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.

Henry Zen, The Original Settler of Valley Falls

by George J. Remsburg

When Fort Riley was established in 1853, under the direction of Major E. A. Ogden, Quartermaster at Fort Leavenworth, and he was engaged in hauling supplies from the latter to the new post, one of the men who accompanied him was Henry Zen, a mechanic. The Kickapoo Indians had told Major Ogden that he would find a better and more direct route by way of the Falls of the Grasshopper, now the Delaware river, instead of on the main traveled road which crossed the river at Dyer's Trading Post, where Ozawke now stands. Accordingly, Major Ogden concluded to try the route suggested by the Indians. He found the road rough, however, and had difficulty in crossing the river. The bank on the north side was very steep and had to be cut down, and the wagons were eased down by the mn. After this one trip the route was abandoned.

Henry Zen, however, was so impressed with the natural beauty, advantages and possibilities of the site, that he then and there made up his mind to return to the place and make it his future home. So in February, 1854, before Kansas Territory was thrown open to settlement, he returned and "squatted" at the Falls of the Grasshopper. He built a cabin, put up a stack of hay, and started to make other improvements, when one day in the fall, a man claiming to be the Indian agent, called on him and informed him he would have to leave the place. The Indians had frequently visited Zen, but never molested him.

Zen decided it would be best to leave, so he yoked up his oxen, loaded up his rude belongings, all except the hay stack and moved over to the eastern part of what is now Jefferson county, near the Leavenworth county line, where another "squatter" named Mooney had settled on the creek which now bears his name, and where the famous Mooney Creek settlement afterward sprang up. It seems that, for some reason, Mooney had been allowed to remain on his "Squatter's" claim and he permitted Zen to live with him. With the opening of Kansas to settlement and the founding of the town of Grasshopper Falls, now Valley Falls, Mooney married a girl named Mollie Cross and continued to reside on his place, while Zen moved back to the Falls and took a claim. Mooney died about two years after his marriage and his solitary grave on the bank of the creek that bears his name excited no little amount of curiosity and inquiry in later years. It may be seen from the roadside leading to the Mooney Creek Catholic church.

Zen lived at Grasshopper Falls for about two years. What became of him the writer has not been able to learn. He was the first white man to settle on the present site of Valley Falls.

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