The Dead Man’s Banjo

In Gridley Adams’ “Prose and Worse” column in Volume 46 of “Everybody’s Magazine”, 1922, we find:

(Liberal. Mo. News)

To The Late Mr. S. W. Cooper’s Friends:

Several who have been interested enough to ask me if the banjo was returned that the man borrowed from Mr. Cooper before his death. I wish to say no; he is not man enough to return it without I go to law. So now if you are entertained in some places of business you will know it is by a dead man’s banjo (who cannot speak for himself), and was kept by some one who has no principle or honesty. Don’t think I expect him to bring it back on account of this, but I want the honest citizens of Liberal to know him. Mrs. Geo. Stone. (e. C. G.)

If music be the feud of love, let’s have one more dance.

The 1920 census shows, in Ozark, Barton, Missouri, household 76:

Stone, George head 43 from IL, father b. NY, mother b. OH, a steam and shovel engineer
Marta Linn wife 37 b. IA father b. IA mother b. PA
Cooper, Roberta stepdaughter 15 b. KS father b. KS mother b. IA
Bertha stepdaughter 12 b. KS father b. KS mother b. IA

A jeweler, S. W. Cooper was Samuel W. Cooper, born 13 March 1875 in New York and died December 1918 in Pittsburg, Kansas (according to Ancestry.com). He married Myrta Linn Onstot.

And though he’s given as dying in Kansas, it would appear from the letter that if he didn’t live in Liberal, he was at least known and had friends there.

George Stone was likely the son of Orin and Jane Stone who were in the 1900 census of Leroy, Barton, Missouri, Orin b. NY being 54 and Jane b. being 58. The Stones aren’t mentioned in the histories of early Liberal so it’s unknown when they arrived but it was sometime after the birth of their daughter Eva in 1886 as they were still in Illinois at that time.

One wonders if the banjo was ever returned.

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