In the early years of the 1880's, Comanche County land was opened for homesteading. Many families came hoping to make a permanent home. In a very short time almost every quarter section of land was occupied.
Among those early settlers was Capt. Henry Fretz, his wife Juliette and teenage daughter, Grace. They came from Iowa City, Iowa, in March 1886. They settled on 160 acres of land fourteen miles southeast of Coldwater. Capt. Fretz built a four room frame house. This in itself was quite an accomplishment as all lumber and building supplies had to be hauled from Kinsley, the nearest railroad.
At about the same time, the Silas DeLair Family came to Comanche County and settled a few miles south of the Fretz homestead. The DeLairs came from Canada, spent a short time in Missouri, then came to Comanche County hoping to homestead. Prairie fires, grasshoppers, sand storms and winter blizzards took their toll. In a few years, many families had moved away, leaving behind two community centers, Nescatunga and Duckworth, both had post offices and a building which served as a school house and for social gatherings. Duckworth remained for many years and provided schooling from 1891 to 1945.
The Silas DeLair Family was one who returned to their former home in Canada. However, the oldest son, Sidney Ambrose DeLair, remained in Comanche County. He had acquired a few head of cattle and was associated with
Comanche Pool at Evansville, Kansas.
S.A. DeLair and Grace Fretz were married in 1892. They lived at Evansville for a short time before returning to Duckworth. Here Mr. DeLair established a partnership with his father-in-law, Captain Fretz. Hard work, perseverence and egenial partnership added up to a very profitable farming and livestock business.
Upon the death of Capt. Fretz in 1899, Mr. DeLair was able to purchase the Fretz holdings. Since many homesteads had been abandoned, pasture land sold for as little as $1.50 per acre. This enabled him to add more land to his original holdings. He continued buying land and by 1915 had acquired 10,400 acres.
Mr. DeLair became the county's largest buyer and seller of cattle and hogs, shipping them to the Kansas City Market, not only by carload but by trainload. His letterhead read, "The Ideal Stock Ranch".
Postwar depression and bad investments greatly depreciated his holdings. However, he maintained his pioneer spirit and continued to farm and feed cattle for a number of years. It was never to be, that he could regain his status. Glaucoma was gradually reducing his eyesight. This limited his activities. After becoming totally blind, he insisted on feeding a few head of cattle. By having a guide rope from the house to the feed bins, he was able to do the thing he enjoyed so much, feeding the cattle and knowing when they were ready for market. His death came in 1948 at the age of 84.
I submit this in honor of my grandparents, Capt. Henry Fretz, his wife Juliette, my parents, Sidney Ambrose and Grace DeLair, and my brothers, Wayne, Roy and Ralph DeLair.
-- Myrtle DeLair Newby, Comanche County History, pp. 383-384.
Burials in the Crown Hill Cemetery, near Coldwater, Comanche County, Kansas
DeLair, large family headstone, with the following names on it, Sidney, Grace and Capt. Fretz.
DeLair, Sidney Ambrose: 1864-1948
DeLair, Grace (Fretz) DeLair: 1872-1949
Capt. Henry Fretz : 'died Nov. 11,1900, aged 70yr 10m 28d'
"Although he sleeps his memory doth live. And cheering comfort to his mourners give."
A small stone labeled Father by the Large family DeLair stone is for Capt. Fretz. This inscription is on the large family stone. Fretz, Mother : A small stone that reads only Mother, is beside Capt. Fretz
-- Gravestone readings by Bobbi (Hackney) Huck.
"Julia Agnes was born at Peoria Ill., July 7, 1844, died at the home of her daughter in Comanche county on July 7, 1919, aged just 75 years to the day. She was married to Capt. Henry Fretz, a veteran of the Civil war, on April 26, 1866, and with him moved to Iowa that year. Twenty years later - in 1886 - they moved to Kansas and the deceased had resided there ever since. Two children were born to this union, Mrs. Alta Shimer, whose home is in Michigan, and Mrs. S. A. DeLair of this county. Captain Fretz died on November 11, 1901."
- Obituary of Julia Connaughton, The Protection Post, July 24, 1919.
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This page was last updated 31 Jan 2004.