Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Oesterhaus Family: A Geary County Story

            I have always been interested in family histories: my family, other people’s family, it doesn’t really matter. What matters to me are the stories of the people that came before us; that’s probably why I became a historian. So, imagine my delight when, just a few weeks into my position at the Geary County Historical Society last year,  I came across an entire family history collection that had been donated to the museum and was waiting to be added to the system! Everything from baby clothes to original German immigration documents greeted me when I opened the box—and so began my love affair with the Oesterhaus family.
            The story of the Geary County Oesterhaus family starts with Dietrich “Hermann” Oesterhaus. Hermann was born on June 2, 1821 in Heerseheide, Germany. As a young man, he married Philopena Caroline Justine Blanke before they immigrated to the United States in 1852 and settled in Evansville Indiana. While starting their new life in America, Hermann and Philopena had five children: Lena, Matilda, Lewis and twins Fred and August. They stayed a few years in Indiana before they moved their young family to Kansas.
Lewis Oesterhaus, age 12, Circa 1868
            In 1867, Hermann and Philopena bought land from Henry and Hannah Mihleman outside of Junction City. This purchase was just the beginning of the large land purchases the Oesterhauses would make in years to come.
            Now, the Oesterhauses were a large family, so the story could branch into several different directions, but the story that the museum’s objects tell is the story of son Lewis Oesterhaus and his family. Lewis met his wife Mary Klusmire when their families traveled together through Kansas, though the families did not settle near to one another—the Oesterhauses in Geary County and the Klusmires in Holton, KS.
            Lewis and Mary were married on June 3, 1878 and settled on Oesterhaus land outside of Junction City. When they celebrated their anniversary 52 years later, Lewis recalled “the trip [to take Mary from Holton to Junction City] of one hundred miles meant slow travel with a team and wagon over narrow, rough roads and fording streams because of few bridges over them…requiring almost a week to go and return again.” Once they reached Geary County, Lewis built a stone cottage of three small rooms that they lived in for seventeen years.  Their first child, Anna Matilda, was born in that stone cottage on March 3, 1880. It was during a spring blizzard and Lewis was gone, no one was able to come. So, Mary gave birth alone.
The Oesterhaus children: John, Mabel and Anna
circa 1890
            They eventually had two more children, John and Mabel. The photographs of the children donated to the museum indicate that Lewis and Mary Oesterhaus were prosperous. The children were always well dressed and there are multiple portraits of them throughout their childhood—a sign of wealth in an age when photography was a luxury.
            And the Lewis Oesterhauses had a good reason for their prosperity. At the turn of the 20th century, Lewis Oesterhaus and his partner, Jacob Winner—a local butcher— had a contract with Fort Riley to supply the military base with their beef. It is likely that through this business, Lewis’s daughter, Anna Matilda Oesterhaus, met her husband, Fort Riley’s beef inspector and cavalry veterinarian, Charles Jewell.
Anna and Charles Jewell on their wedding day
December 22, 1906
            When Anna and Charles were married, Anna wore a dress made out of Piña—a fabric made out of pineapple fibers—that Charles brought home for her after he was stationed in the Philippines. They had one daughter, Mary Jewell. It is Mary Jewell’s descendants who generously donated so many of the Oesterhaus heirlooms to the museum.
            Lewis and Mary Oesterhaus’ son, John, attended Kansas State University and became a veterinarian, later founding the Kansas City Vaccine Company. Youngest daughter, Mabel, stayed in Junction City. She also attended Kansas State University before becoming a teacher at several rural schools near Junction City.
            Many of the Oesterhaus heirlooms are now on display at the Geary County Historical Society in our local genealogy case, including: German immigration papers from 1850, a large family photograph of the original Oesterhaus family, a tintype photograph of Lewis Oesterhaus and the Piña fabric that was used to make Anna Jewell’s wedding dress. If you have local family history objects or stories, we would love to talk to you! Open Tuesday-Sunday, 1pm-4pm.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Tombstone Tales

            Headstones are the traditional markers for graves of people from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish cultures. In most cases they have the name of the deceased, their birth date, date of their death, and sometimes a piece of funerary art. Funerary art can be specific to an individual person, to a region, but often is non-specific and capable of relating to many regions and cultures.
            The dove is the most represented animal symbol on tombstones and is most often seen carrying an olive branch. This is a reference to the biblical story of Noah who released the dove in hopes that it would find land in the popular Noah’s Ark tale. Over time the dove has come to represent purity, peace, and the Holy Ghost. The dove is also a symbol of the highest degree of a Knight of Columbus, a fraternal organization for Catholics.
This imagery is popular all around the country and can even be seen in Geary County. We found two gravestones in Highland Cemetery that highlight doves, and one each in Saint Mary’s and Fairfield Cemeteries, we're sure there are many more. One of the doves in Highland cemetery, on the gravestone of Margaret, wife of Andrew Languein, is an inverted dove below a cross. The gravestone is traditionally shaped in a pointed oval known as a Norman headstone.
The dove in St. Mary’s cemetery sits atop the square headstone of Robert L. (1900-01). This imagery strays from tradition associated with children’s graves as they are usually decorated with lambs, as illustrated by an unmarked site in Highland Cemetery. The lamb is known to represent the Lamb of God in Christian art and is tied to springtime renewal in Christian, Jewish, and Muslim cultures. Christ is often depicted as a shepherd, but is also referred to as the lamb, or child, of God. Using this imagery on a gravestone symbolizes that the deceased person is too a child of the Christian God.
Another very popular symbol that has marked many graves over the years is clasped or shaking hands. Hands have many different meanings, but when the hands are clasped together this is a symbol of matrimony, a heavenly welcome, or an earthly farewell. The distinction between the three meanings comes from the cuffs around the wrists of each hand. If one of them appears feminine and the other masculine then we see this as a symbol of matrimony, but if the cuffs are gender neutral then this is seen as a symbol of a heavenly greeting or earthly farewell. This is a very popular symbol and is found all around the country and we have several examples here in Geary County. One of these examples can be found in Highland cemetery on George Kilian’s grave. The cuffs on these hands are gender neutral, and the grave is of a single person, which suggests that this symbol refers to the heavenly welcome or earthly farewell.
            Another set of clasped hands can be found on Robert Hunter’s gravestone in Highland cemetery. In early Christian art the depiction of God was forbidden due to an interpretation of the fourth commandment which stated that “You shall not make for yourself an idol…” (Exodus 20:4). However the hand was used to represent the presence of God, which was permitted. Showing clasped hands is a way to symbolize the deceased being close with God in the afterlife, or saying goodbye to their earthly family.
           A gravestone can tell a very wide variety of stories about the deceased person. Many of these images can be seen all around the country while others are region specific, and still others are specific to individual people. A stone marks their final resting place and it is meant to represent their life, usually through images relating to their life in the church. If this topic interests you, Lori Halfhide will be at the museum on November 1st at 1:30pm giving a Tombstone Talk!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Kansas Falls: A Ghost Town and a One-Room School

Kansas Falls is not only the name of Rural School District 17 it is also the name of a small town site that was founded September 10, 1857. Kansas Falls was located approximately 7 miles southwest of Junction City at a point near Seven Springs on the Smoky Hill River, where small falls or rapids interrupted the course of the river. At this site an early day mill was erected and a considerable amount of native timber in the vicinity was sawed.
The sale of lumber came to be the principle industry, although several cattle drives arrived in the area as early as 1867. Shortly after the Kansas Pacific Railroad built through the Kansas Falls area to Salina in 1867, Kansas Falls and Seven Springs went out of existence. From 1857 to 1860 Kansas Falls had a post office, which now makes it one of Kansas’s ghost towns.
While the town was nothing more than a hamlet with a post office and a few buildings located one the Smoky Hill River that lasted only 3 years, the school lasted 84 and has left a greater impression on Geary County History. Rural School District 17, Kansas Falls was organized on May 14, 1869, at the home of William S. Shane, and named after the ghost town and the falls themselves.
Kansas Falls-The remains as they appear on Old Highway 40 in 2013.
Kansas Falls Students 1939
In 1900 Miss Matilda Moore, or Tillie, was the teacher.  At the tender age of 16 Matilda taught all eight grades. According to Mat MacGuire in an article she wrote about Moore’s retirement, “there was a bucket of drinking water, she did janitor work, the desks were crude, and some of the pupils were as old as she was. . . . There were old slates that had to be washed off, and slate pencils that creaked over the slates, making that funny scratching noise, not to mention toilet facilities that were far distant.” Despite these difficulties Moore remembers that “she watched with pride the success of her pupils and she grieved when misfortune came their way.”
On the same property as the one-room schoolhouse this church was also used as a school.
Like the many other Geary County Schools the one-room schoolhouse had to close its doors and combine its students with other districts. In July 1953 the district was disorganized and the pupils were divided between Acker and Brookside schools.
This schoolhouse will be featured on the One-Room Schoolhouse audio tour we’re making for Geary County, but we need your help to show it off in the right way.  We need photos of the school, stories from its students and teachers, and photos of the student body.  If you have any of these to share please contact the museum by phone 785-238-1666, email, or juts stop by the museum at 530 N. Adams, Junction City, KS. Thank you for all your help.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Whole Hog: Butcher Shops in Early Junction City

The Geary County Historical Society has a new exhibit: The Whole Hog. This new exhibit features various tools of the butchering trade, including a few grisly meat grinders, a rather intimidating meat hook or two and some cleavers you don’t want to mess with! And as I was going about doing research for this new exhibit, I was surprised at how little the butchering business has changed over the past 4,000 years!
In fact, both Ancient Egyptian and Roman artwork display imagery of butcher shops. The Worshipful Company of Butchers Guild formed in 975 AD in London, England and still exists today. Both Ancient Romans and historic Londoners used the same, or similar, techniques and tools found here in Geary County many hundreds of years later!
 When Geary County was first settled, most fresh beef and pork consumed in Geary County was home-butchered.  The butchering process, particularly for poultry and pork, usually occurred in fall and winter months. Rather than spend the money to buy feed for the animals through the long winter months, they were butchered. The cold weather helped keep the meat fresher than would be possible if they were butchered in the warmer summer months, and what couldn’t be kept cold was salted and smoked.  A family event, every available hand was involved in the butchering process.
However, by the early 1900s, Junction City boasted a number of butcher shops and the community choices.  Home-butchering was not the only option. In 1911, beef steak was selling for 12 cents a pound and shoppers had a selection of competitive butchers to buy from.   In an advertisement for Bisheimer and Hartshorn, located at the corner of 14th and Washington, they declared, “the most appreciated business establishment in the resident district of a modern city is a well-equipped meat market located conveniently near that choice meats and other market supplies may be procured promptly when needed.”  Bisheimer and Hartshorn advertised a “full line of meats, lard and sausage.”
On 515 North Washington, Le Clair Meat Market featured 1000 square feet, three skilled butchers and a choice of fresh beef, pork, mutton, poultry and by products. Meanwhile beginning in 1913, the Steward Poultry Company, under the management of L.C. Stewart, both provided the community with fresh poultry and purchased surplus poultry from local farmers.
4th Ward Market with the Bryant Family circa 1913
In 1911, the 4th Ward Market was owned by Leonard (Tubby) Bryant and later by A.P. Allen, who changed the name to Allen’s Food Market. There was no electrical refrigeration when the Bryants ran the meat market, and there was certainly no walk-in cooler. The Bryant family had to rely on natural ice to keep the meat fresh.  As a result, market-goers had to buy meat the day they planned to use it. Unless it was salted, the meat would only be fresh for a day. Certainly a change from the frozen packages of chicken wings available at grocery stores today!
Stop in to see the Geary County Historical Society’s new butchering exhibit The Whole Hog, up now! Open Tuesday-Sunday 1:00-4:00 PM. Interested in volunteering? Ask us how you can be a part of the fun!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Mills Make Junction City a Better Place to Live

               As I was reading through the “Mills” folder in our newspaper clippings file, researching for the Fogarty Mill article, I came across the Museum Musing from June 21, 1987.  Irene Jeffries, a museum trustee, wrote an article about the different types of Mills in Geary County in the 1800s and into the early 1900s. I thought her article would be a lovely follow-up to the Fogarty Mill article from September.  So if you wanted to know more about mills in Geary County this should satisfy that curiosity.
                As the westward movement beckoned wagon trains of venturesome people to explore new regions, two things were considered necessities for settlement. Building materials such as trees, sod, or stone, and good water supply held priority. Depending upon the length of the time of settlement, of course, good soil, protection and the possibilities for the future held promise for the early pioneers.
                The first industries in the territory in Kansas included mills, both for milling and sawing lumber. The importance of the early grist and sawmill can be equated with survival. What better way to grind meal for food and cut lumber for building, than to harness the wind, local stream and rivers to work for survivor preservation?
                Much of the lumber used in constructing the buildings in Junction City was cut at the Union Mills erected at Bacheller (Milford) in 1859 and operated by Clark, Pierce, and Bryan. Of course, previously the first buildings were made of logs. There was a good supply of Oak, black walnut, hickory and cottonwood to be found in the area.
                Saw millsspring up quickly. In the Newspaper Kansas Statesman of 1860 there were several advertisements: the mill at Milford, a steam saw mill operated by Cuddy and Mitchell, and another by Pierce and Henderson.
                Robert Wilson operated a mill in 1863, later purchased by Brown and Woodward. An announcement in the Junction City Union April 18, 1863, announced that they would grind corn every Saturday, indicating that power for a saw mill could also be used for a grist mill. By July of 1863, Brown and Woodward had added machinery for a steam flouring mill. Woodward was apparently succeeded in this operation by Stover. On Jan. 6, 1866, an announcement signed by Brown and Stover indicated that Junction City Steam Mill handles both grain and wood.
                In 1867 the first Smoky Hill River Bridge Co., constructed a bridge bear where the Fogarty Dam would be built later. The bridge was a real asset to the Fogarty Star Mills.
                In 1873 the government gave Cornelius Fogarty a grant for a grist mill. The Star Mills were by far the largest and most productive in the Junction City area. A dam was constructed across the Smoky Hill River, east of Junction City at the foot of the Grandview bluffs. When the mill opened in 1874, farmers came to Junction City from a radius of 75 miles to get their grists. Farmers would camp around the mill overnight, or as long as it took to process the grain.
                In the summer of 1885, Fogarty built the first electric plant in central Kansas at the site of the Fogarty Dam. The power plant was built in connection with the flour mill which Fogarty owned and operated.
                When MKT railway opened and the southwest route into Indian Territory (later Oklahoma) became a reality, the entire output of the mill could be exhausted in a 24-hour period. The surplus power was used to light the town with electricity. On September 1, 1886, the electric current was turned on and the business houses and streets of Junction City were lighted. The first residence wired for electric lights was the Thomas Hogan home, 302 N. Adams.
                In the 1890s Fogarty secured contracts to supply flour to the government. After his visit to England, France, and Germany in 1899, he began exporting products to other countries.
                On Decmeber 15, 1900 Fogarty sold his electric power plant, lines, and facilities to the Electric Railway, Light, and Ice Company. He died in May 1901.
                In 1905 the Hogan Milling Company was incorporated with Thomas E. Hogan as president. The water power, lights, and the goodwill of the former Fogarty Estate provided opportunity for even greater expansion.
                Two new water wheels were installed as well as the necessary electric machinery and transmission lines to connect the new mill on East Eighth Street. The Hogan Milling Co. was a pioneer in adopting electricity as a means of power.

Hogan’s Mill on East 8th Street
                In 1907 the mill site was moved from the old dam built by Fogarty. Hogan expanded in the direction of producing a better strain of wheat. Through the efforts of Kansas State College at Manhattan, later KSU, Dr. John Parker experimented with wheat and produced the Tenmarq. This wheat is a cross between a hard spring variety, Marquis, and the familiar Turkey, a variety used in this area for many years. Tenmarq flour enabled the mill to produce fancy patent flour, pancake flour, and even self-rising flour. Hogan believed that the success of any product lies in its ability to meet the needs of the time.
                If you have any questions or comments please contact the Geary County Historical Society at 785-238-1666 or email