July 28, 2000
Mrs. Francis Webb is in the midst of a bit of house cleaning at her home on Kaw street. Such tasks never seem to end. But, once in a while some interesting memorabilia turns up - bits and pieces that bring back pleasant memories - and Mrs. Webb has been kind enough to share one of these with me. Going through miscellaneous papers stored in a box, she found an issue of the Ghost Town Gazette, a 1982 newspaper project of upper grade students at the now-defunct Sumner school, east of Perry. The focus was on another age in Sumner when the community supported an independent, 12-year school, along with a Frisco Railroad station and a scattering of shops and other businesses. Virtually all of them have long since vanished. The school building remains but it has been used primarily as a residence the past few years.
The four-page tabloid newspaper is spiced with interesting stories and pictures about yesteryear, the way things were in Sumner when the community east of Perry throbbed with activity. The name, Ghost Town Gazette, has an eerie sound, but perhaps the students felt Sumner's future was clouded, at best, even at that point in time. There is a nostalgic but upbeat tone to the student-produced newspaper, and the overall effect is one of loving memories about days gone by. A boxed item on page one explains something about the choice of a name for the paper. It refers to a book, "Ghost Towns of Oklahoma," written by John Morris. "Sumner is considered a ghost town by Morris," the students wrote. "Also, Sumner has been featured as a ghost town in an exhibit at the Oklahoma Territorial Museum. There are few people living in Sumner now (the year was 1982, remember), and the post office and businesses are gone. But Sumner still has an active church and schools. We wonder if we are the only ghost town in Oklahoma that still has a school." Not long after that, the school was closed and youngsters from the Sumner area were assigned to other districts. The Baptist church is still active, however.
Some of the headlines invited readers to become familiar with the little crossroads town. "Sumner History" by Janelle Hyatt, Rejina James and Valerie Quick related that the community once had two blacksmiths, a 13-room hotel, a stockyard, the post office, the school, two churches (Christian and Baptist), two lumber yards, two banks, two grocery stores, a cotton gin, two grain elevators, a feed lot, a garage, and people had smokehouses. Henry Rieman recalled traveling to Perry on the Frisco train for 25 cents. The story concluded: "One recent state map said that Sumner had a population of 19, but we made a count, and we think that there are 37 people now. That's good, for Sumner."
Other interesting articles are sprinkled through the eight-page paper. Some of the bylines showed the names of these writers: Lori Champion, Missy Fisher, Andrea Garcia, Sarah Tappe, Charles Prewitt, Gene Matheson, Danielle Dawes, Timmy Matheson, Shannon Rogers, Kerry McAngus, Steven Sorrell, Lisa Boyd, David Johns, Kerri Speer, Steven King and Greg Speer. Numerous early day pictures appear, including one showing Sumner's first high school graduating class, composed of these scholars: Francis Mosena, Anna Nielson, Keith McQuiston, Glenn Eales, Alice Kercher an Herbert Tillman.
This is an interesting document and it should be preserved along with other literature pertaining to Sumner's history. I appreciate Mrs. Webb’s thoughtfulness in letting me have this copy.