Two days later nothing of the city of 1300 people was left to see when President George W. Bush visited the scattered piles of debris.
Kiowa County – Fromme-Birney Round Barn
In my possession, however, I have a desirable piece of Greensburg — not a splinter of a house, not a brick from the courthouse, and not a weathervane from the fire station. Stranger than fiction, a quirk of fate, or whatever you want to call my streak of luck, what I have is the story of John Sandusky, third great grandson of Anthony Sadowski, who set foot on American soil in the early 1700s, from a small weekly newspaper, Kiowa County Signal, which vanished overnight with its files. No copies are probably extant.
In April, 1887, when Kiowa County and its seat of government, Greensburg, was a year old, John Sandusky came in a covered wagon with five of his older children and settled on the road to the county seat. Mrs. Fern Eller, who worked for the village newspaper in its golden years, met John Sandusky’s daughter, Effie, who was born February 19, 1887, at a meeting of Greensburg’s homemakers and asked her to look back over the unwritten history of Kansas.
Someone who comes from the same family — I am sorry I don’t remember who — sent me a long time ago the story from the Kiowa County Signal and I did not have a chance to refer to it until the present time.
John Sandusky, who came from Casey County, Kentucky, and Carrie Nation, who was born in the same state, had much in common. Their fathers were slaveholders. When they grew up, the two who were born in the 1840s didn’t want to live where black people were held in bondage. In the 1880s, while Sandusky was looking for a free place to raise his family, Carrie Nation, with the aid of other women and an axe, was closing illegal saloons.
Later, when she came to close the “joints” in Greensburg, and look for more in Kiowa County, the stagecoach driver, after whom the county seat was named, kicked the woman out of his coach for taking a cigarette out of his mouth and throwing it away.
Three years before Carrie Nation moved to the Free State, Sandusky was lured by the cheap land in Kiowa County, Kansas. It took him six weeks by covered wagon to cross eight counties in Missouri and half of Kansas. After he built a dugout with a roof over it two miles east of Brenham in Kiowa County, his wife, Sarah Jane Skipper, whom he married in Putnam County, Missouri, just a short distance from Iowa, after serving six months of 1865 in the 51st Missouri Infantry (Union Army), came by train to Pratt, which was as far as the tracks were laid then in Kansas. John Sandusky loaded his wife and three younger children in his wagon and reunited them with the rest of the family.
Without any warning, Sandusky’s sons shielded Effie, who was then only six weeks old, from the rattlesnakes around the dug out.
As one would expect, Mrs. Eller, who wrote about it in her newspaper, skipped the details.
As the year wore on, the family watched the corn grow and looked forward to a bountiful harvest. On the 4th of July, however, the weather turned nasty. The heat wilted the corn and sunflower stalks. There were others, too, who saw their first rattlesnake and felt the sun and the hottest winds ever known, and, as Effie remembered, “the roads were full of wagons returning East, bearing settlers who had had enough of the Kansas drouth.”
One of their neighbors, Frank and Eliza Kimberly, were so intrigued by heavy black rocks they hit in their plowing that they asked a geologist to examine them. Nobody realized they were gemstones from outer space until 2005 when a scientist using metal detectors found a 1400-pound meteorite under an old corn field.
No doubt that John Sandusky passed by the same corn field with his wagon and team. During the drouth, the Atchison, Topeka and Sante Fe railroad paid him $3 a day to haul stone from Belvidere to Greensburg during the construction of the world’s largest hand dug well in 1887. The well, 109 feet deep deep and 32 feet wide, and the meteorite, known as “The Million Dollar Rock,” which attracted thousands of visitors annually to Greensburg, were also affected by the tornado.
Ahoy, when the railroad cut his wages to $2.50 a day, Sandusky discussed it with his wife and decided to go back to Missouri. Then one of his mules died. The family packed their belongings in two wagons and left Kansas with three mules drawing two wagons.
It is through my own research that I found that Effie returned to Greensburg about twenty-five years later. Instead of taking the family to St. John, Unionville, or wherever they lived before in Sherman Township in Putnam County, John Sandusky bought a fertile farm in Tom Township, west of Warsaw, Benton County, where 36 square miles of the township was rich soil and 17 square miles in water, and spent the rest of his life there. It lies in the foothills of the Ozark mountains. John Sandusky died May 16, 1901. Whatever he owned in Benton County, the details were lost when the courthouse at Warsaw was destroyed by fire in 1903.
Without going into detail, Effie Sandusky married a 24-year old Missouri farmer, F. Milton Johnson, when she was 19 years old. They reared two children, Oliver and Gladys, in Missouri; Lee in Oklahoma; and four in Kiowa County, Kansas — Thelma in 1913; Custis, 1915; Orville, 1916; and Ralph, 1923 — first in Kiowa Township and then Greensburg in southwest Kansas. All townships of the county except Kiowa were dissolved in 1980.
Six of Effie’s siblings left no descendants. It meant that there were less people to study the family history, and her nephew, Earl K. Ray, whose autobiography I have on my website < www.Poles.org>, provided me with a lot of material on the Sadowski/Sandusky family.