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  • Writer's pictureGregory Winters

The Kansas Wayts: Part 3

Updated: Feb 23, 2021

Continuing the story of the Wayts family of Kansas from descendant Nancy Wayts Ayers.

Paul Wayts

Paul Wayts (pictured at right) is the father of Nancy Wayts Ayers. "Paul Wayts was only one generation away from the code of the West Virginia hill people," Nancy says. "His mother died when he was only six. His grandparents James Andrew and Laura M. Doake Wayts (both from Wheeling, West Virginia but living in Abilene, Kansas by then) helped raise him and his two sisters until their father, George, remarried."

Nancy continues: "Like so many from the hills, the Wayts were stubborn, fiercely independent, distrusting of government, honest, and patriotic. Paul owned several meat markets at various times in Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma. He learned the cattle and meat market business from his father, George, and his grandfather, the old cowboy, James Andrew Wayts. Later in life when supermarkets became common, they got out of the meat business and into construction."

Paul's work required him to be on the road much of the time, but he took his wife and daughter with him on many occasions. "I remember one cattle buying trip we went on to Mexico," Nancy recalls. "This was combined with a fishing trip and sightseeing. We had to get smallpox vaccinations at the Mexican border - theirs took, but mine didn't. I had to get it a second time and wait for the results. Dad looked at cattle that were for sale all the way to Mexico City, finally decided on a herd, paid for them and made arrangements for them to be shipped by railroad to Oklahoma."

"These [cows] were old, sick bags of bones, dying of screw worms."

"We had some fun times on the cattle buying trips, at least I thought so," Nancy remembers, "but my mother wasn't so thrilled. We once stayed at an old cattlemen's hotel in Ogallala, Nebraska. The fire escape was a lariat tied around an iron heat radiator. In case of fire, you opened the window, threw out the rope and climbed down."

"Paul was an avid reader; he said all the family members were. His grandpa told him that long ago many of them got jobs because they were the only ones for miles around that could read and write. He loved fine horses, another Wayts trait, and he had many in his lifetime. He was a sportsman and loved to hunt and fish, and was a nature lover. He loved to travel and explore new things, and he was so pleased to live to see people go from the horse and buggy days to the moon. He died of a heart attack in Wyoming after a long and happy life."

"George Wayts (pictured above with wife, Anna D. Elwick Wayts) moved with the family from Decatur, Illinois to Abilene, Kansas in 1875," Nancy writes about her grandfather. "The entire family came in a wagon pulled by oxen, it was a real adventure for five year old George! It seems from old records that several families from Decatur formed their own wagon train and moved to Abilene and the surrounding area. Jobs in Decatur were hard to find after the Civil War, and after a few years of trying to make a decent living, it was decided to move West."

Nancy continues: "George learned the cattle business and how to operate his own meat market from his father, the old cowboy who came up the Chisholm Trail, James Andrew Wayts [photo left with wife, Laura M. Doake Wayts, and below right in the Wayts Meat Market, Abilene, Kansas in 1900]. George and his brother, Hallis (Hal) took over the meat market when James died in 1913 and ran the business until 1930 when the depression years forced them to close. George saw a lot of history living in Abilene. Once, when the Jesse James gang was robbing the Abilene Bank, making their getaway and shooting up the town, George threw Anna and himself behind a horse watering trough in front of the Wayts Meat Market."

Nancy offers an astonishing event in George's life: "Ex-President Ike Eisenhower's father was working for them part time at the meat market, helping install a roller on the ceiling to move the heavy cattle parts around. He accidentally dropped a wrench on George's back. George said it left a large bruise but really didn't hurt too bad. It became a small open sore that got larger through the the years. It developed into a cancer which eventually killed him."

"There was a locust invasion - they ate the paint off the house."

There were other exciting aspects, too. "George used to talk about the buffalo herds he had seen in Kansas, herds so large that when moving, they would pass through for a whole day and a night," Nancy says. "[There was a] locust invasion - they ate the paint off the house, no leaves left, no blade of grass, and the sky would turn dark with them during the middle of the day. Then the dust storms in the 20s - they put wet sheets over the windows to try to keep the dust down, it was everywhere. Cattle and horses dying with plugs of mud in their nose & lungs."

George wasn't much of a sportsman like most of the Wayts', but he and Anna both liked fine horses. Anna always made him buy her the fastest pacer around for her buggy. Proper ladies in those days weren't allowed to do much, but Anna and the other ladies in Abilene weren't beyond a buggy race when the occasion arose. Anna was a wonderful stepmother to George's children, they all loved her, and she was a real treasure for all of them. They moved to Berthoud, Colorado about 1930 and had a small café there. Both retired and had a good life in Colorado. George said in his later years that it had been a hard life, but a good life."

Thanks again to Nancy for these wonderful photos and the accompanying stories!

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