1937: FCHS’ Founding Year
Franklin County Historical Society
75th Anniversary History Symposium
Local News as found in The Ottawa Herald:
01 Jan 1937
The year 1937 in Ottawa was greeted with a series of gay social functions last night, some of which lasted far into the new year. The advent of the new year at midnight was a noisy occasion, with plenty of din in dance halls and night spots and a chorus of whistles, motor car horns, cheers and a few gun shots throughout the city. The past year will be remembered by Ottawans for many years, due partly to one of the city’s most spectacular and property damaging fires which swept a portion of South Main Street following a gas truck accident the afternoon of July 26, 1936, when the temperature was 106 degrees. Two lives were lost, those of the truck driver, Gaylor Duree, 24, Topeka and his companion, Miss Luewella Francis, 23, Topeka. The overturned truck caught fire instantly making their escape impossible. Burning gasoline flowed down the east side of Main Street, forming a dense cloud of smoke, igniting drought-parched grass, trees and shrubs, and setting afire and destroying five homes and damaging three others. By passing a measure banning gasoline transports of 600 gallon capacity or over, shortly after the transport fire in July, Ottawa City commissioners paved the way for a state wide regulations of gasoline transports.
1936 was also the first year for Andrew B. Martin, who served a number of years as President of Ottawa University.
1936 went down on record as the driest year ever recorded in Ottawa since 1895 when weather records were started, and one of the driest since settlement of the area. A high temperature of 100 or greater was reached on a record 57 days in 1936. Probably the longest period of water shortage in the city’s history resulted from the year’s unprecedented drought. Ditching of the Marais des Cygnes was necessary to channel the water to Ottawa’s water plant.
The Ottawa Herald, then located at 106 S. Main street had a new front put on it in the summer of 1936.
137 building permits were issued in 1936, among the biggest projects were the new Eugene Field School and a 4-room addition to Hawthorne that were started in 1936 and finished in 1937. 14 new homes were built in the city of Ottawa in 1936.
Despite severe drought conditions in 1936, business men report that this year was a great improvement over 1935, and they look forward to a still better business year in 1937. Drought conditions cut deeply into the agricultural trade, but increased prices and better economic conditions over the country helped to offset the dry weather setback. Some of the retail merchants reported the best year since 1929, and the 1936 Christmas retail business was the best in several years. The releasing of more federal funds and relief money and the payment of soldiers bonuses contributed to the community’s welfare.
The Bennett Creamery company, important outlet for dairy products in this agricultural community for 33 years, suffered from the extensive drought in the months of July, August and September. During 1936 employment was furnished for 58 persons in the main plant and in addition to 40 milk routes and 45 cream buying stations employed many people to buy milk and cream and deliver it to the plant daily. The business had been organized in 1904 by B. D. Bennett. Their dairy products and Forest Park butter had a national reputation. The annual payroll at the creamery in 1936 was $76,000. A total of $538,562 was paid to the farmers of Franklin and adjacent counties for dairy products. The butter production plant used 980,000 pounds of sugar in butter production and 1,100,000 pounds of sugar in making sweetened condensed milk, ice cream, ice cream mix and other milk products. Products were sold as far east as Boston, as far west as Denver and south to New Orleans and San Antonio.
In the elections of November 1936 Franklin County stayed Republican despite a national Democratic landslide. Franklin County elected John B. Pierson as county attorney. At age 26, he was among the youngest office holders in the state.
The program of the U.S. Soil Conservation Service office, established in 1935, had reached 88 farms in Franklin and Douglas Counties.
A photograph snapped in 1866 by A. W. Barker, an early day Ottawa photographer, shows a group of Sac and Fox Indians, led by their fantastic Chief Keokuk, doing a tribal war dance on Ottawa’s Main Street.
A story about an early day trial in Ottawa was recalled. The trial attracted wide attention. The trial was held in the early day courthouse, the building which had formerly stood at Minneola, and was moved to the site where the People’s National Bank stood at the northeast corner of 2nd and Main streets. In 1864 William Maddox was accused of participating in the Quantrill massacre at Lawrence in August 1863 and on change of venue the trial was brought to Ottawa. Dwight Thacher and his brother S. O. Thacher defended the accused, and Mrs. John Spears, wife of an early day newspaper man, whose two sons disappeared in the Quantrill raid, attended each session with a loaded revolver with the intention of killing Maddox if he was acquitted. Maddox was a tall, handsome man with long black hair and was attended by his wife who had provided two fine saddle horses for use in case of acquittal. When the case went to the jury, it was thought a disagreement was probable and Mrs. Spears was prevailed upon to go to the Elder home for refreshments. Before her return, the jury acquitted Maddox and he and his wife departed. The fact that he was a member of the Quantrill band was not denied, but an alibi was complete that he had been taken sick in Johnson County on the way to Lawrence and consequently could not have participated in the raid.
That famous amber brew, 3.2 beer became legal in Kansas at midnight New Years Eve, 16 Jan 1937.
A picture of one of the oldest known grave markers in Franklin County appeared in the paper. It was sent in by Mrs. G. R. Belt, now of Manhattan. The marker is located 4 miles southwest of Lane about a half mile from what is known as Richel crossing. It bore the inscription “Cynthia B. Mercer, deceased September 11, 1840, age 33. It was carved out of native sand stone.
Ottawa’s electric rates in 1937 were among the lowest in the state. Profits during the last year were $112,381.91, the best figure since 1931. The electric rate for a residential customer was 4 cents a kilowatt hour.
21 Jan 1937
The movie “The Plainsman,” by Cecil B. DeMille, featuring Wild Bill Hickock, Buffalo Bill Cody and Custer riding to the wars again, starring Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur, was playing at the Plaza Theater. An ad appeared in the Ottawa Herald extending an invitation to all people who have been resident of Franklin County more than fifty years to be guests of the Plaza theatre at any performance of “The Plainsmen” during the three-day engagement.
26 Jan 1937
On Kansas Day in January 1937 a luncheon, was held at the Nelson Hotel. The tables were decorated with brown bowls of calendulas and brass candelabra with orange colored candles, and a miniature covered wagon, camp fire and log cabin. The program menu booklets were little brown covered wagons, with white tops and the program theme, “Kansas or bust.”
03 Feb 1937
In February 1937 the county commissioners were mapping out a program to surface at least 40 miles of road and at the same time provide jobs for about 200 men. The county issued $10,000 in work bonds to cover the county’s share of the work under proposed WPA projects. Of course, surface meant rock, bringing the county’s roads up from a dirt surface.
04 Feb 1937
In 1937 The Kansas house voted the cottonwood as the official tree of Kansas. While the cottonwood ran far behind in the votes of the school children of Franklin County, it won out in the state as a whole. The cottonwood was voted for sentimental reasons mostly. The tree that once grew so profusely, had long since been outstripped by the elm and other much more enduring trees, especially in eastern Kansas. In many places there were now more willows than cottonwoods on river and creek banks. Kansas continued to be the sunflower state, though sunflowers were not nearly as plentiful on roadsides as they once were, and in some seasons few of them were to be seen.
05 Feb 1937
The Plaza, one of the two Fox Ottawa theaters, celebrated its second birthday. The theater had been opened in 1935. The anniversary week featured such movies as “After the Thin Man,” the sequel to “the Thin Man.” A special road show engagement of “Romeo and Juliet” was presented for one day only. A two-feature program was also arranged for, featuring the movies “God’s Country and the Woman,” and “Winterset.”
11 Feb 1937
Two interesting fossils were found 75 feet underground in a coal mine near Williamsburg. To the untrained eye, one resembled a rib of a mammoth animal and the other petrified fish scales. The fossils were viewed by A. C. Carpenter, geologist, who was able to identify them. The one that looked somewhat like a rib is a petrified limb or tree root. The “fish scale” piece was an example of a fossilized tree fern, the nearest present relative being a tropical plant, the sago palm. The fossils were from the Paleozoic age, the Pennsylvania area, a period of some 240 million years ago. Mr. Carpenter facetiously remarked, “I might be off 10 or 15 million years in my estimate.” Geologists have been able to estimate that there were no large animals on the earth until about 60 million years ago when the dinosaurs appeared. The section was a marshy place on the ocean shore line of this country. The ocean extended west and the land went east from this vicinity to the Ozarks, Mr. Carpenter explained.
12 Feb 1937
Ice jams in February of 1937 on the Marais des Cygnes east of Ottawa brought back memories of past ice gorges, the most disastrous of which in recent years had occurred in January 1910. The gorged condition of the river in 1910 caused a minor flood in the city, caused tributary creeks to overflow, and left water and ice on lowlands. An ironic quirk of the 1910 ice jam was the filling of Bennett’s ice house on Locust Street. Water carrying cakes of ice rushed into an open place in the west wall of the structure, wrecking that wall and the north wall as well. Dynamite was tried in vain before finally breaking up with warmer weather and sunshine. The 1937 ice gorges did little damage.
16 Feb 1937
Flood control was on the minds of the people, quoting the paper. There never was as good an opportunity to accomplish effective flood control on the Marais des Cygnes River as at present. Only two things need to be done. One is to convince the legislature that a conservancy law must be passed at once. The other is an expression of the will of the property owners once this law is passed. There are fairly good assurances that federal aid will be forthcoming to carry out the necessary control measures. This valley is fortunate in having an up to date survey completed, made by army engineers last summer. It is to be hoped that a better understanding of the general situation in the Marais des Cygnes valley will eliminate opposition to the reservoir plan which has arisen in Osage County. The issue has been raised that taking some 10,000 acres of land out of intensive cultivation to be used for reservoirs will reduce the tax valuation of other land in that county and consequently result in an increased tax levy.
17 Feb 1937
In February dust storms raged in southwestern Kansas as farm leaders met to discuss a plea to the federal government for additional emergency aid in checking the dust plague. A raging “black blizzard” in the panhandle of Oklahoma forced schools to close as blinding dust clouds swept over parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Texas. Visibility dropped virtually to zero as the ominous black clouds enveloped the area. Street lamps burned in the dusty gloom and automobile travel was halted completely.
22 Feb 1937
A. P. Elder, 82-year-old Ottawan, who has lived in Kansas nearly 79 years, was elected Saturday afternoon as president of the Franklin County chapter of the Kansas State Historical Society. The newly organized county met in the courtroom with about 25 persons present.
03 Mar 1937
C. A. Novak offered bid to manage the Forest Park pool. Novak’s bid was in competition with his former partner J. A. Lawrence, Novak proposed installing submarine lights. The underwater lights had proved hits at pools he operated at Chanute, Fort Scott and Oswego. A new slide was to be installed on the present slide structure. A new concrete floor was to be poured in the bath house to replace the current wooden floor.
05 Mar 1937
Improvements were made at the CCC Camp north of Ottawa where a 9-hole golf course and a small pond with a sanded beach for swimming were built. The camp, to which were assigned ex-soldiers from all parts of Kansas, brought approximately $1,500 into Ottawa every month. Over 40 families of officers and enrollees made their homes there, swelling the business that resulted from expenditures in the actual running of the camp. The camp population was 200 at its peak, but usually averaged 180. An estimated 65 percent of the men were married. The camp was a self sufficient institution and enrollees were given the facilities for a well rounded life without leaving the grounds. The buildings included 8 barracks with a capacity of 24 men each, a hospital, mess hall, officers’ quarters, light plant, garages for army trucks and ambulances, recreation hall, and quarters for the U.S. Soil Conservation service. The mess hall, finished in red and green, with red lacquered table tops, had a capacity of 175 men at one sitting. Meals cost between 40 and 45 cents a day. In most camps fees were charged for billiards, pool and bowling, but at the Ottawa profits from the camp exchange were used to make those facilities free. Besides the camp facilities, Uncle Sam allotted each veteran $25 a month. Those with families sent that sum to other dependents or left it with the quartermaster as a saving against the return to civilian life. Ottawa’s CCC Camp was one of 20 camps in the state of Kansas.
08 Mar 1937
The Herald announced that Dorothy Ayers Loudon, home economics authority and already a favorite with Ottawa audiences, would be here March 16-19 for the annual cooking school at Memorial Auditorium. This was the eleventh year since cooking schools were started in this community under the newspaper’s sponsorship, and they were popular with the housewives.
09 Mar 1937
Arrival of spring weather brought a revival of construction activity in Ottawa. Applications were made at city hall for erection of five residences in the vicinity of 8th & Hickory. The homes were located at 204 East 8th, 208 East 8th, 809 South Hickory, 813 South Hickory, and 831 South Hickory.
11 Mar 1937
“There were fashions in cooking just as in hats and dresses, and just as bustles and high top shoes went out of fashion long ago, so did certain kinds of foods for certain types of social functions,” declared Mrs. Dorothy Ayres Loudon.
Doctor G. K. Janes, long time Williamsburg doctor, celebrated his 77th birthday. Dr. Janes had been practicing medicine in the Williamsburg community 53 years, delivering more than 3,000 babies. At first this country doctor made his visits on horseback; later he had a cart, then a buggy and fine horses, and in 1903 he bought his first car, a one cylinder curved dash Olds.
12 Mar 1937
The Grand Army of the Republic and affiliated organizations were to hold their state encampment in Ottawa from May 10-13. As a highlight of the state encampment members of the Daughters of the Union Veterans of the Civil War would dedicate a flagpole in front of Carnegie library as a tribute to their fathers.
13 Mar 1937
Despite contradictions in stories told by the two and the persistent refusal of one to admit his part in the crimes, county and city authorities pieced together a rough story of how J. W. “Buck” Shaffer and Frank Rutledge got away with a series of burglaries in Ottawa homes – until they were surrounded and caught by a posse east of town. They would spy on houses from dark street corners, selecting one which they believed would be empty for some time. One would then act as a lookout while the other entered the home, always by breaking glass, cutting screen, or both, and picking out whatever loot was wanted after a thorough ransacking.
16 Mar 1937
A sampling of grocery prices as taken from the newspaper were American loaf cheese, 29 cents; fresh brains, 12 ½ cents a pound; rib boiling beef, 10 cents a pound; fresh oysters, 25 cents a pint. An ad for Lucky Strike cigarettes read as follows: “An independent survey was made recently among professional men and women – lawyers, doctors, lecturers, scientists, etc. Of those who said they smoke cigarettes, more than 87 percent stated they personally prefer a light smoke. Miss Keeler verifies the wisdom of this preference, and so do other leading artists of the radio stage, screen and opera. Their voices are their fortunes. That’s why so many of them smoke Luckies. You, too, can have the throat protection of Luckies – a light smoke, free of certain harsh irritants removed by the exclusive process. It’s toasted. Luckies are gentle on the throat.”
Approximately 2,000 women from this vicinity gathered in Memorial Auditorium for the opening session of The Ottawa Herald’s annual free four-day cooking school.
17 Mar 1937
George Batdorf, 99, who lived with Mr. and Mrs. H. L. Carpenter, 5 ½ miles southwest of Wellsville, was born in West Columbus, Ohio, in 1838. He had lived in Franklin County for 73 years. Mr. Batdorf had farmed most of his life. He recalled that he voted for Abraham Lincoln the first time Mr. Lincoln ran for president. Mr. Batdorf has used tobacco for 80 years, liked good beer, ate and slept well and his hearing was good.
01 Apr 1937
Mrs. Maud White, of Wichita, Past National Secretary of the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, came to town for the purpose of organizing a local group of Daughters of Union Veterans. It was desired that this organization was to be formed in Ottawa prior to the state encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic here next month.
10 Apr 1937
In April 1937 B. D. Bennett celebrated his 76th birthday. In March 1897, Mr. Bennett, known as “Pop” to many of his friends, took over the ice business from his father-in-law J. H. Ransom. He later also became interested in what was later known as Bennett Creamery. A native of Maroa, Illinois, Mr. Bennett came to Kansas in 1880. He was in the lumber business at Williamsburg for a time and on November 13, 1884 was married to Miss Myra M. Ransom, daughter of Captain and Mrs. J. H. Ransom at Ransomville. Soon after their marriage they moved to Harper and from there to Wichita and then to Pittsburg where he was in the lumber business. On January 1, 1895 the family moved from Pittsburg to Ottawa where he joined Capt. Ransom in the ice business. When he took over the ice business his company got about 3,000 tons of natural ice from the Marais des Cygnes each season and stored it in ice houses located near the river bank at the ends of Locust, Willow, Ash and Beech streets. By 1901 a ten-ton storage plant was under construction at 306 North Main. In 1905 he bought the Forest Park Creamery and it was renamed the Ottawa Condensing Company.
12 Apr 1937
The first project of the newly organized Franklin County Historical Society was to arrange window displays of historical relics in downtown store windows during the state G.A. R. and auxiliary organizations conventions held here May 10,11,12 and 13. Several committees were named by A. P. Elder, president. Each display was be registered by Howard Rounds in the First Baptist Church office. Persons who had relics to loan for the event were to notify Secretary Brombacher of the Chamber of Commerce. The second meeting of the society was held May 15 at 2 p.m. in the Franklin County courtroom. The program was “Historic Spots in Franklin County,” with Miss Meeker as program chairman.
13 Apr 1937
A rustic cabin located in Douglas county 11 miles north of Ottawa and just west of Highway 59 was one of several being used for conservation experimentation. The cabin was built by workers from the CCC Camp in Franklin County and was used as a shelter where meals were served hot from the camp without the men leaving the scene of work. It was 24 by 30 with a brick floor, a fireplace and two stoves. The food was brought from the CCC Camp four miles northwest of Ottawa to the cabin in special containers.
15 Apr 1937
The hot sunshine brought out a black white kitty (skunk to you) this afternoon for a stroll which ended up on the front walk of the Dr. O. O. Wolf home on West Seventh street road, just as 20 women guests were arriving for an afternoon meeting of the Progressive Farm Bureau Club. The skunk, of an unusually large and docile variety, wandered south across Highway 68 from the C. F. Wolf estate home to the O. O. Wolf property early this afternoon. The animal came up the driveway onto the front walk and then around the house and under a porch. Next it wandered into hen houses and then disappeared in a pile of wood. Miss Davis, prepared for most farm emergencies, volunteered her assistance with one of Dr. Wolf’s guns to shoot the animal. Then the three women decided it acted so tame that it might belong to the circus that was in town. Calls to the Chamber of Commerce office, the police station and the sheriff’s office finally brought out Undersheriff Harry Cochrane, and Pat Dale, courthouse custodian. The “kitty” disappeared temporarily and then was cornered in the pig pen, only to elude the men and wander over more of the Wolf barn lot. While the Farm Bureau meeting continued more or less in a state of excitement (they all kept inside) the men, now reinforced by Paul Hermann of the Herald staff with a camera and Miss Marion Leigh, reporter, chased the skunk around the barn lot. The animal, for a wonder, was not dispensing any of its favorite perfume. At 3 o’clock the animal was knocked in the head by a plank in the hands of Mr. Dale. One hit, all ran, no errors!
16 Apr 1937
Building activities in Ottawa are in full swing in April. The location of the $10,000 office structure that was being built by A. L. Cook at 211 West Second was illuminated by flood lights at night as approximately 15 workers mixed and poured concrete until about 11 o’clock in order to complete a floor without the necessity of a joint. Work was under way on the new building to be occupied by the Neal Pritchard Market, 209 East Second, which was to be air conditioned and to have a special parking space.
?? Apr 1937
The memories of many longtime residents of Ottawa and Franklin county were stirred by the “old-time fiddling” of J. T. “Tommy” Lawson of Pomona and G. E. Kershner, of 521 South Mulberry, two masters of that half forgotten art who were familiar to Saturday afternoon crowds along Ottawa’s Main Street. Main Street wouldn’t seem the same without these two fiddlers who play their old fashioned rhythms for the fun of it and as a means of “Drumming up business for Kershner, a violin maker. “We’re fiddlers, not violinists,” said Kershner. “I’ve been on the street every Saturday afternoon for six years. Frequently heard in the repertoire of the duo were those perennial favorites, “Turkey in the Straw” and “Arkansas Traveler.” Other old time favorites bore such picturesque titles as “Devil’s Dream,” “Leather Britches.” “Money Mush,” Hell Among the Yearlings” and “Go to Heaven, Uncle Joe.”
25 Apr 1937
Bruno, the C. M. Vincent Monument company’s wandering limestone bulldog has expressive eyes and mouth and his collar was painted during his latest escapade, when he wandered off with mysterious captors, who are believed to have been a group of Baldwin high school students. Bruno was found on the Baker University campus and returned to his post in front of the monument firm, where he had stood when not in captivity for 55 years. [Editor’s Note: Bruno now resides at Old Depot Museum]
07 May 1937
An important final step toward construction of the $29,000 low water dam on the Marais des Cygnes was being taken as the appraisers continued the job of viewing the site of the dam, eight miles west of Ottawa, and the stretch of river along which about 153,600,00 gallons will be backed by the dam.
08 May 1937
Main Street is decorated with American flags and banners put in place by city workers, Ottawa awaited thousands of visitors who were expected for the state encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic Monday through Thursday. Ottawans came downtown to find strings of flags and streamers of red, white and blue, and red, yellow and green flying along the downtown district. The overhead decorations were matched with about 100 flags, which merchants put in place along sidewalks as well as those which homeowners were being urged to display at their homes during the four-day encampment. Following registration of delegates and preliminary business meetings of the G.A.R. and six allied organizations Monday morning, services were to be held in connection with the dedication of two oak trees, both on the courthouse lawn, in honor of Department Commander J. H. Getty of Ottawa and of a flagpole in front of Carnegie Free Library.
10 May 1937
Ottawa was gay with American flags and banners which recalled Civil war memories today as “the boys in blue”– those of the surviving remnant in Kansas – gathered for the fifty seventh annual encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic. The years have taken their toll in the ranks of the G.A.R., and only 13 veterans who saw action for the Union cause had registered up to early afternoon, along with approximately 50 members of the allied groups, including the Woman’s Relief Corps, the Ladies Auxiliary of the GAR, the Sons of Union Veterans, the Daughters of Union Veterans, the Auxiliary of Sons of Union Veterans, and other federated patriotic societies. Arrivals later in the afternoon were expected to push total attendance to well over 200.
11 May 1937
Glen’s Furniture is preparing to move into the remodeled structure at 102 South Main, which nobody would guess is the site of the old Occidental hotel.
12 May 1937
Hosts of ideas for making life in the county happier and more comfortable, talks by experts, attractive displays, a program by local musicians – attractions such as these were brought here for crowds from Ottawa and vicinity when the Better Farm Homes train puffed in on a siding of the Santa Fe station At least 1,000 persons were on hand to greet the Santa Fe Farm Home train on its stop at Santa Fe station in Ottawa on a tour through Kansas. The train, consisting of four exhibit cars and five others to house the persons aboard, arrived shortly before 9 o’clock and left just before noon. By the time the train had left for the south some 1,500 to 2,000 persons had gone through it taking great interest in the exhibits. The high school band marched down Ottawa’s Main Street amid welcome banners and flags to greet the train and the Santa Fe and agricultural college visitors aboard.
14 May 1937
A picture taken from the top of The Ottawa Herald building at 106 S. Main on Saturday afternoon showed why Mayor E. V. Gibson was compelled to announce that hereafter police would leave tickets resulting in fines on cars double parked with engines shut off and no one at the wheel. The picture showed how crowds not only double parked but triple parked their cars blocking machines at the curb.
The Franklin County Historical Society met at the courthouse Saturday afternoon at 2:30. The program had been arranged by Miss Grace Meeker on the subject, “Historic Spots in Franklin County” and a representative from each township had been asked to speak briefly on matters of historic interest within their township.
18 May 1937
Out of the attics and cupboards and closets came a host of early day relics and curios of historic significance to decorate the windows of Ottawa merchants in honor of the state GAR encampment. Among the displays in the store front windows were many relics gleaned from the battlefields by Geo. P. Washburn. Confederate money and papers of the Civil War period from Vicksburg, Philadelphia and New York revealed the feeling of the times. A woven grass basket over 100 years old owned by Mrs. R. A. Thompson was on display. Mrs. Bucklin contributed a Civil War musket, canteen and sword. A powder horn was shown, which was carried in the Revolutionary War in the family of the present owner, C. A. Smith of Richmond. The J. C. Penny store window had a splendid Civil War collection of documents, photographs etc., and also a clock that is 115 years old. Of interest to the women was a double Irish chain quilt made by Don Harbison’s great grandmother. It had to be buried to preserve it from raiding parties during the Civil War. In Blair’s electric shop were waffle irons 151 years old now owned by Irene Slavens, which had been in the family since Revolutionary War days. In Newfield’s window was early day jewelry of Mrs. H. L. Cartzdafner and Mrs. A. Lambdin. Sugar tongs 190 years old brought to America with William Penn in the family of Mrs. Clara Faden of Richmond were also on display. At Howe’s was a collection of pitchers from Mrs. Henry Bennett and Mrs. Max Wolf. Of greatest interest was the Hispano-Moresque lusterware pitcher of 1500. In the foyer of the Plaza theatre was a beautiful 3-piece parlor suite 185 years old loaned by Ellis Williamson. The Dalton window presented an attractive display by Fred Taylor of war relics ranging from the Revolutionary war to the Philippine insurrection. The window of Dr. T. Berglund was decorated by Miss Anna Melluish, and was filled with rare old books, many over 200 years old. The Dutch Maid ice cream shop displayed a collection of old books and Bibles dating from 1768. The oldest was owned by Mrs. Clara Faden, a Bible brought to William Penn’s colony by members of her family.
25 May 1937
In May Mrs. William Wiggins, 83 year old great grandmother, was one of the proud relatives at the Ottawa High School graduation exercises in Memorial Auditorium. Two grandchildren and a great granddaughter were members of the senior class. Mrs. Wiggins has had 24 grandchildren graduate from high school.
04 Jun 1937
Even Ginger Rogers, popular screen star whose salary ran into five figures, had her financial worries, the dancing partner of Fred Astaire wrote to her stepfather, John L. Rogers, of Quenemo. Following publication of revenue figures showing she was paid $87,000 last year, Ginger wrote in one of her letters to Rogers that the amount was correct but added that taxes absorbed 49 percent of that amount. “The remaining $41,000 isn’t so much, considering the style in which screen stars must live,” Ginger’s stepfather said. It was Rogers who gave Ginger and her mother the name they had used ever since he married and became the “daddy” to young Ginger– then Virginia – back in 1919. Ginger was born in Independence, Mo and it was in Kansas City that her mother married the man who is now Quenemo’s postmaster. They were divorced in 1928. It was through the music that John Rogers wrote in those days, when he was first married to Lela, that Ginger was inspired to become interested in singing. Now and again, in Fort Worth, Texas where they had moved, they used to appear on the radio together in half hour programs during which they sang the music he had written and other popular songs. Rogers had been the author of hit songs, written entirely by ear. He had never known a note of music, but had a knack of originating catchy tunes and lyrics and could always get them written by humming them to a musician. Chief of those early hits was a “hot” number, “I’ve Got a Gal,” written in collaboration with Phil Baxter, Kansas City orchestra leader. Before Rogers and Baxter sold out their interest in “I’ve Got a Gal,” 100,000 copies had been published and Baxter had been offered $10,000 for his interest alone. Ironically it was Ginger’s rapid rise to fame that caused the family to separate. Mrs. Rogers, then Ginger’s astute manager in Hollywood, accompanied the rising star on her tours and Rogers didn’t get a glimpse of the two of them for years. “We decided it just wouldn’t work, Rogers said. “I was opposed to Ginger going on the stage, because I knew the theatrical atmosphere was about 90 per cent rotten and where one like Ginger succeeds, thousands fall by the wayside. “How was I to know about Ginger?” Mr. and Mrs. Rogers were divorced in 1928 at Dallas. In 1931 Rogers married again and moved back to Quenemo which was the home of his parents. Mr. Rogers had another son, Bruce, then two and a half years old. “You ought to see him dance,” he said proudly. “He’s going to show up Ginger some day.” [Editor’s note: Bruce Rogers, step-brother of Ginger, is known to many Franklin County residents as the owner-operator of Vassar Playhouse in the 1970s. Vassar Playhouse was located west of Pomona on the north side of Highway K-68.]
17 Jun 1937
A big crop in Franklin County in 1937 was cabbage. Franklin County’s cabbage patches west of Ottawa were producing a heavy harvest of fine heads of the vegetable. C. T. Wallace, Ottawa Wholesale grocer shipped a car of more than 24,000 pounds of cabbage to Denver in one day with more cars to follow. Raymond Bitts and Wallace had 20 acres in cabbage northwest of Richter along the Marais des Cygnes. Ben Heidner had seven acres of cabbage in partnership with J. W. McFarland of Pomona. A. D. Johnson and his son had a crop of five acres of cabbage and mangoes, 3 ½ miles west of Ottawa.
22 Jun 1937
Stirring events of the California gold rush, when “Forty-niners” rode their prairie schooners down a dusty trail that led through Franklin County, were recalled through efforts being made by workers of the veterans CCC Camp here to preserve the beauty and historical significance of California Springs, about five miles northwest of Ottawa. It was the ever flowing water of those springs, scientifically purified by a natural process that made them a key stop on the California trail in those days of westward expansion. Thirsty pioneers riding covered wagons and stagecoaches stopped there to quench their thirst and pasture their horses. Water from the same source those frontiersmen used was later to be awarded second place in a nationwide competition at the St. Louis Exposition of 1904. A sign erected by CCC workers at the site of the spring in the 1930s reminded visitors of that award. The water was taken to St. Louis by the late Harry Raymond, an early Lawrence druggist. Deep wagon wheel tracks extending through a pasture in which the springs are located tell a story of covered wagons and stagecoaches. Surrounded by rolling, grass-covered hills, the springs were strategically located for a defense against Indian attacks as well as being ideal for water and grazing. It was to be expected that the spot would become a junction on the westward trail. An account of how California Springs acquired importance and how they acquired their name was recalled by Mrs. J. H. Crawford, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. E. W. Hume, early settlers who bought the springs farm in 1900. Mr. and Mrs. Hume came to Franklin County in 1872 and settled on land adjoining the farm. The springs, according to the account given Mrs. Crawford, became the point of confluence of a westward trail from Westport Landing–now Kansas City–and a branch trail leading from Osceola, Mo., an Osage River port of the early days where travelers who had come by water traded boats for wagons. It was at California Springs that those travelers waited for and caught westbound stagecoaches which were to carry them to the gold fields and elsewhere.
29 Jun 1937
Bicycles, practically passé as means of transportation not many years ago, were coming into their own again. One needed only to spend an evening on his front porch to see concrete evidence of this fact. Children of all ages and no small number of adults were riding on the streets in large numbers. Bicycle sales and the repair business had picked up considerably and the schools had to increase the size of their bicycle racks. One dealer said he had sold more of the vehicles in 1937 than in any other year since he had been in the business. Where he had only one or two machines a week for repairs, he now averaged about 50 a week, he said.
30 Jun 1937
This was an age of gasoline and speed, but G. R. Wheeler, 1116 South Cedar, could be seen in downtown Ottawa almost any day in his horse and buggy. “It’s good enough for me,” he said. Every weekday, Mr. Wheeler hitched up Bill, his horse, and delivered the product of three cows he milked to a downtown cream station. Wheeler himself was 77, but still did a good day’s work at a farm he owned 4 ½ miles southeast of Ottawa. He remembered Ottawa when there were plenty of hitching posts. “Now,” he said, “I carry around a 10 pound weight. When I see a parking place, I just slip in and tie old Bill to the weight.”
06 Jul 1937
With developments in oil, coal, gas, limestone and pure underground water already under way, Franklin County stood near the top as far as variety was concerned in a report on mineral resources of Kansas issued in 1937 by the state geological survey and state planning board. The report stated that recent depression years had caused an increase in activity in coal mines in the vicinity of Williamsburg, Pomona, Quenemo, Homewood and Ransomville. During 1936 there were 14 shaft mines and one strip mine in operation in Franklin County, yielding a total production for the year of 22,010 tons. Oil, which in 1926 reached a production peak of 194,148 barrels, was another of the county’s resources. It continued to be an important source of income, with production in 1935 listed in the survey as 78,053. With a mounting national demand for oil products spurring the search for new fields, oil men of the Ottawa area were viewing with increasing interest the outcome of recent activity, looking to possible testing for deep, heavy production wells in this and neighboring counties. A definite decision to go ahead with construction of a low water dam on the Marais des Cygnes River was reached by the city commissioners in July 1937. In deciding on a dam, the commissioners abandoned, temporarily at least, a proposal for a 250 acre lake on Hardfish Creek, southwest of Ottawa. Mayor E. V. Gibson reported that he had conferred with PWA officials at Topeka and was told that the government agency wouldn’t be able to handle the lake project which was estimated to cost $300,000. With prospects that the federal government would become less generous with its funds, the city commissioners had given up on the hope for federal aid on the lake, temporarily at least. Estimates were that the dam would costs $30,000. The 5 foot structure, to be located on the Marais des Cygnes eight miles upstream from Ottawa, would make about 100 million gallons of water available. The water would be backed up for five miles along the river. City Engineer W. O. Myers said actual construction of the dam would probably begin in July, provided water was not too high. He estimated the structure would be completed by Christmas. [Editor’s Note: This became commonly known as the Miller Dam]
17 Jul 1937
“Almost everyone – especially during the vacation season – was familiar with those trick photo graph postcards showing a man sized fish tipping over a rowboat of anglers, a couple of hunters with a rabbit their own size, or a team hauling an ear of corn so large it apparently took up the whole wagon. Another familiar sight was the type of advertising billboard in rural front yards, stating the distance to a large town, bearing the farmer’s name, and perhaps a blackboard advertising some farm product. Those two ideas were originated by W. H. “Dad” Martin, of Ottawa, Kansas, who was 72 years old in 1937. Martin was reputed to be worth more than $1,000,000. He had been a patient at a local sanitarium and was adjudged incompetent in Shawnee county probate court. A guardian was appointed in Franklin County, where he made his home. Mr. Martin hurdled many handicaps to make his fortune. At the age of 12, he left his home in Illinois and wandered about the country as a hobo for several years. He had but three years of grade school education. Finally he took a position with a photographer in Ottawa, and worked out the trick photo idea in 1908. His first order brought him $40,000. In 1911 he started production of the signs, sold 50,000 of them. A farmer on whose property a sign was placed was given a butcher knife for his kindness. In 1937 Martin’s son was carrying on the sign business [Ed. Note: This is National Sign Company, once located in the Santa Fe hospital in north Ottawa near the railroad viaduct]
21 Jul 1937
Possibility of building a lake now for use as a water reservoir for the city of Ottawa was discussed and rejected by the city commissioners when a group of local business men and other interested citizens attended the meeting and urged the commissioners to hold a bond election to determine public sentiment on the matter. All expressed favorable opinion to a lake proposition at a time when government aid could be secured, or it could be built as part of a general flood control program.
26 Jul 1937
Buffeted by five lean, discouraging years, the Kansas farmer was beating back today, has money jingling in his jeans, a new tractor in the shed, receipted bills in the bureau drawer, and thoughts of a new car in his head. Wheat, truly a golden grain this year with prices up to $1.20 a bushel, played a big part in putting the farmer in position to see something besides red ink. Millions of dollars flowed to the farmer, starting a wave of buying, bill paying, and debt retirement in rural areas. Implement dealers reported heavy purchases of tractors, combines and other implements to replace rust covered machinery patched and repaired through five years; bank deposits rose; farm loan retirements accelerated; car sales increased and cash sales had replaced the old “charge it please.”
Examination of old records on file in the vault at the courthouse brings to light many odd and
interesting facts. Terminology used in those days was also much different than that now used by lawyers. Following was an indictment rendered in 1858: “The grand inquest of the Territory of Kansas inquiring for the body of the County of Franklin upon the oaths respectively do present: That Thomas Shurley, late of the county of Franklin, aforesaid not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigations of the devil, and of his malice aforethought wickedly contriving and intending a certain Henry Damm with a double barrel shotgun, wickedly and feloniously and with his malice aforethought to kill and murder on the 28th day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty eight in the county of Franklin aforesaid did then and there, with force and arms, wickedly and feloniously and of malice aforethought, make an assault and with a certain double barrel shotgun of the value of $10 then and there loaded and charged with gun powder and 10 leaden shot which said double barrel shotgun, he, the said Thomas Shurley, then and there in both hands had and held, to , against and upon, him the said Henry Damm, then and there with force and arms, wickedly, feloniously and of his malice, aforethought, did shoot off and discharge, and the said Thomas Shurley, with the ten leaden shot aforesaid then and there by the force of the gun powder aforesaid discharged and sent forth as aforesaid out of the said double barrel shotgun, by him the said Thomas Shurley, then and there so as aforesaid, discharged and shot off in the said Henry Damm in and upon the breast and belly of him the said Henry Damm, then and there, with force and arms wickedly, feloniously and with his malice aforethought did strike and penetrate and wound, giving unto the said Henry Damm then and there with the ten leaden shot aforesaid in manner aforesaid so as aforesaid shot, discharged and sent forth out of the double barrel shotgun aforesaid by him the said Thomas Shurley in and upon the breast and belly mortal wounds of the length of one quarter of an inch and the depth of six inches, of which said mortal wounds the said Henry Damm on the day aforesaid, in the year aforesaid, and in the county aforesaid, then and there instantly died.”
It was recalled that one year ago Ottawa witnessed one of the most spectacular and
disastrous fires in years. A gasoline transport truck upset and caught fire at Ninth and Main spilling flaming gasoline which ran down the street for several blocks. The driver of the truck and a woman passenger were burned to death when they were trapped in the blazing truck. Total damage from the fire amounted to more than $35,000.
A series of raids by state county and city authorities in Kansas towns resulted in confiscation of slot machines, marble games, and punch boards, focusing the spotlight on alleged gambling conditions in taverns, drug stores, and even groceries. A liquor possession charge was the aftermath of a raid in one town. A concerted drive against marble machines was staged by state, county and city authorities yesterday in Kansas City, Kans.
30 Jul 1937
Members of Bethany Chapel Baptist Church, colored, gathered for special services to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the church’s founding. It was in 1867 that Rev. Gabriel Gray, a Lawrence preacher, established the Third Baptist Church, which later became Bethany Chapel. First located at First and Sycamore, the one room structure was moved in 1895 to the present site at Second and Poplar.
31 Jul 1937
The automobile replaced the horse and buggy, the radio hurt the phonograph business, talking pictures threaten to destroy the vaudeville stage, and now one of the farm’s greatest institutions is threatened with extinction by advancing times. This greatest of farm institutions was threshing time, with the large working crews, and still larger threshing meals with all the ‘fixins.’ The machine age was advancing rapidly on the farm, bringing with it the combine, arch enemy of threshing crews. In the “good old days” and now to some event, threshing time was known as a time of hard work and big meals. Large threshing crews would come off the field at noon, hot and tired, but ready to consume the proverbial “horse.” In the typical threshing day a large crew of men sometimes 20 or 25, would come off the field at noon and head for the wash bench. There for the next ten minutes soap and water would fly in all directions, and from the general chaos would emerge the crew, all cleaned up and ready for dinner. The procession then headed for the dining room, the place where many threshing crews did their best work. Threshing time meals were known to be epicurean delights. Nothing fancy, just good plain substantial food and plenty of it. Dishes piled high with potatoes, corn, meat, beans, that old favorite cole slaw, large plates of homemade bread and butter and gallons of iced tea and coffee. Pie – apple, peach, lemon, chocolate–was the favorite dessert of threshing crews. Ice cream came next. After the meal the men sat around for a short time, took an after dinner smoke, and then headed for the field for an afternoon of work. After the men returned to the field, the children on the farm attended the “second table,” and following them came the women who prepared the meal. When everyone had eaten, the huge task of washing the dishes presented itself. The women of the neighborhood usually helped prepare the meals at each farm. The threshing machine crew made a circuit of the farms, each farmer helping the others in return.
02 Aug 1937
Sweltering temperatures, combined with that age-old wobbly feeling that besets just about everyone in such ordeals as his, was too much for a bridegroom in one of two church weddings attended by many Ottawans in August 1937. Both guests and other principals in a wedding at First M.E. Church waited for 20 minutes while the bridegroom, Lee Shelden, 24, recovered from two successive fainting spells resulting from the heat and the traditional nervousness of every husband to be. The first fainting occurred as Shelden and his best man, Eugene Cooper, were about to enter the church auditorium to meet the bride, Miss Ruth Cooper. Miss Cooper was nearing the altar when the bridegroom first toppled. Sitting in a nearby pew, the bride waited while Rev. Hastie, church pastor, hurried around to administer aid. After a few minutes the bridegroom was revived and started back to the auditorium – only to faint for the second time. First stepping to the auditorium to assure guests, Rev. Hastie again directed first aid efforts, carrying the bridegroom outside and administering a dose of Alka Seltzer.
11 Sep 1937
Payments totaling $1,865.34 had been made by the county welfare office for the month of August, the first under the new state social welfare program. These payments included $536 for age assistance and $1,332.34 for general assistance. The county had filed claim with the state welfare board for reimbursement for these amounts. The federal government paid 50 per cent of the age assistance, the state 15 per cent, and the county paid the rest. In the case of general assistance, the state paid 30 per cent and the county paid the rest. The federal government did not participate in the general assistance program.
10 Sep 1937
In the fall of 1937 Tom Mix Circus was looking for a site to house his circus over the winter. Ottawa along with several other Kansas towns were being considered as winter quarters for the circus. The Tom Mix circus was one of the large outfits and had played here two years ago. The Tom Mix show maintained its animals, equipment and a number of employees at winter quarters. It had spent last winter in Florida. Chamber of Commerce officials had recently met with Ottawa city commissioners and were assured that under certain conditions Forest Park could be available for the Mix Circus. Ottawa’s younger generation was expected to be heartily in favor of the move to get a sure enough large circus to winter here.
15 Sep 1937
In September 1937 the city commissioners voted two to one to authorize W. O. Myers, superintendent of the water and light department, to begin work on construction of storage dam No. 2 immediately. Mayor E. V. Gibson cast a dissenting vote. This action set at rest the speculation which had been going around as to whether the city would go ahead with the construction of the dam until the appeals which have been filed in the district court from the awards of damages arising out of the construction of the dam had been settled.
18 Sep 1937Two officials of the Tom Mix circus came through town unknown to anyone and looked over the Forest Park grounds, which had been suggested for the circus to use as winter quarters. The officials liked the appearance of the place and were expected to draw up a contract for a three year stay. This part of the country seemed to be very popular for a wintering place for circuses.
08 Oct 1937
The crew of Missouri Pacific freight train No. 45 had a narrow escape in October 1937 when a locomotive plunged through a burned bridge and buried itself in the bank of the draw two miles southeast of Rantoul. The fire of undetermined origin had destroyed the bridge and left only the rails suspended across the draw. Eight cars of the train, including two cars of lumber, were also derailed and burned.
11 Oct 1937
A suit was before the Kansas Supreme Court over the collecting of the state’s 2 per cent sales tax for school extracurricular activities. Senator Payne Ratner told the Kansas Supreme Court in his printed brief on the case, “It is now generally recognized that dancing is of great cultural benefit to the student of today. It teaches him, among other things, those characteristics which are so necessary to the successful person in the modern business world: sociability, good manners, poise, tact, courtesy, and it helps rid one of shyness, awkwardness, bashfulness, self consciousness, etc.”
06 Nov 1937
In November 1937 a small cyclone blew up creating quite a bit of damage in an area about one half mile square on East Wilson Street and vicinity just north of the Country Club. J. E. Baker was working on the roof of his house. He did not know at first that a cyclone was in progress. When he discovered his ladder was gone, he had to stay on the roof until the wind died down before he could get his wife to help put the ladder back up.
Ottawa got its name in “Newsweek” magazine with some misinformation that was rather poor publicity. The article, appearing August 21 and sent to Dr. F. A. Trump by a relative, discussed the restricted lives led by school teachers in small towns of the south and west. One paragraph reads, “Ottawa Kansas dropped eleven high school teachers because they went to a country club dance. A West Virginia school board decreed that teachers who wore galoshes must fasten them all the way up. Most schools frown on women teachers smoking; some contracts forbid it. Not a few communities require teachers to be home by 10 or 11 in the evening, forbid their going to movies on school day nights, and stipulate that they must not dance in public places.” The article quotes Miss Roma Gans, a faculty member at Columbia University, as saying that such restrictions not only make teachers narrow minded but cause their pupils to consider them old fashioned. “The old foggy teacher can’t win the respect of her children because nobody is so modern as the modern child,” she says, “Nor can she hope to understand her children if she does not know what interests them and why.” The sentence mentioning Ottawa was probably based on an incident several years earlier at which there were some objections to teachers attending a dance, but none were dismissed.