May 26, 2016

Memorial Day weekend hours at the museum

The Valley Falls Historical Society Museum will be open Saturday, May 28, at 10 a.m. but will be closed May 29 and 30.

May window displays at the museum

The Valley Falls Historical Society's seasonal window display for May features paintings by local artists.

Susan Phillips' painting of the Kansas Central Freight Rail Train on the old train bridge (circa approx. 1895) provides the backdrop for Neola Scarlett Risinger's "Old School" and the "Last Passenger and Rail Depot (Santa Fe)," and Sandra Sullivan's floral beauties. The painting of the small house bore the following information handwritten and taped to the back of the framed artwork when presented to museum personnel: "painted by hometown boy Ralph Frakes, 1962, of Diehl's Meat Market on North Walnut, two blocks north of the post office on Broadway," followed by the additional "The small brick house was the home of the Green family and later occupied by Mary Bottom and family. Acquired by Everett Mitchell in 1942 for his market and processing until turning it over to Leland Diehl, nephew, in 1954. Diehl added the cement block addition to accommodate cold storage locker. Property was acquired by Corps of Engineers at beginning of construction of Perry Lake, purchasing all property within 350 feet from Delaware River."

The museum's veterans window display honors all past and present veterans with Decoration-Memorial Day with the window lined with tiny red poppies reminiscent of the infamous "In Flanders Field the Poppies Blow" poem, followed by a row of miniature green wreaths centered with small white crosses. Rows of military company caps, fatigue and dress, complete the display with a bright blue curtained backdrop featuring a simple, colorful plaque.

April 12, 2016

Ulysses -- the only Kansas town to "leave town"

Reprinted from Kanhistique with permission from the publisher.
by Abigail St. John
Garden City

When I lived in the state of Oregon I was fascinated with the idea that you could personally buy a town, be sole owner and manage the town like any other business purchase. Likewise, moving a whole town because it couldn't pay its debt drew me to research the following story.

At the start of the year 1885 the old town of Ulysses was nothing but a desolate prairie inhabited only by wild horses, jack rabbits, rattle snakes, antelopes and two families, the Sullivans and the Joyces. In the spring a well was dug and water was found at 40 feet. Since water was hard to find in southwest Kansas this was an excellent commodity to draw homesteaders. The only thing wrong, they put down the well in town and it was found to be "the only bad water" in the county. It had a high alkaline content — making it undrinkable.

Garden City Daily Sentinel, which was one of the most influential newspapers in western Kansas, said that Ulysses was "one of the best towns in southwest Kansas, and a town where capitol can be safely invested." The Ulysses Tribune wrote "an investment now made in Ulysses cannot help but pay a big profit. Easterners flocked into Ulysses to file claims until by the fall of 1885 the town grew to 1,500.

George Washington Earp, first cousin of the famous Wyatt Earp of Dodge City, was Ulysses' founding father and built the first house, which also became the first hotel.

September 1885 Grant County boasted of a population of 4,000 and nearly every quarter section had a homestead on it. Before the year was over, there were four hotels, 12 restaurants, 12 saloons, a bank, six gambling houses, a large schoolhouse, a church, a newspaper office, an "opera house" (that never put on an opera), that was used as a community center and served as the courthouse.

Ulysses wasn't the only town in Grant County — there were nine others. Appomattox, a town which lay northwest of Ulysses about four miles had the natural advantage of a better location than Ulysses, being located on the open plains where there was purer water. They became embroiled as rivals for the county seat — each wanting to be known as the "metropolis of the Southwest" and knew it took votes. The problem was how to get the votes. Ulysses let it be known that every man who voted "right" would be paid a ten dollar bill. Appomattox couldn't come up with funds to pay their voters.

Ulysses on the other hand very openly hired "professional voters" — men who followed county seat elections all over the west. They were brought into Ulysses and housed, all expenses paid for the 30 days required for residency and on election day brought to the polling place.

Professional "shooters" were also brought in mainly from Dodge City, which included Bat Masterson, to insure no blood shed and "security of the ballot box." Needless to say there was no trouble on election day, Oct. 18, 1888.

The funds for this shamelessly, flagrant act of buying votes came from warrants and bonds that were to go for city improvements. Almost all of $36,000 was used to secure the county seat. These warrants and bonds were sold to businessmen and insurance companies in the east. The majority of the citizens did not know to what purpose these warrants and bonds were being issued. The Council that passed the warrants did not question the ethics of the transaction, they felt the ends justified the means; namely, securing the county seat. After all Ulysses was growing leaps and bounds — the paying off of the bonds would not be a problem.

Appomattox did holler foul and charged Ulysses with fraud. Depending on the account you read, some say the State Supreme Court ruled (three years later) in Appomattox's favor while others said another election was ordered and Ulysses won, but it didn't matter. The town Appomattox after losing to the fraudulent vote, folded.

No one could foresee the hard times and financial panic that 1893 would bring. The summer drought of 1889 brought failing corps, depreciated price of cattle, and failed banks. At the same time, the Oklahoma Strip was opening, promising greener pastures. The population dropped from 1,200 to 40. One day alone 40 wagons left Ulysses for the Oklahoma Strip.

During the 1890s and into the early 1900s Ulysses lay in ruin, no taxes being paid because all the taxpayers had moved, which meant no payment was being paid on the bonds and warrants.

Not too much thought was given about the bonds until 1908 when the bonds became due. No one is sure how much the bonds were worth but the Grant County newspaper in 1909 states the bonds were worth $84,000. The city had begun to grow again, a population of about 100 but still impossible to pay off the bonds. All the leaders and citizens connected with the bonds were gone, either dead or left the area. The fact remained the bonds needed to be paid and the people wanted to do the honorable thing.

Some of the bondholders brought suit against the city. An attorney from Dodge City was hired by the citizens of Ulysses to try and locate the old bonds in an effort to compromise them since they could not meet the obligation. They couldn't find most of the bonds and offered 25 cents on the dollar to the ones they could find. The bondholders turned down the offer wanting full payment. The citizens realized the city council would be required to levy a tax to pay for the bonds and bank interest, a tax that would bring heavy increases of 600 percent in realty taxes and 362 percent increase on personal property taxes, which would be impossible for the citizenry to pay.

Mr. R.R. Wilson, a prominent and respected leader, was the first to suggest they move the town and let the bondholders have the land on which the town stood and which wasn't worth much.

In a letter to Mrs. Ethel Miller, Mr. Wilson writes, "When we decided to move the town, I made a trip to Kingman County, Kansas, and bought the quarter of land we moved the town to. I deeded the land to the New Ulysses town company and we surveyed the quarter into a town-site and started to move the town. The history says we put the houses on rollers and moved the town in two days. This is wrong. We commenced to move the town about the first of February, 1909, and were about three months moving the town. We had no rollers. We used skids and loaded the houses on wagons and used horses for power. There were no tractors or trucks then. It took several days to move since some of the buildings had to be cut and moved a section at a time. The history says the bondholders got an order from the court to give them the houses in the town. This is wrong as there were no court orders issued and we were not molested in any way. Also, the history says when visitors came to town they were held prisoner until the houses and stores were moved. What a falsehood this is, as we never thought of such a thing. Everybody was peaceable and attended to his/her business." (Slight changes in quote made to clarify the meaning and intent.)

The townspeople were accused of "secretly" moving the town, since they didn't want the bondholders in the East to know, but they didn't have to work too hard at being secretive as they were so isolated. The Stage Coach line was the only means of communication with the outside world. Consequently, the town could be moved without the easterners knowledge.

There were only eight or 10 buildings, including houses, to move. The first building on the new townsite of "New" Ulysses was a barn that belonged to H.F. McCall. Since it took several days to move the building, neither the general store nor the bank suspended business while the move was taking place. The hotel, shaped like a horseshoe, had to be sawed into three sections to move. The general store was another large building that required a block and tackle or windlass arrangement to move it uphill to the townsite. The family who owned the store had rooms in the back of the store and continued to live in it during the move.

The post office, courthouse, and schoolhouse were the only buildings left on the old townsite until June 1909. During that month a new county seat election took place and by a vote of 247 to 34, New Ulysses was elected as county seat. After the election, the courthouse was moved after having to be cut in two sections. The schoolhouse was the only thing built with the original bond money for $13,000.

New Ulysses was incorporated only after the city was assured that the moving of the town was legal and that the duped bondholders could not collect a cent. Later laws were passed in the Kansas legislature preventing a like occurrence again. By the passing of that law, it bestowed upon Ulysses the honor of having been the only town in Kansas to "leave town."

The "New" was dropped in 1921 and to this day is called Ulysses and is still in Grant County —both named after the President of the United States.

March 30, 2016

What's in style in 1875; and the proclamation changing Grasshopper Falls to Valley Falls

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

Spotlighting the Kansas New Era in March 1875 contrasting the six-year growth in the restless 1880's.

New Era, March 20, 1875 —
"Brix? says that ladies who wear bustles should fasten the thing down and not meander the streets with a large bundle bobbing and wiggling from side to side behind. It looks ridiculous and besides with so many beads, bugles, and flumaguggies on it, it is apt to make a person walking in the rear crosseyed."

March 27, 1875 —
"The latest style for young men — small cane, light mustache, and part the hair in the middle. It is now in vogue in Valley Falls."

April 3, 1875 —
"When a young and handsome girl crops her front hair and pulls it down over her forehead, resembling a Mexican Mustang, then ties a piece of red velvet around her neck, who can wonder at a young man, looking pale in the face, throwing away his ambition and passing sleepless nights, is parting his hair in the middle and trying to raise down (hair) on his upper lip."

The New Era, April 10, 1875 —
"CHANGE OF NAME. AN ACT to change the name of Grasshopper Falls River, Grasshopper Falls Township, and Grasshopper City, in Jefferson County, Kansas. Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Kansas: Section 1. That the river running through Jefferson County, known as Grasshopper River, be changed to that of Delaware River; and that the township known as Grasshopper, in Jefferson County, be changed to Delaware Township; and that the city known as Grasshopper Falls City be changed to that of Valley Falls. Sec. 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its publication in the Statute Book. Approved February 27, 1875. I, Thos. H. Cavanaugh, secretary of state of the state of Kansas, do hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and correct copy of the original enrolled bill on file in my office. In testimony whereof I have hereunto subscribed my name and affix the great seal of state. Done at Topeka, this 24th day of March, A. D. 1875. THOS. H. CAVANAUGH, Secretary of State."

March 09, 2016

A. L. "Abe" Forsythe, soldier and grocer

by Betty Jane Wilson, President Valley Falls Historical Society

The 1881 Valley Falls New Era publication of June 4 and 11 reported that A.L. Forsythe (Abe), who was living in Valley Falls at that time, had purchased interest in a grocery store, painted it inside and out, planning to "run the whole 'shebang' himself," remaining in the same location while his neighbors were busy exchanging businesses and residences.

The same news source also reported notice of one of the citizens of Valley Falls in the New York "Scotsman" (A.L. Forsythe) and his eventful life. Brief episodes follow:

"Mr. Forsythe was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in 1814, but not withstanding the fact, we (the Scotsman) claim him as a full-blooded Scotchman, his father being a native of Edinburgh and a soldier, his son comes honestly by his fighting and other praiseworthy qualities.

"Prior to his arrival in Valley Falls as a very young man he enlisted in Edinburgh in the 85th Regiment of Infantry and soon sailed with the Corps to Canada. At his request, he transferred to the 93rd Highlanders in Canada where he served more than three years during minor insurgents. He purchased his discharge from the Regiment, departed for the U.S., remaining until the commencement of the Mexican War, where he served under General Scott's Army from Texas to the Halls of Montezuma for two years and eight months, after which he pursued more peaceful occupations until 1861 at the commencement of the Great Rebellion.

"Living in Neenah, Wisc., at the time, and nearing 50 years of age, he enlisted in Co. K, 11th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers and served with it throughout the war as a non-commissioned officer principal in Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee, twice wounded at Port Gibson and the Battle of Jackson. He was at the siege of Vicksburg and while on that stronghold in 1863, on March 7 he was presented a unique pipe by Gen. U.S. Grant, which Forsythe smoked with pride. It was a small china pipe on which two union flags were painted with appropriate patriotic mottos.

"Forsythe served with General Grant during the Mexican War and throughout the Civil War," the Scotsman concluded.

"We have only to add that Mr. Forsythe lives in peace and contentment at Valley Falls and in these piping times enjoys himself — and draws regularly a pension for services and wounds in the last Great War."

The Valley Falls Historical Society will open at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 12.

March 03, 2016

1881: Seems like everyone's moving - part 4

by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

(Part IV)

The prevailing changes continue:
Nov. 5 — "The thanks of the members of the Methodist Church and congregation are due Mrs. H.A. Coy and Mrs. Eli Evans for the donation of a nice set of curtains to replace the old and shabby ones that have so long disfigured the interior walls of the church. Also, to Mrs. Ed Farrar, Mrs. Moyer, and Mrs. Mark Hefty for cleaning the church.

Nov. 19 — "The agency of Wells Fargo & Co.'s Express and the Pacific Express, formerly at the Depot, has been removed to Pancost's Feed Store, one door east of Kendall's store. Signed. A. Sealed, Ac. W. Pancost, deliveryman."

Nov. 26 — "Mr. Patrick just received notice that the Valley Falls Post Office has been raised to an office of the third class, and his salary fixed at $1,100 besides box rents. The increase to date from Jan. 1st.
"Mr. John Quackenbush has bought out Mr. Roger's interest in the meat market and the new firm will be known as Watkins and Quackenbush."

Dec. 3 — "C.F. Bliss & Co. have sold their lumber yard and leased the ground and buildings to J.E. Glass of Henry Barker & Co. of Atchison.
"I. Friend, operator of a general store in Valley Falls for seven years, will close out his stock by Jan. 1."

Dec. 10 — "New Store, New Goods, and Lowest Prices. J.H. Murray Dry Goods.
"J.E. Glass & Co. Fairly Installed at Old Bliss Lumber Yard.
"New Feed Mill. M.G. Hayward put a new feed mill into Piazzek's Elevator and is prepared to furnish all kinds of grain and corn meal at lowest prices.
"C.F. Bliss & Co. purchased from Wm. Crosby a lot on Broadway 45x100 ft., including the building used by the Grange Store and Fuller's Harness Shop. Consideration $1,350.

"TIME FOR A CHANGE? We have been informed (New Era) that the outhouses at the school are in a very filthy condition. We believe a janitor is paid for looking after such matters, and if so, we suggest that he be required to attend to his business. If no one is employed, someone should be engaged at once."

Dec. 17 — "J.C. Fuller has sold his harness shop to D.F. Bliss & Co.
"Albert Beland has resigned as agent of the Adams Express and Charles Osgood has taken the office to Legler's Store.
"George Kuran has resigned at the Post Office."

Dec. 24 — "The Kuran family has moved to Monrovia and we understand Geo. has gone to work in Topeka."

Dec. 31 — "The Union Pacific Railroad has secured control of the Kansas Central and assumes management on the first of next month."

The 'Tin Roof Caper' of 1881 tempted a peek at the first month of 1882 to determine if similar actions will be slated for another 12 months.— Betty Jane Wilson

Jan. 7 — "Mrs. Fisher moved back into her house on Walnut Street.
"Mr. C.R. McDowell took charge of the Grange Store last Monday.
"J.E. Glass & Co. have put up a new shed for lumber in their yard. Bliss & Co. are fixing up the Ready Building and will use it for storage of implements.
"The old Lewis Barbershop building has been moved to the lot next to Mr. Baldwin's house and will be used for a residence.
"Watkins and Quackenbush have repainted and fixed up their meat market.
"The building formerly occupied by Mrs. Bounds Millinery Shop has been painted and repaired by Mr. C.B. Cawthron for his jewelry store.
"The Wagner billiard tables have been moved over to Mel Legler's Store and the room and tables leased to W. L. White, who is running a first-class billiard saloon."

Jan. 14 — "L.D. Woodbury has moved his carpenter shop into the old Volker Building, formerly occupied by the New Era office."

Jan. 21 — "Mr. McGinnis has reopened his tailoring establishment in his old building opposite the New Era office.
"Mr. I. Friend sold a half-interest in his stores to his son, Ed Friend.
"Etc., Etc., Etc."

The Valley Falls Historical Society Museum will be open at 10 a.m. March 5.

March 02, 2016

1881: Ticket #557 won the house; and, seems like everyone's moving - part 3

by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

(Part III)

July 9 — (cont.) "Turner Hall Turners will now hold their meetings in Mr. Hilty's new building on Broadway where they have fine accommodations.
"Albert Beland has taken the agency of Adams Express Co. The office is now at Best and Beland's Drug Store."

July 23 — "W. Hunt, physican and surgeon's office, is over Hicks and Gephart Bank.
"Mell Legler has received brick for the front of his new store.
"Mrs. Strickland was forced to take back her stock of goods sold to Mrs. Webb. That lady has gone to Lawrence. Snyder has moved his restaurant into the building vacated by Mrs. Strickland.
"D. Sanford moved his furniture store into the McGinnis Building, east side of Sycamore Street.
"Fuller, the Buck Eye harness man suddenly stopped business last Thursday. He sold his business to Bliss & Co.

"NOTICE! Valley Falls, Kan., Aug. 1, 1881, ticket No. 557 won the brick house and lot at the drawing today, as advertised before."

Aug. 13 — "Mrs. E.B. Strickland started last Thursday for Salt Lake City, where she will hereafter reside."

Aug. 27 — "The brick work on Legler and Lewis' building is finished and it is expected Mel and George will move in some time next month."

Sept. 3 — "Charley Bliss has bought the Loveland property on Sycamore Street of Dr Gillman.
"Maj. Conser has rented the Wagner billard tables and moved them into the building north of the Valley Bank.
"The room in Hillyer's new block, next to Doolittle & Co.'s Hardware Store has been rented for a new dry goods store.
"Mayor Hicks is putting up a fine dwelling house near the corner of Elm and Mary streets for tenement purposes.
"Mel Legler this week sold his grocery business to Messrs. Adams and Thompson, Adams & Thompson, Groceries and Provisions, Post Office Building."

Oct. 8 — "A.G. Patrick has bought out Adams & Thompson and will continue the business at the old stand. The Post Office will remain where it is for some time to come. Patrick will take possession of the grocery business in about two weeks.
"Mr. Murray will open his dry goods at Ready's old stand."

Oct. 15 — "Mel Legler and Geo. Lewis have put down a fine sidewalk in front of their new building.
"Mrs. E. B. Strickland and family arrived here from Salt Lake City last Friday and will live in the John Ratz house."

Oct. 22 — "W.J. Wetherholt and John Cowan will clerk for Patrick in the Post Office Grocery. (Note, Patrick is going back in the grocery business). Patrick has about completed his new dwelling and is moving into it this week.
"L.D. Woodbury has sold his fine residence on Broadway to Mr. McCully for $1,000."

Nov. 5 — "Mel Legler has just opened a brand new stock of groceries and etc. at his new building. (Note, his advertisement is headed 'Here We Come Again!') "