171 – Electricity for Garfield, and a Vision

In September 1917, Garfield, Kansas engaged Nathan Jones to provide electricity. Electricity would be purchased from the electric plant at Kinsley, about 15 miles away.

Larned Chronoscope – September 13, 1917

Other small towns nearby also indicated interest. Jones implemented his “standard” business model.

Nathan Jones and his companies were now supplying electricity to 19 towns.

But this time Nathan Jones saw an additional opportunity.


As he worked in the area of Garfield and surrounding small towns, Jones learned about the irrigation of crops from the shallow aquifers underlying the Pawnee and Arkansas River valleys.

A few farmers had drilled irrigation wells and powered each pump with a gasoline engine. This was expensive, and the engines required tending. Farther west, around Garden City, some were powering the pumps with electricity, but the aquifers were much deeper.

Jones Develops A Vision

Nathan Jones began to develop a vision to irrigate the Pawnee and Arkansas River valleys with electricity.

Because the water was close to the surface, irrigation with electric pumps would be more affordable. If the deep wells around Garden City were economically viable, shallow wells would be more economical. He would be able to make a financial case that farmers would profit by using electricity.

Any farmer along his existing transmission lines could easily connect. If a Jones transmission line ran between small towns, there was no investment cost in connecting farms along the route.

Irrigation could be done during the day, when surplus electricity was available. The electric plants operated 24 hours a day. But electricity couldn’t be stored. Electricity was wasted if not consumed as it was generated. In 1918, most electricity usage was for electric lights after dark. Jones could contract to buy cheap discounted electricity during the day for irrigation pumps.

Take Action

Jones began studying the situation, talking and questioning and promoting at every opportunity. He became convinced of the viability of his vision, and he acted.

By early 1918, Jones left Wellington and moved to Larned. Larned was situated at the confluence of the two rivers and was the largest town in the area. Larned also had an electric plant that could supply Jones’ needs.

On March 15, 1918, Jones filed divorce papers against his wife Orlena.

May 9, 1918 – Larned Chronoscope

On May 8, 1918, Jones signed a contract with the City of Larned to buy surplus electricity. It’s a win-win, because Larned would be able to sell electricity that would have gone unused. And Jones had a source of electricity to promote his vision.

On May 30, 1918, Jones opened an office on the second floor of the Edwards Building in Larned. He was somehow going to see his vision realized.

May 30, 1918 – The Tiller and Toiler

Where were Ralph Jarvis and Chleo Webb?

On May 9, 1918, soldiers of the 137th Infantry disembarked the USS Baltic and set foot on French soil at Le Havre. Ralph Jarvis of Company F was “Over There” in World War I.

Chleo Webb was a student at Larned High School. She worked at the Ideal Steam Laundry. Chleo had met Ralph Jarvis and begun a romance. They corresponded during Ralph’s time in military service. Chleo was age 18.

Nibbles Extra Credit

1918 Flu Pandemic

An emergency hospital in Brookline, Massachusetts, during the 1918 influenza pandemic. 

In 1918, a new influenza virus emerged. During this same time period World War I was taking place. The conditions of World War I (overcrowding and global troop movement) helped the 1918 flu spread. The vulnerability of healthy young adults and the lack of vaccines and treatments created a major public health crisis, causing at least 50 million deaths worldwide, including approximately 675,000 in the United States.

CDC – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1918 Flu Origins – CDC – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Americans donned masks, schools and public gathering places temporarily shut down, and one-third of the globe fell ill. Sound familiar in 2021?

Doctors, with a flawed understanding of the virus’ cause, had few treatments to offer. Life insurance claims rose sevenfold, and American life expectancy decreased by 12 years.

Medical workers had no means of protection other than masks.

One 20-year-old nurse tended to patients during the pandemic. She’s Emily Maninger, from Harper, Kansas. She’s our grandparent Emily Maninger Cheney.

Emily Maninger – Wichita Hospital – 1920

Whatever its cause, the flu epidemic killed more people than the war itself.

Timeline – 1918


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