The Kansas Pacific Railroad platted the small community of Fall Leaf on the banks of the Kansas River as a 40-acre town with a train depot in 1865, because the railroad needed a stop between Kansas City and Lawrence. The land, formerly the Delaware Indian Reservation, was two miles north of Eudora and three-fourths of a mile west in Leavenworth County.
The railroad station was named after Fall Leaf, a Delaware Indian leader who once lived there and is buried near Dewey, Oklahoma. Ovid Snyder wrote about the depot (later moved to Linwood) and said it had a waiting room on one end and a freight department in the other end. Its telegraph equipment was in a space protruding from the building so that the track could be seen. A large flatbed, four-wheel truck with a hand tongue transported luggage and freight.
A ferry also provided transportation across the Kansas River to Eudora that cost 5 cents in 1884. If a horse accompanied the rider, the total fee was 25 cents; a two-yoke team of oxen also cost 25 cents. To get to Lawrence, Sophia Luckan Kahn, born in 1868 in Fall Leaf, said people had to follow a trail, “fording Mud creek” and cross the Kansas River on the ferry. Kahn also remembered Delaware coming to her parents’ home to barter for food and horses. The Luckan family came from Kossenblat, along the Spree River in Germany. August Luckan, born March 25, 1825, came with his two nephews, Paul and Fritz in 1864 to the United States, narrowly missing an iceberg on their six-week voyage. They first settled in St. Joseph, Missouri, then bought their Fall Leaf farm at 11325 230th Street in 1865.
Five years after its founding, Andrew Bauer operated a steam saw and grist mill on a spring-fed creek west of Fall Leaf. The community also supported a coal operation, blacksmith shop, stockyards, and a general store in which a post office was located. The first postmaster was John J. Weber, and George Bauer later had the position. In 1907, fire demolished the store with the post office. A Mr. Eubanks was a merchant there around 1910, and George Vale was a grocery owner at one time. The store closed in the late 1930 or early 1940s. The post office closed in 1928 then re-opened under the name of Fall.
“Fall Leaf, a station in the southern part of the township, on the main line of the Kansas Pacific road, was named in honor of a Delaware chief. R.C. Taylor and John Jordan are among the earliest settlers. The township also has a steam saw-mill,” wrote William Cutler.
Other families who lived in Fall Leaf, according to Ovid Snyder, were the Reetzes, Bryants, McCabrias and families headed by Otto Lucan, James Toyne, David Davidson, Harve Schellack, Noah Canary, James Pritchard, Charles Douglas, Moses Smith, John Wilson, and John Smelser. The Zimmerman family also came to Fall Leaf in 1867.
One of the most notorious murders happened in the Lamborn family in 1896 when Anna Lamborn, 27, along with her brother, Charles, and paramour, Thomas Davenport, 23, were accused of hacking her father, William Lamborn, 85, to death with an ax. Anna said that she and Davenport had been at a dance till late and she found her slain father when she awoke the next morning in their home, one mile north of the Fall Leaf railroad depot. Arrested and tried for “a murder most atrocious,” months later, 70 witnesses helped Anna, Charles, and Davenport be found innocent. Within weeks, Anna married Davenport. That same year, A.J. Bauer, of Eudora and Fall Leaf, was found to have forged at least eight Fall Leaf mortgages starting in 1889.
Another murder occurred in 1918. Carl Koerner shot George Vale, 52, in the back on a Saturday night after a gathering at the general store owned by Seth Kindred, Vale’s son-in-law. Vale had been walking home from the store, and, after a shot was heard, found along a path. Koerner had robbed Vale in the past but had not been fined or sentenced to jail because he was a minor. Sentenced to six years in prison, he was paroled in 1923. A few years later, he was arrested again for the robbery of a Lawrence grocery.
“Fall, a hamlet of Leavenworth County, is located in the extreme southern portion on the Kansas river and the Union Pacific R.R. about 30 miles southwest of Kansas City. It has a post office, express and telegraph offices, and, in 1910, had a population of 43. The railroad name is Fall Leaf,” wrote Frank Blacmar, on page 620 in volume I of the 1912 Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Embracing Events, Institutions, Industries, Counties, Cities, Towns, Prominent Persons, etc.
The rich river bottom land produced various crops, including potatoes, melons, alfalfa, corn, and wheat, said Fall Leaf resident and historian Lorene (Reetz) Cox. During the 1920s and into the 1940s, farmers also grew peas that were shelled at a pea vinery east of Fall Leaf, sent by train to Lawrence, and sold to the cannery there. However, the river’s floods of 1903, 1915, 1951, and 1993 destroyed crops and eroded the banks of the Kansas River, bringing the river closer to what was left of the town.
The first school house in Fall Leaf was made of wood in late 1865. Annie Sophia Kahn said, in a 1947 Lawrence Journal World newspaper article, that after grasshoppers had ruined crops, the schoolhouse was used as a distribution point for food collected by the eastern states and sent to the Leavenworth station. The Fall Leaf men met the train with wagons and brought the supplies to the school. The photograph on the left shows Fall Leaf students at a later school
After 1953, Fall Leaf students attended school in Linwood. Because of petition in 1992, Fall Leaf residents attend school in the Eudora School District.
In recent years Operation Wildlife, 23375 Guthrie Road, has been a well known location in the Fall Leaf area. Its director, Diane Johnson, leads 50 volunteers who care for wild animals who need medical attention. The facility cares for about 2,000 animals each year before releasing them to the wild.
Besides sources mentioned, Fall Leaf sources used for this short history, include Eudora Community Heritage; articles written by Fred Fall Leaf and Joy Uthoff, articles from the Eudora Enterprise, Tonganoxie Mirror (June 12, 1930); and Lawrence Journal World (November 16, 1992); Lorene Cox’s Fall Leaf publication; and personal recollections of Marie Milleret and Ovid Snider.
Copyright 2015. Cindy Higgins. Where the Wakarusa Meets the Kaw: A History of Eudora, Kansas. Eudora, KS: Author.