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100 year anniversary of the first plane landing in Union County

Posted on August 31, 2018

Contributed Pilot: Donald Muse, a Junction City native, stands next to a plane in his flight gear. Muse was the pilot of the first plane to land in Union County, landing on August 31, 1918

According to archive reports from various news sources, the first plane landing in Union County took place 100 years ago today.

Donald P. Muse, a Junction City native, flew from Fort Worth, Texas to Junction City on August 31, 1918. Muse’s nephew, Tom Muse, said he heard the story numerous times when he was a child in Junction City.

“The story I heard as a youth was that Donald telegraphed my dad, Preston, who was about 14 at the time, to lay out a landing field in Junction City for the landing on August 31,” Tom Muse said in an email. “Having never seen an airplane before, and probably thinking it sat down like a bird, the runway was too short.”

Muse flew a Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” plane to a field in Junction City, where there was a sawdust pile at the end of the “short” runway. Muse tried to run up on the sawdust pile, but nosed over and broke the propeller.

“However, like a spare tire, he and his mechanic had a spare (propeller) in the fuselage and took it out, put it on,” Tom Muse said. “And the next day flew to El Dorado, where thousands of people were waiting.”

Tom Muse said he has the broken propeller on display at his home in Dallas.

According to a article in the Daily Arkansas Gazette dated November 13, 1918, residents of Junction City presented Muse with a “beautiful silver loving cup in appreciation of his achievements in the Aviation Service, and especially in memory of his landing here August 31.”

Quoted in the article, Muse said via telegraph, “Received the beautiful cup today. I accept with sincerest thanks and appreciation. I will hold achievement for which my friends honor me as memorable even in my life, and am glad that I was able to do something to be so honored.”

At the time of the landing in Junction City, Muse was an aviation instructor at Barron Field in Fort Worth, Texas.

An article cut out from an unknown newspaper stated that when Muse landed in Junction City, “one of the largest crowds that have ever gathered here was present to welcome him when he landed in the baseball park. It was the first plane to visit here and the fact that It was driven by a home boy added interest.”

There was a reception for Muse and his assumed mechanic Sgt. Wagner that evening. According to the article, Muse and Wagner made a flight to El Dorado in 10 minutes the next morning.

“It is estimated that approximately 6,000 persons had gathered there to greet him,” the article states. “The El Dorado Home Guards protected his plane while he took dinner with his wife and parents.”

At 1 p.m. that day, he left El Dorado on the return flight to Barron Field.

In addition to landing the first plane in Union County, Muse had a long list of achievements while in the Air Force.

An article titled “Found In Old Newspapers” stated that in May 1927 in the (El Dorado) Evening Times, there were multiple articles following the progress, arrival, reception and return in detail about Charles Lindbergh’s flight to Paris.

The article says on May 24, 1927, there was a postscript story on Lindbergh that “had to do with a former Union County Resident.”

According to another article titled “Arkadelphia Flier Gives News of Lindbergh’s Success,” Muse was the pilot of the army plane that flew over Washington D.C. immediately upon the news of the arrival of Lindbergh in Paris.

“An army plane soared over the city trailing a long black and white streamer, the pre-arranged signal that the astounding record-breaking flight was a success,” the article states. “High above the city the army plane, piloted by Capt. Donald Muse, circled and cavorted crazily in a maze of aerial stunts while crowds below danced and shouted themselves hoarse with joy.”

A tribute article honoring Muse’s life after he died in 1946 at 54-yearsold, states that the airman died at the Army-Navy hospital in Hot Springs.

The article also lists his accomplishments, including that the flight landing in Union County was also one of the firsts in Arkansas.

Before his retirement, he was recommended to be air officer of the First Army, which assignment he assumed at Governor’s Island. Following his retirement, Muse made his home in New York City.

When visiting his mother in Junction City, the Colonel fell sick and was transferred to the Hot Springs hospital, where he died on January 7, 1946.

Muse is buried at the Roselawn Cemetery in Junction City.