I am Coming Back to Kansas

© Nellie Blanche Smirl Sept. 7th, 1918 E 432374

When I have time to dream about you,
Pleasant mem’ries I’ll recall,
For I’ve lived in many places,
But you’re dearest of them all.
I can see the rolling prairies
And can breathe the fragrant air,
And Kansas-land shall be my home
When I get thro’ over there.

Chorus:
I am coming back to Kansas,
Tho’ I am so far away,
There is no place so grand,
It’s the fairy land, Of the whole world, I say.
But when duty calls I’ll follow,
Follow all the way;
Glad to fight for Uncle Sam with all my might,
But I’ll come back some day.

The same old moon I see a-shining,
And he makes me think of you,
For he heard that lass in Kansas
As she promised to be true.
So while birds are sweetly singing
And the sunflow’rs fringe the way,
And wedding bells have rung for us,
I’ll be there to always stay.

Chorus:
I am coming back to Kansas,
Tho’ I am so far away,
There is no place so grand,
It’s the fairy land, Of the whole world, I say.
But when duty calls I’ll follow,
Follow all the way;
Glad to fight for Uncle Sam with all my might,
But I’ll come back some day.

You can listen to a MIDI version at this website.

I am Coming Back to Kansas was composed and published by Nellie Blanche Smirl  (1889 – 1986), a native of Labette County who also was Mrs. Clarence G. Smirl, a 28 year- old homemaker with a six year- old daughter named Mildred, who lived in the small central Kansas city of Ellsworth in the county of the same name.

In the 1860’s and early ‘70’s Ellsworth was the western terminus of the Kansas Pacific Railroad and thus the destination for many Texas cattle drives. Wild Bill Hickok ran for sheriff there in 1868 (he lost) and Wyatt Earp served as a deputy sheriff in 1872. In 1874 the cattle drives moved to Dodge City following the extension of the Santa Fe Railroad, which would eventually go all the way to California.

Clarence, who grew up in Holt County Missouri, was the station agent and telegrapher at Ellsworth for the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad (known as the ‘Frisco’), at an important point on the Frisco line because it was where it met the Union Pacific line going west (the former Kansas Pacific line), which connection enabled the Frisco to actually get someone to San Francisco.

In 1919, the Smirls had another child, a son named Richard, who died in 1928. Clarence passed away in 1960 and Nellie Blanche outlived her daughter as well, who died in 1977.

The Frisco moved the Smirl family around a bit: in 1910 they were living in Mound Valley, Labette County, in 1920 at Ellsworth and, in 1930 and 1940 at McCune in Crawford County. At the time of her daughter’s death Nellie Blanche was living at Neodesha in Wilson County and when she died she was living at Independence in Montgomery County. Both Clarence and Nellie Blanche are buried at Mound Valley, her hometown.

There is no record of any other music published by Nellie Blanche during her long life. Although all census records available describe her as a housewife, in 1940 she stated that she had income of $200 per year, which was not small change in an era when the minimum wage was thirty cents an hour. Her obituary in The Wichita Eagle described her as a ‘retired teacher’. She has an entry in the Social Security Death Index, so at some point in time after 1935 she registered, presumably because she got a job. Another detail from her obituary is that she parented a niece and a nephew, the children of a sister.

 

James (“Jim”) Patton BS BA MPA is a retired state official from Shawnee, Kansas and a frequent contributor to several WW1 e-publications, including "Roads to the Great War," "St. Mihiel Tripwire," "Over the Top" and "Medicine in the First World War." He has spent many hours walking the WW1 battlefields, and is also an authority on British regiments and a collector of their badges. An Army Engineer during the Vietnam War, he does work for the US World War 1 Centennial Commission and has memberships in the WW1 Historical Association, the Western Front Association, the Indian Military Historical Society and the Salonika Campaign Society.