Archive for Friday, April 6, 2001


April 6, 2001


Editor's note: The following "trivia" items about Lawrence and its environs were compiled by Bill Mayer, contributing editor of the Journal-World, with the aid of a number of individuals and publications and frequent reference to Journal-World files. Some of the photographs used with this feature were provided through the courtesy of the Watkins Community Museum of History while others came out of the Journal-World files.

A number of surveys indicate that more than 40 percent of the people currently living in Lawrence have resided here for a period of five years or less. There also is evidence that 15 to 20 percent of the working people here are employed either in the Kansas City or Topeka areas, which in some respects earns for Lawrence the label of "bedroom city." With those figures in mind, how about a brief introduction for newcomers about the early days of the city.

Kansas became a territory open for settlement in 1854, the same year as the "founding" of Lawrence. The slavery issue was the most critical problem facing the new territory. According to the Kansas-Nebraska Bill which created the territory, settlers were to decide for themselves whether or not slavery would be allowed in Kansas. A spirited competition emerged between northern and southern states promoting emigration to Kansas. Then came a bitter struggle within the territory for control of land areas, the ballot box and the government.

Lawrence became a center for Free State activity. Twenty-nine New England settlers founded a town in 1854 on the south bank of the Kansas (Kaw) River. The city early on had names such as Wakarusa, New Boston and Yankee Town. There was frequent reference to the fact the settlers had been sent here from the northeast in the interest of free state status. Soon after, more settlers arrived and the town was formally christened "Lawrence" to honor Amos A. Lawrence, a free-stater and major supporter of the New England Emigrant Aid Society which had sponsored the migration to Lawrence. While Amos Lawrence provided funding for a number of activities here, including the startup of Kansas University in the middle 1860s, he never set foot in the region.

Strife between the anti-slavery majority in Lawrence and the pro-slavery forces of the Lecompton area marked Lawrence's early years. Jim Lane, later a U.S. senator, and Charles Robinson, the first Kansas governor, were Lawrence residents and frontline Free State leaders. The "Wakarusa War" of 1855 threatened but did not produce serious damage to Lawrence. A pro-slavery assault the following year with the infamous "Sheriff Jones" as the leader destroyed the local hotel, newspaper (The Herald of Freedom), various businesses and Robinson's home.

A few weeks before the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Kansas became a state. By that time, Lawrence was one of Kansas's most important towns and at one time nearly became the state capital.

The notorious William C. Quantrill and his pro-slavery Confederate guerrillas raided Lawrence on the morning of Aug. 21, 1863, leaving the town in ruins. A conservative report on the massacre placed the number of dead at 134, with 22 wounded and three missing. Other estimates said the death and missing toll was a high as 600. Over the years, historians have pretty much settled on a death toll of 160 -- all males since Quantrill had told his group to spare the females of the community. More than 75 businesses and 100 homes were destroyed by the Quantrill crew.

The motive for Quantrill's animosity for the community, some say, originated when he had briefly taught school here and left, under pressure, feeling badly treated by local citizens. Others say the raid's leader was simply obsessed with combating anyone involved in the anti-slavery philosophy.

State officials began planning for a college in Lawrence as early as 1856, only two years after the founding of the town. The site for the state university was chosen in 1863 with the leadership of people like Charles Robinson. Robinson was credited with being the most influential in Lawrence's becoming the home for Kansas University despite strong support for picking Manhattan or Emporia.

Three years later, in 1866, Kansas University held its first session with 49 students and three faculty members. The first chancellor of KU, with the title "president of the faculty," was Gen. John Fraser, after whom Fraser Hall is named.

Lawrence's economy began to grow rapidly near the end of the Civil War in 1865. A toll bridge across the Kaw River was completed in 1864. The Kansas Pacific railroad (later Union Pacific) reached Lawrence the same year. A steady influx of settlers brought new businesses, industry and vigor, to Lawrence. The population topped 8,000 by 1880.

From that time on, the history of Lawrence has featured steady growth, expansion and educational and cultural excellence as epitomized by such institution as Kansas University, Baker University and what is now Haskell Indian Nations University.

Lawrence from its beginning has been blessed with numerous proponents and promoters. Often such "poets for progress" have been called on to author introductory items for annual city directories, chamber of commerce publications and Kansas University brochures. One hundred years ago, however, the Chittenden Directory Co. of St. Louis, apparently was unable to find such help when it published the city directory. There were full listings of public officials along with the various public and private business ventures and educational facilities here, but almost nothing in the way of "promo" pieces which began to appear later in such publications.

In explaining the assembly of the "nuts and bolts" of the Lawrence area for that 1900-01 directory, the Chittenden "compilers and publishers" had this to say:

"We have spared neither pains nor expense to make our 1900-01 Lawrence City Directory an accurate and reliable book of reference. ... In the general directory A to Z there are 6,680 names which, at the ratio of two to one, would give Lawrence a population of 13,360. This list contains the names of everyone over 17 years of age but does not include the wives' names which immediately follow the husbands on the same line in parenthesis. If the wives' names were added it would swell the total number of names, A to Z, to over 8,000. Through the kindness of the county clerk, we have been furnished a list of the taxpayers of Douglas County together with their township and post office address. This list alone is more than worth the price of the book.

"... There are a great many houses that are not correctly numbered and we respectfully suggest to the City Fathers that all houses fronting on streets running east and west be numbered, using Massachusetts Street as a dividing line, and also that North Lawrence be properly numbered."

George R. Gould was Lawrence mayor at the time and F.W. Read was president of the city council. Names of others which might stir memories for some of the older residents of the community are those of R.C. Manley, police judge, and Dr. H.T. Jones, city physician.

Council members were elected from six wards and there were two electees from each of those governmental subdivisions.

There were 21 "churches" listed, among them such specific denominations as the English Lutheran, German Lutheran, Swedish Lutheran and German M.E. Despite its "free state" background, Lawrence 100 years ago had nine religious groups listed under the heading of "Churches, Colored."

The two cemeteries were Maple Grove located "1 mile north of the city on Bridge St." and Oak Hill.

Then under the heading of "Secret and Benevolent Societies," one can find such intriguing titles as A.O.U.W., Ancient Order of Pyramids, the Hustling Knights of Woodcraft, Knights of Honor, Knights and Ladies of Security, Knights of Pythias, Order of Select Friends, Sons of Veterans, Triple Tie benefit Association and United Commercial Travelers.

Street names which many would be hard-pressed to identify and locate nowadays included Adams, Berkley, Bews, Bridge, Carmean, Cherry, Colfax, Copley, Pleasant, Reed, Sherman, Warren and Wind Mill.

All streets and avenues were arranged alphabetically regardless of location. By the decimal system of numbering, 100 numbers were awarded to each square. All streets running north and south numbered from the Kansas River; streets running east and west numbered from Massachusetts Street.

The price for the Lawrence City Directory for was $3.

Listed among the leading business houses of 100 years ago were many agencies which long have been gone from the local scene. The Bowersock Milling Co. might ring bells for some, but there no longer is a Lawrence National Bank, a First National Bank, a Watkins National Bank or a Merchants National Bank because of all the mergers through the years. There was, however, the A.D. Weaver Dry Goods store and to this day older people bemoan the disappearance of the popular J.F.W. Wiedemann confectionery from the scene. It was a major gathering place as a "sweet shop."

Douglas County has four incorporated cities -- Lawrence, Baldwin, Eudora and Lecompton . There are nine townships -- Lecompton, Kanwaka, Clinton, Marion, Palmyra, Willow Springs, Wakarusa, Eudora and Grant. Who was the namesake of the county?

The county officially was organized in 1855 and was ultimately named for Stephen A. Douglas, a U.S. senator from Illinois. Douglas was a man noted for his oratory. Short of stature but with large shoulders and an imposing face, he gained the reputation as "The Little Giant" during his various verbal confrontations, primarily in important debates, with the lanky, towering 6-4 Abraham Lincoln on the topic of slavery.

Lincoln defeated Douglas for the presidency in 1860. It apparently was Douglas's efforts to give Kansas the option of choosing free or slave state status that led to the naming of the local county for him, even though some critics considered him somewhat "pro-slavery."

Douglas (1813-1861) was born on a farm in Vermont and early on became interested in politics. He wanted to become a lawyer. At age 20, he moved to Illinois and was admitted to the bar. A Democrat, Douglas was elected prosecuting attorney for his district in 1835. The next year he was elected to the state legislature. He served as judge of the Supreme Court of Illinois from 1841 to 1843, then was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1843 and became a member of the U.S. Senate in 1847.

The World Book Encyclopedia says Douglas "won respect in the Senate for his ability, energy and fearlessness and became chairman of the Senate committee on territories. More than any other person, Douglas helped win passage of the Compromise of 1850. This was a series of laws that temporarily eased tensions over slavery."

The slavery controversy was the great issue of the middle 1880s. As each territory applied for admission to the Union, debate arose in Congress over whether the new state should be free or slave-holding. Douglas believed the people of the territories should decide that issue for themselves. He called the principle "popular sovereignty"; others called it "squatter sovereignty."

Douglas's committee pushed the famed Kansas-Nebraska Bill in 1854, the year Lawrence was founded. The measure included the principle of popular sovereignty which opened the door for Kansas to choose to be a free state. Douglas's strong leadership had much to do with passage of the highly disputed bill.

When Douglas ran for re-election to the U.S. Senate in 1858, his Republican opponent was Abraham Lincoln, a man then almost unknown outside Illinois. Douglas and Lincoln held a series of public gatherings during which they debated the problem of slavery and its extension. The meetings drew national attention.

Douglas argued that the people should have the right to control slavery. Lincoln said that a nation that was half-slave and half-free could not exist. Douglas beat Lincoln to win re-election to the Senate but some of his speeches in the debates (too liberal, it was said) displeased Southern Democrats. When Douglas became a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1860, only Northern Democrats supported him.

The Democratic Party split its votes among three candidates. Douglas received only 12 electoral votes although he achieved the second highest popular vote. Thus Lincoln, the Republican candidate, won the presidency.

Douglas nevertheless supported Lincoln and the Union when the Civil War broke out. "There can be no neutrals in this war," The Little Giant declared, "only patriots -- or traitors."

Douglas died only a few months later, in 1861, the year the Civil War officially began. He was only 48 years old. He was buried in a small park in Chicago, in the adopted state he served in Congress.

What is the link, faint as it may be, between the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and 17th century Europe? What were the roots of chamber organizations and what is the history of the chamber here?

Seventeenth century Europe may have marked the start of the world's first "chamber of commerce" operation as such. It wasn't until 1878, however, that the seeds for such an operation were first planted in Lawrence.

The movement began in the 1600s in Europe when there emerged "chamber sessions" by merchants focusing on the interests of commerce. It is not difficult to see how the modern-day labeling developed.

The emphasis of those early sessions across the Atlantic Ocean were far different from what we see today. Chamber members then were interested primarily in taking care of their own special interests, and protecting trade and craft secrets and procedures of the "club." Community betterment, if such resulted from their often-closeted actions, was merely coincidental and was seldom part of any grand plan.

Early chambers in America likewise were formed for the same purposes, with highly selfish aspects. It wasn't until much later that merchants, entrepreneurs and leaders realized that their own prosperity depended upon development of many facets of their communities.

By the time Lawrence formed its first "chamber," the philosophy of "one for all and all for one" had become more the rule rather than the exception.

The earliest group of such a nature here was called the Commercial Club and was formed in 1878, 24 years after the founding of Lawrence and 15 years after the Quantrill raid. There were 12 members -- H.J. Canniff, George Hunt, J.S. Crew, Simon Steinburg, A.B. Warren, G.W. Hume, I.N. Vanhosen, John Wulruff, H.J. Rusmer, J.D. Bowersock, George Leis and George Innes.

The name of the agency varied in the early years, sometimes called a chamber of commerce, other times a business association. But some form of a general business and "promotional" group has existed here now for more than 123 years.

In 1909 there were two businessmen's associations listed in Lawrence, the Commercial Club and the Lawrence Merchants Assn., formed that year to "inculcate such a spirit of enterprise in all matters, of both public and private import as may contribute to the continuing progress of Lawrence and the welfare of her people."

Sometime between 1909 and 1921, the organizations merged and then on it was formally "The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce."

Among the announced goals:

To eliminate all forms of unethical business practices; provide informational programs for business and industry interested in locating here; to encourage and aid existing businesses; provide programs to bring the business community together into more productive relationships.

From the beginning, the activities of the business groups were not strongly self-centered. The first priority of the group formed in 1878 was to eliminate a $350,000 bonded debt of the city. This also led the way to establishing the Bismarck Fair and the agency was active in bringing in new economic units.

It was a simpler era, however. At one time, the Merchants Association Rest Room in the courthouse -- mainly for the benefit of out-of-towners -- was a major undertaking. There was emphasis on "good roads" and special plans were made to provide railroad rebates to persons traveling here for business.

The Lawrence chamber was extremely active in promoting the change from the partisan, political council-mayor form of government to the current non-partisan city manager-commission system around 1950. The chamber has often taken a stand on bond and tax issues, drawing on advice, experience and knowledge of top people in many fields to try to benefit the community, Kansas University, Haskell Indian Nations University and the Douglas County area.

From that first dozen, the Lawrence chamber membership has grown to nearly 1,500 members. Involvement in community affairs has steadily widened.

For many years, there were missing and incomplete records and treatises about the Lawrence chamber. In 1990, local writer Marsha Goff and Mark Schraad, a graphic designer, produced "The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce -- 1878-1900." It is a history of the area's intriguing and rewarding economic development as well as being another important chapter in local history.

Goff talked to more than 100 people and pored over innumerable records for the publication.

Goff said, "It's probably twice as long as I expected, or even was supposed to be, simply because it covers 111 highly important years for Lawrence. There were always surprises and new material to include. I'm pleased with what we came up with."

Goff, now a Journal-World columnist, was the daughter of the late attorney Lew Henry, a former state representative and a member of the first city commission that went into office with the changeover of the government system in 1951.

What Lawrence school's pupils relish teasing the uninformed about their institution's affinity with Yale and Harvard?

The answer: The teachers and faculty at West Junior High, the second junior high to be built in Lawrence after Central Junior had long reigned. The catch: West Junior, at 2700 Harvard Road, is on a site in West Lawrence that sits between Yale and Harvard Roads.

It took Lawrence and Manhattan -- long social, economic and academic adversaries as well as athletic rivals -- a while to get into the promotional aspects about their qualities and charms. But once the "hustlers" were offered avenues for their prose, they proved quite equal to the challenge. The state of Kansas has never lacked for reference material, and one of the most popular early publications was "Kansas Facts" by Charles Beebe. Beebe's 1929 yearbook about the state included an advertisement about "Manhattan, Home of the Kansas State Agricultural College" and it was obvious that "chamber of commerce" types already were flourishing out to the west the same as in Lawrence. Consider this data from the Manhattan ad more than 70 years ago:

"Manhattan, with a population of 10,960 (this was 1929) is the county seat of Riley County. It is the home of the Kansas State Agricultural College, Kansas Bible College and Sacred Heart Academy. Annual payroll of its 65 industrial plants is over one-half million dollars. The principal industry is poultry packing. More than $4,200,000 is brought here each year by the college and college students exclusive of sums spent by the college in purchasing supplies (and living facilities for and purchases by faculty and staff).

"Manhattan is delightfully located in a beautiful valley and is on three railroads, the Union Pacific, Rock Island and Blue Valley. It is the junction of national highways 40N and 40S and is on state highways 11, 13 and 29. It is the meeting place of the Kaw and Blue rivers.

"Manhattan has five ward schools, a junior and a senior high school. It has 44 miles of pavement, 48 miles of sidewalk, 26 miles of sanitary sewer, 4 miles of storm sewer and is 2.25 square miles in area.

"Manhattan has 15 churches, five hotels, four banks, three theaters, a public library, three newspapers, two hospitals and two city parks. The municipal swimming pool is 200 by 160 feet, elliptical in shape. A municipal airport with a hangar for four planes is maintained.

"... Manhattan has a water softening plant, and burns natural gas at as low a rate as any city in the state, considering proximity to the gas fields. The fire department maintains three trucks. Nine men are employed in the police department. There are two business sections, down town and Aggieville near the college."

Then comes the kicker for potential new citizens: "The tax rate is lower than that in the majority of second-class cities in the state."

Time and "Dame Fortune" have been quite friendly to both Manhattan and Lawrence in so many ways. The on-campus student total at Kansas University now is about 27,000, with a corresponding figure of nearly 20,000 at Kansas State University -- that Manhattan enrollment alone almost twice the population of the community in 1929.

Historians contend that the state of Kansas had its first rudimentary newspaper before there really was any news or notable habitation. But the fledgling state soon was a hotbed for publications. Kansans, it seems, were quick to desire newspapers or their equivalent and often made sure a community had a printing press before it had a lot of other necessities and amenities.

According to Capt. Henry King in his 1916 article in "The Story of Kansas and Kansas Newspapers," the first semblance of a paper, unnamed and more a flyer than a newspaper, occurred under an elm tree on the town site of nearby Leavenworth on Sept. 15,1854, the year Lawrence was founded. Wrote King:

"There was not yet a house to be seen, nor any other definite sign of civilization. ... For the first time the press manifested the pioneering instinct and proposed to lead and not to follow the course of progress -- to become itself a part of the history of settlement and development. Perhaps it was an accident; possibly it was an inspiration; certainly it was infused with the denoting significance of those choice and potent events which constitute the basis and the philosophy of history.

"There was room for the criticism that the scheme of starting a newspaper before there was any news to print was illegical, fantastic, preposterous. But it was not then, and has never been since, so regarded in Kansas. The novelty was infectious. A second paper was soon established at Kickapoo. Early in 1855, two more appeared in Lawrence. Others followed as new towns were founded. The printing press preceded all the usual agencies of society in Kansas. It did not wait for the rudimentary clutter of things to be composed and organized. The spirit of adventure thrust it forward ahead of the caboose, the post office, the school, the church and made it a symbol of conquest. Thus the theory of publicity was emphasized as a factor in the westward march of the American people and their institutions; thus Kansas was signalized by a revelation that materially enlarged the scope and meaning of modern journalism."

Details of early journalism in Lawrence are not nearly as sketchy as the flowery and romantic reports of the "start of journalism" in the state by Capt. King. What is considered the first newspaper of note in Lawrence, and is there any place where it can be viewed? Whence came the current Lawrence Journal-World?

As far as is known, Lawrence's first paper was The Herald of Freedom, which made its appearance under a dateline of Oct. 21, 1854, in the same year the community was founded bearing the name of Amos Lawrence, a New Englander who had financed easterners choosing to migrate "out west" to a "free state area". (Amos Lawrence continued to provide funding for many local citizens and ventures but never visited the community which bears his name).

Records indicate The Herald of Freedom was established by Dr. George W. Brown. Though considered "local," the first issue was printed in Pennsylvania and dated "Wakarusa, Kansas Territory, Oct. 22,1854." A copy of one of those first papers is framed and on display in a hallway at the offices of the Journal-World at Sixth and New Hampshire.

The second issue of The Herald of Freedom was published in Lawrence and dated Jan. 6, 1855, perhaps as one of the new newspapers Capt. King discussed in his foregoing piece.

On May 21, 1856, there was a major setback when the Herald office here was destroyed by border ruffians and publication had to be suspended until the following November. By 1859, however, The Herald of Freedom ceased publication. The Kansas State Journal, founded in 1861 by Josiah Trask and Hovey Lowman, proved to be the successor to The Herald of Freedom.

The late W.C. Simons entered the Lawrence newspaper scene in 1891 and his pioneering efforts ultimately led to the Journal-World of today. Since 1854, there have been more than 100 newspapers of varying sizes and degrees in Lawrence. W.C. Simons remained active with the newspaper until his death in 1952. The current Journal-World is an amalgamation of some 40 publications through the years.

Dolph Simons Sr., son of W.C. Simons, was active with the Journal-World from his youth to 1989, the year of his death. Dolph Sr. was publisher from 1944 to 1962 and editor from 1950 to 1979. Dolph Sr. attended Kansas University and worked for The Associated Press before joining his father at the Journal-World full-time.

Dolph C. Simons Jr., grandson of W.C. and son of Dolph Sr., has long been editor and publisher of the Journal-World and now has two sons, Dan and Dolph III, directly involved in the business with him and the family in Lawrence.

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