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Olathe, Kansas: Ensor Farm

Ensor Farm with Marshall and Loretta Ensor from a 1926 photograph
,Image courtesy of Larry Woodworth, Ensor Farmsite & Museum Director- --this image was originally published in the January 24, 1926 edition of The Kansas City Journal Post

The Ensor Farm, in Johnson County, Kansas, is known for its historic association with Loretta Ensor (1904-1991) and her brother, Marshall Hamilton Ensor (1899-1970), two of the most prominent radio amateurs who established one of the most complete amateur radio transmitting stations in America on their property during the early history of radio. The Kansas City Journal Post, on January 24, 1926, under the headline Kansas Has Lone Woman Radio Amateur in West, stated "Kansas boasts the only woman Amateur radio operator in the Middle West. Her name is Miss Loretta Ensor in the Olathe city directory, but to virtually every amateur within hearing distance---and these days that means clear around on the other side of the world---she is 9UA." The survival of Ensor Farm and its radio history was ultimately in Loretta's hands, who established the Ensor Farmsite & Museum so that others might see how things used to be on a working farm.

Both Marshall and Loretta Ensor were licensed radio operatives and operated a radio station from the farmhouse for 56 years (1917-1973). In 1913 Marshall Ensor built his first wireless or crystal radio set and followed that with a set using a spark transmitter in 1917. He received his Radio Operative License in 1917 and was assigned the identification or call letters 9BSP. In 1923 Loretta received her radio operator license and received 9UA as her call sign.

[Photo] Ensor Farm
Photo courtesy of Larry Woodworth, Ensor Farmsite & Museum Director
The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) of West Hartford, Connecticut, asked for volunteers to teach Code lessons to aspiring radio operatives and Marshall Ensor was one of the first to respond to this request and in 1929 started "lessons" in Code over station 9BSP to anyone who signed up for the 60 lesson course. Both Marshall and Loretta gave lessons for 10 years--it was estimated that more than 10,000 persons were trained in Continental Code during the period over Stations 9BSP and W9BSP. Loretta became known during the 1920s as the first woman radio amateur whose voice crossed the Pacific Ocean. In 1940 Marshall Ensor received the William S. Paley Award for his efforts in support of national defense. Each year, William S. Paley, the president of CBS radio, would honor one ham radio operator. At the onset of World War II in 1941 Ensor applied for a commission in he United States Navy and was accepted, obtaining the rank of Lt.Commander. He was stationed at the Naval Air Station,Seattle, Washington, where he was assigned to radio operations.

Loretta Ensor, 1923
Image courtesy of Larry Woodworth, Ensor Farmsite & Museum Director

The radio station the Ensors founded remained inoperation after Ensor retired from teaching in 1964. After Marshall died in 1970, Loretta operated the radio station. The Young Ladies Radio league (YLRL) presented her with a 50-year member award in 1974. The Ensor Farm includes the original pioneer cabin built around 1875, the north peg barn (which now houses the Ensor Museum), the 1896/1900 cow barn, second one-room cabin brought to the property, meathouse, chicken coop and brooder house, machine shed, concrete silo and two 80 foot radio towers.

For more information on Ensor Farmsite and Museum and the Marshall Ensor Memorial Organization amateur radio club, please click here. The club is dedicated to serve the interests of the museum.

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