August 09, 2011

Grasshopper Falls to Valley Falls

Compiled by Betty Jane Wilson, President of the Valley Falls Historical Society

"Our neighbors of Grasshopper Falls desire to have the name of their village changed," reported the Oskaloosa Independent Feb. 7, 1863, and continued: "We do not wonder they wish to get clear of the present long and clumsy name, but substitutes proposed do not better the matter very much. They are both too long. We do not perceive the necessity of retaining the name of Falls; but if it must be kept, then say 'Falls River' and 'Falls City.' If we had the naming to do, some short word would be selected, plain, pleasant, and musical and one that would not be tiresome to write on a post office address."

Originally named Grasshopper Falls with the history of the town beginning in 1854 located at the falls of the Grasshopper River with invasions in 1855, 1860, and 1861 of the voracious insect, residents were fed up with the name Grasshopper and asked the Legislature to change the name of the river, township, and city to Sautrelle.

Adoption of the new name evoked various and sundry reactions from both citizens and outsiders. According to the Kansas Historical Quarterly, 1863, Sol Miller, editor and publisher of the White Cloud, Kan., "Kansas Chief" substituted "Sowtail" for Sautrelle when speaking of the town, river or township. The populace did not relish their community's ridiculous nickname, so the legislature restored the old name in 1864.

"The subject of changing the name of our town is again being agitated," reported the Kansas New Era Feb. 12, 1874.

Kansas Falls, Cedar Falls, and Falls City were names being suggested. The editor offered no objection to these names since they were "short and appropriate."

"Some suggest the town retain its present name on account of its distinctiveness," continued the editor.

"If that is all there is about it, we say by all means retain the old name. For most assuredly it is distinct for all practical purposes. No one need have any fears of the name 'Grasshopper Falls' becoming confounded with any other name. We favor the change because the little insect, grasshopper, is a mean mischievous fellow and impresses strangers with the idea that this country is infested with the rascals. Also, we favor the change on account of the names suggested are short while Grasshopper Falls stretches nearly across a sheet of note paper."

From the Kansas Historical Quarterly: "By irony of fate, the worst visitation of Grasshoppers came during the Summer of 1874, so meetings of residents with the Legislature of 1875, a bill was passed changing the name of the town to Valley Falls."

The society's museum will be open at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 6. Admission is free.

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