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.

May 05, 2015

1879 headlines and Old Settlers poem

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

A variety of items gleaned from the Jefferson County Historical Society newsletter, Editor John Bower, taken from Kansas Historical Society news sources:

OVER THE STATE columns in the Emporia news, Feb. 7 and 14, 1879, included,
"Oskaloosa Has Marvin College." "The Union Depot at Atchison will cost $100,000."
"Kansas had 19 completed railroads, 2,302 miles of rail and they are worth $15,525,033."
"John Bull, a farmer of Washington County had 450 bushels of corn stolen from his corn crib."
"A vein of coal has been struck ten miles north of Topeka. Four men are taking out 200 bushels a day."
"Four miners in Scranton, Osage County, got into a row in which one Dobson got his skull fractured and will probably die. His assailants were fined $2."
"Louis Jackson of Leavenworth was sent to jail for 200 days for carrying concealed weapons."
"Died within a few days, the Troy Bulletin and Fredonia Tribune."
"A woman in male attire has been operating in cattle business in Kingman County."

A poetic tribute to early days from the proceedings of an Old Settlers Reunion recorded in the Manhattan Nationalist, Feb. 28, 1879. One of the speakers, a Mrs. Jacquith, presented a poem "composed in haste for the occasion."
"When Settlers Old Were New"
With loving hearts though faulty rhyme,
We meet to boast the good ole time,
We do not laud the present time.
The good old times — to speak their praise,
When settlers old were new,
Roll backward time, thy years a score,
As we recount these memories o'er.
E're 'times were hard' 'ere' greenbacks came,
When railroad bonds we did not blame,
Repudiation but a name — our Capitol was a traveling one
It changed with every season's sun.
A townsite on each farm did lie,
Each held his town lots very high,
and had fortune 'in his eye.'
When settlers old were new,
We shot the buffalo on the trail,
We killed the chicken and the quail,
Of games laws with their fines severe,
To bleed our purse we had no fear.
We dined on 'possum, coon and deer.
When Kansas state was new.
We rode behind the amblin' ox,
We rattled safely o'er the rocks,
We worshipped God in cabins small, between the chinks in mud daubed walls.
We watched the stars and saw them fall,
When Kansas state was new."

The Valley Falls Historical Society Museum will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 9.

April 28, 2015

How Oskaloosa became the county seat

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

"Raiders Seized the County Records" headlined the Nov. 28, 1963, Valley Falls Vindicator reporting a story from the Ozawkie Coyote News dated Feb. 1, 1940.

"At one time, Ozawkie was the Jefferson County seat, but lost that right as the result of an election in 1858. Early in 1858, the Legislature passed a bill allowing Jefferson County to vote for a relocation of the county seat. The election was held a short time afterward and though there is no public record of the results, A.G. Patrick has preserved the figures. There were five places voted for and the election results as follows: Oskaloosa, 177 votes, Grasshopper Falls, 173 votes, Ozawkie, 94 votes, Hickory Point, 50 votes, and Fairchild, 50 votes.

"Early in 1859 the Legislature passed a law requiring that the point selected as the county seat should have a majority of votes over all others and should a choice not then be made, another election should be held 30 days after, between the two places receiving the largest number of votes at the first election. The election of 1858 resulted in no majority so another election was held soon after between Grasshopper Falls and Oskaloosa. Oskaloosa received the majority of all votes cast, therefore was named the county seat.

"However, legal rights at that time often had to be carried out by force of arms. Walter N. Allen, first county attorney from Ozawkie, and Rube Meyers, working under the instructions of Allen, were responsible for the stealing of the records from the little log cabin, which stood on the public square two blocks west of the schoolhouse and was being used temporarily as the courthouse. One night Rube Meyers came to Ozawkie loaded with books and records in his government wagon drawn by four yoke of oxen and drove back to Oskaloosa. Since that time, Oskaloosa has been the county seat."

The Valley Falls Historical Society Museum will open at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 2.

April 21, 2015

Miraculously, only one dead horse

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

From the Valley Falls Historical Society's scrapbook of news clippings, minus the news source and date. Accompanying items suggest the Valley Falls New Era, 1904. Four runaways in one week rate the awesome column.

"Thursday morning, Mitchell's delivery team got scared by a loose horse and started to run from in front of the shop at the same time T.R. Paxton and daughter, Mary, were driving up the street in a buggy. The Mitchell team ran into the buggy,  notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Paxton tried to get out of their way and almost succeeded; the team catching only the hind wheel of the buggy, but this threw both oocupants of the buggy out. The Mitchell team ran on up the street, but the Paxton horse was turned around and as soon as it broke loose from Tom, who still held the lines, ran in front of the Mitchell's, fell down but got up and with the broken buggy still dragging, raced down the sidewalk to Dr. Northrup's corner and struck the park railing, breaking a leg and turning almost a complete somersault. The leg being broken beyond recovery, the horse was killed.

"In the chase down the sidewalk, the buggy knocked a  couple of posts out from the awning in front of the Schuler Furniture Store and completely demolished a fine specially ordered dresser that had just been unloaded. Mr. Paxton had two ribs fractured besides being badly bruised. His daughter had one finger badly sprained though how either of them escaped death in the mixup is a little short of miraculous to those who saw the accident."

"While driving to church Sunday morning, the pony they were driving got frightened just this side of the Piazzek Bridge, became unmanagable, overturned the buggy, and threw Mrs. Geo. Summerfelt and daughter, Ruth, to the ground with terrific force. The horse broke loose from the buggy with the shafts and ran on up town. At Sam Allen's residence he had his horse and buggy hitched in front getting ready to go driving when the runaway came along and ran between the horse and hitching post, stripping the bridle from Allen's horse and so frightening it that instead of one runaway there were two. The Allen horse with buggy attached ran up town till the buggy came in collision with a telephone pole, but  the horse went on without doing a great deal of damage to the buggy.

"Mrs. Summerfelt and daughter were taken to the home of Frank Kibby, where after examination by Dr. Marks, it was found that Ruth had both arms broken and was badly lacerated about the face and Mrs. Summerfelt, though badly bruised, had sustained no serious injury. Awesome!"

The Valley Falls Historical Society will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 25. 

April 14, 2015

The fate of Wolf Town

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, president, Valley Falls Historical Society

"A pioneer trading post located in a proposed dam area, doomed to a watery grave."

The Valley Falls Vindicator Nov. 28, 1963, reported the approaching fate of an early 1800s community of our neighbor Ozawkie, resulting from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers soon to be constructed Perry Dam and Reservoir. A once small community, Wolf Town, was built on land owned by L.L. Wolf, hence known by "old timers" as "Wolf Town," and consisted of an old trading post store and provider of other necessities of those days, about a half a dozen homes, a school, and a cemetery.

The school building was no longer standing at the time the 1963 news item was written; however, the cemetery was still in existence with some gravestones dated 1868. The two sites were known as Olive Branch School and Olive Branch Cemetery.

Wolf Town was a wagon and stage stop on the Overland Trail from Topeka to Atchison and points between. The property at that time was owned by Mr. Aram Lindsay, Topeka, Kan., but to be "bought by the government and destroyed due to the new Perry Dam and Reservoir to be under construction within the next year. It was estimated that Wolf Town would be covered by 40 feet of water.

The same 1963 Valley Falls Vindicator issue reported, "The Olive Branch Cemetery, located west of Wolf Town in Jefferson County is the only cemetery in Jefferson County which will be relocated by the purchase of the Army Corps of Engineers in construction of Perry Reservoir."

The Valley Falls Historical Society Museum will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 18.

Letter from Florida, 1916

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

"I am very disappointed in this land. It's just a piece of white sand and little under construction,"  penned D. S. Cory in a letter from Florida Dec. 23, 1916. 

Cory, writing from Stuart, Fla., continued:
"It is very warm here for this time of year. Had three cool spells since we came. The coolest was about 39 above. There is not one acre out of 100,000 that is improved. It lays level, grows palmetto brush, sour mash, and scattering pines — mostly small like a telephone pole.

"Eames took us out to see his land. We were alike in our opinion of it. He asks $90 per acre for it where better land can be bought close in and on the river for $20. This land has got to be drained, limed, and fertilized before it will raise anything. They have but few stock here for they have nothing to keep it on. The native grass in worthless. This town has four cows and they haven't been here long. Very few chickens are seen. Everything to feed stock has to be shipped here from some place north. There are some fair farming spots in the central and western parts. This is rather new country on the eastern spot.

"The railroad was built 16 years ago. It runs from Jacksonville to Key West. There is not a grade in the 500 miles of road. It is the only direct road to Cuba. They run whole trains on a large boat that will hold 80 cars and ferry them over to Cuba. I see whole train loads of people pass here going to Cuba. They have from 30 to 40 cars each. There is more business on this road in one day than there is in Valley Falls in six.

"This town is building fast by rich men from the north. They make this town their winter home. In the spring they go back north. They are the ones who built this East Coast Country. 

"Fishing is the only industry here. I see new faces every day. They (fish) are caught by thousand pounds every day and shipped north. I went down to the fish house when they came in with 8,000 pounds. They go out in the ocean and catch mackeral. There are some large fish in the river, having been caught weighing 400 pounds. I saw two men this morning have three in their boat that weighed 200 pounds. 

"I have been fishing with some men from northern Ohio. The river is close to town, lined with palm trees, motor boats going and coming. This town is a beautiful place."

Source: Newspaper (name unknown) from Valley Falls High School scrapbook.