Lyon County History Center

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Explore stories from the past and discover things you never knew at the Lyon County History Center. Whether you are a first-time guest or a frequent visitor, we're your place for history, culture and adventure.

Today is National Train Day! National Train Day is held on the Saturday closest to May 10, to celebrate the anniversary ...
05/09/2020

Today is National Train Day! National Train Day is held on the Saturday closest to May 10, to celebrate the anniversary of the pounding of the Golden spike at Promontory, Utah, which marked the completion of the first U. S. transcontinental railroad.

Here are some close up pictures of the details that surround out train display!

Emporia Convention & Visitors Bureau
05/07/2020

Emporia Convention & Visitors Bureau

DID YOU KNOW... the Lyon County History Center has been collecting Lyon County stories since 1937?
#nttw20
#travelawaits
#authenticemporia

Emporia Convention & Visitors Bureau
05/07/2020

Emporia Convention & Visitors Bureau

DID YOU KNOW... the Lyon County History Center has over 750,000 linear feet of archival material?
#nttw20
#travelawaits
#authenticemporia

Hometown Trivia #12: The Kress Building, located at Seventh Avenue and Commercial Street, has housed several businesses ...
05/07/2020

Hometown Trivia #12: The Kress Building, located at Seventh Avenue and Commercial Street, has housed several businesses since the Kress Store closed in the early 1970s. Name the 1920s themed restaurant and club that opened in the building in 1984?

Answer: Zeigfeld’s Family Restaurant and Ziggy’s Too. A year prior to the opening, the Kress Building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Kress Store opened a storefront in Emporia on November 30, 1906. The Emporia Gazette reported that “the Kress Store was so crowded that people could hardly move, and many stood outside for half an hour in the rain.” In 1929, the Kress moved to the building that stands on Commercial Street today. The building was renovated again in 1964 – the basement as converted to a sales floor, the show window was converted from “traditional style” to “see-through style,” neon signs were added, as well as an awning.

In 1983, the Kress Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The NRHP application notes details of the building in this description:
“The 50 feet by 130 feet commercial structure is very distinctive with its crenellated parapet and decorative terra cotta trim. Terra cotta caps the parapet, forms belt courses above and below the second story, creates elaborate window surrounds, and was used for the crests and name plaques that decorate the parapet. The brick work on the second story below the parapet is all diapered.

On the ground floor the Kress building has a typical storefront. It retains its original curved display windows at two west entrances and at the east end of the south facade. It also still has its "verde antique marble" base panels. There are aluminum frame doors in each of the three entrances.”

You can listen to Hometown Trivia sponsored by ESB on KVOE 1400 AM/96.9 FM Monday and Thursday mornings at 7:25 a.m.

WHAT IS IT WEDNESDAY - Can you guess what animal this pelt is from? Answer will be posted in the comments tomorrow morni...
05/06/2020

WHAT IS IT WEDNESDAY - Can you guess what animal this pelt is from?

Answer will be posted in the comments tomorrow morning!

Emporia Convention & Visitors Bureau
05/05/2020

Emporia Convention & Visitors Bureau

DID YOU KNOW... the Lyon County History Center owns and operates the Richard Howe House and Welsh Farmstead?
#nttw20
#SpiritOfTravel
#TravelAwaits

Emporia Convention & Visitors Bureau
05/05/2020

Emporia Convention & Visitors Bureau

DID YOU KNOW... the Lyon County History Center has over 25,000 artifacts, some of which date back to ancient Egypt and Greece?
#nttw20
#SpiritOfTravel
#TravelAwaits

Hometown Trivia #11: In February 1929, sound equipment was installed in the Strand Theatre to accommodate talkie movies....
05/04/2020

Hometown Trivia #11: In February 1929, sound equipment was installed in the Strand Theatre to accommodate talkie movies. Name the very first full-length feature talkie to be shown in a theatre.

Answer: The Jazz Singer. “The Jazz Singer,” premiered at London’s Piccadilly Theatre in 1927. The first talkie in Emporia was not “The Jazz Singer,” but, “Alias Jimmie Valentine” starring William Haines and Lionel Barrymore.

The Strand Theatre installed a Biophone, on February 28, 1929. It cost around $7,000 to have the equipment installed.

“Alias Jimmie Valentine” premiered at the Strand Theatre on March 13, 1929. It was shown for four days.
On May 2, 1929, the Strand showed “The Singing Fool” and 5,309 tickets were sold the first three days of the show. This number broke the Strand’s previous record of 5,302 patrons in three days in 1925 (they were showing “The Covered Wagon”).
“The Singing Fool” came to the Strand in July 1929.

You can listen to Hometown Trivia sponsored by ESB on KVOE 1400 AM/96.9 FM Monday and Thursday mornings at 7:25 a.m.

Hometown Trivia #10: In September 1924 this former Emporian and silent film actress was declared the “ideal bathing girl...
04/30/2020

Hometown Trivia #10: In September 1924 this former Emporian and silent film actress was declared the “ideal bathing girl of the times.” Who was this girl?

Answer: Thelma Hill. Hill was born in Emporia on December 12, 1906 to Clifford and Gussie Hillerman. As a teenager she moved with her mom to Hollywood, California. There she was discovered by Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and became a Sennett Bathing Beauty and silent film actress.

There is some dispute to Thelma Hill’s birth date. A 1904 Emporia Gazette article announces the birth of a daughter to Cliff Hillerman but does not name the child. A 1910 census lists Hill as a 5-year-old. However, Hill’s death certificate says 1906. She may have changed her age to appear younger in Hollywood.

Cliff and Gussie divorced when Hill was a young child. Gussie took Thelma to Hollywood and opened a cafe down the street from Mack Sennett’s studio. Hill accidentally dropped soup into Fatty Arbuckle’s lap, and that’s how he discovered her. He introduced her to Sennett, and in 1924, Sennett claimed Hill “is the ideal bathing girl of the times.” Sennett’s announcement claimed that Hill’s “boyish figure remains the ideal towards which misses and matrons will strive.” Hill’s measurements at the time were:

Height: 5’3.5”
Weight: 112 lbs
Neck: 12.5”
Bust: 34”
Waist: 24”
Hips: 35”
Calf: 13”
Ankle: 7.5”
Forearm: 9”
Wrist: 5.5”
Upper Arm: 10”
Thigh: 21”

Hill was also an actress in silent films, many of which were shown at the Emporia Strand Theater. Her films include: Up In Alf's Place (1919), Picking Peaches (1924), The Hollywood Kid (1924), Pie-Eyed (1925), Hoboken To Hollywood (1926), The Divorce Dodger (1926), Flirty Four-Flushers (1926), Fooling Casper (1927), His First Flame (1927), Crazy To Act (1927), The Pride Of Pikeville (1927), The Fair Co-Ed (1927), The Chorus Kid (1928), Two Tars (1928), The Old Barn (1929), Two Plus Fours (1930), The Miracle Woman (1931), The Naughty Flirt (1931), The Dentist (1932), Wild People (1932), Mixed Nuts (1934).

She was also the double for Mabel Normand, an accomplished silent film actress, director, screenwriter, and producer.

From 1927-1930, Hill dated and was engaged to St. Elmo Boyce, until he ended his life in 1930. In 1934, she married John West Sinclair. Hill and Sinclair were married until her death in 1938. She suffered a cerebral hemorrhage after suffering from alcoholism, vitamin deficiency, and malnutrition. Her obituary in the Emporia Gazette noted that “she had been suffering from a nervous breakdown.”

Many thanks to https://thelmahill1938.blogspot.com/ , which details a lot of Thelma Hill’s life.

This image is a newspaper print of Hill in Sennett's popular Mah-Jongg bathing suit. This image and Hill's story was included in our 2017-2018 “Skirting Convention: Tales of Unconventional Women” exhibit, an exhibit of 14 women from Lyon County who skirted the norms and went on to be known beyond the county borders.

You can listen to Hometown Trivia sponsored by ESB on KVOE 1400 AM/96.9 FM Monday and Thursday mornings at 7:25 a.m.

For our last #MuseumTickTock Tuesday, we have the pocket watch of Richard Howe, builder of the Howe House. The keys hang...
04/28/2020

For our last #MuseumTickTock Tuesday, we have the pocket watch of Richard Howe, builder of the Howe House. The keys hanging behind the watch were used for winding and setting the time. Flash was used on the second photo to capture the blue inlay numbers.

Hometown Trivia #9: In 1925 this limestone building built in 1884 received a facelift. Instead of razing (tearing down) ...
04/27/2020

Hometown Trivia #9: In 1925 this limestone building built in 1884 received a facelift. Instead of razing (tearing down) the original building, architects designed a new building to be built around the aging structure.

Construction was railed a few times by bad weather, but you could keep track of the progress in the newspapers. What was the building?

Answer: The Santa Fe passenger depot. The Santa Fe Depot was located at 3rd and Neosho, but unfortunately was destroyed by fire in 1999.

In 1925, two 40 x 56 ft extensions were added to the east and west ends of the existing station. The extensions extended south towards the tracks, on a line with the Harvey House, and the subsequent “L” that formed in front of the station was roofed and used as a summer waiting area. The entire first floor was dedicated to passenger needs, such as waiting areas and baggage space. The second floor housed the offices. This allowed the Santa Fe to put the accounting office, formerly housed at the freight house on West street, to join the other divisions in the depot.

The local newspapers diligently followed the construction of the “new” station, keeping readers informed of progress and delays.

Picture provided by the LCHC Research and Archives Library.

You can listen to Hometown Trivia sponsored by ESB on KVOE 1400 AM/96.9 FM Monday and Thursday mornings at 7:25 a.m.

April 25th is National DNA Day! The day was created 2003 to encourage teachers, students, and the general public to lear...
04/25/2020

April 25th is National DNA Day! The day was created 2003 to encourage teachers, students, and the general public to learn about genetics and genomics. The day also commemorates the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003, and the discovery of DNA's double helix in 1953.

One way to celebrate the day is to research your ancestry!

Did you know that we have access to Ancestry.com at the Lyon County History Center? Yep! If you would like to research your ancestry, but you don't want to subscribe to Ancestry.com, you can come in and use our computers to do your research.

What does Ancestry.com have to do with DNA? Well, if you order a DNA testing kit (there's many on the market!), the results will show you interesting facts about your ancestry, and you can begin to research your family history with that information. You may find things you never knew about!

Have you had any DNA testing done? Did you find anything surprising in your family tree? Tell us about it in the comments!

Hometown Trivia #8: During a liquor raid in Emporia and Olpe on October 25, 1922, fifteen men were arrested, five ______...
04/23/2020

Hometown Trivia #8: During a liquor raid in Emporia and Olpe on October 25, 1922, fifteen men were arrested, five ______ were confiscated, and 600 gallons of wine and whisky was seized. What were the five items confiscated?

Answer 8: Stills. During the raid, three one-gallon jars of corn whisky were found and placed outside a cellar door. Soon, a commotion was heard, and the officers found several ducks intoxicated after
drinking from the jars. What’s for dinner? Sauced Duck!

A team of federal officers, called the Dry Squad, performed a two-day raid on Lyon County on October 25 and October 26. They arrested the following men on charges of making, transporting, and selling liquor:

Arrested in Olpe: Tony Diebolt, Ed Watkins, George Shafer, George Funk, Fred Sheve, Lawrence Diebolt, John Moellman, Julius Drew

Arrested in Emporia: Stan Stevens, Chester Buck, Sam Curl, John Williams, Bill Perkins, Bill Kieffer

Arrested in Neosho Rapids: Ralph Johnson

Bill Perkins was shot in the arm by the federal officers who arrested him, and his brother, Al Perkins, who was a city police officer, was also shot in the arm during the arrest. Al Perkins did not have any charges and was not arrested. Four automobiles were also taken during the raid.

Pictured here are two whisky jugs from our collection.

You can listen to Hometown Trivia sponsored by ESB on KVOE 1400 AM/96.9 FM Monday and Thursday mornings at 7:25 a.m.

For this #MuseumTickTock Tuesday, we have this pair o' pocket watches.
04/21/2020

For this #MuseumTickTock Tuesday, we have this pair o' pocket watches.

Question 7: The Emporia baseball club played against the Brinkley Goats on August 1, 1926. What Kansas town did the Goat...
04/20/2020

Question 7: The Emporia baseball club played against the Brinkley Goats on August 1, 1926. What Kansas town did the Goats call home?

Answer 7: Milford, Kansas. The Brinkley Goats was a salaried club owned by John R. Brinkley a.k.a “Doc Brinkley” the infamous goat gland doctor. By the way, Emporia beat the Goats 2 – 1.

John R. Brinkley fraudulently claimed to be a doctor and was known for a specific "goat gland" treatment. He opened a 16-room clinic in Milford, KS in 1918. Brinkley treated patients during the 1918 flu pandemic, thus he gained the trust of the public. After the pandemic, Brinkley started to treat patients with an operation he claimed "would restore male virility and female fertility." He would implant goat testicles into the bodies of his patients. Unsurprisingly, the treatment did not work. His fake license was revoked. Brinkley then ran for governor of Kansas, twice, so that he could have control of the medical board and thus regain a medical license. He lost, twice.

We included the obituary the Emporia Gazette printed at the time of Brinkley's death in 1942.

Due to the popularity of our post on the train wreck near Lang in 1897, people have reached out asking for more informat...
04/18/2020

Due to the popularity of our post on the train wreck near Lang in 1897, people have reached out asking for more information about the community of Lang. We found some pretty interesting information about the small town. Read on to see the rise and demise of the town of Lang (as well as a short blurb on a smallpox outbreak that resulted in quarantine for the entire town).

The town was laid out in 1882 when the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad established a station there. The station was originally named Horton, after the maiden name of the wife of Charles W. Peirce, an early director of the Santa Fe. The town was thus called Hortonburg, sometimes called Hortonville. The station was quickly renamed Lang, after the Langstaff family, who owned property in the area, but the town remained as Hortonburg until 1900. The station depot was a two-story building with living quarters for the station agent, as well as a telegraph. The entire structure was 24 feet wide by 39 feet long. The main floor housed the ticket office, freight depot, and waiting area for passengers. The second floor was reserved for the agent’s living quarters. A cattle pen and a houses for the section boss and crew living quarters were erected alongside the station. Mexican, Greek, and Italian immigrants worked on building the railroad and stations along the Santa Fe Railroad line.

In 1883, the Weekly News-Democrat of Emporia dedicated a column to the town, called the “Hortonburg Happenings.” A Methodist church was established in the town shortly afterwards. George Plumb, brother of Preston B. Plumb, owned ranching land in the area and donated some for the church. His ranch was taken over by his son, James. In 1897, the train wreck from our previous post happened, an in 1903, a fired burned part of a wooden bridge east of Lang while a train was headed towards it. Ira Ridenour, a Lang farmer, ran along the tracks to stop the train just in time, thus avoiding another terrible crash.

In 1904, the entire town of Lang was quarantined due to smallpox. Smallpox, scarlet fever, and diphtheria raged across Lyon County from 1902-1907. Any person with a case of any disease was immediately quarantined, as well as their family. In Lang, the trustee of the township would take food to each quarantined house – 14 people in all – and the county physician would ensure all quarantined houses in the county had plenty of medicine. Due to the extreme care of the county officials, who enacted quarantine law (persons would be fined if they knowingly had a contagious infection and went into public), the risk of major outbreaks of smallpox, scarlet fever, and diphtheria were minimized. For a tragic tale concerning one Hartford family’s diphtheria experience, we suggest you read this blog article: https://dianastaresinicdeane.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/lessons-from-a-kansas-graveyard-what-a-1903-outbreak-of-diphtheria-can-teach-us-today/

In 1907, George Plumb, then-member of the Kansas legislature, introduced a bill into legislature to vacate the old townsite of Hortonburg. A new church, called Lang Church, was built in 1909 with funds raised by the Lang Aid Society.

During the 1910s, men from Emporia had beer and liquor shipped to the Lang Station, then they would pick it up in the middle of the night when it was dark and they were less likely to be seen and would take the beer and liquor back to Emporia illegally. The County Attorney sent an order to the Lang Station to “not give any liquor to men whose houses are in Emporia” in 1914.

From 1914-1926, Bert Wilson operated a general store in Lang that doubled as a Post Office. When the original store burned down in 1924, the Post Office officially closed, and mail was delivered to Lang residents via Emporia mail route 7. Wilson sold the store to the Cannon family in 1926 so that he could operate a merchant supply store in Emporia. The Cannon’s store was the only John Deere implement agency in the county at the time.

During WWI, the Red Cross Auxiliary of Lang used Lang Church to sew and ship surgical dressings. The women made 1,840 dressings in one day in 1918. Following the sewing session, the women attended a wheat substitute cooking class.

According to “Our Town: A History of Lyon County, Kansas” by Ted McDaniel, there was supposedly a “bawdy house,” or “house of ill-repute,” in Lang sometime in the 1920s, when the town was at its highest population. We could not find any evidence to support that claim.

In 1930, Santa Fe officials proposed a closure of the Lang Station entirely. Officials ultimately decided to transfer the duties of stationmaster to a local business owner and close the telegraph office in 1931. The assigned businessman for the stationmaster position was Howard Cannon, owner of the general store and filling station across from the depot. The plan cut down on costs for the Santa Fe, and increased convenience since the shippers could contact the business owner whenever they were needed at the station, rather than staff a full-time agent who only worked partial hours. According to the Emporia Weekly Gazette, around 10 towns in the division were running on the same system, and 3 of the towns’ stationmasters were women. As the Gazette put it, “the public has been satisfied as soon as it got used to the idea.”

In 1935, the original two-story Lang Station was razed, and a cloverleaf-shaped shelter house replaced it. In 1936, the Santa Fe once again proposed a complete closure of the station due to a lack of stops and business. The Cannon business store closed in 1936. Howard Cannon went on to create Victory Creamery. Farmers protested the possible closure of the station in 1937. Farmers wanted to retain the station for shipping ease. Residents of Lang considered the station a necessary convenience and argued heatedly at the hearing. However, the section boss’s house and crew living quarters were removed in 1939.

Tragedy struck the townsite in 1945 when two young boys, Gary Gene and Don Pickett, were struck by a train near Lang station while riding their pony home from school. Another tragedy happened when a stationary engine caught fire in 1951 and caused widespread damage to the cattle pen, barns, and boxcars at Lang Station. It was around this time that the Lang church was closed, and later on, the station stockyards closed.

In 1953, the last portion of the town was abandoned. What is left of Lang can be found along Road 7, between the railroad and Road 210. Lang was once a bustling small community with a strong church community (seriously, there were reports on how well Sunday School was attended there!), community meetings, farmer and rancher get-togethers, and general small-town warmth. Now, it is long gone, like many of the pioneer towns along the AT&SF Railroad.

If you would like to know more about any of the dates, names, or information mentioned in this post, let us know in the comments!

Address

711 Commercial Street
Emporia, KS
66801

Opening Hours

Tuesday 10:00 - 16:00
Wednesday 10:00 - 16:00
Thursday 10:00 - 16:00
Friday 10:00 - 16:00
Saturday 10:00 - 16:00

Telephone

(620) 340-6310

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Comments

I WAS THRILLED TO OPEN UP THE SHOPPER TODAY & READ THE STORY ABOUT MY PHILLIPS FAMILY---- AS A PHILLIPS I HAVE TONS OF OLD STORIES & INFO--- IT WAS FUN TO READ SOME THINGS I DIDN'T HAVE IN MY COLLECTION---- MY MAIDEN NAME WAS PHILLIPS & MY FATHER WAS WALTER WOODROW & HIS FATHER WAS WILLIAM IRVIE ( & WENT BY THE NAME IRVIE )& HIS FATHER WAS WILLIAM HENRY & HIS FATHER WAS OLIVER PHILLIPS.
I have a 1945 emporia Gazette paper that the headline reads Russia declares war on Japan
Who should I contact to get help in researching a family who lived "near Emporia"? Sarah Whiteneck owned a cook shack and cooked for Santa Fe railroad workers, but moved to Wilson Co., Kansas in February 1869. (The cook shack was moved to and still exists, in Fredonia!) This NOT genealogical research. It is historical research involving property ownership or public mention of the Whiteneck family.
Going on right now!
After I read this I thought "Emporia been treating people kinda bad for at least 87 years". Inclusive community ??
My ancestor Elizabeth Rodgers Griffith died on 20 March 1868 here in Lyon County. Can you tell me where I would go to possibly find her death certificate? I've found a short notice in the newspaper, but I am having a very hard time finding anything that might list her parents. Thank you!
This is probably my favorite story about women in Lyon County, one locally famous and one infamous, who crossed paths briefly in 1885.
We're doing #WomenWednesday this month! This means I get to dig up information on Lyon County ladies and then talk about them here!
Informative , educational , fun place to visit! Thanks for the tour. We were proud to bring our guests from out of town here.!