***Bringing the Past to Life: A Local Historic Biography Series***
We are very excited to present to you the third digital monologue of this new series. Thank you to
Humanities Kansas for giving us the opportunity to share this work in digital format for the very first time. Our third monologue honors James "Jim" O’ Loughlin.
James “Jim” O’Loughlin
Good evening. My name is James O’Loughlin. Most folks called me Jim. I guess you could I was a bit of a pioneer in the early part of the 20th century. You see, I worked lots of different jobs. First as a farmer, but later on as an electrician with that newfangled stuff called electricity. But it was my career as a Hutchinson fireman that brought me real pride, and… was the cause of my death. But more about that later.
First thing I was to get out of the way is this name thing. You’ve probably noticed I have a lot of kin folks around me here in this cemetery. But, have you also noticed that not everybody spells the name the same way. Me, well, I always spelled my name the way if show here on the headstone: O’-L-O-U-G-H-lin. But some of these folds spell it A-U instead of O-U. Why is that? Don’t know, and probably never will. Oh, and another thing. You see the L in my name, well, you don’t pronounce it. It’s pronounced O’offlin. Don’t know why that is neither. Now, I’m not sure, but it could be cause my dad, John O’Loughlin was from Scotland and that could have had something to do with his Scottish accent. Now, as for the spelling, I’ve heard tell that when a lot of immigrants were coming into this country back in 1800s and early 1900s, a lot of folks got their names misspelled by census takers and other officials, and once it was wrote down on government records, it stuck. So, that’s as much of the story of my name that I know, but we’ll probably never know the full story. That’s OK. It won’t change nothing.
OK. So, why did the folks organizing this think that you might want to hear from me? Well, like I said, I was a bit of a pioneer in a way. You see, I was the first Hutchinson fireman who died in the line of duty AND not only that… the reason I passed was as a result of an accident in the town’s first motorized fire truck. Yeah, that’s right, a horseless fire truck. This is kind of what it looked like. Photo’s not too good, but we didn’t have I phones back then.
But let me tell you a little bit more about my family before we get to that. Like I said, my dad John came here from Scotland by way of Illinois. That’s where he met and married my mama, Mary. I was born in 1864 and we lived Danville, Ill. In the late 1870s, when I was about 14, we moved to Hutchinson… not too many folks called it “Hutch” back in those days. After all, Hutchinson had only been founded in 1872; guess folks thought calling it Hutch would have been disrespectful.
Anyways, dad was a farmer, and I worked the farm till I got married at 22. I married Ida Ann Stoll. She was 15, by the way. Oh and also by the way, you’ll probably see a lot of Stolls out here too. We had 10 kids together. Let’s see… it been awhile, bear with me: Lynda Reno, Abe, Mary, Roy, Darlo, James Frank, Helen, Leota, Ammonette, and Ida Josephine, who was named after her mama and my sister, Josephine.
So, how did I get to be a fireman? Well, it was through bad luck that actually turned out to be good luck. In about 1910, about 4 of my kids were married themselves and have moved out. But, the rest of us still living in my house, all caught typhoid. I was not able to work and it was tough making ends meet. A bunch of firemen from Station 2 set up a fund and collected money to help us out. Me and my family never forgot that, and about 2 years later, I was a fireman myself.
I loved being a fireman. It was exciting and you got to help people. But, April of 1913 was not a good month for the Hutchinson FD. First, on April 5 of that year, one of my brother fire boys, William Rickard, was thrown from the truck, when the driver swerved to avoid hitting people who were in the street at the corner of Main and Sherman. William got some pretty bad head injuries and wound up staying in the hospital a long time. Fortunately, he did recover, and was even able to go back to work.
Then, just 10 days later, April 15, well, that’s when it happened. Remember that photo I showed you, well that’s how we used to ride the fire wagon. Standing on a narrow running board with only about half of your foot on it. It wasn’t hard to lose your balance. I’m surprised we didn’t have even more accidents.
So anyways, we’re responding to a fire call and, of course, trying to get there in a hurry. I don’t know, maybe we were going a little too fast. But right at about the intersection of Avenue A and Main streets, again the driver had to swerve, this time to avoid another vehicle coming the other way, but when he turned the wheels, the wheels of the truck got stuck in the tracks of the streetcar that used to run down there. Remember, back then, them tires of vehicles weren’t much wider that bicycle tires. Anyways, that caused the whole truck to flip on its side. That threw me down real hard on the pavement. I had pretty bad head injuries. And I passed later on that night.
Well, as you can imagine, after 2 bad accidents in 2 weeks time, the FD was taken to task a little bit. The newspaper did hit us pretty hard. Here’s what the Hutchinson News had to say about it. [Read clipping] I guess the other thing that stirred folks up is that the fires we were getting to weren’t much. One was a grass fire, and the one we were heading to when I died was a board fence on fire.
Now there one thing I need to bring up. I don’t like to, but I have too. There have been rumors going around that I was drunk at the time. Now, all I can say about that is, even if I was drunk, having a beer or two sure as heck isn’t what made that truck flip over. There were lots of folks who witnessed that accident, and not one of them came forward at the time to say that I was drunk. It’s a rumor that started up somehow years later and nobody knows how or where it came from. And that’s all I have to say about that. You think what you like.
At my funeral, two days later on April 17, lots of people came. There was even a delegation of firemen from Wichita. Several of my brother firefighters acted as pallbearers. There wasn’t much money left after paying off a lot of bills, and Ida felt so bad because at the time, she couldn’t afford a headstone for me. Things were real tight for a while, but my sister Josephine, helped out as much as she could. By the way, did I mention that my youngest, Ida Josephine, well, she was only 3 weeks old when I passed. So, you can see how rough Ida had things. She got $2000 in insurance money, and used that to try of open a little grocery store. She was real kind hearted and sold stuff mostly on credit to folks who never paid her back. Finally, she had to close down.
Now, a few years later, Ida did remarry, a good man, and she and her new husband moved to Medora. And that’s where she lived until she passed in 1960. She’s buried just over yonder with her second husband.
So, now I know you’re probably asking yourself, I thought you said they didn’t give you a headstone, but there’s one right there. Well, that’s a fact. I didn’t get this here headstone until the year 2000. That’s when a bunch of Hutchinson took up a collection and did other fundraising, and got me this headstone. There was a whole big dedication ceremony and everything. My last two living children, Helen and Mary, who were both in their 90s, were here for it. By the way, I also see my great granddaughter and my great, great granddaughter here tonight.
Just goes to show you: It’s hard to keep a good man down. One way or another, he lives on.
Thanks for listening. Have yourselves a good night.