February 27, 2015

Oskaloosa's "Petticoat Government"

by Betty Jane Wilson, society president, Valley Falls Historial Society

From the files of the Valley Falls Historical Society Museum, a souvenir booklet in honor of the Jefferson County Centennial, 1855 to 1955, held at our neighbor town and county seat, Oskaloosa, Aug. 14, 17, 18, 19, and 20, 1955.

Among the treasure of photos and stories of the towns and cities of Jefferson County is a story, the "Petticoat Government in Oskaloosa," a frequently repeated fact, familiar to some generations and new to younger groups.

The following is quoted from the booklet —
The election of a woman mayor and five councilwomen by the city of Oskaloosa in April of 1888 was news both in the United States and in foreign countries. Eastern newspapers made considerable note of it. It was also written up in British and continental newspapers. Congratulatory messages came from far away New Zealand.

"Local citizens who were more or less ashamed of the shortcomings of previous administrations thought up the idea of a woman-governing body. Election result: 3 to 1 for the ladies. They were Mrs. Mary D. Lowman, Mayor, 49; Councilwomen: Mrs. Hannah Morse, 45; Mrs. Emma Hamilton, 39; Mrs. Sadie Balsley, 36; Mrs. Mittie Golden, 31; and Mrs. Carrie Johnson, 23.

"State and national press had to have their fun: 'First business was to show under a motion to limit debate to five minutes on any motion . . .' 'An Oskaloosa man is offering a premium for six live mice.'

"Here are some of the reforms accomplished by the women governing body: A Sunday closing act. A curfew law. Anti-expectorating on sidewalk. New sidewalks ordered to be installed. (Town's richest citizen demurred, so the council ordered his walk laid and charged his taxes. The women withstood two lawsuits successfully.) The council purchased a street grader. Streets were widened, straightened, cleaned. Gasoline street lights replaced old coal oil lamps. A pound was built to keep up stray livestock. Moral suasion and shame was used to accomplish better keeping up of cows, pigs, and chickens. Prohibition law was enforced for the first time since its passage in 1880.

"All but two of the group stood for re-election and easily won out. A local Farmers Alliance worked up this tune in compliment of the Oskaloosa council:
"We have a lady council and a lady mayor, too—
We are pleased with our officials and we trust 'tis so with you.
We think they all are handsome and know they are true blue,
As they go marching on!"

February 11, 2015

'Suicidal mania' in the 1880s and 1890s

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

The Valley Falls New Era, dated May 27, 1893, quoted the following headlines and excerpts from a printed sermon by the Rev. James Lawrence the previous Sunday.

"The Suicidal Mania in Valley Falls, Kan."

"What is the cause of the suicidal mania in Valley Falls and vicinity? Fifteen or 20 victims in as many years. Is this simply an incident, a disgression, or is there a cause for this mania?

"The old axiom 'Every effect must have a cause' is true here as elsewhere. The mania for self-destruction is a mania that is unpleasant to contemplate, horrible in its mode, and awful in its frequency. Can we find the cause? Let us look, we may find some of them, perhaps the principle ones."

Suicides reported from 1890 to 1895 included the following:

Oct. 25, 1890 — "I.W. McCulley takes the Morphine Route."
"About noon he told his son he did not feel well and would lie down and try to sleep. Later in the day he was found. He had ended his own life. Mr. McCulley had been unfortunate in business and otherwise. He was 49 years old, leaving a wife and three children."

The New Era, Oct. 15, 1892 — "Just as we were going to press, we learn the dead (sic) body of Paul Krumery, a barber, was found in the river under the bridge, near Piazzek's Mill."

Valley Falls New Era, March 11, 1893, headlines — "George Lewis Dead," with the following story:
"He cut his throat with the blade of a pen knife. Wednesday morning, George Lewis, an old citizen of this place, and who has run the barbershop formerly owned by Paul Krumery, who committed suicide last fall, told his son Ed to take charge of the shop as he intended to take a rest from business. When he did not return home that day or night, a searching party consisting of Messrs. Dodd, Daniels, and Marsh, searched along the Northwestern Railroad Track and the river.

"Early Thursday morning, they discovered Mr. Lewis' body at a place near the river called 'Paw Paw Bend,' about one mile west of town. Mr. Lewis was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery."

This was the sixth time within a period of about three years that the Rev. A.M. Geiger was called upon to conduct services for persons who had died by their own hands.

Valley Falls New Era, May 20, 1892 — "Suicide Again."
"Our community has been startled by news of another suicide. Dr. J.S. Blackwood, our veterinary surgeon, was found by Geo. W. Williams lying in a manger in W.T. Kemper's barn. The weapon of death was a pocket knife with a blade about three inches long, which he used in his surgical work. He was apparently in the best of health and in the prime of life. No cause can be assigned for the rash act. Funeral services were held at the Christian Church, conducted by the Rev. James Lawrence. Burial was in Rose Hill Cemetery."

The Valley Falls Historical Society Museum will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 14.

February 05, 2015

Cries are heeded, town has museum (part 2)

310 Broadway Street, Valley Falls, present site of the Valley Falls Historical Society Museum, was originally the McCammon Building and housed a variety of merchants over the years, including Coy and Hutchins Clothiers, Doolittle, Gillespie, and List Hardware stores, Sam Strawn's law office, and in later years was used to film the movie, "Kansas," starring Matt Dillon and Andrew McCarthy. In 1988, the society purchased this building and created a museum.

by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

The Town Crier's cries were heeded. In bold black print, the Jan. 21, 1988, Valley Falls Vindicator reported "Historical Society Buys Building for Museum" with the follow-up story.

"The Valley Falls Historical Society now has a place to call home. The deed has been recorded and the society is now the owner of the List Building at 310 Broadway.

"The finance committee has collected $27,000 and the former owner, Mary List, has received her asking price of $18,750. 'We still have some pledges and a few people to call on,' Greever Allan, chairman of the finance committee, said Monday night. 'I'm confident we will meet our goal.'

"Serving with him on the committee are Kay Lassiter and Art Strawn. The committee's goal is $30,000 with the money  above the purchase price to be used to renovate the building and prepare it to house a museum and library.

"Frank Shrimplin, president of the society, said members are now beginning to devise plans for opening the building to the public and building its membership. 

"Allan asked members to use the new building as a springboard to motivate growth in membership. He said churches, schools, clubs, and lodges are all sources of history and the town's past and should be represented. Upkeep and monthly expenses will be ongoing costs needing broader support.

"Lassiter placed emphasis on the education of children, stating the local school was putting Valley Falls history in the curriculum. She said the museum will be a great benefit for that and urged the society to open the Historical Shrine Church more often for tourists and community visitors.

"Strawn, the society's historian, said he believed the community would respond in greater numbers and that the building would provide sustance and identity."

"Anxious to open the doors, members will plan an open house in conjunction with Grasshopper Falls Day late in April, 1988."

The Valley Falls Historical Society Museum will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 7.

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.