Every individual has his or her own story, but few of these are recorded. To write this historical account of Eudora, much has been taken from the stories of individual lives from newspapers and other first-hand records of the past. One person who did record portions of her life was Olive (Everley) Nuttall, who wrote of growing up in Eudora by the railroad track, and by doing so, charmingly preserved a glimpse into a simpler time in an agricultural setting.
The family cow furnished milk for churned butter, buttermilk, cottage cheese (called Schmear-Kase in German), and coffee cream. Her brother, Ike, rode or led the family cow each morning and evening to and from the pasture. After he grew up, someone else had to “take Bessie to pasture.” That same pasture known as Shleiffer’s pasture north of Seventh Street past the eastern edge of town furnished walnuts and hickory nuts that the family ate for winter treats along with popcorn that they grew. It also was the place where the last day of school picnics and games took place. “As we kids grew up, a walk to Schlieffer’s Pasture and finding various kinds of wild flowers in bloom is something you don’t every forget. Violets, Dutchman’s britches, sweet Williams and a small little flower we called anemone were some we gathered,” wrote Flossie (Everley) Smith, Nuttal’s sister.
For fun, the Everleys played hockey with tin cans, rolled down hills in carts made from left-over buggy wheels, poured buckets of water on the river bank for a waterslide, raced down cornfield hills on a home-made sled, had picnics in the woods, and swung on a grapevine over the Wakarusa River in the summer and ice skated on it in winter.
During summer, everyone went to the “Horse Thief Picnic” [CPA], Opry House, to see silent movies, went to Saturday night dances, and attended the annual chautaquas sponsored by the school. Men of all ages, too, would buy kegs of beer off the train and have a “beer bust” along the river. They also played crap games under dry part of river bridge.
“Sunday afternoon ― in warm weather ― was the best time to ‘take a walk.’ To ‘take a walk’ on a warm summer Sunday afternoon was what most Eudora folks enjoyed doing. We’d go up the railroad track to the railroad bridge or down the railroad tracks to pick flowers,” Smith wrote. “Another walk was to go north across the Wakarusa and Kaw River bridges to the Fall Leaf area. Sometimes we’d walk as far as the old cottonwood tree. That was where you turned west to go to Fall Leaf. One time Mama let my two brothers who were 10 and 14, walk to Linwood, seven miles, to visit relatives. They were to mail her a card when they arrived as no phones were handy then. They sent the card; it arrived several days later and read: Dear Mom, We got here alright. The dogs ran out and barked. Your kids, Buck and Ike.”
The Everleys spent their school vacations harvesting in Jake Copp’s fields of raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries centered around Sixteenth Street and Main Street. They also picked potatoes to make money for long johns, black stockings, button-up shoes, middy blouses, pleated skirts, pullover sweaters, gingham dresses, and other school clothes.
Because their family lived by the railroad track and Wakarusa River , they often saw Will Stadler’s horse hitched to a pole that mixed the mix for making bricks. Also nearby were parked railroad box cars housing workers from Mexico brought in to help with railroad repair. They wore colorful shirts in pinks, green, and blues, Nuttall remembered, and played guitars and sang in Spanish.
In a house north of the railroad tracks near the Wakarusa River, her grandmother made wine in a small cellar from the Concord and white grapes that she grew. She also had a big flower garden with lilies of the valley, sweet Williams, larkspur, and canna lilies where corn now grows. This garden, similar to other German gardens, had little paths and wooden benches to sit.
The garden provided strawberries, sweet corn, and other produce for a cellar stacked with jars full of apples, pears, plums, pickled paw paws, tomatoes, green tomato relish, and pickles. Stone jars held the family sauerkraut and lightly-cooked sausage cakes preserved in melted lard. Cabbages, sweet potatoes, and apples also were stored there along with the large bins of potatoes eaten every day.
Pork from the family’s three pigs kept each year was the usual meat eaten with liver and loins the favorite cuts. Liquid-smoke cured hams and large slabs of bacon hung in the smokehouse; ground, lean meat stuffed in sausages was packed in lard. The pig’s head was made into head cheese, its feet cleaned, boiled, and sometimes pickled. Often on Sundays, the family ate a beef roast from the Hagenbuch butcher shop. Wild rabbits, geese, ducks, and squirrels, too, could end up as dinner’s main course, or the chicken their mother could catch and have ready for cooking in 10 minutes.
To supplement his salary working for the Santa Fe Railroad in the winter, John Everley set steel traps for fur-bearing animals. He skinned them and stretched their hides for sale later in Kansas City. He also caught fish with nets he “knitted” with his wife and placed in wire hoops to stay open in the water. Wrote Nuttall:
“The completed nets also had traps built (knitted in) and small sacks were made for the fish bait out of twine using a small needle and board. The nets were always tarred to make them last longer in water. Dad also made and sold nets until a law was passed against their use. The fish would swim into the net, attracted by cheese bait in the sack, but were unable to swim back out because of the trap, which had been knitted in. Two men would go to set and run the nets. One to row and maneuver the boat and one to handle the net and fish.”
People still fish from the rivers in Eudora, but technology has radically changed the relationship of the Everley family’s early 20th century world to the one in which we live today. From a site known by the confluence of the Wakarusa River and the Kansas River, Eudora has grown from an overnight stay on trails leading west to a city of thousands with a front row view to the bustling traffic between Kansas City and Lawrence.
Copyright 2010. Cindy Higgins. Where the Wakarusa Meets the Kaw: A History of Eudora, Kansas. Eudora, KS: Author.