SUNBONNET DAYS - CHAPTER XVIII - THE FRONTIER COMMUNITY CHEST
Before I close these reminiscences, I must tell of the Fairview Community Chest, which took care of the needy, nursed the sick, and fed the stranger, without a case worker, a county health nurse, money in the treasury, membership rolls, or an executive secretary.
When a neighbor broke down with typhoid fever, or other serious illness, his corn was plowed, his wheat was harvested, his cows were milked by volunteers. When a baby was born, one or two women came to help for as long as needed. For my own part I gave twenty-five babies their first baths.
Strangers in covered wagons seeking free homesteads "out West" were given corn for their horses, milk for their children, or anything else they needed. Such help was never regarded as charity but as neighborliness.
The true pioneer maintained an open house for wayfarers. This was necessary, for hotels were seldom available on the frontier; had there been hotels, the travelers were without money to pay. At our house we put another plate on the table whenever a stranger arrived, or made up another bed if his coming was at nightfall. This we did in the years even before we built the main part of the house and were yet living in the ell. Since our own family filled all our beds, extra couches had to be made up on the floor. People of all classes accepted our food and shelter. Sometimes our guests were mere tramps, and other times they were people of prominence, such as Dr. Storrs, state superintendent of Congregational Churches, who slept in one of our curtained-off compartments on more than one occasion.
Probably I had more than my share of wayfarers. The fact that I could speak two foreign languages often brought men who had been directed to our house by neighbors. Sometimes I could not speak their tongue, as was the case with two Syrian peddlers from Beirut, who were traveling afoot with packs on their backs. A neighbor, who had a vague idea that Syrians were merely a new variety of Dutch, directed them to our house. They came in high hopes that I was one of their kind; but after a few attempts at speech, they had to use their own English vocabulary, limited to the prices of the articles they had for sale, and such words as "eat," "sleep," "yes," and "no." Although we could not converse readily, they received shelter and food; and while I charged them nothing, they presented, upon leaving, some of the wares as gifts. The foreigners who came were usually German or Swiss. My husband often assisted them to find work as farm hands. Some of them eventually became farm owners and are today citizens of the Fairview community.
Our connection with the church brought numerous guests: Sunday School workers, Christian Endeavor organizers, visiting missionaries, and temperance lecturers.
Occasionally politicians came our way, for Christian continued his interest in politics. He supported Governor Morrill in all his campaigns, and when ex-Vice President Charley Curtis first aspired to represent the First Kansas District in Congress, Christian was one of his champions. We were attracted to Curtis because of his record as prosecutor of Shawnee County. Prohibition was at first openly flouted in Topeka. But not while Charley Curtis, "the boy lawyer," was county attorney. Although only 24 years old, he soon had the bootleggers in jail. Another thing that endeared Curtis to us was his attack on Cy Leland, the political boss. Once when Charley Curtis was campaigning for Congress in our county, Christian brought him home to supper. The children were somewhat awed by the presence of the distinguished guest at the table, but Curtis put everybody at ease by taking a piece of fried chicken in his fingers and eating it.