A landmark is an object that marks a locality or is a point of orientation for locating other place. While many might consider the K-10 Highway exits “Eudora Exit or Church Street Exit 1061/2200 Road” and “North 1400 Road Exit” as Eudora sign markings, an even earlier landmark was the confluence of the Wakarusa River and the Kansas River as seen in this 1998 geological survey photograph. Since that time, things that can be used as a location reference have come and gone. Some in recent times might be the Sinclair Pumping Station three and a half miles south of Eudora built in 1923 with its many glass windows, or, according to one Baldwin baseball team, the “totem pole” at the southwest corner of Twelfth Street and Main Street. A landmark also can be defined as a structure of unusual or historic interest such as the Pilla house at 615 Main Street, the Lothholz house, 1477 E. 2300 Road, or the since demolished von Achen barn west of E2350 Road and N1400 Road. Eudora’s parks and bridges also are noteworthy reference points.
Parks. The city park area originally was between Fifth Street and Sixth Street and Main Street and another on Ninth Street between Maple Street and Locust Street.Since then, Eudora has gained more parks, which the Eudora City Council officially named in 2000 with input from Eudora residents:
- Pilla Park, Sixth Street and Main Street, (2.8 acres) was named after Fred and Charles Pilla, who were town founders and operated a general merchandise store south of the park. Across the street to the east of the Pilla Park is more parkground that meets the front yards of the houses that back to Elm Street.
- CPA Park, Ninth Street and Main Street, (1.9 acres) was named after the annual CPA Picnic celebration. The band stand or “gazebo” was built in 1909. In 2006, Tommy Tucker, president of the Lions Club, helped start fundraising campaign for a statue of Paschal Fish and his daughter, Eudora, to be created by Jim Brothers of Lawrence. The city donated $30,000, and bricks were sold for $50 each as part of the fundraising.An honors donation program recognized contributions ($5,000 and more, platinum; $1,000 to $4,999, gold; $500 to $999, silver; $20 to $400, bronze).
- Bluejacket Park, Twelfth Street and Cedar Street, (6.0 acres) is named for Bluejacket Crossing and the Bluejacket family who were Shawnee.
- Paschal Fish Park, Fourteenth Street and Maple Street, (1.0 acres) is named after Paschal Fish, a Shawnee who sold land in Eudora to the German settlement company.
- Lucy Kaegi Park, Seventeenth Street and Elm Street, (0.6 acres) is named for Lucy Kaegi, a lifelong Eudora resident who bequeathed $11,600 to the City of Eudora in 1971 for city park improvements, including this site. Kaegi was born May 29, 1880 and lived with her parents and eight brothers at 412 East Seventh Street her whole life. She worked as a housekeeper and went to work at Sunflower Ordnance Works at the age of 60.
- East Side Park, 14th and Chestnut Lane.
Another “park” is the Eudora (Tributary) Access Park at Kansas River mile 42 via Wakarusa River. The access park is at Fifth Street and Main Street. Often the take-off point of motorized john boats and a favorite catfish fishing area, this access point is ¾ mile from the Kansas River. The next public access is the Cedar Creek Access Park located near DeSoto at river mile 26.5.
In May 1927, the Eudora school board bought the “Blechel place” between Locust Street and Elm Street and between Tenth Street and Eleventh Street southeast of the high school at the time. The land, later named Kerr Field, was leveled for use as a football field and a baseball field. In later years, it also has been the site of community sports practices and games as well as a landing site for medical helicopters.
City planners have continued discussions on the need for more parks in Eudora. One park originally planned by city founders turned into a land dispute from 1966 to 1969 involving the city of Eudora and Louis French. When French bought land for development from Mary Copp one block south of Fifteenth Street west of Elm called the “South Market Place,” the city brought suit. This land was laid out in the original townsite to be used as common ground for business enterprise similar to its counterpart, the “North Market Place,” across from City Hall.
City officials in 1969, according to the February 17 Eudora Enterprise article that described the case, regarded the land as city property and argued its case in District Court in 1967. When it lost, the city appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court that ruled against the city, citing an 1889 Kansas Statute G.S., 1889, Chapt. 261, Sec. 61.
Bridges. The Kansas Department of Transportation lists the following bridges for the city of Eudora: Highway K-10 and Winchester Road, Highway K-10 and County Road 1061 (Church Street ), and Highway K-10 and County Road 442. Eudora has had several other bridges. For example, Amos Westerhouse constructed many smaller bridges south of Eudora in the first part of the 20th century, according to family reports, and a December 1, 1910 news account reported of another:
“A step on the right direction was taken by the board of county commissioners when they directed that the bridge crossing the small gully on the Eudora Road, a mile and half east of the city be built of cement. Graeber Bros. have the contract for the work and have commended the erection of small tool house and began hauling material to the ground.”
However, records have proven murky or hard to find concerning both these smaller bridges and even the city’s most noteworthy bridges. Eudora’s first recorded bridge was built by 1860, because Eudora city council records of May 7, 1860 refer to complaints about a “bridge below Hoppenau’s house.” The city financed another bridge around 1860. In 1859, the city council discussed the $2,000 trestle bridge designed by a Mr. Harterscheidt of Leavenworth. The Eudora Community Heritage Book says this 160-foot long bridge was completed in 1861. The location of this second bridge remains unclear. Around 1871, the railroad company built one or more bridges over the Wakarusa River west of Eudora. There was another bridge west of Main Street over the Wakarusa because an 1892 news account said that Peter Hartig, who lived by the railroad tracks on the west side of Main Street, was threatening to fence up “the bridge” to which the editor wrote: “Oh, Peter, go off and lay an egg.” An 1892 newspaper article also reported that floods washed away a bridge, which the paper didn’t name, killing two people on the bridge. The Eudora Community Heritage Book refers to one of these bridges or another in a reference about flooding destroying a bridge over the Wakarusa River in 1903. For many years in the 20th century, a bridge over the Wakarusa west of Seventh Street on the west side of the city’s present sewage lagoons was the crossing used to travel to Fifteenth Street in Lawrence. Later bridges such as the concrete bridge over the Wakarusa River constructed at the north end of Main Street in the 1950s, caused this Seventh Street bridge to be abandoned. Also, to the southwest, a 493-foot bridge at the west end of Tenth Street linked travelers on the first Highway 10 (now Douglas County Road 442) in 1932. Because large vehicles had difficulties passing through the bridge’s low truss system and the deck was said to be deteriorating, the bridge, shown here on left, was torn down in 1998. The new $1.49 million bridge funded by Douglas County ($327,173) and the Kansas Department of Transportation took nine months to build.
When the Central Protective Association began holding festivities between the Wakarusa River and the Kansas River, news accounts said people got to the picnic site by a Main Street bridge, ferry, or Harry Hagenbuch’s foot bridge north and a bit west of the train depot or where the city buildings are now. Exactly when the footbridge operated remains questionable; however, Henry Hagenbuch, Harry’s father, built the family’s commercial ice house on the Wakarusa River in 1897, thus, it may been around this time. Anita Stadler, a long-time Eudora resident, estimated its operation between 1906 and 1908, and the Eudora local paper referred to it as operational again in 1910. Harry strung lanterns at night on the bridge and had benches on the bank for people to stop and rest.
About the ferry across the Wakarusa River, Ruth Neis wrote in a 1935 Eudora News article about Eudora’s history that: “The ferry boat which crossed the Wakarusa river was a city owned project, but it was managed by a ferry-man who was under contract for three months. The rates for crossing were set by the city. They were: Five cents for a single footman, ten cents for a single horseman, one team with two yokes of oxen, twenty five cents. In case of high water or a flood, the ferry man was allowed to set his own rate.”
As for the Kansas River bridges, Charles Lothholz and his campaign gets the credit for Eudora’s first Kansas River bridge, and also oversaw the building of a 42-foot by 12-foot ferry built in 1889 to cross the river. Before the ferry and bridge, people crossed the river by boat. Grace (Schellack) Musick, wrote John Musick Sr. in Douglas County Family History, said when she lived north of the river before the bridge, people would boat across with their farm animals, furniture, and other possessions, dodging logs on the way. The boats were only a few inches above the water and used by any who wanted to cross. Sometimes, Musick said, men would take an old boat to where a boat was being washed downstream, exchange it for the better boat, and let the old leaky boat go downstream.
The $4,000 bridge was built across the Kansas River in 1892; however, in May of that year, high waters caused driftwood to slam into the bridge and tear out all but the trestle. Henry Hagenbuch, Fred Brender, and Nelson Hillyer saved 100 feet by overtaking it in their boat and pushing it to river banks. When done, Eudora held a “Bridge Celebration” day October 6, 1893, that started with a gathering at City Hall at 8 a.m. and a march to the bridge for speeches. After lunch, speeches in German were featured and races of all sorts at 3 p.m. Not too long after the celebration, the city of Eudora sold the cable for its Kansas River ferry to Lecompton to use for its ferry.
An 1898 news report said the Kansas River bridge north of Eudora and spanning Leander Island, north of the present Kansas bridge, was in dangerous condition and cited its oak “stringers” as rotten and unsafe. New planks on the north side of the bridge put up that year were not sufficient. The next year, the Missouri Valley Bridge Company of Leavenworth spent two weeks putting up 15 new piling and replaced rotten caps and timbers. Charles Megner, the bridge watchman in 1899, lived on Leander Island.
Ice almost took out the Kansas River bridge in February 1910, but the ice was blown up with dynamite before the jam could crash into the bridge. In 1913, a horse partially fell through rotted flooring on the south side of the bridge, which was out of commission for a couple of years starting in the spring of 1915. High waters at that time changed the river channel, thus, jetties were put in to prevent further cutting of the banks, and took out the north approach. After lengthy squabbling between Douglas County and Leavenworth County commissioners about splitting the cost of repairs, the Supreme Court forced Leavenworth County to contribute to repair and upkeep, and a call went out for bids in 1917 for an estimated $10,000 worth of construction. After the ruling, one or more culprits tried to dynamite the north span of the bridges remnants in January of 1917. The two spans were bent and torn loose from the pier, hanging on by only a few inches. The explosion moved the steel pier about a foot from its permanent location. In May of 1918, the bridge finally was fixed; however, the piling used was considered inadequate and recommendations were made for a 250-foot steel span. A few months later, floods washed away the north edge of the bank and part of the bridge. The continual repairs continued, for example, the Brune brothers replaced the bridge flooring with white oak planks in 1926 and also installed new railings.
Another ice gorge on rising water slammed into and damaged the 200-foot iron bridge in 1936, which would be damaged again by huge ice floes surging down the Kansas River in 1963, wiping out the Eudora bridge. In 1936,
contractors built four jetties totaling 1,200 feet above the Kansas River bridge north of Eudora. The need for jetties has continued. According to “Kaw River Erosion-Control Project Ahead of Schedule, Under Budget” written by Mark Fagan for the Lawrence Journal World on March 14, 2002, the 2002 $2 million erosion-control project crew dumped 31,000 tons of limestone rocks into the river to build three dikes to protect the eroding riverbank from the river and keep the Douglas County Route 1061 bridge from wasting away. Rocks weighing between 50 to 2,000 pounds were used because the bank has been falling into the river since the flood of 1993, and the riverbend upstream from the bridge shifted more than a half mile east since 1941. This movement threatens the bridge, which carries about 2,400 vehicles a day. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Douglas County, and Leavenworth County shared the cost.
Copyright 2014. Cindy Higgins.Where the Wakarusa Meets the Kaw: A History of Eudora, Kansas. Eudora, KS: Author.