By L&T Managing Editor Larry Phillips
Archeologists announced last week that remnants of several old, sod-brick foundations discovered a few miles west of Liberal, were likely from the long-lost ghost town of Smallville, Kan.
Early descriptions of a few buildings establishing the place on the trail to Colorado go back to travellers through the area before Seymour S. Rogers set up house at what became Liberal in 1888.
Rogers had written of Smallville in his diary after hearing old mountain men ask him if he ever heard from any of the families that lived there. Rogers also noted he had never found the area, as dirt storms had covered anything resembling a homestead or a town with tons of sand.
Rogers took the strangers as somewhat unbalanced and maybe they misjudged where Smallville had been.
In an AP report Monday, the archeological investigators said they had found a piece of a Bible in the ruins that contained the family name of Kent. Only a small page that had been ripped in half had the handwritten letters …rtha Kent.
Notes in Rogers diary indicated the mountain men who had stopped at his well in 1885 had asked if he knew the Kents in Smallville, Rogers also noted they said the couple was named Jonathan and Martha Kent.
When pressed by reporters at last Friday’s press conference in Denver, the archeologists said it must be a coincidence that Jonathan and Martha Kent were supposed to be from Smallville, Kan., and that Superman was supposedly their son.
They also reminded those in the press that Superman is a fictitious character, and scientists are just now proving the legend of Smallville, Kan., may exist, but their excavations are unsettling many across the country.
Meanwhile, with news of the possible discovery of Smallville, individuals from Nebraska, Western Illinois and Ohio are telling common stories of knowing a Jonathan and Martha Kent who lived in their areas at different time periods throughout the years.
One man, Curtis Peterson, claimed his grandfather was friends with the Kent family at the turn of the century from 1901 to 1916. He claimed his grandfather always told the story of how the couple never seemed to age during those years, but that their son, Clark, had matured before their eyes and turned 17 or 18, his grandfather could never remember exactly. But Peterson said his Papa always told his siblings and him the Kent family was from some small town in Kansas. The best part of the stories was his grandfather always told of this Kent kid’s extraordinary strength.
“My grandfather told us Clark could tear out a full grown tree by its roots whenever someone needed help in clearing land,” the old man claimed.
Joyce Bentley, a 101-year-old woman in western Illinois has come forward and said her family lived next door to the Kents, with the same three names, from early 1917.
“Jonathan and Martha looked to be in their late 20s or early 30s, and Clark seemed to be maybe 20,” Bentley said. “They lived here until about ’28, I think. I don’t remember where they moved to.
“When I saw that TV story Tuesday, I knew that was the same Kents I’d known – and they said they were from Smallville, Kan., too,” Bentley added.
On Wednesday, TV cameras zoomed in on Melvin Wayne in Givens, Ohio, as he told reporters he, too, had known the Kent family.
“They rented 180 acres from me west of here in Pike County,” Wayne said. “Jonathan loved farming – I split the crop profits with him – and he said he had never seen so much crop-friendly rain here as compared to western Kansas, where he claimed they hailed from.
“He and Martha and the young man were there from 1928 to ’38,” and come to think of it, Jonathan and Martha couldn’t have been more than 30 years old when I first met them, and that boy wasn’t over 20 if he was a day.
“Now that you ask, They didn’t seem to age a day during those 10 years. Guess I just though it was healthy living,” Wayne added. “I do remember seeing that Clark lift a small John Deere tractor up so his pa could set a jack under the axle one day.
“Darndest thing I ever seen,” he added.
Wayne said the Kent family moved to Metropolis when they left Pike County, Ohio.
“They said Clark had decided what he wanted to do in life,” Wayne said. “They said the boy wanted to go to school and become a journalist – writing for newspapers and such.”
Cleveland, Ohio, high school students Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster wrote their first piece on Superman on April 18, 1938 – 75 years ago yesterday.
Superman biographer Philip Anthony arrived in Liberal on Tuesday, and stopped by to see Leader & Times Publisher Earl Watt on Thursday.
Superman, whose real name is Kal-El, was the only survivor of the planet Krypton, and Anthony is convinced archeologists have found his first home on Earth – Smallville, Kan.
“I’ve often heard rumors of the Kents living in different areas across the mid-west, but with the news breaking of finding remnants of Smallville, I’m convinced this is the real thing,” Anthony told Watt.
The biographer said he had already talked to numerous city leaders and recommended they take advantage of discovering Superman’s original home just west of town.
“I’ve noticed you folks here don’t have a Heritage day, or a Pioneer’s Day, or a Founders’ Day – you should start a Superman Day, especially since you’re home to the fifth largest aircraft museum in the nation. What could be more fitting than being home to a super hero who can fly?”
Anthony said finding Superman’s original home on Earth here in Southwest Kansas fits the dreams Superman’s father, Jor-El, had for his infant son.
“Do you remember what Jor-El told his son?” Anthony asked Watt. “He said, and I quote, ‘Live as one of them, Kal-El, to discover where your strength and your powers are needed. Always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage. They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you ... my only son.’
“Jor-El sent his son to Kansas to be discovered and adopted by a farmer and his wife, so he could be raised and imbued with a strong moral compass,” Anthony said.
“It’s all so clear now,” he added with a sigh. “This place is truly the home of ‘Truth, justice and the American way.’”