From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden..
Asked by Many Young People to Tell of Early Situations in City--Many Changes in Passing Years--Leavenworth Has Always Been Interesting and Much History Connected With It.
The only way to enter Leavenworth many years ago, was by the steamer and a nice rock still lies under the piles of sand, near the Union depot. Our Decoration Day was celebrated always at the fort and we school children marched with our teachers to this same levee and took the steamer to Ft. Leavenworth. Our arms laden with flowers with which we climbed the hill and walked across to National Cemetery. There deposited our withered offerings--a walk very few young people would now undertake. The flowers left a deplorable appearance and in a short while, so in time the flowers were given up and little flags substituted. In a few years the parade and general celebrations were abandoned, though the Soldier' Home offered a new field and the G. A. R. men were in great demand. One of the first officials told me that when they held their first decoration (about 45 years ago) there were 25 officials and just enough graves for each one to leave the little flag. Citizens, as a whole, adopted the day and it was generally called Memorial Day and great attention was given to the personal dead. The Mo. P. R. R. soon made its appearance and a little wooden station was near the west end of terminal bridge, afterward changed into a brick structure. The trains coming in under cover was the most convenient place to arrive in time of a storm. That is the one weakness of many stations, generally quite a little distance to go, until you reached hack, bus or auto.
Main street was only between Shawnee and Choctaw, the north end was called N. Esplanade and south end, the S. Esplanade. Both corners at Delaware street were occupied by R. R. offices, the north corner was the Mo. Pacific, presided over by John Joerger. This was the first office to get away from merely counters and chairs. This office was full of plants and was among the first to have a large rubber plant. For some years no lobby was complete without the rubber plant. On the other corner was the Burlington, but its railroad was across the river, so for many years, a ferry boat plied its way across the big Muddy, from a spot now occupied by the remnants of the old sugar factory, to East Leavenworth, commonly called "Slab Town." In the early winter an open passage was kept for this boat, but by January 1, the ice was too thick and so a bus went across, as did numerous loads of wood, that being our only fuel supply. Beside this sugar factory, we also had a canning factory and several slaughter houses, no meat shipped in. It was a common occurrence to see a drove of cattle pass through the streets, on their way to the slaughter house. We also had a vinegar factory. The post office was on the east side of Main street, between Delaware and Shawnee. In those days, no mail was delivered at your door or picked up in corner boxes. Everyone went to the river side for the mail. The first official presiding in the postoffice that I can remember, was a Mrs. Johnson, who built the home now occupied by Adolph Lange. With her lived the famous Nick Smith and his little daughter. He was a good horseman, immaculate in his attire and of unusual good looks. He later married a daughter of Horace Greeley and one of his daughters followed in the footsteps of her illustrious grand father, and wrote many articles for publication.
In the same block with the Mo. Pacific office, was our only wholesale dry goods house, under the name of Briggs, Saunders and Townsend, now used for a mattress factory. Across from this was a wholesale drug house owned by Mr. Brown. On the next corner was the drug house of George Eddy, and next to that a large furniture factory, run by John Sorenson. The burning of this building, was most spectacular, it being in cold weather, and the fallen walls and sides were heavily covered with ice and a similar fire occurred in the same place, since taken over by Goodjohn Bros. In this block, nearer third, was our largest jewelry house. Hershfields, Western Union Telegraph and on the corner was Robt. Kuth furniture, followed by the Abernathy furniture and then Knapp and Bolman in crockery business. Two of these firms sought further fields by going to Kansas City, as did the hardware store, Third and Delaware owned by Richards and Conover. On Fourth street corner was the German Savings bank, now occupied by Crown Drug Co. Across on the north was the First National and next to that, where the Orpheum now is, was our first 10 cent department, put in by James Foster, in connection with his dry goods. West of the First National was the Laing Building occupied by a clothing house and the third floor was given over to a public hall, where many notable and festive affairs were given. The entrance stairs was on the north end of the building, and on the landing, half way up, was the office of Dr. Boyd, who also had lived in the house now occupied by Mr. Lange.
On the southwest corner of Fourth and Delaware was the Ummethun building, the lower part occupied by Parham Drug store, afterward Crew & Bros. Book Store, and above was the Opera House. The corner where Mehl and Schott now stands, was a marble yard, and across the street (where Winning store now is) was our first high class grocery store, run by two brothers named Flynn, both bachelors and married on the same day. The Rossi Flynns still live in Kansas City.
Following this was a haberdashers store in charge of the Burr brothers. Across on the north, was the Congregational church, space now occupied by Wulfekuhler bank and in this same block across the street, was our famous Chickering Hall, presided over by Carl Hoffman.
Our market was in the City Hall. The lower part was given over to meat stalls, each owner paying a rental to the city. The offices were on the second floor and traffic would be much disturbed and autos out classed, if they had attempted to park anywhere in the vicinity of this City Hall, as the vegetable and fruit stands started at the alley on Fifth and went around Shawnee to the alley on Fourth. No complaints about the length of time etc., just part of the day to go with your basket and do your marketing and if your grocery man was agreeable, could send your load home, unless you were fortunate enough to own a horse and buggy, or better still, a coachman with a pair and carriage. This marketing was continued for many years and then finally broke up and the hucksters drove around the town, and their constant cries brought out the customers. At that time no grocer carried anything but substantials, but the trend of the times caused them to put in the vegetables and soon the "corner grocery" was established and meat market was added, but the telephone in time put them out of business and their convenience was no longer a necessity. Where the Federal Bldg. now stands was a large livery stable. There were many of those in early times, as the horse and buggy was as popular as the auto. The one north of the Planters House burned down. One large one left, southeast corner of Seneca and Third, now occupied by a garage, another burned was remodeled from a skating rink and afterward the site of the site of the Congregational church. Across the alley from the Seneca street stable, stands an old stone building, facing Chawnee[sic]. It was owned by a Scotchman, H. P. Scott, and he had his bachelor quarters above. In this shop, Harry Jenkins, Charley Keane and Harvey LePage learned their trade and were called Scott's boys. All rose in their profession, paper hanging, painting and graining. The latter art soon died out and was replaced by the staining now done, to bring out the veins in the wood. Cam Tarr was among some of the later, who had similar shops. It was east of the States Saving Bldg., and the floor became the home of the Art League for many years. This club was originated in the old Van Duzee house, then occupied by Mrs. Fairchild, went to Westminster church and even used room in the Court House waiting for a home of its own.
Our Public Library too, had its original rooms in the court house. On top of this old court house stood our famous clock, lighted by night and could be seen from downtown. Osage street school still stands and is used by the Lutherans, while our first high school, the Oak Street school, has been made into an attractive apartment house, others are all gone. The block occupied by the Presbyterian church, Library and High school, was called the Carney Block and the present Manse, was the residence, moved from the corner to its present site. The R.O.T.C. headquarters was the home of Charley Kunz, who operated a brewery. The caves undereneath were used for cooling purposes. The entrance is still there, facing Three Mile creek. Kaufman's grocery store was established in 1875. The grand parents and descendants who went to Oak Street school, spent many pennies for dill pickles..