Early Written Accounts

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1857 map with Eudora

Approaching Eudora from Stranger Creek, William H. Emory, wrote in his1848  Notes of a Military Reconnaissance from Fort Leavenworth in Missouri to San Diego, in California:

“The prairie is still what is called "rolling prairie." Along some of the ravines the bottoms were perfectly flat and covered with the rosin weed that grew as abundant as the grass with which it was intermixed. The purple Asclepias was also very abundant. The timber on the ravines was composed of the white oak, black mulberry, black walnut, hickory, and the redbud, and nettles grew to the luxuriant height of five or six feet…. As we neared the Kaw River some of us went on ahead. We soon came in sight of an Indian house. They said that they were Shawnees. They appeared very comfortably fixed, had numbers of very fine-looking cattle, and within a few yards of the house a clear stream from the hillside spouted forth from a gutter of bark; it was cool and sweet and we drank as much as we wanted and filled our canteens. We asked the Indians the distance to the Kansas River. They told us 1 1/2 miles. We crossed quite a high ridge and then entered upon a low, level bottom that was overgrown with grass four feet high amongst which we observed the long-leafed willow (used by the Shawnees for preparing kinnikinick), the willow, and cottonwood.

“A quarter of a mile from the riverbank we entered the timber again. The ground was covered with deep sand and we hesitated whether or not to cross the river before tomorrow, but as there was no very good camping ground on this side we concluded to pass over. We landed just at the mouth of the Wakaroosa, and it was near 10 o'clock before all were ferried over although we had two flatboats. The current of the river was very rapid, its water clear, and its breadth about 80 yards [perhaps he meant feet?] and depth 8 feet. Just at the mouth of the Wakaroosa it is 14 feet deep. The current of the latter stream was extremely sluggish.

“When we had all landed it was so dark we could scarcely see, for the night was cloudy, so we camped on the riverbank and sent our horses out on the prairie to graze. Our own suppers were not finished until near 12 o’clock, and worn out as we were we could not sleep on account of the abundance of mosquitoes. A large hooting owl, as if to console with us, commenced his nightly serenade.

“Tuesday, June 30: The pure clear water of the Wakaroosa looked so inviting that some of us could not refrain from taking advantage of it by bathing. One of the flatboats formed a convenient place from which to plunge. The sun was rising surrounded by golden clouds. In one of the other flatboats three Indians who had assisted in ferrying us over were soundly sleeping, and far away stretched the gradually diminishing trees that hang over the Kansas' waters.

“We engaged here an Indian to come with us and assist us, and also discharged one of the men for being quarrelsome. Our horses had not had much time to eat last night and we found it difficult to urge them along among the green prairie.

“At 8¼ o'clock we had our first glimpse of the Wakaroosa buttes. On our right hand there was a large cornfield of about 30 acres, then a line of timber stretching away ever so far; on our left, rolling prairie until you approach the buttes. The road could be distinctly seen crossing the top of the swells, and as we continued to advance we found that it led us directly between the two buttes, and the right-hand one was in part covered with timber. Passing on between them, we saw on our left the divide which separates this valley from that of the Osage and upon which the Santa Fe road is laid out. We soon found that the trail we had been following merged into that of the Oregon, but continued on in hopes it would soon diverge towards the south. Shortly after crossing this trail we descended a steep declivity and found ourselves on a creek and noticed here that the Indians had been working for coal. In the superincumbent shale we found traces of fossils resembling the broad flat leaves of the Iris.

“. . .This morning at the Kansas River we saw the first flock of parroquets; they lit in a large cottonwood tree directly over our heads. Amongst the birds we noticed doves, flickers, bluebirds, towhee buntings, crows; the latter were flying near a large cornfield and were doubtless watching with intense interest the ripening of the grain. Those friends of prairie voyageurs the cowbirds made their appearance and quietly installed themselves on the backs of the mules. The elder is yet in bloom. Amongst the undergrowth near the timber we noticed too the brown butterfly which flits around the Asclepias, and the common yellow butterfly.”

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W. H. Goode, in his 1863 book Outposts of Zion told of venturing to the Wakarusa Mission in Eudora from Kansas City and wrote of his river crossing in a small, dugout canoe:

“About three in the afternoon, much fatigued, we reached the Kaw River, opposite the mouth of the Wakarusa; but there was no boat, the only craft being a pirogue, and that fastened at the opposite shore. . . .One of our company at length was preparing to swim the river and bring over the pirogue, when we saw a man coming to our relief. The tottering craft was brought over and our horses were swam by the side to the opposite shore in safety. Reaching the mission, we met a cordial reception from Dr. Still and his kind family.”

***

Paraphrased from Eudora Weekly News, August 18, 1927:

When Susannah Gilmore came in 1857 from Indiana to Eudora, she said the blue stem grass grew wild as high as a man's head sitting on a horse, and runaway slaves begging for food were plentiful. Gilmore also said the first wheat crop sown in the Kansas River valley was planted by Henry Meyers, Robert Vogel, and Harry Whittler, all "boys from Eudora."

***

Samuel James Reeder, of Shawnee County, wrote a letter in the early 1860s, saying:

“… vacant lands are at present in out of the way places, but this of course will not always remain so. The Dr writes that there is splendid land on the Southern border of this State; in the Shawnee Reserve, also. The place he admired the most is called Eudora. The Indians of this nation have come in as citizens and the land can be sold. The Dr with the mercurial temperament of a true Frenchman thinks we ought to try and all sell out here, and move to this newly found Paradise. My Aunt who some times "builds castles in the air" is some what taken by the idea, but my judgment is against. The most of us are too old to begin life anew on the frontier.”

Mary Elizabeth Mosher, born in 1850, wrote of time spent in Eudora before her family ultimately returned to their Morrow County, Ohio, farm. The Nathan N. Mosher family [Nathan and wife Sarah with children Mary, Edith, Martha, Jake, Minnie, Samuel, and Gideon], and some cousins by the last name of Meeker, came up the Missouri River on the boat “Kate Kenney” in 1865 at the close of the Civil War.

“Father bought our tickets to Jefferson City. Although the distance was not great, we ran on to sandbars so often that our trip was prolonged. When we reached Jefferson City, we heard many tales of Quantrell’s guerilla warfare on that part of the country. . . We were all terrified and begged father to not stop off here. Father and Uncle Ben [Ben Meeker’s wife Rachel was Nathan Mosher’s sister] took counsel and decided that it would not be wise to leave the boat and proceed to Warrensburg, as they had planned. So they purchased tickets to Kansas City and we continued on our journey.

“It was night when we landed at Kansas City, Kansas, side. Our party had increased in numbers, as a third family had joined us. This family was going to Nebraska to join a son who had preceded them several years before and entered land there. One of the daughters in this family had taken ill on the journey with typhoid fever, and it was necessary to carry her to shore on a mattress. [She died a few days later.] We went to the nearest hotel, but neither at this hotel or any other was there a vacant room. Everything was full. The close of the War, the Quantrell Raids and the Emancipation of the Slaves had caused a large influx from the country. It was said, that it you leaned a board up against your house it was rented immediately.

“. . .The Meeker family found lodging for the night in a Quaker community some distance out, and our family was accommodated in a new hotel building not yet finished. We were allowed to spread our bedding on the floor. . . .Next morning, in conversation with the proprietor of this new building, father learned about an opening at Eudore, Kansas. The hotel proprietor had a piece of property at Eudore in which he had been living, but he expected to move his furniture within a few days, he as willing to rent or sell this property. So, without even seeing the place, father closed the bargain, securing a large two-story building, formerly the Shawnee Mission house, and several lots.

“…Uncle Meeker’s and our family early Monday morning boarded a train from Kansas City to Fall Leaf, the nearest railway station to Eudora. When the conductor called out ‘Fall Leaf,’ and we alighted from the train, we looked in vain for any buildings. An old Indian squaw sitting on a log, and a couple of wagons containing the hotel proprietor’s goods to ship to Kansas City were all there was of Fall Leaf station at the time.

“One of the wagon men told us it was three miles to Eudora. So, we left Uncle Ben Meeker to look out for our trunks and bedding, which were to be brought back on foot for Eudora. We made a long procession, for in addition to our own family, Uncle Ben’s large family, another family of five, a Scotch-Irish family, had left the train at Fall Leaf and were also headed for Eudora. People living along the road, stopped their work and counted us as we passed. Every one of us carried some article. I remember my load was the family Bible and Album. Just before we reached Eudora we crossed the Waukarushi River on a flat boat ferry. Here we all had a chance to rest. We piled up our loads and I remember father capped the pile with his revolver. He also carried a shot gun. Nearly everyone went armed at that period of unrest.

“At last we reached Eudora and found it a very small town. Here were only five American families in it. The rest were Germans and Indians. Many Negroes were also coming up from the South and settling there. The only public eating house was in connection with the small general store. It was long past noon , and we were so very hungry. But the proprietor said, if would be some time before he could prepare a meal for so many. Finally, however, it was ready and I’ll never forget the repast! Large platters of beefstake, onions sliced in vinger, and plate of hot biscuits! After dinner we went over to our new home ‘The Old Shawnee Mission House;’ it had been remodeled into a resemblance of a residence, but seemed very bleak and bare, unfurnished.

“Uncle Ben Meeker and his family took one room and we took another. There was a Negro family living in the upstairs room of the house. There were not locks on the doors. Uncle Ben pulled his tool chest across his door. In the morning the tool chest was pushed out some distance from the door, showing that someone had attempted to enter during the night. Father was wakeful that night and hearing some commotion on the premises, crept across the floor and cautiously peeped out a window, as there were no blinds on the windows. He saw two bulldogs belonging to the Negro couple upstairs. The dogs evidently had chased the men and treed them the next morning. The two dogs were dead. They had been poisoned.

“…We found many interesting neighbors in Eudora. Many of them were Indians, but they had been educated in the Shawnee Mission and spoke English. Here was Chief Johnny Cake, who had gone all the way to Washington, D.C. one time to see the Great White Father. There was Pasqual Fish, the Chief of the Shawnees, and Charlie King, an interpreter. Some of our German neighbors were very friendly, but did not know English well enough to converse with us much. One time we had the privilege of meeting Jim Lane of Kansas fame. There was a school in Eudora and we older children attended it.”

Mary attended school in Eudora’s city hall. The room was over the jail, and sometimes a prisoner would make “considerable commotion.” The teacher, Miss Mattie Cook, had a play store, grocery, post office and other learning activities in the class. The Reverend Paddock, a circuit Methodist minister, asked Mary and her sister, Elizabeth, to teach the many emancipated slaves who came to Eudora. She told of a separate day school “as many adults wished to learn to read, and attend school. I recall seeing an old white-haired man in the school.” Mary’s father bought a team of mules and a team of horses to start a hauling business. He took loads of building stone to Lawrence used in rebuilding after Quantrill and would often bring back store goods to Eudora.

“So passed the Summer Months,” she wrote. “Then several of the children came down with malaria — ‘Ague,’ so we called it then. Father also contracted it. Father began to say ‘I am going to get out of here.’ One day while he was ill in bed with a chill, a snake dropped down from a crack in the ceiling above his bed. It landed on the floor, and so did father! ‘That settles it!’ yelled father, and he began to make plans to move again. Father made a trip across into Missouri to find a new site. He succeeded in locating a farm he thought would be satisfactory to rent. He returned to Eudora, sold the house and lots very cheap to some Ohio people who had come West and were looking for property. Uncle Ben Meeker had moved on out on a farm near Eudora, and they were satisfied to remain in Kansas. Later, however, Uncle Ben Meeker removed to Baxter Springs, Kansas.”

The Republican, a Lawrence, Kansas, newspaper edited by John Speer and Verres Nicholas Smith, published this January 24, 1861, town description found on microfilm by Bertha Cameron in the National Archives Kansas City, Missouri, site, which was typed from microfilm by Tom Tucker:

Eudora
“Amongst the wide-awake, lively towns of Kansas, is the town of Eudora. Its location was first made about four years ago by an enterprising company of Germans, principally from Chicago. From its first selection as a town-site it has manifested the energetic character of the independent German, who looks all obstacles in the face, and it was but a short time till Eudora became a village, not on paper, but to be sought as a residence. Not behind their American neighbors even in education, they built a town house, and established schools. We remember passing through it shortly after its selection, when the hammer and the saw was to be heard in every quarter, and to our inquiries in regard to its prospects, an honest old German responded, “Wait awhile, and we will show you what Free Labor can do,” and they have fulfilled this prophecy. Eudora is now a village with all the evidences of thrift, taste and good society. It is not now, though it was at first, an exclusively German place, nearly one-half of it population now being from different portions of the Union. We are informed that its population is about two hundred.

“By the individual contributions of its people and their labor, they have built a bridge across the Wakarusa, which is perhaps not excelled by any other structure of the kind in Kansas. Its location is at the intersection of that stream with the Kansas River, and is one of the most picturesque and healthy locations in Kansas. They have a steam saw and grist mill, a lath machine and a shingle machine, besides the usual number of stores and mechanics’ shops, such as wagon makers, blacksmiths, etc. They have some of the best dwellings in Kansas, and are now erecting some substantial buildings, among which we notice a frame store and dwelling, by Mr. Paschal Fish, an enterprising, intelligent Shawnee Indian. They are a reading people, we know, for without any exertions on our part, they now take about thirty copies of the REPUBLICAN. A few days ago, they held a meeting, and set apart one hundred and twenty lots, to be given to persons who will erect buildings — evincing a liberality which always has its sure reward."

The 1899 Portrait and Biographical Record of Leavenworth, Douglas and Franklin Counties, Kansas: Containing Portraits, Biographies and Genealogies of Well Known Citizens of the Past and Present about Henrietta Kufman Harbold Deichmann wrote: "When she settled in Eudora she was obliged to cut the bushes down in order to make the land open to travel. For years, she lived in a small log hut, meantime working outdoors in the cultivation and clearing of the land. Early and late she toiled in the fields, shirking no work that would aid in the development of the place. Indians were numerous in early days, and she became familiar with their language, so she could converse with them, after which she had no trouble with them. ”

Copyright 2015. Cindy Higgins. Where the Wakarusa Meets the Kaw: A History of Eudora, Kansas. Eudora, KS: Author.