December 16, 2014

Happy Birthday Valley Falls!

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

It was a historical event and like so many traditional reminders written or recited, our town's stake-driving claim deserves its own spot in the annals of history.

The following article, compiled by former historian, the late Arthur Strawn, was printed in the Valley Falls Vindicator Dec. 26, 1963.

Christmas Day, 1854 —
On the morning of Saturday, December 23, 1854, four men — James Frazier, Robert Riddle, Andrew J. Whitney, and Hoze Jolly — set out on foot from their camp on the west side of the Grasshopper River (Delaware). After traveling north about three miles, they crossed the present site of Valley Falls, at the corner of Sycamore and Sarah streets. A short distance farther up, they crossed the Grasshopper River and wandered up to about the mouth of Coal Creek before they started their return trip.

A short distance above the present town site, at the mouth of Cedar Creek, they found an Indian village and tried to make them understand that the object of their search was a waterfall for a mill site, but did not get any intelligible directions. Continuing their return trip, they reached the point where they had crossed the river. Here James Frazier wandered down a trail along the river hoping to find a ford. While still in the hazel brush, he heard water running over the rocks, and yelled, "ten foot falls!" (really only about three feet high), at the top of his voice. The others came running and in a minute more, Grasshopper Falls (Valley Falls) was discovered.

They returned to the high prairie and moved their camp up to this point on the 24th, and drove stakes for their claim on Monday, December 25th, Christmas Day, then commenced the erection of a cabin. Thus Christmas Day, which has so many meanings for everyone, has a very special meaning for the people of Valley Falls.

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

December 09, 2014

Open House at museum Saturday the 13th

by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

Snowmen, complete with carrot noses and little beady eyes, hoard the corners of a Christmas scene dominated by a tall, green tree decorated with graduated sizes and shades of royal purple ornaments topped with a bright, red bow.

The Valley Falls Historical Society's seasonal museum window reflects the winter holiday with steadily twinkling, tiny lights.

An oversized "Happy Birthday Grasshopper Falls" greeting card lauds the city's birthdate, December 25, 1854.

The veterans' window rimmed with greenery and red garlands surrounding U.S. and military service flags and caps honors veterans past, present, and future.

A simple sign with bold, black letters "December 7, 1941," serves as a grim reminder of a national tragedy. A peace sign will replace the reminder.

The society museum will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, and observe Christmas on Main Street with an open house.

November 26, 2014

Some local news items from 1917-1919

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

A series of "Out of the Past" items gleaned from the yellowed pages of a Valley Falls historical scrap book reveal incidents of daily life, important events, and work-a-day requirements of businesses prominent in the first quarter of the 20th century in Valley Falls.

From the pages of the Valley Falls Vindicator, Oct. 2, 1917:
"The tiling for the roof of the new Santa Fe Depot has arrived and is being put in place as fast as the weather permits.

"Sheriff O'Brien is getting more up-to-date each day. He now has a typewriter in his office — an honest to goodness writing machine, which is being manipulated by Undersheriff Rice.

"The fire bell tower, in its new coat of red paint, was hoisted on its new location in the rear of the new fire station Saturday afternoon by Henry Farra and crew, assisted by a large crew of spectators. The second day after it was put in place at the new fire station, the fire bell called the department to the home of Walter Fleisher when a quick run was made from the new and handy fire station.

"The 'fire' call to 'central' was handled by Miss Kate Williams, for a new operator, and Walter Moxley, who was in his office, was called upon to ring the bell. G.B. Allen followed on a quick run to open the station door. The members of the fire company, from store and shop, rushed to the station where they met E.B. pulling out the hose carts and while you looked were off to the fire, but fortunately it was only a chimney fire."

Nov. 23, 1917:
"Everything is in readiness for the dedication of the new $125,000 Santa Fe Station next Monday. The program as arranged will begin promptly at 3 o'clock in the afternoon and will consist of music by the band and a few short speeches. The Ramblers Club will serve punch, cigars will be furnished by the Commercial Club."

Feb. 1, 1918:
"Perk Delk filled his ice house with fine ice from the river for his ice cream parlor next summer."

Jan. 18, 1918:
"Jacob Heer, proprietor of the Valley Falls Bottling Works, attended the State Convention of Bottlers at Lawrence the first of the week.

"The several horse and mule buyers, Hurst, Delk, Blake, Addy and others attended the Horse and Mule Auction at Topeka Saturday.

"Lou Hauck, Maud Bruton, and John Burkert of the Hauck Department Store, attended the Merchants Convention Tuesday and Wednesday."

Feb. 15, 1918:
"Born to Mr. and Mrs. Fount Hurst Monday night, Feb. 11, 1918, a son, Dr. J.M. Marks reports.

"E.A. Huber was out on the Central Branch territory this week taking orders for his popular brand of cigars.

"Mrs. Jas. Hatfield, of St. Joe, spent last Saturday at Valley Falls with Mrs. Chas. Norris and other friends and especially to see the new boy at Uncle Fount Hurst's.

"Ed Samon, the implement dealer, reports the sale of three 10-20 tractors, the best and latest out to Hockens Bros., Frank Wunder, and S.F. Cornell.

"M.I. Hurley, manager of the Kemper Stock Farm, shipped three cars of cattle to Kansas City Sunday night for Monday's market."

Oct. 24, 1919:
"At the home of the bride's parents, Mr. and Mrs. A.D. Kendall, Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 15, 1919, the marriage of their daughter, Lida Marie, to Mr. Earl Earnest Ferguson took place. Mrs. Fred Legler, sister of the bride, sang 'Still As the Night' by Carl Bohm, after which the bridal couple, preceded by the officiating of clergyman, the Rev. C.E. Holcombe, of the Federated Church, but otherwise unattended, entered the parlor where in the presence of a small company composed of immediate relatives and a few intimate friends, the double-ring ceremony was read.

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

November 11, 2014

Downtown fires in the 1890s were stayed by water works and firemen

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

A simple news item in the Valley Falls New Era, Jan. 31, 1891, stated:
"There are more horses and mules bought and sold at Fon Cook's Stable in Valley Falls than any other place in the county."

Ironically, the same news source, Saturday, Oct. 8, 1892, reported:
"Last Tuesday night, about 8 o'clock, the alarm of fire was sounded. Cook's Livery Stable was burning. Before the alarm was given, the fire had advanced so far that nothing could be done to save the barn, nor contents.

"The loft was full of hay and everything was so dry that the flames licked up the building as if it were shavings. The fire company worked manfully on adjoining buildings and saved the Hillyer House block. Had it not been for our water works and fire company, the business part of this town would have been a heap of smoldering ashes.

"Mr. Cook's loss is considerable, having 19 horses burned. Origin of the fire is unknown."

Nov. 24, 1894, from the New Era:
"Swallow's Drug Store and Nutting's Building's Ruined.

"Last Saturday morning about 2 o'clock, our city was again visited by a disastrous fire that for a time threatened the complete destruction of all the business houses on the north side of Broadway, west of Sycamore, and it was only by the hardest kind of work and efficiency of our excellent water works system that the Masonic Building was saved and the fire confined to Legler's and Nutting's brick building. No reason can be assigned the fire's origin. It was supposed to be spontaneous combustion.

"It started near the prescription case. The entire stock of drugs, recently invoiced over $3,700, is a complete ruin. The Dr. was on a deal to sell the store and would have had it sold in 10 more days. The stock was insured for $2,700."

Another fire — Valley Falls New Era, Jan. 5, 1895:
"Our city has again been visited by a disastrous conflagration, and inside of two hours our business houses completely gutted by fire and water. About 10:15 Wednesday night, a dense volume of smoke was seen coming out of the stairway between Paxton and Paxton's Store and Mrs. A. Murray's Millinery Store. Joe Ireland and Ed Burkert room upstairs and were nearly suffocated by the smoke. Mrs. Murray has a dressmaking room upstairs and lives there. Dr. Gillman's Dental Office is upstairs over Mrs. Murray's store and R.K. McCarney has his real estate and insurance over the Paxton's Store.

"There are various rumors how the fire started. Night watchman Gray gave the alarm and the city hall fire gong was rung but was not loud enough to awaken many. The hose cart was quickly pulled to the fire scene and some hands were found to man the hose. Two streams of water were turned on the burning stock of goods.

"The building is brick and the fire was confined inside. Mrs. A. Murray had a $3,400 stock of millinery goods, which were a total loss, no insurance; Dr. Gillman's dental tools and office fixtures ruined, no insurance; Mr. McCarney's office was ruined, he had insurance.

"Praise to those who fought the flames and kept them from spreading and for the best water works system in the state."

Valley Falls New Era, Saturday, Nov. 9, 1895:
"Burned out. A disastrous blaze. Our city was again visited by a disastrous fire, the third to occur within the space of less than one year, and had it not been for our excellent water services and gallant fire department, the north side of Broadway would now be in ruins. Nine o'clock Sunday night, George Winfield, who worked in 'Dad' Harmon's Livery Stable, discovered fire in one of the empty stalls in the stable. There was a strong smell of coal oil, and there is no doubt that the stable was set on fire.

"He (Winfield) gave the alarm and started to get the horses out. He succeeded in cutting a number of the animals loose and leading them to the door, but they would break loose from him and run back in. He saved a mare belonging to him and two head belonging to Mr. Harmon. Eighteen head, six Mr. Harmon's, perished in the flames. Dr. Marks lost his driving team, buggy, and grip full of instruments. Dr. England lost his team and phaeton (light, four-wheeled carriage), John Beeson lost a team and the organman had a team of horses and mules burn.

"The fire spread rapidly owing to high winds from the south. The skating rink, belonging to David Nutting, was a complete loss and he lost two pool and one billiard table and about 50 pair of roller skates. A building between the livery stable and Swiler's Drug Store, occupied by John Beeson for a poultry house, contained about a ton of poultry destroyed by the fire.

"Praise to the fire department boys under the leadership of Capt. DeLorm for the work they did fighting the flames."

October 28, 2014

Ice, bricks, beer drinking, a drowning and more

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

Thumbing through the files of the Valley Falls Historical Society reveals a sundry of items through early years, including daily events, seasonal activities, tragedies, and celebrations.

According to local news items, The Kansas New Era, May 7, 1874:
"Our streets are daily lined with the white-sheeted wagons of the immigrants seeking a home in Kansas.

"The first installment of ice was delivered last week among our businessmen gratuitously by Sam Sawyer of the firm of Sawyer and Mitchell. These gentlemen have a large amount of ice for summer's use, and they will expect and should receive a large share of the patronage of the city."

The Valley Falls New Era, June 10, 1886:
"They have about 100,000 bricks in the kiln at Patrick's Brickyard. They will 'touch it off' as soon as they get 50,000 more in. They now give promise of being a very excellent quality of brick.

"There is said to be gambling and beer drinking going on somewhere in the upper part of the building on the northeast corner of Broadway and Maple streets. It is expected that the marshal will ferret the 'hole' out and plug it."

The Valley Falls New Era, Dec. 13, 1890:
"Drowned. Last Wednesday evening about 5:30 o'clock, the terrible news was on everyone's lips that three little boys had broken through the ice on the Delaware River at the foot of Oak Street and were drowned. Little Fred and Leslie Case and their little stepbrother, Floyd Archer, were the victims of the sad accident.

"Their ages, respectively, were 16, 11, and 8 years. After school they had wandered down to the river and ventured to slide on the ice. Fred and Floyd went through the ice but 11-year-old Leslie tried to hold on to the edge of the ice until help had arrived, but slid into the cold water and drowned with the other two before help could be extended to him."

The Valley Falls New Era, July 2, 1892:
"The steamer 'Delaware' will carry passengers to and from the company's grounds on the Fourth of July, and thus give all a chance to enjoy a day free from all the bustle and heat in the city. Amusements of all descriptions. Round trip 25 cents."

New Era, July 9, 1892:
"The Fourth of July was as pleasant a day here as ever Italy enjoyed and though there was no general celebration, a tip top time was realized by our people in picnicking in the various handsome groves adjacent to the city. About 450 people availed themselves of a steamboat ride up the Delaware to a picnic ground prepared by the 'Delaware Navigating Co.' "

The Valley Falls Historical Society will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 1.

October 21, 2014

All Hallows' Eve depicted in museum windows

by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

Purple owls with black wings and black owls with purple wings sporting twinkling orange-lighted eyes hanging from a black spider web against an orange curtain provide the background for the Hallowe'en display at the seasonal window of the Valley Falls Historical Society Museum. Black cats from a one-eyed, single on-looker to a trio of happy felines, jack-o'-lanterns, and noisemakers complete the festive scene. A proud, wise old owl guards the All Hallows' Eve scene.

The Veterans' window features the following tribute to all veterans, past and present, "For every moment of peace, liberty and greatness our country enjoys, we have someone who has worn a uniform to thank."

Military service uniform caps surround the tribute with a Liberty portrait overlooking the scene.

The Valley Falls Historical Society Museum will open at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 25.

October 14, 2014

Notes from the 47th annual meeting

by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

The 47th annual meeting of the Valley Falls Historical Society was held Oct. 5 at the Barn Bed and Breakfast Inn.

After the 1 p.m. buffet luncheon and prior to the program, an election of officers and directors was held with the following selected to serve in the 2014-2015 year: Betty Jane Wilson, president; Rosalind Jackson, vice president; Lesa Brose, secretary; Gary Coleman, treasurer; and Joan Reichart (term 2015) and Anita Stutesman (term 2016), directors. Frank Shrimplin continues as historian and Clarke Davis as advisor.

Guest speaker Jane Rhoads was provided courtesy of the Kansas Humanities Council. The council conducts and supports community- based programs, such as the historical society, through an active grant program that pays her expenses, gratuities, and travel expenses.

Her presentation, "Bronco Bustin' Showmen and Their Spectacular Wild West Shows," resulted from her research, love of entertainment, and Kansas history.

With the assist of digital screen and projector, she presented an enviable selection of photos of the performers in various stages of their lives prior to and during their careers. Still scenes were shown from "Buffalo Bill Cody's Spectacular Show" with added tales of association with notables as famous sharpshooter Annie Oakley and Cody's influence on later known western screen star Tom Mix. Cody's fame as wagon master, buffalo hunter, and child messenger for his father, Isaac Cody, and their relation to Valley Falls were included. Pawnee Bill, Lucille Mulhall, and Will Rogers and their entertainment careers all enjoyed their claim to fame in her specialty.

Jane Rhoads is also the author and winner of a Kansas Notable Book Award in 2009. Born of her love for prairie entertainment and her visit to over 400 Kansas communities she authored "Kansas Opera Houses — Actors and Community Events 1855-1925." Composed of countless photos, stories included performers whose careers began on small Kansas stages. The outstanding feature of her book is an alphabetical listing of 479 Kansas communities with information about their entertainment centers. Among our neighbors listed are McLouth, Oskaloosa, and Meriden with Nortonville having the 1884 McCarthy's Opera House and an 1908 City Hall-Roxie House still standing. The Valley Falls 1884 Turner Opera House (Turner Hall), Valley Falls is on record with a stage 16 feet by 40 feet with seating for 600. The facility was heated by stoves and illumined by lamps.

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