Mt. Allen Cemetery Tree Swings


As with many of the cemetery stories and records that date back to 100 years ago or more, the details behind the tree swings at Mount Allen Cemetery are not fully known. The information below provides the approximate location of the two tree swings as well as the grave markers for twelve individuals who are noteworthy in the history of Hays, have rather interesting stories or have unique looking grave markers. Visitors are welcome to access the cemetery on the south side near 26th & Pine. The first tree swing is easily seen to your left and the second swing is also on the left side farther down the road as you proceed north toward the center of the cemetery. As you stroll through the cemetery you might want to look for the grave marker showing the person with the earliest date of birth and those who were born on your same date of birth. rn rnNote – In the text below Hays was established as “Hays City” in 1867, but the word “City” was officially dropped from the name Hays City in 1885.

Clara Allen – Born: June 17, 1861 – Died: Feb 22, 1874 (age 13) rnThe first burial at Mount Allen Cemetery was Clara Allen, the daughter of Martin Allen. She died at the age of 13 of scarlet fever. Her father was one of the earliest residents of Ellis County and was employed as a nurseryman in Mendota, Illinois, before bringing his family to Hays City in 1872. Clara had four older brothers and sisters, but three of them died of diphtheria in 1863 when they were very young. Martin Allen was a co-partner of the Big Creek Land Company, which in 1873 bought the unsold lots in Hays City from the original Town Company that had started in 1867. At the time of his daughter’s death, there was not an established city cemetery and the only place for burials was on a hill approximately ½ mile north of Hays City (which today we refer to as Boot Hill). Many of those buried at this cemetery in the late 1860’s could best be described as “rough” citizens and included those who worked at the gambling halls, brothels, saloons and other desperados who followed the railroad track construction west. Martin Allen did not want his daughter to be buried at this cemetery and therefore donated an acre of his own farm land and persuaded the town company to give the remaining land needed for a public cemetery. The original grave marker has since been replaced with a granite headstone. Clara also had a sister who was three years younger who lived in Hays with the family and was married to Shephard Hutchinson on Dec 22, 1886, in Hays. Clara’s mother, Elizabeth Augustine Allen is also buried at Mount Allen Cemetery.

Martin Allen was born in Monroe County, Ohio, on June 29, 1827. He was a prominent citizen in Hays City and for a short time period was co-publisher of the Hays City Times. As an agent for the Union Pacific railroad, he assisted a great many emigrants to locate in Ellis County and the surrounding counties. In November 1877 he was elected county surveyor, became the first horticulturist of western Kansas and was a member of the Kansas State Horticultural Society. On August 17, 1875, the Western Kansas Agricultural Society was organized and Mr. Allen was named president. Mr. Allen was well known for his horticultural endeavors and he planted a variety of trees, hedges, and fruit orchards around his house that he built of limestone just north of the town site of Hays City. That home is still standing and is currently a private residence at 2704 Woodrow Court. He is also credited for planting the rows of trees from the outskirts of Hays City along Fort Street that extended all the way to his house north of Hays. Mr. Allen left Hays in 1898 to live with his oldest son in Grand Junction, Colorado. Shortly after arriving there, he died on April 10, 1898, and was buried at Grand Junction.

One of the buildings on the Fort Hays State University campus (Martin Allen Hall) is named in honor of Martin Allen. He was a leader in trying to influence the United States government to secure the abandoned Fort Hays Military Reservation to be used as an experimental station for agriculture or horticulture. The land where the fort once stood was eventually divided for use to include the college, a park and agricultural research center.

rnBaby Alma – Born: 1901 – Died: 1918 (age 17) rnThe story behind the young girl that is buried with only a simple headstone and the words “Baby ALMA – Age 17 yrs.” is a fascinating yet odd occurrence that happened here in 1918. There are no local records of her real name, only Baby Alma as she was known. Although she was certainly not a baby, she was promoted as “Baby Alma” the Fat Lady of the Circus. The traveling circus was in Hays in 1918 and Baby Alma, who weighed 600 pounds, was one of the featured side shows. An epidemic of the flu hit Hays that year and Baby Alma caught the flu, which turned into pneumonia and she died from her illness.

In her tent pitched on the fairgrounds down near Big Creek, she woke one morning with the sniffles. In a few hours, she too had the flu and they took her to City Hall, which was being used as a make shift Red Cross nursing facility to care for the overflow of patients who were sick with the flu. It took six husky men to hoist her into City Hall and they had to make a special bed to accommodate her excessive weight. It was reported in the newspaper that she was certainly not an ideal patient and gained the reputation as a “nurse hater”. Even when she was becoming weak from the flu, she would lie in bed and scream forth the most blood curdling string of cuss words imaginable. She hated the medicine and would hold it in her fat cheeks and spray it out of her mouth “fountain like” onto the nurses. She was a sassy girl and had a nasty temper. The nurses learned the only way they could deal with her was to refuse to give her water until she behaved better. They felt she must have lost her sweetness of youth at a young age. Her life in the circus was probably rough and because people were mean to her, she was mean to them.

When she died from pneumonia, her parents, who lived in California, refused to raise a finger over the poor dead child. The circus manager had a stingy attitude and would have nothing to do with her burial. “Wouldn’t even buy her a respectable casket”, said Mrs. Gus Havemann, whose husband was an undertaker at the time. The Havemann’s did the best they could to fix a rough wooden box to fit her large size for a coffin. Mrs. Havemann remarked about the circus boss, “She made a lot of money for him, but dead she was no more use to him so he wouldn’t bother.”

She was buried at Mount Allen Cemetery block 5 lot 86 SC ¼ with out fanfare, flourish or tears.

Jack Downing – Born: 1873 – Died: November 2, 1878 (age 5) rnIf you notice a grave marker with a statue of a little boy and a dog, then you have found the resting place of five year old Jack Downing. He is the son of J.H. Downing who came to Hays in 1876 and was one of thirteen surviving veterans of the Civil War known to have lived and/or died in Hays. The obituary for Jack tells how this little boy was a favorite around the community with his big dog that was his constant companion as they played and scurried around town. Jack was the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Downing, and after he died of diphtheria, they had a tombstone made of Jackie and his dog.

J.H. Downing was born on Christmas day, 1842 in Scott County, Illinois, and served in Company ‘E’ 137th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry and was commissary sergeant of his company. After the Civil War, he returned to his home in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and worked at a newspaper office. In August 1868, he moved to Leavenworth, Kansas, where he was employed as a newspaper reporter by the Leavenworth Bulletin. In 1871, he went to work at the Leavenworth Commercial as a traveling correspondent. About that same time, a newspaper fight was developing in Hays City and Simon Motz, a Hays pioneer and businessman, set out to find a fearless newspaper man. J.H. Downing was recommended by a mutual friend and he came to Hays in March 1876 and founded the Ellis County Star. His chief distinction as a journalist was when he scooped every newspaper in the country on the story of the Custer massacre at Little Big Horn. In January 1882, he purchased the Hays City Sentinel and consolidated the two papers which he operated for many years as the Star-Sentinel. Although he did not seek political office, he was very active in the Republican Party and was close friends of Vice President Charles Curtis, who was from Topeka, and Senator Arthur Capper, who became the 20th governor of Kansas in 1915.

After his retirement, he and his wife remained living at their home located at 12th & Fort. Although he had received numerous offers to sell their house, they continued to live there until his death on June 18, 1932 at the age of 89. His wife died on June 17, 1933 and both are buried just to the north of their son’s plot.

Lieutenant Edwin Philip Eckerson – Born: March 8, 1850 – Died: Aug 17, 1885 (age 35) rnHe served as a Lieutenant in the 7th Cavalry under George Custer and died of malaria in 1885. He is the only Cavalry officer from that time period known to be buried at Mount Allen Cemetery. Records are not consistent as to the date of his birth. The grave marker shows his date of birth as April 9, 1853, and the obituary from The Star Sentinel indicates he was born in 1854 at Vancouver’s Barracks (Fort Vancouver near Portland, Oregon) and died at age 32. Army records give his date of birth as March 8, 1850. In 1875 he received a general court-martial (charges unknown) and was dismissed from service on July 15, 1875. Evidently, after the aid of some friends, he was allowed to serve in the military again and was appointed 2nd Lieutenant, 7th Cavalry in May 1876. rnHe was involved with various frontier service during his military career, but was again court-martialed in 1878 for conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman, (drunk and disorderly). He was dismissed from military service on June 30, 1878. For several years he worked different jobs (taught school in Iowa, bookkeeper in Colorado and served as an undersheriff) until he ended up back in Hays around 1882. His obituary indicates he was employed in the quarter master’s office at Fort Hays. On February 14, 1882, he married Sophie M. Bergsland, who worked as a “domestic” at the fort mess hall. They had two children: Regina (born Dec 4, 1882) and Theodore John (born Oct 22, 1884).

George F. Foreman-Born: August 23, 1833-Died: November 28, 1924 (age 91) rnHe was one of thirteen surviving veterans of the Civil War known to have lived and/or died in Hays. He was born in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, married Susan Schwanter on December 25, 1856. During the last 14 months of the Civil War he was a member of Company A, 201 Pennsylvania Infantry which took part in the Battle of Gettysburg. After the war he made his home in Canton, Ohio, where we was employed by the Altman Taylor Threshing Machine Company. In 1876, at the age of 42, he moved his family to Ellis County and homesteaded 3 ½ miles northeast of Hays. He helped to operate one of the first threshing machines in the county and bought and set-up the first header in Ellis County.

His obituary mentions that for nearly 35 years he lived in a room at the residence of George King at 111 East 5th Street and every day would walk to the “Old Soldiers” G.A.R. room at City Hall to reminisce with his comrades – “the boys in blue”, to keep one another company and freshen each others memories of the Civil War days. Even though he had 6 children and a wife, there is no mention that they were living in Hays City at the time of his death.

His children included: Lizzie – born 1859, Anne – born 1862, George Jr. – born 1864, John – born 1867, David – born 1874 and Grace – born 1876. He also had a son Charles that was born in 1876 but died at the age of 2 on October 14, 1878. An infant daughter, Blanch died on November 10, 1880, at ten days old.

Mr. Foreman died at the age of 91. It was on a Friday afternoon and he had taken his regular walk uptown to visit with his Civil War buddies at the City Hall soldiers’ room when after arriving back at his residence, his heart failed and he died quickly.

rnPeter Johnson – Born: May, 4 1847 – Died: Oct 17, 1923 (age 76)rnSophia Johnson – Born: Oct 1, 1851 – Died: Oct 5, 1914 (age 63) rnPeter and Sophia Johnson were immigrants from Denmark. After living in several mid-western states, they moved their family from Iowa and came to Ellis County in 1886. Peter established a farm in Lookout Township, a few miles south of Hays. He was a prosperous farmer and rancher and their properties grew to include many sections of land which provided a good living for the Johnson family. There were ten children, who included: William, Lewis, Mary, George, Sophus, Peter Jr., Lena, Stena, Sophia and Lilly. When the children grew into adulthood, six of them became well known teachers in the surrounding counties. One son, William, started his own ranching operation north of Hays in the Saline River Valley. Mrs. Johnson died in 1914 and a rather large monument was erected in her memory. The grave marker is easily noticed because it is the only site in the cemetery with a small wire fence surrounding the family plot. A rose bush was added to the plot in 1920 and has grown and continues to bloom around Memorial Day every year. The rose bush actually covers up the grave marker of Peter’s son George.

The children eventually married, all but Miss Lilly and Peter Jr. who remained at home to take care of their dad. Mr. Johnson, his daughter and son eventually moved to town. At the age of 76 in the summer of 1923, the three of them moved to Long Beach, California. His son Louis and wife sold their property here in Ellis County and also moved to California to be near their family. A few months later, in October 1923, Peter Johnson died in California. His body was returned to Hays and it was reported in the newspaper that his funeral was one of the largest ever held in the city of Hays with many friends and residents who came to pay their last respects.

Others members of the Johnson family buried in this plot include: George Johnson, who died on Dec 16, 1969. George’s wife Adeline born Oct 14, 1885 – Died Jan 16, 1954 and their infant son who Died Aug 21, 1918.

rnSimon Motz – Born: Oct 25, 1844 – Died: Feb 6, 1908(age 63)rnHe was an early Hays pioneer who ran a general store and became involved in politics. Simon Motz was born in 1844 in Centre County, Pennsylvania and was raised in Union County. He graduated from the Union County Seminary. In October 1861 he enlisted in Company B, Second Colorado Cavalry. In June of 1867, he was one of the early citizens of Rome, which was the first town to be established in Ellis County. Rome failed to become much of a town and Hays City was founded and flourished just a few miles east of Rome and benefitted by having the newly laid train tracks come through Hays City. Motz moved to Hays City where he clerked at a general store until 1868 and eventually became a businessman and was a dealer in general merchandise and all kinds of grain. He opened the business of merchandising in 1871 and the grain business in 1876 with the first grain elevator built in Hays City that same year. He became the first mayor of Hays City and served as a Representative in the Kansas Legislature in 1869-70 and 71. Mr. Motz was elected to the Kansas State Senate in the fall of 1880 and held all the county offices except Treasurer and County Clerk. During this time, he also studied law and in 1881 he was admitted to the bar of practice. He married Miss Bertha Hall of Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1881. Her white tombstone is located next to Simon’s grave and reads: Bertha Hall – wife of Simon Motz – Dec 22, 1858, Dec 12, 1917.

rnAlexander Ramsey – Born 1847 – Died June 5, 1875rnHe was shot in a gun fight with a horse thief on June 5, 1875, and died of his wounds either that same day or the next day. Some records show the date of his death as June 7th and the grave marker shows June 5. Alex Ramsey was the Sheriff of Ellis County at the time, and his duties on that particular day lead him down the path of chasing horse thieves on a summer evening. Ramsey and his deputy Frank Shepard rode north of Hays City following a trail of horses leading north to Stockton, Kansas. They spent the night on the trail and the next morning when they arrived in Stockton, they learned that two men with a bunch of horses were camped outside of town. When Ramsey, his deputy and several men from Stockton overtook the camp, Ramsey and one of the outlaws, “Jim”, exchanged shots. Ramsey was shot in the abdomen and the horse thief was shot through the heart and killed. The other thief rode off on his horse after firing at the other men who had accompanied Ramsey. A few days after this shooting incident, it was reported that a doctor from Smith County treated a man who claimed he had accidently shot himself. Officers went at once to investigate, and sure enough it proved to be the horse thief. He had actually been shot by one of the men who were trying to help Sheriff Ramsey capture the horse thieves. The man’s name was William Stanley and he was put in jail, and a trial was held, but he was found “not guilty”. Evidently the horses were stolen from Indians and it was determined that “technically” he and his partner were not guilty of any crime.

Because there was no way to immediately get word to Ramsey’s wife, the sad news was not sent home, and due to the extremely warm weather, the remains of the sheriff were kept in Stockton until that evening. They covered the body in canvas and transported the corpse in a spring wagon for the 45 mile journey. Even though Mary Ramsey had not received word about her husband’s death, she had a strange premonition that something terrible had happened to him. She begged and pleaded to friends, and asked them to travel north to search for her husband. Arrangements were made for a horse and rig, and a small group accompanied Mrs. Ramsey as they set out north toward the Saline River where they came across the spring wagon heading south to Hays City with the remains of Sheriff Ramsey. Mrs. Ramsey was so distraught and suffered with the death of her husband that she became ill and died of grief on June 16, 1875.

The current grave marker was erected in 1923 by the Board of the County Commissioners.

rnJames Reeder – Born: June 20, 1850 – Died: March 6, 1918 (age 67) rnThe grave marker for James Reeder catches your attention from a distance and upon closer inspection; you will notice that it has Reeder on one side and Brown on the other side. (Ella Brown (wife of M.J. Brown) Born Nov 15, 1868 – Died May 9, 1889) Searching the records to determine why the grave marker would have one name on one side and a different name on the other side is a mystery. Ella Brown died at age 20 and perhaps she was a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Reeder and Ella’s married name was Brown. Or Ella Brown may have been a family friend, house keeper or relative. Ann Reeder (born 1860, died 1950) is also buried in their plot. There is no indication that M. J. Brown is buried with that same plot.

James Reeder was one of the early pioneers of Hays City and was an attorney with the law firm Nelson & Reeder. He was born in Park County, Indiana, and came to Hays City in the spring of 1878 after earning a law degree from Ashbury University at Green Castle, Indiana. He was elected County Clerk in the fall of 1880 and served one term. He was a charter member of the Masonic Order for Hays City and a member of Beta Theta Pi. His wife preceded him in death (December 11, 1888).

Father Valentine Sommereisen-Born:May 28, 1829 Died:January 25, 1897(age 67) rnHe was a pioneer Missionary Priest that served the Catholics of Ellis County in the mid 1870’s. Valentine Sommereisen was born on May 28, 1829, in Ruffed, Alsace, a German-speaking part of eastern France. He was one of seven theology students who followed the great missionary, Father Augustin Ravoux, to Minnesota in 1854. Sommereisen was ordained by Bishop Cretin on March 8, 1856, in the second Cathedral of St. Paul. His first assignment was to Saint Peter & Paul in Mankato, Minnesota. From there he ministered to 36 communities in 14 counties in southwest Minnesota. In 1871, Fr. Sommereisen went west to Vermillion, which at the time was the capital of Dakota Territory. He continued westward along the Tongue River to offer his services as chaplain to General George Armstrong Custer on his Yellowstone Expedition in July 1873.

In October 1876, Father was appointed first resident priest at St. Joseph’s Church in Hays City. He built himself a home and began to make plans for a little church. He said his first mass at the military post – Fort Hays on the First Sunday of Advent 1876. Besides ministering to the wants of the Catholics of Hays, he was also busy with the care of the German-Russian settlements that sprang up in Ellis County from 1876-1878. Not having a church or a priest, each of the new German-Russian colonies erected a large wooden cross in their community where the people gathered on Sundays and Holydays to say the rosary, prayers from the Mass, and litanies. Fr. Sommereisen would visit each of the nine surrounding communities on a monthly basis. The spiritual work in western Kansas was evidently too much for one man and Father’s health began to fail. The Bishop thought it was necessary to send two Capuchin priests from Pennsylvania to help take care of the spiritual needs of the growing German-Russian colonies as well as towns farther to the west of Hays City. Fr. Sommereisen asked for permission to retire to his farm home where he tended to an orchard and became a successful farmer. He died in 1897 at the age of 67. Because he had become a farmer and was not an active priest when he died, he is not buried with the other priests in the St. Joseph Cemetery but in the plot of a friend in St. Joseph Cemetery.

rnNicholas Voss – Born: 1847 – Died: Dec 29, 1922 (age 75)rnN.A. Voss was born in Hamburg, Germany and came to the United States in 1873 at the age of 26. He was married that year in Milwaukee, WI to Marie L. Schultz and for several years while living in Milwaukee, he learned the art of photography. He and his wife came to Hays in 1878 and he established a photography studio and modern gallery. He gained nationwide distinction as a champion chess player and won the Kansas State Chess Championship. Many of the early day photos of the Hays City, the Fort and the Normal School (which later became Fort Hays State University) and were taken by Voss. He photographed “Officers Row” one of the best known photos of Fort Hays. Numerous family photos, new business structures, farm homes and men at work in harvest were taken by Mr. Voss. Despite an illness over a two year period that took much of his strength, he remained working at his photography studio until he was hospitalized and died.

Buried at the family plot are his wife Marie L. (born 1851, died 1936), Eda, Carmen and Frieda and an infant child that died in 1885.

rnI.M. Yost – Born: 1848 Died:?? rnThis unusual looking grave marker is for one of Ellis County’s prominent pioneer businessmen. He was born in Norristown, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, in 1848, and worked in the dry goods and the carpet trade in Pennsylvania. He was married in 1871 to Miss Sallie T. Johnson, Norristown, Pennsylvania. In 1877 at the age of 29 he came to Kansas with his brother J. M. Yost. He was involved with the lumber business prior to building a flour mill in 1878. Yost Milling Company dealt in all kinds of grain, seed and the manufacture of semolino. He introduced the gradual reduction process by the roller and granulation system and manufactured one of the finest grades of flour. His mill produced 100 barrels of flour a day. He also erected an elevator in 1878, at a cost of $1,500 and a capacity of 5,000 bushels. In addition to his milling company he farmed 320 acres of land and raised three children.

An article in the Hays Republican reported that in December 1902 the mill burned down but he rebuilt it with a new mill that was five stories tall. The company had grain elevators in Hays City, Victoria, Toulon, Ellis, Ogallah and Collyer.

The town of Yocemento, Kansas, (5 miles west of Hays) was founded in 1906. The reason for its existence was the construction of a cement plant by a corporation formed by the U.S. Portland Cement Company, a number of Hays citizens, and I. M. Yost, as the president. The raw materials for cement were available in the area and the men employed as common laborers to produce the cement were mostly Hungarian Catholics. It was these citizens who built St. Agnes Catholic Church. At one point there was a general store, a hotel, and a restaurant in Yocemento. Later, the church was abandoned as people moved away, and the building was moved to the Buckeye community in 1931 to be used as a community hall. By 1917, Mr. Yost and the stockholders began losing money on the cement plant, and they went into bankruptcy. Much of the mill was dismantled, but there are parts of it that are still standing and visible yet today.


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