Emma Elizabeth Calderhead Foster.

History of Marshall County, Kansas : its people, industries, and institutions online

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L. M. Parmeter. J. D. Brumbaugh. Perry Hutchinson, Charles F. Koester,
Robert Shibley and A. G. Edwards.

"Floor managers. — Peter Peters & A. E. Parks."

Of those who gave this party fifty-four years ago, only two are living —
Isaac B. Davis and R. Y. Shibley.

City of Blue Rapids.


As a result of correspondence between W^ \V. Jerome, of Irving, Kan-
sas, and Rev. C. F. Alussey. then pastor of the largest Presbyterian church
of Batavia, New York, and Solomon H. Parmelee, of Leroy, New York, the
idea of a Genesee colonv was first suggested l^y Mr. Jerome. A meeting to
consider a plan for the colony was held in Star Hall, Leroy, New York, in
the spring of 1869. attended by aliout twenty-five people. An agreement to
go to Kansas together, was signed by four men. Rev. Charles F. Mussey,
Solomon H. Parmelee, C. J. Brown and Taylor Holbrook. Charles F.
Mussey was chosen president ; S. H. Parmelee, treasurer, and C. J. Brown,

These gentlemen held the offices of the Genesee colony until the location
in Kansas was made, and the organization became the Blue Rapids Town
Company. Many meetings were held during the summer of 1869 until the
number of signers reached fifty.

S. H. Parmelee was sent to Kansas to select a site. After three weeks
he returned with the report that the selection was too important to be left to
one person. A commission of three was sent, consisting of C. F. Mussey,
John B. Brown and H. J. Bovee. This commission made choice of the
present site of the city of Blue Rapids. The location was made on January
I, 1870.


In less than sixty days many thousand acres of land had been purchased,
the titles gathered, the Blue Rapids Town Company organized and a town-
site surveyed. Members of the colony began to arrive by March i, 1870.

"Colonial Hall" was built as a temporary home for the colonists and
was so used for nearly a year. The dining room was used for a church,
school and general meeting place. The hall was located west of where
Coulter's drug store and Brown Brother's hardware store now stand. It


was used tor school ])iiri)oses for district No. 3 for two years and later was
nio\-C(l to the ri\er and was there used in lurn hy the \\'oo]en-niill store of
Cook & Chandler, the lUiell Manufacturing- Company, and later hy the Swan-
son Brothers as an implement factory.

During- the days of its use as a colony home, Taylor Holl;)rook was the
manager. John McPherson succeeded liini as manager. Idie hrst death
in the hall was Nellie E. McPherson, the manager's only daughter, on Sep-
tember 21, 1870. After forty-two years of service the old building was dis-
mantled, and lives only in the memory of those who were sheltered beneath
its roof.

The Gejiesee colony embodied in its charter and in e\'ery transfer of
l)roperty, a clause prohibiting the sale of spirituous liquors as a beverage.
In case of a violation of this clause, the pniperty would revert to the school
cHstrict. The supreme court of Kansas, in an action, sustained the clause.
No open saloon has ever existed in Blue Rapids.

Blue Rapids was platted after the fashion of many eastern cities, with
a public S(|uare or park in the center of the business portion, the principal
business houses being Ijuilt on the four sides. The park is four hundred
feet scjuare, and has a large number of shade trees. During the summer
many cultivated plants add to its attractiveness.


The first business house erected on the public square was a general store
by S. H. Parmelee, and the second by Yates Douglass on the south
side, and followed by Guy R. Brown and McBride on the north side.

The first residence was built by J. B. Waynant ; the second by Rev.
Charles Mussey. In the erection of this home every available man in town
took a hand, as the family of Reverend Mussey were at Atchison, awaiting
a home. S. H. Parmelee was the first postmaster and J<>hn McPherson
made the first section of letter boxes which were used, until Thomas Marcy
was appointed postmaster ; he put in an entire new set of fixtures.

Among the farmers who settled in the vicinity of Blue Rapids before
the town was incorporated, were Andy Scott and family ; Judge William
Thompson and family ; Peter Stout and family ; Frederick Hamilton and
family (said to be descendants of Alexander Hamilton) ; Jackson Taylor,
the town oracle. Near Irving were W. W. Jerome, S. H. Warren, St. Clair
Guthrie and M. Conley. Conley was at one time associated \\ith Thomas A.


Blue Rapids grew and improved rapidly. The present State Bank was
erected by D. Fairbanks, completed in the fall of 1870, opened as a private
bank in 1871 by Olmstead, Freeland & Company,, and later purchased by
G. B. Stocks & Son. The Town Company offered five lots to any party
who would erect a hotel. John R. AlcPherson, C. Y. Reed and H. S. Hal-
burt accepted the offer and built a hotel, three stories, containing- twentv-
one rooms, and named it "The LaBelle House," after a lake in Wisconsin.
At the opening of the hotel a large number of invited guests were present,
amonp- others C. F. Koester, Frank Schmidt and fames Sniith, of Marvsville.


One reason for selecting the location of Blue Rapids, was the fact of
there being a power site in the Big Blue river at that point, on which C. E.
Olmstead constructed a dam which was to furnish one thousand five hundred
horse power, and which cost thirty thousand dollars; After the completion
of the dam, a stone fiour-mill, fifty-four by ninety-five feet, three stories
high, with a cai)acity of three hundred barrels daily. Was erected at a cost
of thirty-five thousand dollars, by C. E. Olmstead. Later, the mill was sold
to LJpham & Sons and remodeled into a roller process, at an expense of
fifty thousand dollars. The Olmstead mill was completed and ground the
first grist for a customer from Cla}- Center, Kansas, October 26, 1871.

G. and J. Green, of Bentonport, Iowa, put in operation a paper mill in
1874. Print and wrapping paper were manufactured. The mill was closed
on account of financial difficulties on Fel^ruary 20, 1877, and John McPher-
son was appointed assignee to adjust the estate of G. and J. Green.

In 1 87 1 vSamuel Craft operated a steam saw-mill near Blue River, manu-
facturing hardwood and cottonwood lumber.

The foundrv and machine shops of Price Brothers were built west of
the river in 1877.

The season of 1870 was very dry. No vegetables were raised and water
was hauled from springs, daily. A well was sunk on the west side of the
scjuare to a depth of two hundred and twenty-five feet without finding water.
This discouraged the colonists at the time, but later water was found at
from thirtv to seventy feet below the surface. Because of the failure to find
water, C. E. Olmstead put in the Holly system of waterworks from the river
to the public square, for fire protection and general purposes. Four-inch
mains were laid and a Holly pump installed in the flour-mill, attached to a
special wheel.



In the early spring of 1872 the citizens subscribed for a cut-stone basin
in the park, in which C. E. Ohiistead furnished, and put in phice, a fine
fountain, which is still in use.


Rev. C. F. Mussey and family.

J. H. Brown and family.

C. J. Brown.

H. S. Halburt and family.

S. H. Parmelee and family.

Howard Parmelee and family.

Taylor Holbrook.

Flagler Passage.

Dr. R. S. Craft and family.

Samuel Craft and family. •

Yates Douglass.

Augustus Borck.

N. Zell.

Joseph Grimm.

A. W. Stevens.

Capt. A. D. Gaston.

C. B. Mathews.

H. V. Mathews.

E. D. Wheeler.

Fred J. Jacob.

J. B. Waynant and family.

Charles E. Tibbetts and family.

N. Halsted and family.

L. W. Darling and family.

C. E. Olmsted

J. L. Freeland and family.

Guy R. Brown and family.

H. \y. Jackson and family.

J. T. Smith and family.

William Ekins and family.

William Brown.

On December 31, 1870, there were
in Blue Rapids.

Samuel Hill and family.
J. H. Fowler and family.
Jackson Taylor and family.
A. W. Kimball and family.
John McPherson and family.

C. Y. Reed and family.
J. S. Fisher and family.

D. Fairbanks and family.
A. J. Bovee and family.
Charles True and family.
Thomas Oakley.

James Allerdice.

W. D. McPherson.

J. C. Harland.

D. B. Taylor and family.

H. Van Dusen and family.

D. Minium and family.

C. B. Stone.

J. W. Davis and family.

H. Armstrong and family.

W. E. Brown and family.

George S. Smythe and family.

Dr. R. A. Wells and family.

J. S. Stanley.

J. L. Herrick.

William Burr.

Doctor Ream.

George Kempton and family.

J. E. Ball and family.

James Hunt and family.

J. C. Frissell and family.

about two hundred and fifty people



On September 21, 1871, Judge John V. Coon arrived from Elyria, Ohio,
with recruits for the colony.

In April, 1872, Taylor Holbrook built a twenty-foot raceway for power
purposes of manufacture, especially of gypsum cement.

J. V. Coon & Son began the erection of a three-story stone building, at
a cost of twelve thousand dollars.

These gentlemen were the pioneer manufacturers of gypsum into cement
and land plaster at Blue Rapids. Their mill, on the west side of Blue river,
was run night and day to fill orders.

The Baptist church and school house at Blue Rapids were the first build-
ings finished with the plaster made by Coon & Son.

The mill was run with a capacity of eighty barrels of plaster of Paris
a day, until 1S87, when the interior was destroyed by fire. The mill was
rebuilt and put in operation again.

In May, 1887, work began on Fowler Brothers gypsum mill, twenty-
four by sixty feet. The business was known as the Blue Rapids Plaster
Company. On August 20, that year, the first kettle of plaster was taken
off and on the 21st plaster was shipped from the mill. The business was
prosperous and grew steadily, but litigation over a patent finally caused the
sale of the mill to the United States Gypsum Company of Chicago.

In March, 1892, the Blue Valley Plaster Company was organized and
built a mill on the Stocks farm. A. E. Winter was president and Arthur
English, secretary, of the new company.

This mill is still in operation under other ownership and is named the
United States Gypsum Company.


On January 25, 1872, W. D. Cook and I. S. Chandler, of the Wathena
woolen mills, agreed with the Blue Rapids Town Company to bring their
machinery to Blue Rapids. The woolen mill was completed in October and
work begun in all departments. In tlie fall of 1877 the mill was purchased
by the Buell Manufacturing Company of St. Joseph, Missouri. In 1879 it
was totally destroyed by fire. It was immediately rebuilt and remodeled
and filled with the latest improvements.

On March 28, 1882, VVillard N. Buell committed suicide at Plattsmouth,


Nebraska. This was a great l)l(nv to tlic mill at Blue Rapids. The business
was diverted to the mill at St. Joseph and in the same year the woolen mill
was closed.


Fortunate, indeed, is the city that has for one of its first institutions a
public library. The women of the colony coming to Blue Rapids from the
East decided to have a library as one of the needs of the new city (and from
that day to this, for more than forty years) the women have maintained the
library, and have kept it up to the same high standard with which it began
many years ago.

They are proud of their organization for many reasons herein given.
The association has a life membership in the state temperance union and a
portrait of Frances AV'illard adorns the walls of the building; also a portrait
of Andrew Carnegie and many other friends of the library. The building
is named Olmstead Hall, in memory of Carlos E. Olmstead, one of its first
benefactors. It is a substantial two-story stone structure, completed in 1877.

The ladies of Blue Rapids who were interested in the establishment of
a library met in the parlors of the LaBelle House on April 30, 1874. The
association formed then, met again on May 27, and a permanent organiza-
tion was created, and on June 2^, the library was opened to the public, in
the store of D. W. Hinman. The oflicers were : President, Mrs. E. C.
Ball; vice-president, Mrs. S. Wright; recording secretary, Mrs. P. J. Sweet-
land; corresponding secretary, Mrs. M. E. Reed; treasurer, Mrs. C. F. Roedel ;
directors, Mesdames H. Armstrong. J. S. Dawes, J. D. Davis, C. B. Hall,
\\\ H. Good\yin, C. F. Alussey, John McPherson. G. B. Stocks and A. W.

In the following December the Town Company presented to the library
association one of the few remaining three hundred dollar lots on the public
square. On February 4, 1875, C. E. Olmstead offered to give two hundred
and fifty dollars toward the erection of a library building, if the ladies would
raise a like amount. The result was that work was begun on the building
on the 18th day of that month and in 1877 the ladies were holding meetings
on the ground floor room of their own building, while the second floor was
rented to St. Mark's church for church purposes.

! I !






r ^^ -; V"' B» .^ J JH»^ i: ' . ■ r



C. J. Brown and C. E. Tibbetts procured a charter, and many books
were contributed by Eastern friends. So through the years these faithful
women have kept their hbrary open to the pubhc.

In June, 1899, tlieir liearts were gladdened by the news that through
the solicitation of Air. Jno. McPherson, Andrew Carnegie had donated five
hundred dollars to the association for the purchase of books. Later, Mr.
Carnegie presented his portrait to them, which is framed and hangs upon
the library wall.

Some of the valued members are now at rest in the cemetery on the
hillside, some are in distant lands, some are still faithful members of the
board of managers, to whom the younger generation look with gratitude.
Their records have been faithfully kept, the library has been maintained as
an honored institution. These ladies made a good fight and they have their
reward in the gratitude and admiration of their townspeople.

The present oflicers are : President, Mrs. L. S. D. Smith ; vice-presi-
dent, Mrs. C. E. Tibbetts ; recording secretary, Mrs. R. S. Fillmore, corre-
sponding secretary, Mrs. C. K. Stephens; treasurer, Mrs. J. N. Wanamaker;
librarian, Mrs. E. Heathman. and a board of managers of fifteen, includ-
ing the above-named officers.


At the close of the year 1880, the following represented the business of
Blue Rapids : J. L. Freeman, banker ; Buell Manufacturing Company, woolen
mill; J. S. Wright & Company, flour mill; J. W. Bliss & Company, paper
mill ; J. V. Coon & Son, plaster mill : J. B. Waynant, foundation for mill ;
Price Brothers, foundry and machine shop; Loben & Sweetland, general
merchandise; C. W. Farrington, general merchandise; J. L. & C. A. Free-
land, general merchandise : Buell & Company, mill store ; Hill & Alorton,
hardware; R. S. Craft, druggist; G. B Stocks, lumber and grain; M. C.
Holman, furniture; William Coulter, druggist; J. C. McArthur & Com-
pany, harness; I. D. Yarrick, meat market; Festus Cooley, dry goods; Mrs.
A. M. Cole, milliner and dressmaker; Mesdames McAllister & Chandler,
milHners; H. W. Chapman, bakery; George Beester, restaurant; William
Elkins, tailor; Spencer & Doten, livery; Sharp Brothers, livery; John S.
Fisher, boots and shoes; Eli H. Wilson, boots and shoes; James Shaff. art


gallery; H. D. Calkins, Ice comi)anv and nursery; J. S. Dawes, market
gardener; McPherson & Reed, LaBelle house; Fairchild's south side hotel;
\\'. II. II. I'>ecman. lawyer: 11 W. Chapman, lawyer; E. W. \\'a}-nant, law-
yer: J. \'. (!v E. j. Coon, lawyers: R. S. Craft & J. G. Crawford, physicians;
L. G. Canfield, dentist; T. F. Hall, insurance; J. L. Freeland & John McPher-
son, loan and insurance; A. J. Loomis, postmaster; S. H. Holbrook, railroad
station agent; George L. Nichols, jeweller; J. W. Murrell, billiard hall; T. J.
Hall, justice of the peace; H. W. Chapman, justice of the peace: James Aller-
dice, D. Minium, G. Fitzgerald, C. J. Stanley, M. T. Specs, A. Seager, Adolph
Johnson, carpenters and buildiers; Anderson Brothers, N. F. Axelson, stone
masons ; S. M. Swan, George Peckard, painters ; William Burr, blacksmith ;
Charles Minium, trucking: Thomas Bothwell, S. \V. Richey, plasterers; M.
Patterson, J. G. Reynolds, loan agents; T. J. Hall, barber; S. S. Fitzgerald,
Howard Edinborough, wagonmakers; M. Nickelson, city milk depot; E. S.
Pearsoll, cooper shop.


On February 8, 1872, Blue Rapids was incorporated as a city of the
third class. The first city officials were : Alayor, C. E. Olmstead ; police
judge, A. E. Sweetland; councilmen, J. E. Ball, A. W. Stevens, John McPher-
son, H. Armstrong, D. Minium ; assessor, J. B. Waynant ; justice of the peace,
A. Armstrong.

Hiram \\^oodard brought from Elyria, Ohio, the first thoroughbred
whitefaced cattle to stock his farm northeast of Blue Rapids. Among suc-
cessful breeders in Blue Rapids \vere Isaac D. Yarick, A. Borck, Charles Dren-
nan, W. B. Hunt, Judge W. H. Goodwin, Miss Lou Goodwin, Clayton Rod-
key. John L. Rodkey, F. W. Preston & Son, Walter Morgan, E. R. Morgan
and J. M. Winter.

Blue Rapids had in operation the first telephone in Marshall county.
Professor Stewart gave an entertainment in March, 1878, in Fitzgerald's
hall. \A'ire was stretched from Fitzgerald's hall to the office of G. B. Stocks,
on Alain street. Alusic, singing and talking were distinctly heard by the
audience in the hall.

The Blue Rapids Town Company, on account of the large outlay for
public improvements, which was immediately followed by business depres-
sion, became involved in debt and in the winter of 1879-80 sold the whole
of its property to Randall Stetson, of Elyria, Ohio, who was then repre-
sented by J. V. Coon, and then followed the process of adjusting the com-
pany's debts.



Bine Rapids and the colony enterprise, like every other town in Kansas,
was crippled by the disasters of grasshoppers and dronght Because of the
dry, hot summer and failures of crops, business w-as retarded and enterprise
delayed. Resources were running low and the people were becoming dis-
heartened. But soon their courage returned and as time passed, new build-
ings were erected and some business changes took place.

A. E. Benedict bui'-t a residence: John Lawson and Westein built homes
on Union street; a Methodist church was built on Genesee street; C. E. Bige-
low put in a stock of fancy groceries ; A. E. Benedict, J. Sawdye & Com-
pany opened a hardware store ; William Burr succeeded Burr & McConnell ;
J. H. Fowler and Air. St. John opened meat markets; Misses Holman
opened a dressmaking shop; J. A. \\'illiams and Air. Witt were the village

In June. 1874, the Blue A^alley hotel was destroyed by fire.


R. A. Wells was the first doctor in Blue Rapids.

Miss Lottie Holt and Rev. J. Williams were the first couple married,
the ceremony being performed in \"ermillion by Rev. E. H. Chapin. The
first death was that of Alary, the wife of H. S. Halburt, during the summer of

1870. The first birth was that of a child to Air. Van Dusen, a member of
the town company.

The first school in the vicinity of Blue Rapids, taught by Lucy A.
Palmer, began in November. 1861, with twenty-five pupils. It was kept in
a private dwelling, one-half mile west of the present town site.

Alisses Knowdton and Stew-art opened the first millinery store in Blue
Rapids, December 18, 187 1.

The population of the city at the close of 1871 was four hundred and
eis^htv. Twentv-seven business firms were established.

On Alav 13, 1872, J. A. Loban and A. E. Sweetland entered into a part-
nership as dealers in general merchandise under the firm name of Loban &
Sweetland. Their business relations extended over fifteen years, until Air.
Loban's death. Air. Sweetland continued the business another fifteen years.

Judge W. H. Goodwin, of Xashville, Tennessee, erected a building in

1871, the front room of which lie used for a law office. The second story w-as


finished as a hall and for some time the Congregational church held services
in it.

In 1 87 1 G. Fitzgerald. J. A. Loban and Noble and Perkins erected a
building with a seventy-five foot front by sixty feet deep, two stories, for a
general store.

T. H. Morris was engaged in the lumber and general merchandise

T. G. ^ilorris and I. E. Ball were music and furniture dealers.

The Arlington House was opened in the winter of 1882 by W. Coulter,
Jr., who was its manager. The building, a two-story brick, was erected in
1873 hy W. Coulter, Sr., at a cost of seven thousand dollars. In 1881 it
■was fitted up and used as a hotel under the name of the Fairchild House,
managed by C. R. Fairchild, former proprietor of the Tremont House, Marys-


A postoffice was established a short distance from what is now Blue
Rapids, in 1859. with William Thompson as the first postmaster. Air.
Thompson remained in office three years and was succeeded in 1862 by D.
Palmer. In 1865 Emma Lee received the appointment. She held the office
six months, when she resigned in favor of S. Craft, who after a short period
turned the office over to John Weber.

During Weber's term the office was discontinued in 1869. When the
Genesee colony came out and located a townsite and commenced improve-
ments, the postoffice was re-established in the spring of 1870, with H. S.
Parmalee as postmaster.

Mr. Parmalee was succeeded in 1875 by C. E. Tibbetts, then editor of
the Blue Rapids Times. In December, 1876, A. J. Loomis was appointed
and remained until 1883. In July. 1872. the office w^as made a money-
order office and W. H. Goodwin sent money order No. i.

The following have served as postmaster since 1883: Judge W'illiam
Thompson. Thomas Marcy. C. Coulter, John McPherson, H. C. Lathrop,
and Clarence Coulter, the present incumbent.


John McPherson, former historian of Blue Rapids, waiting in 1890. said:
"During the tw^enty years of the colony settlement a large sum of money has
been expended in the way of pioneer manufacturing, resulting largely in dis-


aster and failure. In, these years Blue Rapids has had in successful operation
two flour mills, one woolen mill, one paper mill, two plaster mills, foundry and
machine shop and the Cook Anchor & Cable Company, all located and operated
by water powder on the Blue river. All of these and, later, Swanson's Flying-
Swede Factory and the cereal mill, either failed, sold out, or were washed
out by floods and the river cutting- a new channel in -Mav, 1903. below the
old dam, which is still intact. The power has in a measure been restored
by a fill across the new channel. The walls of the Olmstead Brothers mill
is the only building now^ standing, and in it is located the electric lighting
plant operated by water power. The Anderson flour mill on the west side,
was dismantled and rebuilt by P. Anderson & Company, at the Central Branch
railroad tracks, and the plaster mills are established at the gypsum quarries.
In fact every interest at one time in a flourishing condition at the river has
disappeared. Only the Olmstead mill wall, the bridge and the original dam


Among the men who came to Blue Rapids to make it a city. Jason
Yurann was one who believed it the most promising site in the state for a
city with great industrial possibilities. His dreams did not come true, and
many of his schemes failed. He has become as fully known to the people
of the state and county as "Colonel Sellers" is known to lovers of Alark

Yurann has always in season and out of season, through evil or good
report, been a loyal worker for Blue Rapids. A man of excellent education,
and wide knowledge of affairs, he perhaps, in his prime, knew more prominent

Online LibraryEmma Elizabeth Calderhead FosterHistory of Marshall County, Kansas : its people, industries, and institutions → online text (page 13 of 104)