Flood, Utilities, and Eudora State Robbery: 1901-1909

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1908 picnicIn 1901, Hill Wilson, who published a book about prominent men in Kansas, described Eudora as “one of the few towns in Kansas which has never had a boom and consequently has never suffered from that depression in real estate and general business which follows a period of unnatural inflation.” Eudora’s slow, steady growth by the turn of the 20th century had created a healthy settlement with an established downtown linked to other communities through the town’s rail service and bridges. Town elections, too, had progressed: on Jan. 24, 1901, the Lawrence World editorialized: "There is a movement on foot to organize a club in Lawrence to discourage giving beer and whiskey in elections. It is said that enough politicians have agreed to join to make the club a certainty. In Eudora the republicans have taken a determined stand against this evil and it has stopped." Just on the horizon, the telephone, would expand even further Eudora’s boundaries and connections. Just on the horizon, the telephone, would expand even further Eudora’s boundaries and connections.

Phone system installation. The city’s first phone system, which began in 1902, consisted of the Barclay Thomas line from Hesper to Vinland and the Belleview Eudora line, which operated from a café in the Lavo Building near 709 Main Street. Its first clients were Charles Pilla, J. Bohnsack, A. Schellack, G. Peopmoeller, J. Madl, Bert Daugherty, Steven Joy, Allen James, and Charles James. Long-distance calls were possible through the Lawrence exchange. Barclay Thomas, Enos Reed, and Oscar Votaw ran the phone system, and later Dan Scannel bought the café business with the Mutual Telephone COmpanytelephone system. In 1915, Eudora’s cooperative, the Mutual Telephone Company, formed and installed its telephone system in Tena (Neustifter) Ziesenis’ house at 203 East Seventh Street as seen in this photograph. Ziesenis went to work at 6 a.m. each day and started a coal stove fire in cold weather. She said the country lines hooked to a “bunch of bells" hanging on the wall, each with a different tone, in a family history complied by Rachelle Ziesenis and Janett (Ziesenis) Seacat. Her daughters, Clara and Caroline, helped operate the switchboard. People paid for monthly telephone use, and Frank Seiwald oversaw the men who built new lines and repaired old ones. The telephone company, which was presided over by a board of Sam Stanley, Adolph Lotz Jr., George Lothholz, Fred Betts, and Charles Gabriel, bought Ziesensis’ house in 1916, and she continued to work there until 1922. Olive Nuttall also worked as a “hello girl” at the switchboard for many years. She said the company operated from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; a person lived in back of the house to answer after-hours, emergency calls. Zena Bartz and Nuttall worked eight hours a day, seven days a week, with a one-week paid vacation each year. They made 21 cents an hour. The operators, which also included Lucille Warmker and Anita Stadler, handled bill payment and alerted volunteer firemen of fires. In 1957, the system changed from rings and switchboard to dial phone. Some people used a local line to Lawrence and paid a monthly flat rate.

1903 flood1903 flood. Dominating the year of 1903 were the 10 days of continual downpour that caused the Kansas River to flow over its banks on May 26, 1903 as examplified in the photograph on left. The flood crest reached a high of 27 feet on June 1. The waters carried giant wine tuns, huge oil tanks, platform rockers, wooden beds, farm wagons, pigs, chickens, vinegar kegs, and other items to the scavengers delight. Johnny Williams, Weaver flood17, pulled out a year's supply of Bowersock Mill flour, a hen, 14 pigs, eight barrels of vinegar, 10 casks of cider and wine, and a pasteboard box with a new suit. He charged others 10 cents a ride to scavenge on the river for themselves, wrote Mary Jane Knisely, in Big Flood of the Prairies. The 1908 flood was deemed comparable to the 1903 and 1844 flooding with hundreds of thousands of dollars of crops destroyed and more than 50,000 “green” bricks at the Stadler brick plant. Hundreds came to watch the flood waters that initially broke out at “Lothholz Island.”

The high waters wreaked havoc on the city’s bridges. Waters washed away the bridge on the Wakarusa River three times in 1903. The second time, in July, drifting logs took out 12 of the bridge’s piles, and the bridge flooring was removed before the entire bridge collapsed. Drifting logs and a strong current wiped it out in October a third time and the sound of snapping boards and bolts continued all day until it collapsed in a great crash around 7 p.m. At that time, it was suggested that heavy wire be stretched across the banks so a pull-and-rope system could tow passengers back and forth on a boat.

New street lights gussied up Eudora the fall of 1903. Ten feet high on iron posts, they could be found at Sixth Street and Main Street Terrace, the southeast corner of Main Street and Seventh Street, the northwest corner of Eighth Street and Church Street, the southeast corner of Ninth Street and Church Street, Ninth Street and Elm Street, southwest corner on Main Street, and two at in the park area between Eighth Street and Ninth Street and Main Street. They joined other lights lit from 7:30 p.m. to midnight by the town marshal.

Also in 1903, a representative of the gas company came from Topeka to measure the Santa Fe depot for necessary gas fixtures. Earlier, a gas company had franchised the rights to natural gas in the area from the city. Eudora had 20 some natural gas wells between 1908 and 1910. A strike at the then McBride farm three and one-half miles southwest of Eudora was one of the first “big” gas well finds. Hundreds of people came to view the strike and look at its accompanying gas flames.

The PlugThe “Plug. The train continued to be a crucial link to the outside world. The “Plug” to Emporia reached Eudora in the morning and evening with ever-changing hours on its return trip to Kansas City. It brought mail, passengers, and merchants’ stock and carried off farmers’ produce; ice from Hagenbuch’s plant; and milk, eggs, homemade butter (about a ton of butter passed through each week around 1900), cream, and potatoes from Charles Pilla’s store. When the Barnum & Bailey circus appeared in Lawrence, the Eudora train agent sold 200 “Plug” tickets—his highest ever—in one day.

A major employer in the area, the railroad also was the source of deaths for several Eudora employees, including Thomas Mooney, an Irishman and section foreman, who was killed instantly by a Santa Fe train at De Soto in 1901. The coroner said every bone in Mooney’s body was broken. Joseph Blab, 54, a Santa Fe section hand, also died on the job while sweeping off snow from the switches. A passenger train struck and killed him March 1, 1906. In 1917, Irvin Beaumont, a Santa Fe engineer, looked at his train for the cause of an odd noise and was instantly killed when he smashed into the bridge over the Wakarusa River one mile east of town. A few months earlier, a brakeman, while climbing a ladder to reach the caboose roof, died the same way. Trains also caused several deaths, including the 2-year-old twins of Mr. Toyne who followed their father unbeknownst to him when he went to the tracks three miles east of Eudora.

Business front. The turn of the century didn’t dramatically change the type of town businesses. Joshua Reber sold his blacksmith shop on the northwest corner of Tenth Street and Church Street in 1901 to Edward Mistele, who sold it six years later to Frank Roe for a bicycle shop, because Mistele bought Joseph Zillner’s blacksmith shop. After Zillner bought back his shop (it may have been owned by Herman Greiner then), Mistele moved to Kansas City. A. von Gunten built a 30-foot by 40-foot carpentry shop at the east side of Eighth Street and Elm Street on Lots 8 and 9 to manufacture sashes, doors, and millwork. Advertisers in 1900 included H.W. Lowrie who had a restaurant and confectionery serving ice cream and cold drinks; J.A. Shadd, a dealer in standard grades of coal; and W.J. Fowler, jewelry, watchmaker, and optician.

C.P. Page and his family came to Eudora by train from Oklahoma on February 29, 1904, and son Frank Page wrote of Eudora at that time in “Remembering My First Eudora Days:”

“West on Sixth Street was a cheese factory and the street ended. On Oak St. east of Maple was the Lothholz Lumber Yard. On the northwest corner of Oak and 6th St. were the loading pens for live stock held to be shipped by rail. There was a well there. West of these pens was Tom Elliot’s Coal Yard. Bismark Hotel was west of Main St. on 6th St. At the crest of the hill at 7th & Main St. was the Charles Pilla Gen. Store which sold groceries, clothing, dry goods and machinery. They also sold Mitchell cars when they came on to the market a little later, and Avery tractors on their arrival.

“Down the west side of Main St. was Eudora State Bank, then Papenhausen Bakery, Homer White’s Drug Store, Barber Shop, Schubert Furniture Store & Mortuary, Bill Hotz Shoe Repair Shop, Julius Lotz Paint Store, Eudora News Office with William Stadler-Editor, and William “Yankee” Fuller Hardware & Implement Store to 8th St. on the East side from 8th St. going north was Smike’s Restaurant, 2 small office buildings, Blacksmith Shop, Hill‘s General Merchandise Store, U.S. Post Office, Cooper’s Jewelry & Watch Repair Shop, the Lothholz building on the corner of 7th & Main St. housed the Kaw Valley State Bank downstairs, and upstairs was the Opera House and the office spaces for dentists and doctors over the years. The old City Hall building on the north side of 7th & Main St. had a jail in the basement.”

In 1905, Thomas Gress, formerly of Tonganoxie, sold the restaurant and bakery he bought in 1903 from the Loomis family to Henry Papenhausen of McLouth, who specialized in bread, donuts, buns, sugar cookies, and cakes ― layer, loaf, and fruit. He also served drinks, including hot beef tea, hot beef fluid, hot tomato bouillon, hot chocolate, hot cocoa, hot root beer, hot coffee, and “hot devil nip.” That same year, law officials rued the “joints,” another area business, and tried to shut down the whiskey and beer “booze dispensaries” of F. Hoelmueller, Fred Lorenz, and Mrs. Caas on the town outskirts. The Hagenbuch family built an Ice plantice plant (see photo of Harry Hagenbuch in front of ice plant) on the Wakarusa River next to the slaughter house in 1906; before the ice plant, Dan Reber and other men cut ice up to two feet thick from the Kansas River with special, long-bladed saws. Horses pulled the ice blocks from the river to the banks where waiting men used ice tongs to store the sawdust-packed blocks in an ice house on the river, said Maggie (Reber) Hagenbuch in 1976. They also bought “artificial” ice by the train carload; in 1896, five carloads from Armourdale went to the creamery, two to Robert Bartusch, two to the Hammert and Hagenbuch meat market, and one to Charles Pilla.

Maggie said Henry Hagenbuch built a summer cottage there, too, so she and her husband could monitor the machinery that sometimes would stop in the night. Not only was ice used for food storage, it cold-packed corpses before burial and furnished cooling needs for incoming trains. An advertisement of the times said the Hagenbuch family would deliver ice on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

In 1909, Horace Woodard opened a sorghum mill and sold a gallon of syrup for 50 cents each. Overseeing city business during this time was Charles Hill (mayor); George Brune (city clerk); Henry Oberholtzer (treasurer); C. F. Schneider (street commissioner); Frank Schafer (cemetery sexton); and the city council of Charles Lothholz, Charles Pilla, Adolph Lotz, Gus Ziesenis, and E. W. Kraus.

State Bank 1909 robbery. This October 12, 1909 report by the Lawrence Daily World tells the tale of one of Eudora’s first major robberies:

“With the intrepid daring of a desperado of dime novel fame, Ross Bullock, and an eighteen-year-old Lawrence boy drove Deputy Sheriff Woods and E.E. Wilson cashier of the Eudora State Bank, into the vault of the bank late yesterday afternoon, locked them in, and robbed the bank of nearly a thousand dollars in cash.

“Deputy Woods happened to be in the bank because he was looking for Bullock for a lesser offences in Lawrence . A pawnshop had been robbed of two revolvers and two watches by the simple expedient of throwing a brick through the window, reaching in, and picking up the articles. Bullock had shown such articles to a crony and on a tip, Woods had gone to Eudora looking for the robber.

“He hadn’t found him, had gone into the bank to see his friend Wilson and, to his surprise, found Bullock apparently loafing in the bank. When Woods accused him Bullock declared that he could establish an alibi if the officer would wait for a certain farmer to arrive for whom Bullock claimed to be working.

“The farmer didn’t come. Woods prepared to take Bullock to the train and return to Lawrence , when he suddenly found himself facing an armed man. Bullock had two guns, one pointing at Wilson, the other at Woods. He locked the pair in the vault, took all the money he could find, then coolly walked out and boarded a train for Lawrence.

“Here he hired a hack to take him to a house near Haskell Institute, where he roomed. Wilson Pringle, a Lawrence policeman, and his wife and children, were visiting next door when Bullock drove up. Pringle also had been on the lookout for the pawnshop robber. Unaware of what had happened in Eudora, he went next door to pick up the suspect.

“Bullock, upon being confronted by the policeman, shot him before Pringle had a chance to realize that the robber was armed. The bullet pierced Pringle’s neck and throat and lodged in the spinal cord, paralyzing him. Bullock calmly walked to the street, paid off the cab driver, and unhurriedly disappeared in the Haskell pasture, while the hysterical neighbors tried to help the wounded officer.

“Meanwhile at Eudora, Woods and Wilson were still locked in the vault. It was two hours before their muffled yelling and pounding were heard and they were released.

“The news was phoned to Lawrence. Farmers in the Kaw Valley helped the officers beat the bushes, but not a trace of the robber was found. Pringle died. For the next month reports came in that Bullock was seen in various parts of the country. But no one was sure.

“Then, a month after the first robbery, on November 12, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the young robber, this time with a 15-year-old companion named Willie McKay, again appeared at the bank. Three men were inside: E.E. Wilson, his son Harry, and Fred Starr of the Kaw Valley State Bank. Bullock commanded, “Throw up your hands!” Neither of the Wilsons paid any attention to him. Since the robbery of a month before, it had been the habit of their friends to joke them about the affair and, as Cashier Wilson explained afterwards, ‘I was so sick of having the gag sprung on me, that I paid no attention to it.’

“Starr, however, saw that Bullock meant business and raised his hands into the air. The next instant he was dropped by a shot from Bullock’s revolver, the bullets striking his jaw.

“The Wilsons now saw that this was no joke. The watched in fear while McKay guarded the door and Bullock pocketed about $300. The young pair hurried out the door, immediately the town was alerted, and everyone who could lay hands on a weapon started in pursuit.

“The pair was surrounded less than a mile from town on the Al Smith farm by the Wakarusa River. They were called upon to surrender. McKay obeyed, Bullock began to shoot at his pursuers. With one bullet left, he turned the gun on himself, shooting himself in the temple.

“The wounded robber was taken to Eudora in a delivery wagon. He was placed on an improvised cot in the city hall where hundreds of curious people walked about, staring at him. After several house he was transported to Lawrence where he died.

“Now the people turned their anger on young McKay. They even threatened to lynch him. The officers, however, commandeered a taxicab, which Roy Roberts had chartered to take him to the scene of the robbery and took their prisoner in safety back to Lawrence."

John Dolisi, John Miller, Carl Neis, Clyde Hughes, and Frank Schopper all claimed that they deserved the reward for Bullock’s capture and took their claims to court the next year. The court ruled to split $300 among Neis, Dolisi, Miller, and Joe and Frank Schopper.”

Copyright 2010. Higgins, Cindy. Where the Wakarusa Meets the Kaw: The History of Eudora, Kansas. Eudora, KS: Author.