Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dont Run Over the Children!!

Since today is Halloween, I would like to share a little history of one of our local landmarks and a Halloween prank that traveled around the world. In the late 1940’s the Walker Cut Stone Company erected a large 5 x 9 foot stone slab across K-18 highway from the Spring Valley Country School house. It would demonstrate the quality of the stone and direct buyers to their quarry, a quarter mile south of the school.   It would eventually have a metal sign on top, but for several years, just the stone stood next to the road.
                Local pranksters were busy in the days leading up to Halloween of 1950. The Monday Daily Union reported that “a quantity of popcorn was poured into the gasoline tank of a parked car” near the Webster apartments.  On West Thirteenth “police reported the removal of tires” from a half dozen cars. The tires the football team used for training were also missing. Other more minor incidents included the soaping of windows and placing of barricades in streets.
                As Halloween loomed it was decided that four police cars with radio would be on patrol due to the increase of incidents. In addition, special police were walking the streets and city employees were stationed in the city parks to ward off mischief-makers. The extra security seems to have scared off the hooligans because the only real incident to make the next day’s paper was a 3 ½ foot bull snake that had been released in the front lobby of the Municipal Building.
                The paper did not report the incidents out in the surrounding countryside. Those outside of town remember several pranks being pulled. Mary Kay Munson remembers coming home that night with her family from a Spring Valley school Halloween party program to find several harrow sections (each weighing a couple hundred pounds) piled in front of the garage. Several others reported farm equipment moved and outhouses toppled that night. Perhaps the most well-known prank was that someone had decided that the Walker Stone slab across from the Spring Valley Schoolhouse needed a message.
                Josephine Munson writes in the Project Heritage book “A Halloween prank in 1950 caused Spring Valley School to be known as the school with the sign ‘Don’t run over the children, wait for the teacher.’ Pictures of the large stone which displayed these words have been published in magazines and newspapers all over the world.”
                Many military personnel took photos of the stone as a memento of their time stationed at Fort Riley. These photos helped in circulating the landmark and message around the world.
                Mary Kay Munson remembers her parents laughing with Maynard Coe, President of the National Safety Council. He said that it was one of the most effective safety signs he had seen because everyone slowed down to read and think about the message.
                Not only has this become a familiar prank but its perpetrators have also been a well-kept secret as no one has come forward and admitted to painting the sign. The hand-printed message has been repainted over the years and still stands as a Halloween prank remembered fondly by many.  

                If you have memories or photos of the stone you would like to share please stop by the museum Tuesday-Sunday from 1-4pm. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Early businesses in Junction City

Early businesses in Junction City

By Gaylynn Childs

Newcomers to this area often find it hard to believe that Junction City was – for over a century – the main center for trade and commerce in this region of the state.  However, a look through Editor Charles Manley’s comprehensive publication should convince even the most skeptical of the truth of this statement.  In this edition, consisting of 12 newspaper-sized pages divided into two sections, Manley expounds that fine agricultural qualities of the area along with detailing the history of the various settlements in Geary County beginning with the first military expedition to Camp Center in 1852.  He then enumerates the many retail and industrial operations which were located here at that time and brags on the cultural and social offerings of the community as well.
            Under bold headlines which proclaim: “GEARY COUNTY TODAY AND TOMORROW,” the editor explains, “In preparation of this Industrial Edition of the REPUBLIC it has been our aim to adhere strictly to facts.  Reckless statements concerning any locality always react and do more injury than good…”  Then he states that not a penny had been paid to advertise in this issue and that expenses were to be covered by the sale of extra copies. 
            It was interesting to note how this enthusiastic promoter could turn even the most negative aspects of our state into something to brag about.  Take note. 
            “Caesar preferred to be the first man in a village to the second in Rome.  He ‘made good’ in Rome and took his pay in daggers.  It costs to lead but it is the best way to advertise.  Kansas leads.  She originated the Civil War, a very expensive job, but it took and was copied all over the country.  Our drought was made national, likewise our grasshoppers.  They are Kansas things.  Other states have them but they take them after us and give us the credit of the invention.  John Brown and Jerry Simpson never amounted to much until they came to Kansas.  We were the making of them….
            “Cyclones are also credited to Kansas but other states are now treating the cyclone very respectfully.  Very little fun is now poked at Kansas on account of its cyclones.  It is a species of wind that makes itself respected wherever it blows.  It went pretty hard with us to have to originate war, drought, hoppers, and cyclones, but somebody had to do it and Kansas never waits.  Calamities are not so almighty amusing but it takes courage to originate them and the first patient has them the easiest.  We are now waiting for something else to originate.”
            After a fairly comprehensive review of the history of the county including an eclectic compilation of “firsts” in Geary County, Manley describes the countryside and assures an excellent supply of water.  “The supply of drinking water comes from wells and springs and is of the most pleasant taste.”  The character of the rural residents is not over looked either.  “There are at least a dozen church organizations in the county outside Junction City and all denominations are represented.  The educational resources are good and well up to modern ideas and as a consequence we find a well educated people, a sharp and active citizenship.”
            Our present county commissioners might take some comfort from Manley’s assessment of the county roads in 1915.  “The county has as good natural roads as one can find anywhere and they are as good ten months of the year as the pikes of the eastern states.  This has been made possible from the fact that rural transportation is largely done by automobile and this necessitates the making of good roads and keeping them in repair.  Geary County has one automobile for every 36 of its inhabitants and when it is known that many are owned by farmers it is at once apparent why the roads are kept in good condition and when it is known that each car has a license tax of $5 per year against it, the fund for road maintenance is not a small one in itself.”
            Junction City was described as an “aggressively progressive city of about 7,000 population.  The inhabitants are a busy, hospitable people, wide-awake, ambitious and enterprising to a degree that surprises visitors from other sections.  There is no apathy or laziness among them, but exceeding vim, zeal and courageous energy characterize their every action.  They extend the open hand of welcome to the newcomer, are frank and generous, open-hearted, unselfish and sincere in their efforts, full of commercial vim, level-headed and far seeing; what wonder the stores and the town generally present a scene of life and bustle that many towns twice its size do not show.”
            Prior to in-depth descriptions of the various businesses and professional operations in Junction City – many augmented with photographs – Manley lists all the types of retail ventures then represented in the community.  This was eye-opening even to those of us who are somewhat familiar with the history of our local business district.
            “Commercially Junction City has: three hotels; two bakeries; one ice plant; three creameries; five opticians; one airdrome; no saloons; (remember this was the era of prohibition) two book stores; three shoe stores; six drug stores; one music store; eight restaurants; six tailor shops; three green houses; one boot and shoe factory; one glove factory; six meat markets; four variety stores; two rock quarries; two rock crushers; four jewelry stores; three lumber yards; one general store; twenty-seven grocery stores; three livery stables; two electric stores; one electric plant factory; three photographers; one bottling works; one storage house; three cigar factories; five clothing stores; two cleaning shops; three candy factories; two grain elevators; three millinery stores; one job printing office; two state banks; three steam laundries; two national banks; three hardware stores; one pure milk depot; three newspapers; two flouring mills; five auto garages; one sheet metal factory; four general contractors; one veterinary hospital; two electric contractors; one sand shipping plant; two wholesale produce houses; one cement block factory; one sewing machine shop; one ice cream cone factory; two harness manufactures; three moving picture theaters; one telephone exchange; one awning and tent factory; one credit rating association; one marble and granite works; one building and loan association; three wholesale ice cream factories; five blacksmith and machine shops; one electric power plant; six furniture stores; three undertaking establishments; two plumbing and heating contractors; one wholesale grocery distributing house; seven attorneys; twelve physicians; seven dentists; one gas company; one hospital; six feed stores; four department stores; three coal dealers; one abstract firm; one architect; nine barber shops; four billiard and pool halls; one cab and baggage line; one chiropractor; five dressmakers; one express company; one insurance agency; twelve real estate and loan firms; four second hand stores and a commercial club (Chamber of Commerce) of 350 members.”

            Editor Manley concluded with the observation that “Junction City is a good trading point.”  The he offered some advice to new entrepreneurs, which might well apply today.  “Visionary individuals cannot get along in Junction City.  The streets are not paved with gold and you can’t pick big yellow nuggets out of the gutter or make a fortune in a minute, but any legitimate business enterprise, coupled with honest and energetic endeavor on the part of the promoter will succeed.”

Due to the high number of cars in Geary County during the turn of the century, businesses like Arnold’s Battery Station, on the corner of 4th and Washington, was a necessity to keep cars in the best condition possible.  

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Coronado Monument

Have you ever wondered why there seems to be a random monument dedicated to Spanish Explorer Francisco de Coronado in the middle of Kansas? How about the fact that there is a park in Junction City with the same name as the monument? For those who have ever wondered why we have these items named after a Spanish explorer, this column will explain the long story of the Coronado influence in Geary County.

This past February marked the 475th anniversary of Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s expedition to North America, and more specifically, Coronado’s trip into deep present-day Kansas. Coronado’s expedition crossed five states; Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. It was estimated that the expedition included 36 men, including Coronado, and one woman. What drew Coronado to Kansas was the legend of the Native American Province of Quivera where inhabitants were rumored to possess gold and copper. Chieftains were believed to eat out of silver bowls and use utensils at every meal. These Native Americans were believed to have been the wealthiest in all of the New World. This is a legend that was almost too good to be true. This did not stop Coronado, as he took a chance and took his expedition into the new world, and tried looking for such a place.   

It turned out; it was too good to be true. Coronado reached, what is now present day central Kansas and was told by Quiviran Chief Taxarrax that the seven cities of gold did not physically exist. Instead it is a place that existed in mind and spirit. This was not good enough for Coronado, so he and his expedition returned to Mexico. The exact place of Coronado’s heartbreak is unknown. But for a few decades, Logan Grove here in Geary County was believed to have been Coronado’s final stop. In 1901, J.V. Brower, a researcher and amateur archeologist for the Minnesota Historical Society, and avid Coronado researcher was looking for the exact route the Spanish researcher took to get to Kansas. Brower had a very specific interest in the Coronado expedition and had spent some time across the United States looking for the exact trail Coronado and his expedition had traveled. While in Junction City, Brower asked the town’s people for information about the surrounding area or any information on the local Native American history. The citizens of Junction City directed Brower to Captain Robert Henderson and his land in Logan Grove.

Captain Robert Henderson obtained property at Logan Grove in 1857 when he received a land warrant signed by President Abraham Lincoln following the Civil War. Captain Henderson was awarded these lands by President Abraham Lincoln due to Henderson’s adventures in Texas. Fresh out of the Army, Captain Henderson was awarded the 106 acre plot just south of town. While building the first log cabin in Geary, the Henderson’s turned the newly acquired land into a family farm. With the daily tilling and toiling of the new soil along with the constant rain fall the Henderson home was turned into a treasure trove of Native American artifact. Items such as arrowheads, hatchets and skinning knifes would turn up on a daily basis.

The rain would later turn up old burned bones and pottery that made the Hendersons and Brower believe that Logan Grove was an old village at the site for the Quivira Indians. Brower believed Coronado ended his expedition at the site. Perhaps the most convincing evidence is the discovery of an old chief grave found on top of a hill on the Henderson farm. Although the chieftain was believed to have lived before the arrival of Coronado, this does signify that there was a stable and sedentary community around Logan Grove for years.  

Due to these developments, Brower believed that Logan Grove must have been the location where Coronado met with the Quivara American Indians, and where he turned back for Mexico. Because of this, Brower and the Henderson family decided to have a monument built to commemorate the discovery of the location of where Coronado and Chief Taxarrax met. The shaft of polished granite was mounted on two bases of native stone. This monument was officially unveiled in September of 1902 to a big crowd. On one side of the monument is the inscription “ERECTED FOR THE QUIVERA HISTORICAL SOCIETY BY ROBERT HENDERSON IN 1902.” The Quivara Historical society was created by Brower to explore and investigate the expeditions of the great explorers of the west and Northwest along the waters of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

Unfortunately for Brower and Captain Henderson, it was later found out that the closer, more approximate location to this meeting ground was at the now aptly named, Coronado Heights near Lindborg, Kansas. This location is about 77 miles south of Logan Grove. There is no doubt that the Logan Grove cabin location was in fact an American Indian village, but perhaps not a location where Coronado had met with the Quivara Indian chief.

After these new developments surfaced, the ground at Logan Grove where sold off for recreational purposes in the late 1960s, the monument was moved to avoid damages. The Coronado Monument was moved to what is now Coronado Park in 1974 when the American Legion Post #45 presented this monument to Junction City. The Fort Riley Engineers moved it to Coronado Park in December of that year.

This picture portrays the original location of the Coronado monument next to the Henderson cabin at Logan Grove. You can now visit the monument at Coronado Park. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Our Cabinet of Curiosities

Museums have been around for centuries, but they were not always the type of institutions we might think of them as today. The original museums were privately owned collections by Europe’s most rich and powerful citizens and featured scientific and naturalistic oddities. These early collections went by many names but most frequently “wunderkammer” or curiosity cabinets.
There was a widespread craze for cabinets of curiosity in the 1600s. These small exhibitions were displayed in the houses of wealthy collectors and would include strange, beautiful and outlandish objects. Exotic shells and jewels, stuffed animals, preserved bodies, clockwork and scientific instruments would often be accompanied by the stuff of fairytales - mermaids, dragons, or the clothes or footsteps of giants. Collections included examples of rare and misunderstood deformities. Among the curiosities of the Russian emperor Peter the Great was a two-headed sheep, a four-legged rooster, the teeth of a singer and the bones of a giant footman.
            Anatomist Frederick Ruysch created elaborate, and horrifying, curiosity cabinets in the 17th century. Ruysch discovered the recipe for a colored die that, when injected into human organs, revealed the journeys taken by the blood vessels through the body.  He later included these injected body parts in his museum of curiosities: body part specimens in glass jars, baby skeletons, and preserved organs sat alongside exotic birds, butterflies and plants. He thought of these exhibits as educational, but also felt that they should be decorated 'prettily and naturally.’
Small skeletons were positioned in 'geological' landscapes, crying into handkerchiefs, wearing strings of pearls, or playing the violin. The 'botanical' landscapes were also made up of body parts: kidney stones or tissue from the lungs would become bushes, grass or rocks.
The popularity of these curiosity cabinets eventually gave way to what we might consider more normal museums in the 18th century. The first American historical societies came about as a direct result of the American Revolution. Following the war, American patriots believed the founding fathers had made contributions to world civilization that should never be forgotten. So, the historical materials of American democracy were gathered and preserved in historical societies. The earliest historical society in America is still active. The Massachusetts Historical Society has been an active part of American history since 1791.
The Geary County Historical Society was first chartered in 1920, and, in 1924, J.B. Henderson donated the pioneer photographs that currently hang in the museum’s front hallway. The Historical Society was disbanded soon after, but in 1972, local citizens revised the organization that exists today.
            Museums are still filled with curiosities, but of a different kind. We are fascinated with how people lived; what they wore; what they ate and what they thought. For example, dinner manners have evolved over the last hundred years. We might go to a museum to see different artifacts used at a formal dinner in the 1800s.

            The Geary County Historical Society has been preserving local history since the 1970s. Our collection includes everything from the early Bartell House registration ledgers to the cane used by Governor Harvey at the turn of the century. But, the museum also holds a couple of oddities: Odd Fellows fraternal order robes, a wooden plane propeller from WWII, and a turn of the century graphophone among others. The museum has taken these oddities out of storage. We are preparing the stories of these rarely seen objects in our new exhibit “Our Cabinet of Curiosities.” This exhibit opens Saturday October 17th  at 1pm with special presentation “Jackalopes, Hodags and Other Larger than Life Myths from the American Road” given by Kansas Humanities Council Speaker’s Bureau speaker Erika Nelson at 1:30pm.  

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Dixon Brothers Land War

            Among the area’s earliest settlers was a family of enterprising Irishmen named Dixon who were all born in County Mayo on the Emerald Isle.  Their father was an “above average farmer” and prominent in his borough.  The family, which consisted of parents and nine children, immigrated to America in 1847 and initially settled in Virginia.  There, sons James, Thomas, Patrick and John took up the stone-cutter’s trade and worked as bridge builders for the railroads.  This eventually led them Kansas Territory in August of 1854 in the employ of Col. Ashley, who had contracts to build bridges for the Army at Forts Leavenworth and Riley.
            Here the brothers located claims on land along Three-mile Creek just outside the boundary of Fort Riley.  Then the death of their father called the brothers back to Illinois. After settling affairs there, they returned to Kansas with their sisters, wives, and children.  Here they camped on their claim site and commenced to build a suitable dwelling for their clan. 
In the meantime the Pawnee Town Company had been organized and a site was selected in the same area for the new capital city of Kansas.  A few days after their return the Dixons were visited by a detail of soldiers from Fort Riley who ordered the party to move on, saying the land was already claimed.  The brothers however, being made of substantial material, maintained their ground and continued to put up their house.  A short time later, Capt. Lowe, Master of Forage at the fort, appeared at the site with government lumber and crew of carpenters and put up a house on the same claim. 
Col. Montgomery, the commanding officer at the post, then notified the Dixons that they were intruding upon the claim of Mr. Lowe, and must move off or they would be put off of United States troops.  James Dixon refused, but finally agreed to pay Mr. Lowe $300 to leave, which the latter did.
One day soon after the Dixon house was completed, the brothers were visited by Judge Ed Johnson.  Under the guise of friendship, he urged the family to leave their claim peaceably as the land was wanted for the military reserve.  In reality, it was wanted by private individuals.  When the Judge could not move the Dixons, he became threatening.
The next move was to send Capt. Nathaniel Lyon, one of the few abolitionist officers at the fort, to purchase the claim for $1,000, but still the Dixons refused to leave.  A few days later, while the Dixon men were away grading a steamboat landing at Pawnee, a company of troops commanded by Capt. Lyon came to the homestead and forcibly ejected the women and children and then, using oxen and grappling hooks, tore down the house.  Upon their return that night, the Dixon brothers moved back to the same spot and, acting upon the advice of counsel, put up another house.
A short time later, another officer with a company of troops came to the site, tore down the second house, and a second time ejected the women and children in the absence of the men.  James Dixon then dug a hole in the ground and he and his brothers moved into it to guard their claim.
James McClure, an early area settler and lawyer, later shed some light on what may have motivated Col. Montgomery’s actions where the Dixons’ claim was concerned .  He wrote in the Kansas Historical Collections that, “Governor Reeder had visited Fort Riley and indicated to the town company (of which both he and Montgomery were shareholders) his intention to make Pawnee the capital.  As one of the conditions for doing this Reeder insisted upon the company securing for him 160 acres of land adjoining the town site to the east side, which was where the preemption claim had been made by the Dixon brothers. Repeated efforts were made to purchase the land, but the Dixons persistently refused to sell or surrender their right to the claim. When it was found impossible to induce the Dixons to surrender the 160 acres desired by Governor Reeder it was determined to force them off by embracing their tract in the military reservation.”
In the meantime, Capt. Lyon, appalled by what appeared to be gross misconduct and graft on the part of Montgomery, prepared and preferred charges against the Major.  As a result, he was court-martialed and dismissed from the Army in December of 1855.
Major Ogden replaced Col. Montgomery and the Dixons found a friend in this commander.  Ogden told them their claim was legitimate and he encouraged James Dixon to maintain it.  With this support, Thomas and James Dixon walked to Platte City, Missouri, where they laid their case before General Atchison, then acting Vice President of the United States.  The General reported the problem to Washington, and at the request of President Franklin Pierce, Generals Churchill and Clark were sent to investigate the question of the fort’s boundaries. 
After this inquiry was completed, they recommended boundaries that excluded both the city of Pawnee and the Dixon land at Three-mile Creek.  However, Jefferson Davis, then Secretary of war, over-rode this recommendation and extended the lines to the post to incorporate both Pawnee and the Dixon claim.  The residents at both sites were ordered out and mounted troops tore done the buildings with grappling hooks.

The Dixons went on to make the most of their bad beginning in this frontier land.  After being booted off their claim, they removed to other homesteads in the vicinity, and for the most part, were prosperous and successful.

This picture is of James Dixon