April 16, 2014

Businesses in Valley Falls in 1876

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

A trip through the Valley Falls Historical Society files reveals the view from a business standpoint of Grasshopper Falls (legally Valley Falls by legislative action — 1875) through the eyes of the Kansas New Era April 15, 1876, our nation's centennial year.

"It's manufactories — markets — trade and future prospects — a live town and live businessmen — the spring lookout for the centennial year.

"Valley Falls is conceded to be the commercial center of Jefferson County. Her situtation at the crossing of A.T.&S.F. and K.C. railroads gives railroad connections from every point of the compass and by competing lines gives her better freight lines than any other point in the county. The same reasons give better shipping facilities than are possessed by any other point in the county. These facts enable her businessmen to pay more for produce and sell goods cheaper than any other point not similarly situated.

"These advantages have been accepted by our businessmen so that a better market for better prices for produce has been found at Valley Falls during the last six months than any other town in the state. Goods have been held at bedrock prices so that a load of corn will buy more goods at Valley Falls than at any other town in the state.

"The advantages mentioned will continue to be ours for all time, and if the present liberal policy of our businessmen toward the farmer is continued, our continued prosperity is assured! That the world at large may understand more fully our advantages, we will mention briefly our businessmen and tell what they do.

"First in importance, our water powers — Two in number, one is improved by a flouring mill and woolen mill owned by J. M. Piazzek, Oak Hill Mills — built by Legler and Hefty in 1874 — have a capacity of 100 bushels of grain per hour and manufacture of flour that is making these gentlemen a reputation at home and abroad;

"Wagon, carriage, and smith- shops carried on by S.H. Dunn, V.P. Newman and Nolker, and Schumacher. Harness manufacturing represented by shops of J.J. Winterburg and John Ready;

"Family groceries, A. Frazier and Louis Lutt; drugs and medicines, A.A. Coy and S.A. McDaniel; agricultural implements, Strickland & Bliss, Coulter & Moyer, Trowbridge & Wood, and J. Beland; cabinet making and furniture, D.Y. Gallison & S. F. Coulter;

"Millinery, notions, dressmaking, etc., Mrs. McCartney, Mrs. Mounds, Mrs. Meyer, and the Misses Steele; photographic artists, Cobb & Shirk; city barber, Geo. Lewis; jeweler, watchmaker, H. Shellburg; bakery, Mrs. Baldwin;

"Hotels, Cataract House, Octagon, and The Broadway; livery stables, Sprague & Wood and Thos. Coulter; the Michigan Lumber Yard; Banking institutions, Valley Bank and Savings and Hicks, Gephart & Co.

"They are accommodating gentlemen and safe men to do business with.

"From the Editor: In our haste we may have omitted many important items, but our aim being to show Valley Falls from a business point of view and to show the dependent relations existing between our city and the rich country surrounding it. We think that sufficient has been mentioned for the present purpose and that our readers will all realize that we are a necessity to each other and by cooperation on the part of town and country the prospects that look so prosperous with the opening this centennial spring, will continue to brighten."

The Valley Falls Historical Society museum will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 19.

April 10, 2014

Kemper family featured in museum window display

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

The Valley Falls Historical Society Museum window display depicting local banking history and its relation to the Kansas City Kemper banking giants will continue through April.

The window scene, featuring the Kemper family history and photos of Valley Falls bankers, banks, replicas of banking years' checks, etc., was prompted by the death of R. Crosby Kemper Jr. in January 2014.

R. Crosby Kemper Jr., great-grandson of Rufus Crosby, pioneer merchant and banker of Grasshopper-Valley Falls, Kan. The window scene of family portraits and facts serves as a reminder that Mr. Kemper's roots and legacy began in the pre-Civil War time frame.

Quoting the Kansas City Star: "When two brothers with Scot heritage, from Maine, Rufus Crosby and brother William first came to Kansas to buy dry goods they eventually settled in Grasshopper-Valley Falls.

"Mr. R. Crosby Kemper has been described as a towering personality (6 ft. 7 in.), banker, philanthropist, Kansas City civic and arts booster. For 30 years he led United Missouri Bank Financial Corp. succeeding his father. He grew the family bank into a regional power with billions in loans and assets. Since 2004, UMB has been in the hands of his son, the sixth Kemper to lead the bank."

R. Crosby Kemper was 86 at the time of his death.

The Valley Falls Historical Society Museum will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 12.

April 07, 2014

1913: curfew, New Century Block refurbishment, new hitching racks

Continuing the sundry of news items from the "65 Years Ago" column (1978) of The Valley Falls Vindicator compiled by the late Edith Harden. All are 1913 events:

Nov. 17: "At the council meeting Tuesday night Councilman DeLorme called attention to an almost forgotten ordinance — the curfew, which prohibits all minors under the age of 18 from loitering along the streets, alleys, or public grounds of the city between the hours of 8 p.m. and 5 a.m.

"The ordinance provided that the marshal shall arrest all minors found violating the ordinance and take him or her to their parent or guardian.

"The fire bell will ring eight slow taps at eight o'clock as a warning for minors to be on their way home."

Nov. 25: "Eleven jack rabbits were caught by the four grey hounds out Swabville way one day the first of the week. A large crowd witnessed from the top of a straw stack or other high profile points the several fine chases. They went out in buggies, automobiles, or on horseback. Bert McClure handled a score or more of the sightseers on his motor truck.

"It is reported that Amp Delk and Miss Minnie Booth were married in Topeka Wednesday.

"When harnessing a horse the other day, Marion Webster out Rock Creek way was kicked on the head and nose when a hog ran under and frightened his horse. Marion was stooping to buckle the belly band when the hog rushed in and started the horse kicking. The inward stroke stunned him and threw him under the horse's lively feet. Marion was rescued by his father, Ezra. Dr. J.M. Marks gave the necessary treatment and the 'butinsky' hog escaped without a scratch."

Dec. 12: "The work of rebuilding the New Century Block goes on with the store rooms one and two in the hands of plasterer Casper Stein. The contract for rooms three and four were let to Mort Burris. Johnny Dodge is busy crushing rock for the rear cement walls.

"The front will be of new brick and glass. It will be two stories as before. The Delaware Lumber Co. will furnish the material. Elmer Lewis will install a new and up-to-date three chair barber shop in Room 4. Lewis "Dutch" declares it will be the finest in the county when he gets it furnished.

"Everybody noticed the advantage of having the hitch racks on the side streets last Saturday. It was a pleasure to be able to drive up to the curbing and place on main street with wagon or buggy, unload the produce and the women and children right on the walk without getting in the mud.

"After two weeks in the garage on account of the muddy roads, the automobiles are venturing out again."

The Valley Falls Historical Society Museum will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 22.

March 15, 2014

New Century hotel block fire in 1913, and other fall 1913 events

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

A sundry of news items borrowed from the "65 Years Ago" column (1978) of the Valley Falls Vindicator files compiled by the late Edith Harden and found in a Valley Falls Historical Society scrapbook. All are 1913 events:

Sept. 12: Wm. Johannes, Nortonville, and Miss Rose Wunder, North Cedar, were married in Topeka Wednesday and went to Mr. Johannes's home in Nortonville on the evening train.

Sept. 19: Muddy Roads — The first in months muddy enough to keep the autos off the road more than 24 hours. (It was reported earlier Dr. Mann and family en route to the fair, encountered so much mud they were forced to return here without attending the fair).
The latest report of the state gives Valley Falls 1,231 and the only town in Jefferson County with a population of more than 1,000 people.
The second car load of coal was hauled to the school house this week. Ordinarily it takes about 120 tons of coal per year. (High school notes)

Oct. 10: This Friday is the day when the Panama Canal will be cut through from ocean to ocean. Listen for bombs and join in the celebration.
A fine new barber pole of latest design and newest stripes and colors, crowned with a whiteway electric bulb now adorns the front of the Norris Northside Tonsorial Parlors. It's smooth as are the shaves inside.

Oct. 24: New Century Hotel Block Burns — Unprecedented calamity — The worst ever suffered by Valley Falls. A mysterious fire at 3 a.m. Sunday wiped out $40,000 worth of property, including the principal business block of the city. It came at that bewitching hour when most people are deep in slumberland enjoying in full the Sunday morning sleep.
The alert fire workers were soon at work fighting against great odds as the fire had a big start before the full force of firemen could turn three streams of water on the fast-devouring flames. By half past three, nearly half the population was on the streets helping fight the fierce fire or watching it eat through the various rooms of the once pretentious hotel and business section. In destruction of that favorite doorway through which many thousand guests have passed, the name of the builder of the block, M.P. Hillyer or Hillyer House, cut in the capstone over the door, was lost in the debris.
From Hillyer, the block was owned by an Eastern company for years. Last year it was purchased by E.F. Wettig for $14,500, at a bargain.
Elmer Lewis will reopen his barber shop in Steffens Room next door to Norris' North Side (barber) Shop. It will be handy for the artists to exchange visits when business is quiet.
Burning out did not keep Nick Gahm, the baker, long out of business. Next day he bought the home bakery of J.J. VanDell and took immediate possession. He is in the same room he started here in business five or six years ago. Mr. VanDell returned to Oskaloosa. J.H. McNutt, grocer displaced by the fire, bought the Gerit Grocery and will be ready for business next Tuesday.

The Valley Falls Historical Society Museum will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 15.

March 04, 2014

Pioneer mill operator Joseph M. Piazzek (1834-1921)

by Betty Jane Wilson, society president 

Nationally, February is the month for honoring the birth dates of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, the first and 16th United States presidents respectively, and not to be ignored, traditional Valentine's Day for flowers, candy, love cards, and gifts.

Locally, a pioneer, a long time citizen, one of the most prominent personalities in this part of Kansas, industrious, frugal, and a maker of history, were a few of the descriptions afforded Joseph Miller Piazzek, long time builder and operator of mills in Grasshopper Falls, Kan., and later Valley Falls. He deserves local honor and remembrance.

Born in the Novia Vauk-Kuz No (New Hammer) in the province of Protskow, Poland, Feb. 28, 1834, and died in Valley Falls, Jan. 20, 1921,  he said himself he was born in a room separated from a flour mill by only a brick partition. He spent more than 60 years of his life in and about the various developments of mill ownership and power.

He came to America in 1854 and soon to Grasshopper Falls with less than 25 cents in his pocket. He found work helping to build a sawmill. In order to get wages, he had to take a one-fourth interest in the sawmill from his boss, Isaac Cody, father of Buffalo Bill.

Volumes could be written about Mr. Piazzek, his influence, his mills. He was responsible for developing use of water power. His mills were a complex, flour mills, stone mills, woolen mill, even a cotton gin. The cotton gin is now owned by the Kansas State Historical Society. Mr. Piazzek once sold one of his mills and used funds from the sales to pay the depositers of a bank that had failed while he was a leading head of that bank.

Mr. Piazzek was first married to Miss Melinda Minier, Feb. 14, 1862, and to this union two children, Minnie May and DeForest, were born. Minnie May died in 1885. Mrs. Piazzek died in 1872.

Piazzek married Miss Emma Kiebenstein in 1887. Three children born to this union were Edmund Paul, who died in early boyhood, Joseph M. Jr., and Edna Pauline. Mr. Piazzek visited his mill until a week before his death.

At age 82, he wrote, "I started here when I was 21 years old, worked like a tiger, made barrels of money, and now at 82 years, I have an idle woolen mill, an out-of-date oil mill, an idle flour mill, and still I see lots of money to be made if only I were able."

He died Jan. 20, 1921. The burial was in the family vault in Rose Hill Cemetery.

Happy Birthday, Joseph Piazzek, 180 years old!

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

February 19, 2014

Museum windows reflect on Presidents Day

by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

The Historical Society Museum window scenes celebrate Presidents Day with mega portraits of each president, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, surrounded by military service flags. Our first and 16th president—each a wartime leader in his own lifetime—had hosts of stories and letters written to and about them as well as their own tales of personal experiences, many of which have been preserved reverently and historically, including heroics, personality traits, family, letters (critical and complimentary), etc. Copies from each with some comments from the authors include:

Mr. Washington was a popular subject for the artists. For example, the "Washington Crossing the Delaware" painting.

A personal trait: ice cream, a favorite dessert. He even had an ice house built near his Mount Vernon home so his wife, Martha, could serve ice cream to friends and family. The Washingtons also used the ice house to preserve meat and butter, chill wine and make ice cream. The ice house was located on a river bank about 75 yards from the Potomac. To store ice cream, Washington's slaves had to use chisels and axes to pull large chunks of ice from the frozen river during the winter time and haul them to the ice house for use throughout spring and summer.

During the nation's celebration of its 200th birthday, 1976, Mr. Washington was honored with a song whose opening words were "First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen."

One of Mr. Lincoln's many letters was a request for a Good Friday observance: "State of New Hampshire, Claremont, March 16, 1865 - To His Excellency, Abraham Lincoln - 'Honored Sir, I beg leave to express to you, the Chief Magistrate of our country, my earnest require and desire that if not inconsistent with your own views or with a decision already made, you will appoint Good Friday, the fourteenth day of April next, to be observed as a day of fasting and prayer throughout the United States. I have reason to believe that day would be agreeable to Christian people of all denominations. Having made this brief suggestion I beg to assure you of the high consideration with which I remain your Excellency's most obedient and trustful servant. Cariton Chase, Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire."

The president did not declare Good Friday of 1865 a national day of fasting and prayer. Instead, Lincoln went to the theater that night where he was assassinated.

The society museum will be open at 10 a.m. Sat., Feb. 22.

February 13, 2014

Christmas 1885 - Treats for children, but a bloody lip for Mr. Crosby

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

A sundry of events reported by the Dec. 31, 1885, Valley Falls New Era, bear proof the year ended on a limited note of cheer, a questionable New Year's resolution, and a violent argument between prominent city officials.

Details are "Simons is said to be running his saloon on a bigger and bolder scale than ever. He sells beer and whiskey and deals them out by their right names. His argument is that he expects to be convicted and fined and he wants — perhaps resolved? — to make enough money to see him through the squabble.

"A.G. Patrick had a handsome and well-filled Christmas tree at his residence Christmas Eve. He invited in all the poor children in the neighborhood and each one of them got one or more presents from the tree, and Patrick very delightfully entertained the little fellows with the story of Santa Claus, assuming the role himself.

"Assault on Mr. Crosby — Bad blood over a whiskey war came to a head on Christmas Day when R.H. Crosby was smitten in the mouth by the city marshal, Jasper Boles, knocking loose one of Mr. Crosby's front teeth and cutting his lip so that the blood flowed quite freely.

"The circumstances are briefly these: Mr. Boles, during the past summer and fall has been residing in the Lutt house of which Mr. Crosby is agent. At the time of the defeat of Mr. Boles for sheriff, he was considerably behind on his rent and when solicited by Crosby to pay up, said, 'I am D.....D hard up, but will pay soon if I have to sell my watch!' So, matters stood until Mr. Crosby gave him a legal written notice to vacate the premises. To this Mr. Boles paid no attention and continued to 'hold the fort' without coming forward with the rent.

"This was the status of the case when, on Christmas Day, as Mr. Crosby was passing Coy's Drugstore, he noticed Mr. Boles going in. Mr. Crosby followed him and calling him back from the crowd, asked him if he had moved out of the house. To this Mr. Boles responded that his mother was sick. Mr. Crosby accepted this as reasonable excuse for not vacating, but censured him severely for dead beating the Lutt Estate out of the rent. Mr. Boles got very angry and said to Crosby, 'If you give me any more of your lip, I will hit you.'

"To this challenge, Mr. Crosby merely responded, 'Jap, do you consider this doing the honorable thing?' Mr. Boles at once bringing his hand around and smiting Mr. Crosby full in the mouth, Boles instantly drawing back and making a motion to grasp his revolver from his hip pocket.

"Mr. Crosby offered no resistance. Since there was no officer present, Mr. Crosby proceeded to the office of Police Judge Simpson and had Mr. Boles arrested and bound over for the sum of $50 and for trial set the next day.

"At 9 a.m., the trial was short and sweet. Mr. L.A. Myers, Boles' attorney, making a short plea for court leniency and Mr. Crosby's attorney, G.W. McCammon, never opening his mouth. Mr. Boles was fined $15 and costs, which he seemed very well satisfied to pay."

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