January 19, 2016

Hogs and high treason in early Valley Falls

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

A search for January items of historic value revealed not the date of historic items, instead the date of the columnist's revelations. From the Kansas City Star dated Jan. 31, 1993, James J. Fisher, writer for the newspaper, chose the following subjects to feature:

This is about a town that changed its name because of a bug, a dog with at least two lives, hogs and high treason, and a fellow whose hair turned white overnight.
— Disparate subjects, yet wondrous ones, because they add up to something called history. First, about treason and hogs.

In 1856, the area was in dispute. On one side a bunch of South Carolinians determined that Kansas would be a slave state. On the other were abolitionists. The two sides were contentious, venting their aggressions with firearms, knives, fists, and hemp ropes hung from tree limbs.

Valley Falls, then called Grasshopper Falls, northerners probably had greater numbers than the pro-slavery crowd, but southerners had hold of local courts.
Naturally, the courts handed down a passel of indictments, not surprisingly those named in true bills were all abolitionists.

The indictments were for treason against constituted government (read pro-slavery) and hog stealing (read hog stealing) tandem charges rarely seen these days. The coupled indictments probably say a lot about what Kansas was like in those days.
Those who plot, scheme, intrigue, connive, and conspire — something second nature to abolitionists — had to eat too. And to be truthful, the free staters were known to shoot their southern neighbors' hogs and then claim the animals were 'wild.'

Those indicted were upset. They became particularly vexed when a pair of southerners named Jackson and Beeson threatened to drive abolitionists' womenfolk from the country.

The free-staters visited Jackson's home and shot him, then asked for Beeson's whereabouts. Those inside Jackson's home stayed mum although Beeson was under the now-cooling owner's bed, quaking with fear. He was not discovered but it was said later, subsequent weeks saw Beeson's hair go from dark to perfectly white.

The pro-slavery mob retaliated, riding into Grasshopper Falls Sept. 8, 1856, shouting and shooting. The able-bodied male residents of the town immediately skedaddled, leaving women, children, and old folks behind. Afterward there was some criticism of what in military terms was known as a 'retrograde movement,' but those who retreated said it was depart or die.

The raiders were not after females, the young or infirm. One of those runners was a storekepper and a leading abolitionist, William Crosby.

Crosby had a problem in fleeing — a yapping little dog. Crosby would run and the dog would follow, panting. Then Crosby would stop to catch his breath and the dog would start barking.

Crosby tried to shush the dog. No luck. He tried to kick the dog away. The dog kept barking. Then he grabbed the animal, held it under the waters of the Grasshopper River and drowned it. Or so he thought. No such luck. As Crosby hightailed it through the woods, here came the dog again. Crosby stopped to rest. The dog kept a more constant barking than before. Crosby somehow escaped. There is no record of his hair turning white.

Finally, the name Grasshopper. It was a translation from the French 'Grasshopper.' The name was never popular. The final blow came in 1874 when Colorado locusts denuded almost all standing crops in Jefferson County. The local anger was so great, a bill was proposed and passed the Kansas Legislature renaming Grasshopper Falls to Valley Falls, the river to Delaware, and the township to Delaware Township. Now that is one dislike most people can't understand. Except one for sure — William Crosby must have had feelings about yapping dogs much like those about grasshoppers, especially ones that wouldn't stay drowned.

The Valley Falls Historical Society Museum will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 16.

December 22, 2015

Happy 161st Birthday, Valley Falls

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

Dec. 25, 1854 — 2015, 161 years!

The following items and episodes are drived from a reprint in a 1938 Valley Falls Vindicator of history of Grasshopper Falls, written about 1884.

The historian stated,
"The history of the town begins in 1854 in February when Henry Zen (Senn) located at the falls on the Grasshopper River. He had a team of oxen, built a cabin, and even put up a haystack!"

Henry had planned to live indefinitely in this area; however, in the fall he was visited by a white man claiming to be an agent for the Indians who ordered him to leave the country. He moved east and joined a man named Mooney who lived on a creek that still bears his name.

The next settlement was established as of December 1854 when James Frazier, Robert Riddle, H.B. Jolley and A.J. Whitney turned west from Hickory Point from their trek on the military road seeking the falls on the Grasshopper River. On December 23, they discovered the falls, on December 24 moved the campsite near their falls, and started driving stakes for the town, claiming stakes December 25, 1854.

While driving stakes, locating boundries, and building a cabin, the searching party ran low on provisions, no ammunition for killing game, and no fishing gear for catching fish. Leaving Kiddle and Frazier to finish building and to guard their claims, Jolley and Whitney left for Weston, Mo., for fresh supplies. A trip supposed to take two days lasted 11. Much hunger and discomfort resulting at the campsite.

In the spring of 1855, the town was surveyed and named Grasshopper Falls. A company was organized to build a saw and grist mill. The members were James Frazier, Robert Riddle, A.J. Whitney, and Isaac Cody. Cody, father of noted buffalo hunter "Buffalo Bill Cody," was never a resident, but was elected to the legislature from Jefferson County.

Logs were cut and hauled and work began on the mill. The falls of the river were on hard limestone rock and on this the dam was built.

Although 1855 proved very active, the Jolley brothers became discouraged and and returned to Iowa.

A.J. Whitney was appointed postmaster for Grasshopper Falls, December 21, 1855. He remained a short time. He sold his claim to James H. Day for $16 and left the country. When here, he added much to the life of the new town. He is described as a jolly, whole-souled fellow, kind-hearted, and fond of his whiskey.

At the early day, there were a number of Indian camps near. Whitney always kept a demijohn (large narrow neck bottle, usually enclosed in wickerwork) of whiskey but would never let the Indians have any. One night the Indians stole it. At first, Whitney did not know what to do, but as he felt like having a drink before breakfast, he started out and stole a pony from this Indian chief, which he refused to give up until he got his demijohn back. After a while, the chief returned it, although about half of the whiskey was gone. Whitney then gave up the pony, took a drink, and went to breakfast.

In 1855, the town continued to grow. First some women, as Mrs. H.B. Jolley and the Stephen Dunn family. Mr. D.A. Blacksmith and Mrs., the second white woman. A series of "firsts," then as life flows.

The historian's 1884 view of Grasshopper/ Valley Falls:
"Valley Falls is a thriving and attractive town of about 1,300 population. It is pleasantly located on the gently sloping hillsides on the river bank of the Delaware River at the junction of the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe and the Kansas Central railroads. The residence portion of the city is beautifully ornamented by fruit, shade, and evergreen trees. The residence lots are large and the houses neat and attractive. The business houses are large and well built. In the business section, on both sides of the street are large and handsome brick blocks. It is the metropolis of the county. Far exceeding any other within 175 limits in population and amount of business done.

December 08, 2015

1875 - Atchison bridge celebration, businesses doing well, "evil whiskey," vegetables and Christmas

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

A sundry of events 140 years ago, (1875) at the former Grasshopper Falls, now officially Valley Falls, according to Kansas New Era editor George A. Huron, Sept. 11, 1875:

"Nearly 400 citizens of Jefferson County attended the Great Bridge celebration at Atchison Thursday via A.T.&T. and S.F.R.R. Rock Creek and Meriden sent each about 40, Valley Falls 125, and Nortonville 115 persons.

"The woolen mills at the Falls are doing a good business. The proprietors, when asked for an advertisement, stated they could not supply the present demands.

"The Octagon Hotel is one of the greatest curiosities of architectural integrity. It is five stories high (50 feet) and contains 35 rooms so arranged that the least possible trouble is taken to reach any of them from office or parlor."

Sept. 18, 1875:
"Miss Puella Dornblazer is the Valley Falls correspondent for the Oskaloosa Independent. A good thing for that paper.

"Three young ladies have opened a barber shop in Valley Falls. Mell Legler knows where it is.

"R.H. Crosby starts for Chicago this week with two car loads of fat cattle. He will bring back a rousing big stock of goods for the fall and winter trade at 'Crosby & Kendall."

Sept. 25, 1875:
"For an illustration of the evil effects of whiskey in a printing office, compare this week's New Era with last. The editor went away — the printers got on a drunk and stayed there. A new set could not be procured until Thursday noon, and this is why we give you the New Era on the half shell this week (only two pages). With a corps of sober printers, we hope for no such failures in the future."

Oct. 16, 1875:
"Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe R.R. from Kansas City and Atchison via Valley Falls, Lawrence, Topeka, Carbondale, Osage City, Emporia, Florence, Peabody, Newton to Wichita, Hutchinson, Dodge City, Granada and West Las Anmas."

Nov. 6, 1875:
"Wheat, corn, potatoes, turnips, pumpkins, squash, and rag currency taken on subscription for the New Era. What the people want is a legal tender paper dollar, which is worth just 100 cents in gold, or a medium of exchange, which will not be depreciated by an usurious premium on gold."

Nov. 13, 1875:
"Turnips, only 10 cents per bushel, yet some scallawag stole several bushels, root and branch from our garden.

Smith Bunkder, who has been almost totally blind dor three years, has been under treatment by Dr. E. Northrup for a few weeks, and has so far recovered his sight as to be able to read common newspaper print with ease. Dr. Northrup is having wonderful success in treating diseases of the eyes."

Dec. 4, 1875:
"With Christmas trees at the Methodist Church and Cowan's Hall on Christmas Eve, Gibson's Minstrels at Crosby's Hall Saturday evening, public installation at Masonic Hall Monday evening, Christmas Jubilee at Congregational Church Sunday evening, and a ball or two, there should be no lack of amusement this week."

October 08, 2015

Day of mourning for President Garfield, 1881

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

Tolling bells convey the tidings of the death of the murdered United States President.

The Valley Falls New Era, Sept. 24, 1881, reported:
"Proclamation. Mayor's office, Sept. 23, 1881. Whereas Monday, Sept. 26, has been set for the funeral observance of our martyred President, James A. Garfield, I therefore request a general observance of the day by our people and that all places of business be closed between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., also that public and private buildings be suitably draped in mourning."

"Our businessmen generally draped their building in crepe on the day following the President's death. The city flag was suspended over main street, draped in deep mourning, also the band flag from Kendall's Hall. In pursuance of Mayor Hick's proclamation, the business houses were all closed. Many private residences were also draped in black. At about half past one o'clock, a procession was formed on Broadway at the corner of Sycamore Street. At the head of the procession was a white horse led by a colored groom dressed in a black suit. The horse wore a saddle to which was attached a sword and on the opposite side a heavy carbine. Next came the Valley Falls Cornet band with muffled drum playing a funeral march, followed by speakers of the day riding in a carriage. Following on foot were benevolent societies of the city. 

"The procession proceded to Wilson Park for short addresses by the speaker with appropriate band and choir music. Following the memorial services, the procession returned to city center and sadly dispersed."

James A. Garfield was shot by Charles J. Guiteau on July 2, 1881, and died Sept. 19, 1881.

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

September 24, 2015

Visit the museum on Grasshopper Falls Day!

by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

The grasshopper's annual claim to fame dominates the historical society museum window display this month. The wily playboy of the folklore insect world, berated by the industrious ants for his irresponsible capers and despised by farmers in the reality world for his voracious appetite and destructive invasions, enjoys celebrity status in the city's history.

The window display lauds the creature's "once-a-year day" (Grasshopper Falls Day) with a scattering of previous years' programs and brochures surrounded by signs of welcome, reminders of the city's effort to change the city's name, and a rare copy of the short-lived Sautrelle News. A weather-beaten, aged grasshopper replica claims center stage.

Cider and doughnuts will be available at the museum beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

September 17, 2015

Annual meeting is October 18th

Deb Goodrich will be the guest speaker at the annual dinner and meeting of the Valley Falls Historical Society to be held at The Barn Bed & Breakfast Inn at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18.

Deb is a storyteller. Whether through writing or on camera, she educates and inspires. She is the cohost of the weekly television show, Around Kansas, the Wednesday
feature of AgaminKansas, on YouTube. She will be host to a new TV series, Out West, debuting in 2016. 

Deb is writing "Our Charley: From Reservation to Washington," (film script and book) on the life of Kansas's Vice President Charles Curtis, son of the Kaw Nation. She is an instructor for Osher, Lifelong Learning, and is much in demand as a speaker.

In spring 2012, the History Press released her book, "The Civil War in Kansas: Ten Years of Turmoil," (foreward by Gen. Richard Myers, 15th Chair of the Joint Chiefs).

Goodrich and co-author Michelle Martin wrote "Kansas Forts and Bases: Sentinels of the Prairie," released in February 2013 (foreward by retired col. Jerry Morelock, editor in chief of Armchair General Magazine).

Her third book with History Press was released in November 2014. Kansas Music Hall ofFame President Allen Blasco wrote the foreward to "Kansas Music: Stories of a Rich Tradition."

Author Esther Luttrell based the lead character in her newest book, "Murder in Magenta" on Goodrich.

Goodrich has appeared on C-SPAN and in numerous documentaries including two new releases: "Gunslingers" on American Heroes Channel and "The Road to Valhalla" from Lone Chimney Films (Winner of the 2015 Wrangler Award). 

Further information will be forthcoming.

August 21, 2015

1878 rules for teachers

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, society president

Yesteryears, a publication of the Jefferson County Historical Society and Jefferson County Genealogical Society's April 1994 issue, published the following rules for teachers, as published in the November 23, 1878, Oskaloosa Independent, our friend and neighbor:

"The following sixteen rules are excellent guides, and by a closer adherence to them will seldom be occasion for resorting to any severe mode of punishment."

Authorship of the rules unknown, but quoted as found except for a few alterations!

"1.) From your earliest connection with your pupils, inculcate the necessity of prompt and exact obedience. 2.) Unite firmness with gentleness and let your pupils understand that you mean exactly what you say. 3.) Never promise anything unless you are quite sure you can give what you promise. 4.) Never tell a pupil to do anything unless you are sure he knows how it is to be done; or show him how it is to be done. 5.) Always punish a pupil for willful disobedience; but never punish unduly or in anger; and in no case should a blow be given to the head. 6). Never let your pupils see they can make you lose your self-command. 7.) If the pupils are under the influence of an angry or petulent spirit, wait till they are calm, then reason with them on the impropriety of their conduct. 8.) Never yield to a pupil because he looks angry or threatens or resorts to tears. Deal mercifully and justly. 9.) A little present punishment is more effective than threatening of a greater punishment should the fault be renewed. 10.) Never allow pupils to do at one time what you have forbidden under like circumstances at another. 11.) Teach the young that the only way to appear good is to be good. 12.) Never allow tale bearing. 13.) If a pupil abuses your confidence, make him for a time feel the want of it. 14.) Never allude to former errors if real sorrow has been evinced for having committed them. 15.) Encourage, in every suitable way, a spirit of diligence, obedience, perseverance, kindness, forbearance, honesty, truthfulness, purity and courteousness. 16.) Never speak in a scolding or fretful manner. Use tones of gentleness. Some teachers defeat their objective by using harsh and boisterous tones."

The Valley Falls Historical Society museum will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 22.