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.
Residents of the Missouri Valley, from St, Louis, to Bismark, N. D.; the Mississippi river west to as far as the Rocky mountains, and perhaps even from the far away Pacific coast, are expected to be the guests of Fort Leavenworth, and incidentally Leavenworth city on May 9 and 10, to help celebrate the 125th birthday of the Army post.
To endeavor to describe the many attractions is impossible at this writing, for plans are only in their formative stage, but thousands of dollars have been subscribed by Leavenworth and Kansas City business and professional men to insure the celebration's success. An Ohio company which is to have charge is already planing the different features under the able assistance of Major James A. Klein, the post public information officer.
But that the celebration will be worth witnessing is a foregone conclusion because its main feature will be an historical pageant depicting the activities of the great central west in its pioneer days and the upbuilding of what until that time was considered to be the Great American Desert lands.
But before the celebration is to be launched it behooves Leavenworth folk to prepare for it by posting themselves on the many incidents and points of interest linking the Army post with the past that they may be acquainted with the history of Fort Leavenworth from its founding to the present day.
To enable the local residents to be better informed on the great importance of Fort Leavenworth from the day General, (then a colonel), Henry Leavenworth landed his troops on what was dubbed by his soldiers "Rattlesnake Hill", The Times will endeavor to give some facts concerning the big military fort from the date of its establishment to the present time.
Hundreds of local residents visit Fort Leavenworth, yet few are posted on its many early day activities and their importance to sightseers. Much of this subject matter has been published in a book printed by the Command and General Staff School press and is worthy of memorizing.
It was in 1827 that Col. Leavenworth and four companies of the Third Regiment in keel boats breasted the strong currents of the Missouri river seeking a site for a military post. They chose the big hill on the west bank of the Missouri, present site of the Army post, as the ideal spot for a cantonment.
Of the activities from that day back in May, 1827, to the present time much has been written and all of it of deep interest to local as well as Army folk. The "high lights".....it's many interesting features, will be here set forth for the benefit of those who would wish to know more of the post.
Fort Leavenworth, as all Kansans should know, was the first capital of the territory of Kansas, and the first capitol building, constructed in 1834, and designated No. 19 Sumner Place, is the oldest building still standing on the post. The joists and some of the partitions are hewn logs.
Later Gov. Reeder used this building as living quarters and had his offices in a one story building directly across the road from the Disciplinary Barracks main gate, on the ground where Pope hall was later erected.
Two double sets of officers' quarters, knows as "Syracuse" houses, just south of the one that housed the territorial government of Kansas, were erected by E. V. Carr, who patterned them from similar buildings in New York State. Carr later was appointed superintendent of construction in the Q.M. department.
In the southeastern corner of the post was the first burial ground for soldiers, plotted in 1827. It was abandoned in 1860 and all bodies were removed to the present cemetery site under contract by R. V. Fonda.
A view from the hill eastward in the section of the post called Bluntville is one never to be forgotten. There, high above the river, one sees spread out before him Sherman Air Force Base. In the far background can be seen the hills of Platte county, among which is nestled the old town of Weston, and almost directly opposite on the Missouri's shore was located the town or collection of shacks in the early days known as "Rialto."
It was there that steamboats were boarded to go either to Fort Leavenworth or the city of Leavenworth. According to Hunt and Lorence's history of Fort Leavenworth "the settlement consisted in general of undesired settlers who sold liquor to the soldiers and the Indians".
On the north side of the Main Parade at No. 17 Sumner Place is a colonial type brick house built in 1840 as a residence for the post commander and was occupied as such until 1890.
The historic stone wall just north of the Grant monument is on the site where Colonel Leavenworth's command built a similar one of rough stones and logs to guard against possible attacks by the Indians. As late at 1849 the late P. G. Lowe, who went to the post with the First Dragoons as an enlisted man, mentions the wall and its loop-holes. An effort was made in 1903 to have the wall removed, and this brought about its restoration by the Captain Jesse Leavenworth Chapter of the D.A.R. of Leavenworth.
The Grant monument was erected through the efforts of Colonel Nelson A. Miles, post commander in 1889. It is of bronze, by the nationally known sculptor Lorado Taft and was unveiled about 1889.
In 1902 the remains of General Henry Leavenworth were brought to the Fort from his old home in Delhi, N.Y., and its interment was the occasion for the unveiling of the monument to the General which is located in the cemetery. That Decoration day in 1902 was one of the most memorable one ever observed at the post.
On July 21, 1834, just four days before being promoted to the grade of brigadier general, Colonel Leavenworth, while engaged in an expedition against the Pawnee Indians, was seized with a violent fever and died within a few hours, lying in his wagon bed on the open prairies, with the troops halted all about him.
He was buried in Cross Timbers, near the camp at Washita Falls, Indian Territory. In 1835 the body was removed to Delhi, N.Y. In 1902 the family consented to have the remains reinterred in the Fort cemetery here.