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PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Back in 1917 Ray Heston bought a year’s subscription to the Kennebec Sun for $1. Kennebec is about 10 miles east of Presho on I-90.

Heston apparently had been receiving a copy of the newspaper for a while, before the $1 was paid. According to the receipt, dated Feb. 24, the subscription ran from May 15, 1916 to May 15, 1917. The editor of the paper at the time was Chester Rosencrance. He signed the receipt.

That peek into the past comes courtesy of Pierre resident James Pospisil.

But Pospisil is not an archivist or any kind of historian. He just likes yard sales.

And six months ago, in mid-June, Pospisil was at a yard sale in Kimball, about 50 miles east of Kennebec. That’s where he spotted a kind of wallet. He and his family were in Kimball for a family reunion, held at the Red Barn Inn.

“I knew it was special. At first glance, I could tell it was old. It had a bunch of papers.” Pospisil determined that the wallet needed to be “rescued” — returned to the family of the owner indicated in the papers.

So at the yard sale, Pospisil purchased the wallet — really a pocket-sized leather filing system of sorts. He paid an amount that would have bought a year’s worth of copies of the Kennebec Sun back in 1917 — $1. The papers pointed to a Ray Heston as the likely owner.

The legwork to track down the descendants of Ray Heston was started by Lynn Fredericksen, Pospisil’s grandmother. She began with a call to the courthouse in the county where Kennebec is located — Lyman County. And County Deputy Auditor Deb Halverson put her in touch with Gloria Johnson, who is a board member of the Lyman County Historical Society.

Johnson told the Capital Journal that her first step was to look in the old settlers books. Ray Heston’s name appears in one of them, along with some of his descendants. With the names of family in hand, Johnson contacted Bev Johnson (no relation) who Gloria Johnson described as her “go to” when it comes to piecing together old family connections.

Bev Johnson pointed Gloria Johnson and Fredericksen to Lorri Wagner. Wagner is the daughter of Betty Jean Martens. And Martens is the daughter of Jean Moore. Moore is Ray Heston’s granddaughter, who lives in Kennebec. And the rest, as they say, is history.

For an already-scheduled trip to Pierre, Moore added an extra stop — so that Pospisil could present Moore with her grandfather’s 100-year-old wallet, the Pierre Capital Journal reported .

The handoff of the wallet, and the documents it contained, took place in the Capital Journal building this week. The gathering included Fredericksen, Pospisil, Kathy Kleaveland (Pospisil’s mother), Moore and her husband Ray Moore and Mertens.

Moore said she was not sure how her grandfather’s wallet wound up at the yard sale in Kimball. But she said she would likely contact the Lyman County Historical Museum in Presho so the museum could add the wallet to its collection — along with the several papers it contains. Gloria Johnson told the Capital Journal that it’s the kind of donation the museum is well-equipped to handle.

Johnson said the museum’s collection already includes a wedding dress from the Heston family.

Besides the receipt for the Kennebec Sun subscription, the papers in the wallet include a promissory note to John Newell for payment for a buggy for $41.50. The date on the note is March 4, 1905 and it’s marked “PAID” — but it’s not clear when the account was settled.

Based on a Sept. 2, 1907, letter contained in the wallet — which was typed out by an attorney, J.F. Kreycik, and sent to Heston — there was some question about the payment of the note. The letter states: “Newell claims that he has made a mistake as to the calculation when he last settled your account and that that sum is still due to him.” The sum still owed was $23.01, according to the letter.

Piecing together more of the history connected to all the papers in Heston’s wallet would require some additional effort, starting with the cast of characters whose names are recorded somewhere among them — like newspaper editor Chester Rosencrance.

And old newspapers are a likely source for at least some of the work. Based on an account in the Sept 22, 1915 edition of The Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times — two years before Rosencrance sold Ray Heston a subscription to the Kennebec Sun — Rosencrance was honeymooning in the western part of South Dakota.

According to the Pioneer Times: “Mr. and Mrs. Chester Rosencrance of Kennebec, S.D. were arrivals on the Northwestern. They are on their wedding trip, and will tour the Hills. Mrs. Rosencrance’s name was Miss Ethel Holmes. Mr. Rosencrance is manager of the Kennebec Sun.”


Information from: Pierre Capital Journal,