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Interview with Wendel Gene Ferrin of Tucson, Arizona,
by Jerry Ferrin, 13 April 1989

In this interview, numerous references are made to a "dinosaur bone" found by Ernest Ferrin. It was actually a mastadon bone. Somewhere I have a copy of his original letter to Kansas State University which accompanied the bone when he sent it to them, as well as a copy of their reply. Both are still on file at the university and copies were sent to me when I requested them. -- J.F.

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Jerry: Dad, I just received a letter today from Evelyn Reed, the librarian at Coldwater, Kansas, telling me that Randall Thies, the Kansas State Archaeologist, will be digging for Indian artifacts this June on the land we call the Zoo on the north edge of Wilmore, Kansas. Evelyn has some questions about the arrowheads that you and Poppy (Ernest Leroy Ferrin of Wilmore) found on The Zoo and about the Indian skull that Poppy found just south of his shop on his home place. How big would you say the collection of arrowheads was that Poppy had?

Wendel: I don't remember the number, but I know that they all fit in a cigarbox.

Jerry: And that was about 5" deep by 8" wide by 12" long?

Wendel: No, I don't think it was a tall cigar box. It was lower, about 2" tall.

Jerry: Oh, I would have sworn it was about 5" tall.

Wendel: Well, I could be mistaken, Jerry. I just don't remember. To my recollection, I'd say there probably weren't over twenty in there.

Jerry: I'd guess that there were about 50 arrowheads, because I remember the cigarbox as being about half full and that the box was about 5" tall. What kind of specific items do you recall?

Wendel: Arrowheads, some lead bullets. I remember one iron arrowhead in particular and there was one tomahawk head. It was a small tomahawk, probably four inches long and, at the wide point, probably not more and an inch and a half, then it came down to a point on the other end. It was triangular shaped. From my idea of what a tomahawk is, and I've seen them in other collections, it was a small one but it was definitely a tomahawk head.

Jerry: I remember that there were some (arrowhead) points which were real small. He had one perfect (undamaged) one which was probably about 3/4" long.

Wendel: That's right.

An arrowhead found by Ernest L. Ferrin at 'The Zoo', actual size: 1 & 1/2 inches by 7/8 inches, collection of Jerry Ferrin.

At left: An arrowhead found by Ernest L. Ferrin at 'The Zoo', actual size: 1 & 1/2 inches by 7/8 inches, collection of Jerry Ferrin.

Jerry: And I've got one which Grandma Nellie (Nellie May Barnett Ferrin) gave me after Poppy died. It's a perfect one that's about an inch and a half long. But quite a few of the arrowhead's in Pop's collection were broken.

Wendel: Most of them were broken, to my recollection. Sometimes both parts were there, but an awful lot of them were broken.

Jerry: One of them I remember had the tip broken off, but the base part which was left was about 5" long.

Wendel: That's true. It could have been a spearhead. I recall that one too and I always thought it was a spearhead.

Jerry: And those lead slugs... what caliber of gun would you estimate that they were from?

Wendel: (Laughs) Probably a .45 - I'm not good at estimating calibers but those slugs were a large caliber.

Jerry: So they were probably 3/8" in diameter at the base?

Wendel: No, I think they were even larger than that: seven sixteenths or possibly even one half inch - they were large slugs. I found one up on the North Place (wheat land Wendel leased in Kiowa County which belonged to Bonnie Hibbert) which had the tip bent over that was about 7/16" diameter and about 3/4" long.

Jerry: That sounds about right to me for the original size of the spent slugs in Pop's collection. I recall them, about six of them, as being flattened on the pointed end and compressed back towards the base as if they'd been fired into something. Those spent slugs were, I guess, about 1/2" long. Evelyn asked in her letter if there's anyone around Wilmore that Poppy may have shown the collection to whom Evelyn could contact now.

Wendel: Buck (Delmer Lee Ferrin) might know. He might have them. I don't have the slightest idea of where they are. I'm pretty sure he never gave them to an institution. I didn't know it if he did. Buck might have the collection or might know what happened to it. Other than him, I don't know of anyone who would know anything about them.

Jerry: I remember seeing Poppy's arrowheads on display - or seeing some arrowheads on display and hearing at the same time that he loaned his arrowheads to some institution for study and display. Evelyn Reed told me that there did used to be a museum at the State Fish and Game Commission at Pratt, Kansas, and that's where I think that I saw the arrowhead collection I'm thinking about.

Wendel: Well, if they were there, I never knew it. I'm not saying they weren't. I just don't remember or never knew if they were.

Jerry: The last time I saw the arrowhead collection was after Poppy's death on the 13th of May, 1974, and the collection was intact at that time. If he did send them to a university, which one would would it have been?

Wendel: I would have thought K.U. at Lawrence, Kansas. I'm sure that's where he sent that Indian skull.

Jerry: In your book you mention an Indian skull which Poppy found in the 40's -- will you tell me about that?

Wendel: Well, he found it right south of his house; the exact location is hard to describe unless you know the area. There were caltapa trees there which he had planted after he moved there, or perhaps even before the moved there, but anyway, south of the house there was an L-shaped group of trees and at about the center of the short leg of the reversed L, which was to the north, was where he found the skull just to the south of the center of the short leg of the L. There's a building there now - well, it's the building which used to be on The Zoo that Dad built for Ira Schultz to live in and after Ira died, Dad moved the building out to his place and used it for a washhouse for several years, then moved it to its present location and used it for a shop. That shop is still standing now about 40 feet north of the row of trees we're talking about.

Jerry: We can draw a map...

Wendel: I know precisely where the skull was in my own mind, because Dad showed me exactly where he found it. He found the skull before I remember; he just told me about it. I don't remember exactly when it was that he found it.

Jerry: Then it wasn't necessarily in the 1940's that he found it?

Wendel: I believe it was earlier than that.

Jerry: Could you describe how Poppy described how he found the skull?

Wendel: I believe that, at the time, he used that small lot there for a field -- in fact, he tried to raise an orchard there and the trees didn't do well. He planted other crops there for a while but, after I got big enough to remember, I don't think he ever planted anything in it. It was so sandy that it just wouldn't grow anything. I believe the did raise some peanuts there once. After he found the skull, he did do quite a bit more digging around there, just digging by hand, for other bones and never found any more. Now this skull was found -- I believe he turned it up with a plow, so it was near the top of the ground. He said that he did a considerable amount of digging there, later, with a shovel. Dad thought that the skull might possibly have been carried there by an animal and dropped and that sand just drifted over it because it wasn't (buried) very deep. There's a notation somewhere in the papers which you got from Evelyn Reed that makes it sound as though Dad said all Indians were buried standing up. I believe that is incorrect. I never heard him say that. And I've seen Indian burial grounds before (at Salina, Kansas) and I've never seen one buried standing up. But the skull Dad found, I'd say it was a possibility that it was just carried in there by an animal, probably a coyote - or, I guess, at some time there were wolves there.

Jerry: I've read that some plains Indians would build a wooden platform and prop a body up on it and just leave it to decompose out in the weather.

Wendel: I've read that some tribes did do that but I'm not sure what tribes were in the area (West Powell Township, Comanche County, Kansas), I would assume Comanche and Kiowa from the names of the counties, but I don't know.

Jerry: What did Poppy do with the skull?

Wendel: He sent it to K.U. at Lawrence to see if it was an Indian's skull or a white man's skull. He got a letter back saying that it was an Indian skull. I'm sure he kept the letter for some time but I have no idea of what happened to it.

Jerry: Did they return the skull to him?

Wendel: No, they didn't. He told them to just keep the skull. I don't know if that letter is still in existance now but I know that Dad did tell them that he didn't want the skull back and I would assume that they still have it. Of course, they mey not have a record of it: I don't know how good of records they keep.

Jerry: Didn't you find an Indian grave once when you were digging a post hole?

Wendel: No, I found the remnants of a fire. Many people thought it was probably an Indian grave or where an Indian campground had been. I've forgotten who it was, but somebody went back with me a year or two later to look for that. It was right at the bottom of a posthole. We went back and dug out several posts along that fence and never did find it again. That was between the Old Crooked Tree (a cottonwood) and the autogate which used to be right at the brink of the hill about a quarter of a mile north of the tree. Well, about a hundred yards north of the Old Crooked Tree used to be a wooden culvert and the old location of the cattleguard at the brink of the hill, then straight east a half a mile on top of a hill was where the fence was. It was a division fence between Dad's place and the (Loren and Alcana Ferrin) estate place. It's the only division fence running north and south that's approximately half a mile east of that road (between Loren Ferrin's 1887 house and Ernest Ferrin's 1927 house). Since Buck owns all the land, the fence may not still be there - it may still be up there, but it's not up in shape. You could tell that the fence had been there, but I don't think it's in use at all.

Jerry: Will you tell me about the dinosaur fossil that Poppy found?

Wendel: That was after I was grown and farmin' myself; it was in the early fifties. I don't know how he happened to find it. Dad did a lot of walkin' because he enjoyed it and I guess he was just walkin' when he found it. Or else driving around in his jeep - he might have been just driving around in that jeep and saw this rib bone from a dinosaur. It was approximately a half a mile west of his house.

Jerry: I have that map we drew...

Wendel: Oh, that's right. That map is fairly accurate. The bone was in the side of a hill. Dad never did any more diggin' and there was a crew from K.U. came down there with their white shirts and ties and suits on and they wanted Dad and I -- I was down there working on something at this shop -- to stop what we were doing and go do the digging. Dad said: "Well, I'll show you where it is but if diggin's done, why, you're going to have to do the diggin'." But they weren't willing to do that, they wanted us to dig. It was in the summertime: I was busy and Dad was busy. They went over to it (the site) and looked at it but they didn't do any diggin', so they just abandoned it because we wouldn't go dig it out. I'm sure there are probably more dinosaur bones in there because I don't know how just one dinosaur bone would get there.

Jerry: Did Poppy ever get that bone back from K.U.?

Wendel: No. I don't think he asked for it back.

Jerry: We were looking at this Chronological List of Zoo Information that Evelyn Reed sent regarding that land that is on the north edge of Wilmore, the 40 acres known as The Zoo -- where were the arrowheads found that you knew of?

Wendel: They were found on top of the hill just east of the cemetery. I don't remember any being found down in the valley. That was all farmland at that time and I think every one that was ever found - no, I guess Ira Schultz found some that weren't plowed up, but all the ones I found and -- as I recall it -- all the ones that Dad found, were found when the ground was being cultivated. (Note: Ernest Ferrin owned and farmed The Zoo from 1927 to 1965; Wendel Ferrin did most of the actual farming of it during the last several years Ernie owned it.)

Jerry: Well, I remember riding on a tractor with Poppy once on the flat land south of the creek when he spotted something he thought was an arrowhead in a fresh furrow and had me hop off the tractor to go see what it was. (Note: see Poppy and the Zoo, which was written after this interview was transcribed.)

Wendel: I don't remember ever knowing of any being found south of the creek but I'm not saying that there weren't south of the creek; I just don't remember it if there were.

Jerry: Were there any other Indian artifacts discovered on The Zoo that you recall?

Wendel: There was a skull found just north and a little bit west of where the shack was... the house -- well, I don't suppose anyone there now recalls where it was, but it was nearly at the base of that hill right straight north of the main (street running north and south) of Wilmore. The skull was found nearly at the top of the hill. I don't really know who was diggin' there or why, but it wasn't Dad who found it. Someone else found it.

Jerry: Would the person who found the skull have been Baldwin?

Wendel: It could have been. I could have been Henry Baldwin.

Jerry: Who built that shack you're talking about?

Wendel: Dad did. He just built it for Ira Schultz to live in -- this Ira Shultz, the way I remember it, just came into Wilmore as a working man, I mean just as a hired man, and he worked for Dad for several years, off and on, and then he got physically unable to work so Dad let him live in an old granary -- I believe it was a granary or a real old house, I'm not sure which it was -- but then Dad built that new house, a one-room house approximately 12 feet by 14 or 16 feet for Ira. He poured a slab, built the house and then, after Ira died, Dad put it up on skids and drug it out home to use himself.

Jerry: And that's the shop building on Poppy's farm?

Wendel: That's the building that he used for a shop later; for the first few years he used it as a wash house. It's still standing there to my knowledge; it was the last time I was there and I'm sure it is now.

Ira's Shack.

Photo by Jerry Ferrin, 1 Nov 2004.
"Ira's Shack".     Photo by Jerry Ferrin, 1 Nov 2004.

Jerry: About when did Poppy build the building on The Zoo for Ira Shultz to live in?

Wendel: It was in the thirties, I'm pretty sure, probably in the mid thirties.

Jerry: It says in Evelyn Reed's Chronology of The Zoo that "Ira Schultz dies alone in a little cabin on bank of creek a short distance north of town" -- is that little cabin the same shop building we've been talking about?

USGS aerial photo of the north end of Wilmore, Kansas. The Wilmore Cemetery is at upper left in the photo. The road to Ira Schultz's cabin described by Wendel Ferrin may be seen passing the northern edge of the cemetery going east and then turning south towards Mule Creek where Ira's cabin stood.

At left: USGS aerial photo of the north end of Wilmore, Kansas. The Wilmore Cemetery is at upper left in the photo. The road to Ira Schultz's cabin described by Wendel Ferrin may be seen passing the northern edge of the cemetery going east and then turning south towards Mule Creek where Ira's cabin stood.

Wendel: That's it. Yeah, Dad went down and found him -- no, I believe it was someone else who found him dead; he had been sickly and someone from town would walk over to check on him. You couldn't drive there very conveniently at all; it was hard to keep a creek crossing from the south side. To drive there, you had to go up around the north sie of the cemetery, across the field, then down around the hill and then back into the cabin. It was rather difficult to get to when you were driving. There was a creek crossing just west of where his house was and, sometimes, the crossing was good and you could drive across it with a car, and, sometimes, depending on the rains, you couldn't. Off and on, at different times, Dad hauled rocks in there to make a crossing; sometimes it was good and sometimes it was just impassable.

Jerry: In this Chronology of The Zoo, it says that in 1926 Henry Baldwin had a dugout located about a quarter of a mile north of Wilmore near the top of the hill.

Wendel: That was probably where that skull was found. The indentation in the ground is still there; I know exactly where it is and could walk right to it. It's near the top of the hill and just north of where that shack -- we always called the building Dad built for Ira a shack -- was located. The dugout is north and west of where the shack was, just how much west I don't remember exactly in terms of feet.

Jerry: Is the concrete slab where Ira's shack was still there?

Wendel: I'm sure it probably is; I don't know any reason why it wouldn't be. It was just a three and a half inche thick slab but, to my knowledge, it was never taken up; and the well might possibly still be there; they just drove a "sand point" in the ground and had a pitcher pump on it. The last time I saw that place was many years ago. What year does it say in that chronology that Dad sold The Zoo?

Jerry: In 1965, the title to The Zoo belongs to Harry Boorn.

Wendel: That, I don't recall at all. I see it says there that in '67 that Ivan Booth bought it. The way I remember it, Dad sold it to Ivan Booth but apparently the title belonged to Harry Boorn first. So it was in the early '60s, I'm sure, that I last saw the site of Ira's shack.

Jerry: Do you remember anything about the grinders that the Arnold boys found?

Wendel: Absolutely nothing. The only Arnolds that I can remember there was a family by the name of Arnold and they did have some boys -- 2 or 3 or 4 -- two that I remember in particular. Their father was janitor at the school for a time. I don't remember his first name but I do remember what he looked like. I sure don't remember anything about the boys finding a grinder on The Zoo.

Jerry: This Chronology of The Zoo also says that an Indian skull was found in the bank of Mule Creek in the Zoo area in the 1940's.

Wendel: I think that skull was in that bank up at the top of that hill. It could've been in the bank of the creek, but I don't remember it and I should have remembered it in the forties. The only skull I remember hearing about being found on The Zoo was up at the top of the hill where the dugout was.

Jerry: What about this "Doll-Slam-It" guy? Henry Baldwin?

Wendel: I wasn't very big when he died. I remember him very, very slightly. He was kind of a character, as characters go, I mean everybody seemed to like him. I remember him saying "Dow-Slam-It" but I see it's printed here (in the information sent by Evelyn Reed) as "Doll-Slam-It" and that may have been the way it was. But that was his name: everybody just called him that. I guess because that was his (favorite verbal) expression; he didn't swear, if anything went wrong he just said Doll-Slam-It.

Jerry: Did you ever find any Indian artifacts other than at The Zoo?

Wendel: I found an arrowhead one time somewhere in sagebrush and I can't recall now where it was. It was somewhere where there shouldn't have been any arrowheads.

Jerry: Why do you say that?

Wendel: It was where no one had found any before. It was probably just a hunter's arrowhead; in other words, it wasn't at a camp site. I know I was walkin' quailhuntin' and it was in sagebrush but I don't remember whose place it was on or where it was.

Jerry: Did you ever find any Indian pot shards?

Wendel: Not to my recall.

Jerry: Would you have recognized a pot shard if you had seen one?

Wendel: I think I would have, I don't know. I wasn't too interested in things like that then -- oh, I was interested in arrowheads and was always kind of watchin' for 'em. I think I would have known if I'd seen a pot shard. Oh, there was one note (in the Kimple information enclosed with Evelyn Reed's 09 April 1989 letter to Jerry Ferrin) I read about Leslie and Fay Smith's residence: I don't know what they're referring to there. "The Smiths, later in life when this was probably written..." -- when was that written?

Jerry: It doesn't say.

Wendel: Well, anyway, Fay and Velma Smith moved from the original Smith place - the house of the Smith place was just a half a mile south of Dad's home place (the house Ernie Ferrin built in 1927). That history says that Dad lived there on the home place (the homestead built by Loren and Alcana Ferrin in 1887) until he died, but that's incorrect: he bought his own place from Ray Sombart; bought 777 acres from Sombart. We moved there in 1927 so he bought it somethime before that. I was born in the old home place (the 1887 homestead) on April 30th, 1927, and later that year, we moved to the place where I was raised, the place known as the Ernest Ferrin place now. The other house, I guess, is known as the Ferrin Estate and it's a mile north of Dad's place, right across Spring Creek from where Arthur Ferrin's house used to be. But the Smith place was just half a mile south of the house Dad built in 1927, it was on top of the hill just across the fence from Dad's land, just south and east of the autogate that is there now.

Jerry: There are still foundations...

Wendel: Yes, they're still there. Wiley Edwards from Greensburg bought the place. His son, Howard Edwards, married Phyllis French from Dalhart, Texas, and they lived there on the hill for two or three years. Then Wiley Edwards sold the Smith place to Valtos Richardson. Valtos had the Smith house moved down to its present location by Spring Creek a mile or a mile and a quarter east of where is was originally. Wendell Unruh lives in it now. But, before that, Fay and Velma Smith had moved to the Ridge place, which I think they call the Smith place now. I've forgotten Mr. Ridge's first name, he was dead before I remember. His widow's name was Clara. Velma Smith was one of her daughters and Lauren Ridge was a son -- he was filling a tractor with gasoline while it (the tractor's engine) was runnin' and it exploded and killed him -- and Martha Cline was a Ridge, she still lives in Coldwater. But I think that (Kimple) history is referring to the Ridge place as the Smith place, I'm not sure about that.

Jerry: Well, let me see who this was written by...

Wendel: It says Kimple. And Genevieve Kimple is the only Kimple I can recall who would still be around there. There was a Kimple family there when I was growing up but Genevieve never married. There was a Kimple orchard that I'm sure nearly everyone around Coldwater who is my age remembers just southwest of town. Genevieve was the daughter of the people who owned that orchard. Fact is she ran it for quite a few years after they passed away.

Jerry: Apparently this Kimple interviewed Poppy and he told her a story that Lars Nielsen was digging one day and found an Indian grave with lots of arrows and clamshells.

Wendel: I don't remember anything about that; I don't remember ever hearing about it. I'm not saying it didn't happen, just that I don't remember it. Maybe at one time I did know about it.

Jerry: About this Cap Pepperd place with the walls built of thick gypsum so that Indians couldn't shoot arrows through the walls...

Wendel: Yeah, they called it the Ray Helbert place during my time. Gene Uhl lives there now. The original house burnt down in either the late 40's or early 50's. They never knew why. Ray and his wife were gone - they didn't go much, but they were gone at the time. One thing I do remember about that: it was a three-story house or possibly just a tall two-story, but anyway, Ray had a very expensive diamond ring which he didn't wear too often. It was laying on the dresser in an upstairs bedroom when the house burned. It was the only thing he valued too highly. I didn't find the ring but I was down there helping clean up the mess and I did help build them another house. The new house was built with just donated help. There was a big crew; we built them a house, I believe, in two days. It was just a very short while after the fire that we had him a house built -- it was a small one, but it was big enough for two people. But, anyway, they were sifting through the ashes of the old house and, of course, they didn't find the ring because the metal had melted but they found the stone in the ashes directly below where the dresser had been that Ray remembered leaving the ring on. Apparently the fire burnt the bottom of the house first and when the floor burned the dresser fell straight down because they found the diamond in the ashes directly below where Ray knew it had been in the home.

Jerry: How were the walls of the Cap Pepperd place constructed?

Wendel: It was a wooden frame house; they just filled the space inside the walls with gypsum. I understood that it was dirt, but it may have been gypsum. It was just like you'd put insulation in a house now: they just built a frame house and filled the walls with dirt or gyp or whatever that was. The idea was that if Indians shot a flaming arrow into it, the gyp would put the fire out and the house wouldn't burn. So far as I know, there were never any Indian raids there.

Jerry: This Kimple history also mentions a cemetery in Martha McMillen's pasture...

Wendel: Since I read that, I remember that cemetery. You asked me a few months ago about a cemetery over there somewhere and I didn't remember it. But since you mentioned that it's on the McMillen place -- Weldon Trummel bought that place and I'm sure he could tell you where that cemetery is located. I remember seeing it but I can't tell you exactly where it was. I wrote (in my autobiography) that one of the Trummel boys saw Lars Nielsen walking across the pasture with a wooden box and a shovel on his back and that they asked him where he was going and he said that one of his kids had died last night and he was going to bury him or her. I was thinking that he was going to the cemetery over by West Powell schoolhouse but now I'm sure that he was going to the cemetery on the McMillen place. I just know in all reason that's where he was goin'.

Jerry: About Ira Schultz: do you know where he came from?

Wendel: No, I don't.

Jerry: Poppy just liked him and that's why he built a house for him?

Wendel: Oh, yeah, Dad always thought a lot of him. Ira was always such a good worker when he worked for him and Dad also liked Ira personally. I don't know whether Ira worked for Dad before I was born or when I was small. My first memory of Ira is when he lived down there on the Zooo and Dad had already built that home for him -- "home" -- we always called it "the shack". All my life we called it "the shack"; even after we moved it out to the home place, we still called it "the shack".

Jerry: Can you think of anyone else around Wilmore who might be able to give information about The Zoo to Evelyn Reed?

Wendel: I was thinking about that but there are so few people living who are anywhere Dad's age. Of course, he would have been 103 years old if he was living now. The last person I can remember who might have been able to give some information is Kirk York, but he's passed on now.

Jerry: Poppy did live to be one of the "Old Timers" around Wilmore.

Wendel: Well, he was born on February 8th, 1886 and died on the 13th of May, 1974, so he was about 88 when he died.

Jerry: Do you suppose that when Poppy found the skull and, later, the dinosaur bone, that he let the local newspaper know about it?

Wendel: I doubt it, but it's possible. I just don't know. The Coldwater Star was never much interested in what happened in Wilmore; if some happened in Coldwater they had it in the paper right away but what happened in Wilmore was never of much interest to them.

Jerry: (Laughs)

Wendel: It's true!

Jerry: Do you remember the meteorites that Poppy found?

Wendel: I remember of them but I can't say specifically where he found them or what he did with them. I hadn't thought of them for years until you just mentioned it.

Jerry: There was one which was about 12 inches long, flat on bottom with a domed top which was sort of egg-shaped from the top view. It was about 5 inches wide at the widest point. He Used it as a door stop at the east door of his kitchen from my earliest memory.

Wendel: Well, I suppose Buck has that. He got everything in the house; he took everything there. I do remember that meteorite but I don't know who found it or when.

Jerry: After Pop's death, when I was visiting Grandma, I saw a box of stones up in their attic which Pop had labeled with the name and type of stone of each one. I had never known that he had an interest in geology.

Wendel: I recall that, now that you mention it. I know he was definitely interested in those rocks now that you mention it but apparently they didn't interest me much at the time when I first saw them. (Pause) This land called the Zoo: I've had many people ask me why it was called The Zoo and I couldn't answer the question because I've never known. I don't know whether Dad knew why it was called The Zoo; he probably didn't. I see on this Chronology of The Zoo that "George Daly pre-empts southwest 1/4 of southeast 1/4 of Section 18, Township 31 South, Range 17 West (Comanche County, Kansas) for a total of 50 dollars on October 5th, 1887".

Jerry: So that's the legal description of The Zoo?

Wendel: Oh, yeah. I knew the Zoo is 40 acres. George Daly got the land in 1887, that was just a year after Dad was born. So The Zoo has been in one piece for over a hundred years; it's surprising that someone who has owned the land surrounding it has never bought it to add to their own land, but it has remained one individual unit of land over all these years.

Jerry: I have the feeling that Poppy didn't know why the land was called The Zoo. I remember him taking Robby Ferrin (Robert Edward Thompson, Buck Ferrin's stepson by Dorothy's first marriage) along with him when he'd go to The Zoo to farm it and how we'd play along the creek while he was working. I can remember feeling really excited because we were going to The Zoo because I thought we were going to see some wild animals in cages there, so I'm sure that, in my disappointment at finding only a field, I would have asked him why the land was called The Zoo. Yet I don't remember him ever explaining why or how The Zoo got its name, and I'm sure I would have remembered it had he explained it.

Wendel: I don't believe Dad knew why it's called The Zoo. I've never even heard a theory as to why it was named?

Jerry: Did most people around Wilmore know it as The Zoo?

Wendel: Oh, yeah! It wasn't called anything else. Everybody around Wilmore, ever since I was big enough to remember, called it The Zoo. And most people in the whole county would know what you were talking about if you mentioned The Zoo. It was pretty well-known, perhaps it was because of the unusual name. But I don't have the slightest idea of how it got the name.

Jerry: Was it generally known as a place to find arrowheads?

Wendel: Yeah, I guess so; nobody tried to hide it. People came there from different places - fact is, some people asked permission to hunt for arrowheads and Dad never turned anyone down. He didn't care if anyone looked for arrowheads there. Every once in a while we'd go to town on Sunday afternoon and we'd see people up there walking around looking for arrowheads. We usually didn't know who they were, but Dad didn't care so long as they didn't destroy crops when he had crops on there.

Jerry: Well, this tape is nearly at an end so we'd better wrap up this interview. Thanks for letting me interview you about The Zoo, Dad. I'll transcribe this tape and send a copy of the transcript to Evelyn Reed right away so that it will be available to both her and the Kansas State Archealogist before the dig at The Zoo begins. I'm sure it will be of interest to them and perhaps you'll evern be mentioned in the official report on the dig as a source of oral history on The Zoo. I'll ask Evelyn to send us a copy of that report when it is published.

Wendel: I would sure appreciate having a copy of it because I'm interested in knowing what they learn from this dig.


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In 1989, The Kansas Archeology Training Program (KATP), a cooperative effort of the Kansas State Historical Society (KSHS) and the Kansas Anthropological Association (KAA) conducted a "dig" just north of "The Zoo" at what is now known as the Comanche County Booth Site (14CM406).

During the 1989 KATP event, 130 KAA members volunteered approximately 5,590 hours in the study of this Middle Ceramic period Wilmore complex site.

Reported in: William B. Lees and John D. Reynolds (1989) "Fifteenth Annual Training Program Dig Held in Comanche County," Kansas Preservation 11(6):6-7; William B. Lees (1990) Chronological Placement of the Booth Site: Implications for the Wilmore Complex and Southern Plains Culture History; Martin Stein (1991) "Booth Site Provides Preservation Example," Kansas Preservation 13(2):5-7. Report on file, Archeology Office, Kansas State Historical Society; C. Tod Bevitt (1999) "An Archeologist's Notebook: The Wilmore Complex of the Middle Ceramic Period on the Southern High Plains of South-Central and Southwest Kansas," Kansas Preservation 21(1):5-7, 12; and C. Tod Bevitt (1999) "Life on the High Plains Border: Archeological Investigation of Three Late Prehistoric Habitation Sites in Southwest Kansas," The Kansas Anthropologist 20:1-xxx.

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In the course of researching my family history, I corresponded for years with Evelyn Reed, who was the Coldwater Librarian at the time, and was always richly rewarded both in terms of historical information and insights.

Her request that I interview Dad about The Zoo led very directly to the writing of Poppy and the Zoo because the pieces of the poem just sort of fell into place once I'd typed the transcript of the following interview. Poppy and the Zoo is also published on the Kansas State Library website.

Thanks also to Evelyn for sending me the Death Notice & Obituary for Ira Schultz and the above report on the "dig" at The Zoo, which was named the Booth Site, in 1989.

-- Jerry Ferrin, 27 Feb 2003.

Web design by Jerry Ferrin, this page was created 27 Feb 2003.
(Happy Birthday, Julie Vining!)