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.
Reading a story written by Frank J. Ryan, secretary of state, who recalled his boyhood days at the Morris school, has prompted another "pupil" to write some recollections of Leavenworth in the earlier days.
This "pupil" writes as follows:
"In writing of the Morris school, I wonder how many remember the frame building on the Fifth street side of those grounds, where two rooms were used. It was set rather high as Fifth street had just been graded. Miss Belle Gird was one of the teachers and I do not remember the other one. The building of the Morris school gave us ample opportunity to take dares in walking on the trestle work, it being all cellar underneath so it was a risky undertaking. Our first principals and teachers came down from the east, among whom were Professor Stowell, McVicker Carmichiel and Williams, while the three women instructors were Misses Porter, Gassett and Meade. Miss Meade afterward was married to Mr. Lewis Mayo. A normal school was started then to train teachers from our midst. Professor Wherrell was in charge.
"Osage Street school was in charge of Professors McCarthy and Putnam. Old churches and houses were used to take care of the over-flow, one on the corner of Sixth and Osage and one on the corner of West Seventh and Oak. After the high school was removed from the Morris it was housed in the first floor of the Oak Street school with Professor Grant in charge. We moved upstairs later on and the graded schools with Professor Grant in charge took our place. Doctor Langworthy, Judge Hacker and Col. Ed Little were teaching at the same time. Doctor Lane was principal of the Morris. The high school later moved to the old Westminister church on Walnut street, where Capt. Wilson Lowe organized the first corps of cadets--finally into the present building, in 1904.
"In those days no speedy auto got us to school on time. The best we could get was the old street car drawn by a mule, on whose neck was hung a cow-bell. The Cathedral was built in the early sixties and during the noon hour one of our greatest pleasures was to watch the Italian artists on their scaffolds, painting pictures on the ceiling and walls. Across the street was Hiberian Hall and the space between was colder than "Greenland's Icy Mountains."
"The Catholic school was in a framed structure near its present location and was in charge of Mr. James McAuliffe, while the brick structure west of the bishop's house was used as a girl's seminary--afterward removed to St. Mary's. The chief cross-town street was Fifth. The bridge had a high iron structure in the middle in order to divide traffic and over each end was a sign, '$5 Fine for Driving Faster Than A Walk;' I wonder how the old bridge would have withstood the trucks and autos that now go thundering along.
"Third street was now graded through and the court house built. If you notice the grounds south of the present jail you will see how much of a grade it was. Before building the court house the hill, on which stood the old jail, was graded down. This caused the big cut on Fourth street which destroyed Governor's Carney's property (where the high school, Methodist church, library, Presbyterian church and manse now stand.) this property was surrounded with a stone wall and iron fence; the walls held for many a day but finally caved in and a portion of this wall is now used for a sidewalk north of the church and east of the school, the stone was soft and now has a well worn groove in the center and is a most distressing walk to pass over. The old jail was surrounded by a high stockade and was north of where the court house now stands. At its foot was a famous spring, whose waters were caught and held by a vat from Kunz brewery (now headquarters for the R.O.T.C.) From this grading Fourth street was formed. Before this we walked down the hill to the creek, then stepping stones and an incline up to Choctaw street. On the southwest corner of Fourth and Choctaw was Craig's soap factory and near it Munson and Burrows planing mill.
"Our graduating exercises for several years were on the third floor of the Laing building (now Manufacturers' National bank) and the graduates assembled at the head of the staircase on the second floor, where Doctor Boyd had his dental office. The steps then were at the north end of the building. There was no stage in those days, with scenery and other accessories, but just an elevated platform at the south end of the hall; here, too, we heard the violinist, Ole Bull; blind Tom played for us on the piano--Siamese Twins and last but not least was General Tom Thumb and his wife. It was quite a thrill to have the general and his wife walk down the tram-way which was built down to the center of the hall. Here, too, the Presbyterian church held services, while waiting to move into their new home on Walnut between Fourth and Fifth. Plummer's Hall was among the first dancing halls and was in the vicinity of the small brick structures recently torn down by Mr. Blochberger. These buildings were used as blacksmith shops. Where Mehl and Schott's now stands was a marble yard and all the good business buildings were nearer the river and no one thought business would ever reach Fifth street."