Halloween Pranks in the Early 1900s

The origins of Halloween go back over 2,000 years to medieval Europe, where children knocked on doors and begged for food and money. By the 19th century, youngsters in the United States celebrated October 31 by going door-to-door, singing songs, telling jokes and staging performances. Then in the 20th century, Halloween night became plagued with pranks and mischief. Most were harmless enough, but they weren’t always fun for the recipients. It is believed modern day trick-or-treating emerged as a way to bring order to the growing problems associated with the celebration, and to make Halloween safe for everyone.

One Halloween night, a group of Kaw City boys sneaked into W.T. Conklin’s barn located behind his house on the edge of town and kidnapped Conklin’s milk cow for the prank of all pranks. 

First, the boys had to halter the cow and connect the lead without anyone hearing them. Next, they had to steer the cow to the schoolhouse without anyone seeing them. But the biggest challenge facing them was coaxing the cow up the wide cement steps leading to the school’s broad double-door entry—the locked double-door entry.

One of the nameless boys was able to pick the lock and in they went…cow and all! That in itself, was quite a feat, but the boys weren’t finished yet. They had only made it to the grade school level. This cow was destined for high school on the second floor.

The stairs were steeper, divided by a landing and a turn, and to this day no one knows how they managed to get that cow to the second floor without a major disaster.

The next morning Glen and Hugo Conklin went to their barn to walk the milk cow out to the pasture and discovered she was missing. About the same time, school officials found the cow and the mess she had made and notified the Conklins to retrieve their cow.

Another Halloween antic which has never been forgotten involved a different group of boys and Mr. Boon’s outhouse. This event happened before indoor plumbing was available in most houses. The outhouse—a primitive  toilet facility—was a little wooden building located in the back of people’s homes. Most “outdoor johns” just had one hole, but some had two holes to accommodate larger families.

The plan was to turn Mr. Boon’s outhouse over on its side. They worked quietly to loosen it from the ground but when it fell over, it landed with a loud crash, awakening Mr. Boon. Minutes later, Boon threw open his back door and saw what they boys had done. He was angry, but didn’t want to hurt them so he only fired his rifle in the air to “scare them to death”. They ran like their life depended on it, but never received just punishment for leaving the Boons without their necessary facility until another outhouse could be built.

The actual Santa Fe outhouse from Old Kaw City was the caboose in the city’s “Last Official Day Parade”. It now sits on permanent display outside the Kaw City Museum. Locked doors prevent anyone from using the vintage outhouse for its original purpose.     

Museum Records Become Useful Resource

The Mormon Church is well-known for its vast collection of genealogy records. They have collected information since 1894 and maintain information on more than 3 billion deceased people. Recently, their researchers began looking for early information in the northern Oklahoma area and were excited to learn about Kaw City Museum and its historical records.

Years ago, workers at the Kay County Courthouse in Newkirk decided to clean house and began throwing away outdated records that were taking up needed space. Mrs. Judy Ford, a long-time Kaw City resident, proved the old adage, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” is true. She gathered as many of the Kaw City tax record books as she could find that were being discarded, 113 in all, loaded them into her car and brought them to the Kaw City Museum for safe-keeping. Her quick thinking kept the historical information from being lost forever.

The Mormon’s genealogy team brought their cameras to the museum and digitize all of the tax record books along with some of the museum’s old school records. This information will be available for free to anyone who visits their library in Salt Lake City. They have also committed to provide Kaw City Museum with digital copies of the tax books.


Museum visitors view vintage Kaw City school annuals