Bringing Sunshine to Sorrowing Hearts: Mrs. Louisa J. Lehman

by Kristine Schmucker, Archivist/Curator

What was life like for the women who came with their husbands to Newton in 1871-72? Their stories are usually harder to find and not as glamourous, but do give a glimpse into real life on the prairie.

In February 1872, Samuel Lehman and his bride arrived in Newton. Mrs. Lehman had the distinction of being “one of the first brides in the primitive town” [Newton]. When the Lehmans arrived in Newton, Samuel went into the hardware business  with Dwight R. Bennett, who also had a young wife, Sarah. The two were neighbors and became friends.


A Bennett family story tells about interactions between the Native Americans and the two young women.

The Indians from Indian Territory would come to Newton.  They were quite wild  at the time . . . Sarah with her young neighbor, Mrs. Lehman who lived next door would lock their doors and would stand outside their houses to trade grease and sugar and other articles or groceries for beads and baskets made by the Indians.”

One can only imagine what other experiences the two shared.

At the time of the Lehman’s arrival, Newton boasted between 13 & 14 buildings and “nothing but prairie to be seen and great herds of cattle” according to the memories of Samuel Lehman. One can only imagine how it looked to his new bride, Louisa.

A year later, Bennett sold his interest in the lumber company to Lehman and moved his family back to Ohio. Perhaps Louisa gave this photo of herself to Sarah as a  remembrance.

Louisa Glendening Lehman

Capable Leadership

Mrs. Louisa J. Glendening Lehman continued to live in Newton and became a leader in the community.  She was born in Bunrysburg, Ohio on February 16, 1848 and died on June 6, 1918 in Newton, Ks.  In  1870, she moved to Topeka, Ks where  she met and married Samuel Lehman on February 12, 1872. The newlyweds left for Newton shortly after. The couple had two children, Glenn and Neva.

Lehman Home, 1870s

Described as cheerful person, devoted to her family and church always “bringing sunshine to sorrowing hearts wherever she found them.” She served has president of the Ladies Reading Circle for sixteen years “during a period when capable leadership meant so much and never failed in her service or faithfulness.” 

One wonders what other stories she would tell about the early days in Newton.


  • Newton Kansan: 10 January 1918, 18 June 1922
  • Register Report for Dwight Ripley Bennett, p. 1. provided by Joe W. Zeman, Norman, Ok. HCHM Archivist/Curator Files: Lehman.
  • Thank you to Joe W. Zeman who identified the photos in his family’s collection as from Newton, contacted HCHM and donated the photos to our collection.  Without this, we would not have a photos of Louisa J. Lehman or her house.

Joan Beatrice Fletcher Comes Home


Our post this week was researched and written by  Jane Jones, guest blogger and HCHM Archivist. The post links our February focus on Black History and March’s Women’s History.  The collection of documents and photos are a recent addition to HCHM Archives.
This is part 1 of a three part blog series featuring the Collection of Joan B. Fletcher.

Joan Beatrice Fletcher Comes Home

by Jane Jones, HCHM Archivist

Her scrapbook, family pictures and a well-worn original land abstract (N1/2 NE1/4 Sec 33 Newton Township) arrived at the Museum in December, 2018 from David W. Jackson, a family historian and archives consultant living in Jackson County, Missouri.  Mr. Jackson contacted us after looking at our website asking if we would accept Joan’s materials that had been kept by her friend. Fletcher was a 1943 graduate of Newton High School. She died in Kansas City, Missouri in 2011 at the age of 85.

Joan’s picture in 1943 NHS Senior Edition


Joan’s Scrapbook 1938-1945

Joan’s scrapbook contains news clippings about her piano performances, speeches she gave as a high school student in a local contest for the American Legion and a speech on Temperance Sunday. Senior and  junior high play programs, musical programs, and critiques of piano performances are also found in the Scrapbook.

She received a Certificate from the Guild of Piano Teachers, a national group to which her teacher Anna Tellin belonged. In 1940 for the National Piano Playing Auditions District Honor Roll Joan received a Good + Rating.  In 1941 she competed in the State Junior Competitive Festival at Arkansas City under the auspices of the National Federation of Music Clubs receiving an Excellent Rating. In 1942, Joan performed for the Association of Colored Women Wichita District held at Newton’s C.M.E. Church April 17 and 18. Fourteen in 1940, Joan had been studying piano for 6 years. Her piano teacher, Anna Tellin, was an exacting and well-respected instructor in Newton and Hutchinson.

This is a program from a recital Joan performed on November 25, 1941 at the Newton Junior High School Auditorium (the school is no longer standing).  She played Bach, Chopin, Clementi and Brahms. Antoinette Blanchard was a voice student of Miss Tellin’s.

Joan’s high school activities included musicals, Glee Club, Orchestra and Girl Reserves.  She received a Scholarship Pin her Sophomore year. With her piano and school activities she was an active young lady no doubt encouraged by her mother. In 1943 Joan was accepted into Sacred Heart Junior College in Wichita.

See Addendum below for new details on Joan’s involvement during this time.

This was a portion of the letter she received.

“My dear Miss Fletcher,

We are pleased to notify you that you have qualified for a Scholarship at Sacred Heart Junior College for the scholastic year 1943-44.”

After graduating from Sacred Heart in 1945,  Joan received another  scholarship of $225 to further her education. She finished at Bethel College in North Newton receiving her B.A. in Chemistry in 1947.  Below is Joan’s graduation picture in the 1947 Bethel College annual.

See Addendum below for new details on Joan’s involvement at Sacred Heart.

A form from Bethel keeps track of each student and their post-graduation work experience. Joan’s was in the medical field.  In 1948 she was working as a lab assistant in bacteriology at Winter General Hospital in Topeka. She received her Med Tech degree and worked at Minneapolis General Hospital in 1949. Joan was a Blood Bank Supervisor for the United States VA Hospital.  I was told she spent time in Washington, D.C. working for the VA. The Junction City City Directory shows her as a Blood Bank Supervisor there in 1961. She may have been working at Fort Riley. Joan’s mother died in 1961 in Kansas City. In 1967 Joan joined her Uncle Fred Banks as a Joint Tenant for the family property in Newton Twp Section 33–2 miles south of 1st St on Hwy 81, ½ mile east. Her address at that time was 419 W. 13th St, Junction City.  And then there was Kansas City living on East Linwood Blvd. By 1990, Joan would have been 65 and able to retire. I don’t know if she continued her obvious interest in and talent for the piano. Nor do I know for sure where she worked in Kansas City– for the VA or a hospital. After retirement she had more time to pursue her interest in her family’s history.

A rather short obituary in the Kansas City Star stated Joan died in the Armour Oaks Nursing Home on April 4, 2011. She never married.  Funeral services were held at St. Monica Catholic Church in Kansas City. Saint Monica was founded in 1909 to serve Black Catholics in Kansas City. The church is located at 1616 The Paseo  in the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District near downtown Kansas City. Joan was a Black Catholic having been baptized in the Catholic Church in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Burial was in Greenwood Cemetery in Newton with her family.  She was home.


 Jane found this additional info on Joan B. Fletcher during her years at Sacred Heart.

                        Joan Fletcher competed with 17 others in a scholarship examination given on May 8, 1943 covering mathematics, physical science, social science and literature at Sacred Heart Junior College in Wichita.  She was one of the winners.  In 1944 while a student at Sacred Heart Joan showed interest and leadership in the newly formed National Federation of Catholic College Students and was one of the students attending the first regional conference at Marymount in Salina.  One of the conference commissions was “inter-racial relations” which Joan probably attended.  She was chairman of the Apostolic committee at Sacred Heart in December, 1944 which assumed the role of “Santa Claus” to provide presents for St. Joseph’s Home in El Dorado.  March 16, 1945 it was reported that the members of the interracial commission held a panel discussion to mark the nation-wide observance of the first national Inter-racial Justice week. “The panel presented the various problems of the Negro in war-time America.  As chairman of the Inter-racial Commission Joan participated in that panel discussion.

While attending Sacred Heart Joan showed her interest in and provided leadership on the discussion of racial issues facing Black people during World War II.


  1. Joan’s Scrapbook 1938-1945.
  2. Newton High School Senior Edition 1943 of the Weekly Newtonian
  3. Obituary from Kansas City Star Archives published April 8 2011.
  4. Letter from Sacred Heart Junior College in Wichita. Dated 1943.
  5. Bethel College Yearbook for 1947
  6. Bethel College alumni information for Joan Fletcher
  7. Saint Monica Catholic Church, Kansas City, MO website.
  8. Thanks to Karen Wall and Sylvia Kelly for finding and providing information.
  9. Harvey County Register of Deeds, Margaret Hermstein
  10. David W. Jackson, Archives Consultant.
  11. Joan’s Baptismal record  (David W. Jackson)
  12. Junction City, Kansas City Directory 1960 (
  13. Kansas City City Directory 1960 (
  14. The Catholic Advance (Wichita, Kansas) May 14, 1943 p 3
  15. The Catholic Advance (Wichita, Kansas) April 14, 1944 p. 1
  16. The Catholic Advance (Wichita, Kansas) Mar 16, 1945 p. 6

“A Commission for the People:” Daisy Dean Spencer

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Newton has had several women mayors, but who was the first?

A notice in the Evening Kansan Republican, Local News, 30 March 1945, (p. 4) gives a clue.

“Vote for Daisy D. Spencer and T.D. Hamilton.  A Commission for the People.” (Advert. paid for by interested friends.)

"Notice To Voters" Evening Kansan Republican, 30 March 1945, Local News, p. 4.

“Notice To Voters” Evening Kansan Republican, 30 March 1945, Local News, p. 4.

Daisy D. Spencer was born 12 December 1884 to Oliver H. and Mary Bruce in Linn County, Kansas. She attended Kansas State Normal College at Emporia, Ks and taught school in eastern Kansas until her marriage to J. Oliver Spencer on 29 May 1909.  The couple moved to Harvey County in approximately 1913 where they established Spencer Dairy.  From 1922 through 1950, the Spencer’s lived at 900 Old Main, Newton while continuing dairy operations.  The couple had 6 children; 3 boys and 3 girls.

On 30 September 1932,  J. Oliver died  “of a lingering illness, which had been acute since July.”  He was 51 years old. Daisy continued to operate the dairy until she retired in 1950.


Spencer Family, Spencer Dairy. Photo courtesy Marianne, Find A Grave Memorial # 25449566.

In 1945, Daisy decided to try something new and ran for a position on the Newton City Commission. Her slogan was “A Commission for the People.”  T.D. Hamilton, “a Santa Fe yard master,” and Rex M. Moody, local businessman,  were  also on the ballot.  The incumbent was Harold Lewis.

The April 4, 1945 Evening Kansan Republican carried the results of the elections held on April 3: “Daisy Spencer and T.D. Hamilton Elected.” Daisy received the most votes with 1274 total from all the wards for a four year term.  T. D. Hamilton received 1251; and Harold Lewis – 727; Rex M. Moody – 720.


Daisy Dean Spencer, 1948. Photo courtesy Marianne, Find A Grave Memorial # 25449566.

The Evening Kansan Republican reported after the first meeting of the new commission:

“For the first time in the history of Newton as an incorporated city, a lady has been sworn in and is now serving as mayor.”

daisymayorclip 001

Evening Kansan Republican, 17 April 1945 (p. 1).

Upon her election as mayor Mrs. Spencer

“thanked her associates, . . . and with some feeling expressed her appreciation  of the honor of having been elected by the voters. . . . she pledged her very best efforts at all times to promote the interests of her home city -‘the best city in Kansas,’ . . . and to strive for harmony and cooperation in all laudable community effort.”

She served on the Newton City Commission from 1945-1949, and was mayor from 1945 to 1947. Throughout her life, Daisy was an active member of the community. She attended the First United Presbyterian Church, and was a founding member of the Golden Circle Farm Bureau Club.  Other clubs included the Themian Federated Club, the DAR and the Button Belles Club. She was the first woman to be awarded Woman of the Year of the Federated Clubs of America in 1974.

Daisy Spencer died 15 June 1975. According to family tradition, Spencer Street in Newton is named for Daisy Dean Spencer, Newton’s first “Lady Mayor.”


  • Evening Kansan Republican, 30 March 1945 (p. 4); 3 April 1945 (p. 1); 4 April 1945 (p. 1); 17 April 1945 (p. 1).
  • “City’s only woman mayor dies” Newton Kansan 16 June 1975, (p. 1).
  • Evening Kansan Republican, 1 October 1932 (p. 2) obituary for John Oliver Spencer.
  • Find A Grave Memorial #25449566, “Daisy Dean Spencer” Maintained by Marianne.