Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The 2011 Ride of the Kansas Gazetteer Musketeers: Day Two

Wednesday morning, January 19, 2011, dawned early for the 26 men & women, both young & old, gathered from all points of the state of Kansas for the 19th Annual Retreat for Relentless Rural Leaders at the Barn Bed & Breakfast Inn near Valley Falls, Kansas.  The Retreat is organized and facilitated by the Kansas Sampler Foundation (KSF).

"The Retreat is designed to rejuvenate individual spirit, increase peer networking and discuss new ways to look at common rural issues. One of the main topics this year was figuring out how to identify and match community needs with citizen’s skills to improve quality of life in a community." - Marci Penner, Kansas Sampler Foundation.

This was the real full day of the Retreat and the morning session started at 8:30AM.  Everyone learned quickly that (a) there was an impending snowstorm due to hit later in the day, and therefore (b) many plans that had been made for the day were being thrown out the window, including a meeting with the civic leaders of Everest, Kansas, and attending a pot luck supper in Muscotah, Kansas.  Instead, we would be getting on a bus and traveling that morning to five communities in Northeast Kansas - Bendena, Denton, Purcell, Everest, and Muscotah - and still try to beat the storm by getting back by mid-afternoon.

Marci Penner, Director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation.  - Photo courtesy of Cloud County Tourism.
The first photograph the Count has ever been able to take of the Barn Bed and Breakfast  Inn in the daylight!  Well, he was excited.  Sigh.  Fine.  Moving on . . . .

On the bus the travel time between towns enabled the KSF group to hold "interviews" with one another, trading information and establishing new friendships.
Today's trip was first northeast into Atchison, Kansas, and then north and west to the group's first stop:  Bendena, Kansas.

"Bendena is an unincorporated community in Doniphan County, Kansas, United States. Its ZIP Code is 66008. It was named for the sweetheart of the first telegraph operator at the Chicago, Kansas and Nebraska railroad station." - Wikipedia.

The KSF group was divided into two groups - one to explore the downtown, and the other to visit the Bendena State Bank.  The Count found himself in the second group.

The Bank in a Barn - the Bendena State Bank on the community's eastern edge.
Inside the bank are framed photos of the barn before and after it became a bank.
The story the Count heard was that in 1906 a bank robber tried to hold up the bank at its original location in downtown Bendena, but ended up shooting himself.  A writeup of the robbery in the local newspaper noted that the robber "was easy to lay out" and had "a fine physique."  Decades later the bank had outgrown its building, and at the same time a large hog barn on the edge of town was in need of preservation.  So the bank moved into the barn and the renovation worked.  The old loft was turned into two apartments.  Inside the bank can be seen several photographs of Bendena High School classes through the years.

Photographs inside the now insurance agency.
Afterwards the Count and his group were brought back to downtown Bendena.  In the old bank building, now an insurance agency, they were shown photographs of the old bank, the new bank, and one other photograph . . . .

One of the photos on the wall was indeed of the 1906 bank robber!  Evidently he was "easy to lay out."
The four photos above are what one can see of downtown Bendena  from just outside the insurance agency.   
One never knows what one will see when looking up in downtown Bendena!
Heading into the Bendena Grocery Store.
Some of the KSF group shopping happily inside the Bendena Grocery Store.

A local customer unfortunately got caught behind the KSF group in being helped at the Bendena Grocery Store.  Happily she was the patient type! (Photo courtesy of Commodore Bacon.)
Flat Princess Pee helps Commodore Bacon select the correct pie at the Bendena Grocery Store!
After getting back on the bus it was time for new "interviews" and then a stop 4.5 miles on west at Denton, Kansas.

"Denton is a city in Doniphan County, Kansas. The city is the location of Midway High School.  The zip code is 66017.  The population was 186 at the 2000 census." - Wikipedia.
"Denton was laid out October 27, 1886, by D. C. Kyle assisted by Moses, John, and William Denton." - Gray's Doniphan County History: A Record of the Happenings of Half a Hundred Years, by P. L. (Patrick Leopoldo) Gray [Bendena, Kan.: The Roycroft Press, 1905].
     "Mr. [George] Denton had friends in Kansas, who had sought the west at an early day and who induced him to join them by sending him encouraging reports as to the climate, the soil and the crops. Soon after arriving in Doniphan County [1873], he bought the Underwood farm, once the site of the Underwood post office. He resumed there the business of farming and combined with it, as opportunity arose and his property permitted, the feeding and shipping of stock.
     "Upon the organization of the bank of Denton in 1894, Mr. Denton was chosen its president and has since been identified with the active management of its affairs. He is universally regarded as one of the most successful of men. His ready grasp of situations and conditions and his guarded manner and conservative methods in transacting business bring to him and his institution the confidence of financiers and the unreserved patronage of the community." -  Genealogical and Biographical Record of North-Eastern Kansas, dated 1900.

At Denton the KSF group was given some minutes to explore the downtown and talk to the local business owners. 
The community well in downtown Denton, Kansas.
Commodore Bacon almost sticking her tongue on the well pump.  Don't do it, Commodore!

The count began taking a walk west from the community well one block.  First he found The Denton Cafe.
While across the street was the Denton Post Office.
And around the corner from the post office was the local Co-op office.
Looking back toward the bus in downtown Denton.

And then who did he run into?  None other than Flat Princess Pee and Commodore Bacon coming out of the Denton Post Office!
The Denton Bank first opened in 1894.
Behind the bank was either the old coal shed or the original outhouse!
While taking a walk around the block west of the bus the Count was discovered by one of the town's watchdogs, who was very unsure of this unknown foreign person type!

Down the street stood a very nice home in Denton.

And another stood just next door.

Around the corner this garage sported monarch butterflies.

A block south of the bus stood this ceramic tile building, whose faded signage once read:
"C. H. Gish Company
Lumber Hardware Paint"

Completing his tour of the block, the Count came to this now empty building for sale that appeared to have last been used as a daycare. 

Then it was back on the bus and another "interview" on the way to the unincorporated community of Purcell, Kansas.

"PURCELL.  This little town came into existence about the time Bendena and Denton were born. It at once became a good shipping point for the farmers who had long been obliged to haul their grain to distant points. It is not likely that the town will ever develop into a city, but it will always remain 'a handy little place to have on the map.' The farmers in the neighborhood are among the wealthiest in the county. One of the finest church buildings in northeastern Kansas is St. Mary's near this place, erected about 1898." - Gray's Doniphan County History: A Record of the Happenings of Half a Hundred Years, by P. L. (Patrick Leopoldo) Gray [Bendena, Kan.: The Roycroft Press, 1905].

At Purcell there are two things left of the community, one of which was the KSF group's main stop. 

Alright, the KSF group leader is lying on the cold, hard, tarmac.  Whatever is she taking a photo of?

Ah!  The spire of St. Mary's Church! 

With the weather getting colder, the group was pretty fast in getting out of the bus and into the church.

 The local guide (center) told of the history of the church and of the long efforts to restore it.  St. Mary's Catholic Church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.

GOOD THINGS TO KNOW:  The Ushers' responsibilities at St. Mary's Church.
View out the bus window of the Purcell school.  The snow had started by the time the bus was loaded and rolling on down State Highway 20 five miles to the next town, Everest, Kansas.

"Everest is a city in Brown County, Kansas.  Elevation is 1,150 feet above sea level.  The population was 314 at the 2000 census.  Everest was named in honor of Colonel Aaron S. Everest, an attorney for the Central Branch Union Pacific Railroad. Everest also represented Atchison County in the Kansas Senate.  The city's 1880 Methodist Church can now be found in Ward-Meade Park in Topeka, Kansas." - Wikipedia.

Now, originally the KSF group was to meet with community leaders and discuss the many ways that the local Everest bank and other investors had turned the economy of this town around in just the past ten years.  But due to the incoming snowstorm, the group found themselves at the Everest Cafe in time for the noon meal.  So 26 hungry people took up 90% of the seats in the cafe; as the locals came in they were greatly surprised to see their customary seats taken by strangers from far, far away.

The day's specials.  A large portion of the group asked for the meatloaf; unfortunately there were only two servings of that left. 

The Chicken and Noodles special. 

 The Bacon and Cheese Chicken Sandwich was nothing to complain about, either!  Yum!

At the Everest Cafe Homemade is indeed Best!

The Count then went out and walked around the city.  First he looked west and then east in the downtown district . . . .

Then he set his sights on walking the block north to the town watertower.

A block west of the watertower was the old junior and senior high school building, now the home of the Everest Historical Society.

While a block south and a half block back east stood the Everest Public Library.  The time was 1:30PM, and it did not open until 3:30PM.

Across the street was the Everest Christian Church.  By now the snow had really begun to fall.

A block to the east, at the intersection of 6th Street and Main Street, four of the KSF group were huddled together in the middle of the streets.  What was going on?

Aha!  Turns out that the KSF group had scaled Mount Everest and did not even know it.  WenDee LaPlant and Commodore Bacon are shown here in a photo of their taking a photo atop Mount Everest in downtown Everest, Kansas, just before WenDee's death-defying slide down the sheer face of Mount Everest. (Photo courtesy of Cloud County Tourism.)
WenDee LaPlant and Commodore Bacon in their self-portrait atop Mount Everest in downtown Everest, Kansas. (Photo courtesy of Commodore Bacon herself.)

With the snow coming down harder it was time to head back for the Barn - literally.  On the way the group stopped at the town of Muscotah, site of last year's Retreat meeting.  The group was originally scheduled to attend an evening potluck here and learn of the many things that the local residents had accomplished in the past year, but instead the group broke into to factions - one to visit the Muscotah Mercantile, and the other to tour the former schoolhouse/now private home where palns are being made to turn part of it into a restaurant. 

     "Muscotah - Located about 26 miles west of Atchison in Atchison County, Kansas, the first town site was situated about 2 ½ miles northeast of the present town. It was surveyed by Dr. W. P. Badger and Major C. B. Keith, proprietors, who had settled there in the spring of 1856. The survey was completed in the fall of that year, and in 1858, Mr. Keith opened the first store. Dr. Badger soon became the local Indian Agent, a position he held from 1858 to 1862. The town name is of Kickapoo Indian origin and means 'beautiful prairie' or 'prairie on fire.' The village gained a post office in December, 1861. In 1867, the Union Pacific Railroad purchased land on the present-day town site with Dr. W.P. Badger acting as agent for the railroad. The land was surveyed that fall and the first general store was opened by a man named Armstrong. Soon, other residents and businesses moved closer to the tracks and the former town site was then referred to as 'Old Muscotah.'
      "By the early 1880s, Muscotah had grown to the largest town in the county, boasting over 500 residents. it also had four general stores, a grocery store, three drug stores, three blacksmith shops, a bakery, meat shop, two shoemaker shops, two cabinet shops, one pump dealer, a nursery, three hotels, two livery stables, a grist mill, a school, one lawyer and three doctors.
     "By 1910, the town remained prosperous and continued to maintain a number of businesses. At that time its population was nearly 500. Like other small Kansas towns, Muscotah declined over the next century. Though it still maintains a post office and about 200 people, the village is filled with abandoned buildings." - www.legendsofkansas.com/atchisoncountytowns.
The Count was part of the group that visited the Muscotah Mercantile.  It opened less than a year ago in a house in the middle of town.  The Mercantile has a great selection of antiques, woodcuts, groceries and sundries. 

By the time the Count's group had gotten back aboard the bus and over to the site of the former Muscotah school building, the weather had turned definitely for the worse.  So it was decided to immediately head back for Valley Falls.  If we could turn the bus around.

The streets of Muscotah are narrow, and the bus was big and long. Our bus driver Stephanie did her best, but in the end all she could do was back up until she could come to an intersection where she could turn onto another street. 

Bob Topping braved the snow and cold to help the bus driver back the bus down several blocks until it came to an intersection that it could turn on.  (Photo courtesy of Erika Nelson.)
Then it was (for several in the group) a scary ride back to the Barn.  But our bus driver was up to the occasion and got us through the snow-packed roads safely. 

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