Are you sitting down? Did you hear about Ralph Jarvis? He’s not working for Nathan Jones.
In October 1930, Ralph had wrapped up the successful acquisition of the power plant in Danville, Virginia. The unsuccessful bid for the plant in Kansas City, Kansas had just ended.
In November 1930, Ralph and Chleo returned from the successful grand opening of Western Gas in Longview, Washington. As vice-president of utility operations, Ralph had been a keynote speaker.
A few short months later at the beginning of 1931, Ralph no longer worked for Nathan Jones and Public Utility Investment Company.
I don’t know what happened. I don’t know why. Let’s talk through some scenarios.
Did Ralph get fired? It’s hard to imagine that Nathan Jones would fire Ralph. If Ralph’s performance over time was poor, Jones wouldn’t have kept promoting Ralph to such high positions in the company. No, he wasn’t fired.
Was Ralph burned out? For years, he’d been on the road and away from home. Did he want to do something less stressful. I doubt it. Based on what we know about Ralph’s personality and work ethic over the past decade, it seems like he thrived on travel and interaction with people and living the high life.
Was Ralph aware of forthcoming financial troubles for Jones’ companies. Ralph would have known the inside scuttlebutt at the company. If the financial future was at risk, maybe it was time to get out. But would he quit his job for this reason? I don’t think so.
Did Ralph want to grab the brass ring for himself? Perhaps he felt that Nathan Jones got most of the reward for the efforts of all his employees. Maybe Ralph wanted to give it a go for himself. We will see that Ralph did attempt some utility acquisitions, so it’s possible that this was his motivation.
Did Ralph want to get into the cattle business full-time? Perhaps. We know he had an interest in raising Hereford cattle, and he’d built up a sizeable herd. But would he give up his lucrative job to do this?
Was it family issues? Was there a family issue or circumstance that Ralph needed to pay more attention to? Yes, definitely. Read on.
We don’t know the exact reason why Ralph parted ways with Nathan Jones.
Based on what we know of Ralph’s activities in late 1930 and throughout 1931, it looks like Ralph resigned. It was probably a combination of the reasons above.
Ralph was age 36.
What were Ralph’s plans?
Start a utility business on his own
Ralph did try to acquire some utilities on his own. I don’t know if he was successful in acquiring any.
For example, in September 1931 Ralph made an unsuccessful attempt to acquire the power plant at Jetmore, Kansas.
Raise Hereford cattle
In March 1929, Ralph and Chleo had bought a 640-acre cattle ranch in Summit Township in southwest Saline County. In December 1930, they had bought a 40-acre farm on the southwest edge of Salina.
Was his resignation partly so he could spend more time raising Hereford cattle. Probably a contributing factor.
Ralph and Chleo had the ranch, and they had a large herd of Hereford cattle. Ralph could now devote more time to cattle breeding and raising.
Donnie had rheumatic fever
One of Ralph’s reasons must have been to spend more time at home. Son Donnie, age 8, had contracted rheumatic fever, the leading killer of children at the time. It was quite a scare.
The disease was not well understood. Rheumatism generally occurred in children after a bout of strep throat. The link between strep infection and rheumatic fever isn’t clear, but it appears that the bacteria trick the immune system into attacking the body’s own tissue, particularly the heart. Heart failure can result even when the child grows to adulthood.
In the 1920s, the only treatment was salicylates and bed rest. Most patients remained at home for weeks or months. Sometimes patients were sent to foster care houses. Hospital stays ranged from 3 to 6 months. Half the patients died.
By 1930, the disease still wasn’t understood, but newer treatments were tried. Often a tonsillectomy was performed. Sometimes change to a warmer climate was prescribed. In Donnie’s case, Dr. Cheney performed a tonsillectomy, but the operation scarred the larynx.
Ed. note: Dr. Ralph Cheney was our grandparent too. Mel Jarvis married Mary Cheney, daughter of Ralph and Emily Cheney. We’ll meet them in the next series.
Donnie survived the disease, but his scarred larynx affected his voice throughout his life. He also had heart disease at an early age and suffered a heart attack in his 50s.
In 1942, a decade after Donnie contracted the disease, a streptococcus patient was treated with the new drug penicillin. The results were quick and amazing. The patient recovered and lived a long life of 90 years. Today childhood cases of rheumatic fever in the U.S. are rare, but the disease still ravages developing countries.
A warmer climate
For Donnie, the doctor prescribed bed rest and visits to a warm climate, particularly in winter. Ralph and Chleo took several trips to Texas and New Mexico.
One such visit was to Mineral Wells, Texas, 40 miles west of Fort Worth. It hosted a resort and healing mineral waters.
It was said that Ralph had been in poor health. Perhaps it was a lingering effect from World War I gas. But it hadn’t seemed to slow him down. So, we don’t know if that was a contributing factor.
Chleo’s mother Anna still lived in Larned in the Rock House. She came to Salina often to visit. In 1931, Anna was age 64.
Anna and Sam Stafford
Ralph’s mother Anna and her husband Sam Stafford were living at the ranch in 1931. Anna was age 61.
Tom and Lottie and Bobby Jarvis
Recall that Tom and Lottie had adopted a 3-month-old boy in 1926 in New Jersey, just before they came to Kansas. They named him Robert Lillard Jarvis, after two of Tom’s half-brothers Robert and Lillard Mounts. They called him Bobby.
Around 1930, Tom Jarvis deserted Lottie and Bobby and left town.
After Tom left, Lottie had no means of support. She was destitute and suffered depression.
In 1931, Bobby was made a ward of the juvenile court of Saline County. From there, the Saline County probation officer sent Bobby to the State Orphans’ Home in Atchison, Kansas.
Once at the Orphans’ Home, Bobby was placed in a foster home. And after a six month’s probation period, he was adopted.
Lottie wrote letter after letter pleading to get Bobby back. But it was too late.
Epilogue – Tom and Lottie
In 1934, Tom Jarvis married Ruth Meredith in Wichita, Kansas.
Tom lived around Wichita for the rest of his life. He died in 1970 at age 80 and is buried in Wichita.
In 1932, Lottie married Richard Stinnett in South Dakota.
They moved back to Salina and lived there for several years. They had two children.
Richard Stinnett died in 1939.
Lottie died in 1991 in Red Bank, New Jersey at age 94.
Nibbles Extra Credit – Great Depression – 1931
1931 was arguably one of the worst years of the Great Depression. During the year, Congress and Hoover passed no major legislation dealing with the Depression.
2,294 banks failed during 1931. 28,285 businesses failed.
Unemployment rose to 16%. The economy shrank by 8.5%. Prices fell 9.3%.
By 1931, most American had been impacted by the Depression, and realized that it wasn’t going away soon.
In February, Minneapolis, food riots broke out in Minneapolis as hundreds of people broke into a market and make off with food. A hundred police are needed to quell the riot.
Similar food riots broke out across the country.
Anti-immigrant sentiment grew dramatically. As unemployment grew, blame was cast on foreigners for stealing American jobs. In particular, Hispanic farm workers in California were targeted. Many were harassed and perhaps more than a million were deported. Many of those deported were U.S. citizens, first-generation children of Mexican immigrants born in the U.S.
Similar sentiments were growing across Europe. In Germany, growing populism enabled the rise of the Nazi party.
In May and June, there was a second round of bank failures. This run began in Chicago. of 193 state-chartered banks, only 35 would survive over the next two years.
Across the county, almost 2,300 banks failed in 1931.
Drought and Dust Bowl
The mid-South were the worst affected by the drought in 1931. But the Midwest was now suffering dust storms on a regular basis.
Lower Utility Rates
Under increasing political pressure, Nathan Jones agreed to reduce utility rates. That helped the customers, but hurt the finances of Jones’ companies. Would his investors be willing to reduce their dividends?
- Newspaper articles – newspapers.com
- Photos – Anna and Sam Stafford, Lottie and Bobby and Tom Jarvis – Jarvis Family Documents – Chleo Webb Jarvis collection
- Bobby Jarvis adoption documents – Kansas State Archives – Topeka, Kansas
- Photo – Tom Jarvis headstone – Mark Jarvis – 2015
- Photo – Hereford cattle – Hereford Cattle Society UK – https://www.facebook.com/HerefordCattleSocietyUK/
- Image – News article about food riot in Arkansas – New York Times – January 4, 1931
- Photo – People waving to departing train of Mexican immigrants – The U.S. Deported a Million of Its Own Citizens to Mexico During the Great Depression – History.com – https://www.history.com/news/great-depression-repatriation-drives-mexico-deportation
- Image – Hooverville in Central Park – Time – https://time.com/5826392/coronavirus-housing-history/