On the cusp of major change, 100 years ago
A century ago few, if any, Bonner Springs residents realized that the New Year would bring about changes that would reshape the world. Certainly, they were more concerned with a local controversy more than they were with the ominous war clouds gathering over Europe. After all that was an ocean away and couldn’t possibly touch the United States.
Locally, there was a very angry controversy that, according to The Chieftain, infuriated Bonner Springs. Late one night in December, the two city marshals stopped a man and urged him to go home. Apparently he shot at the law enforcement officers and took refuge in City Hall. The building was surrounded by a posse of volunteers and the next morning, the man was shot and killed by the marshals. The Chieftain reported that the coroner’s jury agreed with the local lawmen.
Apparently the young man’s father wasn’t satisfied and told the newspaper he would spare no expense to see the marshals punished. In fact, he persuaded the county attorney to arrest both marshals and, later, a posse member. The city of Bonner Springs posted all the bonds.
The civilian arrested was the Sunday school superintendent at the Methodist Church, and the congregation jumped to his defense. The charges were ultimately dropped. During the winter months, the community sentiment was angry, blaming Wyandotte County politics, and there maybe some truth to the charge. The county attorney allowed the family of the dead youth to hire independent prosecutors to try the case. In March one of the local marshals died as a result of the incident and the second was tried for murder. It took the jury five hours to find the surviving marshal not guilty, which included a 90-minute lunch break.
The city was advertising for a new law enforcement staff and the pay was $50 per month.
The world was changing rapidly. The first scheduled airline flight took place on Jan. 1, and later in the month, the first steam ship passed through the Panama Canal.
Nationally, like today, immigration was a big issue and legislation was passed limiting immigration, particularly from the Orient. There was a lot of labor unrest, and U. S. soldiers killed 33 strikers in a clash at a mine in Colorado. Violence is nothing new.
While much of the world was concerned about events in Europe, the United States was keeping a wary eye on Mexico. In a preemptive strike, U. S. troops occupied Vera Cruz on April 21. Mexico ended diplomatic relations with the USA, but hostilities never started. Later in the year U.S. troops left Vera Cruz, however border violence would erupt in 1915.
Bonner Springs was changing with more cars and fewer horses on the road. There were good economic signs, too. The cement plant was reopening under new management. Farming was still the major occupation in the area, and the city was a bustling railroad center with more than a dozen passenger trains stopping daily. The new electric railroad was about to become a reality. Even The Chieftain was going modern: The newspaper purchased its first automated typesetting machine, a new linotype.
Bonner Springs had a new gymnasium, and basketball was popular until spring, when baseball took over.
There was talk in Edwardsville about incorporating as a city of the third class, although that was a year in the future. It would be more than 50 years before Basehor would incorporate.
The real danger was happening in Europe, which was a powder keg. The fuse was lit when a young Serb assassinated the arch-duke of Austria and his wife and opened the door to war in Europe. By Aug. 1, 1914, most of Europe was entangled in a war, which would rage for four years and claim millions of lives. And in three years, the United States was drawn in, changing our world forever.