Atchison County Historical Society

Atchison County Historical Society The Atchison County Historical Society is dedicated to preserving, promoting, recording and sharing the history of Atchison County, Kansas since 1967.

We have been fortunate to get some volunteers to help us with a scanning project.  The first project was a large box of ...

We have been fortunate to get some volunteers to help us with a scanning project. The first project was a large box of glass plate negatives. Thanks to Victoria for helping out. After several hours of work here are some examples of what was discovered. 396 of the glass plates have been scanned.

It would be nice to get some more help and keep the scanner moving all summer. We have thousands of photos that need to be done so they can be made available to researchers and just for fun. Call us if you are interested. Young or old doesn't matter. You can be taught.


This June update brings revised reopening dates for the Kansas Historical Society. These dates are subject to change and based on state and county health guidelines. We will do our best to keep you informed. Thank you for your understanding.

Kansas Historical Society offices in Topeka
Expected to open by appointment no earlier than June 8, 2020
8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday - Friday
Please call or email to schedule. Please allow 48 hours for us to respond.

Archeology, historic preservation, historic sites
[email protected] or 785-272-8681, ext. 215

School programs and resources and museum collections
[email protected] or 785-272-8681, ext. 415

Research questions and public records
[email protected] or 785-272-8681, ext. 272

Membership and retail
[email protected] or 785-272-8681, ext. 454

Kansas State Capitol Visitor Center in Topeka
Expected to open for self-guided visits no earlier than June 8, 2020
9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday - Friday

State Archives research room in Topeka
Expected to open by appointment no earlier than June 9, 2020
785-272-8681, ext. 272

Kansas State Historic Sites around Kansas
Most sites expected to open with some restrictions, no more than 12 visitors or few if required to maintain safe distancing, no earlier than June 17, 2020
Please contact individual sites for more specific information

Kansas Historical Society offices in Topeka
Expected to open to regular schedule no earlier than June 22, 2020
8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday - Friday

Kansas Museum of History in Topeka
Expected to open with some restrictions along with Museum Store no earlier than June 23, 2020
785-272-8681, ext. 415
9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday; 1 - 5 p.m. Sunday

State Archives research room in Topeka
Expected to open to regular schedule with some restrictions no earlier than June 23, 2020
9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday

Kansas State Capitol Visitor Center in Topeka
Expected to resume historic tours, dome tours will not yet return, Capitol Store open, no earlier than July 6, 2020

Cedar Crest (Governor's Residence) in Topeka
Tours expected to resume no earlier than July 7, 2020. Number of guests is limited, please contact us in advance.
1 - 3:30 p.m. Tuesday


The Atchison County Historical Society needs members and volunteers. Please consider becoming a member. Fill out the form below and return to the address above.
Annual dues are per calendar year and described below:
Members that receive all communication via Email:
Individual/Household Membership $ 20.00
Business Membership $ 50.00
Life Membership $1,000.00

Add $10.00 if wish to receive all communication via Post Office mail. Dues are payable on January 1 of each year.
Membership Form: circle one Individual Family Business
Receive newsletter by: email post office
Name: ___________________________________
Address: __________________________________
City, State Zip: ______________________________
Email: ____________________________________
Phone: ______________
Make checks payable to the:
Atchison County Historical Society
PO Box 201; Atchison, KS 66002


Thanks to the Members Joining for 2020
Julie Alderson
Jim & Maureen Asher
Donna Boos
Bob & Helen Caplinger
Jeff Caudle
Jim Congrove
James & Charlea Cormode
Ruth Dillon
Todd & Barbara Gigstad
Nicholas Hauman
Ann Marie Haupt
Jack & Karen Herman
David Holroyd
Phillips C. Ingalls
Jane Kemp
Ray & Cindy Ladd
Courtney Laurie
Rose Marie Lee
Sharon Locke
Desaeae Locke
Paul Lundgren
Ralph & Theon Martin
John McNamara
Charles Perdue
Bill Putthoff
Venita Jo Rader
Phillip Reid
Frances Robinson
Janice Rusher
Harold & Mary Scheopner
Diane Servaes
John & Janet Settich
Roxana Tosterud
Kate Werring
Ollie M. Winzer
Eric Noll
E. Ree Greenwood
Gary Morton
Mary Ann Nass
Flora Shasteen
Ethan Hausmann
Justin Pregont
Pat Brox
Matt Ramsey
Dea Yanke
Steve & Dede Caplinger
Arensberg Pruett
Funeral Home
Julie Clem
Janis Falk
Colonial Realty
Karen Seaberg


HISTORY IS FUN by Robert D. Caplinger
Old news from the 1895-96 Issues of Effingham New Leaf
WINNERS OF ELECTION: Fred Hartman was elected Sheriff by a 697 majority. William Bowman was elected Treasurer by 1489 majority. A. J. Wilson was elected Register of Deeds by a 687 majority. B. F. Wallack was elected High School Trustee by1218 majority. A. J. Harwi was elected High School Trustee by 378 majority. Geo. Butler was elected Co. Comm. 3rd Dist. by 287 majority. (A. J. Rice came in 3rd out of three candidates with 220 votes.)
NEW OWNER OF LIVERY. "Thos. W. Tucker new proprietor of the up town livery barn. Mr. Tucker is another one of our enterprising farm boys entering business for himself, and has a nice lot of horses, buggies and carriages which you can secure at reasonable prices."
NEW BUSINESS. Sharpless and Shifflet have purchased the Jake Elliott store and will put in a full line of general merchandise. From the reputation that Mr. Sharpless has as a merchant it is safe to day they will do a large business and be a valuable firm to this place.
HIGH SCHOOL TRUSTEES MEETING. "The high school trustees were all present at the meeting Tuesday, Messers. Harwi and Smith of Atchison, Sloan of Huron, Harvey of Muscotah, Wallack and Hastings of Effingham, and County Supt. Reynolds. Thirty new chairs were ordered for students use, and the usual run of bills allowed."
FATHER BEGLEY'S REMARKABLE RIDE. "Father John Begley, a pioneer priest, stationed at Kingman, this state, for a number of years stationed at Effingham, a brother of our postmaster, made one of the most remarkable rides on record last week. A Catholic woman from New York, named Mrs. Quinlan was dying on a ranch of her son, in the Panhandle of Texas, and Father Begley was sent for to give her the consolation of religion. The distance was 310 miles and he had to cover it within thirty-six hours at the longest, as Mrs. Quinlan was not expected to live much longer.
"About 160 miles distance was overland over the prairie of western Kansas, western Oklahoma, no man's land and northern Texas. He covered the entire 160 miles in twenty-one hours and thirty minutes, arriving at the ranch five hours before Mrs. Quinlan died, and just an hour before she became unconscious. He ate nothing during the trip, took only one drink of water.
"Father Begley is to some extent used to such trips, as the parish over which he has charge is in three dioceses, and is as large as Ireland and Scotland combined."
EARTHQUAKE IN KANSAS. "The earthquake that passed over this country recently jarred the walls of a brick structure in Topeka so badly it will have to be rebuilt. It was the Hall & O'Donald's printing office."
NEW LUTHERAN CHURCH NEAR LANCASTER. "The new Lutheran church 3 miles northwest of Lancaster, and one-half mile east of the Gregg farm will be dedicated Sunday, Dec. 15, 1895. The sermon in the morning at 10:30 will be preached in the German language and at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, English. The Lutherans have an elegant new building costing $1,500.
ACHS. "Enrollment at the High School has reached 167. Average daily attendance 95 per cent of that number. Enrollment for same period last year was 141, average daily attendance was 117. On Monday, beginning classes will be formed in arithmetic, word analysis, physical geography, commercial arithmetic, physics, Mental arithmetic, physiology, astronomy and chemistry."
ELECTRIC LIGHTS FOR EFFINGHAM. "Supt. Bendure, of the Atchison electric light plant, writes B. F. Wallack, he will be in our city one day next week to present plans and facts so the city can have electric light. It is claimed electric light is almost as cheap as coal oil and no doubt before another six months Effingham will have electricity."(1.24.1896)
STONY POINT SCHOOL DISTRICT. THE DISTRICT OF LARGE FAMILIES. "The above district, located 2 1/2 miles northeast of Muscotah, can certainly carry off the honors as regards large families. Mr. G. W. White, now a resident of Effingham, is the only man who lived in that neighborhood who never did anything for his country. Several had families of from 4 to 6 children. In this we give the names only of families of over eight.
"The Speer family came from Indiana. Joseph Speer with one child, William moved there about 1860. He now owns 160 acres of land and has nine children as follows: William, Mary, Andrew, James, D. Anna, John, George, Jessie and Sarah.
"Martin Fassnacht came from Germany and after a short time located at Stony Point. Twelve children were all born on the farm. George, Mary, Rose, Emma, John, Jacob, Sarah, Fred, Charles, James, Edith and Frank.
"Alexander Wills, deceased, came to Stony Point from Kentucky about 1850. He lived on the same farm until his death, having during his lifetime three wives which bore fruit as follows: Elizabeth, John, Andrew, Mary, Eliza, Susan, Melinda, Alexander, Thomas, Samuel, Michael and Robert. These are the name of the living children. Eight other children were born on this farm and died there. Of this family, some of the children are now great grandfathers, and a number grandfathers.
"Thomas Bailey came from England, and after living in Pennsylvania a short time moved to Kansas with five children which we will not count. The following were born in this district: Medeba, Leah, Harriett, Ella, Maggie, Annie, Ernest, Ruth, Walter (Cont. Pg. 4)
(Cont from Pg 3) and Mable. Five more were born on this farm and died there, whose names are unknown to us.
"Thomas Russell came straight from England with a wife and one child for a starter. This is the way he succeeded: Eliza, Mary, Minnie, William, Robert, Elmer, Henry, John, Carrie and Anna.
"Mr. Yazel came a few years later than the above people but immediately set to work to break the record, and is still breaking, the rest having retired. This generation is as follows: Perry, Gertie, Herman, Joseph, Louis, Linnie, Minnie and Homer, who is the babe in arms, and our informant states Mr. Yazel lost at least four by death, making twelve born on that farm.
"This is certainly the biggest kid item THE NEW LEAF ever had. The six families having altogether 78 children, 17 of which we are informed died at their place of birth. This can not exactly be called a kid item either since many of those whose names are given are now grandfathers and grandmothers, Many of these families had from eight to ten children in school at once. It must have been a herculean task to get all those heads combed and faces washed besides the dinner baskets filled in time for school. No wonder the young ladies who get married from that neighborhood are anxious to move out of the district, and a number of times act like they won't get married at all."
NEW HOTEL ALMOST COMPLETE. "The framework on Mr. Cook's new hotel is now up and the building enclosed. The chimneys are all built, the lathing almost completed and the brick masons are at work. Jack Anderson, who worked on the high school building, is doing the brick work and Mr. Kennedy, the contractor, is seeing to it that everything is being pushed as rapidly as possible."
WORD ABOUT MRS. BENTON TREES. "One of the big trees standing in Mrs. M. R. Benton's yard was cut down this week to make room for workmen on the new hotel. The tree has stood there almost ever since Effingham was first started. This is not the tree that was grown from a limb once used by John Brown as a riding whip as many suppose. The tree grown from this riding whip is east of Mrs. Benton's residence, and the farthest cottonwood south. This tree will not be disturbed."


A LOOK INTO THE PAST ~ Patricia Brox
Most of the first fire departments in America were volunteers and some fire companies that were private organizations. There were three volunteer fire companies in Atchison between 1860 and 1880. In our next newsletter, we will include the history of them. Prior to 1860, the city had no fire protection.
Atchison Fire Department was organized and went into service on January 1, 1880 with seven paid members and several volunteers. This story is all about the way things were when the horse drawn equipment was used. A fire fighter’s day was quite different then compared to the firefighters of today.
During the time of horse drawn equipment the firemen were on 24 hours a day less 45 minutes off for each breakfast, lunch and supper. Each firefighter had an assigned position. The duty of the driver of the horses was to care for his horses during the day. The first thing in the morning he would feed and water the horses, then clean the bedding from the stalls. After returning from eating his breakfast, he would make his bed and then curry and brush each horse for twenty minutes. Then each horse would be exercised by the driver riding one while leading another while going around the block. The horses were fed and watered again midday and a third time in the evening before they were bedded down for the night.
During the afternoon three practice hitches were made and the alarms were tested. If an alarm came in while one firefighter was gone for a meal the relief driver would take the apparatus to the fire.
The horses were trained by the firemen. Each one was given a name. Some of the horses names were Tom, Jerry, Rock, Rye, King, Doc and Ned.
The newest man on the department was automatically placed on night watch. His duty was to look after the horses and the fire boiler, clean the lockers, the sitting room, the hall and the stairway. His watch was from 5 pm to 6 am. He would awaken the other firemen at 6 am and then go get his breakfast. After returning he went to bed, sleeping until 3:30 pm when he assisted with the practice hitches. The duties of the day crew were caring for the wagon and harnesses, wiping the steamers off and sweeping the first floor. They all assisted with the grass cutting, window washing and scrubbing. And of course, their main duty was to fight fires.
The source of this information came from a scrapbook of Malcolm O’Neil. His family apparently donated the scrapbook to the Atchison County Historical Society after his death. Malcolm was a firefighter with the Atchison Fire Department for 29 years. (1917-1946). During his 29 years of service many apparatus updates were made. Therefore, he had the distinction of being the last horse driver in the department and the first motor apparatus driver from #2 Station and the first driver of the American LaFrance Fire Truck.
There will be more stories about his firefighting experiences in future newsletters.


Covid Virus

As a result of the Covid Virus and governmental restrictions in place, the Depot Museum has been closed and unable to accommodate visitors. We have been trying to take advantage of this down time to do some organizational things and work on some moving around things. Social distancing has kept the board from getting together to work on projects. Our last meeting was via ZOOM.
Not having the regular flow of tourists in town has had some negative effects on our finances. One of the sources of revenue to the museum is the donation box. Ever since the shutdown, that income stream has ceased. We are hoping that when the world returns to some sort of normal, we will start seeing visitors again. Keep safe.


Minutes of the February 24, 2020 Annual Meeting
of the Atchison County Historical Society
Steve Caplinger called the annual meeting to order at 7:00 PM February 24, 2020 at the Depot Museum. Approximately 40 were in attendance.
Steve reported on the present condition of the society including a review of all the assets and responsibilities. A financial review was given to the membership.
The vision of the board going forward without a professional director was explained. The society will depend upon the membership and volunteers to help the board with the running of the society and the museum until such point in the future that finances will support a full time employee to take over the operational duties.
The nomination committee report was given. The names of Dea Yanke, Jim Cormode and Charles Perdue were placed into nomination for board members for a term to expire in 2022. No other nominations were received and a motion was made to close the nominations and approve the slate of board members. Motion passed.
Myrna moved and Matt seconded that Julia Clem be the president, Steve Caplinger the VP, Galen Pruett as Treasurer and Jan Falk be the secretary for the present year. Motion passed.
The business section of the meeting was completed and the group participated in a goal setting session. The following ideas were expressed for consideration of the board:
1. Increase membership by increasing communications; try to engage the community via radio interviews; increased Facebook usage; improve the web page and write newspaper articles. Charles Perdue suggested that everyone there would try and recruit two more members.
2. Increase funding by attempting grants sources and increased dues income.
3. Consider projects to increase interest in the museum. One idea mentioned was to try and move the fire truck in storage to the museum. Chief Graf was present to offer support and expertise for the project. A need for funding in the amount of approximately $4500 would be needed to be raised to accomplish the purpose. Permission will need to be obtained from the City of Atchison before going forward with the concept.
4. Continuing to provide outreach to the schools to talk about local history was suggested as a way of stimulating future members and interest.
5. The need for volunteers as docents, research, data collection and organization was discussed.
6. More displays around the county would be an idea to increase the awareness of the society.
7. Board meetings should be regularly scheduled and be publicized for all members to attend and try and have a program in conjunction with the meeting.
8. Need to change some of the exhibits around.
Matt moved and Harold seconded that the meeting be adjourned. Motion passed.


200 S. 10th Street, Santa Fe Depot
Atchison, KS

Opening Hours

Monday 09:00 - 17:00
Tuesday 09:00 - 17:00
Wednesday 09:00 - 17:00
Thursday 09:00 - 17:00
Friday 09:00 - 17:00
Saturday 09:00 - 17:00
Sunday 12:01 - 17:00


(913) 367-6238


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