Sunday, April 28, 2019

Would'ja Believe...?

The Devil House was an old stone house that stood at the intersection of 93rd and Paulen Roads in rural Shawnee County. I never knew the actual history of the house and, to a point, I still don’t. The story that people made up about the house and surrounding land I remember very well. A family used to the live in the house, some accounts say they were Satanists, and they had a daughter who liked to go to one of the bigger towns for excitement, again Berryton, Richland, or Topeka have all been used. One night she went out and got pregnant—again, it was either voluntary or involuntary. When the girl gives birth, the mother takes the baby away to a pond in the woods behind the house to drown it. Some stories have the mother just going insane while others say she noticed the baby was Mexican or Native or Black. The story ends with either the girl slaughtering her parents and mysteriously vanishing or the girl hanging herself in the attic. Whichever story is told, it hits all the bases of what makes a good story.

The earliest settler I found on Section 26 was Jacob Coblentz. A house is marked as being on the property on an 1873 map which means we can assume that the house was built prior to this, probably late 1860s or very early 1870s. Jacob Coblentz married Eliza Lambert in 1852 and moved to Kansas from Ohio in 1865, settling in Monmouth Township, Shawnee County in 1866. They had 7 children and were very prominent in the Berryton/Richland area. After the turn of the 20th Century, the Coblentz’ were caught up in something of a scandal when it was claimed that Jacob had committed his brother, Peter, to an asylum just so he could have his land. Coblentz claimed that it was for Peter and his family’s own safety. Jacob died in 1910 and he, along with most of his family, are buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery near Richland.
1873 map showing Coblentz property.
Gravestone for Jacob Coblentz in Pleasant Hill Cemetery.
In 1888, Jacob Coblentz moved from his land on Section 26 and traded property with William Coultis. He had originally been married to Lizzie Stone who passed away from spinal meningitis in 1880. He remarried to Mercy and they had at least two children—William, Jr. and Lillie. The Coultises were very active in the Richland and Berryton communities and with the Highland Park Grange. William was so popular and active that he was chosen by the Populists to run for Shawnee County Commissioner. Their aim was no make sure no Republican ever represented their ward again. Coultis seemingly lost that election, although I was not able to find the results of it, but, undeterred, the Populists ran him again, this time, for State Senator. Again, Coultis lost to the Republican, William E. Sterne. Sterne would serve in the Kansas Senate from 1893 until 1901. Coultis would pass away in 1932 and is buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Topeka.
1921 map showing the Coultis property.
Gravestone for William and Mercy Coultis in Memorial Park Cemetery.
The Coblentz/Coultis house was torn down around 2005 and has really been relegated to the fringe edges of haunted tales in the Topeka, Lawrence, Johnson County area. Most legends like that of The Devil House spring from real life events, and I am sure it is no different here. In 1906, two men, Charles Ryder and Jason Morris of Berryton, were arrested for raping their daughters. According to the article, Mrs. Morris was so shocked she went insane. When I went to the house, there were a couple things that fit the stories that were told. The property did have a small pond on it and, at night, if you listened closely, you could hear the whinny of a distant horse. Granted, most farmland around here have ponds and the horse neigh could’ve come from the nearby horse farm but that doesn’t make nearly as good a story.
Topeka State Journal article reporting on Ryder and Morris' arrest.
December 28, 1906.
If you would like to support my writing or research, you can buy me a cup of coffee over on Ko-Fi.

Over a year? That's not impressive. Between 1997 and 2006 I got sick, like, twice, if that. Nowadays, I get sick any time the temperature fluctuates more than five degrees.

I hate when Brutus, or any character really, references the title of the strip. Maybe Brutus is trying to make it a thing so it will catch on and he can start making money on it. I mean, it hasn't worked for me but Chip Sansom seems to be doing all right.