When Jesse James Came to Visit

By Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Archivist/Curator

In any community there are stories that fall into a category that can only be called myths and legends. Stories that have been passed down through generations that may have started with a real event but embellishments have been added. Or stories that seem probable but cannot be proved by other documented sources.  This is the case with Nellie Young’s account of an interaction that involved Jesse & Frank James on a Harvey County homestead.

In February 1936, an unknown reporter visited 90-year-old Nellie Young at her home “for the purpose of obtaining some first hand information regarding the life of early settlers.”  The typewritten account is one of the many stories that are part of HCHM’s Archives.

Nellie and her husband, H.N. Young and two small girls arrived in Harvey County in the spring of 1873. They had been living in Cameron, MO. The family homesteaded in Macon Township, seven miles west of Newton.

First Years

Nellie described living in a dugout for two years while her husband broke several acres where they were able to raise a few bushels of sod corn. In the spring of 1875, they were able to build a one-room sod house with a low flat roof. She described the house as sixteen feet long and twelve feet wide with walls three feet thick, a door at one end and one window on the side. Nellie recalled that the rattlesnakes enjoyed sunning themselves on that flat roof, much to her dismay.

Harvey County Sod House similar to the Young’s sod house, 1870s.

Summer 1875

By summer 1875, they had developed a small acreage for wheat and it had been cut, bundled and stacked by the house. Nellie tells the story:

“At about 5 o’clock one afternoon the girls called my attention to two horsemen riding leisurely along the prairie trail in the hot August sun. We watched expecting them to pass, we were somewhat surprised to see them turn into our yard and go directly to our new straw stack.. . . they dismounted, unsaddled the horses and picketed them out near the straw stack. They then came to the door of our sod house and asked if the might stay at the straw stack over night, and after being told they should secure the permission of Mr. Young who was at that time out in the field at work, they remarked, ‘Well, we’ll stay anyway, our horses are tired and need rest.'”

“Splendid Looking Man”

Nellie noted that they did not have access to many newspapers. In fact, the only one they saw regularly was the St. Louis Weekly Democrat that a neighbor several miles away loaned to them. Even so, Nellie recalled, “I at once recognized our uninvited guest as being Jesse James and one of the other members of his notorious gang.” She felt that the newspaper pictures had not done him justice as Jesse “was indeed a splendid looking man. He wore a blue suit of expensive material and with his broad rimmed hat and fine leather belt filled with cartridges, and his holster buttoned over his revolver he was indeed the original of what the movies now attempt to imitate.”

Jesse James (lt) Frank James (rt), 1872

She observed the horses were well cared for and the saddles and bridles “were of the heavy cowboy pattern and were of expensive leather, beautifully hand carved.”

They had given their horses feed from the Young’s “small pile which were we carefully hoarding to furnish feed for our own team.”

At that point Mr. Young came in from the field and agreed with Nellie’s identification – it was indeed Jesse James at their farm.

“A Restful Night’s Sleep . . .for the Guests”

Then, Nellie realized she would need to feed the “guests.” She recalled that she increased “the portions of our limited menu . . . we all ate heartily of boiled potatoes, and corn dodgers with sorghum molasses and Arbuckle’s coffee.”

Night came and Mr. Young was afraid that the guests would steal their horses if they were allowed to sleep outside, so he insisted that they sleep in the house. Nellie provided quilts and pillows and “they apparently enjoyed a restful night’s sleep on the floor of our shanty, while we slept but fitfully at the end of the room.”

“Chatting and Visiting Like Old Friends”

For breakfast she prepared a freshly killed chicken, fired potatoes and hot soda biscuits and coffee. Jesse and his friend did not seem to be in any hurry to leave and remained with the Youngs for close to two hours “chatting and visiting like old friends. . . Jesse told us he was returning from Texas and frequently mentioned his mother remarking that she disapproved of the long trips which he frequently took. When finally ready to leave Jesse inquired as to the amount of their bill and on being informed that there would be no charge insisted on leaving two silver dollars and bidding us a hearty goodbye. They mounted their horses and were soon out of sight as they crossed a ridge a mile to the east.”

Truth or Myth?

Did this really happen? The story is difficult to prove or disprove. In 1875, the James brothers and their gang were all over the United States. On December 8, 1874, they robbed the Kansas Pacific train at Muncie, Ks. They were in Kearney, Mo in January 1875 and by September at least some of the gang was in W. Virginia and Nashville. At some point in 1875, they reportedly cased the 1st National Bank in Wichita but passed on a holdup due to the high security of the huge basement vault. Documentation for this visit is also scarce.


Delano District, Wichita, Ks, 1875

It is possible that the James brothers were in Harvey County in August 1875 and that they stopped at a remote homestead for the night.  At this writing we only have the memories of 90-year-old Nellie Young who shared her story in 1936.


John S. Faulkner – A Tombstone and a Question

by Kristine Schmucker, Archivist/Curator

Earlier this week, Wendy Nugent, reporter for the Harvey County Now, sent me a message asking if I knew anything about a man named Scott Owens. His tombstone in Greenwood needed repair and she was doing a story on it with Sylvia Kelly. Turns out, there was an interesting story about a Harvey County family.

Photo Courtesy Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now.

The first thing to clear up was the mystery of his name. In the Greenwood Cemetery register he is listed under the name of Scott Owen Faulkner. Other Faulkners listed include Laura and Charles. How did these people fit together? Or did they?

One document from 1901 lists a Scott Owens, born in Kentucky living in Newton. The document is a muster roll and he is listed as entering the army May 5, 1864 as a private Co. D 15th U.S, Col Inft, and discharged in August under General Order. The year of discharge is difficult to read. It might be 1865?

Muster Roll ending December 1902. Courtesy Sylvia Kelly

To add to the confusion, his daughter lists his name as Scott Faulkner on the order form for the tombstone and lists the discharge date as December 28, 1891.

Tombstone Application for Headstone or Marker. Courtesy Sylvia Kelly.

The obituary for the man that died on June 6, 1935 is identified as John S. Faulkner or John Scott Faulkner, even though the Greenwood Register lists Scott Owen Faulkner. It seems that Scott Owen Faulkner is the same person as John S. Faulkner. When and why did he change his name? Who was Scott Owen Faulkner?

There is no listing or census record for a Scott Owen Faulkner living in Harvey County, Kansas. There is however, plenty of evidence of a John Scott Faulkner living in Newton.

Pioneer Resident

According to the Newton city directories and the census, a man by the name of John Faulkner had been living in Newton for sure since 1885. The obituary for John S. Faulkner noted that he had been a resident of Harvey County for 55 years, so he likely arrived in 1880. It is possible he came, along with his wife and young daughter, with a larger group that included Katie and Wilson Vance, Willis and Emily Brooks, Frank C. Childs, Madison Thomas and Abe Weston.

J.S. Faulkner was born in 1849 in Virginia very close to the Kentucky boarder. He enlisted in the Civil War in May 1864. He married Laura Yancey February 6, 1872 at Trenton, Todd County, Kentucky.

“Kentucky County Marriages, 1797-1954” Family Search.org

The couple came to Newton around 1880 with 4 year old Mary. Their next child, Charles, was born in Kansas in 1881. Johanna was born in 1884.  In the Newton city directories for 1885 and 1887, John is listed living at 129 S 2nd with the occupation of mason.  By 1911, the Faulkner family is living on W 1st and in 1917 the address of 912 W 1st is given.

“Colored Civil War Veteran”

Further clues come from his and Laura’s obituaries.

John’s obituary noted that with his passing “only five comrades who saw service in the war between the states remain in Newton.” He is likely one of the unidentified Black men in this photograph taken in front of the Harvey County Courthouse.

Faulkner was described as “a stout patriot, devoted churchman,” and seems to have led a quiet life. His name does not appear in the Evening Kansan Republican except for Laura’s obituary and his own.

Laura Yancy Faulkner was born in 1856 in Kentucky, probably Todd County. After her marriage she is a quiet presence. For some reason, her name is not listed as a wife of John’s in the city directories until 1917 although the census’ clearly have her living with him. She died at her home at 912 W 1st on June 25, 1930, from pneumonia. She had been ill for some time.

John died five years later also in the month of June on June 6, 1935. He was survived by his three children Mary Faulkner Garth of the home; Josephine Faulkner Baldwin, Chicago; and Charles Faulkner, Newton; seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren. His services were held at the C.M. E. Church in Newton with Rev. C.V. Williams officiating and the Women’s Relief Corp assisting.

Faulkner Children

Son, Charles, worked as a porter and baggaman for the AT&SF. He and his wife, Georgia, also lived at 912 W 1st until the 1930s when they are listed at 119 Elm. Charles died August 13, 1937, at the age of 57.

In 1941, daughter, Josephine* Baldwin ordered a headstone for her father from the government to be delivered to her sister, Mary Faulkner Garth, who was living at 402 Highland, Newton.  Up to that point his grave may have been unmarked and as a veteran he was entitled to a headstone. This is the headstone that Sylvia Kelly hopes to repair.

*All other sources refer to her as Johanna or Joanna.

Additional Note:

During this same time period, there was a white Faulkner family, J.M. and Laura Faulkner.  They lived at 325 W 8th, Newton and had at least two children, Olin and Fern. J.M. Faulkner worked for a time as an assistant Marshall and their names appear frequently in the Evening Kansan Republican. They left Newton at some point  and are not buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

Thank you

to Sylvia Kelly for calling attention to John Scott Faulkner’s tombstone and to Wendy Nugent for being curious. Nugent’s article, “Kelly Wants To Straighten Out History” is in the Harvey County Now August 21, 2023 issue.


  • Evening Kansan Republican: 7 June 1935
  • Newton City Directories: 1885, 1887, 1902, 1905,1911, 1913, 1917, 1919, 1931, 1934, 1938.
  • Kansas Census: 1895
  • U.S. Census: 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
  • Greenwood Cemetery Register of Burials, Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives, 203 N. Main, Newton, Ks.


Harvey County’s Oldest Resident: Katie Vance

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

In 1922, Harvey County celebrated 50 years as a county. Efforts were made to recognize the “Old Settlers.” Lists with information on where the family  came from, the date they arrived in Harvey County, and what township they settled in. Local photographer, W.R. Murphy took studio photographs  of Old Settlers still alive which was included in the 1922 50th Anniversary Ed of the Newton Kansan. Descendants of deceased settlers could submit photos to be included in the issue.

One group of early settlers was not acknowledged included people of color.  Many Black families saw the opportunity to own their own land through the Homestead Act of 1862 and worked hard to achieve this dream in Harvey County.  Mary Rickman Anderson Grant with her husband and children were among Harvey County’s first Black residents, arriving in 1871. Others followed and made their lives in Harvey County, Kansas. The Vance/Brooks family also made Newton, Ks their home.

An “Aged Colored Woman”

In November 1902,   Katie Vance, an “aged colored woman,” died after living through one century and parts of two other. Her brief obituary reported that “she could recall incidents of the time of Washington and Jefferson.” Her age was estimated between 110 to 125 years old at the time of her death in 1902.

She was declared “the oldest person in the county . . . colored, who lives on West Fifth Street.” in 1899. At that time, the next oldest was 92 year old  Abraham Thiessen of Alta Township.

Newton Kansan, 23 June 1899

In 1901, the Evening Kansan Republican interviewed “the remarkable woman” and noted that “her faculties with the exception of that of sight, are but little impaired.” She was described as someone that  “has been known and respected by the colored people of the city and within the memory of nearly all of them she has been an old woman.”

“A Stately Mansion and Broad Fields”

She began life as a slave on a plantation in approximately 1779. Her earliest memories were of “a stately mansion and broad fields in Virginia.” She did not know her parents. For newspaper article she noted:

“Of her parents she knew nothing.  Her master and mistress, even if they knew, never deigned to enlighten her as to the whereabouts of her parents. . . she grew up. . . without a mother to love and watch over her.”

Throughout her growing up years, she “was employed in odd jobs about the house” along with a brother and sister.  She never knew what it was to not work. She recalled; “if caught with a book in her possession, she was soundly slapped and the book taken from her.”

“Toiled from Sunrise to Sunset”

Change came to Katie’s life when the daughter of the plantation owner married a man by the name of McQuery. Katie was given to the newlyweds and moved with the couple first to Charlottesville, N.C. and later Kentucky. At first her duties were as a nurse for the couple’s children. Once the children grew up, Katie went to work in the tobacco factory and corn fields “where she toiled from sunrise to sunset, day in and day out.”

After the “cruel separation in Virginia,” she never saw her brother or sister again.

At the end of the Civil War, Katie continued working hard. One possible glimpse into her life at this time comes from a complaint filed by Katie Vance on November 2, 1868 with the Mississippi, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office records, 1865-1872 against Jesy Bransfield for cotton owed to her. The cotton was  “released and turned over to the plaintive.”

Mississippi, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Report, 1865-1872.

Married twice, her second husband, Wilson Vance, was  also a slave on the McQuery plantation. She had four children that lived to adulthood, but by the time of the  1901 interview all had died. At that time, she knew of only one other living relative, a great grandson who was a railroad worker “out west.”

Several other “well known colored citizens of this city, were property of one Col. Elijah Sebree,” at a neighboring plantation, including  Abe Weston and Willis Brooks, future son-in-law, both of whom would make the trip to Kansas with the Vance family.

“Equal Opportunities”

In January 1880, Vance with 31 others, including Weston and Brooks, “emigrated to sunny Kansas, where the negro was given equal opportunities with the white man in the race of life.” Katie Vance was already an elderly woman “about ready to shuffle off this mortal coil”  at the time of the trip. When they arrived in Newton, the family consisted of Willis & Emily Brooks and a son, George Washington, and the elderly Wilson & Katie Vance. The Vance/Brooks family lived at 422 W 6th, Newton, Ks in a house described as a “shanty” for the next 20 years.

Wilson Vance died at the age of 105 in 1894. In 1897, the Vance’s remaining daughter, Emily, (Mrs.Willis Brooks) died. Willis Brooks remarried in 1898.   Following the death of her husband and daughter, Katie continued to live in the house with her 81 year old son-in-law, Willis Brooks and his second wife, Margaret Harding Brooks.

By the time of the Evening Kansan Republican interview in January 1901, Katie was completely blind “although her memory seems as active as ever.”

Evening Kansan Republican, 29 June 1901

Kate Vance died in November 1902. Her funeral was held at the 2nd Baptist Church, Newton, Ks where she was a member. She was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Newton, Ks.

Evening Kansan Republican, 28 November 1902.

The final clues to Katie Vance’s remaining family appear in the legal section of the Evening Kansan Republican 11 December 1903 announcing a Sheriff’s Sale of their property.  Willis Brooks died in July 1903. Although no obituary for Brooks was discovered, the Sheriff’s Sale lists George Washington and wife Clara Washington, possibly Katie Vance’s grandson, as well as Margaret Brooks, Willis’ second wife.

Evening Kansan Republican, 11 December 1903.


  • Katie Vance  complaint November 2, 1868 with the Mississippi, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office records, 1865-1872.
  • Newton Kansan, 23 June 1899, 1 August 1902.
  • Evening Kansan Republican: 29 January 1901, 28 November 1902,  11 December 1903.
  • Newton City Directories: 1885, 1887, 1902. Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives, Newton, Ks
  • U.S. Census:
    • 1870: Trenton, Todd, Kentucky
    • 1880: Newton, Harvey County, Kansas
    • 1900: Newton, Ward 4, Harvey County, Ks
  • Marriage License Collection, Harvey Historical Museum & Archives, Newton, Ks, Groom Index.
    • Willis Brooks married Margaret Harding 3 November 1898