July 23, 2015

German picnic excursion to Grasshopper Falls, 1874

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

A German picnic excursion to Grasshopper Falls July 5, 1874, reported by the Kansas New Era.

"Last Sunday was rather a peculiar day for the people of the vicinity, or rather, the people witnessed something out of the usual routine of Sunday gatherings.

"As is well known, our German fellow citizens, as a rule, believe in enjoying themselves, and to accomplish the end, they form themselves into societies, create a fund to meet necessary outlays and during the summer months have frequent excursions to pleasant groves more or less remote from their homes and businesses.

"Such an excursion from Leavenworth visited the pleasant grove situated about a mile north of this city and on the ground belonging to Phillip Minger on July 5th.

"The excursion was the theme on every tongue from its announcement. Not one less than 100 of our citizens assembled at the depot Sunday morning to greet the coming of the excursionists.

"A train of six cars came in shortly after 11 a.m., freighted with near 400 of as intelligent and bright faces as one sees in a lifetime. The train halted long enough to allow our citizens to hang themselves on to already crowded cars best they could.

"Upon arrival at the grove, they were welcomed by at least 100 already assembled there from surrounding Grasshopper Falls. The grove was well seated and a large stand had been erected for the use of the bands, which they immediately occupied and opened the enjoyment of the day with music rarely heard in rural districts.

"It would have been a very extraordinary thing among the Germans to have a picnic without the adjunct of lager beer, but it seemed, from the time the first keg was tapped, there sprung up a rivalry between the Germans and those manor born as to who should invest the most beer, yet truth compels us to say that with four or five exceptions, no one made swill-tubs of themselves.

"After dinner a large part of the assemblage headed by the band repaired to Mr. Minger's residence to pay their respects to Mr. and Mrs. Minger for their hospitality to the society."

From the Leavenworth Commercial:
"The excursion to Grasshopper Falls on Sunday of seven carloads of our best citizens, under the auspices of the Maener Gesand Verein, was a pleasant affair. The train was under charge of Sam Black and everything was orderly and enjoyable. We are glad to learn that this progressive and liberal society made some money out of the trip."

The Valley Falls museum will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 25.

July 20, 2015

May 1875 news highlights, including changing the city name to Valley Falls

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

Highlights of the local news reported by the May 1875 Valley Falls New Era, included spelling matches, grasshopper invasions, name changes and AT & SF Railroad activity.

May 1 "The spelling match epidemic struck Valley Falls last Friday evening. Dr. Wilson is good at pronouncing and the way he leaps from monosyllables of two letters to French phrases is startling to the best spellers in America.

"The Hon. R.H. Crosby went down on the first round at the spelling bee last Friday. He never sang 'Hazel Dell' or he would not have tripped on so small a thing as 'Hazel.'

"There will be a spelling school at the Baptist Church next Friday evening. A Webster's New Counting House and Family Dictionary will be given to the best speller and a Higuly Illustrated Primer to the poorest. A.V. Jewett will pronounce the words. He has already selected 'monysontetoirtriggelypherlyphizeigokraut' and a few other light words for the spellers. Admission for the events is 25 cents for couples and 10 cents for children."

May 8, "Brix went to the spelling match last night. About an hour after he'd gone home and to bed, his wife poked him in the ribs and said, 'Brix, wake up! There's a burglar in the house!' Brix sat upright in bed burglar — b-u-r-g-l-a-r, burglar,' he spelled, rolled over and went back to sleep.

"The sidewalk around Block 21 to the depot is finished and now one can walk to the depot and cars dry-shod.

"Hillyer's Hall has been furnished with seats for an audience of 125 and is just such a room as our city has long needed. Posts have been provided for the room below that makes the floor secure and our citizens can now have gatherings without placing the authorities of the city churches in the embarrassing position of refusing to open the church for an entertainment because of those who think churches should be used for religious instruction only."

May 15, "Today the act of changing the name of our city to Valley Falls takes place and hereafter, all legal papers in which this place in an important point, must date from Valley Falls; township instruments from Delaware Township.

"The dome of the eight-gabled Octagon Hotel is the first object which greets the eye of the traveler approaching Valley Falls. The building is situated on the eastern brow of the hill descending gently to the depot. The site was chosen, the edifice designed, built, and is still owned and now kept by Dr. L. Northrup, an old 'fifty-fiver' of the town.

"R.H. Crosby of Valley Falls recently sold 100 head of cattle in Chicago for $8,225, which is pretty good for a grasshopper year and a winter of destitution."

May 22, "778, 451, 97, 651, 863, 132, 901 grasshoppers are what ailed our lettuce bed and early garden.

"Fifteen trains came in to Valley Falls Thursday and as many went out. The A.T. and S.F. is a driving business and they are in better order than any road in the west.

"There was a special passenger train that stopped for two days at the Depot. Two days since it carried on it persons representing $3,000,000. "The governor of Missouri has appointed a day of fasting and prayer in view of the grasshopper ravages. If there is a state in the union that needs the prayers of the righteous, that state is Missouri."

July 15, 2015

Hickory Point battle historical marker

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

"Hickory Point marker unveiling June 22" reported the June 20, 1941, edition of The Winchester Star, the weekly news publication of our neighbor city.

"To commemorate the only military engagement in Jefferson County of the Kansas slave-or-free state struggle, a suitable marker has been erected by the state Highway Commission near the site of the Battle of Hickory Point fought in September 1856.

"This marker will be unveiled, with ceremonies, next Sunday afternoon, June 22, at three o'clock. Hon. John A Dawson, chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court, will make the inspirational address of the occasion.

"Mr. John Sherwood, who has resided many years on the actual site of the battle, will unveil the marker and repeat reminiscences he has heard of the affair.

"The Rev. Clyde King, Winchester minister, will pronounce the invocation.

"A trio of Valley Falls young ladies — the Misses Rita Goodwin, Mary Jane Blake, and Pauline Shermer — will sing patriotic numbers. The Oskaloosa uniformed school band will open the program with a concert.

"Kansas State Highway Patrol will have charge of traffic and parking.

"Location of the marker is four miles west of Winchester and a third of a mile north of Dunavant corner on US-59.

"Credit belongs to Gov. Payne Ratners' administration for initiating and executing the enterprise of marking this and half a hundred other historic sites in Kansas. The Highway Commission was given authority to negotiate for sites and funds to build the markers; the state Historical Society has cooperated by verifying historical data.

"The committee for the Hickory Point ceremonies is composed of Jas. A. Swoyer, chairman, and John W. Roberts, Oskaloosa, Richard A. Swallow and Bert Booth, Valley Falls, and John Sherwood, Hickory Point.

The Valley Falls museum will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 18.

June 30, 2015

1909 events, professional listing and Masonic Lodge 50th anniversary

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

Daily news, special events, history, professionals, and incidentals reported by the 1909 Valley Falls Farmers Vindicator:

Jan. 22, "There will be an oyster supper at Gragg's Chapel Tuesday evening, Jan. 26. Everybody invited. Ethel Ferrell.
"Miss Anna Falls has accepted a position as chief operator with the Nortonville Telephone Co. at a good salary."

Feb. 5, "I have opened a photo studio in the first building south of Kendall State Bank and would appreciate a share of your patronage. G. A. Fowble.
"Marks & Marks, G.W. Marks, D.D.S. and J.M. Marks, M.D. Office upstairs in Legler Bldg.

" 'To My Patrons. After 20 years in Valley Falls, I have found it to our mutual advantage to keep abreast of the times and have established a small but complete hospital in connection to my office . . . for surgical and emergency cases. This does not mean that I will neglect my general practice but make it more effective. I shall continue to look after my country calls. I have no partners and shall conduct my business in the future as I have in the past, myself. The hospital will be ready for patients about March 1909 and will be open to all reputable doctors and their patients when there is room.' M.F. Marks

"Dr. Al D. Lowry, physician and surgeon. G.H. Bobson, physician and surgeon, office in the Dr. Marks corner property.

"Dr. B.H. Braden, dentist, office over Corner Drug Store.

"Dr. L.R. Walker, veterinary, surgeon, horse dentistry a specialty. Office at Gardiner's livery barn.

"W.H. Hilderbrand, barber shop next to Marsh & Falls Cigar Factory.

"T. K. Aitken, D.D.S., Aitken Bldg., upstairs."

Feb. 12, "W.F. Swearingen, the optician of Topeka, has decided to make regular weekly visits to Valley Falls commencing Saturday, Feb. 20, and make his headquarters at Hauck's Department Store."

May 21, "For a picnic or fishing trip, take a case of pop along. The Valley Falls Bottling Works will furnish it fresh."

June 11, "F.M. Clarke, a veterinary surgeon, has concluded to locate here and will be found at Clarke's Cafe."

July 30, "Three cars are off the tracks and about 50 sheep are dead as a result of a wreck on the Union Pacific just east of Oak Hill Mill Wednesday morning. About 100 sheep got away and were rounded up by Chas. McAfee. No lives were lost."

Oct. 8, "Alice Gardiner, the photographer of Valley Falls, again won honors in the Photographers' Association of Kansas City Sept. 28, 29, and 30, being awarded another first prize for the best night photos of children."

Oct. 22, "Mason's Celebrate 50th Anniversary. Fifty years ago on the 18th of this month the Most Grand Lodge of the Territory of Kansas issued a charter to Valley Falls Lodge No. 21, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and those responding to invitations sent to representatives from sister lodges in this county and at Denison assembled at the opera house Monday evening to commemorate that event . . . Dr. J.T.B. Gephart was introduced and told some of the early history of the lodge, including the story of a public installation held in '66 when a brass band was brought from Lawrence by stage and a $125 supper was served. The installation was held in the old Congregational Church and, while services were in progress, a 'norther' came up and, from a warm drizzly afternoon, the mercury dropped until, it is said, that those at the church went home on frozen ground and ice.

"A dance was held in the evening at the Octagon Hotel, but as no provision had been made for such wintry weather, only 39 tickets were sold at a price of $4 each."

The Valley Falls Historical Society Museum will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 20.

June 11, 2015

April/May/Memorial weekend museum visitors

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

April and May visitors to the Valley Falls Historical Society Museum, including the Memorial Day holiday weekend, were:

Craig Woods, Tucson, Ariz.; Scott Ferrell, Castro Valley, Calif.; Phil Haas, Arvada, Colo.; Kris Olwell, Shasburg, Colo.; Carol and John Steffen, Low Point, Ill.; Joanne Ferrell Lewellen, Excelsior, Minn.; Joe and Margaret Frakes, Mt. Dora of the Lake, Fla.; Sullivans (party of five), Weston, Mo.; Larita Castro McLian, Lincoln, Neb.; Dennis Ferrell, Stillwater, Okla.; Gary Ferrell, Tulsa, Okla.; Brad and Tennia Brown, Austin, Texas; Gracie Pratt Clement, Galveston-Houston, Texas; Sue Welborn, Chandler, Texas;

Jerry Walters, Bonner Springs; Carol Irwin Ostaeth, Burlingame; Fred Freeland, Eudora; Elizabeth Ferrell Banks, Kansas City; Krisi Meid, Lansing; Bradia Kelley Johnson and Pat Yehle, Lawrence; Erin and Rylen Frecks, Lawrence; Erin Sack, Leavenworth; Ken and Melinda Heuertz, Manhattan; Nancy Noble and friend, Mayetta; Joshua and Samuel Broxterman, Meriden; Jim and Debbie Ferrell and grand-daughters, and Allison Ferrel Banks, all Mission Hills;

Jeremy Melvin, Onaga; Woods (party of five), Osage City; Dick and Kathy Sheldon, Ottawa; Gwen Towle (Marlene Reichart), Overland Park; Mathias Moore, Michelle Moore, Mackenzie Greene, Angalina Hall, A.J. Hall, and Abby Herferbeim, all of Ozawkie; Becky Duncan, Linda Blackburn, Barbara Blocher, Bob and Nancy Rollins, Shirley Allen, Larry and Pat McClenny Nix, and Lois Beames, all of Topeka;

Bryanna Willhoite, Rose Miller, Keith Jackson, Grace Conser, Ann Conser, Lauren Conser, Wesley Conser, Lyndia Uhner, Rick and Tamie Ferrell, Kay Gibbens, Megan Ryan, Roxie Barton, Pat Herring, Karen Botkin, Mary Herring, and Linda Baum, all Valley Falls.

The society's museum will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 13.

May 27, 2015

First Memorial Day in Valley Falls, 1884

by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

"One of the most auspicious events in the history of Valley Falls" reported R.E. Vanmeter, editor of the Valley Falls New Era June 5, 1884. The annual reminder of his story of that first Memorial Day, then known as Decoration Day, in Valley Falls follows:

"Last Friday a most beautiful day in Valley Falls, and one calculates to inspire the loftiest patriotism in the breasts of those who participated in the solemn but eminently fitting and beautiful ceremony of honoring the soldier and dead in a manner which has come to be an almost universal custom.

"Especially interesting was this event here because it is the first time in the history of the town that Decoration Day has been observed, which is accounted for by the fact that but two heroes of the last war are buried here.

"Early in the morning people began to gather into town from all parts of the surrounding country and by 1 o'clock, the hour set for meeting of the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) headquarters, the town was alive with people, and as many as could crowd in, gathered into the G.A.R. hall, where special services took place, among which was the presentation of a handsome United States flag, presented to the post by the ladies of the city, many of whom are mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters of members of the Stafford Post.

"The presentation on behalf of the ladies was made by the writer and A.A. Griffin, the post commander, responded in a very stirring patriotic speech. Those congregated in the hall formed a procession and marched down to Broadway where the following order of the parade was arranged:

"City officers; Sunday schools; Capt. Lewis Stafford, Post No. 225, G.A.R.; Crescent Lodge No. 86; International Order of Odd Fellows; ACME Lodge No. 42; IOUW; Valley Lodge No. 67; KOFR; other societies, citizens on foot, carriages, and other conveyances.

"The following was the line of march to the cemetery: From corner of Broadway and Sycamore west to Elm Street; thence south to Mary; west to Frazier Avenue; south to cemetery where there on foot in the procession were drawn up in line on either side of a large beautiful floral cross, at the top of which and facing west, was a large card bearing the following inscription:

"In memory of Capt. Lewis Stafford, Lt. T.F. Jolly, Joseph Catt, Henry G. Griffin, Wm. Grigsby, Jonathan Myers, Calvin Turner, Joseph Hilty, Ernest Benedix.

"All of which had honor to enlist from this neighborhood, but only two of which now rest in the city of the dead here. Following prayer, ceremonies, tributes, floral grave decorations by posts and sabbath schools, ceremonies were concluded and crowd dispersed, terminating one of the most auspicious events in the history of Valley Falls."

The society's museum will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 30.

May 19, 2015

Historical fern "siblings" on display; Memorial Day schedule

by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

The story is not new nor is the lofty fern now celebrating its 100th year. The longtime Valley Falls Santa Fe Depot celebrity resides at the Valley Falls Historical Society Museum, 310 Broadway Street, enjoying desirable temperatures, sunshine, regular food, and water.

Briefly, the history. When a Santa Fe employee was a teenager working in a grocery store in Valley Falls, he bought the fern for his mother at a dime store in Kansas City in 1914 or 1915.

His mother gave the fern to a Red Cross benefit sale during World War I in 1918. Mrs. Bert Scott, wife of Santa Fe drayman, bought the large potted fern and took it to her home. When the fern outgrew its space in her home, she gave it to J.P. Haggard, Valley Falls Santa Fe agent, who put it in the new Santa Fe Depot, placed it on a stand about five feet high, where it grew into a beautiful specimen whose long fronds almost touched the floor.

The fern was often classified as a "landmark" of Valley Falls. When people passed through the town by train and met others who had been passengers, the question was always asked "Is the fern still there?" Johnny Carson once mentioned the awesome plant on his TV show.

In 1969, a new depot was to be put in service. There was no room in the new building for the giant fern. After resting on the same stand for 50 years, the stand gave way and the huge plant fell to the floor. Just before a move to a new location, historian Arthur Strawn, Mrs. Geever Allen, and the Kendall State Bank housed the plant until eventually the huge fern found a home in the Valley Falls Historical Society Museum.

In the spring of 2007, the plant was taken to a local nursery where it was divided into approximately 20 starts and potted for nurturing and sold to those wanting a piece of the "landmark."

A limited number of "siblings" of assorted sizes from the celebrated centurion will be on display at the historical society's museum, effective, Saturday, May 23, and throughout the Memorial Day holiday weekend. (Advertisement in the Valley Falls Vindicator).

The Valley Falls Historical Society Museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 23; Sunday, May 24, immediately following the reunion dinner; and Monday, May 25, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.