Floats of Every Description & The Fight of the Century: July 4, 1910

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

“A Grand Day In Newton”

Parades, fairs and festivals were an important part of Harvey County history. The events were an opportunity for people to gather, both rural and city, for fun. Special days, like the 4th of July provided a natural opportunity.  A full day of fun and activity was planned for the 1910 July 4th celebrations in Newton beginning with a parade on Main.

Evening Kansan Republican, 4 July 1910.

Early morning on the 4th of July, vehicles “from all precincts began to arrive bringing their loads of happy humanity.. . . by nine o’clock the streets were from First to Tenth streets with a gay crowd.” The parade down Main Street was the main event. Following the marshal of the day, Dr. Graybill, and the Newton Commercial Band, “came floats of every description, not a poor one in the lot.”

Evening Kansan Republican, 5 July 1910.

Pictures of the day show throngs of people gathered on Newton’s Main street.

“Floats of Every Description”

Excitement was in the air as Newtonians no doubt followed the news of the upcoming match of the “Fight of the Century” between Jack Johnson and James Jeffries in Reno, Nevada, at on July 4, 1910.

Booster Day Parade Float, July 4, 1910.

One float was created to  depicted the upcoming match. Local firefighter, Aster Early dressed as the fighter Jack Johnson, a Black man.

Astor Early

Ed Wagner portrayed the “Great White Hope” James Jeffries.

“Fight of the Century”

Billed in national and local newspapers as the “fight of the century,” interest in the contest for the world heavyweight championship  was intense. Jack Johnson, the seventh man to hold the heavyweight title and the first Black man to hold the title, challenged a retired, undefeated, James J. Jeffries.

The 32 year old Jack Johnson was in prime fighting form and successfully defended the title against 5 white challengers.  Boxing insiders and the media worked to find a white man that could beat him. At 34, Jeffries had not fought in six years, weighed close to three hundred pounds, and was in no condition to fight. Under financial and social pressure, Jeffries consented to come out of retirement for the match. Jeffries was guaranteed $101,000 purse, with movie rights and a $10,000 cash bonus if he fought Johnson.  He acknowledged that “portion of the white race that has been looking at me to defend its athletic supremacy may feel assured that I am fit to do my very best.”  The media dubbed him “the White Hope.”

The match was set for Jul;y 4, 1910 in Reno Nevada. By June, Jeffries had lost weight due to intense training, however; his reflexes were not what they had been at his peak.

In the lead up to the fight, the press focused on the idea that Johnson and Jeffries were pitted against each other as representatives of their respective race.  It was up to Jeffries to “restore collective racial prestige.” (McCormick, July 4, 1910: Johnson vs Jeffries)

On the day of the fight, Johnson entered the ring first and appeared outwardly confident as he was introduced to the hostile Reno crowd.  When Jeffries entered, he refused to shake his opponents hand. Despite beginning the fight aggressively, it soon was apparent that Jeffries was not a match for Johnson.  The match might have ended much sooner, but Johnson feared the consequences of an early knockout.  By the fifteenth round a tiring Jeffries could not compete and Johnson scored the first ever knockdown against Jeffries.  Two more knockdowns and Jeffries’ men stopped the fight as white fans rushed the ring shouting racial slurs. Johnson’s men had to form a protective barrier to get him out of the area.

Across the country Black communities watched with interest. In Hutchinson, at “the Holiness camp meeting tent . . . more than a thousand negroes had collected to pray for the black man’s victory.

Immediately following the match, violence broke out across the United States.  Perhaps the worst day for race riots in American history until the late 1960s.  The fatalities were “overwhelmingly black.”   To attempt to calm the atmosphere, cities across the nation barred the fight film from theaters.  Congress attempted to pass a bill to ban all boxing films from theaters.


Hutchinson Gazette, 6 July 1910.

On the day after the fight, the Evening Kansan Republican is silent on the results.

Evening Kansan Republican, 5 July 1910.

Other area Kansas papers included details of the fight for the Kansas reader.

Wichita Eagle, 5 July 1910.


Hutchinson Gazette, 6 July 1910.


Leavenworth Times, 5 July 1910.

A statement from the fighters in the Leavenworth Post.

Leavenworth Post, 5 July 1910.

Film of the match.



  • Evening Kansan Republican: 16 June 1910, 4 July 1910, 5 July 1910, 9 July 1910.
  • Hutchinson Gazette: 5 July 1910, 6 July 1910.
  • Leavenworth Times: 5 July 1910.
  • Leavenworth Post, 5 July 1910.
  • Salina Evening Journal: 5 July 1910.
  • Wichita Daily Eagle: 5 July 1910.
  • http://www.ibhof.com/pages/archives/johnsonjeffries.html
  • https://timeline.com/when-a-black-fighter-won-the-fight-of-the-century-race-riots-erupted-across-america-3730b8bf9c98

Sings Along the Highway

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

I had the opportunity to travel for vacation a few weeks ago, and as we were driving in Illinois on I-72, this sign caught my eye.

Image result for free frank mcworter memorial highway sign
Who was “Free Frank McWorter” and what connection could he have to Harvey County, Kansas?

Who Was Free Frank McWorter?

In 1777, on a South Carolina plantation, Frank was born.  His mother, Juda, was a West African slave; his father was the plantation owner of Scottish and Irish descent named George McWorter.  In the early 1800s, Frank was sent to Kentucky to run a farm for his owner.

As a young man, Frank began planning for his freedom. Even as a slave, he saved money. In 1817, he purchased his wife, Lucy, and two years later he negotiated his own freedom.

Frank was 42 when he gain his freedom. By 1830, he purchased his oldest son and moved his free family members to the Illinois frontier.  He established a farm near the Mississippi River that came to be known as New Philadelphia.  Over the next 40 years Free Frank purchased 13 members of his family at a cost totaling approximately $14,000.

Free Frank died near the community he helped build on September 7, 1854.  Lucy lived until 25 August 1870. Both are buried in the McWorter Cemetery, Hadley, Pike County, Illinois.

His son, Solomon,  continued the work of purchasing freedom for family members. In 1857, he purchased freedom for Charoltte Cowan, a granddaughter of Free Frank.

The Harvey County Connection

Free Frank and Lucy’s children, including Sarah ‘Sally’  (1811-1891), were born on the Dunham farm where Lucy was a slave until 1817. Daughter, Sally was freed 4 September 1843.


In March 1857, Sally McWorter’s daughter, Hiley (1834-1929) married Alexander Clark.  The Clark family traveled to Valley Center Township in Sedgwick County, Ks to homestead in 1873. Alexander was described as “an enterprising farmer on section 34, Valley Center Township.”  On the 160 acre section of land, he engaged in “raising  fine grade cattle and Poland-China hogs, as well as the raising of cereals.”  Hiley and Alexander had seven children including Maggie.

Maggie married Nathaniel “Nate” Anderson in 1899.  They had seven children. They raised their children in Harvey County and for a time Nate owned the pool hall “around the corner from fourth street.” Later in life, “he took up gardening and his flowers and vegetables were a joy to all who saw them.” (Newton Kansan, 4 April 1951)

Nate Anderson died in 1951, Maggie died in 1966 and both are buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Newton, Harvey County, Kansas.

Nathaniel Anderson was the son of early Harvey County pioneers, David Anderson and Mary Rickman-Anderson-Grant. Nate came  in 1871 with his parents and lived on the family homesteaded east of Newton.

Free Frank McWorter Historic Memorial Highway

In fall of 1990, an article entitled “Freed from Obscurity” was published in the Chicago Tribune. The article was the result of painstaking research by Dr. Juliet E.K. Walker.  Her goal was “to put her great-great-grandfather’s gravesite on the state’s map and into public consciousness.”  She was successfulThe gravesite was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  In addition,  the portion of I-72 near the site of New Philadelphia was named the “Free Frank McWorter Historic Memorial Highway” and the state of Illinois put up a sign.

Image result for free frank mcworter highway sign

Want to learn more about this family and the ties to south central Kansas?

On Monday evening, September 10, 2018, at 7:00, family historian,  Karen Wall will present “Voices of Freedom, The Story of the McWorter Family”   at the 2nd Monday  Family History & Genealogy Group in Goessel, Ks. She will share the amazing research she did in discovering her grand-daughter’s heritage. The meeting will take place in the Goessel City Building Community Room, 101 So. Cedar St., Goessel.  For more details on this program please call  the Mennonite Heritage & Agricultural Museum at 620-367-8200.

We are indebted to Karen Wall, Newton, Ks, for her tenacious family research that provided the background for this post.


  • McWorter/Anderson/Rickman File, Curator’s Office, HCHM includes Karen Wall research notes and family trees for an exhibit on the Anderson/Rickman families.
  • Evening Kansan Republican: 4 April 1951, p. 4.
  • Sedwick County Portrait & Biographical Album.  “Alexander Clark” Find a Grave Memorial #48380273.
  • http://www.freefrank.org/
  • http://americanhistory.si.edu/many-voices-exhibition/peopling-expanding-nation-1776%E2%80%931900/western-migration/free-frank-mcworter


The Mystery Arch

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Several weeks ago we posted this photo on our Facebook page. The photo in our collection did not have any information with it. Scanning the Evening Kansan Republican did not yield answers.  The answer was found a recently added archival collection of Harvey County Extension Annual Reports.

Buried in the Harvey County Extension Annual Report for 1926, the same photo.

“The Festival Arch entrance to the agricultural booth exhibit of the Harvey County Fall Festival, 1926”

The next year, the arch was even grander.

“Entrance Arch to Agricultural Displays at the Harvey County Fall Festival, 1927.”

The Harvey County Extension Collection was recently added to HCHM’s Archives.  The annual reports often included photographs and detailed information on the farming community of Harvey County.  The collection is available for researchers at HCHM Archives.