“My own life, of sixty years, have been spent among these characters and surroundings; I have faithfully tried to record in this labor.” In a 1913 letter from Merritt to Brown Shoenheit.
Merritt Beeson was born in Dodge City to Chalkley and Ida Beeson on December 29, 1878. Elizabeth Irene Beeson was born in Appleton, Wisconsin on January 17, 1892 to Phillip V. and Appolonia Bloedel Schaetzel. On March 13, 1913 the two were united in marriage. Mr. and Mrs. Merritt Beeson began operating the Beeson Museum in 1932 in the basement of their home on the southwest corner of Beeson Road and Sunnyside Avenue. They had had assistance from Merritt’s brother, Otero. This institution arose from the collection started in the 1870’s by Merritt’s father, Chalkley. By the time Chalkley died in 1912, the family had many souvenirs and relics from the late 19th century. Included in this assortment were items used by Chalkley’s Cowboy Band. Prominent were a pair of golden eagles and musical instruments. Many heirlooms from both his and from his wife’s family graced this assembly of artifacts. Documents and photographs also made up an integral part of this large collection. Later, the Museum expanded and moved east to a the “Corral” on South Second. The Beeson Museum was a repository for scholars studying the history of the area, and it was a Mecca for tourists. Numerous letters to and from the Beeson’s in the Boot Hill Museum archives attest to the fact Merritt himself was a “go to” source for early Dodge City history. Both Mr. and Mrs. Beeson corresponded with prominent Dodge City old timers and family members of early Dodge founders. Josephine Earp, Wyatt’s last wife, was one of these, as were members of the Masterson family and Samuel Crumbine, who had become nationally famous in the area of public health. After Merritt died Jan. 28, 1956, Elizabeth managed the Museum until it closed in 1964. She died on October 15, 1984 at the age of 92. The legacy of Beeson Museum lives on at Boot Hill Museum which acquired most of its collection when Beeson Museum closed. Many of these artifacts are displayed in the “Beeson Gallery,” with others housed elsewhere throughout the complex.
Merritt and Elizabeth had two children; a boy who died in infancy and Irene Cross. Irene died in 2016, and had three children; Jan Shaw, Mark Cross, and Wade Cross. Wade passed away in 2016. Merritt had one child, Ida Elizabeth “Betty” Beeson Miller by his first wife, Marie Mary Douthitt Beeson. Betty had two children who have passed away; Michael Beeson Miller and Vee Ann Miller.
“When I die the best thing people can say is that I was a hard working woman.“
Joyce Thierer is of the fifth generation of a Flint Hills farming family. Her parents, Lowell and Myrtle Gustafson Thierer, lived near Volland when she was born on September 3, 1949. Her grandparents lived on ranches within a few miles of each other. Joyce got her start at first-person interpretation when her grandfather Thierer told her stories about her great-great grandmother, Mary Fix who came to Kansas in 1856, one of Joyce’s favorite first hand presentations to this day is that of Mary Fix. Joyce also was inspired by the story of Calamity Jane, who lost her mother at the age of 14 and had to learn to support herself. Calamity Jane also trusted her horse as her best friend, just like Joyce at that young age. Joyce’s mother was a true cowgirl, and was a great inspiration to Joyce when she wanted to study vocational agriculture. In the 1960’s her parents created a museum and started a living history festival, Molasses Days, which brought people to their homestead for 20 years. When Joyce entered Kansas State University, she intended to study Animal Science, but opted for American History instead, receiving a BS in 1972. Joyce has gone on to further her education with several degrees, including, Masters in Library Science from Emporia State University 1980, Masters in American History, Emporia State University 1986, PhD in American History, Kansas State University, 1994. Her long list of distinguished awards includes, We Kan! Award, Mary Headrick Award, You Make a Difference Award, Fellowship of Performance Art-Kansas Arts Commission, Santa Fe Trail Association Education Award, Ruth Schillinger Faculty Award, and the Liberal Arts Science Teaching Award. She has developed numerous academic and history presentations including the Ride into History first person presentations she performs with spouse, Ann Birney. She also is a member of the Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma Humanities Councils Speaker’s Bureaus. Thierer is the author of “Telling History: A Manual for Performers and Presenters of First Person Narratives.” Joyce Thierer and Ann Birney received an NRCS/USDA EQIP grant to bring back the Tallgrass prairie on land Thierer inherited. After restoring the prairie by removing non-native vegetation, Thierer and Birney received a Grassland Award from the Wabaunsee County Conservation Program. Joyce’s son Chris Wisneski lives in Albuquerque, NM and plans to return to Wabaunsee County in the near future, so another generation can live in and appreciate the Flint Hills of Kansas.
“If no one had written about it [the Western Trail], it would have been lost to time.”
Both Gary and Margaret Kraisinger are descendents of Kansas homesteaders. Gary was born on November 6, 1939 in Hays, Kansas, to Alfred and Christina Kraisinger. Margaret, his wife, was born on July 14, 1941 in Garden City, Kansas to Archie and Livona Beller. The couple met in 1960 at Fort Hays State University and were married in 1963. Gary received a BS at FHSU in 1963, and Margaret a BA from FHSU in 1964. As a partial requirement for his MS degree at Emporia State University, Gary wrote his thesis on “The Garden City Nickel Plate Railroad – C.J. Jones’ Dirt Railroad.” His 1966 degree was in Geography and Cartography. In 1967, Margaret got a Master’s in Business Education at ESU. Both taught for a short time in the Dighton school system. It was during this time they became interested in the cattle trails across western Kansas. In 1968, the couple moved to Wichita where Gary worked in the cement, sand, and aggregate industry for more than 40 years. Margaret continued to teach in Wichita and Halstead until her retirement in 1997. Soon after, she began writing history and purchased an old hardware store in Halstead. The couple has been enthusiastic about cattle trail history since early in their marriage. Together the Kraisingers have written two books on the Western Cattle Trail. The first one, “The Western, The Greatest Texas Cattle Trail 1874-1886,” was published in 2004 and the second, “The Western Cattle Trail 1874-1897 Its Rise, Collapse and Revival,” was published in 2015. A third book, “The Fort Arbuckle Trail, 1867 – 1871,” is scheduled for release in early 2016. The Fort Arbuckle Trail located in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) funneled longhorns into Abilene, Kansas. Gary is a board member of the national Great Western Cattle Trail Association and of the Kansas Chapter. He is a member of the Kansas Cattle Towns Association, International Chisholm Trail Association and of its Dodge City/Fort Dodge/Cimarron Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail Association. Gary and Margaret ardently write and educate the public about cattle trails. The Kraisingers have three children, Kurt, Eric and Kristi Stewart, and they have eight grandchildren. Margaret and Gary live in Halstead, Kansas where Margaret operates the Old Hardware Store, a business in a historic 1879 stone building.
“The truth about its early days is far more violent, exciting, and ‘romantic’ than the fiction,” from the preface of Young’s Dodge City, Up Through a Century in Story and Pictures.
Fredric R. Young born in 1931 in Dodge City, is a fourth generation Dodge Citian, with his grandfather arriving in the area in 1879. Fred majored in accounting at Kansas University. He was not interested in history until the 1950’s when Boot Hill Museum’s, George Henrichs, raised his curiosity. Henrichs granted him access to Museum records from early Dodge City. In 1965, Fred married Alberta Marie Timm in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1971, Henrichs asked Fred to write an historical book for Dodge City’s 1972 Centennial. He hurriedly put together his records and used photographs graciously provided by Boot Hill Museum and the Kansas Historical Society to write Dodge City: Up Through a Century in Story and Pictures. This book still considered the “bible” for Museum employees and those interested in early Dodge City history. He has spent over 50 years researching Dodge City history pouring over court records, deeds, early newspapers and letters from Boot Hill Museum, the Kansas Heritage Center in Dodge City and other sources. In 2009, he completed another book The Delectable Burg: An Irreverent History of Dodge City – 1872 to 1886, which presents early Dodge City from a unique viewpoint. Fredric R. Young refers to himself as an “amateur historian.” Fred and Alberta live in Dodge City and have two grown children who live out of the area, Robert Young and Elizabeth Tybinkowski. His only grandchild is Elizabeth’s son, Alex.
Year inducted: 2014
“He was an exceptional community servant. He always had an upbeat and positive attitude about the community, and it was contagious.”John Deardoff, former Dodge City Manager
Jim Sherer was born on April 15, 1942 in Canton, Ohio to John H. and Frances G. Hendrichs Sherer. His family later moved to Kansas. Jim graduated from Kismet High School in 1960 and received an Associate’s Degree at Dodge City Community College in 1962. He went on to Pittsburg State University earning a BS in Education in 1964. While at DCCC he met Nancy White marrying her on June 9, 1963. This union resulted in four children, Kristen Miller, Dr. Ryan Sherer, Tyler Sherer and Kerri Kannady. From 1966 to 1979 he was in administration at DCCC. In 1979, he became Executive Director of Boot Hill Museum, a position he held until 1991, when he was deputized as a Boot Hill Honorary Marshal, at Boot Hill. He was one of just a handful of Dodge Citians to receive this cowboy accolade. He returned to DCCC administration in 1992 spending eight years. He then moved to the Kansas Heritage Center as Director until his retirement in 2007. In 2004 he was elected as a Dodge City Commissioner and served as Mayor in 2006 and 2007. Sherer’s greatest passion was Dodge City history, particularly that of the cattle trails and the Santa Fe Trail. Jim was a founding member of the Dodge City/Fort Dodge/Cimarron Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail Association and of the Kansas Chapter of the Western Cattle Trail Association. He served as President of both these chapters. He has also served as an officer of the Ford County Historical Society. In 2011, he was coordinator of the SFTA Symposium held in Dodge City. That same year Jim, was inducted into the Dodge City Community College Hall of Fame for Outstanding Service. Jim Sherer died on May 21, 2013 in Dodge City.
Year inducted: 2013