Friday, May 30, 2014

Schoolhouses and Space Travel

Pleasant View School joined Geary County from Riley County March 6, 1873 along with other property. Like many other school districts in Geary County, the boundary lines for the schools changed as populations expanded and new schools were built. 
Pleasant View shows boundary changes in 1889, 1892, and 1906. Regardless, Pleasant View served the families living around the Milford and Alida communities until it closed in 1965 with the unification of Geary County schools into USD 475. 
Geary County’s remaining rural schoolhouses closed for regular classes just weeks before the first US space-walk aboard the Gemini mission, June 3, 1965. Pleasant View School, located near Milford Lake, was one of the last schools to close, April 28, 1965.
Over the years before it closed, Pleasant View had 59 different school teachers and hundreds of children. This schoolhouse, which still stands between Old Milford Road and Highway 57, was sometimes referred to as the Dixon School or Half-Way school since it was halfway between Junction City and Milford.
Mary E. Pierce had a certificate to teach in both Riley and Davis, later Geary, Counties and she spoke of walking to Dixon School to teach from Junction City, and she taught at Pleasant View. Sources say that the school was referred to as Dixon school when it was part of Riley County and later became Pleasant View. 
The school actually changed locations several times in its early years. According to A History of Milford, Kansas, “two schools were in operation in Milford Township.” One of the schools was south of rush creek, about 400 yards west of the road from the Fasse-Adams farm. 
This school was moved in two sections in 1889 to a new location about ¼ mile north of the current Pleasant View location. In 1908 an acre of land was donated by the Neubers to build a new school and the school’s location was changed for the final time.
The present school building was built in 1909. When the school was built it lacked any indoor plumbing, even a dry sink. In 1956 Pleasant View was remodeled and redecorated which included running water and toilet facilities, and in 1957 new student desks were added.
Since it did not close until 1965 there are a number of local people who attended their grade school years at Pleasant View School and have fond memories of it.
Betty Cott Latimer remembered that one day sometime between 1943 and 1945 the students were outside playing ball when the teacher came running out and gathered the children.  She told them all that some soldiers had stopped to use the water pump and that one was a movie star. “There pumping water was a tall, handsome Ronald Reagan. Little did we know that for most of us it would be the closest we would ever get to a US President” (“Taste of Geary County” Bus Tour).
Bertha Ehm Gustafson was one of the Pleasant View teachers and she remembered, “I was teacher, counselor, coach, and janitor. Wood, coal, and cobs had to be carried in after school, the fire banked, cleaning and dusting done, all in readiness for the next day. All this for a salary of $5.00 per day, which wasn’t bad.”(Project Heritage, 172.)
What does all this have to do with space travel? Well, while there weren’t any famous astronauts that attended Pleasant View School there is an interesting juxtaposition here.  Imagine what most of us think of when we hear “one-room schoolhouse” and then think that Geary County school children were still attending class in single rooms, some without running water or flushing toilets, when satellites were first sent into space.  When Pleasant View and the other remaining rural schools ended classes in 1965 it was only a month before the Gemini space mission had Ed White do a spacewalk on June 3, 1965.
Do you have a one-room schoolhouse story or memory you’d like to share? The Geary County Historical Society is in the midst of creating a driving tour of our rural schools. We are looking for stories of your own or your family’s experiences to include in the tour. If you have an amusing, interesting, or important story you would like to share with us please call or come by the museum. You can also write it down and send it to us at 530 N. Adams, Junction City, KS 66441 or

Left: The first photograph of the EVA as Ed White backs away from the Gemini spacecraft over the Pacific Ocean northeast of Hawaii. (NASA photo ID S65-30431)
Right: Pleasant View School 1909-1910 School Group

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Junction City: a Town Built with Local Limestone

As you drive around Junction City take a moment to look at the buildings. You see that many of the old buildings are made of limestone. Not surprising since we have an abundance of it right here. It was quite a local industry because of the accessibility and quality of the limestone in this area.
The best limestone used for building was located about 12 to 15 feet underground. When it comes out of the ground it was extremely workable but hardens with exposure to air and the elements.
There are two types of limestone quarried in this area, yellow and white. Yellow was used for many of the early sidewalks in Junction City. White was much more desirable for the buildings because it could be cut in larger blocks.
The Junction City Sawed Stone Company, started by Major O.J. Hopkins, was one of the first commercial businesses in Junction City. At its peak it employed 60 men and sold $1500 worth of stone per month. They operated out of the McFarland Quarry, one of the first in the area. 
Our forefathers wholeheartedly supported the limestone industry as many of the city and county buildings were built using it. They must have been on to something because these buildings have certainly held up admirably.  Do you ever wonder about the people who designed these beautiful old buildings?
One of the most prolific Kansas architects around the turn of the twenty century was a Topeka architect by the name of James C. Holland. He was born in a log cabin in Lima, Ohio in 1853.  He studied architecture at Northern Ohio Normal School for two years before attending Cornell University in New York.
After graduation he returned to Northern Ohio Normal School to teach. He also worked as an architect for several Ohio building firms.
In 1885 James and his wife Elizabeth moved to Topeka, Kansas.
From 1895 to 1897 he served as the state architect. During this time the central wing of the capital, not including the dome, was being built. He also designed all but one of the homes on Governor’s Row in Topeka.
But you don’t have to travel to Topeka to see Holland’s handiwork it is featured prominently around Junction City. In 1898 Holland collaborated with the local construction firm of Ziegler and Dalton to design a beautiful Opera House where a pile of rubble once stood after the original Opera House burned to the ground.
A year later they teamed up again to design the Geary County Courthouse. The style is described as Richardsonian Romanesque. It was completed in May of 1900 at a cost of $35,000. The stone was quarried locally and was so soft that it was hand sawed and tooled by the masons.   
Around the turn of the century the Junction City School Board decided that Junction City must have a high school separate from the elementary school because of the increasing number of older students. This shows how progressive our town was because this was at a time when across the nation people were lucky to have an eighth grade education. 
On July 29, 1903 the Junction City Daily Union featured Holland’s proposed design for the new Junction City High School. The drawing showed a building with multiple towers. The bids on this design ranged from $27,422 to $28,888. The school board decided that the cost was too high and requested a simplified design which is the building you see today that houses the Geary County Historical Society. The construction bid was awarded to Ziegler and Dalton for $24, 820.
Holland worked in several styles including Richardsonian Romanesque, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival. He always incorporated local building materials into his work showcasing the best the area had to offer.
Other examples of his work that you may have seen in this area are the Clay County, Riley County, Mitchell County and Washington County Courthouses.

Friday, May 16, 2014

A da Vinci in Junction City?

It’s a story full mystery, intrigue, fake paintings, and a major lawsuit that rocked the art world. It all started with a family here in Junction City.   
After World War I a former army officer Harry J. Hahn and his French wife, Andree settled in Junction City. Harry was the nephew of Dr. Henry C. Mayer and they stayed with the doctor for a time while looking for housing.
When they were married they received a painting from Andree’s godmother. The painting entitled “La Bella Ferronniere” was authenticated by a French Art expert as being painted by Leonardo da Vinci.
While living in Junction City, Mrs. Hahn decided to bring the painting to the United States and sell it in Kansas City through an art dealer by the name of Conrad Hug.
On June 16, 1920 the Kansas City Star reported the arrival of the art work; “‘La Bella Ferronniere,’ smiling her Mona Lisa smile, wearing her wine red velvet frock and with a jewel shining on her brow, arrived yesterday in New York and will leave tonight for Kansas City.”
Initially many jumped at the chance to own the painting and the biding was fast and furious. That was until a reporter for the New York World telephoned Sir Joseph Duveen for his opinion of the painting.
Duveen was recognized as one of the top art dealers. Among his clientele were the names Mellon, Morgan, and Rockefeller. It was by his recommendation that many of the Old Masters' pieces now displayed in the National Gallery were purchased.
Without ever seeing the picture Duveen declared that it must be a copy because the “real ‘La Belle’ is in the Louvre.” Because of Duveen’s reputation this off handed statement halted any chance Mrs. Hahn had of selling the painting.
Mrs. Hahn immediately filed a law suit against Duveen for $500,000 for slander and damages. She claimed that Duveen’s comments were false and were designed to drive the cost of the painting down so that he could control the art market.Her lawsuit rattled the art world because it made dealers and experts cautious of offering opinions.
By the time the case went to court the Hahn’s had left Junction City, but locals followed the story closely. In 1929 the case went to trial in New York and lasted for 28 days. The proceedings were followed closely by the media and the trial was said to be, “a lowbrow and highbrow circus-the smartest show in town.”
During the pretrial the “Hahn Leonardo” was placed next to the “Louvre Leonardo” and both were examined by experts. The trial was confusing and at one point it was argued that the “Louvre Leonardo” might not be a true Leonardo.
A newspaper account of the trial states that portions of the testimony revealed that “measurements of the Hahn portrait tally with those in the old records of the original da Vinci, while those of another portrait in the Louvre of the same name and generally conceded to be the original da Vinci do not.” 
After all the arguments and expert opinions were heard the jury came back with a mixed verdict; nine to three in favor of Mrs. Hahn. The judge ordered another trial but Duveen settled with Mrs. Hahn out of court for $60,000 before the retrial.
However, the damage was done and Mrs. Hahn locked the painting away. In 1946 the painting resurfaced and was on display to the Nelson Gallery for a month coinciding with the publication of Harry Hahn’s book The Rape of LaBella.
The most recent information that I find on the painting is that it was auctioned by Sotheby’s in January of 2010 for 1.5 million dollars. An examination by a leading Leonardo expert concluded that it is not in fact a Leonardo. It dates to the first half of the 17th century and is believed to have been done by a French artist. The sale closed the book on over a century of controversy and debate regarding the work.    

Friday, May 9, 2014

Letters Home: A Fun and Loving Letter from WWII

In the museum archives, a letter recently surfaced that Clarence Lamont Bowman wrote to his future sister-in-law in 1945. Mont was overseas, fighting in the Pacific, during World War II. His sweetheart, Wilma Shane, was back home in Junction City, where she lived with her family at 517 W. 6th St.   Her sister, Helen Shane, was eleven years old. Clarence—known as Mont—to family and friends, wrote this letter to young Helen.
Though he assures her that he is “safe in the Philippines,” Mont is careful not to tell her where he is stationed. Letters during World War II were heavily censored to ensure that the wrong information did not fall into enemy hands. If he had been too specific, he risked the letter being blacked out or sections of the letter being cut out.  Though the letter briefly mentions the destruction and prejudices that come with war, Mont also filled the letter with small jokes and loving words meant for a child. The exchange between the weary soldier and the young child beautifully depicts the love between families and their soldiers abroad.

Mont’s letter reads:

Safe in the Philippines
July 21, 1945

Hello Honey,

I am in the writing mood tonight and I couldn’t go to bed without dropping you a few lines of Love. I didn’t write to my other girl on W. 6th tonight, so maybe you can give her my love and a few big kisses.
Enclosed you will find a couple pieces of Japanese Invasion money. This money is worthless but it will make a little souvenir. You can find oddles of this money so I will bring you some more home.
This city is a wreck. Debris and dirt lying deep in the streets and big beautiful buildings all bombed and caved in. We haven’t discharged our cargo and we might even go to the land where they wear pig-tails and have slanted-eyes. Do you know where that is? Wouldn’t it be something if I came back with a pigtail and almond eyes!!
You must have had a good time up at Aunt Emma’s! It is always nice to go to the country.
Tell mom I send my love and will write her soon. I think of you both lots if I only write to Wilma.
Hope this little note finds you in the best of health. Watch that figure and keep your school girl complexion. Come to think of it, we both like milk and like to eat, don’t we?
Will close now and write again soon. I will be looking for a few letters. I am sending my love and kisses, catch em, Honey,

P.S. “I love you, Wilma”

Mont lived through the war and returned to Junction City, where he married Wilma on February 17, 1946. Mont worked as a postal carrier for 15 years before he retired due to health complications. After his early retirement, Wilma provided for them through her continued work at Wardrobe Cleaners until her retirement in 1991.
This June, the museum will be opening a brand new exhibit. “Letters Home” will display the correspondence written to and from soldiers while they were fighting, training or otherwise deployed away from their loved ones. Letters written during the Indian Wars of the late 1800s, World War I, World War II and the Korean War will all be displayed, along with the souvenirs and stories that the soldiers brought home with them. We are still looking for letters from Vietnam to the present to display in this exhibit.  If you have any “letters home” you would like to share, please contact the museum. 

Clarence “Mont” Bowman and Wilma Shane Bowman on their wedding day, February 17, 1946.