Valley Falls, formerly Grasshopper Falls, the largest town in Jefferson county and one of the important towns of northeastern Kansas, is located in the northwestern part of the county, 16 miles from Oskaloosa, the county seat, and about 25 miles from Topeka. It is in Delaware township on the Delaware river, which furnishes power for its flour mills. It is an important shipping point and railroad center, having three of the large roads converging therethe Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, the Missouri Pacific and the Union Pacific. Besides the regular lines of business, Valley Falls has a creamery, flour mills, spacious elevators for storing grain, waterworks, electric light plant, an opera house and two weekly newspapers. The principal shipments are grain, live stock and produce. The population in 1910 was 1,150. St. Joseph's school (Roman Catholic) is located here.
Grasshopper Falls was settled in 1854 by Henry Zen, who had visited the locality two years before, accompanying Maj. Ogden to Fort Riley. Zen was often visited by the Kickapoo Indians after erecting his cabin, but was never molested. In the fall he was ordered to leave the country by the agent for the Indians. The next settlement was a permanent one, by James Frazier, Robert Riddle, H. B. Jolley and A. J. Whitney, who drove their stakes on Christmas day, 1854. Their first act was to stake out the boundaries of a town and plat the lots. They then began the erection of a cabin but before it was finished the provisions ran low and one of the number went to Weston, Mo., for a new supply. He was gone eleven days and there was much suffering in the camp before he returned. About this time Zen returned and with him was Henry, Webber. Stephen H. Dunn came in March, 1855, with his wife and started a blacksmith shop. A grist mill was built by a company composed of James Frazier, Robert Riddle, A. J. Whitney and Isaac Cody. The latter was the father of "Buffalo Bill," and was elected representative to the legislature from Jefferson county. In the spring of 1855 the town was surveyed and named Grasshopper Falls. The legislature changed the name to "Sautrelle Falls," but the citzens[sic] never recognized the name and it was later changed to Valley Falls. The streets were named after the pioneer women.
Considerable trouble was occasioned by the location on the town site of a pro-slavery man by the name of A. T. Pattie. He refused to recognize the rights of those who founded the town and built a shanty in the middle of the street, finally becoming so offensive that he was driven out of town. This action on the part of the free-state men resulted in Grasshopper Falls being raided and looted in Sept., 1856. The store of William and R. H. Crosby, which had been built in the spring of that year, was burned. This was the beginning of a long list of depredations committed by each side in turn, which continued throughout the border war. The Crosby store was rebuilt and Pattie's buildings were used as a temporary home for immigrants.
At the land sales the rights of the town company were not recognized and the land which they had staked out, comprising 320 acres, was laid off in quarter sections and sold at the appraised value. Different men had to buy these lands and as some of them never turned their holdings over to the county the stockholders suffered a loss. This condition of affairs gave rise to considerable trouble in the way of land contests. In the year 1857, after the land sale, a number of buildings went up, including a Lutheran church, a steam sawmill and a large hotel. The first school was established in that year and Miss Libbie Pennock, of Leavenworth county, was the teacher.
Grasshopper Falls was incorporated as a town in 1869, and in 1871 it was incorporated as a city. S. C. Gephart was the first mayor and John Beland the first clerk. In 1875 the name was changed to Valley Falls by act of the legislature.Pages 840-841 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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