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A few words in Jewell County

Mankato, Kansas -Burr Oak, Kansas -Jewell, Kansas -Randall, Kansas -Esbon, Kansas
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When we first enter a town, we drive around to get the lay of the land.  Before we meet the people, we read the signs.  They are either informative, humorous, or charming!

The pickup seemed a perfect prop in front of the machine shop sign in Burr Oak.

I don't think this alarm in Jewell is used any more but I wouldn't want to test it!

The 1936 Jewell County Courthouse is the only courthouse in the state to be constructed by the WPA (Works Progress Administration).

Now a thrift shop, the YMCA still sports it's original sign.

Thanks to efforts of many, the Ute theater is once again providing movies for the community.

A local man erected this recognition to Edison in 1957 (or 1967).  It sits across the street from what was the high school at the time.

All that is left of Randall schools is this granite homage in front of the abandoned rural high school.

With day lilies bordering the front sidewalk, it must be pleasant to walk into this depot post office.

A nice sign and symbol of the old days in the Webber park is situated right beside the post office.

That's what I call a strong declaration of a city name!

We can attest to the truth of this sign in the unincorporated town of Lovewell.

What will be the next announcement in Formoso? 

The individuality of expression is unique to each town.  When out exploring, it's worth the time to dip into each town to detect part of the story, if even just from the signage.

It's all good in Jewell County!

See you down the road, KE #2 Marci Penner.




From bridges to cinnamon rolls in Jewell County

Mankato, Kansas -Burr Oak, Kansas -Jewell, Kansas
Jewell County was full of delights and visual plus's.  Here are a few:

It's the look, the rarity, and the remote location of these iron truss bridges that make a crossing feel like an adventure.  We're in northeast Jewell County but what road?!  I'll find it somewhere.

If you love cinnamon rolls, just tromp over the prairie to get to the Buffalo Roam Steakhouse in Mankato for some of Carl's best.  Located on U.S. 36 and open Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and Monday-Saturday 5-9 p.m.

Don't you love to find "only's"?  The Jewell County Courthouse in Mankato is the only one in the state built by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) boys.  Finished in 1936, it has many art deco features, including these designs on the front wall.

Just as the storm was coming, we rolled in to the mighty Burr Oak via backroads from Webber. 

One reason we came to Burr Oak was to see the Queen Anne just north of town.  The stormy sky just made it all the more picturesque.  Good job Susan and family.  What a beautiful restoration!

Lovewell Dam and Reservoir, a project of the United States Bureau of Reclamation, was completed in 1957.  It's used for recreational and irrigation purposes.  On the southeast side of the lake you'll find a scenic overlook and a plaque about the dam.  It's a great place for a photo and, as we heard, for a marriage proposal!

The Bostwick Division of the lake is part of an effort to serve 104,240 irrigable acres with canals, laterals, pumping plants, and drains. 

If you drive to the lake north from the ghost town of Lovewell you'll see irrigation ditches that flow from the reservoir.  This is one canal located just below the dam.

Get the outside-inside view.  Step out of your car.  Go inside.  Here you have the outside view of the Methodist Episcopal church windows and the inside view. Aren't they lovely along with the semi circular pews?

The city park in the middle of the downtown square gets more beautiful every visit.  A town wouldn't do this unless the people got along.  Good job, Jewell!




With help from our Friends...

Jewell, Kansas -Webber, Kansas -Burr Oak, Kansas
If you are a Kansas explorer you've no doubt seen things in almost every town that make you wonder what the story is about that object or place.
So wouldn't you love to have a Kansas guidebook that would give you some answers?
The deal is, it's really difficult to find those factual and interesting tidbits unless, that is, you have Facebook Friends that are willing to help investigate and if you've chosen the right co-author.
WenDee LaPlant is certainly the right co-author as she has proven to be a researcher deluxe and has the ability to put that information into words that will make you want to go see the place.
And, you, you our Facebook Friends have shown yourselves to be an invaluable part of the research team.  Stick with us!  We have a ways to go and appreciate your help.
Below are a few examples of how the research hunt for intriguing factoids in Jewell County has gone.
When I did the 2005 guidebook I couldn't find anyone who could confirm the origin of this building in downtown Burr Oak, so I didn't put it in the guidebook.  This time, WenDee was determined to find out the big ol' barn's story so she turned to our ERV Facebook page to see if she could find answers. She got 17,058 likes, 55 shares and almost 40 comments.
Our Facebook detectives, led her to the Sanborn Fire Insurance map that told her this building was the Chicago Lumber and Coal Company as early as 1886.  We also found out it was sold to the Burr Oak Lumber Company in 1920 and operated as a lumberyard until the late 1990s.  Cool!  Now when you drive into Burr Oak (population 169), you'll know the rest of the story.
Here's another enhancing piece of information in Burr Oak.
You'll see this beautiful home on the north side of Burr Oak on K-128.  In the 2005 guidebook I wrote two sentences about the architectural style of the house.  But now, because of all of you and WenDee's digging, we have found out this home was part of a coffee shop contest in the early 1900s.  The challenge was to see who could build the best home.  Supposedly this 1909 Queen Anne home was the winner.  In the guidebook you'll be pointed to two of the three other homes in the contest.
Wouldn't a guidebook explorer want to know about this robbery alarm?  We thought so.  It still hangs on the side of the Guaranty State Bank building in Jewell.  With your help and helpful conversations with people in Jewell, we can now put in a guidebook entry the words Robbery Alarm are actually stained glass pieces.  Look closely! Though the alarm no longer works we know there was a trigger attached to the bank vault door and, unless it was disarmed, the alarm would sound on this metal box when the door opened.  We understand it was really loud -- and help would come running!     The metal box burglar alarm came from the O.B. McClintock Company of Minneapolis, MN sometime in the first half of the 20th century.

One more story.  This one is about a sweet little park in Webber, population 25.  In the 2005 guidebook I simply pointed out that there was a memorial sign to Frank Herrmann in the park with an anvil beside the sign.  WenDee decided to dig further with the help of online documents.  She found a wonderful article in the local paper that shared the story about a woman breaking a butter mold and her little boy saying, "Take it to Frank, he can fix it.” Beloved by all, it was said that Frank Herrmann the blacksmith was known as a man who could fix anything, except a broken heart.


Before Frank died he donated the land to the city to be used as a park for the children of Webber. The anvil that his father brought with him as an immigrant from Germany in 1908 sits steadfastly next to the limestone park sign.


Thanks to WenDee and you all, this is going to be one heck of a guidebook.



Blog entries by Marci Penner, the other author, of the next Kansas Guidebook for Explorers, a project of the non-profit Inman-based Kansas Sampler Foundation.  If you'd like to help support this project and be a blog sponsor contact