Commercial House

Hotel built by Thomas B. Eldridge in 1871-1872 at the intersection of Mackenzie and Commercial Streets, White City.

I had mentioned this briefly in an article about White City some time back, but wish to expand on the subject now.  The house that now stands at the south east corner of Mackenzie and Commercial Streets in White City has a considerable history.  Thomas B. Eldridge built it in 1871 or 1872.  Thomas and his brother Colonel Shalor Winchell Eldridge were both involved in the New England Emigrant Aid Society, and arrived in Kansas in January 1855.  By May 1856 Thomas and Shalor were lessees of the Free State Hotel in Lawrence which was burned to the ground on the 21st of that month by pro-slavery men.  It was rebuilt then burned again during Quantrill’s raid August 21st 1863 and rebuilt again.

September of 1856 found Thomas the agent of the National Kansas Committee in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.  There he arranged for transportation and purchased supplies for emigrants moving to Kansas.  Besides providing wagons, horses, camp and garrison equipment Eldridge also provided guns as the period was a very precarious one for the Territory of Kansas.  Thomas was greatly responsible for several hundred Free-State men coming to Kansas in 1856.

Although Cutler’s History of the State of Kansas gives a favorable biography of Thomas, Samuel Smith of Lawrence, Kansas wrote to a friend in Massachusetts on November 26th 1856 saying that Thomas and Shalor had several complaints filed against them, namely that “nature never designed them for distributions of charity.”   

When Thomas returned to Kansas in 1857, he and his brother started the Kansas Stage Company which ran a line from Lawrence to Leavenworth and Lawrence to Kansas City.  He was also involved with companies that were locating towns throughout the Territory, which may be how he found his way to White City about 15 years later.  Thomas is known to have built the Broadway Hotel in Kansas City, and it is likely he contributed to other towns in this same way.  During the Civil War Thomas earned the rank of major while doing staff duty in the western theater.

It appears that Thomas did not stay long in White City.  By 1873 he was serving in the Montgomery County Legislature and was also engaged in bank business at Coffeyville.  Thomas died at his home in Lawrence on Sunday December 3rd 1882 of ‘rheumatism of the heart.’  The history of his hotel in the decade following the birth of White City is practically unknown, but at some point Francis C. White took over the hotel and it eventually became known as the Commercial House.

James Thornley was the proprietor of the Commercial House in August 1885.  The White City Whig stated that Thornley kept a first-class house and that he had repainted it and put up a sign to ‘guide the weary and hungry to a place of rest.’

In early September 1899 T. Jenson arrived in White City from England.  It was not long until Jenson bought the property and began making improvements.  By mid September he had put up a windmill then a carriage house and barn.  April 7th 1900 the newspaper reported that C. M. Reese had rented the Commercial House and would open the hotel about the first of May.  Reese must have lost interest for we find no more mention of this person.  Instead, W. S. Jamison who had operated a livery business in White City for many years had taken charge of the hotel.  After the papering was finished the hotel was up and running in early June 1900.  About the same time the name was changed to the Jenson House.

In March 1902 Mr. Jenson was preparing to build an addition to his hotel, and it appears from the news paper that it was about finished by the end of May.  When the building sold in January 1931, the 1902 addition was separated and moved to the lot east of the hotel where it was remodeled into a home and the original hotel was remodeled into a duplex.  Sometime during the summer of 2013 (much to this author’s disappointment) the 1902 addition was torn down.

Fortunately, the original structure from 1871-2 still stands.  I earnestly hope that someone or some group of individuals become interested in the preservation of one of White City’s oldest standing structures.  Its significant history ties White City to some of the most active figures in the shaping of this great State, and it is a story worth retelling.  The old hotel is conveniently situated near the Katy Park, Baxter Schoolhouse and is right on your way into town from the east.  It would no doubt make a very good museum and attraction for the community if devoted citizens get involved.


Trails in Morris County

There are a number of old trails that cross Morris County.  Some we are familiar with and others we know very little about.  I would like to take some time for us to learn a little more about these various trails and what they were used for.

The first trail I’ll mention is the Santa Fe as it appears to be the first major trail.  It is very accurately mapped and we know a good deal about it, so I won’t go into much detail on it.  In the early 19th century a number of adventuresome individuals were trying to find a good route to Santa Fe in order to establish trade with the south and west.  William Alexander Becknell was fortunate enough to be the first to arrive in Santa Fe with his men in November of 1821.  He has ever since been known as the father of the Santa Fe Trail.

Becknell had not had very good luck up till this point.  Around 1818 he had bought the Boone family’s salt works near Arrow Rock Missouri.  In 1820 he ran for the Missouri legislature and borrowed money to do so.  He was unsuccessful and the panic from the previous year had already taken a huge toll on his pocket book.  Owing his creditors more than $1,200 he was thrown in jail until a friend bailed him out.  So, you can imagine the troubles that weighed on Becknell’s mind as he headed out across the godforsaken prairie.  Failure was not an option, he had to come home with something.  And he did!  The people in Santa Fe paid handsomely for his merchandise, and he returned to the States with his saddle bags loaded with silver.

One thing I would like for us to consider is the fact that not everyone who traveled the Santa Fe Trail was necessarily going to Santa Fe.  Like many of our highways today, such as 56 and 77 south of Herington, many of the old trails intersected and even converged.  Some travelers on the Santa Fe Trail were going down to Chihuahua in Mexico to trade.  Some were going on to southern California by way of the Gila Trail.  Others might find their way to California by taking the Old Spanish Trail which led up through Colorado and Utah by various routes.   Although the Mormon Trail ran through Nebraska and followed the Oregon and Old California Trails, in the 1840s Mormon immigrants would be using the Santa Fe Trail.   We know that in August of 1846 the Mormon Battalion passed through Council Grove taking the Santa Fe Trail on their way south during the Mexican-American War.  John Maloy states that during the year of 1860 an average of 50 wagons per day were passing through Council Grove on their way to Pike’s Peak.  Also, we cannot claim the only Santa Fe Trail.  There was a lower route, known as the Fort Smith route, which passed from Fort Smith Arkansas through Oklahoma to Santa Fe.

The Kaw Trail is the next oldest trail in the County.  It was put into use about the time the Kaw were moved to the reservation in Morris County in 1847.  The treaty signed with the Osage in 1825 in Council Grove, made the Santa Fe a right-of-way for the white man and the Indians were not suppose to utilize it.  Because of this, the Kaw Trail ran about a mile south of the Santa Fe Trail but nearly paralleling it.  It started at Big John Creek south of Council Grove on the Kaw reserve.  It passes through the counties of Morris, Chase and Marion where Florence now stands and continued on west to Turkey Creek where it intersected the Santa Fe Trail.  Some remnants of this trail can be seen near Diamond Springs, and Florence.  The trail was used by the Kaw going and returning on their annual buffalo hunts out west.  John Maloy, in his History of Morris County, gives a description of the Kaw returning from one of these hunts.  In April of 1869 “the Kaw Indians returned from their winter’s hunt on the plains, looking gaudy and feeling gay.  They had plenty of robes, and their accustomed business of pony stealing had proved both successful and lucrative.  They were met by those who staid (sic) at home with an ovation and the biggest thief, according to custom was permitted to wear a pair of polished horns.”

The next trail we have of significance goes by a few different names; the Ft. Scott & Ft. Riley Road*, the National Historic Military Trail or the Government Trail.  We may with reason date the beginning of this trail with the birth of Ft. Riley in 1852-53.  This trail leads from Ft. Riley and passes near Skiddy, White City, Kelso through Council Grove and on southeast to Ft. Scott.  There were two branches of this trail.  The previous mentioned which followed the Santa Fe Trail for a short distance west of town and the second which takes a more northerly route out of of Council Grove.  It is possible that goods were hauled from Ft. Riley to Council Grove by this road.  We know that in April of 1854 the 79 ton stern-wheeler Excel made her first run on the Kansas River from Weston Missouri to Ft. Riley.  She was carrying 1,100 barrels of flour.  More steamboats were employed until trade on the Kansas River finally came to an end along with trade on the Santa Fe Trail in 1866.

There is a trail shown on an 1856 map in my possession that enters Council Grove from the northeast.  I have not been able to determine the name of this trail.  It passed from Uniontown through or near present Alma to Council Grove.  To the best of my ability, I have determined that Uniontown was south of the Kansas River on Vassar Creek approximately 2 miles west of present Valencia.  Also on this map, is a road that at one time passed through the northeast corner of Morris County.  It begins at 110 mile station, simply marked ‘110’ on the map, also on the Santa Fe Road.  From there it heads west and slightly north a few miles from Council City, now Burlingame.  The trail passes a little south of present Eskridge then runs west until approximately the present Morris/Wabaunsee County border just a little south of Alta Vista.  From there it starts veering north and eventually converges with the Ft. Riley Road.  Since the county boundaries have changed in the northeast corner, we have lost most of this old road.  The Kansas Cyclopedia of 1912 identifies this road as one of the many lesser branches of the Mormon Trail.

One of the trails we know least about, and I know so little about it I’m almost embarrassed to mention it, is the Shawnee Cattle Trail.  This trail was brought to our attention a couple of years ago when a man who was very knowledgeable on the subject came to the Historical Society to research it.  He seemed certain that the trail passed through Morris County, and I have found two generic maps of Kansas that show a lesser branch of the Shawnee Trail passing through the area that Morris County would occupy on the map.  This was a north-south trail that went down through Texas to Dallas and Waco.  We do know that some time in the 1870s Council Grove passed an ordinance to prevent cattle drives from coming through the city.  We can safely assume from this that the trail did not come through Council Grove.  A map of historic trails provided by the Kansas Department of Transportation, shows Cottonwood Falls as a trail head for the Texas Cattle Trail.  Again, I don’t pretend to know much about the Shawnee Trail, but with the Texas Trail so close to us, it makes sense that the Shawnee Trail passed through here and may well have joined with this Texas Trail.

*Actually appears as Council Grove Ft. Riley Road on the 1856 map, I have also seen another map of the same year by the same maker but the road appears as C Grove Ft. Riley Road.  I question how accurate the map is as many of the towns and stream names are no longer the same, and in fact it shows Big John and Little John near Council Grove reversed.

I have a little more information to include about our local trails thanks to Larry Timm who has loaned me some maps he’s acquired during his research on the Military Trail.  There are a number of different maps that show trails and roads criss-crossing our County.  Depending on which map you look at you might find the same road running in what seem two different routes.  I have found some mistakes on some maps such as stream names and locations, or as in the case of an 1861 survey map the Kaw Mission appears on the east bank of the Neosho rather than the west.  For the most part I believe these maps are pretty accurate in showing where the road runs.  One explanation for alternate routes is, as Larry Timm put it, “fair weather route.”  When the bottom fell out of the road an alternate route was taken.

We know that the Santa Fe Trail has a ‘high route’ and a ‘low route’ west of Council Grove.  The low route follows along Elm Creek to Helmick.  The high route lies about halfway between town and the City Lake then gradually heads southwest until it joins the Elm Creek route about a mile west of Helmick.  There are also two different routes to the town site of Diamond Springs.  One leads from the intersection of the two Santa Fe routes just mentioned, down to Diamond Springs and on to Marion Center form there.  The second called the Diamond Creek Road shown on an 1870 map, branches off the Cottonwood Falls Road at 4 Mile Creek south of the Grove and follows that creek south and west.

The road I mentioned last week that comes into Council Grove from the northeast and looks like it passed near or through Alma, I have confirmed to be the Council Grove Alma Road and actually shares the course of the Topeka and Duffield roads for a number of miles.

George Duffield came through Morris County in 1866 driving a herd of cattle to Iowa.  He came up through Indian Territory and on the 17th of August struck the Santa Fe Trail 5 miles west of Lost Springs.  The 18th found him camped at the Six Mile Creek Ranch.  He traveled 6 miles to Diamond Springs then 8 more to Elm Creek on the 19th and by the 20th had reached Council Grove and camped east of the Neosho.  His trail north begins approximately one mile east of town.  This is the cattle trail I mentioned last week as the Shawnee Trail (some maps show it as such).  On a U.S. Geological map it is labeled as the Topeka and Council Grove Road as it leaves the Santa Fe, taking a sharp turn east about six miles north of town, basically following the route of Old Highway 4.  The cattle trail branches off from this road and continues north and is labeled the Duffield Texas/Iowa Cattle Drive 1866.  This was supposed to be the longest cattle drive in history and was the inspiration for the TV series Rawhide.  Head ‘em up, move ‘em out!

Duffield kept a diary of his drive.  I have not had a chance to read this diary but I suppose we might be able to connect his drive with the following incident that John Maloy relates.  “In August (1866) a Mexican herder was shot dead by a Texan.  The latter ordered the former to go to camp, the Mexican refused to go, when the Texan drew a revolver and shot him dead in front of the old Hays building.”  A question that comes to my mind is where did they bury the departed?  Did they carry him back to camp and bury him east of town somewhere?  Or did he end up in one of the many unmarked graves in Greenwood Cemetery? What about the Texan who shot him?  Was he contained in Council Grove and tried, convicted, hung?  Or did he go scot free? We may never know.

The Council Grove Cottonwood Falls Road and the Americus Road were both in use by the time the 1861 survey map was drafted.  The former very closely followed the route of highway 177; the latter followed the route of the old Katy Railway.

A road of great interest to me is one shown on the 1870 map of Kansas Indian Lands; the Rock Creek Road.  Only about two and a half miles of it are in our County’s border, but the thing that interests me is where it joins the Santa Fe Trail at the first Agnes City site.  If you don’t remember, that is about a mile north of highway 56 east of Council Grove just before the Lyon County line.  Knowing that two roads met at Agnes City gives us a better idea of the importance of the place and the amount of activity that must have occurred there.  The road continues north following the creek and joins the Alma Road about where Chalk Mound is in Wabaunsee County.

Upon comparing these old trails and roads with a modern map, you will find, as I have already stated, that they nearly follow our present streams, highways and railroads.  The reason for this is it’s hard to improve upon perfection.  The old roads were established where they were because it was easy traveling.  Few hills to go up and down, few streams to cross and good solid ground that you weren’t likely to sink in when it got muddy.  When the railroads came along they went ahead and followed these routes as they were ideal for the rail’s needs.  There is one old road however, other than the Santa Fe, that did not follow the rules and it just cuts out across the country with no rhyme or reason, other than its final destination.  That is the Salina Road, which we know was in use by 1869.  It headed northwest out of Council Grove and cut through the southwest extremity of the City Lake.  It passed about a mile north of the Delevan Airbase and within a mile south of Latimer.  From Latimer it climbs slightly north then heads southwest until it leaves the County approximately a mile north of highway 4.

Benny King told me that he knew an old man who, when a young man, drove a couple of old ladies to Junction City.  This would have been in the nineteen-teens and there was no paved highway at that time.  They just headed out across the country in the general direction to get there.  It is possible that this man may have driven on or crossed some of these old trails on his way to Junction.

Another trail shown on the U.S. Geological Survey map shows an old trail from Ft. Riley forking off from the one we are familiar with at Skiddy and heading west a bit.  It passes west of present Latimer and eventually joins the Santa Fe Trail in the extreme southwestern corner of the County. It is identified as having been in use in 1854.  It also shows a branch forking off of this old road south of Latimer, passing about two miles west of Delevan and then joining the Santa Fe at Six Mile Creek.

Well, I think it’s fair to say that you now know about as much as I do on the subject of trails in Morris County!

I can’t post maps because the ones I have are too big to scan and would be too small to see on this site, or some that I have are poor copies.  You may follow the links below to check out some of the old maps of Morris County.

1870 map of Kansas Indian Lands.

KDOT map of historic trails.

1863 Kansas & Nebraska map.

1856 map of Eastern Kansas.


White City

In 1869 a Rev. Peirce organized a colony in Chicago with the intent to settle in some of the Western States.  J.B. Somers of Council Grove, who was a real estate agent, had been corresponding with Rev. Peirce during the organization of the colony.  About the time the colony was ready to head west Mr. Somers made a trip to Chicago to finalize some things and accompany the group of some 40 families to Morris County.  This Somers was the same that married Judge Baker’s widow and later drowned in the Neosho River.

The first location of this settlement was about three miles north and west of Parkerville on the MKT railway.  Not too long afterwards the colony moved two miles further up the track and settled on land owned by T.S. and W.J. Mackenzie.  The Mackenzies were instrumental in the organization of this settlement and in 1871 had the town site surveyed.

An interesting story in the White City’s Centennial Times of August 22nd 1985, is about a passenger train that came through in May of 1871.  It was promoted as an ‘Investors Special’, and carried a bunch of New Yorkers who had come to take a gander at the Kansas prairie.  A group of Kaw Indians overran the train and brought it to a stop between White City and Council Grove.  “The train was decorated with U.S. flags.  It was reported that as soon as the train stopped, the Indians swarmed over it, stole all the flags and tried to get in the coaches, which were quickly locked.  No one was injured and the train proceeded on to Junction City, with some of the Indians chasing the train on ponies.”  This of course was fabricated completely for the entertainment of the easterners.

The town was first called Swedeland or New Swedeland, however, the post office established on January 2nd 1872 was called White City.  It appears on an 1878 map of Morris County as Swedeland and on the 1887 map as White City.  I think it is reasonable to say the name was officially made White City when the town was incorporated as a third class city on October 17th of 1885.  A story passed down by the locals says that the Rev. Peirce was the one who pushed to have the town located at the site closer to Parkerville and that he wanted it named New Chicago.

Thomas B. Eldridge was the first to build a house on the town site and that would probably explain why he was the first postmaster appointed to the White City post office.  For those of you who know your antebellum history, the name Eldridge should ring a bell.  Thomas was a brother of Colonel Shalor Winchell Eldridge of the famed and fated Eldridge Hotel in Lawrence.  Thomas also built the first hotel in White City which was later managed by railroad superintendant Francis C. White.  This F.C. White was so highly favored the town was named after him, so goes the local history.   The limestone post office and the hotel still stand in White City at the intersection of McKenzie and Commercial Streets.  The hotel has been divided into two separate houses, both sections remaining in the same block.

House built by Thomas Eldridge in 1871. Commonly called the Commercial House or the Jenson House. The 1902 rear addition was torn down in the summer of 2013. (Courtesy of White City Library.)

James Thornley and W.N. Dunbar built the first store in 1872 and the following year a schoolhouse was erected.

By 1883 White City had grown to about 200 and boasted three general stores, one grocer, millinery, drug store, two wagon shops and two elevators.  There was a Methodist and Congregational church at that time as well.

In 1887 the Chicago, Kansas & Nebraska Railway laid track from Topeka through White City.  By 1891 it was taken over by the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway.  In 1980 that line became the Oklahoma, Kansas & Texas Railroad and then merged with the Missouri Pacific in 1988 which then merged with the Union Pacific in 1997.

I recently made a trip to White City where Terra Coons gave me a special tour of the box car museum at the Katy Park and the Baxter school house.  In front of the box car is a very hefty limestone block that was once part of a bridge near Skiddy.  The block is engraved ‘Quivira of Coronado 1541 Identified By W.E. Richey 1880-1903’. Apparently this Richey believed that the artifacts uncovered at the excavation for the bridge were none other than Coronado’s and so the site was marked with the construction of the new bridge.

The box car has been restored and now houses a plethora of local artifacts.  One room of the car is filled with hand tools from the Frank and Waunita Folsom collection.  There are a number of excellent photographs of White City’s olden days.  One photo that caught my attention was the all women’s brass band.  There was no date on the photo but by the dress we guessed it shortly before or at the turn of the century.

The Katy Park also has a very nice monument honoring the veterans of White City.  The town has made an excellent endeavor at preserving its history and making a neat and attractive display for visitors.  Like most towns, White City has had its share of destructive fires taking out a good many of the old buildings.  Individuals in the community have made great efforts in preserving the remaining old buildings.  Nina Miley restored an old limestone building that otherwise would have become a pile of rubble.  It now serves as her law office and B&B.  Many other buildings are in good repair and neatly cared for.

The old Jenkins Brothers building restored by Nina Miley. (Courtesy of White City Library.)

We also looked at the Baxter school house located just north of the Katy Park.  The school house was originally located 8 miles west of White City on June Baxter’s property.  Baxter came to the county in 1858.  His wife Elizabeth was the first teacher and before the school house was built, class was conducted in the Baxter home.  The school is in fine repair and used for community activities.  A demonstration was given to the public as to how class was conducted in the old days, with children participating and experiencing first hand.  A clogging demonstration is planned to be held there later this spring.  We hope to remain informed on upcoming events.

One annual event I always look forward to in White City is the St. Patrick’s Day supper at the Christian church.  For the past several years Charlie Laughridge and I have entertained the diners with some Irish fiddling.   And of course we are rewarded with a generous slice of corned beef and cabbage with a baked potato.

White City’s population in 1910 was 506, and by 1920 the population reached its peak at 652.  The 2010 census shows a population of 618.  Unlike other towns in the county, White City has not only shown an increase in population over the past decade, but over the past 30 years.  It has surprisingly maintained a pretty steady population over the past one hundred years. What could the rest of us learn from White City?

History of Barber Shops in Morris County



Barber shop in Council Grove probably not much later than 1930 (chairs appear to be about 1923 models). Charles Taylor is the barber in the middle. The location of this shop is unknown, but may have been the shop located in the 400 block of East Main. See foot for more info.

I have been compiling a history of barbers and shops in Morris County for some time now.  I by no means have a complete and authoritative history, but I am sure I have enough to exhaust the most enthusiastic historian.  I shall lay it out here for you for several weeks to come.

I thought the Kansas State Barber Board might be of assistance in researching barbers of Morris County.  Unfortunately they don’t care to let people rummage through their file cabinets and don’t seem interested in giving any information unless given names.  Other sources for my information include telephone directories, business directories, newspaper ads, census records, Sanborn maps, and information collected from various individuals.  Mind you, not every newspaper has been scoured; I may have more to add to this history later.

When did the first barber pass through this land?  That is difficult if not impossible to determine as our records and accounts of early day Morris County are very few and not particularly detailed.   I would like to imagine that someone, even if not an apprenticed barber passed through here on the way to Santa Fe and acted the part of shaver for those heading west.

The first barber I have found record of in Council Grove is Brad Sharp.  He was listed on the 1870 census as a barber living in Council Grove age 27.  I have not been able to determine where his shop was located.  At some point he left the Grove and apparently went to a town that was offering more opportunity for him.  We next find Mr. Sharp in the Parkerville Tribune of January 30th, 1896.  The editor had listed all the businesses in Parkerville in the previous paper but left out the barber.  It reads, “…we unintentionally omitted the name of J.B. Sharp, the tonsorial artist.  “Brad,” as he is familiarly known to everybody, came to this country thirty five years ago and has been engaged in every manner of enterprise.  He is a finished scholar at his trade, keeps a neat and tasty shop and his work is always satisfactory to his patrons.”

The next barber shop that I have found is Thomas Cleek’s.  An advertisement for this shop first appears in the Morris County Republican Saturday May 13th, 1876.  The ad reads, “shaving, shampooing, haircutting, and hair dyeing promptly attended to.  Ladies and children’s hair dressing done.  Shop on Main Street, one door east of bank building.  Open till 12m Sundays.”

The bank mentioned above is most likely the Morris County State Bank which was located at 116 W Main, present day Bosch Furniture in the building closest the Hays House.  The barber shop was located where the extreme west part of the Hays House is now.  In 1886 a fire swept the entire block west of the Hays House, the barber shop was destroyed in this blaze.  Sometime after this fire an addition was made to the Hays House that included the site of Cleek’s barber shop.

Thomas Cleek was born in Kentucky about 1851.  How he came to Council Grove we do not know.  He was about 25 years old when he started his shop here.  The 1880 census shows his brother-in-law, T. McKinney, lived with Thomas and wife Ida.  McKinney was also a barber and I believe they worked in the same shop together.  McKinney may be the youngest barber ever in Morris County.    He was 17 years old and working when listed on the 1880 census.  All of these people are absent from the 1900 census.  It is likely that after the 1886 fire took the shop the family moved elsewhere to make a new start.

An ad from the Council Grove Republican of Saturday June 7th, 1879 reads, “New shaving saloon.  Henry Weigand proprietor; Council Grove Kansas; one door west of Commercial House; Hairdressing, shampooing, shaving, etc. done in the latest Chicago style; hair tonic prepared and for sale.  Call and see me.”  The Commercial House was built by Charles Gilkey in 1859, and originally known as the Gilkey House.  It was known by other names over the years such as Hotel Somnus as we will learn more of later.  The Commercial House was torn down in 1939 to make way for our present day Post Office at 103 W Main.

Between the Commercial House and the Miller Kerr building (now Alderman Dentistry) there were two or three wood frame buildings.  Weigand’s shaving saloon was located in one of these.   By September 20th of 1879 Weigand’s ad had changed and encourages the reader to check out the new White and Barth store.  This leads us to believe that  Weigand had moved his shop to the White and Barth building which was located between the present Farmers and Drovers Bank Plaza at 123 W Main and the McCardell building now Red Bud Design at 129 W Main.

I have been curious as to what ‘done in the latest Chicago style’ means.  A. B. Moler established the first barber school in the nation in Chicago, but that was in 1893.  So it is not possible that Weigand learned from Moler’s school.  One of his children is listed as being born in Illinois, so I presume that Weigand did live in Chicago at one time and most likely learned the trade there.  So I conclude that the latest Chicago style simply refers to where he apprenticed and the fact that Chicago would be comparable to New York City in fashion and latest developments in the trade at that period.  Weigand was born in Missouri May of 1852 and so he was in his late twenties when he first went to work in the Grove.  Take note of the ages, I have a point to make later.  Like the Cleeks, the Weigand family left Council Grove before 1900.  However, if my notes are correct, Henry is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

Springer’s Barber Shop is advertised in the Council Grove Republican of September 20th, 1879.  I’m afraid I cannot give a clear picture concerning Springer as I am certain there were more than one, possibly father, son and maybe even a third generation.  John J. Springer was born in Tennessee in 1872.  This however could not be the same that operated in 1879.  It is possible it could be the same Springer who opened their Tonsorial Palace with a Mr. Withrow in 1890.  He would have been 18 years old.  I have found no further information on Mr. Withrow.

An ad from an unidentified/undated paper reads, “M.W.A. (Modern Woodmen of America) Barber Shop J.J. Springer Proprietor-at the old stand-near the bridge.”  The ‘old stand’ means the same old place I’ve been and everyone knows where to find me.  Since this was near the bridge I am sure the shop was located where Adams 66 now stands at 15 W Main.  There was a shop shown on the 1900 and 1914 Sanborn maps at that location.   R.E. Ashburn was the successor to Springer’s M.W.A shop.  By 1901 J. Springer had his shop in the Hotel Somnus.  This shop boasted a billiard table.

As we skip ahead a bit to 1923, we find an ad in the Council Grove telephone directory for Springer Barber Shop.  This Springer was E.B., possibly a son or grandson of J. Springer.  This is the largest shop I have found in Council Grove or the County for that matter.  It boasted six chairs!  Shines and baths; no waiting.  It was located at 128 W Main where Catlin Lakeside Properties is now.  One item of interest to this particular shop is it advertises a “full line of Boncilla toilet articles.”  The Boncilla Clasmic Pack or Boncilla Facial claimed to remedy all sorts of skin ailments.  One ad from 1931 says, “After thirty minutes see the results-your face amazingly refreshed, fatigue lines utterly removed, color in the cheeks no rouge can bring; crows feet, black heads, pimples gone; enlarged pores closed; a smoother softer more lovely skin.”

I would like to think that I have found the first Black barber in Morris County.  Discovered on the 1880 census is John Matthews, barber in Dunlap, age 23.  And that’s all there is to say of John.  I have some other barbers for Dunlap but I’m afraid I cannot tell you their skin preference.  Frank Ryman advertises his City Barber Shop in the Dunlap Reflector of February 7th, 1896.  In a later ad, Ryman also repairs clocks and watches.  Melvin Whitaker told me of a barber he remembers in Dunlap by the name of Ikey Ryman.  I don’t know for sure if Frank and Ikey are one and the same, but think it very likely.

From the Dunlap Reflector 1896.

A little talk with Melvin Whitaker in July of 2011 revealed some more barbers in Dunlap.  Besides Ikey Ryman, Melvin remembered a Charlie Wiley and a man named Henderson that worked as barbers.  Wiley was what they called a ‘tramp barber’ according to Whitaker.  He would fill in for a barber while they were on vacation, but never had a shop of his own and usually worked out of his home.  He most likely was not a licensed barber.  Wiley charged 25 cents for a haircut while all the other barbers were getting 40 cents.  Wiley was also known to be a bootlegger, maybe that’s why his haircuts were so cheap.  As Whitaker recalls, it was around 1945 that Wiley worked in Dunlap.

Let’s go back to Council Grove for a bit.  I have a long list of barber and beauty shops in the Grove during the early to mid part of the 20th century.  I don’t have details as to who all operated in them.

The Sanborn maps show barber shops located at 216 or 18 and 123 W Main in 1885.  In 1887 there was a shop in the middle of the 400 block E Main, approximately where Tom’s bar is; also, a shop in the basement of the National Bank  at the corner of Neosho and W Main.  By 1908 there was a barber shop at 214 W Main.  In 1914 there was a barber shop located at the southwest corner of the block where the Neosho Plaza high-rise stands.  This was a little brick building that once served as the Express Office.  By 1922 there was a shop located at 105 W Main, next to the Commercial Hotel.  This may have been the same building Henry Weigand was in back in 1879.

Larry Kellogg sent me some information concerning his mother, Neva Jane Rees.  She opened a beauty shop in 1924 in the balcony of the Leader department store, which was located to the east of Red Bud Design.  It was called the Jane Beauty Shop, it was only open for a very brief time as the following year she was married.  Larry was told it was the first beauty shop in town.  I will grant that it may be, for it is the first that I have run across.

Bruce Scott of Delevan said when he got out of the Navy he went into a shop in California for a haircut.  As he was talking with the barber they discovered they were from the same County.  This barber, by the name of Nethercutt, once worked in the basement of the Farmers and Drovers Bank back in the 30s.  E.R. Nethercutt is listed in the 1936 phonebook.

A couple years ago a picture was brought to me that otherwise would have been thrown in the trash.  The person was cleaning out their garage and didn’t know who was in the picture, but since it was an interior picture of a barber shop, thought I might be interested in having it.  And so I was.  The picture is of three barbers with three customers in the chair; you may come in the shop and see it for yourself.  Careful examination of the photo revealed that the names of the barbers were hanging above them on the back bar.  Only one was legible, but that was all we needed.  ‘C.W.Taylor’ was what the one read.  I went to Ken McClintock and asked if he could fill in the blanks.  He thought some time and said he knew a Charlie Taylor but he worked on the railroad.  It was worth a shot to ask Charlie’s daughter, Charlene McRae, who lived here in town.  She came in and confirmed that the man in the picture was her father.  Charles W. Taylor was born September 5th, 1906.  He learned the barber trade in St. Louis and at some point bummed a train to Kansas.  He was employed with the railroad for most of his life, but it appears early on, and when not working on the railroad, he worked as a barber.  He was in his mid 20s in the early 1930s when he barbered here.  Taylor died in 1968 at the age of 62.  The location of the shop has not been confirmed yet.  Jack Foster said that Charlie Taylor gave him his first haircut in the basement of the Nation Bank; that would have been in the late 30s.  Another old-timer of Council Grove told me that Taylor worked on the east side in the 400 block location.  That may be the shop the picture was taken in.

In 1936 we find the Mae Howard Beauty Shop at 219 W Main, Mays Beauty Shop at 126 W Main and Springer Beauty & Barber Shop at 1 S Neosho; this was in the basement of the Farmers and Drovers Bank (it would appear that Nethercutt must have worked with Springer).  By 1942 Springer’s had moved to 119 W Main.  Then in 1944 it became Harrison Beauty Shop and about 1946 moved to 119 ½ above Scholes Jewelry Co.

From 1940-41 we find Davis Beauty Shop at 406 E Main.  Mrs. Ella Kreth’s Beauty Shop was at 28 N Mission in 1940 and moved to 412 W Main in 1941 where it closed up not long after.  From 1940-43 the Mallory Beauty Bar was located at 126 ½ W Main, above Mallory Drug.  At the same time Mi-Lady Beauty Shop operated at 20 E Main.  From 1940-44 West Shoe and Beauty Shop was at 215 W Main, sometime in 1944 it changed to Goodman Beauty Shop.  By 1946 Goodman moved to 22 S Mission and then in 1947 became House of Beauty.   Evelyn’s Beauty Shop took its place by 1948 and then moved to N Neosho Street by 1949.  In the nearly 9 years I have been in Council Grove I have always found it remarkable how often businesses change hands or locations here.  It appears that it is by no means a new practice when you look at how often these shops changed.

In 1943 we find Alice Gillespie Beauty Bar at 18 Wood St.  From 1945-47 White Barber and Beauty Shop was at 206 W Main, in 1947 it became McAtee Barber and Beauty Shop and remained so until 1952. By 1956 McAtee was at the old Express Office at the southwest corner of the lot where the Neosho Plaza high-rise is.  Johnny Baker had his barber shop at 123 W Main from 1946-48.  He moved it to his home at 27 N Washington and operated from 1963-68.  The 1965 phone book shows it at 25 N Washington; I don’t know if that was a misprint or if he moved it briefly for some reason.  Lawrence Strouts told me a little story about Baker.  Strouts used to get his hair cut by Baker and one day Baker told him that if he had someone in the chair that he didn’t particularly care for, he’d leave a few hairs around the corners of the mouth during a shave.  This of course is irritating and the person would not likely come back.

Express Office 1977

Old Express Office where Buck McAtee once barbered. Later, Joann Stiver had a beauty shop there. Photo taken in 1977.

Melba’s Curli-Q Salon was at 130 W Main in 1947 and Pullins Beauty Salon at 214 Hockaday in 1948.  Mel’s Barber Shop was at 610 Conn Street from 1973-76.  Mel Keyser had a shop at the Leader location and following a fire that took out those buildings he operated out of his home.  The shop by the Leader seems to have been a barber shop from the time it was built until it burned down.  In 1955 the Mary Ruth Beauty Shop was at 8 N 4th street, *(I assume this was on the east side of town).  More next week.


Claude Steck, or as everyone remembers him, ‘Smokey’ Steck went to the Moler Barber College in Chicago in 1947.  That’s where he started barbering in 1948 then moved back to Council Grove in 1949 where he barbered with Buck McAtee.  Information from Steck’s daughter Claudia sates that in November of 1951 Steck purchased the Hays Tavern Barber Shop and in 1958 moved to the Farm Bureau Building where he remained.  The telephone directory shows he operated at 222 W Main from 1955-67 and 1978-83.  He sold his shop in January of 1986.  Steck was a character and all who remember him have a story or two to tell.  I was told that he had a sign on the ceiling of his shop so that when people were getting a shave they could see it.  It read “what the hell you looking at?”  I have been told by more than one person that Smokey had one haircut to give, and if you protested he would point to the barber pole out front and say “that means I know how to cut hair.”

Steck’s certificate from the Moler College of December 1, 1948.

Russell Shubert started out cutting hair in the south portion of what was known as the Home Café.  The building was located where the Saddle Rock Café now stands.  From 1978-82 he worked at 412 E Main.  I had the pleasure of knowing Russell and I’m sure all will agree that you could not find a more kindhearted and genial person.  Russell use to come into my shop after hours and we would trade haircuts.  For as long as Russell had been out of the barbering business he could still give a very satisfactory cut.  Russell told me of the time when he would help Apache Joe braid leather strips for watch chains.  Apparently Russell didn’t do as well at that and Apache Joe would take his braids that he had worked so diligently at and cut them into little pieces with his knife.

Russell told me there was a time when he once barbered in Wilsey.  He soon gave that up because what was happening was all the guys would come sit in the shop and drink coffee and chat all day and wouldn’t get their haircut.  But when he was at his shop in Council Grove they would be lined up for hours waiting to get their hair cut.

C.B. Smith told me of Erville Winfield, he was apparently not a licensed barber but I must include this in the annals of haircuttery.  Erville Winfield worked for the railroad along with C.B. Smith.  One day Smith mentioned he needed to get his hair cut.  Winfield offered to do it for him.  Smith didn’t know Winfield cut hair but gave him a shot anyway.  So Smith went to Winfield’s house and got a pretty decent haircut and continued to go to him for the service.  As it turned out, Winfield was also a drunk.  So it was best to get your hair cut earlier in the day rather than later.  One day as Winfield was cutting Smith’s hair he asked, “Did you have ketchup for lunch?”  Smith said ‘no’ and Winfield replied, “Never mind then.”  After having his hair cut one day Smith went home and found that only one half of his head had been cut and the other completely untouched.  So he went back to Winfield to have it finished and found Winfield passed out drunk.  It was at this point Smith decided to find a new barber.  Oh yes, Erville also played the guitar and banjo.

As we get closer to modern times, we find that Council Grove went without a barber shop for nearly ten years.  Smokey Steck was the last until John’s Barber Shop opened up at 12 N Neosho in 1992.  The following year the shop appears as John’s Barber & Styling Shop.  Then in 1994-5 it appears as Council Grove Barber Shop.  Folks don’t seem to know too many details about the barbers that operated here, but from the accounts I have heard it does appear that there were two different barbers in this location.  It also sounds like the individuals who ran the shops were both a bit different.  One got in trouble with the law, had problems with his girlfriend.  The other locked himself in his apartment and shot holes in the ceiling with a pistol.  Of course, that’s what I have heard from the locals.

Once again Council Grove was without a barber for nearly ten more years until I came to open my shop in October of 2003.  Remember I said I had a point I wanted to make concerning the age of the barbers?  Most of the time when someone comes in my shop for the first time they say something like, “I expected someone older.”  Or they mention how all the other barbers they know are old men.  Well, they were young once too you know.  I was 19 years old when I started my business here.  And most all the other barbers listed in this history were in their early 20s when they started working.

The Council Grove Barber Shop has made its mark as not only an old fashioned shop but a center for music.  For nearly as long as the shop has been in business it has hosted a music jam on the last Tuesday of every month.   Musicians gather from miles around including White City, Alta Vista, Manhattan, Cottonwood Falls, Canton, Galva, McPherson, Topeka, Emporia, Herington, and even farther.   There have been amazing musicians pass through the doors over the years.  A young man named Daschle, who was just out of high school and walking from Washington State to Florida for Soles4Souls, came through Council Grove.  This was back when I had a piano in the shop and Daschle played and sang a piece he wrote and it was very good.  I have had flamenco, jazz, and rock style guitarists pick up the community guitar and make sounds come out of it that will never be reproduced.  And of course Alex comes over from La Hacienda and he spends time teaching me to play requinto music on the mandolin.  Which I admit is not my strongest point, but it is beautiful music none the less.

And who doesn’t know about the homemade ice cream and root beer that we have on the street in the summertime?  People stop to listen to the music and have a refreshing dollop of blackberry or some other favorite ice cream.  Maybe even a root beer float.  And Elvie Aikens more often than not brings some delicious cookies or something to munch on.  My favorite to date is what I call her birdseed cookies.  They have sunflower and maybe flax seed in them.  Like history, this too shall pass so make it a part of your memory while you have an opportunity to enjoy it.

To complete my list of barbers I give you the ones I know little about.  They are Bill Stoddard who worked in the upstairs of the Leader building in the early 60s; Leo Davis 400 block E Main; and Frank Means a ‘colored’ barber in 1928 all of Council Grove.  The Council Grove Guard of August 8th, 1913 advertises the “Union Barber Shop, The only shop in town; good barbers-courteous treatment; sanitary shop; E.A. Brunts proprietor.  Bath in connection; opposite the Missouri Pacific Depot.”  A business directory of 1889 shows Henry Davis barber in White City, and in 1901 H.V. Scholes also White City.  Max Walton barber in Dwight; Bill Ohm Barber Shop in Latimer, period unknown to me.  Palace Barber Shop J.T. Houseman proprietor, advertises cigars, tobacco and summer drinks; I think this was in Dunlap but am not sure.  Also a barber named Bradshaw and Eckleberry; I believe Ernest Braun told me of these.  A.J. Coffin was the proprietor of the Wilsey Barber Shop; I believe this was the early part of the 20th century.   And finally, Art Johnson the barber of Burdick, who played the banjo, harmonica and bass drum for cake walks.

And now a parting anecdote about barbers from the Council Grove Republican March 15th, 1906.  “John Drew, as he lunched, talked about barbers.  ‘They are so uncomplimentary,’ he said.  ‘They tell you such unflattering things.  A friend of mine went to be shaved at the Dark Harbor hotel one day last summer and the barber said to him, “Your hair is getting thin sir.”  “Yes,” my friend answered, “I have been treating it with anti-fat.  I never did like stout hair.”

Addenda: *The Mary Ruth Beauty Shop opened February 9th 1954.  Mary Ruth Carr Lakey Walker first worked in Freda Goodman’s shop and then later in Buck McAtee’s.  When McAtee closed his business Mary purchase the beauty equipment from him and began her own business which was located at the rear of what is presently Santa Fe Liquor in Council Grove.  She continued to work at her own shop until December of 1969 when she slipped on the ice and broke her ankle.  She continued to help in Goodman’s shop until 1983.

About the photo at the top of the page: Someone brought it to me and said their brother-in-law found it in their garage and was going to throw it away because they didn’t know anything about it and it meant nothing to them. There was little to no hope of learning anything more about it when I received it, we didn’t even know if it was a shop in Kansas let alone Morris County. But, upon close inspection with a magnifying glass, I noticed the names of each barber was posted above their station. I could just make out C.W. Taylor on one plaque. I then asked local historian Ken McClintock if he knew of a C.W. Taylor who was a barber. Again, I had little hope of a positive answer. Ken said he knew a man by the name of Charlie Taylor but didn’t know if he was ever a barber. He directed me to the daughter of Charlie Taylor, Charlene McRae. Turned out he did do some barbering in his early days. Charlene affirmed the man in the photograph was her father.

Charles W. Taylor, born September 5, 1906, learned the barber trade in St. Louis and sometime after bummed a train to Kansas. He worked on the railroad most of his life, but in his early years barbered in Council Grove. He was known to have worked at the shop in the basement of the Nation Bank building and at the shop in 400 block of East Main.

This photo was on the wall in my shop for many years, until I sold out and closed up. Sometime after, one of Charlene’s daughters contacted me about the photo and I gave it to her so it remains in the family.

Dance in Morris County

Morris County has a long and rich history of dancing which has continued more or less successful for over 150 years.  Although we do not have detailed accounts of all the venues, musicians, and occasions we have enough memories to give us a good look at how dancing and music has been a part of the lives of our denizens present and past.

The old Morris county courthouse was dedicated with a ball on Christmas night of 1873.

In January of 1876 John Hamilton of Council Grove threw a leap-year party.  Apparently some ladies had given a dance previously and neglected to invite the men.  So Hamilton made up for it by inviting the outcasts and no ladies were invited to the party.  The Council Grove Democrat of January 13th gives a description of the attendees and their attire.  It was a custom back in the day to print in the paper who attended and what they wore, so the boys decided to make a mockery of it.  “John B. Hamilton acted the part of host and was sweetly dressed in a bathing suit; ornaments, cigar holder.  Louis Wismeyer was much admired.  He wore a wooden talma [cloak or cape] made of tin; ornaments, post office orders.  E. J. Marks was dressed in a Kerosene oil barrel, with broom corn trimmings.  His feet were incased in snow shoes, and as he glided over the floor he was pronounced divine; ornaments, horse collar.  John B. Flemming wore a splendid moiré antique horse blanket; ornaments, mumps.  Walt Miller wore a malt tub “entrain” with spigot bustle; ornaments, barley ear drops.  G. J. Wright wore one of Madame Foy’s corsets with shoe knife attachments; ornaments, shoe peg necklace.  A. T. Bush was appropriately clothed in a pair of stove pipe pants; ornaments, flat irons.  Jas. Tedstone was dressed in a pair of striped stocking suspenders, and had his hair dressed with car grease; ornaments, telegraph poles.  L. McKenzie was well dressed and looked sweet as usual in an oil cloth dressing gown and gum overshoes.  His hair braided with cockleburs.  He trotted through the “Highland Fling” with great alacrity; ornaments, a pensive smile.”  As you can see, everyone came attired in something pertaining to their line of work.

It has been mentioned in the history of the Hallmark family that during the late 1880s and early 90s dances were held in a private home in the Parkerville, White City neighborhood.

Some time in the 1920s a family by the name of Critchfield moved into what is now the Post Office Oak Museum.   The previous owner had used the cave for cheese making and a flood had put an end to his operation.  The Critchfields cleaned it out and waxed the floor and their son used it for square dances.  It was said that twelve couples could dance in the cave.

The Council Grove Squares is the longest running dance group in the community.  A visit with Bob Blackburn, a charter member, gave me some interesting information about C. G. Squares. This square dance group got started about 1962.  When they first started dancing they would meet in an old barracks out at the fair ground that was heated by a wood stove.  Later they danced in the community building at the City Lake, it was also an old barracks.  They have also danced at the lunchroom of the elementary school and at the armory.  Currently the dances are held at the Senior Center in Council Grove.  They meet on the second and fourth Monday evenings at 7 o’ clock.  The public is encouraged to attend.

During the 1954 centennial a dance was held each night of the celebration.  On Monday night a military ball was held at the armory.  Tuesday night a free square dance was held on the street for Farmer’s Day.  And Wednesday night ended with a centennial ball at the armory.  The Council Grove Republican showed that somewhere around 600 people attended the latter.

A dance was advertised in the Dwight Signal of December 1914.  Music was to be provided by fiddle and banjo.  It has been some time since I have seen this ad but I believe the dance was held at the roller skating rink in Dwight.

One other dance venue I’d like to cover, even though it was not in Morris County, is the Chalk dance.  The little town of Chalk, located across the northeast border of the county, has gone the way of Helmick.  There is nothing there that remains of a town.  But at one time it was a swinging place.  I talked with Alice Schultz whose grandparents, Leona and Claude Button, owned the Chalk store.  Around 1937 a dance floor was built out back of the store and regular dances were held there for many years after.   If the weather was bad they would dance in the upstairs of the store.  Charlie Massey called the dances.

In more recent memory, there were contra dances held in the parking lot of the Kaw Mission during Wahshungah Day weekend.  I believe these began shortly after I moved here.  The first that I could remember would be in 2004.  Garry Hughes of Kechi , Annie Wilson of Middle Creek, Charlie Laughridge of the old Kaw Reservation, Garry Rinehart of Lyndon, and myself were usually the ones to play the dance.  I think we had various callers through the years.  The dance only lasted for four or five years.

In the spring and summer of 2006 the rec. dept. was looking for another activity to do that wasn’t a sport and would get young and old involved so I was asked if I would get a dance started.  I thought it sounded like a good idea and we gave it a shot. The dances were held on the fourth Saturday in the Middle School lunch room. We had various people come and play and call for us.  I finally called it quits due to low turnout and having to pay a band out of my own pocket.  This is not unusual though.  Garry Hughes who helped get the Wichita dance started funded that dance out of his pocket (with the help of some others) for nearly three years before it finally supported itself.  Now they seem to have a very active dance community.

A couple years ago my wife and I held dance lessons at the Field School house in town.  The McClintocks wanted to take lessons to be prepared for an upcoming ball.  So we got a group of people together and for four or five weeks learned some quadrilles, waltz, contra, and schottische.  Everyone did very well and we had fun at it too.

And now we try once more to continue a tradition of dancing.  On the third Thursday of the month there will be mid-nineteenth century dance instruction at the Morris County Historical Society.  We will meet at 7 in the upstairs.  This is free to the public and anyone interested is encouraged to come.  You can get yourself in shape for the Spring Ball April 28th.