LITTLE BALKANS CHRONICLES — People, places, old cures and superstitions

J.T. Knoll
Train depot, Bartlett, Kansas

This week’s stories are excerpted from “The Living Past” — a book authored by Southeast Kansas elementary and middle school students in ‘83 - ‘84. – J.T.K. 


Bartlett became a town on June 5, 1886. It was started by Robert A. Bartlett. 

Jerome Calahan bought the first lot, and erected the first building on the town site. it was a two-story building and the first story was a store filled with general merchandise. The second story was used as a meeting place. 

The first house was built by B.F. Cox. The first blacksmith shop was also started by him. The second house was built by H.L. Whiting. W.M. Jarrett put in a cider mill and connection boxes for grinding meal and feed in 1891. 

Several fires happened in the town during the late 1800s. In August 1898 the Reece Bros. Store and Post Office; in March 1899 the Howaker and Utley buildings, and in August 1900, two elevators and the Presbyterian church were burned. All of these fires were severe. 

Old newspapers account that Indians camped one mile east and one mile south of Bartlett. Presently, just a mile a way, U.S. 166 hums with traffic. 

Bartlett’s main street used to be covered with gas street lamps. Each night at dusk a lamp lighter went around and lit the flares. Gas lights were used from 1904 to 1926, when electricity replaced them. 

A town couldn’t be complete without people so I am going to tell something about the people in Bartlett. A typical family in the Bartlett community were Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Tomey. They were married in 1903. They and their five children lived in the Baylor district southeast of Bartlett. 

One of the children, Nellie Harris, lives near Bartlett. I interviewed her. She told me that she had to drive a buggy to high school. Sometimes when the horses saw a car coming they’d run away. When Nellie’s sister started wearing jeans she’d sit with her legs up. She was used to it that when she wore a dress she would sit the same way. Her mother told her that she’d throw water under her dress if she didn’t start sitting right. 

Some of their home remedies were skunk grease and acifidity. Acifidity was worn around the neck to keep colds away. It smelled awful! Skunk grease was used to get rid of colds. You would rub it on your chest. It didn’t smell at all! 

During the Depressions they always wondered where their beans were going to come from. Nellie once fed 25 people on two chickens and two pies. 

When she was little she had lots of chores to do. She didn’t have much homework. The games they played were checkers, pitch, and fox and geese. They had church at school. Every Friday night they had Bible debates. 

Bertha Mae Grave was a citizen of Bartlett. She had five children, my grandma, great aunt and great uncles. Her husband was Allen Grave. She used to babysit me. I always remember her saying nursery rhymes and singing, “It ain’t gonna’ rain no more.” She raised beautiful flowers. She brought water in from a pump.  She always bought presents for all her relations. 

Bertha Mae Grave, my great grandma, spent many years saving newspaper clippings. My uncle Norman put these in a book. This is where I got my information. 

Tonya A. Seifert 

Grade 5 

Bartlett Elem. School 


These are some old cures my grandpa told me about: Using sumac leaves cured asthma and hay fever. If you eat goldenseal roots it cured stomach trouble. Dandelion roots and May apples cure liver ailments. Stump water cured warts. If you swallow sulphur and molasses and get salved with a mix of sulphur and hog fat, it cured the itch. 

These are some sayings I got from my parents and grandparents: If your nose itches, someone is coming. If a girl’s shoe comes untied or her sock falls down, her boyfriend is thinking of her. If your thumb itches, someone is coming. If your feet itch you will walk on strange ground. A live snake put in a barrel of cider will keep it from spoiling and keep it sweet. 

Debbie Wittner 

Grade 7 

Chetopa Jr. High 

If you have a remembrance and/or photo to share, send it — along with your name, address and phone number — by email to or by land mail to 401 W. Euclid, Pittsburg, Kansas 66762. You can phone and text photos to 620-704-1309.