On July 5, 1870, around 40 people in eight covered wagons left Wichita to become homesteaders on the Sumner County prairie.
Somehow, the Clewell, Leforce/Turney and Walton families met and got together. One of the stories is the other families helped Mr. Walton repair a broken wagon wheel.
The families will get together to share stories and histories at The First Families of Sumner County gathering Saturday, July 6 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Council Hills Christian Church at 1268 N. Seneca Road in Peck. The event is free and the public is welcome to come out.
“This is not just a Walton event,” Bruce Walton, one of the organizers of the event, said. “We welcome community involvement.”
At age 81, Walton knows he is not going to be around forever and he wants to see history preserved.
“These old timers are passing away,” Walton said. “We use a tremendous amount of history and information. When someone dies, it kind of passes away because people nowadays don’t want to sit and talk about history like they used to.”
From 10 a.m. to noon, descendants of the families will tell stories. Lunch will be served from a food truck from noon to 1:30 p.m., followed by descendants of settlers of the London and Belle Plaine townships. They will talk about early “pop up” towns, post offices, military trails and cemeteries in the 1870-1900 era.
“The object of this meeting is to celebrate our history and help the modern day families understand the way our ancestors lived in the earliest days in Sumner County,” Walton wrote in his press release. “What obstacles did they face, how they survived and the everyday stories of life on the prairie.”
The day’s activities will not be a formal minute by minute account. “We want people to sit down and talk,” he said. “We’ve never talked about it before.”
Walton is hoping to get speakers on video.
Four generations of Waltons have lived on the family farm. Walton’s sister-in-law, Emma Walton, the widow of his brother, Harlan, still lives on the farm. Walton does not know if anyone in the family would be interested in living there for another generation.
None of his children stayed in Sumner County. He has a son living in Seattle, a daughter in Burbank, California, a daughter in Wichita and one in Andover. Walton is expecting at least two of his daughters to show up for the first families event. He is also expecting to see some grandchildren.
“I hope they’ll take it a little more seriously and not play on their phones when people are talking,” he said.
For Walton, the chance to keep history alive is important. “We’re after our family stories before they pass away.”