The History of Eudora, Kansas
The History of Eudora, Kansas
Photograph to right, Hesper Academy bell now at Hesper Friends Church
The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act prompted Quaker families to move to the Kansas Territory to keep the state free from slavery. How early did they come? The Kansas Free State (June 4, 1855) reported that a disease resembling cholera “carried off three very interesting young Indians who were attending school at the Friends Mission” in Hesper, which indicates a school and settlement in Hesper. However, typically the first Quakers credited for settling in the Hesper area were Jonathan and Phebe Mendenhall who arrived in a covered wagon in 1858 from Hendrich County, Indiana, and George Rogers. The Mendenhalls, who held worship services in their home one mile east of Hesper, donated land to the Springfield Monthly Meeting for a church and cemetery. Members hauled a 24 square foot, lumber meeting house from Leavenworth for the services observed by silent worship until someone was moved to testify, preach, or pray. However, some say that Sara and Levi Woodard arrived first and the name of their farm, “Hesper,” became the name of the community. The word “hesper” itself derives from the name of the Greek god Hesperus who led the stars out at night.
The Hesper Lyceum Society, organized in Hesper in 1859, included Captain Jennings, O.G. Richards, Nathan Henshaw, Sarah Woodard, and Mrs. Sanford. Members would gather on Friday nights to hear speakers read essays and make speeches.
The first school started in 1859 in a log cabin. Just south of the school, the Hadley brothers set up a general store in 1860 on the northeast corner of Section 28. In 1861, William and Penelope (Hill) Gardner; a Winslow; Penelope’s sister, Margaret Davis; and Adela (Hunt) Davis with her six children arrived from Guilford, North Carolina.
The John Hill family came in 1863 from North Carolina, too, followed by families from the same state, Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois. The following year, a second school, this one of stone, was built, and Oliver Butler opened his black smithy; later blacksmiths included a Greiner, J.B. Gunnison, Albert Lindley, a Pickering, a Russel, and Thomas Warsop. In 1866, Stephen and Ellen Woodard moved to Hesper from Bloomingdale, Indiana; Josiah Bailey who married Rachel Rogers, his second wife, arrived in 1869.
The Kansas Historical Quarterly article “A Tour of Indian Agencies in Kansas and the Indian Territory in 1870” by William Nicholson gives an early account of Hesper:
“E. Hoag & wife & E. Earle & myself went to Hesper & attended the meeting there ─ It was large & lively. I spoke from the text, "I beseech you brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto Him" ─ There were several other testimonies and supplication ─ We dined with Wm & Penelope Gardiner & had the company of Winslow & Margaret Davis, Dr. Reuben L. Roberts & wife Rebecca (formerly Jucks) & other Friends ─ also met David Davis & wife ─ the former a young man who went with us upon part of our journey in N. Carolina some years ago & the latter a daughter of the widow Hill below Springfield, N.C. ─ Hesper is 10 or 12 miles a little South of East from Lawrence & 4 miles South of Eudora. A nice rolling country & thickly settled by Friends. The meeting there is a highly interesting one, containing a goodly proportion of the old, the middle aged & the young ─ Returned to Lawrence about dark ─ Eudora is at the mouth of Wakarusha River where it enters the Kansas.”
A post office was established at the general store in 1870 as was the Springfield Library with books donated by Joseph Pease. After the grasshopper plague in 1874 and hard winter, many people returned to the East in 1875. The Lindamood family who had come in the early 1870s instead went to California and later to Topeka.
A new church building was built in 1881 for $1,700 and through the years gained a basement (1955) and siding (1961). John and Hannah Garratt, Lincolnshire, England, came in 1882 as did Isaac Moody and second wife, Elizabeth (Dick) from Ohio. Another who came (in 1884) was Teresa (Frazier), born 1842 near High Point, North Carolina, the wife of Elijah Elliot; both were members of the Quaker religion. The Springfield Monthly Meeting was renamed Hesper Monthly Meeting in 1883. The next year, the Hesper Academy became the first accredited high school in Eudora Township. The Society of Friends chartered the institution on June 10, 1884.
Wrote the Eudora Community Heritage:
“In 1887, there was about 100 population in the Hesper area, with two stores, a blacksmith, post office, church, school, Academy, and cemetery. There were about 24 homes in the area. The mail was carried from Leavenworth to Hesper by Arnold Hadley once a week. The service was to the post office in the grocery store, but improved as the post office at Hesper was officially established by the U.S. Postal Service, and mail was delivered three times a week. Hesper even had its own newspaper, The Hesperian “Rustic,” edited by Dr. Woodhull with community, state, and national news.”
One enterprise not listed in that description was the mill two miles south of Eudora. A February 21, 1968 Eudora Enterprise article wrote of its destruction by fire on the farm of Douglas Harris at that time. The article said that it was known to be on Dr. Bischoff’s land and used large stone wheels to grind small grains that funneled to the grinder from the building’s top story. During World War I, the mill resumed operation for wheat grinding and graham flour.
An 1894 business directory recorded these Hesper businesses: Ellen Holden (boarding house), B.F. Foust (carpenter), D. L. Wade (carpenter), and C. H. Woodard (carpenter). Joseph Cloud ran the post office and sold leather goods, and Charles Walker served as constable. A news item said C. W. Russell operated a blacksmithy, too. The Hesper Academy 16th Annual Catalogue for 1899-1900 listed the Hesper Blacksmith Shop (owned by A.G. Thompson) and Hesper Store (farm implements, wagons, buggies, and general merchandise) owned by Charles Conger, who had been farming. Conger had purchased the store and stock of A. B. Nicol in Hesper in 1898.
As the 20th century opened, rural mail delivery began and the first telephone line linked Hesper to the outside world. In 1902, Charles Conger closed his general merchandise store and declared bankruptcy. J. A. Bales, a grocer in Eudora before 1900 and then a clerk at Gardiner and Hill Department Store, bought the store. Anna and Henry (one of five brothers ─ Henry, Perry, John, Ellsworth, and Grant ─ who came to Eudora together from Indiana) Page bought the store at Hesper in 1909 that had been also been owned by J. L. Todd, who traded the store for a farm in Greenwood County in 1909. In 1910, August Guenther, who came to Clearfield in 1886 with his mother and married Bella Hobbs ─ who died in childbirth ─ and later Amelia Koeller) ran a slaughterhouse in Hesper during this time. Thomas Elliot sold Osage City Shaft Coal. S. H. Davis sold apples from his orchard by the bushel, wagonload, or train carload.
According to a 1905 newspaper, the Hesper Literary Society also known as the Lyceum of Viola Votaw, Laura Stanley, Otis Todd. Corabelle Williamson, Hattie Harris, Elsie Gerstenberger, Hazel Harris, and Ida Deay got together October 16, 1929 at the home of Hazel Harris to form a club named after “Keystone Corner,” a spot three miles south of Eudora. Other charter members were Mrs. Creevan, Inez Griffin, Mrs. Grist, Mary Harris, Thelma Haverty, Abbie Millington, Lola Page, Alma Seiwald, and Mrs. Sweet. At monthly meetings they typically answered roll call, visited, and planned service projects. Other members included Norma Ambler, Ola Edwards, Carrie Forsythe, Jean Gabriel, Esther Henley, Helen Pfleger, Eva Lancaster, Lois Page, Ethel Votaw, Alice Waters, Jennie Woodard, Nadine Shirk, Mrs. Charles Terrell, N. Dalby, Eva Votaw, Mrs. Ernest Price, Jeanne Kindred, Eva Frasier, Mrs. Noel Griffin, Mrs. C. Williamson, Lela Morley, and Emmeline Gerstenberger. The club disbanded around 1960.
Hesper mothers started the Hesper Mother’s Club in 1939 to assist teachers and serve holiday treats to students. At monthly meetings, members held Red Cross classes, made cancer dressing, and planned homecomings. Charter members were: Lillian Gabriel, Verna Terrell, Esther Henley, Mabel Dunlap, Ethel Votaw, Bessie Kurtz, Della Votaw, Ethel Votaw, Inez Griffin, Irene Caviness, Frances Kurtz, and Hazel Harris.
When Hesper grade school became part of the Eudora school system in 1946, the club turned into a social group and made cancer bandages of gauze for more than 10 years. They also assisted the Hesper Community Club organized April 11, 1948 to support the community. More than 100 people attended the first meeting and voted Roy Kurtz, president; Jerry Harris, vice-president; and Paul Frazier, treasurer. Members bought $10 shares to purchase the Hesper school building for $500 to use as a community building. Some popular activities were Halloween parties and Christmas parties, a winter wolf hunt, and Central Protective Association floats. The Hesper Library also operated out of this building for several decades.
The federal government announced in 1966 that it had six probable sites for a $375 million atom-smasher project. The region near Hesper was one of the six, but the project ultimately was built near Chicago.
Hesper Academy. While schools outside of Eudora were one-room schoolhouses in rural school districts supported by the community, Hesper Academy had the distinction of being the only private school and, more importantly, the only one offering higher education. The Quaker community in Hesper began discussions about starting a high school or academy around 1878, because the nearest high school was in Lawrence. A committee formed a joint stock company and sold shares for $50. They bought a track of land ¼ miles west of Hesper Friends Church from Penelope Gardner in 1884 for the school site.
Haskell Wood, Lawrence, designed the two-story structure in the shape of a cross with a walnut staircase. The first floor had a large study room with built-in bookcases, a recitation room with desks, a small anteroom, and a hallway. The second floor had a classroom, assistant teacher’s room, and “Academy Hall” that sat 250 people. The belfry had a bronze bell cast by the Clinton H. McNeely Bell Company of Troy, New York.
Irvin Stanley, and his wife, Ruth, were the first teachers at Hesper Academy, which opened November 24, 1884, on a four-acre campus complete with basketball and tennis courts, baseball diamond, horse stables, and two outhouses. Its school year was divided into three terms of twelve weeks each. Students paid $45 a year to take courses in the school’s commercial, academic, grammar, and music departments. Courses varied each year with a strong emphasis on English, history, algebra, geometry, Latin, German, physiography, botany, astronomy, bookkeeping, and commercial law. A lecture course, literary society, choral groups, and religious organizations provided extra-curricular activities. Students who came from a distance could board in homes near the Academy for about $3 a week depending on work assistance and other factors. The 1893 Columbian History of Education in Kansas published by Hamilton Printing Company in Topeka included the chapter “In the History and Growth of Schools, by Counties, Douglas County” by J. E. Peairs, county superintendent.
About Hesper Academy, he wrote: “Hesper Academy — During the spring and summer of 1884, the subject of establishing an institution for higher education was frequently and earnestly discussed by the citizens of Hesper and vicinity. The object for which it was established, as set forth in the chapter, is "to advance the cause of education, morals, and religion." The incorporators, who constituted the first board of trustees, were: Winslow Davis, George F. Rogers, Samuel Stanley, Barclay Thomas, and M. Chalkley Hill. The charter issued by the Secretary of State is dated June 10, 1884. The school was opened the following autumn, with Irvin Stanley as principal, and his wife as assistant. Hesper Academy is controlled by a joint-stock company, with capital stock of $5,000, being composed of 100 shares of $50 each.
“Since the opening of the school, the following persons have acted as principals, in the order named: Wilson Cox, Charles H. Edwards, Emma R. Clark, and Theodore Reynolds; likewise Lizzie Jessup, Alden Cox, John Hadley, Mattie Clark, Aurilena Ellis, and Mary E. Lewis have acted in the capacity of assistants. The school building is a two-story frame, erected at a cost of $3,500. The average enrollment is 60. A large percent of the graduates attend higher institutions of learning; a still larger number become teachers. Hesper Academydoes preparatory work for any college or university in the West. The institution is dependent wholly upon tuition fees for its support. Average annual net receipts, $900.
“Hesper Academy is under the control of the Friends' church, only members of that denomination being eligible to the office of trustee. The first class graduated in 1887. The graduates now (1892) number 35. A good supply of apparatus, maps, charts, etc., are at the command of the teachers. The library consists of a large number of reference books, together with books for general reading, and a quite a number of public documents, in all a little over 800 volumes.”
The emergence of rural high schools drew many students from the academy. Because of the availability of public education (especially the 1903 Eudora High School), few were willing to pay the Hesper Academy tuition. In 1911, the school lowered tuition to no avail. The Academy closed in 1912 or possibly 1914, because W. Chalkey Hilll wrote: “. . .when due to the formation of Rural High School Districts through the country, the attendance deceased to such an extent that it was not possible to operate the school longer” in a speech published in the Douglas County Republican June 22, 1939 that also had a listing of 125 Hesper graduates living in southern California. The community continued to use the building until it was sold for $300 in 1939. Dr. Sam Robinson, Kansas City, tore down the building and used the lumber to build a house three miles east of Hesper.
In 1971, after lengthy discussion and fundraising, the bell was made into a monument by Leon Gordon and placed in front of Hesper Friends Church.
Hesper graduates included: Mattie Pitts Meall, F. G. Nichols, O.V. Allen, Cora Bailey Walker, J. H. Nowlin (1887); A. H. Couch, C. M. Pitts (1888); Lorena Ellis McShane, Jennie Walker Woodard, Anna Dunn Bronaugh, L. J. Thomas, C.W. Pearson, O.H. Allen, E.H. Crumrine (1889); Julia Largent Wilbur, Charles Tuttle, Clara Woodard Pearson, Joseph Newby, H.F. Allen (1890); Cora Walker Hice, Leslie Lyons, Lola Mathews Duncan, Harry Starr, Myrtle Ellis Cheney (1891); Arthur Hoyt, Ella Woodard Cosand, Addison White, John Largent, Frank Redding, Olive Couch Gilbert, Cora Ellis, Gertrude Armstrong Penner, A.J. Bales, William Newby, James Penner (1892); Roger Bishoff, Mary Davis, Luther Harris, Cora Elliot Cox, William Cosand (1893); Edmund Cosand, Mary Pearson Henry, Maurice Starr, Melvina Dicken Linden, Eval Elliot Trueblood, Clay Harris, A.J. Redding, Eva Walker, Louella Couch Cosand, Mabel Thomas (1894); Lena Davis, Verlan Couch, Clarence Coggshall (1895); Mary Pearson Henry (1896); Lee Redding (1898); Henry Cox, Anna Davis Thomas (1899); Ada Lill, Herbert Davis, Adelbert Andrew (1900), Nora Allen Garner, Nathan Davis, Homer Davis, Irving Pellet; I. Ernest Andrew, Samuel Davidson, Minnie Floyd Cosand, William Holden, Harry Whaley, J. Parker Cosand, Virgil Davis, Ashley Garratt, Roger Stanley (1902); Emma Allen, John Hill, Leaffie Smith Pearson (1903); Lena Brecheisen Finley, Della David Votaw, Fred Whaley, Millie Davidson Jackson, Katherine Garratt Cox, Raymond Stanley (1904); Nellie Davis, Gurney Hill, Gertrude Woodard Trueblood, Harvey Reed (1905); Benezet Watson (1906); Corabell McBride Williamson, Ellen Melville, George Votaw, Mildred Davis Watson, Ardella Votaw Mills, Elmer Westerhouse (1907); Erma Cloud, Mary Henley Lightbody, Stanley Watson, Frances Davis, Charles Hill (1908); Stella Brazil, Anna Brecheisen, Carl Gerstenberger, Laura Stanley Klopfenstein, Charles Brazil (1909); James Davis, Abner Henley, Inez Westerhouse Griffin, Ruth David Rynearson, Edward Mellville (1911); Lucy Marley, Zella Page, Maurice Pearson, Edith Pearson, Blanche Marley Pearson, and Viola Votaw Gerstenberger Reetz (1912).
Further information about this school can be found in Hesper Academy, 1884-1914 by Dorothy Akin, a publication of the Eudora Area Historical Society.
Photograph to right: Stonehurst in Hesper (1908)
Hesper sources used for this short history, include Violet (Gerstenberger) Fleming, the daughter of two Hesper Academy graduates, author of “Hesper History: 1857-1976, published by the Eudora Area Historical Society; Hesper Friends Church, 1862-1972 by Merle Kinser; Letter from Chalkey Hill and his History of Hill Farm, (November 12, 1938); Lawrence Daily Journal World, “Home of M. Chalkey Hill Was Part of Settlement of Middle West,” June 4, 1940; “The Hesper Community,” a historic preservation seminar by Michael Mahaffey, January 17, 1975; and Eudora Enterprise (1969). Note: The Douglas County Historic Building Survey has a photo of the Hesper School, and the diary of the Woodards’ daughter, Mary Eva, is in the Kansas Collection at the University of Kansas Spencer Research Library.