The drowned horses of R.T. and Leo S. Bucher

Posted: November 17th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

I’ve written about my great-grandfather in the past but I continue to research the stories about his life and try to see if there is any existing evidence to support some of the details of his life. There are still many questions I have but today would have been his 125th birthday and I wanted to document one of those stories.

On June 12, 1910, in Powersville, Missouri, Leo Steven Bucher was helping his soon-to-be adopted father R.T. Bucher wash their horses and buggy. They led the horses into the pond, wherein one of the horses laid down and got tangled up in the harness and eventually both horses drowned.


From his 1910 diary:

Drowned tow horses [two horses?] (Black) (One Horse & one mare). Drove in pond to wash wheels, horse laid down and pulled mare over him, got tangled in harness.

The next day, they buried the team of horses:


Amazingly, this story was picked up by the local newspaper, the Unionville Republican, and even ran as 10-years-ago item in 1920.


R.T. Bucher had the misfortune to have his team drowned Sunday. He had driven them into the pond to wash off his buggy when one of them laid down and became tangled in the harness, throwing the other one, and before they could be loosened, both were drowned.

In 1910, this was a very serious problem as a horse was the main mode of transportation and work. It was equivalent to losing both your cars and your tractor on the same day. In a time before insurance, it could be very expensive to replace two horses.

For some time, this story was told as an origin story – that R.T. and Alice Bucher had another son who drowned in a pond with some horses. The reality is much different. Leo Bucher was already living with the family by that point and might have even contributed to the drowning of the horses (since he states in his diary “Drowned two horses)). In fact, I can find no evidence that RT and Alice Bucher ever had any other children besides Leo, whom they adopted when he was 21 years old. It’s likely that they took him in because they were unable to have children of their own.

Some books I am anticipating (or hoping for) in 2016

Posted: November 12th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »
  1. Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle, volume 4 paperback and volume 5 hardcover
    I know the UK has Volume 4 in paperback but we don’t get the beautiful FSG edition until April 2016. Volume 5 comes out in hardcover around the same time. Keep working hard, Don Bartlett!


  2. The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner (June, 2016) - In this inventive and lucid essay, Lerner takes the hatred of poetry as the starting point of his defense of the art.
  3. Anything by Eliza Minot
    She hasn’t published a book in eight years. Hopefully she is working on something wonderful.
  4. David Hering’s book on Infinite Jest, forthcoming from Bloomsbury.
  5. Anything by Beth Nugent
    She hasn’t published a book in almost 20 years, but a boy can dream.
  6. Understanding Roberto Bolaño by Ricardo Gutiérrez-Mouat due out next summer.
  7. A comprehensive, critical biography of either Roberto Bolaño or David Markson.
  8. My brother’s book! Master of The Cinematic Universe: The Secret Code to Writing In The New World of Media by John Bucher and Jeremy Casper, due out in 2016.

Two Recent Pieces

Posted: October 13th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: DFW, personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

I recently posted this article about Wes Anderson and Bye Bye Braverman over on



One thing I didn’t mention there is that Braverman includes a scene filmed at the corner of Eastern Parkway and Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. For a while, I lived a block north of there on Bedford. That intersection has changed a lot over the years so it was very cool to see it back in 1968.


You can see the old Town Hill Restaurant in the background.




That Texaco station is long gone.



I also wrote about David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King and the character of Toni Ware over on Medium. The Pale King’s Trailer Park Queen.

The Scofield & David Markson

Posted: August 17th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

A new literary magazine launches today and I’m happy to have contributed a small piece to it. The magazine is called The Scofield and my essay is on David Markson and Twitter. It’s a truly stellar magazine that has assembled a who’s who of writers working on and around David Markson. Keep an eye on The Scofield.

In other news, to support the film The End of the Tour, I wrote this article on “Why David Foster Wallace Matters” for a collection on Medium called “Just Words.”

Also, last month I published this essay on Roberto Bolaño and A Little Lumpen Novelita in the Dublin Review of Books.


Posted: March 9th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »


Last night, I held our dog Riley while she died. I want to write about this experience a little bit, for myself, before I forget most of the specifics. If you’ve lost a pet recently or if this is too graphic for you, please skip this. I am just writing this down for myself so that later I have not forgotten what this day feels like.

When I first met Jordan, her parents were living in London and she was keeping their Shetland Sheepdog named Maggie in her studio apartment in the West Village, against all bylaws of the building. Eventually she got caught and she had to ship Maggie off to her uncle in Kansas. After we were married and decided to move to Austin, Jordan made it clear that one thing she was looking forward to was getting a dog – specifically a Sheltie. “Of course, honey! Whatever you want! Shelties sound great,” said newlywed Matt.

We picked up Riley from a breeder in Oklahoma in 2005 and she became our surrogate child, our furry offspring. All the love and energy we had for the world was transferred onto this animal. We fretted over her nap schedule, bought her the best organic food, took her to obedience school for weeks on end, bought her a designer collar and leash, etc. There was one night where we bought tickets to a theater performance in East Austin and hired a dog-sitter to take care of the puppy (who does this??), but I forgot to put the front-door key to the apartment under the doormat. So I left Jordan at the theater, gave up my ticket, and went back to the apartment to let Riley out and dismiss the dogsitter. One night a few weeks later I thought she had a bowel obstruction so I drove her to an emergency specialist an hour away in San Antonio, where, after thousands of dollars of tests, it was determined that she just had a virus.


When Henry was born, we worked with Riley to step around a blanket on the floor–trying to show her that it was the baby’s space and she would have to be careful. But we needn’t worry because she was so sweet and loving with the new baby that she thought it was her own child. I spent several years thereafter walking her on the trails behind our house every day, listening to podcasts, meeting the other dogs in our neighborhood, that she became my constant companion. After Arlo was born, her needs definitely fell behind and she took on the role of an elder statesman who didn’t need as much attention as she’d once demanded. But she was a constant presence in our daily lives, never demanding too much, always willing to receive our love.

Last fall, we took her in for a bladder infection that wouldn’t seem to clear up, no matter the course of antibiotics we tried. The vet advised us that she had a tumor that at first looked benign. Two months ago, she had several tumors in her urinary tract that could not be removed without irreparably damaging her urinary system. We began preparing the boys for her demise, but I don’t think we fully comprehended how much we were ignoring our own emotions in service to the children’s potential feelings.

A week ago Riley took a turn for the worse and her cancer began to spread. She was no longer able to walk up and down the stairs in our back yard. She stopped eating dog food, though she would nibble on table scraps. She had accidents in the house regularly and by Friday, she had trouble standing up. Thursday was a “snow” day here in Austin and no mobile vets would come out to visit us. I tried getting a home appointment asap but the earliest anyone would promise was Monday. She spent most of Saturday in the middle of the floor of the living room, awake and just listening to us talk. On Sunday morning I had to move her into her bed; she couldn’t stand up at all. I tried again to find a mobile vet who worked on Sundays, but held out hope that she would make it through the night until her appointment on Monday morning.

I laid down in the floor with her and held her head as her breathing began to slow. She never once cried or made a painful noise. She remained very dignified and peaceful through everything. At about 12:30 this morning, her whole body pulsed several times, like she was having an aneurysm or a stroke. After that, she slept very soundly for a half hour or so, lightly snoring. Then her breathing became very shallow and she looked up at me one last time before she took her last breath.

Even though I knew she was sick for months, even though I had worked to prepare the boys for this day, I was not prepared for the full force of grief that would hit me after she died. I called a mobile pet cremation service to come and pick her up, which they did very gracefully and professionally, but of course I could not sleep after that. I was still in shock that she was really gone.

It’s been a rough day since that moment. Jordan and I have alternated between numbness and sheer pain at her absence. She had integrated herself so thoroughly into our daily lives that it had become a reflex to check on her and take care of her and just have her around us all the time. I have never mourned an animal so thoroughly and completely as I have for Riley, and my deepest sympathies are with anyone who has lost a pet, a companion, a friend. She was truly a member of our family and we will miss her forever. The house is too quiet without her.


Maude Arthur

Posted: February 11th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »


There is a deep human need to be remembered. Most of humanity is forgotten, of course. Many, many people who were successful or beloved or wildly popular are forgotten a generation later. I’ve always been fascinated by books or projects that go back and resurrect a forgotten life and remind us that we have giant gaps in our knowledge of the past. One example is Alain Corbin’s The Life of an Unknown where he picks a name at random from a 19th Century civil registry and researches the history of that particular person as deep and wide as he can. Corbin isn’t writing an academic microhistory there, but actually trying to repair holes in our collective memory.

In previous posts on Robert T. Arthur, I was curious about how his daughter, Maude (above), died so young. She was only 23 when she died in 1916. After reading more about her life, I feel like I have discovered a remarkable person.

By all accounts, Maude had the trademark personality of a first born child: a leader, smart, willing to please. But tragedy struck her young family when she was 4 years old. Her baby sister, Lenora Fay, only 22 months old, died while the family was in Fort Scott, Kansas. (I’m not sure if Maude was also born in Fort Scott or if this was just a brief stay in Kansas. Like Denison, Fort Scott was a Katy Railroad stop and it’s likely he was on assignment there.) No doubt Maude carried some of her parents’ burden over that unforgettable tragedy throughout her life. Her parents did have another child, another girl, Marie, in 1902 when Maude was already 10. The difference in ages meant they were not likely as close as they would have liked to be. When Marie was ten years old, Maude had already graduated high school.

In high school, Maude was at the center of the social world. The Denison High School class of 1911 was small, but Maude stood out. In her junior year she was the Society Editor of the Denison High School Yellow Jacket (the yearbook which also published newsletters at the time). She was also an aspiring writer. Here is a story she contributed to the Christmas 1910 Yellow Jacket. (I transcribed it below.) I think the story displays incredible maturity for an 18 year-old girl and a real ability at crafting stories.

The Bernhardts’ Christmas Gift

By Maude Arthur

The cottage homes of the Bernhardts stood side by side in exact duplicate with the hanging baskets on the porch and the well laid off vegetable garden in the rear. So was the relation of the families. But of late the Mesdames Bernhardts, who had always begun and ended their house-cleaning seasons on the same day, whose preserves and jellies tallied to a jar and who made their patchwork quilts from the same pattern, had gotten in the habit of shaking their heads and lamenting that Herman and August were not happy any more spending their days in making their compounds or sitting on the green bench in the evenings smoking their long-stemmed pipes. Nowadays the men spent all their time in their laboratory, which stretched along the end of the two yards, and worked in bad smelling messes and evil looking mixtures. “And no good would come of this,” said Mena to Lena.

When the cousins took in a partner, a shock-headed young man with a queer uncatchable eye that never looked straight at anyone, Mena said it was nothing than the doings of the unsound minds of the cousins; for outside of this, August, her husband, had talked recently in his sleep about a “solution” that would bring him wealth beyond measure. When questioned about it, he became angry, but finally told her that he had come upon a combination of certain liquids that lacked but one ingredient to make a substance from which the most beautiful jewels could be made. This one ingredient he would find then—hey for fame. He said that Herman had helped a little, but only a very little, the idea was his, August’s and the fame would be given him when the time came.

Lena also questioned her husband about the wonderful discovery, Herman seemingly informed her that the fame belonged to him and that August was only helping him. However, she would see when the missing link was found who would get the glory. The new partner who was experienced in chemical matters had been taken on to assist in the detail work and to help along the research for the last ingredient.

Then the lives of the two fraus became miserable, for they loved their husbands dearly and they loved each other dearly. They now foresaw the troublesome times ahead. The breach between the two families soon widened; both Herman and August became cross and sullen toward each other and each bade his wife not to visit or have anything to say to the wife of the other. Sorrow and dismay descended on the good wives, whose stolen interviews could not bring much comfort since Herman and August were at the point of blows.

One morning a fearful shock came to August and Mena; during the night Herman had stolen away taking with him his wife, the rascally new partner, and all of the precious discovery.

Up and down the white-colored kitchen raged the cheated cousin, wrenching his gray hair into wild disorder and bidding Mena hold her tongue when she tried to comfort him. Then his mood changed and he vowed to find his tricky kinsman, though it cost him years of life and hundreds of dollars, and wrest from him the magic compound which he had stolen. This was a vast undertaking. Herman’s house had been shut up, and no one could be found who was able to throw any light on the subject.

Soon August prepared to leave on his strange quest. The cottage was locked up, the cat given to a neighbor, and Mena beheld but a quivering mist as, with tear-blurred eyes, she bade farewell to her beloved cabbage garden.

Then followed the long, dreary pilgrimage of the aged couple. Now and then vague tidings of Herman’s movements came to them, but finally giving up all hope of finding his cousin, he settled in a little cottage far distant from his old home and fitted up a miniature laboratory where he worked day and night to duplicate the priceless mixture which had been stolen from him. But it was useless as he’d forgotten the very ingredients as well as the details of the process.

Mena, worn out with the long and fruitless search, was glad to have some scrubbing, washing, and something to do. August, who was so low in spring, would help her in nothing, so the poor soul was obliged to potter around with her pantry-shelves, her newly sorted window plants and such balm-giving occupations. It was a good day for her when she discovered a curious closet under the stair with a ….. like this paneling that  therefore she had overlooked it. Then she bought her…. (If you’d like to read the rest of the story, please click here:


Some context about this story: Denison High School had recently built a chemistry lab on campus. It was considered the height of sophistication and scientific advancement. Marie Curie was all over the newspapers then, having won the 1903 Nobel Prize in physics (she would also win the 1911 Nobel Prize in chemistry). The women’s suffrage movement was acquiring an air of inevitability and progressive young women, like Maude, were looking to do more than study home economics.

During Maude’s high school years, the Arthur family lived at 1030 W. Sears St. in Denison (they had moved from 700 W. Owings St., and in later years the Arthur family lived at 1023 W. Morton).

Screen shot 2015-01-19 at 1.37.21 PM


It was at this house where Maude hosted the high school class for a Halloween party, which she described in her society column in the 1910 Yellow Jacket.



[Maude’s boyfriend was Leslie Cash, on the bottom row here, in the center, with the dark suit. He’s also the “One Who Loved Her” who wrote the tribute to her, below.]





Leslie Cash

(These photos are terrible quality-wise but they are all I have found so far.)

Leslie Cash later moved to Oklahoma and married a woman named Glennis. Their son, Robert, was born in 1924 and served in World War II. He passed away in 2013, but his experience as a prisoner of war in Europe is quite incredible:

He trained as a radio operator and top turret gunner on the B-24 Liberator. He was with the 8th Air Force, 492nd Bomb Group, based in Norwich, England. He was privileged to fly on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Two weeks later, on his 13th mission, his aircraft was shot down over the Baltic Sea. Bob was badly burned and wounded. He bailed from the burning plane, was rescued by German Marines and classified as a POW. At the time, he didn’t know it, but Bob was the sole survivor of a crew of 10 men. Not a day in his life went by without remembrance of those crewmen. He spent more than 10 months as a POW, living on quarter rations. On Feb. 6, 1945, they struck out in the snow for what they were told was a 16-day march that ended 90 days and 800 miles later from the starting point. It was aptly named “The German Death March,” as some 2,500 POWs perished on that march. The British 11th Armored Division, one week before peace was declared in Europe, mercifully liberated them.
 Maude_3 Maude_4
Shortly after these school photos were taken, for her senior year, Maude got sick. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis shortly after she graduated high school and her condition worsened. In the first decade of the twentieth century, tuberculosis was so common that many families had a consumptive member. The disease was little understood and prevention included anti-spitting campaigns, an increase in hygiene, and various types of supplemental air.
(A typical sanatorium for tuberculosis patients in Texas.)
In early 1914, the Arthur family decided to move to a dryer, desert climate in west Texas. Robert T. Arthur kept an apartment at a rooming house at 214 N. Mirick Ave. It was thought that dry, desert air could help cure tuberculosis. There were two smaller sanatoriums in San Angelo and a larger colony just outside San Angelo, founded in 1909 (sometimes called “Sanatorium, Texas“.) It’s not clear to me yet which of these housed Maude. Her sister Marie stayed behind in Denison to attend school. The 1915 city directory lists only Robert T. as a resident of Denison.


Alas, she didn’t survive. Maude L. Arthur died in San Angelo, Texas, at the age of 23.

(As before, I am transcribing these newspaper articles so that the text may be searchable.)


Denison Daily Herald, January 8, 1916

Popular Denison Girl Dies in San Angelo

A message received in Denison this morning from San Angelo conveyed the sad news of the death of Miss Maude Arthur, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. R. T. Arthur.

Death occurred at 9:30 a.m. today. Mr. Arthur, who is a passenger conductor for the Katy, and the youngest daughter, Marie, who is attending the public schools in Denison this winter, left the city at an early hour this morning for San Angelo in response to a message stating that the condition of Miss Maude was very critical. They will not reach San Angelo until tonight. Mrs. Arthur was with her daughter when death came.

The remains, accompanied by the family, will leave San Angelo Sunday morning and are expected to arrive in Denison Monday morning. No definite word as to the funeral arrangements have reached here as yet.

Too many words of love and commendation cannot be spoken of Maude, who was universally loved in Denison. She was a member of the Denison High school class of 1911, and was a member and faithful worker in the First Presbyterian church of this city. The memory of the many charitable acts of kindness and her sweet and lovable ways will dwell forever in the hearts and minds of all those with whom she was associated in any way. Her life was one of purity, filled with the love of true friends.

Owing to the impaired condition of the deceased’s health, the Arthur family left Denison about two years ago, going to San Angelo, in the hopes that the change of climate would be of material benefit to her, but all was done that the mortal hands could do, and “He who doeth all things well” called her home.]



[Denison Daily Herald, January 10, 1916

Hundreds Paid Last Tribute to Miss Arthur

Hundreds of sorrowing friends, including many out-of-town residents, gathered at the First Presbyterian church at 3 o’clock this afternoon to pay their last respects to Maude Lorene Arthur, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. R. T. Arthur, whose death occurred at 9:30 o’clock Saturday morning at San Angelo.

The remains, accompanied by the parents, the sister, Marie, and Leslie Cash of Denison, who accompanied Mr. Arthur and Marie to San Angelo Saturday morning and Mrs. W. P. Hulen and Mrs. Joe Davis, who met the party in Dallas, arrived in the city on the Katy Flyer this morning. Many friends of the family met the body at the depot and accompanied it to the Presbyterian church, where it lay in state, until the funeral service at 3 p.m. Interment was made in Fairview cemetery.

Among the societies who attended the funeral in bodies were the Madge Waples Circle of the Presbyterian church, the As You Like It club and the class of 1911 of the Denison High school, all of which Maude was a member until she let Denison about two years ago. Maude was one of whom her associates can truly say “she was a friend,” always ready to lend her assistance in any way.

The services were simple and impressive and were conducted by Rev. J.E. Aubrey. As the family entered the church the choir sang softly and sweetly “Lead Kindly Light.” This was followed by hymns, “It Is Well With My Soul,” “Asleep in Jesus,” and “Home of the Soul.” The recessional sung by the choir was “Nearer My God To Thee.”

Floral offerings of every design covered the mound at Fairview, speaking in a small way of the love and friendship cherished by the host of deeply grieved friends. The conductor organizations and railway offices of almost every station both on the North and South end of the Katy sent beautiful flowers in wreaths and bouquets.

The session of the First Presbyterian church acted as pall bearers.

Among the out-of-town friends who attended the funeral were: D.S. Mcmillan of Whitewright, Mr. and Mrs. Tee Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. M.S. Barton, Mrs. A.F. Henning of Dallas; Mrs. C.M. Stone and daughter, Miss Alta, of Parsons, Kas.; J.R. Kramer of Hillsboro.]

Researching all of this about Maude has deeply affected me. I have given great consideration to the fact that Maude Arthur has not walked this earth in almost 100 years but her headstone remains in near-perfect condition. I have considered how advances in medicine and transportation have changed our ability to prolong life over the course of a century. I have pondered the nature of success and accomplishment and how little of it truly endures, mostly due to the whims of an uncontrollable fate.


Rest in peace, Maude.

More on Robert T. Arthur and Family

Posted: January 15th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Since my initial post on this subject back in October, I have done some more digging and uncovered more of the story of Denison resident, and prominent Mason, Robert T. Arthur.

First, thanks to the granddaughter of his sister, Sue Major Holmes, I’ve received these photos of him. I am posting these pictures here with her permission.

I’d estimate this photo of him to be from the late 1930s.

Robert T. Arthur

According to Sue, this photo dates from 1943-46 since her mother, Martha Major, pictured here, is in her Army nurse’s uniform. It’s neat that you can also see Arthur’s pocket watch (he was a railroad conductor).


Over the Christmas break, I went to Denison to visit family and stopped by Fairview Cemetery (where both my grandfathers and one great-grandfather are buried). It’s a fairly large cemetery and the attendant was not there so I was not sure where to find Arthur’s grave. My mom and I drove around for about ten minutes before I spotted it near the front. There is a family grave marker that just says “Arthur” and headstone each for Robert T. Arthur, his wife Lenora E. Arthur, their daughter Maude, who died at age 23, and their young daughter Lenora Fay, who died at only 22 months old. The Arthur’s youngest daughter, Marie, is also buried in Fairview with her husband, W. Roy Miller, but I could not find her grave on this visit.

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Little Lenora Fay was born in Fort Scott, Kansas, and buried there in 1896. When the Arthurs moved to Denison, they had her body disinterred and re-interred in 1904 in Denison. Fort Scott was a depot stop on the MKT Railroad (like Denison) and it was Robert’s job as a conductor that brought the family to Denison, Texas.

I have collected more information about Maude and Marie Arthur and will post more about them soon.

Best Books of 2014

Posted: November 11th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , | No Comments »

This has been an interesting year in reading for me. I read a lot of books, about 65. I didn’t track them all, but I reviewed 25 books for Publishers Weekly, read 6 books in manuscript form,  3 books for the Texas Book Festival panel I moderated in October, 6 books for our book club at work, and I got about 10 other books for free (review copies). I checked out 140 books at the library so far this year, but many of those were children’s books or books which I read only a portion of.  Several of the books I reviewed will not be published until 2015 and many of the books I read for personal pleasure were published in years past. I’m not counting those for this list, but if I did, the blue-ribbon would go to Reif Larsen’s I am Radar. I’ll save that one for 2015. Here are some of the best things I read this year, published in 2014.

1. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

This was probably my most-anticipated book of the year. And I found it fairly disappointing. The first three fifths of the novel were excellent and Mitchell had me in thrall, gliding along on the expectation of a tight conclusion. But I could not find the urge to care enough about the science fiction angle of a supernatural battle. The first section, about Holly Sykes, sort of goes off the rails when Holly discovers a brutal murder caused by some sort of spirit or apparition. But I stuck with it for the next section, which is centered around Hugo Lamb. The story of his pursuit of Holly in a Swiss ski resort is expertly told, Mitchell at his best.

2. 10:04 by Ben Lerner

This, along with the Mitchell novel, was at the top of my list for 2014 novels. I adored Lerner’s first novel and had high hopes for his Atocha-Station-set-in-NY and there are parts of this book that are fantastic, but overall, I didn’t feel that the book had the narrative coherence Lerner was able to establish in Atocha Station.

3. My Struggle, volume 1, by Karl Ove Knausgaard

4. Women by Chloe Caldwell

5. Sister Golden Hair by Darcey Steinke

6. Fancy by Jeremy Davies

7. The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley.

Honorable Mentions: The David Foster Wallace Reader, Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis

Leo Steven Bucher, WWI Bugler

Posted: November 11th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

This Veteran’s Day I find myself thinking of a man I never met: my great-grandfather Leo Steven Bucher. He was born in 1890 in Berlin, Germany, and died in 1955 in Dallas, Texas. His parents were named Paul and Elisabeth Belan, and they emigrated to the US in December 1901. They settled in Chicago, working menial jobs in factories and restaurants, but Leo escaped. Sometime between 1906 and 1907 he jumped on a freight train and began tramping around the United States. (I’m condensing some of this story here.) In 1908 he fell ill while riding a train across northern Missouri and hopped off near a tiny town called Powersville. There he was sheltered and raised by a childless couple: Reuben T. and Alice A. Bucher. The Buchers formally adopted Leo at the age of 21 and he went into business with his adopted father: R.T. Bucher & Son. Together they owned several businesses in Powersville including a mercantile, a Sinclair filling station, and a restaurant. Reuben was active in the small Masonic lodge in Powersville and had his son initiated into the lodge in 1913. (In 1905, Reuben and Alice Bucher helped form Order of the Eastern Star Chapter #278 in Powersville, Missouri. They were both charter members and Alice was installed as the Chapter’s first Associate Matron.)

From 1914-1916 Leo Steven attended Chillicothe Business College (in Missouri) and the N.E. Missouri State Teacher’s College (now called Truman State University) in Kirksville, Missouri, studying business and mathematics.


The United States formally declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. One month later President Wilson enacted a draft, requiring all males age 21-30 to register for service. Leo Steven Bucher was drafted into the US Army on June 5, 1917. He was sent to Camp Dodge, Iowa, but was sent back to Powersville because he was still a German citizen. He was not allowed to enlist and was thrown in jail. The problem was he had no proof of legal US residency, only an alien registration card and his adoption papers. His adopted father Reuben intervened on his behalf and after several tense days he was released and allowed to enlist before the next expansion of the draft. Leo S. Bucher officially entered the army on May 25, 1918. He was conveniently made a US citizen at the Polk County Court House in Des Moines on June 13, 1918.

photo 3-20140914-165849619

[courtesy of David Bucher]

At Fort Dodge, Leo S. Bucher (above, in uniform) was given the rank of Bugler, at that time equivalent to Private. Here is his Infantry Drill Regulations manual which outlines the duties of the Bugler and includes sheet music for different calls.


[courtesy of James Bucher]

Here is his bugle:


[courtesy of David Bucher]

The soldiers at Camp Dodge were almost all residents of Iowa and northern Missouri. They were part of the Army’s 88th Division and Leo was assigned to C Company, 351st Infantry, 88th Division (Clover Leaf Division) “ part of the AEF, American Expeditionary Force. There is an excellent history of the 88th Division in World War I here:


[Human Statue of Liberty – 18,000 officers and men at Camp Dodge, Des Moines, IA, courtesy of Wikipedia]

Company C shipped out to France on August 16, 1918, arriving in Le Havre on September 4. The Division moved by rail from Le Havre to Semur, Cote d’Or, and then to Belfort, France, freeing up the 29th Division to capture enemy artillery positions in the area. In October 1918 Leo was wounded by bomb shrapnel outside of Gommersdorf, France (Southern Sub-Sector) and recovered at a nearby farmhouse. By the time he returned to the 351st Infantry at Belfort, armistice had been declared (November 11 – 96 years ago today) and the war was over. The 88th Division spent the next nine months in France demobilizing, training, attending schools, playing sports, staging plays, and preparing for their return to the United States.


Near the end of their demobilization, the 88th Division spent several weeks in Paris sightseeing and celebrating. I am fortunate to have with me a postcard that Leo Steven Bucher sent to his father Reuben from Paris:

parispostcard2 parispostcard1

[Paris, April 5th, 1919
Hello Rube!
Am having a time with a Master Mason in Gay Par-ee! Understand we are in the Army of Occupation.
Sure am having a time]

He returned to the United States on May 31. On June 9, 1919, he was formally discharged from the military at Camp Zachary Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky. {The novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald also trained at Camp Zach Taylor and mentions it in The Great Gatsby.}

Camp Zachary Taylor - folder cover

After he returned to Powersville, he met a young Iowa girl named Mary and the two were married in Centerville, Iowa, on May 20, 1924. He was 33, she was 23. They had three children: David Reuben, born 1925, Alice Allene, born 1926, and my grandfather, Leo Warren, born 1929. Reuben entered the Army in March, 1943 and after 20 years service in the medical corps, he was discharged in 1963. Leo Warren entered the Army on November 5, 1950 at Fort Hood, Texas, and was discharged November 28, 1951 at Camp Polk, Louisiana. He served in the 193rd Heavy Tank Battalion.

There is much more to the story of Leo Steven Bucher and I am working on a longer project about his life. But today I wanted to remember him as a war veteran.


Robert T. Arthur and the DeMolay Founder’s Cross

Posted: September 24th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

As a Senior DeMolay, I was intrigued by Seth Anthony’s quest to track down all 137 recipients of the DeMolay Founder’s Cross. The Founder’s Cross was presented by Dad Frank S. Land, founder of the Order of DeMolay, to individuals personally loyal to him. After Dad Land’s death in 1959, no further Founder’s Crosses were awarded. The first Founder’s Crosses were awarded in 1937. Its relative scarcity, and the high profile of many recipients, makes it perhaps the most prestigious award in the history DeMolay.



In Seth Anthony’s spreadsheet of recipients, one name stood out to me: Robert T. Arthur. It was notable not because I knew Dad Arthur—he died in 1949—but because he was a resident of Denison, Texas.

My family is from Denison. I went to Kindergarten and first grade there, my brother was born there, my mom, both my grandmothers, and many aunts and uncles still live there. It is as much of a homeland as I’ve ever had. But I know they have not had a DeMolay chapter there in a very long time. I joined the Order of DeMolay in Texas (Tyler) in 1992, and the chapter in Denison was a distant memory even then.

I considered myself familiar with the history of Texas DeMolay, but I had never heard of Dad Arthur. So I enlisted the help of everyone I could find to help track down some vital details about Robert T. Arthur on the distant hope that he might have some surviving relatives who could tell us more about him or what happened to his Founder’s Cross.

One individual, in particular, stepped forward to assist me in this search: Jim Sears. To him, I owe many thanks for tracking down these newspaper articles. His research skills are second-to-none. All of the photos below are a product of his research. Thank you, Jim.


The Railroad Man

Robert T. Arthur was born in Missouri in 1867. His family moved to Pilot Point, in Denton County, Texas, when he was young. Pilot Point is the oldest settlement in Denton County. It is still an operating city (unlike nearby Pilot Grove, birthplace of Benny Binion), and is still associated with horse breeding. Arthur graduated from Denton Normal school (now called the University of North Texas). He then worked in Denton as a school teacher before moving to Denison to take a job with the Katy Railroad in 1889. He worked as a conductor on passenger rail lines for over 50 years. In 1893, at the age of 26, he was elected an officer (Senior Conductor) in the Denison Division of the Order of Railway Conductors (the union representing passenger rail workers).


These newspaper articles are sometimes hard to read (and the text should be indexed by search engines) so I will transcribe them throughout.

[Sunday Gazetteer, Denison Texas, December 31, 1893

Division 53, of the Order of Railway Conductors, held an election of officers in their hall Thursday afternoon which resulted as follows: W.S. Oldham, C.C.; W.H. Tobin, A.C.C.; E.B. Kollert, secretary and treasurer; R.T. Arthur, S. C., Burt Cox, J.C.; J.L. Tygard, I.S.;  John Smythe, O.S.; J.H. Dolan, G.F. Miller, Jeff L. Finley, local committee, John L. Tygard, Sam Proud, J.T. Strait, trustees and finance committee.

Messrs. Daffin and Quinlan, of the Central, spent a few hours in Denison Friday.

The social event of the season among the railroad people of Denison was that of Thursday evening at the Woodmen’s hall—an entertainment and banquet given by the ladies’ auxiliary to the Brotherhood of Railway Conductors.]


The ritual for the ORC was very similar to a Masonic ceremony, so it’s not surprising that these men were members of several other fraternal organizations. Here is an example of an ORC membership card around the time Arthur joined the Brotherhood:


[image via]

R.T. Arthur married Ms. Lenora Tipton in Denison on July 22, 1891. The couple had three daughters: Faye, who died in infancy; Maude, who died in 1916 at age 24, and Marie, who later married Roy Miller. Robert and Lenora celebrated 50 years of marriage in Denison in 1941. He was the organizer and first advisor to the Denison Chapter of DeMolay, founded in 1921. Much of this information is gleaned from the 1941 newspaper article below.



[From The Denison Press, July 22, 1941

Mr. and Mrs. R.T. Arthur were celebrating their golden wedding Tuesday at their home, 1023 West Morton, while their daughter, Marie and her husband, Roy Miller, were observing their second anniversary. Due to the health of Mrs. Arthur, there will be no formal gathering. Later in the fall the Arthurs plan a trip to California.

Mrs. Arthur is the former Lenora Tipton, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. J.I. Tipton, who operated a farm east of Denison after moving here from Kansas. Mrs. Arthur was born in Illinois. She was married at the age of 17 to Robert T. Arthur, then a young Katy railroad man, just arrived from a school teacher’s job in Denton county. He is a graduate of what was then Denton Normal. He was born in Missouri, but moved to Pilot Point with his family when he was a small boy.

The couple married in Denison July 22, 1891, at the home of an aunt, now deceased. They had three children, all girls. Faye Arthur died in infancy. Miss Maude Arthur died in Denison in 1915. Miss Marie Arthur became the wife of W. Roy Miller on her parents’ anniversary two years ago.

Mr. and Mrs. Arthur have been active in the Order of Eastern Star and the Presbyterian Church. Mr. Arthur belongs to a number of Masonic bodies including local chapters and the Shrine, Hella Temple, Dallas, and is a 33rd degree Mason, participating in the activities of a group of 33rd members in Dallas. Mr. Arthur organized the Denison chapter of DeMolay and is active in the affairs of the Shrine hospital at Dallas.

Mrs. Arthur’s hobbies are fancy needle work and flower culture. She is a member of the Denison Garden club and specializes in flower arrangement.

Mr. Arthur’s railroad career dates back to the days when Denison was a wild and wooly frontier town. He has served almost half a century with the Katy and continues his passenger run as a conductor.]


Through his travels as a railroad conductor, R.T. Arthur was able to travel across Texas at free or reduced rates, easily attending Scottish Rite, Shrine, and DeMolay meetings in Dallas and beyond.

It’s telling that a man, like Frank S. Land himself, who had no sons of his own, organized a group of young men into a fraternal organization that was a model for others. What tragedy to bury two daughters.

His surviving daughter, Marie, married Roy Miller and taught at Denison High School for many years.


She passed away in 1991, leaving Robert T. Arthur with no living descendants.


Denison DeMolay

The Order of DeMolay for boys was organized Frank S. Land in Kansas City, Missouri. The first meeting was held March 24, 1919. More chapters were quickly founded across the country.

The chapter in Denison, Texas, was organized in January 1921. It was the 200th chapter founded, with Letters Temporary granted on January 28, 1921. Denison was one of the first chapters of DeMolay in Texas. Ameth Chapter, in El Paso, was the first: it was founded in 1920.

The Denison High School Yearbook from 1937 includes this page of the members and a brief history of the chapter.



[Denison, Texas, High School Yearbook, 1937


TOP ROW: Jack Blackburn, Bill Conatser, Guy Cooke, Leland Cornell, Lewis Cox, and Harlston Crites

SECOND ROW: Clifford Ealer, Paul Horn, Keith Hubbard, Royden Lebrecht, James Miller, and Ben Oram

BOTTOM ROW: J.W. Ownby, Ray Shone, Bill Snoddy, Carl Thompson, Harry Whitmore, and Aaron Witz

The Order of DeMolay originated March 24, 1919, with Frank S. Land of Kansas City, who is now Secretary General of the Grand Council.

The Denison Chapter was the two hundredth one organized, receiving its Letters Temporary on January 28, 1921, with R.T. Arthur, Chairman of the first Advisory Council. On April 1, 1921, the first meeting was held when twenty charter members were initiated into the order.

The Order of DeMolay is now an international organization with over 1330 chapters located in every State of the Union and many foreign countries. Membership is open to boys between the ages of 15 and 21 who prove themselves to be worthy of affiliation.

Initiation into the order is a declaration by the member that he believes in the ideals of good sonship, good citizenship and other qualities of superior young manhood.

Its main purpose is to develop leaders for the community by encouraging high-grade, all around mental, physical, social, economic and spiritual development.

The Denison Chapter rates among the finest in the United States which position it has sustained through sincere work of its members and through the splendid leadership and guidance of its advisors.

The chapter has won 17 cups in competitive degree work and has received numerous honors from the Grand Council for outstanding leadership.

Its present membership is composed of about 50 young men under the following officers:

Master Councilor, Jack Blackburn; Senior Councilor, James Hogg; Junior Councilor, Ray Shone; Senior Deacon, Pat Perry; Junior Deacon, James Miller; Stuart Cooper, Chaplain; Aaron Witz, Marshal; James Drake, Senior Steward; Lewis Cox, Junior Steward; Bob Bailey, Standard Bearer; Harleston Crites, Sentinel; James Carpenter, Scribe; Preceptors: Clifford Ealer, Guy Cooke, Keith Hubbard, Leland Cornell, Richard Vanston, J.W. Ownby, and Ben Oram.

It has on its advisory board twelve members of the Denison Commandery, headed by Verne W. Murray, as chairman and H.H. Vanston as Chapter Advisor.]

Here are some of the Denison High School year book (The Yellowjacket) pages for the DeMolay club in the 1920s. Here is 1924:



And here is 1925:DHS_DeMolays_1924YJ_pg67

As far as I can tell, the chapter was active and productive from 1921 until the 1960s. One of the high points in the life of the chapter came in 1937 when Dad Arthur was awarded the Founder’s Cross by Frank S. Land at the Conclave in Waco.


 [Waco News-Tribune, June 18, 1937

DeMolays Receive Highest Honor at Hands of Founder

Frank S. Land of Kansas City Confers Legion Award on Members of Young Men’s Order

3 Wacoans given Special Awards

Alva Bryan, Robert Arthur and Lee Dewey Are Handed Crosses in Recognition of Work

The legion of honor, the highest distinction which a DeMolay can receive, was conferred on five young men of Texas last night by Frank S. Land of Kansas City, founder of the Order of DeMolay. Mr. Land also presented for the first time in the history of the order, his personal founders cross to three men, Alva Bryan, Robert Arthur, and Lee Dewey in recognition of their faithful work with DeMolay in Texas.

Those who received the legion of honor for outstanding leadership in some worthwhile endeavor are as follows: Mandell H. Cline, Mexia; Elwood Henry Brown, Houston; Maxwell Goodman, Fort Worth; Randolph Jackson, Hillsboro, and Robert Lewis, Hillsboro. 

Altar is in White

At an altar of white, surrounded by white candles, the five candidates for the degree knelt and took their vows from Mr. Land. Each preceptor placed a bouquet on the altar. A choir furnished the music. This degree was the first event of a three-day session of the state DeMolay conclave, which continues through Saturday. Today there will be the business sessions until 5:30 p.m. at which time there will be a downtown parade featuring stunts, and each chapter in Texas will be represented. A banquet and three-hour floor show will be presented tonight starting at 7:30 o’clock for all registered DeMolays.

Officers in Ceremony

Officers who conducted the ceremony were as follows: Commander in the east, Frank S. Land; Commander in the west, James Blundell; commander in the south, Pat Taggart; herald, Sidney Dobbins; grand marshal, J. Floyd Smith; grand chaplain, Jack H. Harrison; first preceptor, R.L. Othling; second preceptor, Hugh Keahey; third preceptor, George Denton; fourth preceptor, Billy Smith; fifth preceptor, George Lovell; sixth preceptor, Alva Bryan; and seventh preceptor, Lee Glasgow of Cleburne.

As apart of the ceremony Thursday night, Columbus Avenue Baptist church choir, under direction of Harry Lee Spencer, sang.

Former members of Waco chapter who have received the Legion of Honor degree are Tom Mabray, Hugh Keahey, Guy Blair, Pat Taggart, Jack Grove, Jack Harrison, Melvin Mailander and Theodore Lauck. Registration for Waco DeMolays began Thursday morning at 10 o’clock at the Shrine temple. At 3 o’clock that afternoon official registration for visiting DeMolays began in the lobby of Hotel Raleigh. With the exception of the legion of honor ceremony Thursday night, no admission was granted to any session without the registration badge.

Out-of-town DeMolays arriving on trains and busses were met and welcomed by Mack Byrom, Bob Hyde, pat Patterson, Billy Wigley, James Warner, and Edmund Avriett.]


This event marked the first time that Dad Land had awarded a Founder’s Cross. If they went alphabetically, Robert T. Arthur might have received the very first Founder’s Cross, though Alva Bryan was Executive Officer at the time and might have come first in precedence for Dad Land. It is a remarkable honor that Texas DeMolay Conclave hosted Dad Land personally awarding the Legion of Honor and Founder’s Crosses on this day in 1937.

Thanks again to Jim Sears for providing these images and researching all of this with me.

If you have any information about Robert T. Arthur, Marie Miller, Denison DeMolay, or the Founder’s Cross, please contact me at