January 27, 2015

Who we are: the beginnings of the Valley Falls Historical Museum

compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

The "Town Crier" cries for a museum for the Valley Falls Historical Society. Crier Clarke Davis reasoned as follows in the Oct. 22, 1987, edition of the Valley Falls Vindicator:

"Valley Falls needs to divert its attention to its historical society. It's their turn.

"A new ball diamond has been built, the school has a track, the swimming pool has been refurbished, and the city park is enhanced with a shelter house. Now it's time for a museum.

"The historical society got its start 20 years ago asking a mere $2 or $3 annual membership fee. Only a few have taken an active role over the years, but they have gathered, collected, stored, and preserved for us a number of treasures whose sum total add up to who we are.

"The time has come to empty some attics and basements and fulfill a long-time dream. The society's directors voted this week to take an option on the List building in the northeast block of Broadway. If the money can be raised in the next three months, Valley Falls will have a museum.

"The building is priced under $20,000, but a goal of $30,000 will probably be set in order to prepare the building and meet operating expenses.

"It is a bold step for a small, conservative group whose love of the past and search through the record is done quietly and outside of the public limelight. But as a community project the task should be easily accomplished when compared to the many other great strides taken in recent years.

"The society is a stable organization with nearly $10,000 in footings from lifetime memberships and grants. This provides interest income. The membership list has been eratic but once numbered 184 for a one-year period. One visible contribution has been the preservation of the Historical Shrine Church on Highway 16. Its less visible contribution is the preservation of who we are through research, writing, and compilation of the records.

"Early plans call for using the building for a museum, library, repository, meeting area, and lounge. The first thing that comes to mind is the economic factor. It will be a positive attraction to downtown and give visitors a place to go. The lounge will afford regular shoppers a haven, a clean restroom, and a place they can feel free to loiter.

"There is, however, a more meaningful purpose. We are defined by our past and if the goal is to do a credible job of displaying the truth then it will serve us culturally as well as the library and the ball park."

Next: Determined members, a generous community, available historical building, great location — how could anyone ask for more?

The Valley Falls Historical Society Museum will be open at 10 a.m. Jan. 31.

January 22, 2015

January 1913: snow and strange weather, a new Moon, harvesting river ice, Half Mound band

by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

More from January 1913, news items compiled by the late Edith Harden preserved in a scrapbook of newspaper clippings:

Jan. 10 — the three-day snowstorm, the first of winter, ended Tuesday evening leaving about five inches of snow covering the ground except on some open fields where it blew off, drifting in some lanes five or six feet deep. Mail carrier George McCracken had to drive out in the fields and Henry McCoy's team got down in a drift. The trains pulled through without much delay.

There was a new moon the 7th and from Grandpa Jas. Moon, we learn that on Jan. 7, a son was born to Mr. and Mrs. Fred Moon on the John Stockwell farm in Norton Township, the first of the marriage of 11 years.

Jan. 17 — In two and a half days, lively working Mitchell Bros. filled their big house with 600 tons of fine river ice, clear as crystal, by Wednesday noon. The ice from nine to 12 inches thick and the best they ever put up and pure enough to stand the test for drinking purposes.

Jan. 24—The young men and musicians of Half Mound have organized a cornet band and employed Billy Benedix of the city as instructor. Walter Abbuehl is their leader, Phil Reichart is president and manager and Robt. Reichart, secretary-treasurer.

The croquet players laid off only about a week on account of the snow on the grounds and again the game goes on. With the squaw winter, peculiar weather conditions existed last week. It blew cold and warm and one day after the ice men finished putting up ice, some of it more than a foot thick, the garden plowman, Art Smith, was at work on Piety Hill turning up the soil for gardens of Wallace Baylor and Paul Tischhauser. The frost came out of the ground while the river was yet blocked with ice.

The historical society museum will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday.

January 06, 2015

Church bells on New Year's, other 1913 news

by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

More "Out of the Past" items from a century, plus two, gleaned from those yellowed pages of a Valley Falls Historical Society scrapbook. Compiled by the late Edith Harden from pages of a news source with the published date clipped from the page to fit the scrapbook, except all items have the year date of January 1913:

Jan. 3, "While Col. John Triggs, after a drive, was unhitching Bert Boot's borrowed team Saturday, the horses, not liking the looks of the Colonel's fur coat, broke away, ran into a post across the street, broke the tongue, dashboard, both reaches of the buggy, and other damages, to the amount of $10 or $12, according to the repair bill.

"Church and school bells rang out the old and in the new year in merry peal, loud and long. The Endeavors, of the Congregational Church, met in the church annex to watch the old year out and welcome the new, but a bunch of boys carried the rope into the belfry and rang the bell for them. Another bunch of boys rang the bell at the Christian Church and a third party jingled the bell at the school — the tintinnabulation of the bells was on.

"The Endeavors of the Christian Church, instead of holding their annual watch party, went by train to Half Mound to attend a revival meeting Mr. Kimball is holding at the schoolhouse.

"Several of the boys who have tried it don't find much sport in 'coon' hunting though the music of the hounds was fine.

"Paul Newman, who is attending the school for the blind at Kansas City, was at home here with his parents, the V.P. Newmans, (V.P. Newman, pioneer blacksmith, skillful in shoeing oxen as well as horses) during vacation. Paul is growing in learning and stature and is an expert on roller skates. With only a cane to guide him, he can skate all over town on the cement sidewalks.

"Dan Royer is proud to announce that he won the last game of croquet that was played on the last day of 1912.

"The Santa Fe waiting room was not large enough to hold half of the waiting passengers Monday morning.

"A little daughter was born to Mr. and Mrs. Ted Bickley Christmas Day (North Cedar item).

"Maude Bruton and Carrie Haas were at St. Joe last Friday to order new goods for the Hauck's Store."

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

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."