Cannon, Pattie, Bowen, McIlhaney, Clark, Oliver, McMillin, Hayes

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  • ID: I206
  • Name: Rosemary BROWN
  • Surname: BROWN
  • Given Name: Rosemary
  • Sex: F
  • Birth: 20 Oct 1917 in , , KS 1 2 3 4
  • Death: 22 Feb 2008 in Holly, Prowers, CO 2 3 5
  • Burial: 26 Feb 2008 Holly Cemetery, Holly, Prowers, CO 6
  • _UID: E6518D87AD427D4DBFCCA83B8AC96FA7DBE4
  • Note:
    The "Towner Bus Tragedy," by Rosemary Brown Cannon: It was snowing large, beautiful flakes as we got on the bus that morning of March 26, 1931. I was 13 years old, my brother Robert was 11, and little sister, Maxine was 8. All seemed normal to us as we headed on the rounds to pick up the six Huffaker children, Alice, Carl, Charles, Lena, Max, and Laura. Next, came Eunice and Leland Frost, and then on to Stonebraker's for Blanche and Louise. Across a prairie road to Johnson's to pick up Kenneth. Now, to stop for our bus driver's daughter, Mary Louise. Four Untiedts, Bryan, Evelyn, Ome, and Arlo were next, and last was Clara Smith, completing our group of twenty. Part of our route was just prairie road, ungraded and unmarked. There were few fences in that area, for it was open grazing in Colorado.

    When we arrived at pleasant Hill School, we ran right out to play fox and geese in the newly fallen snow. That game was interrupted suddenly when the wind changed to the north without warning--at least we hadn't paid any attention to the ominous clouds around us. We ran into the school house where the two teachers, Maude Mosher and F. R. Freiday were talking with our bus driver, Carl Miller. Apparently, they were concerned about the sudden change in weather, plus the fact that the bus from the west had not yet arrived. Also, a decision had to be made about what to do with our bus load. I doubt the teachers were looking forward to having us cooped up for a full day with nothing more than a light lunch to eat, and possibly they realized it could be even longer. I did not hear their conversation, but some said that Mr. Miller felt we should stay there, but the teachers thought we should be sent home. It is a mystery to me that any adults could make a decision to send us out in such a bad storm, but that was what we did, no matter who made the final decision.

    Naturally, we were happy when we found out we'd have a holiday from school, so we gathered up our lunch buckets and headed for the bus. The older ones carried some of the smaller children to the bus, the force of the wind and blowing snow had gotten that severe already.

    The road we were to take was across a prairie north, but I don't think we were ever sure where that trail was, and we were lost almost immediately. Seeing in any direction was impossible even though Mr. Miller rolled down the window in an effort to see where he was going. Not even the radiator cap on the bus was visible from where I sat close to the front of the bus. There were two windows in the rear of the bus that had been broken out and temporarily replaced with cardboard, and the wind tore visciously at and through them. I am not sure how long we rode or whether Mr. Miller had any idea where we might be, but we came to a sudden jolting halt finally--stuck in the borrow pit of the Towner-Holly road.

    The singing and noise making we had all been involved in also came to a sudden hushed silence. Mr. Miller tried many times to restart the truck, but the wires were wet, and it would not fire. Next, he looked from every window for a familiar landmark, but the snow was blinding, and nothing in sight, not even a fence. It seems to me that shortly after we stalled, Mr. Miller sent Bryan Untiedt and Clara Smith out of the bus to see if they could recognize anything around us, but soon they were back, saying they could not see a thing. Bryan was wearing a light suit jacket, so Mr. Miller gave him his sheep-lined coat to warm him after that excursion, which he wore until the next morning when Mr. Miller had to leave us.

    The next thing Mr. Miller did was to rearrange the parallel benches that were our seats so that we would have more space to move around in, and then he told us to keep moving. Around and around that small area we walked while Mr. Miller and some of the boys, I suppose it was Bryan and Charles Huffaker, went about trying to build a fire in the water can. This was a five gallon cream can in which our water supply for each day of school was carried. Scraps of wood from the driver's seat and paper from our school supplies were finally lit, and we cheered at that sight, thinking we could at last warm ourselves. However, since the smoke and soot from the fire soon filled the bus till we couldn't breathe, we had to open the door to let some fresh air in and the smoke out. Several attempts were made to get a good fire going, but soon the matches were all used, so that plan had to be abandoned.

    All through that day, Mr. Miller kept us moving about as best we could in that crowded space. It wasn't too long before everyone was beginning to think about maybe eating a lunch. Another shock awaited us there too. Our lunches had somehow become wedged and frozen beneath the benches so that we could not get to them. As the day wore on, the younger children cried because they were so cold and also hungry. It must really have worn on Mr. Miller's nerves, but he never did give us any indication that we had cause to worry. He kept encouraging us that someone would soon come and rescue us.

    As the long day came to a close, and night was upon us, we began to huddle together up close to the front of the bus where there was less snow, although one of the front windows had by then gotten broken out in the confusion. All through the endless night, we held the smaller ones and every now and then had to get up and wald around again to make sure everyone was awake. Mr. Miller kept calling out our names to keep us alert.

    Morning finally came, but the storm still raged on. It was then that Mr. Miller put on his coat and told us he was going to go look for help. Some said he told us to pray for him, but the only thing I can recall that he said was, "I'm going for help, and we'll all have pancakes for breakfast." Very likely I was more concerned with eating than I was praying. He told Bryan to keep us moving, and he'd be back soon.

    It was not too long after we were alone that, after a round of exercising, I looked to the back of the bus and saw Louise Stonebraker, age 14, sitting in that pile of snow, eyes wide open and yet with no expression. Then, it hit me just how serious the situation was, and still not admitting that she was actually dead. I kept thingking that I'd wake up soon and none of this would be real. Nothing could we do to arouse Louise.

    All morning of the second day, we continued to walk and exercise at fairly regular intervals, and during one of those sessions, we realized that Kenneth Johnson, age 7 had fallen at our feet. He was rubbed and jostled, but to no avail. Just nothing seemed to bring any response. Somebody, I think it was Clara Smith placed him at the back of the bus near Louise.

    We were huddled together as close as possible when someone said Bobbie (as we called my brother) was going to sleep. Immediately everyone jumped up and tried slapping and rubbing him, but he cried out for us to leave him alone because he was warm and sleepy. Again, I was hit with reality, but wouldn't accept that this was final for anyone. I remember asking my mother later if Bobbie woke up.

    I suppose it was probably afternoon when Alice Huffaker, age 14, and I thought we could see something in the distance that might mean help. I think the storm had slackened some by then, but still, the wind and blinding snow obstructed any distance from our vision. We got out of the bus and ran for a short distance before we realized there was nothing there. Walking with the wind had not been that bad, but coming back to the bus facing the wind was very difficult on feet that felt like frozen stickes hitting on a rock and frozen dresses slapping at our knees. Alice fell several times, but somehow managed to get up each time. By the time we got back into the bus, her hands were frozen and her fingernails turned black. Fortunately, I was wearing a long sleeved sweater that I pulled down over my hands so my hands were not frozen.

    It was probably about 3:00 of the second afternoon that we decided to put the little kids down on the floor of the bus and older ones pile in around them so we could get some rest. I'm sure our minds were dulled from the cold, hunger, and exhaustion of hours without rest. We had just started this process when we heard the wagon coming at last. How happy we were to see the faces of Mr. Untiedt and Mr. Stonebraker. They had been to the school to take us some lunch, and finding us gone, had brought team and wagon to find us.

    What a bewildering sight for them inside that bus. Seventeen bedraggled children and three who had died, one of those being Louise, daughter of Mr. Stonebraker. Also, Mary Louise Miller and Arlo Untiedt had become drowsy and could not be roused, both of whom died shortly after being rescued, in spite of the efforts of the adults.

    They put us in the wagon and took us to the home of Fern and Andy Reinert, a small home not more than a half mile east of where we had been stranded.

    It was wonderful to be once more in a warm house with food cooking on the big coal range. I remember some of us taking slices of half-cooked fried potatoes from a skillet on that stove.

    Our feet were purplish red and swollen to twice or more their normal size. So, now more pain began when the frozen areas began to thaw. It was as if a million pins were being stuck into us. Someone got snow and salt and rubbed on our feet and hands, and that really did hurt, for by then we had big blisters forming. Another night of not sleeping, for they didn't want us to go to sleep for fear we wouldn't wake up. So we sat all in a row around the floor of the living room while adults did what they could for us.

    I don't know how word carried to Holly about our plight so fast, for there were no phones in that area, and roads were seemingly drifted shut. However, later that night, eight men, including Dr. F. E. Casburn arrived to check us over. Those men had somehow gotten a caravan of four cars pushed, shoveled and pulled through the drifts to bring help.

    A search party of 50 to 60 men went out from Holly to search for Mr. Miller. It was thought that he could not have gotten very far in the storm, but when no trace of him was found near the bus, the searchers spread out in a wider circle. Ralph Lucius, young farmer of the north side, located the body in a wheat field three miles south and a half mile east of where the bus was sitting. His body was lying face upward, hands outstretched for the help he couldn't find. His gloves were ripped and torn by the barbed wire to which he had clung to keep his direction. Mr. Miller deserves the highest tribute for his valiant efforts in our behalf.

    After Dr. Casburn had done what he could to relieve us, the decision was made that at least two of us should be gotten to the hospital as soon as possible. A plane came from Lamar, and I still wonder where and how he landed on that snow slickened proirie. He took Alice Huffaker and Blanche Stonebraker as his first passengers, for they seemed in the worst condition. Later, another plane, or possibly the same plane came back and hauled three more to the hospital. The rest were taken by car later in the day, so all survivors were taken in to the Maxwell Hospital, Lamar, to be cared for. I must add that all this service at the hospital was donated by Mr. Charles Maxwell. Many other services were provided by local people and organizations as well as numerous gifts were given to each of us.

    We were hospitalized about 2 weeks. The pain of thawing and treatment for frostbite was agonizing. Our parents, still stunned by their losses, stayed close by as much as possible. It had to be the loving care we received or a miracle from God that not one single finger or toe was lost. Many times I have wondered why some of us survived and five had to die. Possibly a feeling of guilt that maybe we should have done something different shrouds my memories of those events. Who can say why one survived and another didn't? Only God knows.

    The shock for our parents, who believed that we were safe at the school house all this time, was almost unbearable, and I believe some of them never did recover from this emotional shock. Maybe some consolation can be found that those who gave their lives accomplished more than the rest of us. It was shortly after this tragedy that school buses were upgraded with two-way radios and better quality vehicles. Also those in authority have been much more cautious about dismissing school or even cancel school on threatening days.

    The six victims were buried in the Holly cemetery in one large plot provided by the IOOF lodge. Spaces were also left in the same plot for parents and survivors who choose to be buried there. All area ministers took part in the funeral services, with children from Holly school as pallbearers and flower girls. None of the survivors were able to attend the services. Later in the year, a large marble monument bearing all the names of the children was placed at the burial plot. It is my understanding that a cylinder containing an account of the tragedy is placed in cement at the base of the monument.

    Sometime after we were released from the hospital, but before some had time to completely regain use of their limbs, we were taken by train to Denver as guests of the Denver Post. For most of us, it was our first trip to a city and also our first train ride. In Denver, we were each given a medal for heroism with our names and date of the tragedy engraved on the back--a gift from the Denver Post. Wherever we went, the streets were lined with well-wishers, or people just wanting to have a look at us. Many dinners and banquets were given in our honor. It was a new and exciting experience for all of us.

    On the spot where the school bus was stalled, the people of the community erected a little country church and named it "The Towner Memorial Church." From that church about 10 people were called to the ministry. The church was later moved to Towner. Also, a small block of cement was placed on the roadside by Carl Miller's brother that states simply "WHERE THE BUS STALLED, MARCH 26 & 27, 1931."

    In 1962, the Towner Lions Club erected a new marble monument with names of victims on one side, and names of survivors on the other side, placing it on the very spot where the bus stalled.

    Of the 15 survivors, there are still 11 living. Leland Frost was killed in World War II, and Carl Huffaker, Bryan and Ome Untiedt have since passed on. The remaining eleven are, as far as I know, still in good health. It seems strange that we have never chosen to discuss this sad event in our lives--perhaps because it is still too painful for each of us.

    To my knowledge, the only one who had permanent physical damage from this experience is Alice Huffaker Huggins, who still has problems from her frozen hands. No doubt there are still feet that can't tolerate extreme cold.

    Enough gratitude could never be expressed to those organizations and people who were so kind to us. We owe our lives to the determined efforts of Dave Stonebraker and Bud Untiedt who rescued us just in time. I will always believe that we could not have lasted much longer, especially if we had all lain down and relaxed as we were preparing to do.

    Heroes they said we were, but I think it could be better put that we were simply victims of circumstances over which we had no control. Being children, as we were, we were not fully aware of the dangers we were facing, so we didn't panic as adults might have. Each of us did what we could, and by God's grace, some of us survived.
    The Towner Bus Tragedy was extensively documented April 30, 2012 by the Kiowa County Historic Preservation Commission and retained as "BrownRosemaryTownerBusTragedy.pdf" in my personal files. It may be seen publicly at:
    United States Census, 1920

    Name: Rosemary Brown
    Residence: , Ford, Kansas
    Estimated Birth Year: 1918
    Age: 2
    Birthplace: Kansas
    Relationship to Head of Household: Daughter
    Gender: Female
    Race: White
    Marital Status: Single
    Father's Birthplace: Missouri
    Mother's Birthplace: Kansas
    Film Number: 1820532
    Digital Folder Number: 4300849
    Image Number: 00209
    Sheet Number: 6

    Household Gender Age
    Head J E Brown M 29y
    Wife Margaret Brown F 25y
    Son Harold Brown M 6y
    Son Roy Brown M 4y6m
    Dau Rosemary Brown F 2y2m
    Son Robert Brown M 3m
    1920 (April 6 - 7) Census for Sodville Township, II Division, Ford County, Kansas, digital copy retained in my files as "BrownJohnElmerCensus1920.jpg"
    United States Census, 1930

    Name: Rosemary Brown
    Event: Census
    Event Date: 1930
    Event Place: Kinsley, Edwards, Kansas
    Gender: Female
    Age: 12
    Marital Status: Single
    Race: White
    Birthplace: Kansas
    Estimated Birth Year: 1918
    Relationship to Head of Household: Daughter
    Father's Birthplace: Missouri
    Mother's Birthplace: Kansas
    Enumeration District Number: 0005
    Family Number: 34
    Sheet Number and Letter: 2A
    Line Number: 8
    NARA Publication: T626, roll 701
    Film Number: 2340436
    Digital Folder Number: 4584457
    Image Number: 00045

    Household Gender Age
    Head John Brown M 39
    Wife Margaret Brown F 35
    Son Harold Brown M 16
    Son Roy Brown M 14
    Son Rosemary Brown F 12
    Son Robert Brown M 10
    Son Maxine Brown F 7
    1930 (April 15) Census for Kinsley City, Edwards County, Kansas, digital copy retained in my files as "BrownJohnElmerCensus1930.jpg"
    United States Census, 1940

    Name: Rose Mary Cannon
    Event: Census
    Event Year: 1940
    Event Place: Holly, Election Precinct 13, Prowers, Colorado, United States
    Gender: Female
    Age: 22
    Marital Status: Married
    Race (Original): White
    Race (Standardized): White
    Relationship to Head (Original): Wife
    Relationship to Head (Standardized): Wife
    Birthplace: Kansas
    Estimated Birth Year: 1918
    Residence in 1935: Rural, Prowers, Colorado
    Enumeration District Number: 50-17
    Family Number: 28
    Sheet Number and Letter: 2A
    Line Number: 19
    NARA Publication Number: T627
    NARA Roll Number: 474
    Digital Folder Number: 005449324
    Image Number: 00224

    Household Gender Age Birthplace
    Head Jackson L Cannon M 26 Colorado
    Wife Rose Mary Cannon F 22 Kansas
    Son Richard L Cannon M 2 Kansas
    Sister-in-law Maxine M Brown F 17 Kansas
    1940 (April 4) Census for Precinct # 13, Holly, Prowers County, Colorado, digital copy retained in my files as "CannonFieldingErnestCensus1940.jpg"
    U.S. Social Security Death Index

    First Name: Rosemary
    Last Name: Cannon
    Birth Date: 20 October 1917
    Social Security Number: 523-01-1255
    Place of Issuance: Colorado
    Last Residence: Prowers, Colorado
    Zip Code of Last Residence: 81047
    Death Date: 22 February 2008
    Estimated Age at Death: 91
    From Find a Grave, Holly Cemetery, Holly, Prowers County, Colorado

    Birth: Oct. 20, 1917
    Death: Feb. 22, 2008
  • Change Date: 31 Mar 2017 at 20:51:32

    Father: John Elmer BROWN b: 18 May 1889 in Lamar, Barton, MO
    Mother: Margaret Alice STEVENSON b: 6 Mar 1895 in , , MO

    Marriage 1 Jackson Lee CANNON b: 24 Aug 1913 in Holly, Prowers, CO
    • Married: ABT Sep 1935 1
    1. Has Children Living CANNON
    2. Has Children Living CANNON
    3. Has Children Living CANNON

    1. Title: Cannon, History of the Cannon Family and the Cannon Community
      Author: Catherine Beckman CANNON
      Publication: Manuscript Only
      Text: Research by Cannon Descendants. Discussed, corrected and improved by Mildred Marie CANNON Poole (Newton, KS) and Jean W. Henderson (Silver City, NM). Jean W. Henderson authored "The Family Of Capt. James S. Pattie."
    2. Title: Personal Knowledge, Conversation or family papers
    3. Title: Poole, Millie (Private Papers)
      Author: Mildred Marie Cannon Poole
      Text: Highly reliable records maintained by the author's son.
    4. Title: Census Form, Digital Copy In My Database
      Author: Family Search
    5. Title: U. S. Social Security Death Index, used when image is unavailable
      Author: Family Search
    6. Title: Find a Grave

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