Recently, I was working on my family history sites GoogleMap where I mark home sites, cemeteries, migration trails and other venues of interest that help tell the story of my ancestors. It’s wonderful that many photos are now tied to GoogleMap locations, so we can get a visual of the areas!
I was particularly trying to accurately mark the location of the old Sallyards Ranch in Greenwood County, Kansas — it became known as Sallyards Field when oil was discovered there in the 1930s. According to online geological records, the area below this hill (up to the tree line by the pond) was the oil field.
What makes this photograph so poignant to me is the story of my grandfather, Dow Caldwell (29 Sep 1899 in Hammon, Custer County, OK – 27 Mar 1934 in Sallyards Field, Greenwood County, KS). He was an oil field worker employed by Skelly Oil Company. After a long day of work, Dow and some co-workers were letting off steam by racing two trucks (loaded with about nine tons of pipe each) up this hill. I know it was up this hill, because the newspaper articles mention that they were racing up a hill — and this is the only hill in this part of the country.) My grandfather jumped from the running board of one truck to the running board of the winning truck to distract the driver from the race. However, his boots were muddy and he slipped. He fell beneath the wheels and the truck rolled over him, ending his life.
My grandmother, Sylvia Caldwell, was about 33 years old when she was widowed. My father was only age 12 when he lost his own father.
In 1994, I journeyed to Kansas to find the grave and death place of the man whose name I share. An old Marine in a diner in Rosalia told me how to find Sallyards. I was there in spring and this hillside was thickly covered with wild blue Verbena. I picked an armful of the lovely flowers and took them with me back to Eldorado, Kansas to the cemetery where Dow Caldwell is buried.
The hillside and flatlands by the pond are covered with deep ruts left by oil field equipment. It’s very quiet now, although relics strewn in the bluestem prairie grass bear witness to it’s ‘heyday’. The cross was not there when I visited those many years ago. Perhaps the cross was welded from some oil field pipes.
I wonder who put the cross on this hill where my grandfather died.
Thank you, whoever you are.