Evermore Genealogy

King Belk of Liberal, Missouri (cont.) News Article from November 11, 1921

Note: James King Belk and his wife Charity (Palmer) were prominent Liberal residents present since the formation of the town. King had a first marriage, mentioned in J. P. Moore’s book on Liberal, which caused something of a scandal as his first wife had purportedly believed him to be dead, whereas he was very much alive and had remarried to a Charity Palmer and moved to Liberal. Steve Richardson of the Cawker City Hesperian Historical Society wrote asking if I had heard of him and was able to say that I had. His interest was due connections between Cawker and Liberal. A George W. Chapman is one citizen of Cawker who was alert to Liberal in the early 1880s and was prepared to donate his collection of geological specimens to the academy there if the citizens of Cawker did not provide a suitable building for it and a public library. Another resident of Cawker with a tie to Liberal was William Belk, a brother of King Belk. Thus this series, Steve having sent me several articles published on it in 1920-1921. All related posts will be found under the tag “Belk”.

Thank you to Steve Richardson for the below article.

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Brown County World
November 11 1921


The sensational Belk case has been settled out of court, according to information W. F. Means received Friday from George Belk-Rogers, who, with his mother, Olive Belk-Rogers, has been at Liberal, Mo., for several weeks. It is reported that Charity Belk, of Liberal, second wife of King Belk, agreed to settle with the California widow and her 2 sons for $18,000. It is said that the King Belk estate left by him at his death 2 years ago amounted to about $150,000. The Missouri window and her daughter, however, claim amount has been over-estimated. The Belk case was perhaps one of the strangest cases of the kind ever filed in a Kansas court. Daily World printed a Belk story in serial form several months before the suit was filed, using fictitious names, but sticking close to real facts as possible. Story aroused great interest. Olive Belk-Rogers, of California, without doubt, was legal widow of King Belk, Brown county pioneer, who died 3 years ago at Liberal, Mo., leaving a widow and a daughter there. As has been related in World several times, King Belk left Olive Belk and 2 sons in California, returned to Brown county. This was nearly 50 years ago. He went to Liberal where he married again without being divorced from the California woman. The California Mrs. Belk says in her suit petition that she believed for more than 50 years that her husband was slain by Indians in Idaho. After his death at Liberal, George Belk happened to be passing thru Kansas on business trip to Akron, Ohio. He said he had stopped to learn something about early history of his father. George alleged that he discovered for first time the true life of his father, when relatives here told him that King Belk had lived for a half century after his supposed death, had married again, and accumulated fortune. Then George began investigations. Thread by thread he put together the double life of his father. At Liberal he was pronounced an imposter by wife No. 2. George employed lawyers, returned to California. Suit was brot in the district court of Brown county. King Belks original (…?) near Padonia still belongs in the Belk estate. There are real estate holdings in Jewell county, but bulk of estate is at Liberal. Mrs. Olive Belk-Rogers is about 80 years old. She had indisputable evidence, doubtless would have been awarded liberal share of the Belk estate had the case been submitted to a jury. Jake Shepard, noted Fort Scott lawyer who died several weeks ago, and W. E. Archer, were attorneys for wife of No. 2. Mr. Archer had made a trip to California to get depositions. W. P. Means and a Missouri lawyer were attorneys for the California Belks.

Before leaving for home in California, Mrs. Olive Belk was a caller at World Office Tuesday morning. Altho 80 years old, Mrs. Belk is bright, has a quick mind, a most interesting personality. She might be called a “printer of the old school,” because Mr. Belk was a type setter back in the late 60s, early 70s. Then she turned her attention to literary efforts, where she achieved more than passing success. Her poetical gems were gladly accepted by Los Angeles big daily newspapers. Under non de plume Mrs. Belk had columns in 2 Los Angeles papers. She was given letter of endorsement by Los Angeles press association. Altho more than 40 years have passed since Mrs. Belk held a “case” in a newspaper office, she told World folks that she still had mental picture of type cases, could now go to a case, set type. While in World office, Mrs. Belk recalled that she had a part in the “Bloodless Battle of Padonia,” when bushwackers from Missouri came over in Kansas to capture the village, possibly kill all who tried to prevent it. On horseback, Mrs. Belk rode from Padonia to White Cloud where she informed a colonel what was about to happen. Soldiers were sent from there, plans of Missouri bushwhackers were thwarted. Steve Hunter was in that “bloodless” battle. He was armed with a shot gun. As has been related in World stories, Mrs. Belk and her husband left Brown county in 1862, driving to California. Later came disappearance of her husband, King Belk, his subsequent marriage at Liberal, Mo. In the mass of despositions secured by George Belk-Rogers and his mother was one from a man who witnessed an altercation King Belk had with a horseshoer in Idaho soon after his departure from Lassen county, Calif. in 1864. Man who made deposition stated that horseshoer struck Belk on the head with a hoof asp, rendering him senseless for several minutes. In explaining conduct of King Belk–that of re-marrying without being divorced–Mrs. Belk is inclined to believe that the violent blow he received at hands of Idaho horseshoer caused a mental trouble that was responsible for his marital misdeeds. Altho King Belk had lived with another woman for more than 40 years as his wife, the original Mrs. King Belk wishes to take a charitable view of her husbands dual life. “When King left California to look up a new home where he might be more prosperous, he took with him all the money we had earned together and saved,” said Mrs. Belk. “That was perfectly all right. But that money was used by King and the other woman in getting their start in which they accumulated a good deal of wealth. If compound interest was figured on the money that King took away with him more than 50 years ago it would amount to as much as was received from the estate in our terms of settlement.”

George Belk-Rogers, California man who unraveled hidden mystery of life of his father, King Belk, whom George thot had died 50 years ago, is expected to arrive in Hiawatha Saturday evening for brief stay before returning to California with his mother, Olive Belk-Rogers. Hiawatha people who have met George Belk say he is a shrewd fellow, did a wonderful piece of work in solving the great mystery of his fathers life. Mr. Rogers formerly was a national lecturer for Woodmen of the World. He has a most engaging personality, is polished in art of politeness and acting the part of a gentleman.


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