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· Tom McGinn (1883-1956)
Sheriff, December 31, 1916 – January 4, 1917
It’s late Friday afternoon, October 21, 1927, in Hutchinson, Kansas. Julia, 59, and Houston Whiteside, 81, are sitting at their dining room table when Julia stops talking, turns her head to the southeast, and announces, “The reformatory siren is going off.”
“I wonder who escaped,” said Houston.
“Which Reno County sheriff was never elected, but he served in that position for four days?” asked Julia.
“As a retired attorney,” said Houston, “I suppose Under Sheriff Tom McGinn became the official sheriff for the period of time between the death of Tom Jennings and the day Governor Capper appointed Scott Sprout the new sheriff, whether there was a swearing-in ceremony or not.
“I believe the statute stated that in the absence of the sheriff the under sheriff shall carry out the duties of the office,” Houston continued.
“It may not matter to anyone else,” said Julia, “but it might matter to Tom McGinn. Being sheriff was an ambition he held for many years, but obviously, he didn’t want it due to Tom’s death.”
“Earlier, we were talking about Deputy Don Jennings not being appointed sheriff when the governor chose Republican Scott Sprout to replace Tom Jennings after his fatal car crash,” said Houston.
“Yes,” said Julia, “politics.”
“In my mind,” said Houston, “there’s no question that Tom McGinn, an experienced lawman, was better prepared than Deputy Don Jennings or farmer Scott Sprout.”
“Tom had been under sheriff for two terms with Koon Beck and one term for Tom Jennings,” said Julia. “He was ready.”
“At least Sprout had worked towards becoming sheriff while he was on the campaign trail,” said Houston. “I thought it was magnanimous of Sprout to offer Tom McGinn and Don Jennings positions in his new administration.”
“Neither one of them could accept his offer,” said Julia. “Within a few days of the governor’s appointment, they were both hired by the Hutchinson police force.
“I remember how generous Tom McGinn was to the Jennings family after Tom’s fatal car wreck,” continued Julia. “Even though he was ambitious to be promoted, he offered to be Don’s under sheriff if the governor appointed Don as the new sheriff.”
“That act of generosity to the Jennings family proved to me that McGinn had the integrity to be anyone’s boss,” concluded Houston.
“Maybe someday he’ll be a chief or a sheriff,” said Julia. “He’s continued his law enforcement career, first by solving crimes on the Hutchinson police force, and then in Butler County at El Dorado and Oil City.
“Tom and Ethel McGinn have also shown their generosity and character by raising Dorothy Sames, their niece, as though she was their own child,” said Julia. “She must be 15 years old now.”
“I wonder if Dorothy is musically inclined like the rest of the Sames family,” continued Julia.
“The Sames ladies play the piano and sing, but not as well as you, dear,” said Houston.
The talented Sames family had gathered two months earlier for a family celebration at the Charles and Effie Chandler home in Hutchinson, Kansas.
“Are you sure Clara will be at the family reunion today?” asked Dorothy, 15, of her aunt and uncle, Ethel and Tom McGinn, who were raising her.
“Of course she’ll be there,” answered Ethel, “it’s at her house. You two can sit together, but remember the party is in honor of my sister, Mattie. It’s her 40th birthday. She won’t be here very long before returning to LA.”
As Tom drove the car, he recalled his youth as an only child. After his father’s death, it was just he and his mother, Emma, a family of two.
Over the years, since Thomas and Ethel Rose were married in 1911, they had attended a good many family functions. Ethel was one of seven children. Tom always enjoyed any get together, especially if Effie Kate Sames Chandler, Ethel’s twin, was there. Tom liked to observe the two of them as they aged.
Tom remembered 1912. That year, the twins, age 27, were each expecting a baby. Effie and her husband, Charles Chandler, named their baby girl, Clara Belle.
Unfortunately, the Christmas baby Ethel and Tom expected, was born and died the same day.
Mattie Gertrude Sames, the youngest sibling of Ethel and Effie, also gave birth in 1912. Mattie and husband, John Bixler, Sr., welcomed Helen Margaret (their fourth of seven surviving children).
Ethel, Effie, and Mattie, had one brother, William Frances Sames. He and his wife, Addie Bell, also had a child in 1912. They named her Dorothy.
It was Dorothy, niece of Tom and Ethel, who was welcomed into their home after the absence of her parents. William’s death in 1920, after a lingering illness due to the flu epidemic, started the collapse. Ultimately, Dorothy left Shawnee, Oklahoma, for a new, supportive family in El Dorado, Kansas.
“Will Uncle John and Uncle Thurman be there?” asked Dorothy.
“We’ll see,” said Ethel.
“The photograph we have at home with the airplane, is that of Uncle John or Uncle TJ?” asked Dorothy. Click to see photo: T. J. Bixler with airplane in 1904
“That’s TJ,” answered Ethel, “but both of them were aviators and assembled their plane together. John studied with the Wright brothers in Dayton, Ohio, and holds an international pilot license from the Aero Club of America.”
“My favorite photograph of them is the one with the four boys in their band uniforms,” said Dorothy.” Click to see photo: Bixler Boys Band
“Yes, that’s my favorite too,” answered Ethel. “They were cute boys, but so was Tom, when he was younger.”
“What do you mean when I was younger?” asked Tom of Ethel, as he opened his mouth in an exaggerated expression. Click to see photo: Thomas McGinn
“There’s Clara!” shouted Dorothy, as Uncle Tom slowed and parked the automobile.
“I’m so excited to get an opportunity to see Mattie again!” said Ethel.
As Tom turned off the engine, he added, “I sure hope they have cherry pie with ice cream.”
Until next time, happy writing and reading.
Nancy Julien Kopp says
I wonder how many people realize how much research you have done to produce these wonderful pieces of history. Well done, Jim.
Jim Potter says
Yes, very few people have any idea the research that goes into historical non-fiction.
Thanks for knowing.
Jim Potter says
Dorothy Sames graduated from Hutchinson High School in 1930. In the year book, Allagaroo, she was described this way: “The friendly, smiling, good-natured blonde. Syn: Affable.”