“The 4th Gold Star:” William Savage

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

“This makes the fourth gold star to be placed on the high school service flag, and we all hope the last.” (Evening Kansan Republican, 4 December 1918, p. 5)

The United States entered the Great War on April 6, 1917, by the summer of 1918 young men from Harvey County were drafted into the army.  As a first step, they went to training camps before being sent to France. With communication slow, letters from soldiers were often shared in the newspaper by their families.

The Savage family had two sons far from home. Mrs. M.S. Savage shared the news from her two sons, Melvin and William, in the Evening Kansan Republican  in the fall of 1918. Thirty year old, Melvin was stationed at a Camp in Texas for training.  In his letter dated November 15, 1918, he spoke “highly of the canteen service which was appreciated by the soldiers . . . without which the boys would often go unfed.”

On November 25, 1918 Mrs. M.S. Savage received word from her son Will. He reported he had completed training at the Great Lakes Training School and  “that he will have an opportunity to go overseas and will likely be on transport duty.” Sadly, he did not make the journey overseas.

“Very Sad News”

A neighbor to the Savage family, Waive Kline wrote to her fiance, Glenn Wacker in France of the sad news in December.

“Savages rec’d some very sad news Monday. Will was drowned on Monday. He was at Norfolk, Va and seems as if they were getting ready to sail. Some of the boys had been scuffling on deck and had broken the railing . . . Will came along and not knowing this he leaned against the railing and it gave way with him and he fell in . . . .They have never found the body.
-Waive to Glenn, Dec.5, 1918

“His Prospects Were Bright”

Born in Downs, Ill, 31 December 1895, William Savage came to Harvey County, Kansas with his family in 1906. They purchased a farm in Macon Township. Three years later,  his father died. At that time, William and his older brother Melvin formed a partnership and farmed together. A 1913 graduate of Newton High, William enlisted as a second class seaman in May 1918.

William Savage, 1913.

“Loses Life in Service”

William was an instructor at the rifle range at Camp Logan near the Great Lakes naval training station.  In November 1918, he was sent to Norfolk navy yards.  While aboard the United States steamer Clio, several other men got into a tussle and a bar at the gateway loosened.  Later, when Savage leaned against the bar, it gave way and he fell overboard.  Efforts to rescue him failed. His body was never found and“the sands of the ocean form his resting place.”  An investigation revealed that his death was caused by “the unsafe condition of the vessel.” 

Evening Kansan Republican, 3 December 1918.

The Mt Pleasant News for Dec. 6, 1918 reported;

In every home where the Savage family is known, sadness and gloom have been present since it became known that Will, the youngest son of the family, had met his death at Norfolk, Va., by drowning. Particulars of the accident are very meager. His brother, Thomas, left for that place Tuesday with the hope that the body may have been recovered. . . .The mother and brothers have the sympathy of all at this time of awful sorrow.”
Newton Evening Kansan Republican, Dec. 6, 1918

News of his death was particularly hard to bear as it came less than a month after peace had been declared on November 11, 1918.

“His death in so tragic a manner, coming as it has at a time when hearts have been gladdened by the joyous anticipations of the return of their loved ones in government service is particularly sad.”

Since William was a 1913 graduate of Newton High, a fourth star was placed on the school service flag. The editor of the  Evening Kansan Rwepublican noted: “This makes the fourth gold star to be placed on the high school service flag, and we all hope the last.” (Evening Kansan Republican, 4 December 1918, p. 5)

Pneumonia claimed Melvin J. Savage” 

The Savage family endured additional sorrow  several weeks later when a second son died.  The Newton Evening Kansan Republican  reported on Dec. 16, 1918  that “a series of tragic events combine to make this a peculiarly sad death.”  Thirty year old Private Melvin J. Savage was training with the 681st aerial squadron at Kelly Field, Texas, when he received the news of the death of his  brother Will.  On the trip home “to comfort his mother who was griefstricken,”  Melvin contracted a severe cold that developed into pneumonia.  He passed away at Axtell Hospital, in Newton on Dec 15, 1918. He was buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery.

Parade, 1919, World War 1 Soldiers, Main, Newton, Ks

In a ceremony in 1919, the Savage brothers, along with other soldiers from Harvey County, were remembered. In addition to a brief biographical sketch  of those that lost their lives, the complete roster of all Harvey County soldiers  was included in the May 19, 1919 issue of the  Evening Kansan Republican.


  • Evening Kansan Republican: 15 November 1918, 25 November 1918, 3 December 1918, 4 December 1918, 7 December 1918, 11 December 1918, 12 December 1918, 14 December 1918, 16 December 1918, 17 December 1918, 18 December 1918, 19 December 1918, 17 January 1919, 19 May 1919.
  • Waive Kline, Harvey County, Ks,  to Glenn Wacker, France, 5 December 1918.  Glenn & Waive Kline Wacker Collection, HCHM Archives, Newton, Ks.

Picture Man: William S. Prettyman

 by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

The culture of the Native Americans in the late 1880s and 90s was fascinating to white Euro-Americans, even as it was changing and disappearing. As a result, there was opportunity for photographers to open studios and sell prints of life in the West. The time period between 1875 and 1920 is sometimes called the “Golden Age of Western Photography.” One area of particular interest was focused on the live of Native Americans.

William S. Prettyman

One photographer was William S. Prettyman.  Born in Maryland in 1858, Prettyman first came to Emporia, Ks in 1879 “with 5 cents in his pocket.”

William S. Prettyman. Photo courtesy Prettyman, Don.  “William S. Prettyman: Frontier Phtographer.

He eventually made his way to Arkansas City, Ks where he apprenticed with I.H. Bonsall, a well-known Civil War photographer. In 1883, he made his first foray into Indian Territory in his cameras and other equipment in a custom built buggy pulled by oxen.

Custom built buggy for trips into Indian Territory. Photo courtesy Prettyman, Don.  “William S. Prettyman: Frontier Phtographer.

The Picture Man

This became an annual tradition and he quickly became known as “the Picture Man” among the Native Americans he met.  He made friends easily and was at first interested in the Osage tribe, but over the years his interested expanded to include the Ponca, Otoe, Iowa, Sac, Cheyenne, Arapahos, Shawnee, Cherokee and Pottawatomie. He was able to photograph many of the principal chiefs of the various groups.

In general, his work is described as “journalistic and documentary, rather than pictorial.” He “resented the acculturation” he observed and tried to document  customs and rituals. He wanted his photographs to show Native Americans “in their natural state of living, before civilization took them off of their land.” 

There are two photos taken by Prettyman in the Photo Collection at HCHM.

Photographer William S. Prettyman, n.d. HCHM Photo Collection.

Photographer William S. Prettyman, n.d. HCHM Photo Collection.

 Prints, like the ones above, were typically mounted on cabinet cards, boudoir cards, and stereographs and marketed to  tourists  and easterners who displayed the photos in their homes.

Cherokee Outlet

After about 10 years, Prettyman moved to Blackwell, Ok where served as mayor. He continued to take photographs.

In September 1893, the opening of the Cherokee Outlet, gave him the opportunity to take one of the  first motion photographs. To get  photographs of the action, he had to make plans well in advance and in secret. He hired men to build a 3 story platform near the starting point, but they were not told why.  Prettyman was also careful to stay away from the construction of the platform. All of his efforts to keep his plan a secret paid off. He was able to set up four cameras by the noon opening of the run.  He instructed his employees to “squeeze the bulbs of their camera at two-second intervals as soon as the race began.” Four photos were taken, since each camera could only take one picture. With everything set up and ready to go,  Prettyman decided to enter the land run himself and let his assistants take the photographs.

Opening of Cherokee Outlet or Cherokee Strip. Photo by William S. Prettyman, September 1893. Photo courtesy Prettyman, Don.  “William S. Prettyman: Frontier Phtographer.

Of the four photographs, one was destroyed because is was considered poor quality. One caught the moment the race began, another showed the slower wagons behind the horses and the final photo showed the racers fanning out. Prettyman’s photo of the opening  of the Cherokee Outlet “became one of the most famous images of that era.”

He reportedly made over 10,000 pictures over the length of his career.

In 1905, he sold the studio, including the negatives, to George W. Cornish and moved to California.  In California, he operated a wholesale drug business.

He died in California in 1932.


  • http://oklahomauniquelyamerican.com/materials/Book%20PDF/Prettyman.pdf
  • Prettyman, Don.  “William S. Prettyman: Frontier Phtographer at http://www.historiccamera.com/cgi-bin/librarium/pm.cgi?action=display&login=prettyman
  • http://blogs.baylor.edu/changing-expanse/william-s-prettyman/william-s-prettyman/
  • Drouin, Jeremy, “Photographing Native Americans in Oklahoma-Indian Territory, KC History, Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library at http://kchistory.org/research/research-guides/photographing-native-americans-oklahoma-indian-territory
  • http://blog.brokenclaw.net/archives/om-photo
  • John R. Lovett, “Prettyman, William S.,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, www.okhistory.org (accessed September 12, 2017).

Memories in Miniature: Exhibit Coming

Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

We are making plans for our next exhibit featuring miniatures of Harvey County.

Grace Hill Mennonite Church, 1881-1954

Grace Hill Mennonite Church Model. Created by Claassen Family, 1999.

Grace Hill Mennonite Church 1881-1954.

 Axtell Hospital

Axtell Hospital Model, Unknown Maker, No Date.

 Trains and the Newton Depot

Newton Depot Model, Created by Don Cooprider.


We have room for a few more models.  If you have a miniature of a building in Harvey County, give us a call.

The exhibit opens in February 2018.