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.
Leavenworth Times, Sunday Morning, May 30, 1948 under the heading Talk To Pioneers
(Editor's Note: This is the text of a talk delivered Wednesday to Rotary members here and ten special guests--those chosen as among the oldest pioneers in point of residence in this area.)
When asked tomake a ten-minute talk on Pioneer Days I hesitated, and expecially so when told the ages of some of the real pioneers who would be present.
I doubted that I, a 75-year-old kid, could say anything that some of these oldsters had not known for years, but I'll endeavor to give you some early histoy for the benefit of these younger Rotarians who arrived too late to see a real live Indian, to gather hazelnuts on the townsite or sneak a pocketful of raw peanuts being unloaded on the levee from a steamboat; and perhaps, too, a stalk of sugarcane to sweeten the nuts as they went down.
If any of you haven't tried that menu you've missed an A-1 bellyache.
I regret that my old friend Webb Tholen is indisposed and could not be present. I was a blacksmith's helper with Webb acting as smithy back in the early 90s. His father, Charles Tholen, in the 60s was an attorney, a justice of the peace and the United States commissioner.
Familiar Name in Easton
The name of Mrs. R. M. Fevurly of Easton is familiar. I am told she is the widow of "Bob" Fevurly, on of Easton's prominent early day citizens. There has been a Fevurly on that townsite since 1854 when it was founded by E. J. Eastin.
He spelled it Eastin, but the state's first territorial governor wished to honor Easton, Pa., his old home town, so knocked out the "i" and inserted an "o."
Mrs. Anna Schmeckel is the widow of the late Otto Schmeckel, who was the best single-handed Democratic politician this town ever had.
He could be relied upon at every state, county or city election to carry his precinct, and most always his ward, for "Doc" Neeley for mayor, and Peter Everhardy, Stance Meyers or Tom Brown for sheriff.
I note the name of George L. Rapp, of Easton, whose father established a famous landmark known as Rapp's mill on Big Stranger. We usually caught our biggest channel catfish around there.
You residents of Platte County, Mo., doubtless heard your parents tell of those Kansas Redlegs who stole their horses and burned their houses and barns. But I assure they were not citizens of Leavenworth because this city . . .most of the time . . .was a law-abiding community.
Why, some of these Ratarians are sons or grandsons of early day Pro-slavery and Free-state advocates, but now they're so civilized and peace loving that they break bread together and call each other by their first names.
To Platte County, especially Weston, we are indebted for Leavenworth. That group of citizens who got together in June, 1854, organized a townsite committee and chose this spot for a city weren't a bit hoggish.
They took only 320 acres of hazelbrush from the Delaware Indians who wouldn't or couldn't have cultivated it anyway.
But the Redskins doubtless had a good joke on the townsite promoters for it cost $3,000 to clear off the brush before a survey could be made. The Delawares, backed by fellows in the rival city of Atchison, demanded the the government give the Leavenworth squatters the "hotfoot" and it was so ordered, but before carried out the Indians agreed to accept whatever wampum the government thought the land was worth per acre. The pioneers agreed, the pipe of peace was smoked and all ended happily.
River Gave Transportation
Early Leavenworthians also were thankful because the Missouri River which has since left Weston high and dry ran so close to the old Walruff brewery that steamers had no trouble in docking and loading up with lager beer for Leavenworth's 60 or more drink emporiums. We haven't the steamboats now, but we do have good roads and a free bridge so don't wait for water transportation to get here from Weston now.
Platte County played a mean trick on us in October, 1856, when they sent over boatlaoads of fellows to vote against Leavenworth in a county seat contest. They voted at Kickapoo and Old Delaware, ballot boxes were stuffed at Kickapoo and at Delaware the polls were kept open for two days. But Leavenworth had the court on its side and won.
Over in Jefferson County they had some strenuous times. The pro-slavery and free-state supporters fought a gun battle at Slough Creek, three miles north of Oskaloosa, September 11, 1856. Only one man was wounded, but much ammunition wasted.
At Hickory Point in March, 1855, the same crowds met again. The battleground was about theree miles west of Winchester. A clever tactical maneuver, the running of a burning load of hay into a frame blacksmith shop where the pro-slavery forces had barricaded themselves, smoked them out. Score: Four Pros wounded, three Free-staters shot in legs and one got a bruised head.
Hill as a Devil
History relates that the town of Jarbalo received its name because soldiers of Colonel Doniphan's expedition to Mexico in 1846 called that big hill south and west of the place "diablo," which is Spanish for "devil." Any autoist who tried to negotiate it some years ago in a Ford, as I did, will readily agree that the hiss was well named.
Tonganoxie was named in honor of an Indian chief whose cabin was the stopping place for travelers on the road to Lawrence. It was laid out in 1866 by Mrs. Magdalena Barry. Wilson Fox built the first cabin in 1862 and late in the 70s it was incorporated as a city of the third class.
The history of Winchester, a few miles over the line in Jefferson County, dates back to June, 1854, when William M. Gardiner, an uncle of Emmet Gardiner of The Leavenworth Times staff, located a claim in that vicinity. The next year he brought his family from Missouri and built a cabin.
Part of his claim was sold to Joseph Best, who built two cabins, connected them, and had Winchesters first hotel. The settlement was named Winchester by Best for his old home back in Virginia. The town was laid out in 1857.
Names for a Surveyor
McLouth, Jefferson County's oil and gas metropolis, was named for Amos McLouth, who surveyed the line of the old Leavenworth & Topeka Railroad. He later was employed by the Missouri Valley Bridge & Iron Company.
Oskaloosa, county seat of Jefferson, a nice afternoon drive on Highway 92, has a $20,000 courthouse, a high school and churches of all denominations. It was settled in February, 1855, and incorporated as a town in August, 1859.
Valley Falls, formerly known as Grasshopper Falls, largest town in Jefferson County, was settled by Henry Zen. A grist mill was built on the Delaware River by a company of men, one of whom was Isaac Cody, father of Buffalo Bill.
The state legislature, not admiring the name, changed it to Sautrell (French for "grasshopper") Falls, but the natives thought that was too "highfalutin" so decided on Valley Falls.
In conclusion I wish to state I am not a real pioneer. My parents arrived on the tonsite in 1854; I was a little late; not putting in an appearance until 1873. I have for the past two years enjoyed a self-imposed task of writing some of the early history of the city and county equally as much as I have enjoyed the company today of you Rotarians and your honored guests, our real pioneers.