Newport, Indiana, and his father died in 1860. After his father’s death, Ben’s mother saw to it that he and his older brother, James, received a classical education. Ben was educated at the Vermillion County Seminary and became a lawyer. Deciding to sell real estate instead of practice law, Ben relocated to Terre Haute in 1882 and became known as “ of the most imaginative – as well as charming – con men in America.” According to

ANCHARD ...the facts and the fiction

died of consumption (tuberwriter McCormick, the young culosis). Ben’s mother, Vesta, man drew lots of attention in and sister, Alma, moved to the Terre Haute Gazette. Terre Haute to take care “In July 1882, after openof Ben and Mattie’s two ing his first office in Terre children. Haute, Ben began placing Ben then focused his atanonymous daily block tention on promoting land advertisements in the Terre in Kansas close to Garden Haute Express declaring in City in Finney County and large bold type: ‘WHAT’S Hutchinson. NEXT?’ The nameless anIn those days the most nouncement raised readers’ luxurious way to travel curiosity. was by private rail car. “On July 22, 1882, Ben hired the Pull‘WHAT’S NEXT?’ was what next? man Car Company answered with a if only to construct what large ad announcthey he described as a ing ‘Ben Blanchard knew. “palace on wheels.” Real Estate Agency. Purchased for $25,000, Lands Bought and Sold the car carried a $1,000 on Commission.’ grand piano and was named “Ben was only 25 years Le Paradis. He also used old, but no one else matched elegant custom-made Pullthe scope of his advertisman cars to entertain and ing, which he did profusely, impress wealthy capitalists offering land throughout the on his ventures. Midwest, Texas and Kansas. On September 16, 1885, He was the only realtor to Ben first arrived in Kansas place a full-page ad in the in the Le Paradis, bringing 1883 city directory, listing a big party of land buyers satellite offices in Newport who purchased Reno County and Hutchinson, Kansas.” land, as reported in The Hutchinson News, in April Ben married his first wife, 1931. Martha (“Mattie”), in 1881 at From October 1885 to the age of 24. In 1884 she


February 1886, Ben was involved in legal battles in Terre Haute that received much coverage in the Terre Haute Gazette and New York Times. Ben’s wheeling and dealing investment practices finally caught up with him, and several warrants were issued for his arrest. He became the focus of scandal and speculation in Terre Haute, New York and even Chicago. He was named a defendant in several civil cases for fraud, mostly

(See BEN 4)

ben at age 30 in 1887 (2010.03.07)

news accounts track ben’ ben’s disappearance, reappearance, arrest and tr trial.

Ben makes the news (Continued from page 3) involving investments in Finney County, Kansas. Following are excerpts from newspapers chronicling the surprising disappearance of Ben, his reappearance, arrest and trial.

– The New York Times October 19, 1885 “A Terre Haute Sensation” He disappeared allegedly disguised as a woman only to show up again in Terra Haute on Christmas Eve,

BEN BLANCHARD’S BIG SCHEMES COME TO AN END. The Bold Real Estate Operator Dodging the Law Officers and Leaving Heavy Debts Behind Him. the blanchard family crest (2010.03.02)

“...the collapse finally came, Blanchard’s debts in Terre Haute are estimated at $200,000 and in Chicago at $100,000. He has been evading the officers of the law since Friday morning. How Blanchard managed to let so much money pass through the fingers is a mystery to many people. He would take $500 from one man for investment and $600 from another, give the five-hundred-dollar man $550 and spend the remainder in lavish living. The five-hundred-dollar man would come again and his $500 would go to pay a four-hundred-dollar man $450.”

newsboys from new york to hutchinson hawked stories about bold ben.

as confident and cheerful as ever, thus gaining the moniker, “Bold Ben.” I believe that this is where the Hutchinson arrival legend originated. The story follows:


IN PETTICOATS Bold Benny Blanchard was here all day Saturday And Left on the Eleven o’clock C. & E. L. Train Clad in Skirts Blanchard. Some curious Facts about His Flight: After all, Ben Blanchard did not leave town Saturday morning, but was here or in this vicinity secreted and probably read in the Gazette the account of his escape. The following story of his escape is quite authenticated and shows that Ben’s fondness for petticoats hung to him to the last. Mr. Courtwright, night operator for the C. & E. L., whose office is in the yard north of the city, says that on Saturday night when the north bound 11:00 train stopped in front of his office to register that his attention was called by the express agent and operator at Hillsdale who happened to be down here to a man and woman standing near the water tank. They both thought the parties, who were rough looking, intended to steal a ride and the train’s brakeman was put onto them. The Hillsdale man got on the train also and when

ben advertises for main street lots and residential land in the early days of south hutchinson in this sept. 29, 1887, ad in “the hutchinson news.”

The Terre Haute Gazette continued to follow Ben’s legal difficulties through his final acquittal in February 1886. The Gazette reported on February 27:

he headed home telegraphed back to Mr. Courtwright that the person dressed as a female was Blanchard and that he had taken off his skirts and thrown them off the train. – Terre Haute Gazette Monday, October 19, 1885 The next day’s story debunked the previous one. BOLD BAD BEN His Brother Tells What He Knows of the Erratic Ben. He tried to Dissuade Him From the Purchase of Le Paradis, the Palace Car. It seems a pity to spoil the story that Blanchard went away in petticoats and that other story of his discovery lying on the front platform by a brakeman but if what C. & E. L. Baggageman says

is true, they must both go. He boarded the train at the crossing and went right into the baggage car, apologizing and saying that he intended to get in the sleeper but it stopped too far down. He stayed in the baggage car for several stops and then got off the train. He was said to be very cheerful and when someone asked him how business was, he said “Booming.” – Terre Haute Gazette Tuesday, October 20, 1885 BILLIOUS BEN Blanchard Comes Back and Gives Himself Up Appears in Answer to the Charge of Embezzlement. He said He Promised to Come Back in Sixty Days but Couldn’t quite make it. – Terre Haute Gazette December 24, 1885


ACQUITTED The Jury finds Blanchard Not Guilty. After a Deliberation of an Hour and a Half. Scene in the court Room When the Verdict Was Returned...A Black Eye For the State. The jury came to a decision after 10 minutes. This was the one case out of four filed that the State believed had the best chance of conviction. In May 1886, Ben formed the Inter-State Investment Company with $100,000 capital to buy 280 acres across the Arkansas River from Hutchinson. He platted the town of South Hutchinson that he touted as “The fastest growing town in the west.” On June 1, 1886, the company obtained a state charter for South Hutchinson, Kansas. During the first six months of the town’s existence, the company sold more than $160,000 worth of

(See SALT 6)

he stayed in the baggage car for several stops and then got off the train. he was said to be very cheerful and when someone asked him how business was, he said, “booming.”

avis (isley) and ben in 1887 around the time of their marriage.


Salt strike launches boom

lots, and it became necessary to plat several additions.

(Continued from page 5) Ben married his second wife, Avis, in February 1887, and in August of that year, he began drilling for oil near South Hutchinson.

Rich Quick” Blanchard disappeared from newly platted Monarch, allegedly taking with him $45,000 from the sale of 2,400 lots. Today both are ghost towns.

On September 27, he struck a huge rock salt strata that launched Reno County’s “Salt Boom of 1888.” Ben was only 30 years old. In 1901, while working for the American Copper Company, Ben founded the town of Blanchard, Arizona, and in 1906 he platted Monarch, Nevada. In September 1906, “Get

BEN HITS LONDON From 1910 to 1920, Ben lived in London where he managed the British International Bank. He was also

insight, innovation, integrity. . .every day

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service & expertise 6

ben at his office in london while general manager of the british international bank, ca. 1916.


this 11-page identity

a financial advisor to the financier J. P. Morgan. Howard Blanchard described his grandfather’s life in London and later life to Michael McCormick in 2001. “For a period of time, Ben and Avis were housed at Buckingham Palace. Mementos, including a silver tea set and handmade lace, are family heirlooms, gifts from the King and Queen. After moving back to the States, Ben lost his wealth in the 1929 stock market crash. He became a recluse, caring for a herd of goats in the Chesapeake Valley.”

THE TIDES CHANGE Howard Blanchard recalls that in 1935, he and his parents visited Ben at his home near the Chesapeake Bay. There were no doors, windows, flooring, water or electricity. “He had a small herd of goats with a few kids that he took care of,” Howard said. “When we got back home, I asked Dad what all the black thread was on Granddad’s stomach. Dad said that

Granddad often had hernias that broke through the skin and he just pushed the intestines back inside and sowed up the opening with gut.” Eventually brought back to Terre Haute by his son, Clyde, Ben died March 24, 1942, at the age of 84. He is buried with his first wife and their two children at Woodlawn Cemetery, Terre Haute.

THE FICTION Many legends and stories have been told of Ben Blanchard’s exploits. Below are some of the most pervasive. Myth #1: One popular local legend states that Ben arrived in Hutchinson by rail, wearing crinolines while being pursued on the same train by a detective from Terre Haute in 1886. Lore has it that the detective helped “a lady,” actually Ben in disguise, off the train. This story was told in a history written and recited by Janice Brown at the 1986 South Hutchinson Centennial Celebration:


“A strange-appearing creature in female garb rode the Sante Fe into Hutchinson, Kansas, and was assisted off the train by a detective. The detective was seeking Ben Blanchard. After the detective departed, Blanchard stepped out of the petticoats which had so effectively disguised him from the officer, and emerged as his true self, a real estate promoter from Terre Haute, Indiana.” My research convinces me that this story is false. The story originated in Terre Haute in October 1885 when Ben was eluding capture on

(See BEN 8)

book, below, allowed ben to work in london. the front cover shows a July 27, 1916, issuance date at cannon row metropolitan police division, london. pages 2-3 show his birth date as october 24, 1857, and ben as gen-

eral manager for the british international bank. pages 4-5 show ben as being 5’4 1⁄2” tall, with a medium build and light brown hair “turning grey,” and having a small mole on his chin. (2010.03.10)

this is the front cover of the book, “a trip to the rockies,” by major b.r. corwin, 1889, about the two-week excursion ben and investors took on his palatial pullman car, the dalmatia. (2010.03.09)

Ben and investors arrive in style (Continued from page 7)

at right is an illustration of hutchinson’s riverside salt works that is printed in the book, “a trip to the rockies.” the site was visited by ben and investors during their two-week train trip. (2010.03.09)


fraud charges. While this deception was originally reported in the Terre Haute Gazette, it was recanted the following day. The Gazette account can be read previously in this article. Far from arriving as a fugitive, Ben first arrived in Hutchinson on September 16, 1885, on his luxurious Pullman car, Le Paradis, along with a large party of investors who had purchased Reno County land. Myth #2: One of the most frequently told stories is that in the midst of drilling for oil, Ben poured a barrel of oil into the hole so that he could convince investors that he had discovered oil. Although several stories have circulated surrounding Ben’s actions while exploring for oil, gas or coal, I could find no concrete evidence confirming this action. Like all good tales, the truth of this tale may have to remain shrouded in a bit of mystery.

Myth #3: Another frequently told story is that either Ben never realized that he had discovered salt, or that he left town under duress because of business deals gone bad, and never received recognition or profit from the salt discovery. I think that I can debunk all of these myths. For this, I will reference a fascinating book, “A Trip to the Rockies, by Major B. R. Corwin.” This book is a first-person account of a two-week excursion from Brooklyn, New York, on Ben Blanchard’s Pullman palace, the “Dalmatia.” This trip occurred in 1889, two years after the salt discovery while Ben was president of the Empire Loan and Trust Company of Hutchinson. He had outfit-

ted the 70-foot Pullman car to accommodate bankers, investors and their wives (a total of 22 persons) for a trip to a banking convention in Kansas City. From there the group was to tour Kansas and go on to Colorado. This book clearly shows that Ben continued to work and find investors for at least two years after the salt discovery and was lauded for this. The manuscript gives a fascinating look into the lives of business tycoons in the late 1800s. Following are excerpts from the book: “The car was decorated with silk flags and flowers and every possible provision was made for not only the comfort but royal entertainment of the tourists. An excellent library, beautiful

and Trust Company.’” portfolios, dainty note-books The group was driven past bound in Russian leather, all 12 of the salt works, the checkers, chess, dominoes ice factory, toured sevand other games and in eral farms and visited the fact every thing that could Hutchinson Daily News. possibly be thought of to fan When interviewed the leaden wings of time were placed at the about the trip to fanning disposal of the party Hutchinson, Edthe leaden ... One of the sets of ward Merritt, Esq., wings of time dominoes that were president of Long in the car was made Island Loan and of genuine shell pearl Trust Company, said: “We have been delighted and is the costliest set in the and surprised at the wondercounty.” ful development of the State of Kansas. The growth and The group visited Topeka, Emporia, Newton and Hutchinson where a large group of dignitaries met them, including E. L. Meyer, cashier of First National Bank. The book continues: “After a night at the Brunswick Hotel, guests boarded elegant carriages and set off to the salt works (Riverside Salt Works) where the pure white salt was admired by all ... Standing by the side of one of the leading bank presidents of Hutchinson, at one of the great salt wells, one of our party, not knowing whose energy and enterprise discovered and developed the great industry, made the remark: ‘I should be willing to take off my hat to the man who first struck salt here.’ The bank President replied: ‘Well, you may take off your hat to Mr. Blanchard, the President of the Empire Loan


progress of Hutchinson are marvelous. The discovery by Mr. Blanchard of the salt fields underlying this section of the country must certainly add largely to the wealth of the city and its inhabitants.” After returning home, the party selected a beautiful present of sterling silverware, inscribed as follows: “To Mrs. Ben Blanchard, from the Dalmatia Party, Sept. 23, 1889.”

(See BEN’S 10)

clyde blanchard and son howard stand behind ben (with goat!) in his later years near chesapeake bay. (2010.03.08)

 From these accounts, it seems clear that Bold Ben really had received some recognition during his lifetime for his salt discovery and, perhaps, in some small ways, enjoyed some of the profit.

erations of Blanchards. Their trip included a visit to the Salt Discovery Site, a tour of South Hutchinson, and lunch with invited city and county officials. In the afternoon, the family received a tour of Underground Vaults & Storage, a trip into the Hutchinson Salt Mine and a VIP tour of KUSM. They were surprised and delighted by the warmth and excitement surrounding their visit.


Ben’s family comes for a visit (Continued from page 9)

ben’s descendants, shown in the photo at right, pose near the salt well discovery marker in south hutchinson during their recent visit. they are, from left, terri utz, ben’s greatgranddaughter; terri’s daughter, karen peters; and karen’s son, mathew.

In June 2010, Karen Peters from Wichita Falls, Texas, called and told KUSM staff member Tonya Gehring that she had heard about KUSM and wanted to visit. She then shared that she was the great-great-granddaughter of Ben Blanchard. Tonya immediately engaged her in conversation and even read her the script that the docents use when telling Ben’s story to guests. Karen booked a tour on June 26 for herself, her son, Mathew, and her mother, Terri Utz. Terri’s father, Howard Blanchard, was a major contact of the writer, Michael McCormick, and actually had known his grandfather Ben. We contacted South Hutchinson officials and helped arrange a wonderful reception for the three gen-

FAMILY ARTIFACTS We were thrilled with the Ben Blanchard artifacts that they brought to donate to the Reno County Historical Society. These included an original copy of the book, “A Trip to the Rockies,” photos of Ben and his family, a copy of the Blanchard Coat of Arms, and a passport from Ben’s time in London. Terri also told family stories and was able to fill in some gaps in Ben’s life. Of particular interest was the news that her grandfather, Clyde, was actually born to Ben and Avis in Hutchinson in 1888, after the salt discovery. Terri related that Ben was generally estranged from his children. Although she knew Clyde, he never spoke of Ben. Terri’s father, Howard, spent time with Ben as a


child visiting his mining sites in Arizona and Nevada.

THE LEGACY Although small of stature, Ben Blanchard was larger than life. With his charismatic personality, Ben charmed his way into investors’ pocket books and many a young lady’s heart. He reflected the entrepreneurial and often cavalier spirit that emerged during the booming times that were raging across the land as the population raced west across the nation. Ben has left his indelible mark on Reno County for many generations to come. As that Hutchinson bank president suggested in 1889, “You may take off your hat to Mr. Blanchard...”


actors bring hutchinson historical figures to life in photos at left during the tour of eastside cemetery. above, this angel from a mirror at armstrong’s antiques watches over the group during the ghostly tour. below, joseph kline of p.e.d.r.o., shows an altered “frank’s box” to visitors. later attendees enter the haunting old jail through a grated doorway at fire station no. 1, the site of many a ghostly tale!



By Lynn Ledeboer, RCM Curatorial Assistant


haunting cemetery, eerie shades of the past, and tales of the supernatural! The more than 60 participants in the first-ever Hutch Haunts on October 23, 2010, experienced all those things. Hutch Haunts was cosponsored by the Hutchinson Theater Guild and the Reno County Historical Society (RCHS) as an annual fundraiser for both organizations. This year the Hutchinson Theater Guild combined its popular Talking Tombstones program at Eastside Cemetery with some new ghostly activities coordinated by RCHS. Participants were intro-

duced to the Hutchinson Area Paranormal Investigators (HAPI) and members of Paranormal Encounter Document & Research Organization (PEDRO). They described the tools, techniques and results of these investigations. Then it was off to the cemetery for fascinating histories of past Reno County residents brought to life by Theater Guild actors. Next, guests were taken on a walking tour beginning at the Reno County Museum. They learned the history of many of the historical buildings and landmarks in the


area, such as Pyle Park, Salt City Business College, Memorial Hall, McVay’s Livery and the Crystal Ballroom. A full historical tour was given at three downtown locations that included the Reno County Museum, Armstrong’s Antiques and Fire Station No. 1, followed by a visit to the Kansas Underground Salt Museum (KUSM). Speakers at the four locations shared the history and stories of paranormal activities that had been experienced or reported at each site. Finally, the night ended at KUSM where participants had the option, if they dared, of spending the night underground. Although no ghost sightings were reported during this first Hutch Haunts, all in all it was a very spirited affair!

from left, kusm staff member travis haneke, board member jerry wray, and dave unruh, maintenance supervisor, take a much-needed break while laying the rails.

I hear the train a-comin’ “I By Gayle Ferrell, Director of Operations, KUSM

hear the train a-comin’, it’s rollin’ round the bend. And Dave ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when. The crew keeps laying track, and time keeps draggin’ on. That track must keep a growin’, no matter how they moan.” –Adapted from Johnny Cash

from left, mike allen, dave unruh and board member jerry wray provide the muscle power to get the train rolling as it prepares to be converted to electric power.

It all started with board member Jerry Wray. He asked me one day what I thought about putting a scale model train underground for visitors to ride. He knew a guy who restored and repaired them. Jerry never comes up with a random idea without already having a plan to make it work. So I said, sure, let’s talk to the guy.

I think that occurred early in 2009. We took the guy underground, measured one

of our “intersections” to see what turning radius would fit, and talked funding, pricing, sources and donors. A huge cost, he said, would be rails and ties for the track. Perhaps we could find some used ones at a rail yard? So the next time I could corner him underground, I simply asked Myron Marcotte, Mine Manager at Hutchinson Salt, if we could use the old rails and ties being torn out in the east main.

His answer being “yes” was truly the only way this project would have been possible! Then Jerry came in one day and said that the Hutchinson Zoo was selling its train. Dave Unruh, our Maintenance Supervisor, and I went with Jerry to see what they had, and . . . and . . . IT WAS PERFECT! After verifying that the trucks (wheels) would fit the rails available underground, we bought the former Carey Park Zoo train in July 2009. Now, let me set the stage for this “little” project. We had a one-man maintenance department: Dave. His responsibilities include being in charge of topside and underground building maintenance, tram and trailer maintenance, lighting, scaling, floor sealing, landscaping, working every third weekend, leading scout overnights, leveling traffic routes, replenishing the salt pile, minor exhibit repairs, artifact storage humidity... Are you getting the picture? And then we say, “Hey Dave! Now we want you to build a train route, too!” It is true that Dave always was and still is excited about being able to offer a train ride, but his work experience did not include work-

(See THIS 14)



the finished track below is only part of the 2,000 feet of track needed, which translates to needed 4,000 feet of rail for a total rail weight of 40,000 pounds. no problem!

This job keeps growing (Continued from page 12) ing for a railroad, and no one has laid track underground for more than 25 years. He went over to the zoo, watched them putting their new train tracks together, and that gave him some ideas, like using 3/8” lag bolts through a washer to hold the rails to the ties. Jerry Wray was a great sounding board and mentor, even though he wasn’t experienced at laying track either. Then there is just the magnitude of the job itself: ■ The smaller-sized rail we needed is called 30# rail because that’s what every three-foot section weighs. A standard section is 15 feet, or 150 pounds. ■ After walking the area we could develop and choosing the route, it was estimated we needed 2,000 feet of track, which translated to 4,000 feet of rail. Total rail weight to find and haul back: 40,000 pounds. ■ When Dave and his entire track team (one employee and three volunteers) first started hauling rail, a good day was to retrieve 16 pieces per day. Needed were 267 sections each 15 feet long and weighing 150 pounds. Since they could only work on the train one or two days a week, that would take about three months.


■ The ties are mostly 6” x 6” red oak, and 5 1/2 feet long. About 1,200 ties are needed. They must each be cut in half to fit our narrower train. They also must be predrilled for the “spikes” (bolts). ■ The main retrieval areas were mined out in the 1950s. The rails and ties have been lying there, unused and untouched in a salt mine for at least 50 years. They may have been able to unbolt the rails from the ties, but they still had to raise the rails up with a bobcat and use a sledge hammer to beat the ties loose from the corroded bolts. In the dark. With only helmet lights. ■ They found rail that was already curved 90 degrees to use for the first bend through a barrier wall. After they broke it loose and hauled it back, it looked almost straight. The miners had double spiked it, and it remained curved only while under pressure. What a disappointment! ■ They are using a U-shaped rail bender from Underground Vaults & Storage. The jack screw was stripped out, so the team tried using an eight-ton hydraulic jack. It was not enough power to bend the rail. A 12-ton jack was needed. ■ The rails need to be straight within 1⁄4.” Jerry Wray made a metal gauge to help space them 16” apart. They now use three gauges.

■ The ties must be evenly spaced for support. The team started spacing them 24” center to center. They now place them one pickaxe head apart. (Sometimes ya’ gotta get creative!) ■ The first lag bolts were purchased in March 2010. It was not only physically hard work but also slow progress as they discovered what worked. It used to be a good day for a full crew of five to lay 60 feet of track. That explains why it was such a boost in morale when nine members of Leadership Reno County 2010 spent a Saturday underground in October and laid 205 feet of track! They also cut enough ties for another 200 feet to be laid. The team left behind some good rail rather than destroy switches that were still intact after 50 years. Even though visitors may never see them, they are a unique part of mining history. As of the end of December, there is still a big curve to bend and lay, plus a lot of ballast for support to be put in place. (The finest salt is the best ballast because of the way it packs under the ties.) The engine has been offsite since March being con-

verted from gas to electric. It still needs to be finished, tested and sent underground for testing on the actual track, pulling weight equaling 20 persons on two cars. Fencing will be moved, a gate placed in the loading bay, fire protection devices installed, the communication system extended, and security cameras added. The engine and cars need to be painted and lighting installed to highlight areas of interest. And there’s still the logistics to figure out exactly how often and when the train will run! BUT, OH, WHAT A RIDE IT WILL BE! The new train will run alongside the only piece of railroad left intact in the entire museum area.



Why it wasn’t torn out along with the rest is a mystery, but what a piece of history! Visitors will see things along the route that are not found anywhere else in the museum. The sound of a train car rolling over track that was used 80-plus years ago is like none other! A standing ovation is due Dave Unruh, Travis Haneke, Joel Busch, Jerry Wray, Bob Nickel and several work release inmates assigned from the Hutchinson Correctional Facility! These guys went above and beyond expectations, and persevered when it would have been far easier to say this project was too hard. Major thanks also to the donors who gave financial support! Your contributions have enabled us to pay for most of the renovations as they were done. Barring any complications, we plan to have the SALT MINE EXPRESS on track in March 2011. YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS IT!

three of the nine members of the leadership reno county 2010 “track team,” at left, attach rails to the ties using custom-made gauges to provide the correct spacing.


jamin won scholarships from state and regional museum associations to attend the conference.

 Conference offers…

New ideas and networking By Jamin Landavazo, RCHS Chief Curator


he Reno County Historical Society would like to congratulate our own Chief Curator Jamin Landavazo for receiving scholarships from both the Kansas Museum Association (KMA) and the Mount Plains Museum Association (MPMA) to attend the 2010 MPMA Conference in South Dakota. Jamin shares her experiences with us below.

the kansas delegation, including jamin, front row, second from left, takes a break during the 2010 museum conference in rapid city, s.d.

The sight of Mount Rushmore at night, the camaraderie of professionals from across the museum spectrum, the opportunity to discuss challenges and gain new ideas – these were the reasons I wanted to attend the 2010 MPMA conference in Rapid City, and it certainly did not disappoint. As a first-time MPMA attendee, I was immediately won over by the warm, welcoming atmosphere and the willingness of anyone I met to strike up a conversation. It was exciting to know that I could bring up a col-

lections dilemma or copyright conundrum to anyone. Not only would they know what I was talking about, but often could lend their own advice! As the conference progressed, I found many people willing to act as mentors, even if during a short conversation. Having a mentor that I could turn to for questions, introductions, or simply wave to as another friendly face down the hall was great. My mentor gave me excellent advice and pushed me to get out of my comfort zone which I really appreciated. I heard many helpful tips from people who have been in the profession longer than I have, and who have had experience in dealing with problems that all museums face. These are the people who know what works and what doesn’t.

SIMILAR CHALLENGES I was also able to commiserate with several who were facing similar challenges at their museums. Knowing that our Reno County institutions are not alone was comforting and a relief.


The sessions offered an excellent mix of theory and practice, and seemed to have something for everyone from directors to volunteers to board members. The session on publishing really piqued my interest as the Reno County Museum had talked about creating a book or calendar from a recent exhibit. The presenters had each gone about publishing in a different way, and each had valuable advice for museums both large and small.

ARTICLE PLANNED I was so impressed that I distilled a little of the information they provided into a “dos and don’ts” article for my state museum association. Opportunities for networking abounded, which I found so valuable. I now have an improved arsenal of people I can collaborate with, and call on to ask questions and request loans. I cannot thank the scholarship committee enough for their generous gift that made my attendance at MPMA possible. I can see that this vibrant organization is passionate about the museums and the museum professionals in this region, and I can’t wait to be a part of that mission for many years to come.

new rcm administrative assistant tina moore brings business and accounting skills…plus she’s handy with a hammer.

Tina Moore brings a toolkit of skills


ome people just have the knack for being handy with a paintbrush or hammer. The Reno County Historical Society welcomes Tina Moore, new Administrative Assistant at the Reno County Museum, who is one of those folks. Born in Port Angeles, Washington, six-year-old Tina and her mother, Cheryl, moved to Kansas to be with family. After living in Beloit, Salina, and Wichita, Tina eventually moved to Hutchinson and graduated from Hutchinson High School in 1997. Tina also assisted her mother in her business, Sam’s House Repair & Painting.

When not working on a remodeling project, the other loves of her life are her 13year-old son, Brandon, and husband, Tracey. Brandon is a seventh grader who loves video games, while Tracey works at SDK Labs in Hutchinson. Tina also enjoys making handmade soaps, lotions and herbal remedies, which she says are great for Christmas gifts.

SHE DID IT ALL “I did everything that had to do with paperwork and money,” Tina explained. After business and accounting classes at Hutchinson Community College, she also gained valuable experience working as a convenience store manager, hotel night auditor and even “repo agent” in Cushing, Oklahoma. Last year Tina, her mother and a friend opened their own remodeling and repair partnership, Chic’s Unlimited. Tina described the idea for starting their business as being “...spur of the moment. We knew we had the tools and the knowledge.”


She also has “...a china hutch full of bottles...” intended for her homemade wares. Tina brings a wide range of skills to her new role here and, perhaps, more importantly, her own customized toolkit!

the audience eagerly awaits the movie during heidari’s introduction. and what’s a movie without popcorn? the experience was complete, thanks to kusm staff members tonya gehring and patty gould.

What makes you happy!


an happiness be measured scientifically? Are there similarities that are global? These were the questions addressed in the documentary movie, “Happy,” directed by Academy Awardnominee Roko Belic and narrated by Marci Shimoff. On Wednesday, December 15, more than 100 KUSM visitors were treated to a free, pre-release screening of the “Happy” movie. Viewers

ask everyone to remember made the descent to Underto take off their hard hats,” ground Vaults & Storage that said Heidari, referring to the graciously hosted the event underground location. in its spacious event room. The movie explored the Hutchinson native Omid contrasting issues of happiHeidari, a social outreach director for the movie, provided an introduction and explained his role in the marketing and licensing of the movie. Heidari stated he played a crucial role in helping Belic “... finish the movie. Telling him when the film was good enough to viewers flock to the merchandise table. go to DVD...” “This is the first screening ness and sadness in such farI’ve been to where I have to reaching places as Okinawa, Namibia and Denmark as well as the United States. After the screening of the movie, Heidari answered questions and directed viewers to the website for the movie, Thought-provoking and insightful, this movie hopefully sent everyone away happy!

We’re proud to share our hometown with you. How fortunate we are to live in a community with such diverse and high quality amenities -- including the Reno County Museum and Kansas Underground Salt Museum!

4 Hutchinson locations to serve you


Visions of sugar plums danced in their heads Visions of sugar plums were certainly dancing in the heads of many children after the whirlwind of holiday activities at the Reno County Museum in December. The Old Fashioned Christmas saw children making crafts that were all held together with a bit of salt. From salt and glittersprinkled snowflakes to salt dough, there were plenty of fun crafts. Thanks to all the great volunteers for helping make this event such a success!

Only five days later, RCM offered delicious homemade sugar cookies to decorate.


The Downtown Hutchinson Revitalization group again coordinated a live nativity in George Pyle Park. Afterward many viewers headed to the museum to decorate their cookie. Each event drew more than 200 visitors who enjoyed the holiday festivities with warm hot chocolate and treats. These two RCM holiday events were best served sweet and salty!

volunteers from many organizations helped out at the old-fashioned christmas, above. cookie decorator extraordinaire, blake elliott, left, takes the first bite of his cookie at the december “third thursday” event.

ASK DR. V... Welcome to the next installment in our rather interesting discourse on all things salty. I must say that your questions keep getting more interesting. Q. I know there are salt substitutes but has man ever actually made “salt?” Can that be done?

dr. russell vreeland, retired director of the ancient biomaterials institute, has conducted research in hutchinson salt mines on several occasions.

A. The answer to this question may actually be more than you might have thought, and there are several ways for me to approach it. So let us start with a basic aspect. First, in chemistry the word “salt” has a large meaning in that it is any molecule that can be formed from the reaction of an acid, such as hydrochloric or sulfuric acid or even vinegar (acetic acid), with a base – sodium hydroxide (lye), potassium hydroxide or even baking soda (bicarbonate). In fact all “salt substitutes” are a type of salt. So to make any salt we only have to react those two things. To make sodium chloride we simply have to react hydrochloric acid with sodium hydroxide and we get our good friend sodium chloride. We can even predict the exact mass of salt we will get. So, yes, we can make salt by direct chemical synthesis. In fact you can make a salt at home. Just add some bicarbonate to vinegar and watch it bubble. You are making a salt called sodium acetate. At a different level, humans

have been “making salt” since 2,500 BCE (before the Common Era). At that time, a man named Shu-Sha, a subject of the Chinese Emperor Huang, realized that you can slowly evaporate sea water to get salt. We have been doing that ever since and the process hasn’t changed much in that time either. So Shu-Sha would recognize a salt-making area today if he saw it. We call this “solar salt.” By the way, nearly every crystal of solar salt has microbes in it. This is really the way nature made the salt in the mine where the Kansas Underground Museum is located. Q. If a chunk of salt has been cut or broken out and has a fluid inclusion in it, will the fluid inclusion ever dry up or go away on its own after cutting? A. No. The other inclusions won’t. That is the beauty of salt and why it is so protective. You would lose any brine in the inclusions you cracked open but in general the rest of them would survive just fine. Strangely, the fluid inclusions will dry up without cracking if you put a crystal in the freezer or over a drying agent. This is because salt is waterloving and will take humidity from the air around it. If you take away the humidity, the crystal loses water which is slowly replaced by the water


in the inclusion. Also, the crystal will shrink! Q. Does light affect salt in any way? If so, does the type of light make a difference, for example, sunlight versus fluorescent light? A. No, light really doesn’t have an effect on salt but it might mess up material trapped inside. However, salt miners do talk about “purple” or “blue” salt. This is salt that is yellow underground but turns purple or blue when you get it to the surface. Ask Myron about that, but I call those “prize” salt crystals “leaverights” – as in “leave ‘er right” there. Okay, so now I have a question for my readers. When old Shu-Sha invented a method to get salt easily, he really fouled up the government. You see, around that time you paid your taxes in SALT crystals – it was that valuable. Here’s my question: What common English word (something that we all want every or every other Friday) is actually based on the Latin word for salt? A. Salary...from “sal,” the Latin word for salt, and “salarium,” the money given to soldiers so they could buy salt. There is no prize for the right answer but, if you want, I can get Myron to get some purple salt for the winners!

rchs development director sherry mundhenke

We’re still growing… The Reno County Historical Society would like to welcome the following new members and thank the following renewing members as of December 30, 2010. Thank you for your continued support of RCHS. **New member Founders’ Circle Underground Vaults & Storage Visionary Boggs, Mae Fick, Roger First National Bank James A. & Juliet L. Davis Foundation, Inc. Salt Circle Barkley Plumbing Corp. **Collins Industries, Inc. **Data Center, Inc. Dillon’s First National Bank Hutchinson Salt Company Preserver Barker, Bob Dillon, Betty Greater Hutchinson Convention and Visitors Bureau Kerr, David Meyer, Nation Peel, Bob Rogers, Helen W. SNB Bank of Kansas Donors’ Circle **Bridgeman Oil Backer Deming, Dan Depenbusch, Frank Foss, Patty Mills, Stephen Moore, Kim Mundhenke, Gary Wilson, John Sustainer Rimmer, John Supporter Adams, Donald

Alexander, Frank Bacon, Robert Berger, Ed Boggs, Dennis Cannon, Dianne Coats, Barbara Conner, Fred Crainer, Herchel Dillon, Carolyn Drake, Anita Falter, Richard **Fan, John Fee, Frank Fesler, D. R. Gravel & Concrete, Inc. Habiger, E. Francis Harder, Jesse Haskell, Jim Hayes, Elizabeth Hinshaw, Lona Holmberg, Kyle Johnson, Edward Johnston, Randy Kelly, Lee Kite, Ron KKB Properties, LLC Leslie, William Nash, Rodney Oswald, Liz **Premer, Gale Rassette, Mark Rayl, Virginia Ryan, Harold Schlickau, Lois Schoefp, F. E. Schrater, Gerald Studt, Charles Swearer, John Swearer, William Wagerle, Larry Williams, Barbara Witham, Gary Wortman, Jack Friend Allen County Library Applegate, Mildred Elaine Bacon, Juanita Benscheidt, Charles Benscheidt, Mike Blocher, Jerry Brauer, Anthony Bruce, Sarah Cappony, Angeline Cole, Jo Ann Coleman, Gerald


Collins, Bill Commerce Bank Conard, Steve Cummings, Maurice Dellenbach, Glenna Doherty, Ed Dunn, Roy Ediger, Lewis Fee, Robert **Ferrell, Mike Goheen, Esther Graves, Joe Green, Gerald Hartford, John Hawkins, Steven Henne, Greg Heter-Sargent, Gladys Higgins Soft Water, Inc. Hoefer, Stanley Horton, Martha Hutchinson Public Library Hyter, Charles Lind, Robert Lingg, Rita Lowe, Wayne Martindell, Irene Mayhew, Jackie McAdams, Lloyd McPherson, Sally McReynolds, Kenneth Mitchell, Norma Morray, Norman Murray, Max Newton, Bert Nicklin, Robert O’Neal, Michael Pfenninger, Bill Pools Plus Potter, James Powers, Vern Pyle, Donna **Reinert, Russell Rothwell, Jack Sampier, Rowena Schmitt, Warren Shank, Richard Snyder, Phyllis Soukup, Herb Stallman, George Stiggins, Ruth Thurman, L. P. Unruh, Merlan **Vogel, Ken Willems, V. T. Winslow, Robert Yoder, Jolene Yowell, Cleyon

THANK YOU! the reno county historical society wishes to thank the following for their generosity from august through december 2010: • betty sanders – rcm special projects volunteer • westar foundation – kusm donation for scout overnights your help is much appreciated!


sales case of salt samples (kusm05.06.388)

UNIQUELY SALT Ben Blanchard was an unusual man. His discovery of salt shaped the course of the history of Reno County forever. In tribute to the very essence of uniqueness that Blanchard embodied, this Focus on Collections depicts some of the unique and varied salt-related items that are in the Reno County and Kansas Underground Salt Museums’ collections. Viva la difference!

these notepads, top, were distributed by barton salt. (1989.030.08)

this china saucer, top, featuring the hutchinson salt works, was made in austria for the fair department store. (1991.22.03) morton salt’s magazine, “the spout,” above, featured the home building boom on its 1955 cover with a photo of mrs. vigneault and daughter nancy in their kitchen. (2003.42.01)

every housewife or chef needed a barton salt company apron. (kusm06.08.01)



this hutchinson salt company souvenir, above, features the plant on this 1905 demitasse cup, possibly given as a premium by the fair department store. (1998.64.01)

at right is a detail from a carey salt sales card designed to give feedback to the carey sales team. (1997.40.06) below is a pencil from the barton salt company (1991.29.32); underneath is the 1896 sign (2004.00.88) announcing carey salt’s first generator, and a 1950s photo of the generator with sign attached.

this fold-out map of u.s. radio stations, lower left, was sold by morton salt company for 25 cents in 1928. (1993.58.215) the barton salt “cookbook,” above, actually opened up to reveal a packet of needles, left. (1989.030.05)


act now or you won’t have the unparalleled opportunity to match wits with 007. underground, yet! february 19 is drawing near so get those tickets now for the popular “murder in the mine” series. see below for details.


KANSAS UNDERGROUND SALT MUSEUM EVENTS KANSAS UNDERGROUND SALT MUSEUM 9 am–5 pm Tues–Fri 9 am–6 pm Saturday 1–6 pm Sunday closed mondays closed easter sunday, april 24 open monday, may 31 9 am–6 pm last tour departs two hours before closing reservations strongly recommended call us or check our web site for holiday hours and weather closings. adults: $15.75 seniors (60+), aaa & active military: $14.40 children (4-12) & reno county residents: $9.85 prices include gallery tour & dark ride special pricing for groups over 28 and school groups children under 4 not admitted due to mine safety regulations. 3504 e. avenue g

(at airport road) hutchinson, ks 67501 620-662-1425 toll-free 866-755-3450



“The Spy Who Killed Me”

$30 per person Try an Overnight Scouting event for an exciting underground adventure. Scouts must be 10-18 years of age. Minimum one adult chaperone for each five scouts.

February 19, 2011 Departure starts at 5:30 p.m. $50 per person Don’t miss the next in our fantastically popular series of “murders!” Match wits with 007 in this spy spoof – or just enjoy the dinner and theatrics. This unique underground experience includes both gallery tour and dinner theater. You must be 18 years of age or older.

Only one date remaining for 2011: February 12, 2011 (Openings for 40 Girl Scouts) For reservations or information, call Tonya Gehring or Gayle Ferrell. 620-662-1425 • 866-755-3450


Take a thrilling train ride 650 feet underground. Watch for details. (Read all about it on page 12.)

KUSM EXHIBITS COMING SOON Admit it. You’ve always wanted to sink your hands into salt! And soon you’ll have your chance. A new interactive display coming to KUSM will allow you to explore the incredible varieties of salt. First hand!

SALT SECRETS (ongoing) Salt secrets finally exposed! MYRONMOBILE (ongoing) Come see the “Myronmobile,” from the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” TV show filmed in the Hutchinson Salt mine.

THE STORY OF UNDERGROUND VAULTS & STORAGE (ongoing) View costumes and props from your favorite movies.


were extracted from ancient Permian salt.

Explore the efforts of Kiwanis International and UNICEF in using salt to combat IDD.


TAKE IT WITH A GRAIN OF SALT (ongoing) Discover how live bacteria


(ongoing) Explore the general history of salt mining in Hutchinson, including mining equipment.


the reno county museum is taking local exhibits to small communities in its new “rcm on the road” series. first is haven and yoder. see below for schedule. now on display is the a.m. switzer general store in yoder in 1920. (1989.137.12)

RENO COUNTY MUSEUM EXHIBITS BISONTE HOTEL: THE BEST IN THE WEST (Coming in June!) Visitors will have the opportunity to take a long-awaited look at one of Hutchinson’s most beloved memories – the Bisonte Hotel. This exhibit will bring the bustle and sparkle of the Bisonte to life.

If you currently own an item from the Bisonte that you would consider loaning to us for the exhibit, please contact Curator Jamin Landavazo at 620-662-1184. “86.121” (Ongoing) Meet past Reno County resi-

dent Mildred Hobbs (donor #86.121) through the vast collection of artifacts she and her family generously donated to RCM. Follow the process as an artifact is donated to RCM and is finally featured in an exhibit.

A FEW OF OUR FAVORITE THINGS (Ongoing) The Reno County Historical Society staff chose their favorite artifacts for this display. Most of these items have never before been on exhibit.

TRANSPORTATION GALLERY (Ongoing) Come enjoy the Schuttler wagon, an Amish buggy, the Indian motorcycle, sidecar and much more in this fascinating look at the past.

RCM EVENTS RCM ON THE ROAD… Watch for dates in your community! The Reno County Museum is hitting the road this year in its new “RCM On The Road” series. We are visiting the smaller communities in Reno County and establishing small, temporary exhibits highlighting items unique to those towns. Check out this schedule:

Haven/Yoder: February So. Hutch/Pretty Prairie: April Sylvia/Plevna: June Turon/Langdon: August Arlington/Abbyville: October Buhler/Medora: December Nickerson/Partridge: Feb. 2012

ICE CREAM SOCIAL July 21 Cool off with some ice cream in the RCM courtyard. What a nice way to enjoy the summer!


CHALKFEST April 21 Break out your chalk! It’s time to draw! Fun, prizes and bragging rights! Watch for details.


Throughout 2011 Look for more details on events and activities happening throughout the year to celebrate Kansas’ 150th birthday in 2011!

RENO COUNTY MUSEUM HOURS 9 am–5 pm tues-sat closed sunday and monday free admission unless otherwise noted 100 S. Walnut 620-662-1184


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reno county historical society p.o. box 664 hutchinson, kansas 67504-0664


Permit No. 135 Hutchinson, KS 67501

return service requested

If your address changes, please call us at 620-662-1184. if you’re not a member and wish to join, please call us at 620-662-1184. and don’t forget to check out our web site at

Legacy Winter 2011  

The Journal of the Reno County Historical Society