The Loper Family

From the book Mulvane City of the Valley which was published by the Mulvane Historical Society, 1977.
Story contributed by Ellen Wagner & Lavon Wagner King.
Published by permission from the historical society.
Transcription and Additions (*) by Kirk Loper.

It must have been a bolt out of the blue when John Loper informed his family that they were going to Kansas. A fifty-year-old man, the father of twelve children, would normally be expected to have put down roots and lost his zest for adventure. But not so with a Loper; new horizons always beckoned.

John Loper was born April 17, 1821, near Williamsport in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. He had brothers, Daniel, William II, Ghile, a half-brother and a sister Minoca, who married a Rodgers. His parents were William and Frances Domind Loper. His grandfather, Uriah Loper, was a millwright born in New Jersey. Uriah’s sons were Daniel, Uriah II, William and Jeptha. Previous generations of Lopers had whaled off Long Island. The forefather of American Lopers was Jacobus Loper born in Holland. As commander of a Dutch warship he was stationed in New Amsterdam, now New York. On June 30, 1647, he married Cornelia Melyn, daughter of Cornelius and Jannetje Van Myert Melyn, New Amsterdam residents.

John Loper and Charlotte Lock
John Loper and Charlotte Lock

On Oct. 14, 1849, John Loper married Charlotte Lock in Iowa. Charlotte was born Sept. 16, 1831, in Edgar, Indiana. She had two brothers, John and Joe Lock, who came to Kansas, and two sisters, Nancy, who married John Cobb, and Louisiana, who married John Pence, both remaining in Iowa.

In 1871 the Iowa farm was sold. Six rooms of furniture were stored in a neighbor’s hayloft, never to be seen again. Provisions for the trek to Kansas were squeezed into the covered wagons. Then John and Charlotte started for somewhere in Kansas with their children, Sarah, 20; Julia, 19; George, 15; Louisiana (Ann), 14; Mary, 13; Ellen, 10; Don, 9; Miranda, 7; Belle, 5; and Will, 1. Left behind was a daughter Olive, deceased, and a son, Mark, 17; who stayed to finish some schooling and joined the family later.

Charlotte had been inflexible on only one thing. None of the livestock was to be left behind. So cattle, oxen, horses and John’s prized stallion, started for Kansas too. A milk cow was tied to a wagon so that fresh milk would be available for young Will on demand. The stock grazed from the land, but water was a problem. When water was scented there was a stampede. The only thing to do was trail the stock pell mell to the stream. Usually camp was made there for the day and the journey resumed next morning. If a new calf decided to join the procession, camp was also made. When it was feasible to continue the journey, the calf was placed in a wagon much to the delight of young Will.

Upon reaching Butler County, Kansas, the Lopers were greeted by a screaming assembly of Butler, Cowley and Sedgwick County citizens. The Lopers were judged to be bona fide homesteaders. Their children and livestock would be a welcome addition to any community. Sites still open for settlement in Cowley and Sumner Counties were recommended to them. The site presented by Mr. Alexander Garrett of Derby sounded promising, and he guided the Loper to their home-to-be on the east bank of the Arkansas River on the south side of the Segwick-Sumner County line. This site had been chosen earlier by a young bachelor who couldn’t take the 1870 winter alone on the prairie and stopped his claim.

The Lopers filed for homestead rights and settled into a 12×14 foot cabin Nov. 20, 1871. When a rain came, it dripped indoors through the sod roof after the rain outside had subsided. The bedding had to be taken outside to dry when the sun shone. One interesting facet of all this togetherness was that the Loper sons remained bachelors.

How Charlotte must have longed for her Iowa home! She and her daughter were overjoyed when on day they saw Amelia Wagner and her daughters across the Arkansas on the west bank.

On Dec. 17, 1873, upon proof of residence and payment of $1.25 per acre to the Osage Indian Land Trust, John Loper’s homestead title claim was approved. The house and been enlarged, a 14×16 foot stable was built, a well was dug, sod had been broken by a yoke of oxen hitched to a walking plow, making 25 acres under cultivation, ten acres of pasture fenced, 100 forest trees and twenty fruit trees growing. Total improvements were valued at $500. After being duly sworn Mr. John L. Rodkey attested to these facts.

On Dec. 22, 1873, Charlotte Loper gave birth to her daughter, Nina. In 1875 daughter Belle died with diphtheria. In January 1877, Charlotte had her last child, a son, Ralph. In March 1877, daughter, Julia Loper Dodson died leaving a young son, Fred, and small daughter, Mattie.

These children came to their Loper grandparents’ home where they were reared by their fifteen- year-old Aunt Ellen until her marriage to Perry Brenton in 1884. In addition to childcare, Ellen was responsible for the family churning. Cream produced by the family herd was churned into butter, which was taken once a week to Wellington for sale.

Mary was the family tomboy. It was she who hitched the oxen to the plow and threw a protective circle around the buildings when a prairie fire was sighted and all the men folk were away from home. She could swim like a fish and was expected to row people across the river, before the bridge was built. An excellent horsewoman, it was her task to return the grazing cattle from pasture at milking time. One evening they were all missing, and she tracked them north toward the horse thieves camp. Returning to inform her mother of this predicament, she was advised to go after them, that the men would not harm a slip of a girl. True to Charlotte’s prediction she was treated most courteously. The men helped round up the cattle and drove them home. Possibly they were relieved not to have any men settlers nosing around their camp. The camp was made in the timber on the west bank of the Arkansas near the ford in Sedgwick County.

Horses were driven from Texas to this site. Grass and water were plentiful. the horses soon shaped up for a profitable sale to individuals in Wichita. Meanwhile, the men rode by turns into town for diversion. They could easily cover their tracks riding downstream if they got into trouble. They never annoyed the settlers, who in turn kept their distance.

There was great rejoicing when the settlers heard that a railroad was coming from the north. It would provide the needed transportation to eastern markets waiting for their abundant grain harvests. No longer would corn be burned for fuel because it could not be moved to market. George Hill, Henry Clay Helbert and John Loper decided to take advantage of this golden opportunity. They rode north to contact railroad officials with the proposition that they would provide land for a townsite if the railroad would survey a site where their lands joined.

In due time, their proposition was accepted. A chicken dinner was prepared at the Helbert home for the interested parties. There, the town was named. Since Helbertville, Loperville or Hill City could never win unanimous preference, the town was called Mulvane in honor of Joab Mulvane, the official who represented the railroad company.

On Sept. 20, 1879, the Certificate of Incorporation of “The Mulvane Town Company” was signed by James Moore, J. A. Troutman, Joseph G. Waters, T. H. Butler and Ross Burns, all citizens of Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas. It was notarized by W. C. Campbell. Capital. Stock of this corporation was $50,000 divided into 1,000 shares of $50 each. Directors of the Mulvane Town Company were H. C. Helbert, Sedgwick County; John Loper, Sumner County; Joab Mulvane, Topeka, Shawnee County; W. G. Dickinson, Topeka, Shawnee County; and Alden Speare, president, of Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts.

On Jan. 27, 1880, John and Charlotte Loper deeded the east eighty acres to the Town Company. For some reason, the promised Hill land did not materialize. The railroad roundhouse, which was planned to be built there,was moved to Wellington instead.

John and Charlotte purchased the home of David Badger, Mulvane’s first hardware merchant, and moved into Mulvane. The remaining land of their homestead was sold to Chris and Martha Mahlandt Lentz. They watched the town grow and their children depart.

Daughter Sarah, who had first married John Kester and later Thomas Moore, lived in Arkansas. Her Kester sons were John, Ernest and Jim. Her Moore children were Tim, Tom, Jesse, Don, Charles and Lottie. John Kester’s daughters were Geneva Fay, who married Raymond Mouser; and Donnie, who married John Brubaker. Ernest Kester had no children. Jim Kester had a daughter, Dorothea Gladys, who married Walter Schuler, and a son, Theodore Kester. Tom Moore married Lilly Mcholland. Their children were George Thomas; Dovie, who married Emory Briggs; Goldie; Madge, who married James Harris; Timothy, who married Gertrude Allen; and Leon. Jesse Moore’s children were Guy and Jessie. Don Moore married Ora Belle Whitley. They had a son, Richard, and three other children. Charlie Moore married Alice Watson. Their children were Jeff and Ellen Moore Freedle. Lottie More Little had no children.

Ann (Louisiana) Loper married Arthur Cushman who homesteaded in the Mulvane area in 1870. He was born in New York state and with his brothers Kirk, Henry and Gene had walked from New York to Manhattan, Kansas. Ann and Arthur had sons Clarence and Clyde. Lottie Brenton was reared in their home after her mother’s death. Clarence Cushman married Ethel Thompson. Their children were Dale, Lois Florence, Sam, Glenn, Gene and Leo. Clyde Cushman married Florence Ryan of Fort Benton, Montana. Their children were Mildred, Dorothy, Florence, Marjorie, Lucille, Herbert and Lanore.

Mary Loper married Jean Denton, the son of a pioneer Mulvane merchant. The Jean Dentons lived in Denver, Colorado. Their children were Mattie, who married Charlie Schrimsher; Myrtle, who became Mrs. Cox; John; Don; Dan; Bill; and Susan, who married Domingo Batz.

Ellen Loper married Perry Brenton, and they went to Oklahoma where she died in 1894. Their children were Will: Charlotte (Lottie); Nina and Golda. Don Loper remained a bachelor and moved to Oklahoma after his mother’s death.

Miranda Loper married Kirk Cushman and lived at Attica, Kansas. Their children were Martha and George. Nina Brenton was reared in their home. Martha Cushman married Everett Halbrook, born in Missouri. Their daughters were Lorene and Maxine. George Cushman married Ruby Kieman. Their daughter was Lucretia.

Will Loper was the only son who did not remain a bachelor. He was one of two boys who disappeared after a camping excursion by some youngsters on the island in the Arkansas River channel. After an extensive search both were presumed drowned. After a few years, the second supposed victim returned home. This prompted a search by Don Loper for his brother. Will was found married and doing well in Oklahoma. He was using the name of the Captain under whom his Uncle Daniel had served in the army. The family respected his new life and never disturbed him.

Like true Lopers, sons Mark and George had headed for Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. They arrived at Circle City in 1895, having made the 1,500 mile trip there from Juneau in 67 days. It was 5,000 miles back to San Francisco where all their supplies came from.

George returned twice to visit Mulvane relatives but both sons made Alaska their home. They spent their last years in the Pioneer Miners Home which they had helped endow at Sitka, Alaska.

Julia Loper Dodson’s daughter, Mattie, married Harry U. Reed and lived in Denver, Colorado, later moving to California. Julia’s son Fred Dodson, served with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, then joined his uncles in the Alaskan gold fields for a while. When planning to return to the States, he decided with true Loper gusto to bring his “stake” out alone down the Yukon River in a canoe. The feat was accomplished but he later branded it as most foolhardy. He, too remained a bachelor. He settled in the Fresno, California area and finished his working days panning gold from the tailings of a large sand and gravel company there. His retirements years were spent visiting relatives all across the U.S.A.

John Loper once again had the urge to try a new life. This time he wanted to see what Texas could offer. This time wife Charlotte said “NO”. So he finished his life in Mulvane. Because of impaired circulation it became necessary to amputate one of his legs above the knee. Dr. Shelly successfully performed the surgery on the family’s kitchen table by the light from a kerosene lamp. John recovered and lived for two years, passing away March 19, 1902.

Ralph Loper decided to become an oil driller. By 1907 he had settled at Coalinga, California, and worked in the large oil fields there. When the Tulsa, Oklahoma oil fields were opened, he moved there and remained until his death in 1928, He too was a bachelor.

Nina Loper remained with her mother in Mulvane. Charlotte Loper passed away at her home Sept., 17,1911. Nina Married Alex Burgess and continued to live in the old Loper home in Mulvane. Alex was born in Glascow, Scotland, in 1858, and died at Mulvane in 1930. Nina died in a fire at her home in 1956.

John and Charlotte have great grandchildren living all across the U.S.A., but none bear the Loper name. Their descendants are now called Kester, Moore, Koch, Stephans, Newman, Cleve, Mouser, Brubaker, Schuler, Gibson, Swaime, Lacy, Little, McCullough, Freedle, Briggs, Kerley, Soker, Condiff, Harris, Porter, Toms, Hartzfeld, Davis, Cushman, Simon, Cash, Frisby, McGehee, Martin, Holbrook, Leslie, Petersen, Hall, Scott, McKeond, Nicolarsen, Fine, Denton, Schrimsher, Cox, Nicholson, Batz, Baker, Roberts, Ellyas, Brenton, Wagner, King, Young, Fisher and Richardson.

Raymond Fisher is our candidate from this group as living with the most Loper-like zest for adventure and exploration of new horizons. His activities were conducted not on an ocean-going vessel, not from a covered wagon, but in the skies over the U.S.A. as a test flight engineer for the Convair Aircraft Company in Texas. He was a charter member of the Mach II fliers organization. He covered as many miles in one day as several generation of Lopers had traveled coming from New Amsterdam to Long Island to New Jersey to Pennsylvania to Indiana to Iowa to Kansas. Doubtless several of them would have been overjoyed to have had the opportunity to “sign on” as part of the crew on these flights.

In Kansas the Loper name survives in young John Loper, the ggg-grandson of John Loper’s brother, Daniel, who come to Mulvane in 1899 from Alamosa, Iowa.

Daniel Loper was born Sept. 20, 1825, in Pennsylvania and died Feb. 16, 1912, at Mulvane. He married Mary J. Hixon in Burlington, Iowa, on Sept. 29, 1850. She was born in Hilsboro, Ohio, August 5, 1832, and died March 7, 1914, in Mulvane. The Daniel Loper children were Austin*, Osborne, Leroy, Leonard, Sylvester, Ida, Daniel, Lena, Elbert and Myra.

Three sons, Austin*, Sylvester, and Elbert, also came to Mulvane with their families. Sylvester married Mary Etta Kuhn. Their children were Nora, Mrs. Henry Lentz, Alva, Daniel, who married Mabel Hilyard; Florence, Mrs. Harry Briley; Grace, Mrs. Carl McGinnis; Ethel, Mrs. Homer Nelson; Bertha, Mrs. Paul Schwyhart; Gladys, Mrs. Tom Carrol.

Elbert Loper was born in Jones County, Iowa, September 13, 1872, and died June 2, 1942, at Mulvane. He married Levona Irving, the daughter of William and Marcissus Ann Irving. She was born December 25, 1880, and died January 7, 1944 in a Wichita hospital. Their children were Leta, Mrs. E. Brooks; Vera, Mrs. Maurice Satterthwaite; Gerald; Leslie; Grace Matel; Elbert; Kenneth; Ina Levona, Mrs. Allen Howard.

Grace Matel Loper would be our candidate from this group as living with true Loper spirit and gusto. Without a doubt she has out-distanced Jacobus Loper, the first Loper who sailed to American shores. Besides being a Kansas school teacher for nineteen years, she served 21 years of active duty in the WAVES, having been stationed in Washington D.C., Pearl Harbor, Naples, Italy, San Diego and San Francisco. Her retirement years attest still active Loper genes. To date she has explored the U.S.A., Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt and the Holy Land.

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