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The Hesston Record
345 Old Hwy 81
Hesston, KS 67062
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Woman Escapes Bizarre Car Fire

Posted 7/6/2017

By BLAKE SPURNEYHesston’s Laurie Duerksen recalls her car catching on fire. The fire occurred Monday and she was able to escape unharmed.  On Wednesday it remained in the Whitestone Mennonite Church parking lot.Hesston’s Laurie Duerksen recalls her car catching on fire. The fire occurred Monday and she was able to escape unharmed. On Wednesday it remained in the Whitestone Mennonite Church parking lot.

Hesston Record Staff

Laurie Duerksen was running a couple of basic errands Monday afternoon when she smelled smoke inside her 2002 Chevrolet Impala.

“After I got out of the car and called 911, it went poof and was engulfed,” she said. “There was nothing could I do.”

Duerksen pulled into Whitestone Mennonite Church, 629 Crescent Drive, and watched as her car and all of its contents went up in smoke just after 4 p.m. The cause of the fire was ruled electrical in nature, said Fire Marshal Misti Ulhman.

“Something as bizarre as a little motor under your seat,” Duerksen said. “How often does that happen?”

She had just enough time to pull the keys out. She was calling 911 when she saw a blaze where she had just been sitting. A Hesston police officer gave her a ride home after Hesston firefighters extinguished the fire.

Duerksen knows she was lucky because she was only a couple of blocks from home, and she found a convenient place to pull over. She wondered aloud what might have happened had she been driving on the interstate when the fire started under her seat.

Now Duerksen is trying to figure out how to recoup her loss. She said her insurance wouldn’t cover the damage. She’s curious if the cause of the fire might be a design flaw that should be recalled. She’s also trying to figure out what miscellaneous items, such as a raincoat, blankets and menus, that are now a burned mess.

“It’s all charcoal and plastic melted,” she said.

She returned Tuesday to the church parking lot to survey the damage. She also cried a little.

“The universe has a bizarre sense of humor,” she said.

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Newton Gunfighters Killed With Their Boots On

Posted 7/6/2017


Hesston Record Staff

NEWTON — Harvey County's most notorious cemetery, once well-known as the resting place of scoundrels and a couple of lawmen, is relatively unknown because it no longer exists.

Many of the bodies that once lay in Boot Hill Cemetery, also known as Bootfoot Hill, were later moved a short distance to what is now Greenwood Cemetery in Newton.

"The place derived its name from the numbers of persons who were buried there with boots on in the wild and early days," reported The Newton Kansan on May 27, 1886.

Those include some of the six men killed in August 1871 in the "Newton Massacre" or "General Massacre" at the Gold Room of the Red Front Saloon. Different sources give different dates of the melee, which claimed more lives than the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Some original graves remain on private property near First and High streets along Slate Creek.

"Through the years a fair amount of mystery has shrouded Boot Hill," says an excerpt about the cemetery in "Harvey County History," a book compiled by Linda Smupp in 1990. "Few records have been found to give us exact information about the site and its use."

Smupp also noted that according to one source, 30-50 graves remain at the Boot Hill location, and that a house was built atop of them.

"Some of the old-timers say as many as 40 people were buried there at one time," said Darren McMannis, with the Harvey County Genealogical Society. "Nobody really knows. It seems like the least desirable folks were buried a little bit down the hill."

Contemporary press clippings from Newton's cow town days put the number at 32. "Newton, Kansas, is a healthy place to live in," The Atchison Daily Champion reported tongue in cheek in a Nov. 15, 1872, story. "The grave yard there contains the ashes of thirty-two men, of whom thirty-one gave up the ghost without going through the trifling formality of pulling off their boots. The last contribution to the thriving grave yard was made by a desperado who shot a justice of the peace, and the city marshal, to avoid the red tape and technicalities of a trial, shot the desperado. The justice and the outlaw sleep side by side, and the city marshal carries off the laurels. The fellow who died a natural death must be lonesome in that cemetery."

"The whisky sellers, gamblers, thieves, and prostitutes migrated there for the purpose of robbing the cowboys and cattlemen," The Omaha Herald reported in a story that was reprinted Nov. 22, 1888, in The Newton Daily Republican. "For months it was a never ending battle between these law breakers on the one side and the men who knew no law on the other. From the first to the last thirty-six men were killed with their boots on. At least a dozen gambling houses had places on the main street, keeping their doors wide open day time and night time, Sunday and all the time."

McMannis and Brian Stucky have done extensive research about the legendary burial ground. Stucky was granted access to conduct a dowsing on a couple of properties, and he located 13 graves on one tract. He noted that one grave was at an angle instead of the traditional east-west alignment for Christian burials.

"Perhaps it was thought that such scoundrels would not make it into the Pearly Gates,” Stucky noted in an email

One homeowner along the creek declined to let Stucky search his property because of misgivings about the macabre.

"As far as identifying anything specific, I'm not going to do that because that would be almost like an invasion of privacy," Stucky said.

To read more, see this weeks print edition

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GVL Poly Trimming Nearly 50 Jobs

Posted 7/6/2017


Hesston Record Staff

GVL Poly announced last week that it was laying off dozens of employees at its Hesston plant.

CEO Allan Cronen sent out a press saying the Hesston “factory will experience a significant reduction in employment levels because of a major customers (sic) decision to consolidate their supply chain.”

The layoffs began Tuesday, and the release stated that there would be no change to operations at company headquarters in Litchfield, Minnesota.

GVL's labor reduction came within a week of Excel Industries laying off 270 workers.

Hesston City Administrator Gary Emry said Cronen called him hours before employees learned they were being laid off. According to Emry, Cronen put the number of employees who would be affected at 45.

"He didn't go into any details, nor did I ask," Emry said. "It was a pretty short phone call."

Emry said Cronen did share that GVL had a prospective new customer in Kansas City that looked promising.

"So if they're able to bring that contract on board, he said that would be a good thing for Hesston, Kansas," Emry said.

"He certainly feels bad about the situation," Emry added. "I feel confident he's doing everything he can to keep things afloat in Hesston. I feel confident things are going to tick back up. It's just going to take time."

GVL Poly is a plastic rotational molding company that opened its Hesston location in early 2014. The company announced in August 2015 that it was adding an additional 75 employees to its Hesston operations due to an expansion in production for YETI Coolers, an Austin, Texas-based manufacturer of high-end coolers.


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