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.

Many Facts of City's Early Life In Danger of Being Lost Forever

by Harry H. Seckler (1948 date)

In delving into Leavenworth's pioneer history the researcher is at times amazed to find an item of more than passing interest that he has never before seen in print and of which few, if any, persons living here today have any knowledge.

Not having been made a matter of permanent record such will be lost to future generations if not now recorded.

Recently in seeking some early facts regarding the old Maplewood school building, whose site now is occupied by the Howard Wilson School, much of interest about it and other local early day schools was unearthed and should be publicized.

Once a Mental Asylum

Regarding the Maplewood building Miss Evangeline LaBunker, the principal, is preparing an entertainment, to be given in the near future, that should prove very interesting not only to present-day pupils of the Howard Wilson School but to all oldsters who as "kids" were Maplewood scholars.

The original building, back in the late 60's, was known as Maplewood Seminary, and numbered among its pupils girls from nearly all midwestern states and territories as far west as the Pacific shore. Its superintendent was Miss Orpha E. Clement.

In the early 80's it was occupied as an asylum for mental cases, conducted by the father of Tom Brown, deputy county clerk. Later it was purchased by the Board of Education for a public school.

When it was opened a city school that had long been attended by the boys and girls living in the extreme southwest portion of Leavenworth known as the Grand Avenue, southwest corner of Grand Avenue and Quincy Street, was abandoned and all pupils were assigned to Maplewood.

Many Early Private Schools

In 1865 Leavenworth had only three public schools -- the Osage Street, on Osage between Sixth and Seventh; one on Congress and Third Avenue, and the high school, at the corner of Oak and West Seventh.

The 1875 directory mentions the Shawnee Street school at the corner of Shawnee between Fourteenth and Fifteenth Streets. This was a two-story brick, attended by the youngsters in the south and middle-west portions of Leavenworth, but with the occupancy of the Maplewood building the Shawnee also was abandoned.

Of private schools and academies there were many. St. Mary's Academy and Boarding School, in 1865, was on Kickapoo Street between Fifth and Sixth; the Select School on the south side of Kiowa between Fifth and Sixth; the Free School, south side of Kickapoo between Fifth and Sixth; the Carmelite Convent, Kickapoo between Fifth and Sixth; German-English school, Seneca, between Fifth and Sixth; German school, corner Osage and Sixth; Mrs. Allen's Private School, west side of Second Avenue between Congress and Spruce; Mrs. Clark's School, south side Pottawatomie between Fifth and Sixth, and Southside Seminary, Chestnut between Fourth and Fifth. The prospectus of the latter stated: "Employs some of the best talent in the city. The attendance, though quite select, is very large."

House Shortage Then as Now

An early-day writer in the 1865 directory says: "The demand for building and building material far exceeds the supply; 35 fine brick stores were erected (in 1864) within the fire limits of the city and this year more than double that number will be completed.

"The number of frame buildings, stores and residences completed each year is almost beyond computation. Yet notwithstanding all these there was never a time when it was more difficult to obtain a storeroom or dwelling house than today. Stores and residences are leased before the foundations are laid, and if twice that number of workmen and twice the amount of material were here the former would be employed, and the latter consumed, and still the demand unsatisfied."

The office of surveyor general of Kansas and Nebraska was located here in 1865, and its patronage amounted to from $50,000 to $150,000 per year. Kansas contained 55,640,588 acres then, of which 38,482,270 acres remained at that time to be surveyed.

Cody's Search for Father

Two of Leavenworth's early cemeteries of which little is known by the present generation were Greenwood and Mount Aurora.

The former was a popular burial place until the opening of Mount Muncie and Mount Calvary. Only a few of the pioneer families now have relatives interred there, and it is doubtful if there are any persons living today who know that the old Pilot Knob Cemetery was known as Mount Aurora.

It can be recognized only by its location, as given in the old city directories as being "at the south end of Lecompton Avenue."

Grand Avenue, which branches off from Cherokee Street at Lawrence Avenue in a southwesterly direction, was given the name in all early directories as Lecompton Avenue, but is known now as "Grand Avenue -- two blocks west of Lawrence Avenue" the old books say, which direction would refer to Pilot Knob.

When excavation was made for the city water department's new reservoir, about 15 years ago, metal caskets containing bodies were unearthed and these were reinterred in Mount Muncie Cemetery.

It was in Mount Aurora that Isaac Cody's body was buried and his son, who became famous by the name of Buffalo Bill, made two visits here in later years seeking his father's remains, but was not successful.

Only iron caskets were used in those days and he son hoped to find the one that contained the body of the father.

Three Early Fairs Here

The first Kansas State fair was held in Leavenworth October 6-9, 1863. Of it Blackmar's History of Kansas said: "the exhibition, held while the Civil War was at its height, was a successful one. The exhibits of agriculture and livestock displays and products of Kansas were very creditable. It was well attended and a success financially."

The fair grounds were in the northwest portion of the city, adjoining the military reservation. The plot was later used for the training of recruits for the Northern Army. Two later State fairs were held there, one in 1868 and the last in 1874.

The 1865 directory refers to Leavenworth as "the commercial metropolis of Kansas; merchants from all portions of the state coming here for their merchandise and Kansas farmers came to find their market. Half the people residing in Kansas come to Leavenworth at least once a year and the border counties of Missouri are also supplied by our merchants."


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