Eagle eye Genealogy Gems reader and listener John Roberts ran across some very unique entries in a Kansas State Census. John writes: “I thought you might find the professions listed for the people on lines 13, 16 and 33, out of the ordinary, to say the least. It appears this census taker had a critical nature. I found this census page very amusing. Hope you enjoy it too.”
Indeed I did John!
In 1875 census enumerator Frank Wilkeson made his way through a Gypsum, Kansas neighborhood making usual note of the locals as sculptor, wagon maker, and carpenter. However, his attitude changed when he reached the Law household, where he listed 27 year old Job Law as…
He didn’t think much more of the next Head of Household 55 year old James Coleman who he labeled “Blow Hard.”
Appearing to have settled down after that visit he went on to list the blacksmith, farmers and miller…until he reached J. Lockwood’s house where he called it like he saw it:
So who exactly was the guy who used the role of census enumerator as a platform to share his personal opinions on this Gypsum, Kansas neighborhood? I couldn’t help myself and did a bit of digging.
According to the Gypsum Hill Cemetery Historical Walk, published by the City of Saline, Parks & Recreation and the Saline Public Library (and posted to Franks’s listing on Find A Grave), Frank Wilkeson led an interesting life that took many twists and turns. He was born in Buffalo, New York, on March 8, 1848, the youngest son of journalist, Samuel Wilkeson, and Catherine Cady, sister to suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton.“Wilkeson was only 15 when he ran away from home to join the Union Army during the Civil War. When the war ended in 1865, he had been brevetted a captain. He later published Recollections of a Private Soldier in the Army of the Potomac, a starkly realistic view of war” (and early indicator of his brutally honest views.)
His exploits included working in Pennsylvania and Colorado as a mining engineer, working as a civil engineer for the Northern Pacific Railway and exploring the river valleys in Washington State, to which he returned many times. He then married and went to Saline County, Kansas in 1871, buying land in Gypsum Township where he established a cattle ranch and raised two sons.
From 1887 to 1893, he wrote fishing and hunting pieces for the New York Times and the New York Sun. The last twenty years of his life, Wilkeson wandered between Kansas and Washington, writing promotional articles and dabbling in politics and various business ventures.
As a man who worked hard, was adventurous, and enjoyed putting pen to paper to share those experiences, I guess it’s no surprise that this page of the Kansas state census went down in history as it did.
Frank Wilkeson died in Chelan, Washington on April 22, 1913.