Frank E. Bellamy 1876-1915

by Wayne Hallowell, Director of the Leatherock Hotel Bed & Breakfast

Frank Bellamy was born on September 16, 1876 in Madison, Indiana, to Judge John F. Bellamy and Jennie Bellamy, one of Cherryvale's prominent and highly respected early families. John served many years as Cherryvale's city attorney. Frank had one sister Lura, and two brothers, Albert and Edward E. While a student in Cherryvale Central High School, Frank authored a 500-word patriotic essay which included the words of the Pledge of Allegiance and instructions on saluting the American Flag. His teacher entered the "Salute to the Flag" in a contest sponsored by the popular scholastic publication The Youth's Companion. His essay won first place in this national school contest. Besides receiving a letter from the magazine stating "all writings submitted in contest shall remain the property of Youth Companion, he also received a small cash prize and a medallion for the National School Celebration on Columbus Day 1892. This contest was conceived by President Benjamin Harrison to honor the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America by Columbus and instill the love of our country and flag into the hearts and minds of the nation's youth. The 23-word pledge was first published in The Youth Companion on October 21, 1892 signed "Anonymous." No credit was given to Frank Bellamy. It was first officially used in a National celebration coinciding with the opening of the World's 1892 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and was recited on that day by many American school children across the Nation.

While living in Cherryvale, young Frank became a talented artist as well as a skilled student and musician.  One if his teachers remembered seeing Bellamy and her brother drawing elaborate Civil War soldiers on the school chalkboards with the words of his pledge under it. During this time, he enhanced his lovely tenor voice as well as becoming an accomplished horn player. He engaged at various times with quartettes and musical comedies and toured the eastern and center western states.

Private Frank Bellamy, in May of 1898 at 21, was one of the first in Montgomery County to enlist his services to serve in Company "G", 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry in the Spanish-American War. The "Fighting Twentieth" regiment, as it was called, was shipped to the Philippines where Pvt. Frank fought for his country. His commanding officer was the indomitable soldier of fortune named Colonel Frederick Funston. Frank served as a musician and hospital corpsman. Typically, as soon as gunfire broke out, the musicians would grab rifles and became infantry soldiers. At the close of the war in 1899, he was mustered out of service in very poor health and returned to Cherryvale for a short time. Because of bone tuberculosis contracted in the war, doctors urged Frank to move to the mountains in Colorado where his father, sister and one brother then lived. In those days, the government did not take good care of our veterans and relied heavily on the families to care for the wounded and disabled. In Colorado he took up art and was employed as an artist in Arkansas, Michigan, and California until he eventually lost his right arm to bone tuberculosis before his death on March 30, 1915 in Denver, Colorado. His pale and frail body was returned to Cherryvale where it was buried in an unmarked grave in his family's plot at Fairview Cemetery. In the mid-1930s, the Kansas Guardsman's grave was properly identified when the Auxiliary of the Spanish-American War Veterans erected an original Spanish-American War Veterans headstone on his burial site.

Years after his death, two men with ties to The Youth Companion, had been suggested  as possible authors of the Pledge. One, Francis Bellamy of Rome, New York, served as editor in 1892 and the other man, James B. Upham of Boston, Massachusetts, was the publisher at that time. Although Upham never claimed authorship of the Pledge, his family pushed very hard to have him named as the author after his death. During the decades of argument over authorship, Frank Bellamy's story was not well represented and rarely presented. He became lost in the fight until 1995, when Cherryvale resident and Bellamy historian, LaVerna Huneycutt, decided to set the records straight.

Our Pledge of Allegiance was born, but like anything new, it took many years to "reach maturity" and underwent several changes along the way. As first published, the Pledge contained the words "my flag" and did not contain the "the flag of the United States." On June 14, 1923, at the First National Flag Conference held in Washington, D.C., under the leadership of the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Pledge's words, "my Flag," were changed to "the Flag of the United States" on the ground that some foreign-born children and adults, when giving the Pledge, might have in mind the flag of their native land. The following year the wording was changed again to read, to "the Flag of the United States of America." The Pledge of Allegiance continued to be recited daily by children in schools across America, and gained heightened popularity among adults during the patriotic fervor created by World War I. It still was an "unofficial" pledge until June 22, 1942 when the United States Congress included the Pledge to the Flag in the United States Flag Code (Title 36). This was the first Official sanction given to the words that had been recited each day by children for almost fifty years. The last change in the Pledge of Allegiance occurred on Flag Day, June 14, 1954 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved adding the words "under God". The President authorized this change stating, "In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource in peace and war." The 23-words that had been initially penned by Frank E. Bellamy now comprised a thirty-one profession of loyalty and devotion to not only a flag, but to a way of life....the American ideal.

Cherryvale Postmaster and war veteran Oscar Utter printed the following in the Cherryvale Republican newspaper on January 24, 1926. "We, the United Spanish-American War Veterans and its auxiliary, are justly proud that it was one of our comrades who was inspired as a schoolboy to write the Pledge to the flag of our country, and we desire to have every school child, all patriotic organizations, in fact, every United States citizen know the history of this Pledge. We believe it should be added to the history of the United States and taught in the school--what could inspire a school child more than to know that a grade school boy did write these wonderful words?"  2000-2005 Wayne Hallowell

Favorite Web Links:

Frank E. Bellamy and his Pledge

Mini biography, photographs, and samples of his art.
I Pledge Allegiance by Red Skeleton
Word by work interpretation of this famous text by comedian Red Skelton on his television program.

Available in the Cherryvale Library:

Miller, Margarette S. Twenty-Three Words. Print Crafters  (USA), 1976.

Additional Research: The local library has extensive research files, newspaper stories, and photos about the controversy over the authorship of the Pledge of Allegiance.

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1999-2008 Leatherock Hotel Bed & Breakfast.  Web Site created, compiled and maintained by
Wayne Hallowell, Director of the Leatherock Hotel Bed & Breakfast

The above information is part of the heritage of Cherryvale, Kansas and the legacy of the historic
Leatherock Hotel Bed & Breakfast
A Railroad Hotel BED & BREAKFAST / Suites and Museum
420 North Depot Street         Cherryvale, KS 67335
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